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The Social Difficulty of Saving Earth From an Asteroid 391

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-really-get-godzilla dept.
mantis2009 writes "When it comes to stopping a cataclysmic Earth vs. asteroid event, social science and international political leaders have more difficult questions yet unanswered than physicists do, according to report delivered at this week's American Geophysical Union meeting. Wired has a discussion of an analysis authored by former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, who worries that the international community is nowhere near ready to begin the complex and inevitably controversial task of deflecting an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Among the questions to be answered is whether to modify the Partial Test Ban Treaty to allow nuclear weapons in outer space. Another possibility to avoid the destruction of civilization would require the international community to choose an area on the globe where an asteroid might be 'aimed.' Who would decide which nations get placed in the asteroid's crosshairs?"
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The Social Difficulty of Saving Earth From an Asteroid

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  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:25AM (#30484544)

    What's your least favorite country: Italy or France?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nmg196 (184961)

      France.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ZeRu (1486391)
      If I had the power to decide where to aim the asteroid, I would choose Australia. They're formal penal colony, have low density of population, lots of dangerous animal species, and their government wants to censor the Internet. Also, unlike Italy and France, they don't have famous wines and cheeses. I say go for Australia, asteroid!
      • by baronvoncarson (1684844) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:08AM (#30484808)
        As an Australian I resent that comment. I suggest America, no one likes them anymore anyway.
        • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:13AM (#30484826) Journal
          Shhhhh, just leave them to it.

          As long as the Americans are in charge, there's an 80% chance the asteroid'll land smack in the middle of Vienna.

        • by Nephroth (586753) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:49AM (#30486384)
          As an American, I'm sorry. We're not all idiots, and I promise you that those of us with at least a modicum of intelligence feel just as alienated and bewildered by the insanity that has apparently overtaken our country.
      • Also, unlike Italy and France, they don't have famous wines

        Well there's Wolf Blass and Jacob's Creek for starters.

    • by selven (1556643)

      As a Frenchman, I protest! I'll never let that happen to my... ok I give up.

  • Sir! (Score:2, Funny)

    by gzipped_tar (1151931)
    We have a probability-to-miss-an-asteroid-hit gap here...
  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:27AM (#30484564) Homepage
    If the constant arguing and bickering about what to do about global warming is anything to go by, they never will be ready.

    As a teen I read lots of sci-fi, but then I grew up. One of the recurrent themes was the Earth was doomed for some reason so we'd all have to build a fleet of ships and go off and colonise another world. Even as a 13-year-old I was highly skeptical of those stories, not because of the technology or the distances or any of the practical difficulties, but because I knew that politics would never function to the point where a decision could have been reached, let alone acted upon.

    If global warming is truly in need of a rapid, urgent and above all united effort to combat (and whether it is or not is your first argument, right there), then quite honestly, we're doomed. Perhaps one reason we've never detected an advanced civilisation out there is because they all go through this stage, or fail to.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The comparison is faulty.

      An asteroid on a collision course for Earth would be a pretty obvious threat. Climate change is:
      a) Not necessarily a threat (it might be a benefit for your area!)
      b) Not a near enough threat anyways (it's a problem that will eventuate in another generation, hardly a 10 year problem)
      c) Something that while a PITA to live through, is survivable.

      A large enough asteroid strike that would truly be a global disaster, instead of just one that kills a couple of million people would get a re

      • by sznupi (719324) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:47AM (#30484640) Homepage

        Asteroid is:
        a) Not necessarily a threat (it might be a benefit for your area! When "enemies" will get hit the worst)
        b) Not a near enough threat anyways (it's a problem that will eventuate in another generation, hardly a 10 year problem; the window between detection and action (when it's possible) will be huge...and anyways, it's a semi-constant occurrence on Earth, we'll be fine (when it comes to impactors we have a hope of deflecting at all))
        c) Something that while a PITA to live through, is survivable. Impacts are happening all the time. We hardly even noticed Tunguska.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          the window between detection and action (when it's possible) will be huge

          Erm, no.. It doesn't have to be.

          There are still loads of asteroids which are unknown to us and possibly with earth in their trajectory.

          A few months ago we also had a "near" miss of a asteroid that came out of the blue (black?). And we only knew a few days in advance.

