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Changing Earth's Orbit Proposed 371

Posted by Hemos
from the well-it's-a-little-ways-off-but dept.
SEWilco writes "This BBC story points out that a team of astronomers have found a way to adjust the orbit of the Earth. They suggest moving a large asteroid past Earth and using its gravity to pull us out to a slightly different orbit. Their concern was how to keep the Earth cool as the Sun ages and warms up in a billion years. It's nice to see someone thinking of the long term."
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Changing Earth's Orbit Proposed

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  • That's just the trouble these days. Damn heathen scientists playing God, messing with our orbit like they knew what they was doin.

    It'll lead to nothing but trouble I tell you...

    *grumble grumble*...
  • What will happen to the atmosphere? Wouldn't a gravitational pull this strong, also rip part of the atmosphere away? Or how about the oceans? We'd friggin' flood ALL costal areas! (Of course, some people don't like New York anyway...) How about the Earth's molten core? Wouldn't such a gravitational force destabilize the core, thus resulting in massive volcanic activity, thus resulting in tidal waves, thus compounding the initial tidal problem, thus wiping out EVERYTHING except maybe mid-(pick your continent)?

    Deceptively simple?! Yeah right!

  • Nahh. After all, if a beat-up old type 40 can move a neutron star, moving little old Earth taint no thing.

    Besides, you can always just time loop the sun...
  • the article talks about using the oft-mentioned slinghost effect to increase our orbiting radius before the sun increases in luminosity by 10% in 1 billion years and 40% in 4 billion years.

    i'm thinking that this might be slightly (in a relative sense) more urgent due to an asteroid doing precisely the oppposite of what they have in mind - pulling us closer. i can't help but think this sort of foresight is a good thing but maybe we've got other, more statistically probably life-ending scenarios we should be paying attention to.

    just food for thought.

    My .02,

  • help help, i'm falling off! slow down the earth!

    --

  • When you look at an eclipse, you burn your eyes out not because there's more UV than normal, but because your eyes are fully dilated, letting in a lot more light.

    --
  • Are you volunteering?

    - A.P.

    --
    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • and one asteroid's gravitational field is -really- going to significantly affect the Earth's orbit. try 'one asteroid 3/4 the size of earth'. and then you have to be able to control the asteroid's path precisely to shift the earth properly. and if you can do that, why not just move the bloody Earth?

    riiiiiiiight.

    --nick
  • When steering a 100km asteroid towards Earth, confusing metric units with imperial ones could be a little more of a problem than it was with that Mars probe...
  • Lemme tell you about things that I don't trust our scientists with: the orbit of the planet. Still, do you think this is going to be the next movie craze, like the whole asteroid cataclysm thing? I can just see it now, Bruce Willis, suiting up to save the world yet again. Sharkey
    http://www.badassmofo.com [badassmofo.com]
  • Let the future gen worry about this sorta crap. We are thinking about future and we haven't even fixed our present yet. tsk tsk.
    Um, it's largely BECAUSE past generations didn't think about the future that we have such problems to "fix" today.

    I find such long-term thinking refreshing. Of course, in addition to a 1 billion year view, it would also be good to be thinking 10, 50, 100, and 1000 years ahead - both technologically and socially.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | http://www.infamous.net/

  • by Have Blue (616) on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:42AM (#455426) Homepage
    ...we'll tether 5 worlds togther and ride them to escape the Core Explosion...



  • Larry Niven used this idea In the novel "World out of time". Good Novel, done in the 70's I think.

  • aside from that fact that I'm assuming the human race will be long gone (as in extinct) we'll be able to generate our own magnetic fields/gravity wells long before the sun goes nova.

    And yes my crack habit is going strong.
    "Me Ted"
  • Too late dude, it's already there.
    Whoa, check the killer waves!
  • Scientists realize that an astroid is a relatively large gravitational body and can be used in a manner consistant with newtonian physics to adjusts the earth's orbit. Wowee.
  • Well if we were real careful we could change the length of the year but not that of the day. Remember the length of our days is NOT related to out distance from the Sun in any way. So seconds would still have the same meaning, so would hours and days, but we might need to tack on some extra days to february or something in order to reflect the new size of the year.
  • by KFury (19522)
    Yes, they crash a 200 lb probe that was supposed to go into orbit, but we'll trust them with an asteroid large enough to shift Earth to a higher orbit?

    Seriously though, in response to those who ask 'how would we move something big enough to move the Earth?" Well, we'd do it the same way. Move a pebble, that slingshots another larger pebble into a course that influences a big rock to go by a boulder, past a mountain, etc. At least that way we'd get 10 or 12 slingshots to make sure our calculations tend to be accurate before the next one.

    Kevin Fox
  • The vanity and hubris of these "scientists" is striking when one considers how much harm they could do. They could wreak havoc with the order of the universe. If they even attempted to put their plan into effect, the government should detain them for (attempted) crimes against the Earth and humanity.
  • This is a brilliant move. I can see it now, 5 minutes before this 100km wide asteroid smashes the Earth to smithereens, one NASA scientist will say to the other, "Hey, did you calculate that trajectory in metric or English units?"

    I don't think I want scientists trying to move the planet just yet, let alone, sending 100km wide asteroids any closer than they already are. If they can test it out on, say Titan, first, and get it into it's own orbit, and maneuver it around for a few hundred years without doing any damage, then maybe.

    But hey, what do we care? We'll all be dead and gone before anyone even writes the check to research this.

    Pete Davis

  • I think you can accomplish the same thing by asking all of the chinese (living in China) to climb onto chairs and jump off of them at noon. When they landed, they would push the Earth a little bit away from the Sun. It could be done every day for a while if it didn't work the first time.

