August 30, 2002
7:37 AM   Subscribe

Giant asteroid hurtling toward your planet? Don't know what to do? Don't call Bruce Willis. Just build a giant airbag and nudge the sucker away.
posted by gottabefunky (15 comments total)
Even the source quoted in the article itself implies that it's a stupid idea. So why print it, New Scientist?
posted by ptermit at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2002

The Earth is round? What a stupid idea. Heavier-than-air machines can fly? What a stupid idea. The sound barrier is breakable? What a stupid idea.
posted by Mwongozi at 7:52 AM on August 30, 2002

Even the source quoted in the article itself implies that it's a stupid idea. So why print it, New Scientist?

True. He recants at the end. But the current headline is better than the Onion-esque:
'Scientist proposes giant airbag to save the planet but, on second thought, thinks its a dumb idea'
posted by vacapinta at 7:58 AM on August 30, 2002

Or: "Scientist proposes giant airbag to save the planet, but Rush unavailable due to scheduling conflicts"
posted by madprops at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2002

From previous articles on this subject, I thought the most likely solution to this was to attach motors directly to the surface of the asteroids themselves. If they're too small to attach a motor to then they're probably too small to do dramatic damage to the earth, and if they're large enough to attach a motor to then I don't see the value of the airbag. The article touches on these issues. From what I know (which is admittedly not much ;-) the real issue is how to get the rocket engines attached to the surface of the asteroid/s soon enough that they have enough time to effect a deflection.
posted by Tempus67 at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2002

*avoids obvious joke about Bruce Willis being an airbag*

(and curses madprops on preview)
posted by ColdChef at 8:06 AM on August 30, 2002

Mwongozi: Hmmm... you're right. Since the Earth is round, and people can fly, this can be a good idea, too. *smacks self*

For every good idea, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of bad ones. And for every genius that is laughed at, there are thousands of cranks.

As the article pointed out, strapping a rocket motor to the asteroid would have the same effect and would be simpler, so unless there's a specific problem with that approach, why complicate things?
posted by ptermit at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2002

"some asteroids are more like a pile of rubble than a solid" It looks like the airbag scientists are thinking that just putting the rocket on one of the rubbles might shoot Betty off, but leave Barney and Bam Bam to badly bump Bedrock.

But I am glad that they are working on this. How many of these things have shot past us in the past year? It seems like a bunch. One just recently came far closer to us than the moon, and we didn't even know about it until it was long gone.
posted by gametone at 9:08 AM on August 30, 2002

Yes, gametone, that last close asteriod has been making me nervous as well. My alarm mostly comes from the knowledge that we never even saw it coming, but spotted it on its way out. By the lovely laws of physics, something coming right at you is particularly hard to spot, since it doesn't seem to be moving.

What if a big one shows up on our radar only a week out? We're toast. We don't have the ability to get a ship off the ground in less than two weeks, much less off the ground and out there in time to plant a rocket engine on it and give it a good strong push.

I propose we drop Star Wars and re-invest the money in a 24/7/365 space tug boat. Or, more realistically, please somebody tell me that Star Wars is capable of knocking City-sized asteroids out of the sky as well as Chinese ICBMs.
posted by Jonasio at 9:29 AM on August 30, 2002

will it make a funny boiiiiiiiiing sound when it bounces off, back into space?
posted by monkeyJuice at 9:30 AM on August 30, 2002

Thank you, monkeyjuice, for asking the only question that really counts.
posted by agregoli at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2002

In space no one can hear you boiiiiiiiiing.
posted by MUD at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2002

Ok. There's a rock whizzing along at umptey-ump zillions of meters per sec, and you're supposed to maneuver your spaceship along side it, essentially hop from your ship to the asteroid carrying a really big fan, and start blowing? Yeah.

Now that's moxie.
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:03 PM on August 30, 2002

Yeah, Jonasio I vote for the tug boat. Backed up by a couple of Hubble grade telescopes designed to scout this crap out. As far as I know the only way they have to get an orbiting laser powerful enough to zap something like one of these rocks, is to use an a-bomb to trigger it (a one shot deal I'm sure). And then at best you have, a bunch of slowly raining radioactive fallout. And at worst you also have a bunch of dumb pebbles coming to a hemisphere near you.
posted by gametone at 1:11 PM on August 30, 2002

It seems to me that a bunch of small meteors raining through the atmosphere are a lot better than one big one. Small meteors get burned up; biggies punch through and bitch-slap good mama earth. Of course, if you don't get the pieces small enough, then yo mama gonna be the target of a whole lotta rabbit-punches. Good for overpopulation control, perhaps, but bad for presidential campaigns.

And, I concede that you have a good point, Denofsizer. How are we going to shoot a tug boat out to the point of rendezvous (at a zillion km/h), then slow it down, turn it around, and get it going again at another zillion kp/h back in our direction to catch up and keep pace with the comet or asteriod in question? Maybe a nuke-powered laser gun is the way to go.
posted by Jonasio at 2:29 PM on September 2, 2002

« Older Marijuana: Fires' timing could devastate crops...   |   I'm the world champion and you're not. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments