Armageddon looming? Bruce Willis couldn't save us from asteroid doom (Update)

Aug 07, 2012
An artist's animation illustrates a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun. Scientists have dismissed adventure films like 'Armageddon' where the hero uses a nuclear bomb to save Earth from a giant asteroid, as too little science and a lot of fiction.

(Phys.org) -- According to the internet hysteria surrounding the ancient Mayan calendar, an asteroid could be on its way to wipe out the world on December 21, 2012.

Obviously this is pretty unlikely - but if an asteroid really is on its way, could we take a cue from the disaster movie Armageddon in order to save the planet?

According to science research carried out by University of Leicester physics students, the answer is definitely “no”.

In the 1998 film, Bruce Willis plays an oil-drilling platform engineer who lands on the surface of an Earth-bound asteroid, drills to the centre and detonates a nuclear weapon, splitting the asteroid in half.

The two pieces of the asteroid then pass either side of the Earth, saving the planet’s population from annihilation.

But the group of four MPhys students worked out that this method would not work, as we simply do not have a bomb powerful enough.

Students Ben Hall, Gregory Brown, Ashley Back and Stuart Turner found that the device would need to be about a billion times stronger than the biggest bomb ever detonated on Earth – the Soviet Union’s 50 megaton hydrogen bomb “Big Ivan” – in order to save the world from a similar sized asteroid.

To do this, they devised a formula to find the total amount of kinetic energy (E) needed in relation to the volume of the asteroid pieces (⅔πr3), their density (ρ), the clearance radius (R) which was taken as the radius of Earth plus 400 miles, the asteroid’s pre-detonation velocity (ν1) and its distance from at the point of detonation (D).

Armageddon looming? Bruce Willis couldn't save us from asteroid doom (Update)

Using the measurements and properties of the asteroid as stated in the film, the formula revealed that 800 trillion terajoules of energy would be required to split the asteroid in two with both pieces clearing the planet. However, the total energy output of “Big Ivan” only comes to 418,000 terajoules.

In other words, we would need to construct a bomb about a billion times stronger than the most powerful weapon ever built in order to save the world in this way.

They also found that scientists would have to detect the asteroid much earlier if we were to have any chance of splitting the asteroid in time.

On top of this, the asteroid would need to be split at almost the exact point that it could feasibly be detected at 8 billion miles.

This would leave no time for Bruce to travel to the asteroid and drill into its centre – let alone share any meaningful moments with Ben Affleck or Liv Tyler along the way.

Student Ben Hall, 22, from Haverhill, near Cambridge, said: “One possible alternative method would be moving the asteroid via propulsion methods attached to it. What is certain is that most methods would require very early detection of such an and very careful planning in deriving a solution.

“I really enjoyed the film Armageddon and up until recently never really considered the plausibility in the science behind the movie. But after watching it back I found myself being more sceptical about the film in many areas.

“I think that directors attempt to make films scientifically-accurate but find that a lot of trouble is run into in what can and cannot be done, thus leading to falsification in the science to make movies more interesting or visually appealing to the audience.

The science papers, entitled Could Bruce Willis Save the World? and Could Bruce Willis Predict the End of the World? were published in this year’s University of Leicester Journal of Special Physics Topics.

The journal is published every year, and features original short papers written by students in the final year of their four-year Master of Physics degree.

Ben, who graduated with a First last month and is due to start working at Coalville-based optical technology company Zeeko in August, added: “The module was great fun to be involved with as it allowed for us to get our creative juices flowing and attack original problems from different angles. The whole publishing and reviewing process also gave us a very good taster of what it is like to publish papers in the 'real world' as well as being a good simulation of the problems that arise when doing so.”

The other three group members also graduated with Firsts, and are set to start PhDs.

Course leader Dr Mervyn Roy, a lecturer at the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “A lot of the papers published in the Journal are on subjects that are amusing, topical, or a bit off-the-wall. Our fourth years are nothing if not creative! But, to be a research physicist - in industry or academia - you need to show some imagination, to think outside the box, and this is certainly something that the module allows our students to practice.

“Most of our masters students hope to go on to careers in research where a lot of their time will be taken up with scientific publishing - writing and submitting papers, and writing and responding to referee reports.

“This is another area where the module really helps. Because Physics Special Topics is run exactly like a professional journal, the students get the chance to develop all the skills they will need when dealing with high profile journals like Nature or Science later on in life.”

Explore further: The risks of blowing your own trumpet too soon on research

More information: You can read the full papers here: physics.le.ac.uk/journals/inde… article/view/390/243

And here: physics.le.ac.uk/journals/inde… article/view/411/307

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LariAnn
3 / 5 (10) Aug 07, 2012
Instead of using a nuke to split the asteroid which, as the article points out, wouldn't do the job with the caliber of nukes we now have, why not use nukes as a propulsion device to move the asteroid onto a safe course? The nukes could still be embedded but a deep drilling would not be required to get the propulsion effect.
Lurker2358
2.3 / 5 (12) Aug 07, 2012
Clearly, there's something wrong with his calculation.