    Actually, you could include everyone as long as they jumped off at noon local time. we could have this earth moved wherever we wanted it in a jiffy!

    Click here for $50! [dangifiknow.com]

  • by seanr (159340) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:57AM (#455471)
    Thought I would mention a couple of things related to this subject.

    1) Our sun is not big enough to go Super Nova, so don't worry about that. A Nova is a different thing that occurs in binary star systems so we don't have to worry about that either. What we do have to worry about is when the sun enters the Red Giant phase and begins to expand. That is what these scientists are pondering.

    2) Any 3 body gravitational system is chaotic. A chaotic system does not mean that is is wild and out of control. It means that it is very difficult to predict because the system is very sensitive to initial conditions. However, this is often a benefit because a chaotic system can exhibit a large range of behavior, whereas a non chaotic system is stuck in it's stable behavior. Also because of the chaotic nature of a 3 body system very small perturbations can eventually greatly effect the system. This means that we would not need a very large asteroid to move the earth, a small one that approaches just right would do the trick, and it would happen over a very large time period (millions of years). However because of the chaotic nature of the system we cannot exactly predict exactly where the earth would end up (we could eliminate the possiblity of it plunging into the sun, or being ejected from the solar system). To pull this off we would probably need a series of asteroids to occasionally redirect the earth slightly (perhaps every few thousand years). Since the forces involved would be small the effects of tidal forces and effects on the environment would be small and gradual.

    3) The earth already is moving away from the sun, because the sun is losing mass to the solar wind. My guess would be getting the mass loss of the sun correct would be the most difficult thing to work into the calculations since it isn't totally constant, and probably will become much more erratic as the sun begins to approach the red giant phase.

    4) My guess is the thing people of the future would have to worry about isn't the sun expanding and heating the earth too much, but the sun will probably become much less stable as far as radiation output causing rapid heating (several degrees over a few hundred years) followed by rapid cooling. This kind of variability will probably wreck havoc on the environment. (This is all assuming we haven't already screwed things up ourselves).

    5) This study is more relavent than you might think. While it will probably never be used to actually move the earth, the same techniques could be used to move things (spacecraft, asteroids for raw materials, etc..) without vast expendature of fuel as is currently done, where much of what we do is the brute force method. I read a paper that described how to get a spacecraft to the moon using less energy than a homan transfer (the most efficient way we currently change orbits). The method used the fact the earth, sun, moon system is a chaotic 3 body system. The drawback was that it took years to get the spacecraft to the moon.

    Sorry that was so long winded.
  • Hah...

    "If you could replicate a star ship, you wouldn't need to."

    There are lots of ways to move the earth... get a long rope; get a really long lever; put every nuke we (planet-wide) have in Topeka and detonate them...

    Of course, scientists still debate how far out the sun's corrona will extend in it's red giant phase. Will the earth be inside, on the surface, or outside the sun? The discussion is, of course, moot since the planet will have been long incinerated before then (during the expansion.) So, how many astroids will it take to pull us out to about Jupiter's orbit? And what will a shift in our orbit do to the rest of the planets?

    (Sometimes you have to wonder why we pay these people to think up these sorts of things.)
  • No.. I think it Space:1999...
    Remember,..the moon base..

  • You know, someone's taxes somewhere paid for this stuff. I hope next they can figure out a way to make the days longer. -Moondog
  • ask cecil adams about this [straightdope.com].

    Click here for $50! [dangifiknow.com]
  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Monday February 05, 2001 @12:15PM (#455486)
    Hey, I like this planet...now if people would just stop indulging in such conspicuous consumption, and dumping their shit all over the place, maybe it would be a decent place to hang around.
  • I always thought that was a subtle dig at Velstroki (something like that). He claimed that Venus was hot because it had been ejected from Jupiter in Biblical times, not because of greenhouse gases, that its passage had caused the Earth to briefly cease rotating just long enough for the story in the Bible, etc.
  • Apparently (according to some documentary or other on the Discovery channel UK tonight, which I didn't really take in, being too busy with other stuff), the moon is slowly receding from us. In a few million years we'll lose it. This is due to gravitational friction, caused by the effect the moon's gravity has on earth's oceans.

    There's some more on the receding moon here [infidels.org] Be warned that the site that URL points to is an anti-creationist site. Not that you'd find me sharing any daft ideas with creationists, but its probably blocked if you live in certain less than enlightened states of the USA.

    One way of fixing this is to dam the worlds oceans. That's one heck of a barrier..

    An alternative would be to steal a moon off another planet. Scientists have pointed at Europa as a 'suitable' satellite.

    Personally I don't plan on being about when they try and insert Europa into Earth orbit; if they miss, the results could be, err, sorta messy.
  • Or because you finally have some kind of reason to stare at the sun, so you do something you know you shouldn't and that would hurt you regardless of the circumstances.

    Click here for $50! [dangifiknow.com]
  • "If the 100 km asteroid was to collide with the Earth then it would wipe out all life on our planet. "This danger cannot be overemphasised," the researchers stress."

    This is the very first thing I though about when I read the brief on /. In fact my co-worker brought this up as well. What are the chances that we would get this asteroid to go exactly where we want it to?

    Think about it, one extremely miniscule miscalculation of an angle can have catastrophic effects. Knowing our current ability of screwing things up royaly, how are we gonna manage such a feat?

