back to article UN urged to prep for non-fiction Deep Impact

Asteroid impacts on Earth are an unfortunate inevitability. And while devastating impacts are extremely rare in terms of a human lifespan, the destruction they can potentially cause is far greater than more familiar natural disasters. International efforts have rallied to address threats such as global warming, earthquakes, …


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  1. Solomon Grundy

    Is This for Real?

    What they're missing is someone to assume responsibility? Who are you going to blame you fuckwit, your God perhaps? Maybe we should blame the Moslems instead - at least then we'd have someone to be mad at.

    "For four billion years the Earth has been bombarded with asteroids" - Yes and for four billion years the Earth has provided a place for complete tools to spew shit.

    Jesus. Who the fuck pays for this stuff. (us I know...)

  2. Will

    This is awesome

    Hi hope everyone has watched this reconstruction of a theoretical outcome of a 500km wide rock smacking into the pacific ocean. If you haven't it is well worth a look.

    Have a great day!


  3. Karim Bourouba

    @Solomon Grundy

    Your a bit of a knob.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Damn nice video, thanks. Would suck ass to be caught in the middle of that but cool to look at from a third person perspective.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Karim Bourouba

    Shhhh no feeding the trolls now :-P.

  6. MarkMac


    Responsibility does not mean blame.

  7. bandor

    when all else fails

    would a high altitude nuclear missile help? we've got a ton of those.

    seems like if we can't divert it while it's in space, blasting it to pieces in the upper atmosphere would be very, very messy, but better than letting it impact land.

    (a) many of the pieces would vaporize and less mass would hit the ground.

    (b) even if all we do it break it up into smaller but still large pieces, 100 small asteroids spread out over thousands of miles seems more survivable than 1 big one.

  8. Matty B

    If Hollywood can do it... can we.

    Send Bruce Willis up there again, if he can't stop the asteroid - we really are done for.

  9. halfcut

    A title is required.

    >would a high altitude nuclear missile help? we've got a ton of those.

    Quite probably not. Unless you could hit it from the side far enough away to deflect the main bulk away from earth. With the sorts of speeds and energy that can be involved, spreading it out can do more harm than good.

  10. Moss Icely Spaceport


    If one of them dinosaur killers hits us again, we can kiss our ASE goodbye!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No point really, that is other than creating jobs. The chance of something hitting us is small, but the chance of us being able to detect it before it hits us even smaller. 'Though I suppose the consequences of us actually being hit is big enough for some effort to be made, just don't use too much money and don't bother me much about it...

  12. Jim Carter

    Nuclear bomb?

    A nice idea, but there is one problem- lots of radioactive material in the atmosphere, slowly drifting down. Mind you, it would enrich the genetic diversity of your average fenlander. Oh, and the alien because well... I can't think of something!

  13. Bassey

    "Won't somebody please..." etc

    Who gives a crap? Has anyone actually worked out the odds of this happening and it being a big deal yet? I'd really like to know what the chances are before we spend billions putting systems in place to deal with it.

    There's a chance I might win £100Million on the Euro Millions lottery tonight but, other than picking out the first Island I'm going to buy, I haven't really invested an enormous amount of resources into planning for it because the odds are rather against it (especially as I've never bought a lottery ticket - but that's another issue).

    Just because the potential outcome could be catestrophic doesn't automatically make it a worthwhile excercise to plan for it if the chances of it happening within a couple of generations are virtually nil.

  14. Ru

    Re: 100 small asteroids spread out over thousands of miles seems more survivable than 1 big one.

    Look up what a MIRV is.

  15. Beelzeebub

    Carbon Footpint?

    Thanks Will, great link to a great video.

    What is the carbon footprint of a 500KM impact that devastates the home planet in a firestorm?

    If it''s happened 6 times before, how come we still have a biosphere?

    What is the point at which the biosphere regeneration kicks in?

    I think we need to know.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    'Has anyone actually worked out the odds of this happening'

    Like sticking your head in the sand much? It is a certainty that this will happen, not a million to one long shot. It's probably already on its way. The only question is when will it happen.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Just what we need.

    An asteroid wiping out life as we know it wouldn't be all bad, at least it would stop the climate change argument dead in in its tracks............