A bomb a billion times larger than what the soviets detonated would be nearly as big as the Asteroid seen in the movie, which was itself larger than Ceres...

A billion is a pretty big number, and the device detonated was very, very large.

If an asteriod was 160 million km distance and closing on earth at 17km/s, you'd only need to accelerate it by a net change in velocity of just 2 METERS per second in order to miss the surface of the Earth by a range of 2 Earth Radii.

This needs 785 quintillion Joules.

This is 3,752 of the world's largest nuclear bomb.

Since I calculated this based on change from a dead center hit, If you doubled the size of the bomb you'd actually miss Earth' surface by 5 Earth radii, and if you quadrupled the size you'd miss Earth's surface by 11 Earth radii....and you'd still be five orders of magnitude smaller than his "billions times" sized bomb.
Doug_Huffman
3.7 / 5 (12) Aug 07, 2012
Back to freshman Physics 101. F=ma and mv=mv. The energy of a nuclear device does not scale with volume.
Tangent2
3.8 / 5 (10) Aug 07, 2012
If the end of the world is pencilled for December 21, 2012 -- the date said to be indicated by the Mayan calendar -- that does give us some months to do something about it.


This is making 2 very large assumptions, neither of which are warranted. The first, that the Mayans were indeed predicting the end of the world (which they weren't, the calendar cycle simply starts again. Do we freak out when our calendar reaches December 31st? No, we simply start the calendar again.) and the second is that the end of the world will be by asteroid, which there has been no evidence that there is indeed an asteroid on a collision path with Earth for Dec 21, 2012.

This whole article was a waste of time.
gopher65
3.5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Clearly, there's something wrong with his calculation.

A bomb a billion times larger than what the soviets detonated would be nearly as big as the Asteroid seen in the movie...

He states that it would have to be that big to utilize the same (really stupid) asteroid defense they used in the move. ie, cleaving the asteroid in half and having the two halves move far enough apart to miss Earth. Obviously changing the trajectory of the object would be much easier.

The reason it takes so much energy to split the asteroid is because you're essentially having to overcome its the gravitational bonding energy. An object 1000km across has a huge amount of mass, and thus an extremely high gravitational bonding energy.

That said, a billion tsar bombas should be about enough to overcome Earth's gravitational bonding energy, IIRC. Maybe the original paper said "1 billion nukes", meaning a small tactical nuke (which might be true), and the author of the article misinterpreted it.
Jeddy_Mctedder
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
600 miles in diameter would be one of the largest asteroids in the solar system and it is extraordinarily unlikely that we will discover an asteroid of 600 miles in diameter heading towards earth. period.

an asteroid a tenth of 1% as large. at .6 miles in diamter, you are looking at a MASSIVE asteroid. while rare, its small enough to make it hard to see . its almost certain there are many heading towards earth and will hit us without giving us more than a couple of days notice. ---in fact such an event happened only a number of years ago------the asteroid came very close to earth and was discovered only after it had nearly hit us.

a 1km asteroid is certainly not an extinction event, but if it hit land or water, it could cause serious problems for civilization. while a large thermonuclear bombs might be insufficient at the last day, we have better methods for steering them, but they take months of preparation. the problem is identifying them all before they hit us.
sirchick
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
Surely lots of smaller underground explosions would shake the thing into small pieces? Similiar to controlled explosions in building demolition.

With small larger surface area entering the atmosphere there is more chance they will burn up then.
LariAnn
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2012
All Hollywood needed to do is to scale down the size of the asteroid (say, from 600 miles in diameter to 6 miles in diameter) and give Bruce a lot more time to reach it and plant his nuke there. A 6 mile diameter rock is plenty big for a drill-equipped rover plus a couple nukes (one for the job and one for backup) to roam around looking for the perfect drilling spot. There would still be plenty of catastrophic fear to go around while everyone waited with bated breath for Bruce to do the job and the science would have been sounder.
B Bau
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
I'm pretty sure there was an article mentioning a discovery of a recent find that referenced the date of the 'end date' of the Mayan calander. It referenced the reign of the last king, making him have the longest rule on record. Silly, but then again it was a different time.

I would also agree with the point about the calander resetting which was mentioned earlier.

while I research such conspiracy theories, this one doesn't hold much stock. Although IF anything were to happen, it would likely be a Solar event, knocking out communications and electricity for awhile. Certainly would cause major problems... IF it ever happened.
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012
Surely lots of smaller underground explosions would shake the thing into small pieces? Similiar to controlled explosions in building demolition.

With small larger surface area entering the atmosphere there is more chance they will burn up then.


If a 30 meter diameter piece hits New York City or Tokyo at typical velocities, or produces an air burst above those cities, the death toll will be 20 to 30 million at least...instantaneously...