    I guess the same rule applies here, the higher the risk the higher the payoffs. Well if they do pull this off it would be cool as hell....but by then I think that most if not all of us would be dead. Unless you get your head placed in a jar like they do in Futurama =)

  • Well, I'm just glad that nobody's going to try doing this in my lifetime... Any worries that I have will be worked out by then. Of course, maybe they'll be stupid and try to move the Earth in one big motion, which would pass a large asteroid very near to the surface. If that happened, I'd worry about fun things like volcanoes and magnitude 10+ earthquakes... When you pull on something like the Earth (which probably has the consistency of a tennis ball), it is going to stretch in interesting ways.
    --
  • The Niven Novel's version worked by jetting Uranus in and out of other planet's orbits to shift Earth's orbit until it was orbiting as one of Jupiter's moons.
    Niven points out the dangers of this as well: 99% of the earth was scorched, uninhabitable deserts. The only places that could sustain life were the poles, and the south pole was a humid, tropical junge.
    Actually, moving the Earth was done after that, during a war, Persephone (a yet undiscovered tenth gas-giant planet) was hurled into the Sun, prematurely turning it into a Red Giant, thus scorching the Earth in the process. The move was decided later after a makeshift reflector put between the Earth and the Sun proved ineffective in controlling the climate.

    --

  • I've seen this idea somewhere before...



    Abian mass-time equivalence formula m = Mo(1-exp(T/(kT-Mo))) Abian units.

    Alter Earths orbit and tilt - Stop global disasters and epidemics

    Alter the solar system. Reorbit Venus into a near Earth-like orbit

    to create a born-again Earth (1990)



    Ah yes, that was it :)

  • We could feed them beans and tell them to fart at the same time, too...

    --

  • Wouldnt such a high speed fly by just destroy the planet? Im not suggesting it would be torn apart like the Destruction of the Deathstar - but what would happen to the 'tectonic' (sp?) plates? Wouldnt it be such a tramatic event to that we would end up with massive destruction on the planets surface?

  • ...get everyone in China to jump up and land at the same time? I've heard that will have the same effects, and it is probably much easier then maneuvering an asteroid.
  • The tidal forces involved would kill everything anyway, so you don't need to worry if the project actually worked.
  • How would our gravity change? This would not change the mass of the Earth, only its location.

    f(g)= G*M(1)*M(2)/r^2

  • How about we get off of the planet and colonize a few more before we start playing space pinball?

    Seriously, in a billion years mankind will have reached beyond the scope of mere planets and possibly even galaxies or we will have died out like the dinosaurs. A billion years almost gives enough time for reptiles to evolve and leave the planet as well.
  • Oh, I get it. When you're right, we all kowtow and proclaim you a genius, but when you're wrong, you get to say "Hey, I was just being silly" and we all go about our business? I don't think so!

    (I'm being sarcastic too ;)
  • You mean the URL in this comment [slashdot.org] of mine? The cid precedes that of yours.

    It's actually quite an old (and not racist, but humorously flawed) proposition.

    Click here for $50! [dangifiknow.com]

  • Close, but no cigar.

    The biggest error is that THE MOON IS NOT GRAVITATIONALLY BOUND TO THE EARTH. Do the math - the gravitational attraction from the sun is twice that from the earth. The moon is unique in this, and one reason why many people call the earth/moon system a double planet.

    To be sure, as a first approximation you can treat the earth-moon system as a binary system and get reasonable results - you can treat the sun's gravitional attraction as a uniform field that can be ignored. But if you want to do any long-term predictions you have to include the tidal forces from the sun - the moon is just a little bit squeezed towards the earth when half-full, and just a little bit pushed away from the earth when new or full. Tidal forces tend to circularize the moon's orbit, but this solar tidal force is "pumping" the moon to a higher orbit at the cost of the earth and moon moving a tad closer to the sun.

    In the long run, the sun will win. The moon will "break free" of the earth's orbit *long* before tidal locking occurs. It's been years since I read the details, but I think the earth's day maxes out at under 30 hours/day when the moon escapes, and it won't happen for another billion years or so.

    I also seem to recall that the tidal bulges lag the moon, and are slowing it down. But this situation is very odd - everywhere else in the solar system tidal friction cause the orbit to decay to the Roche limit (then you'll get rings as the satellite breaks up). Here the solar tidal forces are actually pumping the moon into a higher orbit.

    P.S., I believe I once read that the day was about 23 hours when dinosaurs were walking around. 14 hour days occured shortly after the collision 4 billion years ago, back when the moon would have filled the sky.
  • The tidal forces involved would kill everything anyway, so you don't need to worry if the project actually worked.
    Tidal forces would be a problem if the gravitational gradient would be extremely high, such as orbiting a neutron star or a black hole. In any case, the gravity gradient of an asteroid smaller than the earth will be lower than the Earth's, so therefore there no tidal danger with the method.

    --

  • Actually considering the average weight of Modern Americans, you would get the same net effect if you had the yankees do this.

  • The year was 1999, the earths moon has been thrown from it's orbit and women were still feathering their hair..... how's that asteroid idea look now ? hu???

  • This is all well and good, but what happens when we find out that another asteroid is on a collision course with Earth's new orbit. Won't we feel dumb then? Can't they wait a few hundred years for advanced asteroid defense to be constructed.

    Then again, an asteroid could hit us where we are now. And who's to say that the asteroid 'tow truck' won't hit us.

    Hopefully they've considered the posibility that this could drastically alter the Earth's climate.. But I'd take an Ice Age over incineration.

  • I think the way to do this would be to mount giant rockets on the asteroid, and fire them as needed to change its orbit. Only a small deviation would be needed to have a large effect later. The obvious problem would be refuelling the asteroid's rockets, but if we could find a way to do this, then it would be technically possible. With our current state of technology, this project would be hideously expensive, but if the future of the Earth was at stake, then this would not be an obstacle.

    If asteroids were to be used in this manner, then the best time to zoom them past the Earth would be when the Earth is at aphelion, the furthest point in its orbit around the Sun. This has the effect of increasing the perihelion distance, thus making the orbit more circular. Scheduling the asteroid flybys for perihelion is less effective, because the Earth will not incease its perihelion distance, and the orbit will become more elliptical. This is obviously less desirable.

