If you can read this, either the style sheet didn't load or you have an older browser that doesn't support style sheets. Try clearing your browser cache and refreshing the page.

(Slate)   "The most useful thing right now that NASA could do is develop an asteroid deflector"   (slate.com) divider line 67
    More: Obvious, asteroids, NASA, Death from the Skies, Meteorite, Chelyabinsk, burnup, Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait  
•       •       •

1328 clicks; posted to Geek » on 14 Feb 2014 at 9:07 AM (40 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



67 Comments   (+0 »)
   
View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest

First | « | 1 | 2 | » | Last | Show all
 
2014-02-14 08:16:02 AM  
They have classifications for this sort of thing.

www.cbr.co.za

This would be in the bottom right, so no they don't

Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.
 
2014-02-14 08:20:43 AM  
I prefer to rely on a ragtag band of deep-sea oil drillers.

24.media.tumblr.com
 
2014-02-14 08:22:47 AM  
Well, our object collision budget's a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg'n your pardon sir, but it's a big-ass sky.
 
2014-02-14 08:32:26 AM  
If NASA is looking for a mission, I suggest they fix Tang. That stuff tastes like shiat.
 
2014-02-14 09:04:16 AM  

EvilEgg: They have classifications for this sort of thing.

[www.cbr.co.za image 416x300]

This would be in the bottom right, so no they don't

Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.


All that extra carbon in the atmosphere makes the asteroids bounce off, duh.
 
2014-02-14 09:15:21 AM  
If we could just get spaceships up and running, asteroids wouldn't mean shiat. So they wipe out a planet. We'd have an imperium.
 
2014-02-14 09:16:41 AM  

MaudlinMutantMollusk: Well, our object collision budget's a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg'n your pardon sir, but it's a big-ass sky.


That's the real problem- we need advanced notice of an impending collision. With that notice, we can deal with it, and the  sooner we start dealing with it, the less extreme our techniques need to be. With enough notice, simply painting one side of the damn thing white might be enough to nudge it out of Earth's way.
 
2014-02-14 09:18:44 AM  
If the planet is struck by a devastating asteroid, it's because God wanted it that way. I'm not messing with His plans, Old Testament God can get pretty pissed.
 
2014-02-14 09:18:48 AM  
I personally think it should be Mars.  The important thing to remember is that NASA engineers are EXTREMELY intellegent.  And that you want to give them the most extreme mental challenges available.  They will break it down into a list of manageable challenges and accomplish them.

For example. Their biggest contribution wasn't the mere fact that we landed on the moon. That was a publicity stunt.  Their biggest contributions, were developing the technology that led to this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies">http://en.w ikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies

I like mars over asteroids, because of all of the health challenges that will need to be overcome for mars.
 
2014-02-14 09:21:11 AM  

ChrisDe: If the planet is struck by a devastating asteroid, it's because God wanted it that way. I'm not messing with His plans, Old Testament God can get pretty pissed.


Yeah, but America Fark Yeah Jesus tells us we can swat them away with our enormous, exceptional penises.
 
2014-02-14 09:32:18 AM  
How about we put some freakin "space lasers" on some Freakin "Space Sharks" and let them shoot the asteroids down for us!
 
2014-02-14 09:39:49 AM  

Diogenes: All that extra carbon in the atmosphere makes the asteroids bounce off, duh.


We need to pump more CO2 into the atmosphere... if we can get things hot enough, the asteroids will just melt before they hit the ground.
 
2014-02-14 09:49:39 AM  

EvilEgg [TotalFark]


Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.


Where's the snow? On the ground in 49 of 50 states
i.livescience.com


Years after the church of global warming predicted zero snow ever again.
 
2014-02-14 09:55:22 AM  

rumpelstiltskin: If NASA is looking for a mission, I suggest they fix Tang. That stuff tastes like shiat.


Move your tongue up about four inches.
 
2014-02-14 09:55:47 AM  
I saw asteroid deflectors for sale in the Lehman's catalog.
Pretty expensive, too.
 
2014-02-14 09:56:11 AM  
OnlyM3:Where's the snow? On the ground in 49 of 50 states

It's as if weather patterns are becoming more and more erratic due to the actions of man. Even so, don't let that stop you from being a shill.
 
2014-02-14 09:58:10 AM  

EvilEgg: They have classifications for this sort of thing.



This would be in the bottom right, so no they don't

Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.


Top middle at worst.

/load every jet liner with liquid propane before take off and release it at cruising altitude. Problem solved.
 
2014-02-14 09:58:17 AM  

ArtosRC: OnlyM3:Where's the snow? On the ground in 49 of 50 states

It's as if weather patterns are becoming more and more erratic due to the actions of man. Even so, don't let that stop you from being a shill.


I usually don't put people on ignore simply for the fact of being boring.  But I'm getting awfully close with that one.
 
2014-02-14 10:03:53 AM  
My vote is for weightless porn movies. What? Is that wrong?
 
2014-02-14 10:08:52 AM  

ChrisDe: If the planet is struck by a devastating asteroid, it's because God wanted it that way. I'm not messing with His plans, Old Testament God can get pretty pissed.


I HATE RELIGION
 
2014-02-14 10:16:22 AM  

red5ish: My vote is for weightless porn movies. What? Is that wrong?


I'd buy that for a dollar.
 
2014-02-14 10:17:10 AM  
I like Phil Plait a lot, but I feel like we generally do a good job of finding and tracking asteroids that present serious danger to our planet. While another Chelyabinsk or hell, another Tunguska happening in just the right place would be a very bad day for a large amount of people, I'm not sure we're going to need to a hell of a lot of specialty work to find more asteroids other than continue to invest in tracking and observation technology and advance our ground based and space based observation systems so we have some advance warning.

Realistically though, advancing our space faring capabilities so we actually have the capability to do something if there is something unexpected hurtling towards us would be helpful, and give us the added bonus of actually becoming somewhat of a space faring species.

So an increase in money directed towards all aspects of our space program would be helpful towrads this end, but I'm not sure we need a single, massive, expensive project dedicated solely to asteroid detection...
 
2014-02-14 10:22:22 AM  

madgonad: rumpelstiltskin: If NASA is looking for a mission, I suggest they fix Tang. That stuff tastes like shiat.

Move your tongue up about four inches.


Happy Valentine's Day folks!
 
2014-02-14 10:44:17 AM  

error 303: I like Phil Plait a lot, but I feel like we generally do a good job of finding and tracking asteroids that present serious danger to our planet. While another Chelyabinsk or hell, another Tunguska happening in just the right place would be a very bad day for a large amount of people, I'm not sure we're going to need to a hell of a lot of specialty work to find more asteroids other than continue to invest in tracking and observation technology and advance our ground based and space based observation systems so we have some advance warning.

Realistically though, advancing our space faring capabilities so we actually have the capability to do something if there is something unexpected hurtling towards us would be helpful, and give us the added bonus of actually becoming somewhat of a space faring species.

So an increase in money directed towards all aspects of our space program would be helpful towrads this end, but I'm not sure we need a single, massive, expensive project dedicated solely to asteroid detection...


We didn't detect that comet that ripped up till what, last May? And it was a pretty good size and very bright.
 
2014-02-14 10:57:59 AM  

EvilEgg: They have classifications for this sort of thing.

[www.cbr.co.za image 416x300]

This would be in the bottom right, so no they don't

Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.


B-but - I don't WANNA clean up my room!
I wanna run away from home!!
 
2014-02-14 11:16:29 AM  

error 303: I like Phil Plait a lot, but I feel like we generally do a good job of finding and tracking asteroids that present serious danger to our planet.


Lolwut?

You have absolutely no data on which to base that "feeling".  You know about the occasional rock that gets reported in the media and that's it.  Doesn't tell you a damn thing about how many they  haven't seen.
 
2014-02-14 11:18:18 AM  

Witty_Retort: error 303: I like Phil Plait a lot, but I feel like we generally do a good job of finding and tracking asteroids that present serious danger to our planet. While another Chelyabinsk or hell, another Tunguska happening in just the right place would be a very bad day for a large amount of people, I'm not sure we're going to need to a hell of a lot of specialty work to find more asteroids other than continue to invest in tracking and observation technology and advance our ground based and space based observation systems so we have some advance warning.

Realistically though, advancing our space faring capabilities so we actually have the capability to do something if there is something unexpected hurtling towards us would be helpful, and give us the added bonus of actually becoming somewhat of a space faring species.

So an increase in money directed towards all aspects of our space program would be helpful towrads this end, but I'm not sure we need a single, massive, expensive project dedicated solely to asteroid detection...

We didn't detect that comet that ripped up till what, last May? And it was a pretty good size and very bright.


Would that be ISON? Just had to look it up, they found it in November of 2012, and comet strikes are a lot rarer than asteroid strikes because of their orbits.

NASA already has a fairly robust system of detecting and tracking largerish asteroids. NEOWISE is just one of many examples. I guess Phil isn't advocating an Apollo/Manhattan project style endevour or anything just yet so maybe it's just some hyperbole, but I think we actually do potentially catastrophic impact object detection fairly well.

Now, if we do find something unexpected and need to figure out how to get rid of it or move everyone else off the planet rapidly, yeah, it's mega-engineering time...
 
2014-02-14 11:22:19 AM  

China White Tea: error 303: I like Phil Plait a lot, but I feel like we generally do a good job of finding and tracking asteroids that present serious danger to our planet.

Lolwut?

You have absolutely no data on which to base that "feeling".  You know about the occasional rock that gets reported in the media and that's it.  Doesn't tell you a damn thing about how many they  haven't seen.


There's lots of estimates on how many objects like that are out there. They just revised their estimate of damaging asteroid strikes upwards, since previously most thought only objects 100'+ in diameter would be damaging, whereas the Chelyabinsk one was ~60' and did more damage than was thought.

My point is that it'd be very hard for us to not detect something cataclysmic like what killed the dinosaurs. But you can play the 'Well what DONT we know?' game all day.
 
2014-02-14 11:24:36 AM  
And I just realized the title of the article was "deflector" and not "detector", so I retract my statement, Phil's got a good point here. Oi. Need more coffee.
 
2014-02-14 11:25:14 AM  

error 303: Now, if we do find something unexpected and need to figure out how to get rid of it or move everyone else off the planet rapidly, yeah, it's mega-engineering time...


Even faced with extinction, I'd bet that given say, 3 weeks before certain and utter destruction, humans couldn't get their shiat together in time to save ourselves.

Of course, then a few days before we all die the US gov't says...uh, yeah....so we've had what is essentially a death ray for a few years but we didn't wanna tell anyone about it. We'll take care of the 'roid, we just need a few hundred thousand TeV. Oh yeah, and then we rule the world. Because, you know, death ray.
 
2014-02-14 11:28:41 AM  
WHAT I WANT is several large, standby rockets in hangars, WITH large megaton warheads, with escape velocity capability, so IF we spot an incoming asteroid, we can launch something quicly to divert/destroy it.

WHAT I have NO patience with is this ridiculous, politically correct reluctance to commit to using nuclear weapons to prevent asteroid strikes. You ge these idiots who stand up and claim nukes are no good because you'll get "a pile of radioactive rubble that will just hit the earth anyway'

BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT.

Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely. Even if the explosion does break it into rubble, that just increases the surface area of the incoming mass and makes more of it burn up in the atmosphere.

Also, the detonation of just a few pounds of fissile material isn't going to cause any significant radiological hazards when spread out across the atmosphere.

But all that doesn't stop idiots from whining about using nukes because there's no possible way they be used for good, RIGHT?
 
2014-02-14 11:35:15 AM  

EvilEgg: They have classifications for this sort of thing.



This would be in the bottom right, so no they don't

Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.


While your heart is in the right place, it needs some perspective. The allocated federal budget for the survey telescopes, such as the LSST discussed by Phil, is on the order of $30 million over 5 years. The federal expenditures on non-fossil energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and tidal energy) was $150 billion over the past 5 years. So the budget for the NEO survey scopes is less than 1 one-thousandth of what we currently spend on carbon neutral energy sources. Ignoring every other possible problem in order to throw .0002% more money at AGW is probably not the right approach.
 
2014-02-14 12:05:39 PM  

mark12A: WHAT I WANT is several large, standby rockets in hangars, WITH large megaton warheads, with escape velocity capability, so IF we spot an incoming asteroid, we can launch something quicly to divert/destroy it.