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Look up what a MIRV is"

    100 small asteroids have much less destructive power on impact than one large one. Each warhead in a MIRV missile is designed to have as close to the same yield as a single warhead missile. Comparing apples with oranges may seem fun, but it's not much use, and it really doesn't make you look clever.

  19. goggyturk

    Bruce Willis? I don't think so...

    Thish ish a job for one man... shaken, not shtirred...

    PS - if it comes to hitting a big asteroid in the upper atmosphere, it would make no difference - a bit like firing a peashooter at a Rhino. It's been demonstrated that these things can detonate at a fair altitude above the surface, so it might actually spread the destruction further.

  20. Graham Marsden


    Re: MIRVs

    This is a flawed analogy, if you set off all those nukes in one place it would not have the same effect as a big asteroid.

    Consider, instead, someone about to fire a double barreled shotgun at you. One barrel is loaded with a solid lead slug, the other with a similar mass of shot. The first will make a small hole going in and a bloody big hole coming out the other side, the second will make a lot of small holes but may not hit something vital.

    Which barrel would you prefer to be fired?

    That is why breaking up an asteroid before it hits is a good idea.

  21. Law

    @ will

    Bah - tis but a mere flesh wound!! :)

    Awesome video - can't believe I'd not seen it already. Best track ever for the video too... the woman's wailing is perfect for it!

    And, just because I can, I for one welcome our 500km asteroid overlords!!

    Point of impact icon.. for obvious reasons!

  22. Svein Skogen

    Regular nuke missile? I don't think so.

    As Hollywoodesque as "Armageddon" was, it has one good point. If you want it broken, hitting it on the surface with an explosive simply isn't the way.

    Same as explode-on-impact grenades are of little use against properly built armour. What you need is an explosive-delivery system that performs a little like the NM140 MP (Raufoss Multipurpose), having a penetrator core that passes through the surface crust, and pulls the explosive/incendiary payload in with it (vacuum drag behind the penetrator core). For this to work, the kinetic impact must be beyond a given treshold, and in this case the asteroid's speed towards us works in our advantage. The Armageddon drilling expidition doesn't work in real life. Period. I would also suspect that a single large explosive would be ineffective for burrowing deep enough into an asteroid this size. We'd want a series of penetrator projectiles, preferrably hitting in the trench dug by the previous projectile. Ask any A10 pilot about the difference between a single 30mm DU slug, and a burst of them hitting the same spot (if at first you don't succeed, etc). Then imagine the effect of a "big" version of the GAU-8 Avenger cannon, possibly scaled up to launch 500 mm self-propelled guided MP rounds, at a decent firing rate (and yes, I know we're talking about launching flatbed-v8-sized projectiles here)...


  23. TimM


    "Just because the potential outcome could be catestrophic doesn't automatically make it a worthwhile excercise to plan for it if the chances of it happening within a couple of generations are virtually nil."

    The chances are no different to any other time in history and besides, just because it hasn't happened for millions of years doesn't mean it isn't going to happen tomorrow.

    Statistically we will be hit. Be it a million years from now or tomorrow. It will happen.

    What's different now is we are technologically advanced enough to do something about it... perhaps. Is it worth the destruction of mankind to not do so just because it's so infrequent?

    After all, those in earthquake zones and near volcanoes have often in the past buried their heads in the sands, thinking they are safe because nothing has happened for decades or centuries. Then suddenly the worst happens and thousands die.

  24. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Head in the sand? Or just screwed on?

    "It is a certainty that this will happen, not a million to one long shot. It's probably already on its way. The only question is when will it happen."

    True, so let's take our heads out of the sand and think for a moment.

    For it to be worth while me getting off my arse and doing something today, it has to be (a) coming within the next couple of decades, (b) big enough to be a problem, and (c) small enough to be something I can deal with.

    If we don't have (a) then it simply isn't economic to deal with now. Much smarter to spend the money on economic development and let the more advanced society of 2050 deal with it. (Imagine the folly of a 1950s world trying to deal with it. How much better placed we are now. How much better placed still will we be in 2050.)

    If we don't have (b), who cares. Spend (some of) the money on cleaning up the mess.

    If we don't have (c), who cares. Nothing can be done.