So just one piece would be one of the worst human disasters in recorded history, like half way to World War 2 or the Spanish Flu...just instantly, then again, that's if it hit one of the top 5 populous cities.

The point is you need to make all the pieces 10m or less to make them burn up in the atmosphere...
seb
not rated yet Aug 07, 2012
An asteroid? For dec 21st 2012? That's not the 2012 internet myth, but rather a dwarf star or actual rogue planet, or density of the interstellar medium across a galactic plane. Asteroid. Pfff.

Sure, that was just an excuse for you to post your calculations and such, but still, some basic fact checking and all that..
Great Scott_
2 / 5 (11) Aug 07, 2012
Dear Nerds,

Armageddon was a MOVIE. This just in: radioactive spiders do not give super-powers, there is no one ring that binds them and the galaxy far, far away doesn't have a green muppet the weilds a glowing sword.
TrinityComplex
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
Lurker, the entire population of the state of New York was 19,465,197 in 2011 (estimated by the United States Census Bureau), so unless you are saying a 30 meter diameter asteroid would destroy the entire state, your numbers might be a little off. The city's population, including all five boroughs, was estimated at 8,244,910 in 2011 (again, estimated by USCB) over 305 square miles. The population of the entire Tokyo prefecture, an area of 5,200 square miles, is 37,126,000. The special wards that make up the area most people think of as the city of Tokyo was estimated to have a population of of over 8 million in 2008. The population of Japan has been in decline, so this number is probably still close to accurate.
Tsar Bomb's (Big Ivan) 50 megaton test blast was witnessed and purportedly 'felt' (wave of heat) by an observer 170 miles away, but this was outside the damage area. Fat Man's (Nuke dropped on Nagasaki) yield was 21 kilotons, .00042% of Big Ivan, killing 39,000 instantly.
TrinityComplex
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 07, 2012
Great Scott, the purpose of the exercise was to let the students have fun and be creative while giving them a fairly consequence free venue to get practical experience in publishing papers, which they will need in their careers.

Why are you even on a science website making comments if you think so lowly of 'nerds'? Bear in mind that 'nerds' are the reason you can sit at a desk, get any information you want, and communicate with people anywhere in the world, so give it a little thought before you answer the question.
javjav
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Instead of using a nuke to split the asteroid which, ... why not use nukes as a propulsion device to move the asteroid onto a safe course?

In either case you need the same amount of energy (assuming that you achieve the same degree of explosion directionality ). It cost the same energy to deviate the whole thing by 1 degree in one direction than deviating each half by 1 degree in opposite directions. But then:

- In one hand the shock wave of a central explosion has the advantage to break the center core into small chunks that will simply burn in the atmosphere (you only need to deviate about 2 thirds of the mass, depending on the composition).

- In the other hand, launching nuclear missiles to one side seems to be a more scalable strategy, as there are thousands of them ready to launch, (unfortunately). And it is also a much faster approach. With an asteroid at that speed and so close to earth, the energy needs will grow exponentially with wasted time.
dirk_bruere
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2012
Actually, 21 Dec 2012 is the day the supernova wavefront reaches us from Betelgeuse
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2012
as there are thousands of them ready to launch, (unfortunately).

Unfortunately they're not equipped to reach orbit (much less any place beyond that). So even if we could use them we could only use as many as we could pack on something the size of your average deep space probe (which is about one or two...more like one since we'd probably want to pack a lot of fuel to intercept this thing as far out as possible - no time for waiting fro planets to be in the right positions for fancy swing-by maneuvers).

I'm not holding out much hope for a 'nuclear asteroid shield'. There are better ways. Solar sails, ion drives, attractors, ... they don't deliver the same energy per (micro) second an atomic blast does - but since they can work for months/years over time the total amount of momentum transferred can be much larger.
And they are much more controllable/adjustable.
Lurker2358
3.2 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
Trinity:

It is believed that the Tunguska event was caused by an object about 30m in diameter.

The explosion would be large enough to not only wipe out NY city, but many of the surrounding large cities and towns, including across state lines.

The officially calculated size of the Tunguska object is severely over-estimated, as just the kinetic energy alone for a 30m impact object would be 1.2 megatons equivalent, on the LOW end of typical impact velocities, even without a thermonuclear air-burst occurring.

At any rate, even a 1.2 megaton equivalent impact would demolish much more than one city through one mechanism or another, heat, tremors, shockwave, wind, ejecta, etc.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (27) Aug 07, 2012
Well if we develop the asteroid rendezvous capability out in the belt that obama wants, perhaps we could deorbit a few rocks from out there, or apollos from further in, and knock the offending asteroid askew. Sounds dangerous I know but so is extinction.
javjav
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 07, 2012
Betelgeuse exploding? it would create beautiful fireworks, but at 640 light years it is too far away to create problems to us.