That wouldn't work. Despite the large amount of energy output by a nuclear warhead, that energy is mostly heat and light. When you detonate such a device inside of an atmosphere, it superheats the air and creates a devastating, hypersonic shockwave. When you detonate it in space, you get a very bright light source across a wide range of the EM spectrum.

You'd need to actually  land the device on the asteroid and shape the charge which isn't something nuclear bombs are very good at. And that's before we even address the challenges of having extra-orbital rockets on standby and storing nuclear weapons over a long period of time (vastly more complex than your average cold war movie would have you believe).

A space-based paint-ball gun is both cheaper and more effective, if you have early warning.

mark12A: Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely.


No, that is bullshiat. How much energy do you think a nuclear weapon puts out, and how much energy do you think that asteroid is carrying? K=0.5mv2is a brutal equation when you're talking about a large rock traveling at many kilometers per second (lowest impact speed would be about 11km/s, and most impactors are probably traveling much faster than that). Nuclear weapons are not magic wands that can remove mountains.
 
2014-02-14 12:06:40 PM  
No worries, NASA is doing exactly that!

As an add-on for Kerbal Space Program.

imgs.xkcd.com
=Smidge=
 
2014-02-14 12:08:00 PM  

mark12A: WHAT I WANT is several large, standby rockets in hangars, WITH large megaton warheads, with escape velocity capability, so IF we spot an incoming asteroid, we can launch something quicly to divert/destroy it.

WHAT I have NO patience with is this ridiculous, politically correct reluctance to commit to using nuclear weapons to prevent asteroid strikes. You ge these idiots who stand up and claim nukes are no good because you'll get "a pile of radioactive rubble that will just hit the earth anyway'

BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT.

Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely. Even if the explosion does break it into rubble, that just increases the surface area of the incoming mass and makes more of it burn up in the atmosphere.

Also, the detonation of just a few pounds of fissile material isn't going to cause any significant radiological hazards when spread out across the atmosphere.

But all that doesn't stop idiots from whining about using nukes because there's no possible way they be used for good, RIGHT?


So *if* you can "blow up" an imminent threat like an asteroid, a formerly single impactor would instead be a cloud of debris still moving at ~30-60km/s in a cone pattern, widening the impact zone, distributing the damage to an area up to half of the Earth. As bad as a single impact would be, multiple impacts would be worse. Chelyabinsk showed the damage a non-impacting meteor can do just from pressure waves. (Tunguska is probably also a non-impacting meteor, last I read it was inconclusive. Updates welcome)

I don't care if I convince you. But this point comes up by people who honestly think that since nuclear weapons are the most powerful thing man has ever created, they should be enough to stop an imminent impact by an asteroid. Well ... humanity and nuclear weapons are puny compared to the energies capable of being delivered by the Universe.
 
2014-02-14 12:30:08 PM  

StopLurkListen: mark12A: WHAT I WANT is several large, standby rockets in hangars, WITH large megaton warheads, with escape velocity capability, so IF we spot an incoming asteroid, we can launch something quicly to divert/destroy it.

WHAT I have NO patience with is this ridiculous, politically correct reluctance to commit to using nuclear weapons to prevent asteroid strikes. You ge these idiots who stand up and claim nukes are no good because you'll get "a pile of radioactive rubble that will just hit the earth anyway'

BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT. BULLSHIAT.

Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely. Even if the explosion does break it into rubble, that just increases the surface area of the incoming mass and makes more of it burn up in the atmosphere.

Also, the detonation of just a few pounds of fissile material isn't going to cause any significant radiological hazards when spread out across the atmosphere.

But all that doesn't stop idiots from whining about using nukes because there's no possible way they be used for good, RIGHT?

So *if* you can "blow up" an imminent threat like an asteroid, a formerly single impactor would instead be a cloud of debris still moving at ~30-60km/s in a cone pattern, widening the impact zone, distributing the damage to an area up to half of the Earth. As bad as a single impact would be, multiple impacts would be worse. Chelyabinsk showed the damage a non-impacting meteor can do just from pressure waves. (Tunguska is probably also a non-impacting meteor, last I read it was inconclusive. Updates welcome)

I don't care if I convince you. But this point comes up by people who honestly think that since nuclear weapons are the most powerful thing man has ever created, they should be enough to stop an imminent impact by an asteroid. Well ... humanity and nuclear weapons are puny compared to the energies capable of being delivered by the Universe.