    Another way of controlling the climate would be to reduce the mass of the Sun. This is obviously more difficult, but if possible would probably involve using extraordinarily powerful electromagnets to pull matter out of the Sun.

    If the Sun is going to increase in luminosity by 10% over the next billion years, then on average the Earth will need to increase the radius of its orbit by about 7 meters a year on average to maintain the same climate. ((sqrt (1.1) - 1) * 149,600,000 km / 10e9). Perhaps we should get started right away, given our current peril of global warming from greenhouse gases.

    --
  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Monday February 05, 2001 @02:24PM (#455546) Homepage
    ...before the Vogon Constructor Fleet destroys the planet to make way for an intergalactic bypass!

    (Hey where's my thumb??)

    --
  • Actually, we seem to get a significant hit every several million years. If we see them coming, we can put a mass driver (or some other engine) on them and move them to a new orbit. After a billion years of doing this, we should have moved a lot of asteroids and moving another one will be routine.
  • Perhaps it is not immediately (as in the next few thousand years) applicable to the solar system. But if we find other planetary systems where earth-like planets are in less than ideal orbits (just like Venus) we can apply similar techniques to move them to just the right spot. It may actually be faster than terraforming planets in "bad" orbits. Besides, if we're using generation ships they're probably large hollowed-out asteroids anyway and thus have all the propulsion installed in the first place.
  • The Niven Novel's version worked by jetting Uranus in and out of other planet's orbits to shift Earth's orbit until it was orbiting as one of Jupiter's moons.

    Niven points out the dangers of this as well: 99% of the earth was scorched, uninhabitable deserts. The only places that could sustain life were the poles, and the south pole was a humid, tropical junge.
  • At least now we can learn a few things about our planet's history from this...all the dinosaurs were trying to do was save themselves from the ultimate heat death of the sun. ;-)
  • Wasn't this a Twilight Zone episode?
  • >Maybe we could just split of a *piece* of the Earth and send it into another orbit.. y'know, as a test before we send the rest of Earth.

    Someone already tried that 4.5 billion years ago. That's how the Moon was formed.

    (Either that, or someone tried to move the Earth's orbit with a Mars-sized rock to compensate for the Sun changing from protostar to main-sequence body, and screwed up real bad ;-)

  • When they landed, they would push the Earth a little bit away from the Sun

    You didn't study much Physics in school, did you? (Hint: Think conservation of momentum)

  • by ers81239 (94163) on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:49AM (#455578) Homepage
    Couldn't the whole thing be solved a lot more simply? All we have to do is dig on the sun-side of the earth and put it on the far side. The chinese have been getting ready for this for a long time. You see they have been building a huge population and a huge sidewalk (actually meant to span half the earth). Then they are planning on setting up a gigantic chinese fireline to pass buckets of earth from China to the western tip of Africa.
  • Ok, so Britain decides to do this, all by themselves. Great. And they pull us too far.

    Realize please that if the temperature of the earth goes down by more than like two ro three degrees, a lot of thigns will change. We could trigger an ice age! That's not exactly the best cure for an economic recession.

    If this is ever going to be done, it would have to be a unanimous vote from every country, holding majority elections in the country to decide the nation vote. Because this could easily fuck up and you don't wanna fuck up the planet unless everyone agrees it will be fun.

    Anyways, I'm going to restock my Y2k bunker and include a small micro-nuclear heating cell. Any beautiful women, ages 16-24, who are interested in repopulating the planet once it moves back into a stable orbit, drop me a reply. thanks
  • it would be nice to be able to move the Earth as well. After all, we'd look pretty damn silly up in heaven trying to explain why even though we were given a few billion years to figure it out, we couldn't keep the Earth safe...

    My favorite quote of all time applies here:

    "Trust in God - but row away from the rocks."
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:51AM (#455590) Homepage Journal
    This idea sounds like these guys have been watching too much Doctor Who.
  • And who is anyone else to say that its perfect?

    It is...and it *IS* "broke". In a billion years or so... no matter what we try to do locally, will be uninhabitable.

    The Sun will begin to die out. It will get hotter, its output will increase...we WILL be incinerated.

    Until I have a written copy of "Gods Great Plan" which states that this is a "Good thing", and necissary to the universe at large... I vote "Lets get this fucker out of the way"

    Now... noone is saying we have to do it now. We have thousands of years before we have to DO anything. However, there is no point in refusing to talk about it and explore our options NOW.

    I mean hell, assuming for a min that there is a "creator" (God, Gods, whatever) perhaps this is exactly what he would expecty us to do...I mean, any such being would be the same being that gave us the very intellect and resources that we need to solve such a problem...perhaps we are expected to solve it in time...maybe that is "the plan".

    The fact is, we don't know what "His Plan" is, much less whether "He" is. (or at least, we can't all agree on it). So its insane to take "His Plan" into account...until we have a written copy in hand.

    -Steve
  • (No, not the Greg Bear story [barnesandnoble.com])
    I'm just wandering, since we are hoping to colonize Mars someday, why not try to move it a bit closer to the sun, so it would be easier to terraform it?
  • Hey sounds great... now can I get some Freon for my air-conditioner again?
  • The naivety of some scientists really gets me sometimes. Saving the earth from getting fried is a little more complex than just a two body gravity problem. It would involve highly complex ecological calculation, something an astronomer isn't cabable of really performing. Yes, looking toward the future is a great idea, but shouldn't we be concentrating on getting to that future a billion years away? Maybe we should be looking towards the near future and how to prevent possibly getting blown out of the heavens by a big mean rock.
  • by gold23 (44621) <org@slashdot@2.oolong@com> on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:55AM (#455609) Homepage
    Makes sense. Has anyone else noticed our elected leaders are becoming more and more worthy of the title "Hindmost?"