This is from an interesting article from Phil Plait:
http://news.disco...012.html

" A supernova has to be no farther than about 25 light years away to be able to fry us with light or anything else, and Betelgeuse is 25 times that distance (which means its power to hurt us is weakened by over 600x). Its the wrong kind of star to explode as a gamma-ray burst, so Im not worried about that either.

At that distance, itll get bright, about as bright as the full Moon. Thats pretty bright! Itll hurt your eyes to look at it, but thats about it "
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (25) Aug 07, 2012
Unfortunately they're not equipped to reach orbit (much less any place beyond that).
The potential has been studied and the answer is far from simple:
http://www.perman...icbm.htm

Oh sorry javjav I thought you posted in the wrong thread-
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (10) Aug 07, 2012
Actually, 21 Dec 2012 is the day the supernova wavefront reaches us from Betelgeuse


Gonna suck if/when that goes for real.

sounds like a plague from the Book of Revelation.

If the Western Hemisphere was facing Betelgeuse as the worst part of the radiation happened, it could concievably cause conflagration, burning up the trees and grass, and since there's much less land area in the W/ hemisphere, this would burn up 1/3rd fo trees and grass...

Although it doesn't quite work, since the plague is described as "Hail, Fire, and blood," which burns up 1/3rd of the trees and all of the grass on the planet.

A supernova could accomplish this over a period of a few hours, without necessarily destroying all life on the planet, if the burst was very acute, so that it hits all at once, penetrates the atmosphere, and incinerates everything on that side of the planet.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (28) Aug 07, 2012
I read a scifi story once about the sun going nova, described by someone on the night side. The moon got very bright-
Lurker2358
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2012
Betelgeuse exploding? it would create beautiful fireworks, but at 640 light years it is too far away to create problems to us.


I don't trust calculations.

The Crab nebula was 10 times farther away, and a smaller star by all available evidence.

The Crab remnants could be seen during the DAY for over a year after the explosion, that is how bright it was.

Given the inverse squared law, the Betelgeuse explosion should appear at least 100 times brighter, even if it was the same size, which means it will be brighter than the full moon, but probably not as bright as looking straight at the Sun...and it will stay that bright for probably a year or two....

Additionally, the inverse squared law only works for an expanding spherical shell of energy. If it produces some sort of toroidal explosion or some other non-spherical explosion, then energy cn be much more concentrated in parts of the blast than in others...
javjav
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012

Unfortunately they're not equipped to reach orbit (much less any place beyond that).


They can not only launch payloads into orbit, they are doing it constantly. Most space rockets are repurposed ICBMs. From the TitanII that launched first Geminis into orbit up to Soyuz missions use ICBMs. And for the example of this movie (hitting an asteroid at 150.000km from earth) they don't need to launch anything into orbit, just to put warheads on direct course and to explode at 0 speed (although a second stage would be needed, but just a small missile attached to a big one).

Of course it is better to intercept it at many million miles. But this article was about "what if there is no time?".
Anyway I agree it could only work for much smaller asteroids. And depending on the asteroid angle to earth orbit it could be better to hit it on its back to accelerate it, thus missing earth ahead of us and sending most radioactive fragments in the opposite direction.
gopher65
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2012
Instead of using a nuke to split the asteroid which, ... why not use nukes as a propulsion device to move the asteroid onto a safe course?

In either case you need the same amount of energy (assuming that you achieve the same degree of explosion directionality ). It cost the same energy to deviate the whole thing by 1 degree in one direction than deviating each half by 1 degree in opposite directions.

This is not true. You're assuming a perfectly spherical cow (simplifying the problem to the point of getting an incorrect answer).

In reality, if you take the energy it would take to move an asteroid 1 degree and apply that to attempting to split the asteroid, it would be "absorbed" by the asteroid's gravitational field. What would physically happen is that the blast would attempt to blow apart the object, gravity would counter the explosion, and then the energy would be converted into heat and slowly radiated away.

So a centered explosion is a bad idea.
javjav
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
if you take the energy it would take to move an asteroid 1 degree and apply that to attempting to split the asteroid, it would be "absorbed" by the asteroid's gravitational field. What would physically happen is that the blast would attempt to blow apart the object, gravity would counter the explosion, and then the energy would be converted into heat and slowly radiated away.

Heat is not wasted, in combination with a shockwave it would melt and disintegrate matter into small pieces as I mentioned. Ideally, if a first explosion split it without too much effort (as it per the geology in the asteroid of the movie), an immediately subsequent explosion could have an amplified effect, as matter and radiation would be trapped between both halves, forcing them to separate faster. Energy is conserved as the center of mass is not modified. Gravity is not a problem as it would not have time to slow down both pieces at that distance.
javjav
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 07, 2012
I am wondering if it would be possible to cut the two halves of the asteroid in the other plane (parallel to earth rather tan perpendicular), so they hit the atmosphere just one after the other. The first one would experience an extreme break when hitting the atmosphere, then the second one would crash onto it and they would disintegrate one against the other in small chunks that could be burned by the atmosphere.
An alternative option could be to make them hit side by side at the right distance, having both shock waves smashing into each other.
Jeddy_Mctedder
2.6 / 5 (9) Aug 07, 2012
Trinity:

It is believed that the Tunguska event was caused by an object about 30m in diameter.

