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Space Science

Simulation Of An Asteroid Impact In The Year 2880 411

Posted by timothy
from the only-a-test dept.
JoeRobe writes "Researchers at UCSC have simulated a possible outcome of an impact by asteroid 1950DA when it passes near us in the year 2880. Note that there is a 0.3% chance of impact during that encounter. In the event that it impacts in the Atlantic, they predict that the '60,000 megaton blast' would create 400 foot waves along the east coast. In addition to an assessment of the danger, their studies point out the resulting geologic features that we should be looking for now, which would indicate where and when such impacts have occured in the past."
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Simulation Of An Asteroid Impact In The Year 2880

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  • Actually... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SquireCD (465008) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:31AM (#6054715)
    I believe that nuclear war will have killed us all by then. Don't worry about the comet.
    • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:22AM (#6055121) Homepage
      If us is US (the east coast), Cumbre Viejo would have wiped it twice by then. Actually it will do so within the next 100 years. Considering that the wave at Washington DC will be 15m+ methinks that it may not be such a bad idea.

      More info on BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/966968.stm

      I've been there. The volcano is awesome ;-)
  • Uhm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:32AM (#6054721)
    their studies point out the resulting geologic features that we should be looking for now, which would indicate where and when such impacts have occured in the past.

    Craters?
    • Re:Uhm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by canthusus (463707) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:45AM (#6054773)
      Craters are only visible for a short period, and for relatively small impacts. They erode.

      For older and larger impacts, you're looking for very different evidence: heavily brecciated rocks, shock quartz crystals, changes to crust/mantle interface, evidence of high pressure rocks. Further afield, evidence of global dust layers (esp contaminated with terrestrially unusual minerals such as iridium), evidence of "tidal wave" eg poorly structured jumbled marine deposits over a large area.
  • I'm glad that this date is > 24xx. "Asteroid may hit 2330" might have been a somewhat more alarming headline - I was kinda hoping to see tomorrow...
  • by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:32AM (#6054723) Homepage Journal
    And thus I do not care.
  • Accuracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:35AM (#6054731)
    > Note that there is a 0.3% chance of impact during that encounter.

    Is that 0.3% chance mostly from the inaccuracy of the devices that measure the velocity of the object, inaccuracy of the prediction models, or genuine random events (like uh being affected by random solar wind variations, or something ).

    • It's probably due to the fact that they can only obtain a certain amount of precision in their measurements.

      When you think about it though, the precisions we're talking about must be just incredible.

  • Hope... (Score:3, Funny)

    by iworm (132527) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:37AM (#6054735)
    Well given the human race's ingenuity, if in the next 800 hundred years or so we haven't worked out a way to prevent this, we probably deserve extinction for being idle.

    Maybe we could all spend a little less on improving ways to kill each other, and a little more on planning our survival?
    • Re:Hope... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrMrLordX (559371)
      By 2880, I would hope we would have some miner drones attached to that baby draining it of whatever valuable minerals it may have. At least then it won't be so massive when it hits Earth . . .
    • Re:Hope... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:15AM (#6054897) Journal
      " if in the next 800 hundred years or so we haven't worked out a way to prevent this, we probably deserve extinction for being idle."

      I think you're being a bit harsh here. Is idleness the only reason for non-innovation? What about patents? Copyrights? How many years back did we 'invent' these things?
      What about money being wasted on 'defence systems' at the cost of innovative research? If World Peace were to be established Today, how much of the wrold's defence budgets could go into this kind of 'Save Humanity' work?
      What's the guaranty that more draconian acts than the DM?A could get passed, and stall research in vital areas? How many countries do research on even things like GPS? Peaceful nuclear reseacrh?

      Just consider this SCO-IBM imbroglio - how can an entity such as SCO even claim to own the brains of programmers and developers by paying up some cash. How much has DOS (the operating system) advanced over the past 10 years? How many viable alternatives to the X-Window environments have been developed?

      And meanwhile,
      How many locks, anti-competitive measures and worse tactics have been imposed on good innovative software? Even standards and protocols? I'm sorry, but blaming lack of innovation on mere idleness just doesn't cut it.

      As Evelyn Waugh famously said, we need to release generations from captivity, that may be more irksome than our own.
      • What about money being wasted on 'defence systems' at the cost of innovative research? If World Peace were to be established Today, how much of the wrold's defence budgets could go into this kind of 'Save Humanity' work?

        See this Internet thing you are using. It started as a Defense Department project. War has long been a motivator for progress. Either progress or die, literally. Check out the history of aviation.