          • by sznupi (719324)

            That's why I wrote "(when it's possible)" there. We can't do anything about impactors that sneak up on us, so they are somehow beyond the scope of this discussion...

            And anyway, my previous post was mostly tongue-in-cheek in response to unsubstantiated, IMHO, claims of parent poster. Even directly paraphrasing them, without touching all subtleties of course.

          • by prefect42 (141309)

            Yep, but the point is, action wouldn't have been possible, given current technology.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by k33l0r (808028)

            Exactly, it's estimated that there are up to a billion asteroids in our solar system, of which an estimated 100 million are larger than 10 metres across and likely to cross Earth's orbit at some point.

            It's also worthy to note that even a small asteroid (i.e. about the size of a house) is enough to destroy a city, and a larger one could wreak havoc globally, regardless of where it lands.

            Also, to quote Bill Bryson, "the number of people who in the world who are actively searching for asteroids is fewer than t

        • by IBBoard (1128019)

          it's a problem that will eventuate in another generation, hardly a 10 year problem;

          Generations are generally averaged out to be approximately 25 years - that's still within the lifetime of a lot of people and not that much different to 10 years in the grand scheme of things!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by angel'o'sphere (80593)

          a) Not necessarily a threat (it might be a benefit for your area! When "enemies" will get hit the worst)
          Then it is not an asteroid but a meteor(it) or a small comet.


          b) Not a near enough threat anyways (it's a problem that will eventuate in another generation, hardly a 10 year problem; the window between detection and action (when it's possible) will be huge...and anyways, it's a semi-constant occurrence on Earth, we'll be fine (when it comes to impactors we have a hope of deflecting at all))

          The current wind

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dcollins (135727)

        "An asteroid on a collision course for Earth would be a pretty obvious threat. Climate change is:
        a) Not necessarily a threat (it might be a benefit for your area!)
        b) Not a near enough threat anyways (it's a problem that will eventuate in another generation, hardly a 10 year problem)
        c) Something that while a PITA to live through, is survivable."

        I completely agree with the grandparent. The current climate change summit is an excellent case study of what response to a global threat looks like.

        I'm sure if some

        • by Nutria (679911)

          The current climate change summit is an excellent case study of what response to a global threat looks like.

          Yes, but not for the reasons you elucidate. I think the most likely non-hysterical reactions will be:

          1. there's nothing our technology can do about it, or
          2. we can do something about it, but it would take way too long to design, build, launch, fly there, alter it's course, or
          3. lots of creatures survived the K-T mass extinction, so maybe the Chicxulub Impact didn't actually cause the mass extinction (after a
      • by bronney (638318) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:58AM (#30484728) Homepage

        If an asteroid were to hit Afganistan in 3 years time and there's no deflection method for the size or speed, are you willing to take in the refugees. Are any country willing to, and how many. This decision easily takes 3 years with our current state of mind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      As a teen I read lots of sci-fi, but then I grew up.

      Thanks for clarifying that you are able to age. I was wondering whether or not to rule out this syndrome [whatdoesitmean.com].

    • by shentino (1139071) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:51AM (#30484686)

      The problem with global warming is that everyone has something to gain by cheating on any agreement that might be made.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons [wikipedia.org]

    • by Tx (96709)

      When the crunch comes, and the number of available options has shrunk down to very few, then we collectively are quite good at making difficult decisions and doing what needs to be done. Look at the process of various allied countries coming together to fight the Nazis in WWII for example. Many did not want to, but eventually when the choice became a) fight the Nazis or b) let Hitler become a major world player, they came on board and threw everything they had into the effort.

      The trouble with global warming

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bragador (1036480)

      I knew that politics would never function to the point where a decision could have been reached, let alone acted upon

      Unless each country tries to save itself without trying to save the rest of the world. Then you'd have canadian spaceships, united statian spaceships, chinese spaceships, etc.

      The different countries could target different places to land too you know?

      I believe that such a scenario would be quite realistic.

    • We have a VERY easy solution to this issue, that will likely win out: China is desperate that no taxes be done on CO2 emissions, esp. against theirs. But the solution, one that will pass WTO, is a tax by all nations on ALL goods (as in local and domestic) based on the CO2 from where the item and the primary sub-component come from. Ideally, it would have distance as well. That simple solution will force all nations and businesses to lower the CO2 without any chance of cheating.