    So, if someone would care to estimate the probability of an object meeting all those criteria, and would care to estimate the cost of dealing with it versus the benefit of spending the money on something else, we can make a rational, evidence-based decision. But, with respect to you all, I don't expect the readership of this esteemed rag to have *those* figures handy, so let's just enjoy the video instead.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    The Answer Is Simple...

    Never mind sending Bruce Willis up there, just project Armageddon onto a bloody big screen - that should have any asteroids veering away with no need for the nukes.

    Paris because even her films are a damn sight beter than that shit

  26. Remy Redert

    @Ken Hagan

    Hate to bust your little rant there, but if you hit an asteroid coming for you a hundred years before it's due to hit, you only need to nudge it a little to send it billions of kilometers off course by the time it would arrive.

    Wait until you've only got a decade left and you'll need to hit that asteroid pretty damned hard.

    Wait until it's only a year away and well, you're pretty much fucked.

    The sooner we identify an incoming asteroid of sufficient size to cause major damage to the planet, the sooner we can fire a relatively small mass into its path to change the asteroid's path, preferably in a way so as it make its orbit intersect with our friendly next door asteroid obliterater, Jupiter.

    We have the weapons necessary for sure a course adjustment, a shaped nuclear warhead would more then likely do the job. We have the equipment necessary to get that warhead on target. We need to be thinking of our future here, because in 50 years it could very well already be too late.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ken Hagan

    "it has to be (a) coming within the next couple of decades"

    The only way we'll know if it's coming within the next couple of decades is to start looking now. the cost of "fixing" the problem grows the less notice we have, so spending a small amount on an effective monitoring system buys the time needed to react when any such object is far enough away that a relatively small (and cheap) intervention can make a difference.

    About time scales - the Yucatan Asteroid strike that might have wiped out the dinosaurs was 65 million years ago. 65 thousand years ago, Homo neanderthalensis still held sway in Europe, and Homo sapiens sapiens hadn't made it's way out of Africa. 650 years ago most of our forebears were still living in mud huts, and the printing press hadn't been invented.

    It might be another 65 million years before there's a "dinosaur killer" asteroid hit, but it's only been 100 years since the Tunguska impact, an event that knocked down trees over an 800 square mile area. Studies indicate that an event of this size can be expected about every 300 years. US Airforce studies indicate that stoney meteoroids of 10-20% of the size that caused Tunguska enter the earths atmosphere every year. These 10 meter in diameter meteroids usually explode so high in the atmosphere that we're not even aware of them on the ground, but there's plenty of this stuff out there, and sooner or later something big enough to hurt us is going to arrive.

  28. halfcut


    There's no need to break it up, and that's a last resort anyway. You have to detect it far enough away to deflect it off course. The bigger it is, the more time and/or reaction power you'll need. It'll be spinning and it'll be an irregular shape. So. You either need to stop the spin and apply a constant vector or you need to apply thrust every time your rockets/whatever are facing the right way. And there could be a fair amount of energy tied up in the object itself; that could radically change the path of it as it warms up when it gets closer to the sun. You need to account for that.

    1) You need a decent detector net, which wouldn't be cheap; although you could let everybody else have the data immediately afterwards which might mitigate some of the costs and would make the project worth doing in it's own right.

    2) You need -planning for downtime, maintenance, and "it always happens at the wrong time" syndrome- a minimum of 3 space-going vehicles that will either (1) land on the thing and strap jets and computers to it or (2) apply nuclear missiles from a favourable angle or (3) apply another option. These need to be in orbit with maintenance facilities and ready to rock 365/24/7. And a couple of supply shuttles.

    What's the budget? I'll be responsible if it's doable.

  29. loren massie


    Just nuke it with anything big a few years before it might hit. Whatever happens, none of the asteroid will be going exactly where it was going. Blow it up. Nudge it. Doesn't matter. The velocity vector of all of it changes.

  30. Jon Tocker

    Oh bugger "Armageddon"!

    We'll go with the scenario in Deep Impact for two very important reasons:

    1) Téa Leoni is HAWT!

    2) The main hobbit, I mean /protagonist/ rides the coolest motorbike on the planet!

    Mine's the one with the Yamaha XT225 keys in the pocket, thanks.

    (No, seriously, it is)

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