        Compare the NSF and DARPA. They both give money to people to perform scientific resea

    • Well given the human race's ingenuity, if in the next 800 hundred years or so we haven't worked out a way to prevent this, we probably deserve extinction for being idle.

      quoth the article:
      It takes 8 hours for the waves to reach Europe, where they come ashore at heights of about 30 to 50 feet.

      Doesn't realy sound like extinction to me, hardly enough to get our feet wet. For the us east cost they're talking 400 feet, how much ingenuity does it take to head for the hills?

      • the resulting earthquakes are probably a much worse problem.
        Also, I guess a lot of water will evaporate, forming huge clouds and (just a guess), that will probably change climate for a short while...
    • The fact appears to be that for most people, most of the time, "survival" basically consists of competing with other people, and this often includes killing them, either directly through violence and war, or (much more significantly) through competition for food, water, space, and energy.

      If that does not ruin your day, consider that this is the way of all life as we know it: competition inside a species generally being much more aggressive than competition between species.

      It is very unlikely that we will

  • someone look at it and tell us if it is any different from the deep impact flick.
  • by fireman sam (662213) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:38AM (#6054739) Homepage Journal
    May 27, 2003
    Contact: Tim Stephens (831) 459-2495; stephens@ucsc.edu

    Massive tsunami sweeps Atlantic Coast in asteroid impact scenario for March 16, 2880
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    We're all fscked
  • A NASA-led campaign to detect large asteroids in near-Earth orbits is about half way toward its goal of detecting 90 percent of those larger than 1 kilometer in diameter (the size of 1950 DA) by 2008.

    "Until we detect all the big ones and can predict their orbits, we could be struck without warning," said Asphaug. "With the ongoing search campaigns, we'll probably be able to sound the 'all clear' by 2030 for 90 percent of the impacts that could trigger a global catastrophe."

    Um, why is the goal to only fi

    • Re:90 Percent? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xtal (49134) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:04AM (#6054853)
      It's 90% because more people work at your average burger king than are full time looking for potental asteroid hazards. Polticians don't care, neither do most people. Until, of course, something happens. Sadly, nothing short of a asteroid impact in the western world will change this. I just hope that it's not mistaken for an act of terrorism, triggering a nuclear holocaust. I also hope it's not so big as to trigger massive climate change.

      There is also the problem that we can only detect such objects at so-and-so a range, so earth needs to be in the right place at the right time for an event to be recorded.

      Also, comets count potentially disturb the orbits of many asteroids in the meantime. You can't ever predict a comet we haven't seen before - by the time we see it, it will likely be too late to do anything.

      Rosy, isn't it.
      • Re:90 Percent? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Theaetetus (590071) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .todhsals.suteteaeht.> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @10:18AM (#6057290) Homepage Journal
        Sadly, nothing short of a asteroid impact in the western world will change this. I just hope that it's not mistaken for an act of terrorism, triggering a nuclear holocaust.

        Agreement with your other points but this one - huh? There's a big kablooie, it gets mistaken for a terrorist act, first reaction is to launch the nukes? Is that what we did on 9/11? Even if it was bigger, what's the point? How does one take out a terrorist by launching nukes at every country in the world? Serious overreaction there, and some massive FUD. You find the terrorist, hunt them down, and get them - you don't randomly start throwing missiles at other countries.

        -T

    • Re:90 Percent? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ramzak2k (596734) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:13AM (#6054887)
      Um, why is the goal to only find 90 percent of the asteroids that can kill us?

      Budget constraints. They can only do so much with what they could sqeeze out of the government.

      Seriously, it could be because of the unpredictability of the asteroids' path & other unknown asteroids. Although many of these follow well defined path - a smallest deviation resulting out of say, collision with other space debris, would mean large change from the expected point of contact at earth.
  • by canning (228134)
    Who wants to bet it doesn't turn out like they predict? I'll bet my house on it.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:45AM (#6054771) Journal
    "In the event that it impacts in the Atlantic, they predict that the '60,000 megaton blast' would create 400 foot waves along the east coast."

    Wondering what'd happen if it hit anywhere near Seattle!? heh... forgot, it's gonna be more than 700 years away. Can we have a simulation of that thing in Seattle right now? In a place which rhymes with Deadbund?
    • "In the event that it impacts in the Atlantic, they predict that the '60,000 megaton blast' would create 400 foot waves along the east coast."

      Isn't Europe and Africa on the east coast of the Atlantic?

      • Isn't Europe and Africa on the east coast of the Atlantic?


        heh

        Anyway, an anal pendant would probably say only land has a coast while the sea has a shore - or something (I'm not sure myself - no pun intended)
  • It is a book by Niven and Pourelle(sp?), and it details such an event. The characters in the book thought it had a 1000 to 1 chance of missing too, but they were horribly wrong.

