Great Balls of Fire – Science and Science Fiction

What a week it’s been… lightening strikes the Basilica in Rome on Monday (shortly after the Pope announced he was abdicating), a meteor strikes central Russia and tonight we are going to have a near miss of an asteroid. It seems as if the heavens have opened war on us mere mortals. See diagram from NASA below for asteroid flyby path. If this asteroid had hit, it would have been on a par with the Tunguska event of 30th June 1908 – fortunately this was an unpopulated part of Siberia rather than a metropolis.

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Now science fiction is no stranger to any of these events. Yet despite the warnings, we still do not have a ready-to-go defence. Has science fiction failed to get its message across?

Well, let’s think about this a little bit. What defences could we employ against a larger incoming asteroid, which has a large amount of momentum behind it?

Well, you could embed a suitably large rocket in the asteroid and fire it to divert it off course, anyway enough to miss the Earth. That’s all right as a solution if we could guarantee the asteroid won’t break up in the process to send a shower of meteoroids or way.

How about pulverising it? The dust cloud hitting our atmosphere could have severe effects on our weather system. You only need to examine the historical evidence of the effects of a volcanic dust cloud in 536AD to understand the problems.

So what does that leave us? Um… a large team effort of dismantling the asteroid so that the large chunks fly past the Earth. This kind of sounds like a good reason to get into space to me… unless science fiction can come up with an easier answer of avoiding an asteroid hit. Any ideas?

PS WordPress has just reminded me that it’s two years ago to the day when I started this blog… what a way to celebrate a second blog birthday – have an asteroid fly-by…. talk about timing…

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3 thoughts on “Great Balls of Fire – Science and Science Fiction

  1. I have Bruce Willis’s fax number, I’ll ask him if he has any ideas. We could always take the political route to protect ourselves – make collision with an asteroid illegal and issue fines, that sort of thing.

    My family always look askance at me if I ever mention to them that a near-miss is about to take place, and talk to me the way one might a lunatic. I often wonder which of us actually lives in reality.

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