    -- gold23
  • by seanr (159340) on Monday February 05, 2001 @12:58PM (#455611)
    Gravitational friction isn't the correct term. The Moon is moving away from earth because of tidal forces. You are correct though that it is because of the interaction with the oceans.

    What is happening is the tidal bulge that is created by the moons gravity leads the moon slightly. This inhomogeneity gives a slight non-radial component to the gravitational force the earth exerts on the moon. Since the force is leading the moon, it pulls it along in its orbit just a bit, this speeds up the moon which in turn causes the orbit to move outward.

    The moon however will not escape the gravitational pull of earth. The lunar orbit will eventually become stable. When it does the orbital period of the moon will be exactly equal to the rotational period of the earth (the same forces that are speeding up the moons orbit are slowing down the earths rotation - in fact a day on earth used to be much shorter - I think I remember reading that it was about 14 hours during the period of the dinosaurs). This matching of orbital period to rotational period is common, it is called a spin orbit coupling. The moon is already coupled to the earth - thus the orbital period of the moon is almost exactly equal to its rotational period, that is why one side of the moon always faces the earth. Mercurys orbital period is also coupled to it's own rotational period, in this case it isn't 1:1 but 2:3 (2 rotations every 3 orbits about the sun). Plutos orbit is also coupled to Neptunes, this is why despite the fact Plutos orbit crosses Neptunes, they will never collide, because there orbits are coupled in just the right way.

    By the way when the earth moon system becomes stable a month will take exactly 1 day. However by then a day will be approximately 1000 hours. Just like one side of the moon always faces the earth, one side of the earth will always face the moon, and anything on the other side of the earth will never see the moon, and the moon will always be in exactly the same part of the sky for those that can see it.
  • So we may want to move our planet into a higher orbit over the course of the next billion years. Given that goal, this is the wrong approach. Using a single (or small number of) large, short-duration adjustment to the orbit is dangererous. The risks of stress fractures (earthquakes), even if all the calculations are correct, is too great. And if there is a miscalculation, well, game over.

    No, we want a slow long-duration force applied to the planet. Something moving us no more than perhaps a meter or so a day. That would give us a nice safe slow adjustment.

    Now how do we acheive such a change? That's a good question. Perhaps we could do something magnetic, similar to how satellites can use tethers and electrical charge to push off the magnetic field? Perhaps we could tap into the solar wind in a novel way? Perhaps we could find a way to convert nuclear explosion energy into magnetic energy to push off of the earth's magnetic field?
  • .. and change the gravitational constant of the universe.

    What do you mean, "how"? You just DO it!
  • Ceres, with a diameter of 480 miles, and .000x mass of Earth, would not make a dent, unless it crashed into the Earth with significant velocity.
    But then, do really really want to live here after that? :-)

    Maybe move Mars or Jupiter to affect the Earth.
  • God spoke Hebrew. Jesus was a Jew. He had a Galilean accent.

    Roman Catholicism ain't what it used to be.
  • Um, actually... they're not COMPLETELY independent.

    The earth rotates on its axis every 23 hours 56 minutes, rather than 24. You can check this by using the stars.

    The 24 hour bit is caused by the fact that the earth is in orbit around the sun causing the sun to illuminate the earth from different angles at different times of year.

    Basically the earths orbit ends up subtracting off a day from the year. Kinda like the same way that they lost a day if you've ever read "Around the world in 80 days." - the sun is moving east all th e time in the sky.

    Therefore if the year's length changes the length of the day would change too, probably shorter by a minute or two.
  • by sid_vicious (157798) on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:56AM (#455626) Homepage Journal
    Maybe we could just split of a *piece* of the Earth and send it into another orbit.. y'know, as a test before we send the rest of Earth.

    I vote for California.

  • Of course the posts are funny when we're talking about the ultimate mass transportation system. I submitted the article, and I was tempted to point out that this might help Linux survive its second billion years. That would have really stirred up the responses...
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:56AM (#455628)
    It's idioitic [sic] to worry about something that's billions of years away. Who knows if mankind will survive this next Bush Administration? :)

    Perhaps you ought to move off the planet, just in case. Oh, and take Alec Baldwin with you.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Monday February 05, 2001 @09:57AM (#455630) Homepage
    The gravitational pull between the two bodies would indeed produce a force pulling the two "towards eachother".

    However, the idea is that it comes by with the right velocity and angle that it shoots right past, and just kind of pulls out our orbit a little bit.

    Basically... the asteroid would slow down, and we would speed up....but not enough so that it would actually come into our orbit or even hit us...it would continue right along its path.

    -Steve
  • Get rid of the hollywood bigwigs and the entire midwest goes bankrupt.

    Of course, the reverse of your theory is also true... get rid of the midwest and there's nobody to watch the $50 million blockbuster summer movies, and then ... lo and behold! The entire hollywood bigwig community goes bankrupt!


    -The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)
  • nah dude, you have it wrong. that wasnt being racist at all you damn chink. now that was being racist. Get it?

    Racism is not limited to words such as "chink," "wop," "Spic," "Nigger," etc. Racism is defining someone by their racial heritage... examples of racism:

    "My buddy Joe is really cool for a black guy."

    "I love to fuck chinese women, they're so EASY."

    "I hate all you fucking whitebread american bastards."

    Now, only my third example is the kind of thing YOU have defined as racism, but all three of my example statements involve classifying (or stereotyping) someone based on the singular criteria of their race.

    It is just as much racism to say "White people are the best!" as it is to say "Black people are the worst!"