I think a modest nuclear weapon could pretty well deflect a Chelyabinsk style asteroid, if you could actually manage to hit it. But our largest nuclear weapons wouldn't even scrape an asteroid the size that destroyed the dinosaurs and created the Chicxulub crater. There's about a half a dozen orders of magnitudes between those two levels of energy. Gravity and speed can be a biatch to overcome.

/astronomer by training, health physicist by trade. Nuclear weapons and space, yay!
 
2014-02-14 12:52:20 PM  

OnlyM3: EvilEgg [TotalFark]


Spend the money on global warming mitigation, that's in the top right.

Where's the snow? On the ground in 49 of 50 states
[i.livescience.com image 575x479]

Years after the church of global warming predicted zero snow ever again.


[citation needed]
 
2014-02-14 01:04:59 PM  
One of my crazier threads of belief is that Earth itself is one large sentient organism that is able to adapt and evolve as time wears on with the intent to maintain life.  After every large extinction event the primacy of species has changed. Each new primary species has been able to cope with what previously destroyed the previous primary.  As each new extinction event occurred it presented a new set of data to the planet from which it developed a means to combat that lethal force.  Humans developed on Earth in an attempt to create a species that was able to cope with large asteroid impacts.  I have no evidence for this belief but I just can't seem to shake it.
 
2014-02-14 01:10:40 PM  

red5ish: My vote is for weightless porn movies. What? Is that wrong?


If that's wrong then I don't want to be right.
 
2014-02-14 01:21:59 PM  
AGAIN. HORSESHIAT!

Most of the energy release of a nuclear weapons is soft (low frequency) x-rays. X-rays so intense they instantly heat and vaporize millions of tons of matter near the burst. You set off a nuke just above the surface of an asteroid, you will heat and vaporize, and cause a rocket/ejecta event in the megaton  range. The tech is easy, since that's how we currently set off nukes for killing missile silos. Blow away mountains? Mount St. Helens got blown away, with the energy equivalent of 20 megatons. Easy-peasy with available nuke technology. Your "Paintball" approach is puny in comparison.

Distributed impact results in FAR LESS energy being delivered to the earth's surface, because a larger portion of the cloud of rubble will burn up in the atmosphere than with a single impactor.

No, this opposition to using nukes is just childish ideological posturing. Nothing more.


That wouldn't work. Despite the large amount of energy output by a nuclear warhead, that energy is mostly heat and light. When you detonate such a device inside of an atmosphere, it superheats the air and creates a devastating, hypersonic shockwave. When you detonate it in space, you get a very bright light source across a wide range of the EM spectrum.

You'd need to actually  land the device on the asteroid and shape the charge which isn't something nuclear bombs are very good at. And that's before we even address the challenges of having extra-orbital rockets on standby and storing nuclear weapons over a long period of time (vastly more complex than your average cold war movie would have you believe).

A space-based paint-ball gun is both cheaper and more effective, if you have early warning.


mark12A: Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely.

No, that is bullshiat. How much energy do you think a nuclear weapon puts out, and how much energy do you think that asteroid is carrying? K=0.5mv2is a brutal equation when you're talking about a large rock traveling at many kilometers per second (lowest impact speed would be about 11km/s, and most impactors are probably traveling much faster than that). Nuclear weapons are not magic wands that can remove mountains.
 
2014-02-14 01:26:10 PM  
I don't want NASA to be useful. I want NASA to be AWESOME! So, let's build a moon base and start terraforming Mars. Because, why not?
 
2014-02-14 01:27:30 PM  

mark12A: AGAIN. HORSESHIAT!

Most of the energy release of a nuclear weapons is soft (low frequency) x-rays. X-rays so intense they instantly heat and vaporize millions of tons of matter near the burst. You set off a nuke just above the surface of an asteroid, you will heat and vaporize, and cause a rocket/ejecta event in the megaton  range. The tech is easy, since that's how we currently set off nukes for killing missile silos. Blow away mountains? Mount St. Helens got blown away, with the energy equivalent of 20 megatons. Easy-peasy with available nuke technology. Your "Paintball" approach is puny in comparison.

