More documentation on the Asteroid threat..... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

U.S. Congressional Hearings on Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defense

Table. Chances of dying from selected causes (USA)

Cause of death

Chances Motor vehicle accident 1 in 100 Homicide 1 in 300 Fire 1 in 800 Firearms accident 1 in 2,500 Electrocution 1 in 5,000 Asteroid/comet impact 1 in 20,000 Passenger aircraft crash 1 in 20,000 Flood 1 in 30,000 Tornado 1 in 60,000 Venomous bite or sting 1 in 100,000 Fireworks accident 1 in 1 million Food poisoning by botulism 1 in 3 million Drinking water with EPA limit of tricholoethylene 1 in 10 million

(From C.R. Chapman & D. Morrison, 1994, Nature 367, 33-40.)

Now watch all the stupid asteroid pollies make fun of this!

On a more serious note, I hate to think that, after a decade of study or so, the various research groups now working state that we could have an effective NEO detection and defense system for, say, the expenditure of 100 billion dollars over 10 years, and it never gets built because people fanatically hyped the end of civilization from Y2K and nothing happened.

And then we'd look pretty stupid after losing half the world's population 30 years later to a NEO when a technologically feasible system could have stopped it.

-- John H Krempasky (, January 05, 2000


If we lose half the worlds population, looking stupid would be the least of our worries.

-- JoseMiami (, January 05, 2000.

I am not going to make fun of your concerns, however I don't spend a lot of time worrying about things that are totally out of my control, such as large rocks falling from the sky. Just because large rocks may occasionally fall, and may inflict a large amount of damage, doesn't justify a huge government expense to protect us from it. There are risks in every aspect of life, and it is most certainly too short to worry about the sky possibly falling.

-- liu (, January 05, 2000.

Why don't we take our somewhat limited time and energy to worry about something that we can all really do something about. Like, worry about who is going to win the Stanley Cup! Love them Red Wings!

-- frank beamer (, January 05, 2000.


The chances of dying in a flood are lower than death by asteroid, yet we gladly pony up for flood/life insurance while we laugh at the idea of rocks from the sky.

Think about it folks!

Holding onto my preps...



-- Shimoda (, January 05, 2000.

Considering an objective hypothesis, do you think losing half the World's population is sufficient? Two thirds may seem more on target.

-- Feller (, January 05, 2000.

Unless the world gets very unlucky, we get at least one serious wake- up call in the form of a smallish impactor with an explosive yield less than a megaton, in a lightly inhabited area.

Most of California came within 100 miles of being that area a few years back. The thing skimmed the atmosphere and "bounced". That, and Tunguska, and that bloody great crater in Arizona, and they still want to ignore it.

Usually I'm against politicos taking holidays at the taxpayers expense, but if that committee wants a week in Arizona, I'm all in favour.

-- Nigel (, January 05, 2000.


We had no way of calculating the probabilities associated with Y2K.

The most interesting statistic I had seen was a 50% "Lying Rate" regarding compliance.

Us er beware -- Y2K compliance claims could be bogus

-- Mabel (, January 05, 2000.


The U.s. military has been tracking objects entering the Earth's atmosphere for years. In some recently declassified material, they revealed that an object such as a meteor impacts the atmosphere and is destroyed in an explosion of 1 megaton or more at an average rate of once per week.

In this century alone there has been meteor/asteroid damage in Russia and in Brazil. Moreover, there are numerous people researching the subject who now believe that the great Chicago fire might have been caused by a near-ground meteor explosion.

Is it cause for alarm? Naw, because after all, what are you going to do about it? But large objects striking the atmosphere isn't a rarity, either.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, January 05, 2000.

I had the great pleasure several years ago of listening to a talk by Dr. Gene Shoemaker on the NEO problem. He computes that about every 10,000 years that a major metro area will be hit by a large enough object to wipe it out. Now it is almost certain that the Chicago fire last century was NOT due to a cow, but rather, a meteroid cluster that at that same time started fires all over the midwest.

-- Les (, January 05, 2000.

I don't buy these odds. Think about it...I've met LOTS of people who have been affected by tornadoes, have known some who got burned (or worse) by fireworks mishaps, and botulism.

But I have never ever known or known of anyone getting hit by an asteroid!

Use some common sense here, people!!!

-- Duke1983 (, January 05, 2000.

u dukies never did learn to think

that's cause their all buried already dukie

-- (-@-.-), January 05, 2000.

Go lobby your congressman or something.

-- Servant (, January 06, 2000.

Task force to assess risk of asteroid collision: 2,000 near-earth objects 'pose threat that cannot be ignored'

Tim Radford, science editor, The Guardian (UK)

Tuesday January 4, 2000

The government has formed a task force to consider the ultimate hazard: a collision with a large object from outer space. A team of three named today will consider the probability of a direct hit by an asteroid - a large lump of stony iron travelling at perhaps 20 miles a second - of the kind that wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

The science minister, Lord Sainsbury, said: "The risk of an asteroid or comet causing substantial damage is extremely remote. This is not something that people should lie awake worrying about. But we cannot ignore the risk, however remote, and a case can be made for monitoring the situation on an international basis."

The three are Harry Atkinson, who has worked with the European space agency, the US agency Nasa and the cabinet office, Sir Crispin Tickell, chancellor of Kent university and a prominent environmentalist, and David Williams, professor at University College London. They will consider the problem of what are known officially as near-earth objects, NEOs. These could be asteroids or comets, and Nasa scientists calculate that there could be more than 2,000 over a kilometre across, each one a cosmic traffic accident in the making. So far only about 10% of these have been detected.