    -The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)
  • Nope...

    When the people jump, the force of their jump applies an equal, but pposite, force on the earth. Causing it to get slightly closer to the sun. The CENTER of mass stays the same, and thus the net forces still cancel out.

    -Steve
  • Ahem, care to backup the 75% of "resources" claim? This always struck me as being rather bogus. What exactly does "resources" mean in this case? And how is it measured?

    Now I'm sure we take up vastly more fuel per capita than people in China, India, etc, but what about the real staples, like food and water? If we truely takeup so many resources, then you must also assume that the vast majority of those staples lie in those regions where the "excessive" consumers live, because very little is imported from places like India, China, Russia, etc.

    I suspect people are measuring the "resources" by any number of backwards methods, like by GDP, imports and exports, commercial production, etc. They assume zero sum games, they assume that producivity would be as high in the near socialist environment required to make it vastly more "even", and so and so on. These are all invalid for any number of reasons, but I'd like to hear it from the horse's mouth.
  • Besides that, who the hell wants humans around longer than the Universe intended!?

    Who's to say that humans figuring out how to move the planet isn't what the Universe intended?

  • > Sorry, but I just can't have the kind of faith
    > required to think I'm just a product of
    > extraodinary chance. What hope of a fulfilling
    > life is there in that?

    Reality exists the way it is completely without regard to your ability to accept it.

    If you must participate in wild fantasy based on the speculations and ghost stories of ages past,to feel "Fullfilled" in your life... then enjoy I supose.

    Do not, however, expect that everyone else will honor your ghost stories when it comes time to make decisions and shape plans to avoid the destruction of our home planet (which is currently the only one we have).

    -Steve
  • This is one time I'll have to agree with the *NIX grognards in the audience.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
  • First some clarification: The Earth will still be in the Habitable Zone of Sol for at least the next half billion years. During that time the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will decrease as solar output increases in an anti-greenhouse fashion (more intense sunlight will yield greater photo-synthetic intake of CO2; along with more precipitation which causes more erosion; 2CO2 + H2O + CaSiO3 -> Calcium Carbonate & SiO2). This is what has occurred over the past 3 or so billion years so far. What this all means, is that the carbon cycle (of which Life is a major part) is the controlling factor of Terran climate.

    However there are limits to this -- Plants need a certain amount of fixable carbon in the atmosphere in order to grow. A critical CO2 shortage will be reached 500 million to a billion years from now. But life will (knock on wood) have already averted such a potential crisis many millions of years before this. The Trump card will be dealt by either our descendents in a few thousand years or by another intelligent tool user in the next 50-100 million years (assuming intelligent life wasn't just a fluke). OK so what the hell am I talking about? A Dyson Shell of course.

    A Dyson shell is a HUGE solar collector that would be dynamically positioned by a level K2 civilization so that the maximum amount of solar energy can be harvested from the sun. (It would be constructed as two opposing geodesic half spheres using Iron and Silicon from Mercury and be positioned at a radius halfway from Sol & Mercury -- outward pressure from the solar wind will cancel inward gravitational forces -- the geodesic configuration will dampen changes in solar wind pressure)

    To visualize a Dyson Shell think about this; Take a good sized grape fruit, cut a 2 cm slice through the 'equator' of it, hollow out the two halfs, separate them by 2 cm and try to image the sun as a small marble suspended within the center.

    Normally, a Dyson shell would not be visible in the daytime sky of any planet orbiting within the equatorial plane (i.e. the sun would still be a very bright disk surrounded by blue sky). However, the equatorial edges of each half of the shell can be extended to block out any desired portion of the sun as seen from earth.

    Presto! Climate control is built into humanities push to populate the solar system.

    NOTE: A K2 civilization, is one that has substantially tapped the power of a star. Right now, our civilization is at about K(0.7) -- To attain K1 status we still need to substantially tap the energy available on and around the planet -- without causing significant harm to the worlds ecosystems.

  • If this is ever going to be done, it would have to be a unanimous vote from every country, holding majority elections in the country to decide the nation vote.

    Nah, whomever can afford it will just do it anyway and everyone else can go screw themselves. That's how the world has worked up until now . . .

  • Instead of stealing angular momentum from Jupiter, why not steal it from Mars? Whether there are little bugs on Mars or not, having Mars closer to the Sun couldn't hurt. Such a move could be the long-term solution to maintaining Mars terraforming. It's their dirty little secret, but current plans for terraforming Mars don't plan for maintaining its biosphere for more than about 1 million years. Over time, the solar wind will strip any generated atmosphere away, as the original Mars atmosphere was stripped away. Moving the planet closer to the sun would cause more CO2 and H20 to be released from the ground, extending the lifetime of the biosphere. However, the real solution to maintaining a Mars biosphere is to restart the dynamo in Mars' core, and I have absolutely no idea how to do that. While we're thinking long-term and re-engineering the solar system, I have a few suggestions: * Use a solar sail soletta to block all light to Venus for a few millenia. Meanwhile, figure some way to get it rotating at a decent speed. Finally, somehow isolate/convert to carbonates all the CO2 glaciers that will form. Now, move Venus outward using Jupiter to steal angular momentum. The result should be a terraformable Mars-like planet. * Strip Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto from Jupiter and bring them into habitable zone orbits. There's nothing wrong with these worlds, except (1) weak magnetosphere -- OK, put them in Earth orbit; (2) they're just too damn cold. Melt the ice and move right in. But be sure to leave Jupiter where it is. And don't bother with Io, unless we have this incredible need for sulfur. Wow! What a world it would be if Earth had four or five habitable moons!
  • I would think that an asteroid would make a better shield than a tow-truck. with the proper topology and an orbit to match, an asteroid would deflect much of that direct radiation, leaving us quit comfortable with only the incidental radiation to worry over. of course this would have two side effects: one) a permanent eclipse-like effect would alter floral biology, and two, the eclipse would let a greater proportion of UV in as compared to the mix today. you know, when there is an eclipse you can look at it but still burn your eyes out. this would cause a shift in visual organs across the biosphere, either encouraging wide spread adaptation to UV or allowing creatures already comfy in the UV ranges to dominate.