    3 percent is pretty high considering its the extinction of a sentient race (humans) possible, or at least civilization.

    I can just see my genetic decendants going "shit I wish my great *9 or 10 grandfathers generation had taken a little time out of their primitive lives to think about some kind of solution to this..." just before
    • by ObviousGuy (578567)
      Just because there is a 3 in 1000 chance of a strike and a strike actually occurs, it does not mean that the initial odds were wrong.
    • shit I wish my great *9 or 10 grandfathers generation had taken a little time out of their primitive lives to think about some kind of solution to this

      Figures, blame your elders. It's not like they could do anything about it a hundred years from now or so, right?

    • Re:Lucifers Hammer? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Wavicle (181176) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:16AM (#6054906)
      The characters in the book thought it had a 1000 to 1 chance of missing too, but they were horribly wrong.

      Imagine how boring the book would have been if they were right!

      Interestingly Lucifer's Hammer has become practically required reading for the "survivalist" movement (people who believe in being prepared for a catastrophic destruction of civilization... they got a little too closely associated with the Y2K nuts a couple years back, but for the most part they are fairly level-headed).

      But Lucifer's Hammer is a good read. I think it's filed under SciFi, but it is pretty light on the Science Fiction.
  • graphics (Score:4, Funny)

    by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:49AM (#6054784)
    Anyone else looking for the classic CNN artist rendition of an astoroid impact that looks like the moon hitting the earth to go with this story?
  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:52AM (#6054795)
    Our great^12 grandchildren are going to look back on news stories like this one and *laugh their feelers off*...

    -- Terry
  • Tens of thousand dead, thousands drowned, babies killed and maimed.

    Homes destroyed, their leader missing, pandemonium falling into utter madness.

    Roads crumbled, storehouses plundered, the sky is literally falling.

    You can really mess up an anthill when you're 10 years old.

  • By 2880 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:02AM (#6054841)
    ...this UCSC computer simulation will be as high tech as a 2880 refrigerator magnet.

    You guys really sure you want to put this out there? They are gonna LTAO...
    • ..this UCSC computer simulation will be as high tech as a 2880 refrigerator magnet.

      However, they'll both do the exact same thing when they discover such an object approaching the earth:

      "Yo, human. Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye."

      Soko
    • Re:By 2880 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fatboyslack (634391) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:45AM (#6055006) Journal
      They are gonna LTAO...
      I wonder if they'll have @$$es in 2880?
      Antennas? Appendages?

      Laugh their Antennas off?

      Still, I digress. Its pretty wacky to think what things will be like in 877 years. I mean, look at what has happened since
      *gets out calculator, 'cause its late and I'm tired*
      the year of our Lord 1126? The most sophisticated weapon was the longbow, and the french actually use to put up a fight. The Church reigned supreme etc. So much has changed, and todays world would seem bonkers to folk from back then. Hmm, reading this back, I must be tired. Its all so damn obvious.
      • I wonder if they'll have @$$es in 2880?
        Antennas? Appendages?

        Laugh their Antennas off?

        Still, I digress. Its pretty wacky to think what things will be like in 877 years. I mean, look at what has happened since
        *gets out calculator, 'cause its late and I'm tired*
        the year of our Lord 1126? The most sophisticated weapon was the longbow, and the french actually use to put up a fight. The Church reigned supreme etc. So much has changed, and todays world would seem bonkers to folk from back then. Hmm, reading this
        • Evolution does not work that quickly, especially in populations the size of humans. The world will be different, but we will be the same. (maybe a few inches taller still due to better nourishment).

          Although I slept through my bio-classes, I think I remember things like nourishment counted as part of the environment and not something that would affect your genes, thus not part of evolution.

        • Certainly not evolution by natural means... however with the growing trend in body-modification and the rapid developments in eugenics, it doesn't really seem that far fetched that SOME physical changes by design would be within the realm of possibility.

          Tails, fancy eye-balls, enormous genitalia, you name it, I would buy it, were it available for my children...
  • I find it funny how people talk about these so called "asteroids" that might strike earth and cause massive destruction. The idea of "giant rocks flying around in space" is almost impossible the fathom to any educated christian scientist. I believe these "asteroids" are just liberal propaganda.

    First of all, many people claim asteroids are what killed dinosaurs millions of years ago. This is impossible. God created in the earth in 6 days, not millions. It is entirely possible to assume then that dinosaurs a
  • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:12AM (#6054883) Journal
    Everyone's talking about an asteroid slamming into the Atlantic Ocean. It's 2 AM and I honestly am not going to RTFA before I crash tonight, but it seems strange that they always consider the idea of the asteroid slamming directly into the surface.