      The problem that we have here
    • by agrif (960591)

      For sci-fi that is not immediately discreditable, read Alastair Reynolds.

      In his book Chasm City, he relates (among other things) the story of humanity's first and last generational fleet. The story behind it's launch, the difficulties it faced (which made it the last generational fleet), and the centuries-long war that engulfed the resulting colony all provide for a really compelling story that is also wholly believable. It was hard to launch, hard to fly, failed to make a peaceful colony, so we never tried

      • by GrahamCox (741991)
        OK, I'll check it out - it does sound like an interesting read and gets away from what I see as the main flaw with the sci-fi I've read - too much focus on technology (possibly alien) and not enough on real humanity (for my taste, even though I'm keen on technology myself).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      Even as a 13-year-old I was highly skeptical of those stories, not because of the technology or the distances or any of the practical difficulties, but because I knew that politics would never function to the point where a decision could have been reached, let alone acted upon.

      That's not skepticism, that's cynicism. And if you thought that way when you were 13, you must have had a horrible childhood.

  • Dose of Reality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:39AM (#30484608) Journal
    Yes I'm sure if an asteroid threatens the world leaders will all sit down with their lawyers and fiddle while the Earth burns. What this author forgets is that if your survival is on the line people will generally do what they think needs to be done regardless of what the law, lawyers or anyone else may say. Just look at the US after the 11/9 attacks. The trick is to ensure that you have a leader who can listen to scientific advice and make the right decision based on that and not on what will win them the next election. However, since if they get it wrong there probably won't be another election, they should at least be well motivated!
    • Re:Dose of Reality (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MrNaz (730548) * on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:45AM (#30484630) Homepage

      "Just look at the US after the 11/9 attacks. The trick is to ensure that you have a leader who can listen to scientific advice and make the right decision based on that"

      Err... WTF are you smoking? Just about every intelligence agency on the planet said before the Afghan campaign that invading Afghanistan would not yield a positive result vis a vis terrorism, and every intelligence agency AND the IAEA said that Iraq had no WMDs. Both have been proved true.

      If going by the 9/11 reaction is how you measure the response by Earth's leaders, then I expect the US to respond to a potential asteroid hit on Earth by contracting some politically tied corporation to manufacture umbrellas.

      • then I expect the US to respond to a potential asteroid hit on Earth by contracting some politically tied corporation to manufacture umbrellas.

        The way things are going, this may very well happen (the corporation part, not the umbrellas). Private companies seem to be doing a lot better getting into space than our government is.

        Which is kind of weird, in a way. In the 60s, the US space program was amazing and efficient, and no private company in the world could have come close to doing what it did. Now it is an overweighted organization with no clear direction. So from this we can see in a single organization that sometimes government does work

      • contracting some politically tied corporation to manufacture umbrellas

        Hopefully, not The Umbrella Corporation [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by oodaloop (1229816)
        Take a dose of reality yourself. Before the Iraq war, U.S. intel, Jordanian intel , UK intel, Russian intel, French intel, et al all said that Iraq had WMDs. The disagreements were centered around how much, where, if any were in the hands of terrorists etc. Everyone agreed they had WMDs.
    • by saibot834 (1061528) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:30AM (#30484902) Homepage

      Why is there such a focus on asteroids? Do the USA need to justify their nuclear arsenal in the current post-cold-war situation? (yes, "Armageddon", I'm looking at you).
      Asteroids are not rare, Asteroids capable of destroying humanity are. It is very unlikely that one will hit us in next 100 years, and after that, we'll probably have completely different means available for trying to avert incoming asteroids.
      I'm not saying that research in this area is wrong, but it should be low priority and the risks must not be overestimated.
      We already have something threatening human (and animal) existence on earth, it's called global warming. Unlike asteroids, it wont happen by chance, it is happening and will continue to happen, even if we cease to pollute right now (which we nevertheless should strive after to minimize effects by global warming). This is a much more serious threat to our existence than Asteroids.

  • by theIsovist (1348209) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:39AM (#30484610)
    It'll be an international, outerspace game of hot potato. I can guarantee you that if that asteroid is headed towards the US, we'll find a way to knock it off course. Then, say if it's headed towards Russia, I'm sure they'll try to pass it along to. Eventually, it'll be targeted towards an area that is either uninhabited, or too poor to play the game.
  • Who would decide which nations get placed in the asteroid's crosshairs?
    The ones doing the job of deflection, naturally.

    And there will another complicating factor - expect quite a bit of people actually working against the efforts, with their expectation of incoming Rupture/Ragnarok/punishment from gods/whatever. Especially if the impact site seems to target their "enemies", though probably also when it targets them..."punishment from allowing the world to fall"/etc.

    Quite a bit of unrest generally, on top of

  • His argument seems to pretty grossly overestimate the extent to which international law and institutions are really law and institutions in the sense they are within countries, versus looser arrangements that, when push comes to shove, get overriden by realpolitik.

    For example, he assumes that a single country (or, presumably, group of countries) can't just go and deflect an asteroid using nuclear weapons, because of the Partial Test Ban Treaty. Really? If it seemed like the best option, everyone would just stop and not do it for fear of violating the Test Ban Treaty? Surely someone, the US or China or Russia or whoever had the capacity to do so, would simply ignore the treaty. And it probably wouldn't even come to that, because a handful of powerful countries would hash out a backroom deal. This sort of thing happens all the time already. It violated international law to invade Kosovo, for example, but hey look, Kosovo got invaded, and now is de-facto independent of Serbia. Didn't seem to stop anyone.

    Then he suggests something about bringing options to the UN General Assembly. Well, yes, if the General Assembly is your idea of international cooperation, then we're doomed, because nothing will get done. Fortunately, however, the General Assembly has no power, and doesn't really matter. Real decisions get made at the Security Council, which is more or less a formalization of the de-facto handful of powerful countries hashing out a backroom deal.

    Mostly, it seems like he thinks that a major obstacle to deflecting asteroids is some sort of international apparatus that has never in practice been an obstacle to anything.

    • For example, he assumes that a single country (or, presumably, group of countries) can't just go and deflect an asteroid using nuclear weapons, because of the Partial Test Ban Treaty. Really? If it seemed like the best option, everyone would just stop and not do it for fear of violating the Test Ban Treaty? Surely someone, the US or China or Russia or whoever had the capacity to do so, would simply ignore the treaty.

      Of course. "Sorry, we have a treaty against that,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        Wait, why is nuking it a bad idea? If you can break it up, the smaller pieces will burn up or make small craters. If you let a large one hit directly, it can cause nuclear winter. I'd rather take destruction of 20% of the surface in small craters than one large hit that blocks out the sun for 10 years (or however long it lasts).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by confused one (671304)
          It doesn't quite work like that. anything that is big enough to be a threat... 1 impact, 1000 impacts, the same amount of energy gets released into the system -- that system being Earth. So, what's your goal here? Liquify a region of the crust, or heat the atmosphere to the point that everything on the surface is incinerated, or both?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AK Marc (707885)
            It doesn't quite work like that. anything that is big enough to be a threat... 1 impact, 1000 impacts, the same amount of energy gets released into the system -- that system being Earth.

            Who said the damage is caused by energy directly? The one that killed the dinosaurs [based on one theory, and we don't really know what happened] didn't kill much on impact, but threw particles in the air that blocked the sun. It was the blocked sun changing the climate and starving the plants that wiped out all large an
    • ... Mostly, it seems like he thinks that a major obstacle to deflecting asteroids is some sort of international apparatus that has never in practice been an obstacle to anything.

      Doesn't that depend immensely on your highly context-sensitive definitions of almost any of those key words in your "never" claim? I'd think it's especially so for "apparatus","obstacle", && "anything".