Distributed impact results in FAR LESS energy being delivered to the earth's surface, because a larger portion of the cloud of rubble will burn up in the atmosphere than with a single impactor.

No, this opposition to using nukes is just childish ideological posturing. Nothing more.


That wouldn't work. Despite the large amount of energy output by a nuclear warhead, that energy is mostly heat and light. When you detonate such a device inside of an atmosphere, it superheats the air and creates a devastating, hypersonic shockwave. When you detonate it in space, you get a very bright light source across a wide range of the EM spectrum.

You'd need to actually  land the device on the asteroid and shape the charge which isn't something nuclear bombs are very good at. And that's before we even address the challenges of having extra-orbital rockets on standby and storing nuclear weapons over a long period of time (vastly more complex than your average cold war movie would have you believe).

A space-based paint-ball gun is both cheaper and more effective, if you have early warning.

mark12A: Any impact on the asteroid that will result in breakup WILL DEFINITELY change the trajectory of the entire mass, thus missing the earth completely.

No, that is bullshiat. How much energy do you think a nuclear weapon puts out, and how much energy do you think that asteroid is carry ...


Mount St. Helens had all of the energy release happen internally. A nuke explosion can't really be shaped to deliver more than 10% - 20% of the blast energy to a target. So while you could maybe deflect a 40 meter wide diameter asteroid with a 20 megaton nuke, once you get up into the kilometer size asteroid, the energy of even our entire nuclear arsenal would be like shooting a pellet gun at a truck.

I did a quick back of the envelope clac over lunch cause I was curious, there's about a factor of 1,000,000 difference in the energy levels needed to deflect a large asteroid vs. our largest nuclear weapons, and that's assuming 100% of a nukes energy is directed into the asteroid.
 
2014-02-14 01:29:03 PM  

error 303: I think a modest nuclear weapon could pretty well deflect a Chelyabinsk style asteroid


Chelayabinsk had about 1.2*1015 joules of energy along its collision vector. That's roughly 1 megaton of TNT. So yeah, a 1 megaton bomb could have actually stopped the asteroid in its tracks- if all the energy from the bomb went into accelerating the asteroid. A 10kt bomb probably could have changed the vector meaningfully, depending on when we hit it.  However, there's one problem- to accelerate the asteroid, the bomb would have to exert a force on the asteroid, and that's a problem- the output of the bomb is mostly light. Much of that light will be absorbed by the asteroid, and not accelerate it at all. The absorbed light will mostly turn into heat, so you may melt the outer portions of the object. Some light will reflect, which will provide some acceleration, but now you're contending with impulse and changing momentum- long story short, it's not going to be a big push.

Nuclear weapons are not useful against asteroids. The powerful destructive forces of nuclear weapons are the shockwave created in the  atmosphere. Outside of an atmosphere, nuclear weapons are essentially  really bright flash-lights.
 
2014-02-14 01:34:43 PM  

t3knomanser: error 303: I think a modest nuclear weapon could pretty well deflect a Chelyabinsk style asteroid

Chelayabinsk had about 1.2*1015 joules of energy along its collision vector. That's roughly 1 megaton of TNT. So yeah, a 1 megaton bomb could have actually stopped the asteroid in its tracks- if all the energy from the bomb went into accelerating the asteroid. A 10kt bomb probably could have changed the vector meaningfully, depending on when we hit it.  However, there's one problem- to accelerate the asteroid, the bomb would have to exert a force on the asteroid, and that's a problem- the output of the bomb is mostly light. Much of that light will be absorbed by the asteroid, and not accelerate it at all. The absorbed light will mostly turn into heat, so you may melt the outer portions of the object. Some light will reflect, which will provide some acceleration, but now you're contending with impulse and changing momentum- long story short, it's not going to be a big push.

Nuclear weapons are not useful against asteroids. The powerful destructive forces of nuclear weapons are the shockwave created in the  atmosphere. Outside of an atmosphere, nuclear weapons are essentially  really bright flash-lights.


I was largely thinking that a ~20 MT explosion near the surface of a smallish asteroid, if accomplished early enough, could deflect it away. Like the article says, the radius of the earth is small enough that minor changes in direction early on can push a rock away from us. I think the bigger challenge would be just hitting the damn thing, and as damaging as the Chelayabisnk rock was, if we find it early enough, and know it's going to hit a specific city, we evacuate the city instead of scrambling the ICBMs.