The explosion would be large enough to not only wipe out NY city, but many of the surrounding large cities and towns, including across state lines.

The officially calculated size of the Tunguska object is severely over-estimated, as just the kinetic energy alone for a 30m impact object would be 1.2 megatons equivalent, on the LOW end of typical impact velocities, even without a thermonuclear air-burst occurring.

At any rate, even a 1.2 megaton equivalent impact would demolish much more than one city through one mechanism or another, heat, tremors, shockwave, wind, ejecta, etc.


-------my understanding about the tunguska research out there is that there is NO general accepted estimate of the size of the meteor nor its composition. the estimates are in wild disagreement with each other. the meteor could have been easily 200 meters in size. scientists disagree.------
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2012
This should be pretty obvious, since splitting an asteroid was even impossible using the entire output of the Enterprise warp drive engines.

http://en.memory-...episode)

Think people... Think!
jamesrm
5 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2012
"I really enjoyed the film Armageddon"

I find this statement the hardest to believe. :)
gopher65
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2012
Gravity is not a problem as it would not have time to slow down both pieces at that distance.

Interestingly, though it seems counter-intuitive, recent studies have shown that even with small (~100 metre) asteroids you could completely blow them to rubble with a massive explosion, and they would still reform into a rubble pile within a few hours. The bigger the asteroid, the faster that effect happens. Researchers in the field have dubbed this the "terminator effect", since you just can't seem to kill the asteroids. Heh.

These recent studies have basically ruled out the possibility of using nukes to blow up an impactor of any significant size. However, the possibility of using a series of small nukes to move the asteroid via nuclear pulse propulsion (similar to the original Orion idea) could still work.
Grizzled
3 / 5 (4) Aug 08, 2012
I read a scifi story once about the sun going nova, described by someone on the night side. The moon got very bright-

I remember that one too, think it was called just that - The Bright Moon or some such.

However, I would say it's more of a fantasy (my apologies to the fans of the genre). The science in that Sci-Fi is very, very... non-existant :-)
Grizzled
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2012
Re: explosion(s) on one side of the asteroid to push it off-course.

Excuse me, where does reactive mass comes from? Remember, to act as propulsion, it will need to throw enough material in the opposite direction to affect the asteroid. And it's a rather big and heavy thing. Granted, high speeds of the ejected material help but you still need that material. And, apart from the evaporated parts of the missile and some rocks nearby this material is... what?

Remember - there is no athmosphere around to create the shock waves and such.
Satene
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2012
Even if we would split an asteroid, it would merge again. In addition, the amount of large debris would make the situation even worse.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2012
They can not only launch payloads into orbit, they are doing it constantly. Most space rockets are repurposed ICBMs.

LEO - not GEO or even beyond. Look at the sizes of e.g. an Ariane rocket for getting stuff to GEO and your standard ICBM (like the Titan II). Notice a difference? The Ariane rocket is about 5 times larger.
LarryD
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
I wish people would stop all this rubbish about the December 21 2012. What the Mayan culture suggested was simply a new cycle not the end of the world. In fact the date 21st of December is in dispute and may be wrong due to translation and/or interpretation of Mayan 'light/lord' Ahau. Some consider that the new galactic cycle is already in progress according to the Mayan short calendar.
javjav
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
LEO - not GEO or even beyond.

What? Even a Soyuz rocket (which is just an R-7 ICBM with an upper stage) can send up to 2.8 Ton to GEO, and it is not the biggest ICBM
javjav
not rated yet Aug 08, 2012
even with small (~100 metre) asteroids you could completely blow them to rubble with a massive explosion, and they would still reform into a rubble pile within a few hours.

For this case it does not matter if they can reform later ( a lot of days later for a few kilometers asteroid by the way ), as the fragments would have passed earth trajectory. Have you seen the movie or read the article? Basically the asteroid is break in pieces a few hours before the impact, then the earth pass trough the middle, and the big pieces pass trough both sides, with overall damage highly decreased. A lot of small pieces still hit the atmosphere and burn on it, or hit the ground but creating only local damage. The trajectory of the center of mass of the asteroid is never modified, so you only need enough energy to separate its pieces for a while. Nuclear shockwaves are not effective in space, but they are if detonated inside an asteroid fault, creating huge pressure waves in both directions
gopher65
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2012
javjav: errrr, that's what part of the article we just read was about. Ignoring gravity for a moment (it would take only minutes in most cases for the asteroid to reform), in order for the asteroid parts to have time to move apart enough to miss Earth, you'd have to blast them apart so far away from Earth as to make this unfeasible (like, in the outer solar system. Not inside the orbit of the moon like in that really stupid movie:P). When you add gravity back into the equation, that makes this method of avoidance impossible in practicality.
R2Bacca
5 / 5 (4) Aug 08, 2012
I don't trust calculations.