    Another idea might be to put up EM lenses at the Earth->Sun libration points, to refract the bulk of energy around the earth, and allow 'normal' sunlight levels to intersect.

    Either way, this tow-truck plan would just about flip the crust right over with earthquakes. imagine the corialis forces at work in the mantle and core going out of wack!

    :)Fudboy
  • Terrrific! Except that they don't explain how they're going to move the planet mover. Eventually, we get down to something we CAN move and the unpredictability effects of chaos means that we're about as likely to succeed as drop to billion ton rock in what's left of the Pacific (which will have changed shape by then.)

    What are these mooks smoking? Its faster and easier to just leave the dirt ball behind.
  • by sparcv9 (253182) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:13AM (#455689)
    Three cheers for forward thinking, but if we're still tethered to a single planet a billion years from now, then something is drastically wrong. If we develop the space technology neccessary to actually harness an asteroid and make it go wherever we want it to, wouldn't that indicate a level of technology that would permit us to live on any damn planet we choose? We should be all over the freakin' galaxy by the time this becomes an issue. (Provided that we haven't become extinct via some other means - including by our own hands.)
  • The tidal forces involved would kill everything anyway, so you don't need to worry if the project actually worked.

    Possibly this was meant to be tongue in cheek, but ...

    No, the tidal forces would not kill everything anyway. It would be done gradually, with the asteroid making many many multiple passes over a long period of time.

  • > Why worry about moving the earth 1 million years
    > from now. If we survive that long, why would
    > we use a 1 million year old technology?

    And noone is arguing that we should. All I am advocating is that this idea be researched, becuase when the time comes that it has to move, thats not the time to START the research.

    Thats exactly the kind of thinking that caused the "Y2K Craze"... "Oh plenty of time, this stuff will be long since replaced by then, no need for us to store dates right now".

    > At least my 'ghost stories' (which I take
    > literally from the Genesis account in the
    > Bible) have never been proven false,

    Whats to prove false? Its a story. A story with an all powerful God that can change the entire universe at his whim... makes it very easy to explain away just about anything. How convinient!

    I supose the dinosaur bones we find are just Gods little practical joke to test our faith then? Or maybe whoever recorded the story simply forgot about the monstorous flesh eating lizards?

    > while you choose to believe in Big Bang theory,
    > also based on faith.

    The only faith in science is the faith that reality exists, and we are not brains in jars being fed a virtual universe (like the matrix).
    And even then... science would still be valid within that universe. (unless the program suddenly changed all the rules).

    The "Big Bang" theory is just the best theory we have so far. The one that fits the most of the empirical evidence. When new empirical evidence is found that contradicts it, a new theory will replace it.

    No Theory is written in stone.

    > technology a 10-20 years from now will
    > undoubtedly have much better solutions to global
    > warming than this.

    This is not the same global warming that environmentalists are going around talking about. This is not about the earth holding in heat.

    This is global warming due to the Sun begining to die out. As it dies out, it gets hotter. Its output increases drastically. When it happens, it will FRY this planet.

    -Steve
  • by mr.ska (208224) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:08AM (#455710) Homepage Journal
    ...I would be very surprised (and disappointed) if we're still clinging to this hunk of iron one billion years from now. I'd say it's more likely we should worry about the Venusian colonists (you know, the dumb few who didn't want to live on Mars on in the asteroid belt).

    Of course, there is no conceivable way anyone alive could imagine our technology in the year 1000002001. Maybe we won't have to move the Earth... we'll just turn down the sun!

    Mr. Ska

    I slit a sheet
    A sheet I slit

  • I don't get the joke...
  • I can't believe someone found a flaw in the otherwise ingenious and infalliable plan!

    Click here for $50! [dangifiknow.com]
  • > And contrary to popular belief, dinosaur
    > fossils have not proven evolution, but rather
    > a massive flood or other catastrophe. If you
    > really want me to find a link
    > for it online I will try to do so for you.

    Yes a massive flood that killed off even the large dinosaurs that lived in the sea. That sounds very plausable.

    No need to find a link, ive seen the pseudoscience before. Perhaps you would like to know how it all relates to the law of fives? Really fascinating stuff.

    > At least I've got some solid ground to stand
    > on for my beliefs both scientific and
    > spiritually. It is an amazing story, but hey,
    > I'm not God so it's not my job to understand
    > it, just believe it.

    I supose if that ground feels solid to you, then it must be solid. Even if it looks and feels alot like sand to me.

    As I said before... feel free to believe what you want. Just don't expect your beliefs to affect my decisions on what types of research or plans of action to support.

    -Steve
  • If they just could figure out how to move France away from the Earth, then they might have something.
  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:10AM (#455737) Homepage
    Well.... I dunno whats sillier...your idea or the fact that I am actually going to explain why it wont work :)

    When a person jumps, they exert a force against the earth. Now...the mass distribution of the earth changes a bit...and thus the center of gravity changes...so if aenough people did this in a way that produced a net force, the earth would indeed move away from them. (it would take quite a few for this change to even be measurable.

    However... unless they reach escape velocity... the gravitational force between them and the earth will pull them back... exerting exactly the same magnitude of force against both, but in an opposite direction.