But there's no way a nuke is stopping an extinction event level asteroid, on that we surely agree.
 
2014-02-14 01:37:06 PM  

mark12A: X-rays so intense they instantly heat and vaporize millions of tons of matter near the burst.


And how much energy do you lose in that process? I'll give you a hint-  a lot.

mark12A: Your "Paintball" approach is puny in comparison.


That's the point. Why use something messy and inefficient, which depends on rather rare minerals and extremely expensive technology, when farking  white paint does the same job? The costs of maintaining a fleet of asteroid-killing nuclear-weapons, scaled to appropriate megatonnage, ready to launch on a short turn-around is  massive. It takes years of planning and preparation to arrange strikes on near-by astronomical bodies, and a nuclear strike, to be efficient, is going to have to get damn close. Compare that with an albedo altering strategy (or a similarly cheap gravity tractor), and it boils down to simple cost benefit.

Look, I have no opposition to the use of nuclear technology in space. I think that the Orion plan is a great approach for long distance, heavy-load hauling. But attempting to blow up asteroids is childish, stupid, and incredibly inefficient (and in most cases, likely to be ineffective).
 
2014-02-14 01:38:18 PM  

error 303: I was largely thinking that a ~20 MT explosion near the surface of a smallish asteroid, if accomplished early enough, could deflect it away.


It could, but is it worth the time and energy? If we've got that kind of advance warning, we have so many other, cheaper options that don't involve lobbing nukes into space (also, something nobody has mentioned yet- what happens during an unsuccessful launch? I'd hate to be anywhere near the launch site when  that happens!).
 
2014-02-14 01:44:11 PM  

t3knomanser: error 303: I was largely thinking that a ~20 MT explosion near the surface of a smallish asteroid, if accomplished early enough, could deflect it away.

It could, but is it worth the time and energy? If we've got that kind of advance warning, we have so many other, cheaper options that don't involve lobbing nukes into space (also, something nobody has mentioned yet- what happens during an unsuccessful launch? I'd hate to be anywhere near the launch site when  that happens!).


Not at all. If we detect a "small" asteroid that can be destroyed by a 20 MT nuke, we've got better options, some of which involve just doing nothing and hope the calculations are off slightly (cue us evacuating all of NYC out of the City and accidentally directly into the impact zone).

And there'd be no real problem if a launch failed with a nuke onboard outside of some contamination. Well, I mean, that'd certainly be a problem, but you wouldn't be getting any sort of massive sunburn. There's no immediate harm in blowing up a warhead in an uncontrolled manner. Hell, building the nuceal pit of a warhead is easy, building the precision explosives needed to incudce fission in the pit is the hard part. If you ever find yourself face to face with a warhead that's counting down to detonating and all you have is some C4, just blow up the warhead and deal with the contaminated soil later.
 
2014-02-14 01:56:10 PM  

error 303: There's no immediate harm in blowing up a warhead in an uncontrolled manner.


Well, it won't go critical, but you'll still potentially be scattering fissile material over a large radius. It's essentially a dirty bomb. While it lacks the immediate destructiveness of a nuclear explosion, it's still going to ruin a lot of people's lives.
 
2014-02-14 02:00:32 PM  

t3knomanser: error 303: There's no immediate harm in blowing up a warhead in an uncontrolled manner.

Well, it won't go critical, but you'll still potentially be scattering fissile material over a large radius. It's essentially a dirty bomb. While it lacks the immediate destructiveness of a nuclear explosion, it's still going to ruin a lot of people's lives.


It's fairly hard to outright kill someone with uranium or plutonium on a short time scale, but it'd definitely ruin your day/month/year/decade with relocation and such while they clean it up :)
 
2014-02-14 02:04:14 PM  

error 303: It's fairly hard to outright kill someone with uranium or plutonium on a short time scale


Depends how much and how close. But the point remains- failed launches pose a serious threat when dealing with nuclear materials.
 
Displayed 50 of 67 comments

First | « | 1 | 2 | » | Last | Show all

View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest


This thread is closed to new comments.

Continue Farking
Submit a Link »






Report