The asteroid problem was originally dubbed the Chicken-Licken issue, after the hen in the children's story who believed the sky was falling in. Gradually, as evidence has amassed from earth and other planets of a story of random but frequent bombardment over billions of years, governments have begun to take it seriously. The planet's history has been punctuated by major collisions. A 10km asteroid smashed into the earth at the end of the cretaceous era, triggering tsunamis (a series of long, high sea waves), a nuclear winter, acid rain, global warming and worldwide forest fires. A 100 metre object crashed into the atmosphere over Siberia forest in 1908, producing an explosion estimated at 30 megatons and felling 2,000 sq miles of forest.

In 1937 and 1989 large asteroids passed uncomfortably close to earth. US comet specialists have calculated that although impacts are rare in human history, a collision with a large enough object could wipe out all civilisation, or even most of life. Because the death toll would run to billions, they argued, the risk of such an event in any one year would be about 1 in 20,000, roughly the same as for death in an air disaster. The UN and the International Astronomical Union say governments should take the matter seriously. Jonathan Tate, founder of the British pressure group Spaceguard UK, welcomed the government statement. "The threat from asteroidal or cometary impacts, while being low probability but very high consequence, exceeds by orders of magnitude the government's own threshold of risk tolerability," he said. "Compared with nuclear safety, BSE/CJD, genetically modified food and so on, the impact threat is in a league of its own."

Dr Atkinson and colleagues will consider what evidence there is and report to the British national space centre this year. "Any recommendations we make must be based on good science, and that will include looking at the risks of things," he said. "We will look in detail to see what other countries are doing in terms of ground-based telescopes. We will also look to see what is going on the ground in the southern hemisphere. We will also be looking at space-based activities."

A Nasa spacecraft is destined to meet the asteroid Eros this month and orbit it for at least a year. A mission called Stardust is on its way to fly close to Comet Wild-2, collect some of its dust and return in 2006. The Japanese are planning to put a tiny space rover on asteroid 4660 Nereus and collect some of its rock. The Europeans are planning to meet a comet and fly with it.

In a recent Hollywood thriller, scientists saved the world by sending Bruce Willis to blow up a menacing near-earth object. But Dr Atkinson and colleagues will not be proposing ways of deflecting or demolishing impending doom. "That would be something for the longer term. Until one knows something about the composition of asteroids, to talk about mitigation is perhaps a bit premature."

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (, January 06, 2000.


I knew about the small objects that are destroyed in the upper atmosphere. However, they do no harm so we can inore those (except insofar as they're more evidence if more evidence were needed)

What are we going to do about it? Set up an early-warning system, and develop spacecraft capable of delivering large nuclear bombs to extraterrestrial locations with extreme precision. Some research in deep-space radar moght also be of use. This shouldn't be any harder than getting men to the moon and back, and I'd say it's a lot more useful (both practically and politically).

The early-warning system's first and easiest job would be to detect all asteroids large enough to spot that cross earth's orbit. If any were going to impact in the predictable future, a bomb would nudge it into a slightly different orbit that didn't impact.

Smaller objects and ones in cometary orbits would be more challenging. You'd probably spot them with little time to spare. But even if it were too late to nudge or pulverize them, simply issuing a warning would allow for evacuation or for folks to take shelter (you can survive a lot more easily in a cellar than in the open or in a collapsing building).

What doesn't exist at present is any will to do anything. Which is why I hope that the first ground impact of this millennium will be in a sparsely populated area, and of relatively small explosive yield. This is statistically much more likely than a direct hit on a major metropolis or a planet-wrecker, and after the media footage of the aftermath there will be a lot of folks demanding "do something!"

-- Nigel (, January 06, 2000.

Not that this has anything to do with the purpose of this forum but I spent some time reading quite a few stories on the BBC site about Near Earth Objects and found some fascinating stuff.

There's one asteroid in particular of about a mile in diameter that MIGHT (note that I stress that word) be a very large concern to us in about forty years. In about thirty eight years it's going to pass very close to the Earth (perhaps as near as 38,000 kilometers) which is not close enough to be worth heading for the hills but will be close enough for the Earth's gravitational field to perturb it's orbit. Because of this the next time it comes past there is the distinct possibility that it may actually impact us. An asteroid a mile in diameter probably isn't big enough to eliminate the human species but it's plenty big enough to push civilization to the ragged edge.

I'm not getting too worried about it because in forty years we may refine our observations enough to decide it's not the threat it first appeared to be after all. Failing that, we have plenty of time to figure out how to get out there and nudge it out of the way. Failing that I'll have to motivate my children and grandchildren to get on the ball and get the family to a place that would improve our chances, wherever that might be. I'll be in my mid seventies then.

Another interesting story on the site is about an Italian expedition going to the Tunguska blast site last year. If that particular meteor had entered the atmosphere just eight hours earlier it would have detonated over London, at that time one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of the global superpower of the day. The blast almost certainly would have destroyed the city and a fair part of the surrounding country side. Unlike a couple of recent horrible movies the Tunguska meteor was calculated to be a mere 60 meters in diameter but it still managed to level 770 square miles of forest. Not bad for something that never hit the ground.

Meteoric destruction does not get me too worked up because for much of it we have no way of knowing if it's coming or when but it is a fascinating subject.


The Providence Cooperative - A great source of preparedness information

-- A.T. Hagan (, January 06, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