      Additionally, even assuming your seemingly unqualifiable claim correct does not *necessarily* imply "deflecting asteroids" (or any other comprehensibly critical endeavor to deserve global coordination) will remain practical for a single nation (or small group) to dispatch or mitigate effectively forev

  • A conspicuous "global killer" hurtling towards us overcomes the basic psychological barriers which inhibit the acceptance of global warming as a genuine, urgent threat (and which currently our hobble cooperative efforts). It's a good deal harder to "deny" that a giant rock is going to strike the Earth than it is to disingenuously claim "the science isn't there" about the highly complex, scientifically abstract climate system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:00AM (#30484738)

    -Can't be USA -- I'm writing this from there.
    -Can't be Antartica -- We all love them Penguins
    -Can't be the Artic -- Ditto for the polar bears
    -Can't be France -- too obvious
    -Can't be the Middle East -- Our oil comes from there.
    -Can't be China -- We'd all die from the toxic dust cloud stirred up from the impact.

    So, that pretty much leaves:
                                Quebec

    I mean, sure, we all love Canada. Great comedy, good place for NFL up-and-coming players to practice (CFL for those who don't get it), and also home to many polar bears (See Antartic above).

    But face it: even CANADA doesn't like Quebec!

    I mean, what do they have? Good baseball? Nope. Good football team? Nope. Good comedy? Do Quebecois even HAVE comedy?

    And best of all:
    Quebec doesn't have UN veto power.

    Problem solved!

  • by feedayeen (1322473) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:03AM (#30484760)
    Those who interpret this as an act of god will be the biggest threat. As recent history has demonstrated, people are willing to kill themselves and civilians in hope that their god's will be done and it may be impossible to insure that sabotage has not occurred in the construction of the super weapon that will be necessary.
  • Why, the nearest available ocean of course, most likely the Pacific. Don't forget the earth's surface is mostly uninhabited, especially since 70% of it is covered in water. Sorry Polynesia...

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:29AM (#30484892) Homepage
      Right... Because the potential effect of a massive tsunami wiping out most of the cities cited along Pacific coastlines wouldn't have any significant impact at all on the global population, or one the economy through the loss of port facilities etc. Depending on the size, velocity and angle of impact the effects of an asteroid strike in an ocean could easily exceed the impact of an event like the Krakatoa eruption of 1883. [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by scorp1us (235526)

        Actually I like the idea of an ocean impact. While there is an ass-load of people along any coast, the over-all effets are minimal. Yes, immense flooding and a billion people will die. But the important thing is the atmosphere will be loaded with water and will recover in days.

        Meanwhile an impact on land would send dirt particles up, blocking light for weeks or months, killing plants, freezing the entire planet. We would have a much harder time (as a planet) surviving a land impact than a water one.

    • If you have your way, I'm finally gonna have to learn how to surf, dammit!

  • I want the mineral rights. Please do kindly tell me when it's due to impact, though, so I can be sure to be on vacation at the time.

  • If an asteroid were about to hit the earth, the USA would probably, in consultation with its NATO allies, and Russia, launch everything it had it. Anything else would really be just a matter of luck. The third world might get pissed off at not being included, but really, for something like this, the technological nations would just have to take a best shot at it.

    • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Friday December 18, 2009 @07:33AM (#30485682) Homepage Journal


      the USA would probably, in consultation with its NATO allies, and Russia, launch everything it had it.

      If you mean nuke armed ICBMs, then let the words ring in your mind: inter continal ballistic missile.

      Supposed we had a bomb (or a combination of several hundred bombs) that can deflect an asteroid about 1 million miles away (3 times the distacne of our moon) ... we had nothing to deliver those bombs over that distance.

      Our missiles have enough power to run with their build in engines about 2000 km ... the rest of the trip they do in free fall, back to their destination on earth (that is why they a re called "ballistic") the total range of them is far below 20,000 km. In other words, they can not even make 10% of the distance to the moon.

      So sending atomic bombs (which would be more or less useless against an asteroid anyway ... but that is a different story) is completely out of scope due to the lack of missiles/rockets/launch vehicles to deliver them.

      With lack of vehicles I don't mean: we need to build a few, no I mean: we can't currently build anything like this! It is Sci Fi! To deflect an asteroid we need to meet it around the distance of Mars and have some (magical) device to do the actual deflecting.

      That means we need the time to fly a vehicle so far, which is roughly 1 year to 3 years depending on technology and actual position of the asteroid and earth. That means we have to realize it will hit us about 10 years in advance, just to plan the travel of the vehicle.

      As we all know how to travel that distance, land on the asteroid, stop its rotation perhaps, plant the deflecting device I leave the construction of the actual device as an exercise to the reader.

      angel'o'spheree

      • So sending atomic bombs (which would be more or less useless against an asteroid anyway ... but that is a different story)

        It was my understanding that the radiation (heat and nuclear) from a blast near an asteroid would cause rapid ablation of the surface material, enough to change its trajectory. It might take several blasts to achieve a safe heading for the asteroid but it is possible.

        I don't think actually attempting to 'blow up' an asteroid has ever been an option.

        -b

  • by ByTor-2112 (313205) on Friday December 18, 2009 @07:11AM (#30485562)

    Cartesian coordinates (0,0) on the axes of evil of course.

  • Sales Job (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday December 18, 2009 @07:56AM (#30485830) Journal

    Rusty Schweickart is not, in this instance, an ex-astronaut, he is the CEO of B612 Foundation, dedicated to promoting their gravity tractor design for asteroid deflection. This design solves the 'problems' which are here hung around the necks of politicians. B612 has been 'solving' these same problems in the same way for over 20 years now. The situations where this design fails are still the same also, most notably short notice. This is no objective analysis of solutions to social and other problems that might arise --- this is a sales job for one of several designs that would need to be developed in order to meet the many possible problems. Yet this and the other designs with potential business backing, do not present themselves are inadequate alone, a social problem itself, in that these 'experts' are not pounding home the truth that no one an tell ahead of time which of these would be needed and/or would work if tried, so several different esigns would be required to be available. Also, these are large scale interplanetary programs, with a good chance of technical failure preventing successful completion, thus making it necessary to have more than one of each design available. Figure the odds of getting funding for more than one copy of one design. Yeah, until the impact table comes out with our names on it.

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:39AM (#30486234) Homepage Journal

    ...to save all of you ungrateful fucks from a planet killing asteroid. Would you like to thank us or try and penalize us. Remember we only sent ONE of our nukes up."

  • by mea37 (1201159) on Friday December 18, 2009 @10:58AM (#30488100)

    Ok, the issues with using a nuclear weapon are political, not social. Then again I'm more concerned about the physics of that solution.

    As for dragging the asteroid so it will miss... the supposed social concern is that there will be times between when you start changing the path and when you've got it fully deflected, where it would (if you stop pushing) hit a place on Earth that it would not have hit before. Two things:

    1) TFA mentions that you would start this mission decades before a possible impact. You wouldn't know for sure that it would impact yet. Much less would you know where the impact would occur. Hence, you wouldn't know where the "corridor of risk" would be. Nobody would have to choose which countries to "put at risk", because nobody would be able to make such a choice if they wanted to.

    2) If the asteroid's initial trajectory is going to hit the Earth, then there's a 70% chance (roughly) that it will hit water. Even the people in any given country are probably at equal or less risk if the asteroid is momentarily pointed at their country's land mass, than if it is left to hit the ocean in their hemisphere. In other words, the "corridor of risk" wouldn't be at elevated risk - it would be at slightly less decreased risk than other locations on Earth.

    It seems to me that if you want to drag the asteroid, picking the direction should be easy. Estimate its current trajectory as best you can. On the very unlikley chance that trajectory hits the center of the Earth, I guess you have to choose randomly; but in the vastly more likely case that it passes relatively near the center of the Earth (such that it would hit the Earth), wouldn't you drag it in the opposite direction (i.e. draw an arrow from the center of the earth to the line of the trajectory where it passes the center; push it the direction the arrow points)? Minimum energy and maximum chance of success...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RockDoctor (15477)

      1) TFA mentions that you would start this mission decades before a possible impact. You wouldn't know for sure that it would impact yet. Much less would you know where the impact would occur.

      to know that there is going to be an impact, you need to have the asteroid and the Earth within (to a first approximation, for the description not for the calculation) 6360km of each other AT THE SAME TIME.
      The Earth's orbital velocity is around 100000km/hour ; to get Earth and asteroid in the same place at the same tim

  • water (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GregNorc (801858) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {crongerg}> on Saturday December 19, 2009 @03:39AM (#30497306)

    Waiter covers 70% of the Earth's surface. Now, if we exclude areas that would cause catastrophic flooding the number gets smaller, but I'll bet we could find someplace out in the middle of the ocean to deflect it.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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