[ExI] Asteroid Defence (Was: Re: META: Overposting (psychology of morals))

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Thu Mar 3 01:06:03 UTC 2011

On Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 8:57 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com> explained:
> <Disclaimer: I am not a rocket scentist, or anything approaching it>
> Yes, I know these arguments, my point is that while all this is fine in principle, I don't
>think we'll have any chance of actually doing this for quite a while, mainly because we
>can't predict the path of an asteroid accurately enough to know for sure that it will hit the
>earth, until it's too close to feasibly do anything about it.  This element of doubt,
>combined with the huge cost of doing anything about it, will paralyse any impulse to do

If you are going to predict the future, it is much easier to predict
where an asteroid is going to be in 500 years than to predict where a
hurricane is going to be in three days. While there is some
uncertainty (the unlikely event of a collision between two asteroids,
for example) the position of an asteroid can be very accurately
predicted. The bigger the asteroid, the more easy it is to map and
predict the orbit accurately. The press reports often say there is an
X% chance it will hit the earth, we'll know more later. That's because
there haven't been enough observations yet, and it makes for more
sensational headlines to report earlier! The longer you have tracked
an object, the more accurately you can predict it's path. The cone of
unpredictability narrows with more observations.

> I strongly suspect that a practical defence against civilisation-destroying asteroid strikes is simply too difficult for us, at least at this point in history.  It's rather like the idea of establishing a global network of solar power stations.  Great in theory, we could do it if there was the will and universal agreement and all the financial, political and social aspects could be ironed out, but it's not gonna happen this side of the singularity.

Well, depending on when the singularity is, that might not be a
problem... Given ten years of warning, I believe we currently have the
technology to steer an asteroid up to a couple hundred meters in
diameter. It would be expensive, but not as much as paying for the
asteroid landing on Houston...

> I'm beginning to think that the Fermi Paradox has a very simple explanation:  The universe is remarkably hostile, and dumb luck always runs out eventually.  Killer asteroids are on the low end of lethal events, if you think about it.  Eventually, we'll have to deal with a nearby supernova or Gamma Ray Burst, and there's all sorts of other nasties out there, that we know about.
> Depressed?  Yeah, the first million years are the worst.  And the second million, they're the worst too...

Thanks Marvin... :-)  If we have a gamma ray burst, we're just toast.
So no necessity to worry about that.


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