Given the inverse squared law, the Betelgeuse explosion should appear at least 100 times brighter


I don't think this needs much comment.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (27) Aug 08, 2012
Excuse me, where does reactive mass comes from? Remember, to act as propulsion, it will need to throw enough material in the opposite direction to affect the asteroid. And it's a rather big and heavy thing. Granted, high speeds of the ejected material help but you still need that material. And, apart from the evaporated parts of the missile and some rocks nearby this material is... what?

Remember - there is no athmosphere around to create the shock waves and such.
Nope. See project orion
http://en.wikiped...pulsion)

Nuclear explosions to divert asteroids has been studied
http://en.wikiped..._weapons

-Along with many other methods. I still like the idea of smacking it with another asteroid, which would gain considerable kinetic energy in its inward trajectory. A relatively small energy expenditure would produce many times the terminal energy.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (25) Aug 08, 2012
I do see that orion used tungsten as reaction mass. Huh.

Here are some alternatives
http://en.wikiped...opulsion

This is interesting and could produce relatively low thrust for moving large objects with necessarily damaging them
http://en.wikiped...opulsion
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (10) Aug 08, 2012
Dear Nerds,

Armageddon was a MOVIE. This just in: radioactive spiders do not give super-powers, there is no one ring that binds them and the galaxy far, far away doesn't have a green muppet the weilds a glowing sword.


Did some nerds intellectually abuse you as a child?
gopher65
3 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2012
In the case of an asteroid, the reaction mass for NPP can come straight from the rock itself. No need to bring along loads of tungsten:).
Standing Bear
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2012
How about the use of a space shuttle on a mission above low earth orbit? That shuttle was not designed to return at speeds of 25,000 mi/hr or even more. We would need a 'system ship' to go the distance to plant avoidance devices. Such a ship would be MUCH larger than a shuttle. Ideally a true ship, run by the Navy, and crewed by dozens if not hundreds of officers and men...and a few women. Only this would have the infrastructure to do this job. The idea of trusting the fate of the planet to a few harebrained fools on a rube goldberg contraption carrying an old M-80 firecracker, figuratively, is a fantasy tale for fools and idiots.
As for devices, maybe a >5x(10^12)watt X-Ray laser could drill the hole. This could also be the ship's primary weapon so is safely fired from ship. Then ship fires a ton of antimatter in a torpedo right down the hole to impact and at first convert the asteroid into a rocket with the hole as its thrust axis..then blows it apart at a million mi/hr
gopher65
4 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2012
Then ship fires a ton of antimatter in a torpedo right down the hole to impact and at first convert the asteroid into a rocket with the hole as its thrust axis..then blows it apart at a million mi/hr

If we had the technology necessary to create and contain "a ton of antimatter", we wouldn't be worried about impacting asteroids, and we'd already have colonized other star systems.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2012
If we had the technology necessary to create and contain "a ton of antimatter", we wouldn't be worried about impacting asteroids, and we'd already have colonized other star systems.

I think we'd be worried about the containment failing and blowing ourselves up here on Earth.

1 ton of antimatter which comes in contact with 1 ton of matter would liberate a force equivalent to 43 gigatonnes of TNT (about 1000 times more than the Tsar bomb - which was the biggest bomb ever detonated)

But putting that in a torpedo would be rather less effective since only the front few grams would annihilate and the rest would just get pushed back by the radiation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (24) Aug 11, 2012
I think we'd be worried about the containment failing and blowing ourselves up here on Earth.
That's why we will be making it in space, from abundant and continuous sunlight.

Greg Bear described how a malevolent alien race could melt the earth by creating a chunk of degenerate matter, and one of antimatter, and sending them into a decaying orbit around the core.
http://en.wikiped...e_of_God

-I suppose we will figure out how to do this sooner or later.
ryggesogn2
2.6 / 5 (15) Aug 11, 2012
I suspect the more humans will die from the climate change caused by the next asteroid impact than a bit more CO2.
Where are the climate change worriers demanding all means to detect and deflect the next asteroid instead of wasting tax money on bankrupt solar companies?
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2012
I will modify my primary weapon on that sysem ship. A long time ago...and not in a galaxy far away, a physicist theorized that a wave of short enough wavelength equal to the diameter of the nucleus of certain elements, then with a bit of power, and not all that much either, that atom will destabilize and return to the energy from which it sprang...complete conversion! Now take that in a high power laser and focus it inside a protective sheath of circularly polarized laser light and fire it down at the asteroid..now no hole needed. The beam will hit, disintegrate, and matter/energy convert every nucleus of the target element it hits. Rotate its frequency and one can tailor make the beam to fit the assteroid. Rasterize the beam to a star pattern and we have a rocket with literally holy power. Stand off the asteroid from a long distance to not get hit by the blast. Fortunately, lasers have a very long range in space. Tailor power to maximize thrust efficiency.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2012
Of course a system ship with a huge mass driver of a electrohydrodynamic rail gun capable of accelerating ten metric tons of matter to 1000km/sec could be fired at the thing repeatedly, especially if the system ship was fusion powered. That asteroid WOULD move. AS for the original antimatter idea, that anti-matter/matter reaction would be so fast as no outward acceleration would take place from the reaction, in fact a resonant standing wave probably would result in the shock wave fronts, disintegrating and exploding all in its path, setting up collateral vortices radiating spherically from the source of the explosion....and maybe create new quarks not in the standard tables to combine to make strange new matter....Always thought that table was incomplete...needs the third dimension to also account for the three dimensionality of time. That allows time travel by the way, but you still cannot mock Thomas Wolfe..you cannot go back on a 3D reverse vector of your timeline. Good to go
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
Greg Bear described how a malevolent alien race could melt the earth by creating a chunk of degenerate matter, and one of antimatter, and sending them into a decaying orbit around the core.

Read the book. But that particular part doesn't work. The 'bomb' would never survive reentry, and the force of the interface between the antimatter and anything it touches (like the atmosphere or the ground it travels through afterwards) would rip it apart instantly.

Making antimatter from sunlight also isn't viable. At the most fundemanetal we're talking about energy to matter transmustation - which comes out to E equals mc squared. Shining that light at the asteroid would have the same effect (give the same impulse) as transmuting it to antimatter and sending it there.

And we really have no clue how to do energy to stable matter conversion at goof efficiency.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (23) Aug 12, 2012
Read the book. But that particular part doesn't work. The 'bomb' would never survive reentry, and the force of the interface between the antimatter and anything it touches (like the atmosphere or the ground it travels through afterwards) would rip it apart instantly.
I think I would defer to mr bear on this. As degenerate matter, or antineutronium, it would be relatively oblivious to contact with ordinary matter. It would no doubt create quite a ruckus on its journey however, which he took pains to describe.

As this is critical to his whole hypothesis and central to both novels, I am confident he researched it extensively. The books probably were generated from it. Greg bear writes 'hard science fiction' which is usually based more so on science than the norm.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (23) Aug 12, 2012
Neutron stars regularly cannibalize ordinary companions without being 'ripped apart'. Same thing.
Making antimatter from sunlight also isn't viable. At the most fundemanetal we're talking about energy to matter transmustation
Think solar factories with hundreds of square miles of collectors inside the orbit of mercury, operating nonstop for decades, perhaps converting the energy to coherent microwaves and beaming it outward to conversion stations in more convenient locations.

Antimatter can be transported and and applied exquisitely, making it the perfect fuel.
And we really have no clue how to do energy to stable matter conversion at goof efficiency.
-Yet. Figuring this out is what LHCs and tokamaks are for.

Stretch your mind AA. I know your brain is fragile, oversized, and prone to damage and defect but give it a try.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2012
Think solar factories with hundreds of square miles of collectors inside the orbit of mercury, operating nonstop for decades,

As with some other of the ideas floating around here: if you can do these kinds of things then there's methods which are a billion times easier to knock an asteroid off course. Antimatter is currently not the solution to anything (except maybe PET scans)

As for large solar factories inside Mercury orbit:
Mercury's solar constant is 5-10 times higher than that of Earth if you go in that far you'll need something that doesn't get molten (or blasted out of space with every other CME.)

Figuring this out is what LHCs and tokamaks are for.

No. Tokamaks are for fusion and the LHC for subatomic particle science.


Stretch your mind AA.

We're talking about viable solutions now (or in the near future) - not SciFi fantasy. I like SciFi like the next geek, but you have to keep it separate from reality.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2012
Containing antimatter is really a doozy if you think about it:
1) We can't contain anti-atoms. They're electrically neutral so wouldn't be affected by magnetic fields. Which leaves us with containing antiprotons or betas.
2) From a lecture by Feynman (on electrostatics/dynamics) I remember that he used the example of the force generated if he and one of his students 10 feet away were each to contain an excess of just 1% charge carriers. I don't know how heavy Feynman and his student were but for sake of the argument let's assume 100kg, each (so 2kg excess charge carriers). The force he calculated was so large, it was like having to lift something with the mass of the entire Earth off of the Earth.