    Basically... the center of mass for a closed system (and in this case, we are indeed talking about a closed system) will not change. You need an EXTERNAL force to change the velocity, internal forces always cancel out.

    Now...if you could get the entire population of china to jump AND reach escape velocity.... that would be quite a different story...however... they may not fare too well.

    -Steve
  • by CokeBear (16811) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:27AM (#455742) Journal
    If this is ever going to be done, it would have to be a unanimous vote from every country, holding majority elections in the country to decide the nation vote. Because this could easily fuck up and you don't wanna fuck up the planet unless everyone agrees it will be fun.

    Not bloody likely.
    I don't there there is any law, proposal or suggestion that could get unanimous consent on this planet. Even the most obvious thing has to be debated by two "sides". Even when one side of the argument is just plain silly. (Certain Republicans come to mind...)
  • by fiziko (97143) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:32AM (#455754) Homepage
    It's a reference to "Ringworld," by Larry Niven. It's a great book; I tell everybody that they should read it if they get the chance.
  • by FortKnox (169099) on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:34AM (#455756) Homepage Journal
    Lets see...
    Asteroid hitting the earth,
    Another Ice Age,
    Global Warming,
    Economic Recession/Depression,
    "Grey Ooze",
    World War,
    etc...
    These will all likely happen within a million years, and there are scientists worrying about stuff that will happen in a billion years?
    My guess is, they'll all give themselves a coronary worrying about this stuff in about 2 years.

    --
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05, 2001 @10:36AM (#455761)
    Let me list several pitfalls to this problem:
    1. The Earth-Luna pair must be considered a double planet system. If these scientists expect to significantly alter the orbit of Earth, then similar plans must be taken to ensure that Luna's orbit is matched throughout this change. Any instability or gravitational pull on Earth must also affect Luna, due to its relatively near orbit.
    2. Without planning for this, assume that Luna will be affected by such a large asteroid even more so than Earth, or even less so, depending on exactly how they plan to use the gravitational slingshot effect. In that case, one of many outcomes might happen:
      • Luna will be drawn closer to Earth and enter a nearer, faster, and possibly more eccentric orbit. This will wreak tidal havoc.
      • Luna will be pushed farther from Earth and enter a slower and more eccentric orbit. This will also cause many problem.
      • Luna's orbit will be unperturbed, but this is not likely.
      • Luna will be ejected from its present orbit altogether, and become an unpredictable planet-like object with its own orbit. This clutters up the inner solar system immensely.
      • Luna may collide with Earth.
    3. The inner solar system is a VERY busy place. We have three other planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) to worry about. Significant research has been done (and I don't remember by whom, but it was very well computed and presented) to show that the Earth-Luna system plays a stabilizing role in the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and also Mars to a lesser degree. The conclusion by this astronomer was that were Earth in a different location, then the orbits of Venus and Mercury would eventually destabilize and become unpredictable in a short time, possibly even tens of thousands of years.
    4. Some of the ramifications of moving Earth-Luna would mean similar effects upon Venus and also Mercury, over time. Any change to the gravitational balance of our solar system may cause these orbits to become destabilized or eccentric, and eventually lead to any of these outcomes, listed in order of likelihood:
      • planetary collision with Sol
      • planetary collision with another planet
      • planetary collision with Earth-Luna system
      • planetary collision with Mars
      • planetary ejection
      • planetary collision with Jupiter, or capture by Jupiter
      • any other possible catastrophe
    5. As mentioned before, the inner solar system is a very busy place. Thousands of asteroids, micro-planets, and comets have been discovered, some only within the last decade. Earth-Luna itself is subjected to periodic meteor showers (e.g., Perseid, Leonid, etc.) whose exact nature and orbital stability are unknown. Moving Earth-Luna might mean subjecting Earth to heavy bombardment from any one of these inner solar bodies. The consequences of such an impact/collision would be far worse than any perceived solar output delta, and would have much shorter-term and more catastrophic impacts upon Earth's biosphere.
    6. Finally, the outer solar system does exert measurable gravitational control over the inter solar system bodies. Jupiter is theorized to have played a stabilizing role in the formation (and further development) of the early solar system, with its near-circular orbit and huge mass. If Earth-Luna were moved, then the system might be gravitationally affected in a different way by the gas giants.
    7. Bode's Law has not been the end-all authority over planetary configuration, but there is a certain harmonic resonance seen in the orbits of the planets. Moving Earth-Luna would change and possibly destroy this resonance, which would change the nature of the solar system.
    8. Planetary stability in the current solar system configuration, over the very long term (>10,000,000 years) has not yet been proven! Astronomers are still working to solve the N-body problem with the data that we have about the planetary bodies that we know.
    9. The current cycle and mechanism behind global cooling (ice ages) is not completely known. We may be on the upswing from a recent ice age, and there is some evidence to prove this. If Earth-Luna is moved, this may drastically change the cycles and the weather patterns, even over the long term.
    10. The current Solar trends have been measured for a very short time (astronomically, only an eye-blink) and cannot be predicted or planned with any great certainty. We still know too little about our own sun to know whether its output delta is cyclical or constant. Also, we know too little about the surrounding space around the heliopause to be able to predict how extra-solar galactic space (and matter) may affect Sol in the long-term.
    11. Europa appears to be vacant.
    These are just some, but not all, reasons against messing with the orbit of Earth-Luna. My facts may not be complete or entirely accurate, but I don't really think this is a good idea. Our Solar system is not a landscaping project -- we just shouldn't be moving the big rocks around until we really know how everything will be affected.

    Just because people read Larry Niven's books (which are generally very good, by the way) about the Puppetteers moving their homeworlds away from their sun, doesn't mean it can actually be done. There are perfectly good places to settle and colonize that don't involve moving planets and wreaking havoc.

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