Now I know science comes up with awesome things but that kind of magnetic force containment unit is still a bit beyond us. And the problem would get MUCH worse with larger masses of charge carriers as they interact in every pair.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (25) Aug 12, 2012
No. Tokamaks are for fusion and the LHC for subatomic particle science.
Actually tokamaks are for studying the nature of plasma. This is why they are constructed and operated in places with names like Plasma Physics Lab. The public is told they are for providing magical free energy because their funding is politically-generated.
Containing antimatter is really a doozy if you think about it
No as I've often said if you really think about it you would do a little research and see what's actually out there. CERN for instance has been storing antimatter in bulk for awhile now:
http://www.geek.c...2011066/
http://www.msnbc....science/

-And a tokamak-type bottle would be ideal for storing and transporting large amounts.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (25) Aug 12, 2012
Tokamak plasmas are composed of both electrons and betas. They are typically ionized deuterium and tritium.
http://prl.aps.or...i2/p88_1
Estevan57
2.3 / 5 (33) Aug 12, 2012
Holding something for under 17 minutes qualifies as bulk storage?
Ha Ha Ha Ha. Release the sockpuppets.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (23) Aug 12, 2012
As for large solar factories inside Mercury orbit:
Mercury's solar constant is 5-10 times higher than that of Earth if you go in that far you'll need something that doesn't get molten (or blasted out of space with every other CME.)
If you are interested in some plausible speculation by another hard scifi writer, might I suggest '2312'
http://en.wikiped..._(novel)

-For a description of just this technology, as well as many ideas on just what the solar system may look like in a few 100 years.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (23) Aug 12, 2012
Holding something for under 17 minutes qualifies as bulk storage?
Ha Ha Ha Ha. Release the sockpuppets.
Hello twatboy. That's 'so far'. And did you visit the other link? You don't expect that science will get better at this? As the article says they went from ms to minutes in only 1 year. Try to keep up ok?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2012
Interesting how the ALPHA stores the antihydrogen.
here's a good movie of how it does it.
http://alpha-new.web.cern.ch/

I hadn't been aware of this (since it's flagged 12.June 2012 it's a rather new thing)

. CERN for instance has been storing antimatter in bulk

'In bulk' and 'large amounts' is a bit euphemistic here, don't you think? A trillion antimatter particles may sound like much, But to get 1kg of anti-hydrogen we're still off by more than 11 orders of magnitude. (And the guys talking about a trillion particles are talking about betas - not antihydrogen)

It's really up to the application whether antimatter storage is worth it over other fuels. Antimatter storage takes energy (and needs to be very safe). The creation of antimatter is pretty ineffective (harvesting in the van Allen belt may be more effective - still atrociously costly if you want to get enough to use it for anything macroscopic like a bomb or fuel to get anywhere)
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2012
as well as many ideas on just what the solar system may look like in a few 100 years.

As I've said before: "in a few 100 years" anything can happen. We should be looking at what can be done, realistically, now or in the near to middling future.
Waiting for a few centuries and hoping that all StarTrek technologies become real may not be an option.
Estevan57
2 / 5 (31) Aug 12, 2012
Actually Ottotwat, I gave this info to Pussycat in a discussion a few months ago about the return of a space mission. Do try to keep up yourself.

Of course I would expect science to get better than this. Why not?
It's not so much the storage as the catching of the antiparticles.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (24) Aug 12, 2012
'In bulk' and 'large amounts' is a bit euphemistic here, don't you think? A trillion antimatter particles may sound like much, But to get 1kg of anti-hydrogen we're still off by more than 11 orders of magnitude.
Yah this is what they said about neutrinos. If you want to scare yourself, consider that technology is accelerating geometrically.
As I've said before: "in a few 100 years" anything can happen.
That is something a scifi writer like Marion zimmer Bradley would say. Larry Niven would take a hard look at what scientists think is actually possible in the future, and when, and write a good book on it.
Waiting for a few centuries and hoping that all StarTrek technologies become real may not be an option.
What's-his-name did not write hard scifi.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (25) Aug 12, 2012
I just think it is very curious that they are building the biggest tokamak in the world only 10s of kilometers due south of the biggest machine in the world capable of making antimatter in bulk. N'est pas? They even made a Tom hanks movie about it.
rwinners
5 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2012
Clearly insanity abounds.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2012
If you want to scare yourself, consider that technology is accelerating geometrically.

As with all accelerations that one will eventually top out. It has been acceleratinbg because population (and especially number of scientists and their ability to cooperate) has exploded in the past. That explosion cannot go on indefinitely.
And given budget cuts is almost certainly already at an end.

As for Scifi writers. If you take Nieven, Bear, Asimov, Gibson, (all authors I dearly love) you'll find interesting stuff in there - but also a lot of hokey stuff that is just utter BS simply put in there to advance the plot. Novels follow different rules than science papers. It's important to learn to distinguish between the two.
That StarTrek presaged personal communicators doesn't mean personal teleporters are around the corner.
tonche
1 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2012
all bolocks there was no no leap years when the Myans made thier calender therefore Dec 2012 happened approx 250 days ago....
Tangent2
1 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2012
Actually, 21 Dec 2012 is the day the supernova wavefront reaches us from Betelgeuse


Gonna suck if/when that goes for real.

sounds like a plague from the Book of Revelation.


For all of you that think this star will be affecting Earth in 2012, do some actual research first. Here, I will even get you started:
http://blogs.disc...nd-2012/