    There are many distinct ways that the asteroid could hit. I imagine that after you determine if, when, and where it impacts the Earth, the next most important thing to know to weigh the consequences would be at what angle and trajectory it hits at. I imagine it would be quite different if it hit at a 1/16 * Pi angle and streaked across the sea than it would be if it hit orthogonal ( right angle ) to the surface.

    Also, I imagine the rotation of the asteroid could be a major factor, as well as its shape and composition.

    • by product byproduct (628318) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:19AM (#6055113)
      energy = (hit) ? 0.5*m*v*v : 0;

      Whether the asteroid hits or not will determine whether 0.5*m*v^2 joules of energy will be unleashed or not. Observe that angle or shape or composition don't enter the equation (and rotational energy is quite insignificant in comparison). The only parameters are the boolean value "hit", total mass, and velocity.

      What you're talking about are secondary details on "how" the energy will be transferred, but regardless the total amount will be the same.
      • bullshit.
        Atmosphere is quite a bit large target, so if it skims through atmosphere, changes direction, and very probably break into parts, then not all the same energy will hit the target in the way orthogonal slam would do.
        • With large objects, the presence of the Earth's atmosphere is irrelevant. It causes some minor heating on the surface of the object. It doesn't slow it down or deflect it by an appreciable amount. Try running a car into a brick wall at 200 kph. Now put a thin layer of foam rubber on the brick wall and repeat the test, see any difference?
    • by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:31AM (#6055148)
      And I suppose none of these angular approches would be negated by gravity? Try to glance a ball bearing off of a magnet and then talk to me about an asteriod with a 1/16 * Pi approach angle. A hit is at least 50% tractor-pull...

      I doubt there are as many distinct/unique hit scenarios as some would propose. This isn't a weeked destruction derby, with hollowed out Cadillacs bouncing off each other in a mud pit.

      Next, asteriods are not known for their 'rotation' as much as they are for tumbling. Neither of which matters much as the gases and kinetic energy involved in a strike will have their way long before actual contact of the two entities. Much like an avalanche, or tsunami, the bulk of the damage is from the shock and pressure wave(s) that arrive before the object/event itself. Contact is after the fact, and I don't think anyone is going to come out from under their desk saying "man! that was close! Good thing it only grazed us!" In this case, a miss really is as good as a hit.
    • This brings to mind an interesting question - if the angle at which it hits the water is shallow enough, will it bounce off like a skimming stone?
  • by malia8888 (646496) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:16AM (#6054905)
    From the article: Although the probability of an impact from 1950 DA is only about 0.3 percent, it is the only asteroid yet detected that scientists cannot entirely dismiss as a threat.

    IMHO mankind has more to fear from viruses than tsunamis generated from wandering asteroids. I am afraid that something very tiny will wipe us out, not someting very big.

    I am not a biologist, but I bet the threat is more than 0.3 percent that this could happen. This SARS outbreak has me thinking.

    • by Graymalkin (13732) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:10AM (#6055082)
      We do indeed have a bit to fear from deadly viruses but the probability a virus is going to wipe our species out is probably somewhere around an asteroid impact wiping us out. Of all the bajillions of viruses only a fraction kill us with impunity and as our understanding of them increases their ability to kill us diminishes. This is not to say we're technologically immune to disease, we just understand the process a bit better now than we have.
    • Funny, the threat of HIV/AIDS seems a lot more worrying than SARS. People have recovered from SARS, how many people have recovered from AIDS? Can SARS be passed on?
  • Relax - when it hits it'll be no bigger than a Chihuahua's head.
  • Good (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:34AM (#6054971)
    Anything to stop the horror that is Adam Sandler. I'll pay any price.

  • I dont think the world will make it that far, but just to be safe I have saved this page for my (grand)^8 son to read it.
  • Didn't they already do that in that Bruce Willis movie?
  • Call it the Y2880 bug and charge top dollar for consultation fees to make sure that you're ready when it happens. When the dust blows over claim that you did such a good job that everything went smoothly.
  • Any chance that Ben Affleck and Bruice Willis were in the simulation either?
  • By then there is a pretty good chance Las Palmas will have split in two and created a similar tidal wave [newsmedianews.com] first, so you Americans on the East Coast may well be drowned already when the asteroid arrives.
  • by mrklin (608689) <ken@lin.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @04:08AM (#6055231)
    Consider this my first 1000-word post. :)

    Pic [ucsc.edu]

  • How far must I run? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HuskyDog (143220) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @04:23AM (#6055271) Homepage
    Well, its all very interesting, but it doesn't address the most fundamental question, which is:

    How far inland does one have to be to avoid a 400 foot wave?

    • by TFloore (27278)
      The easy answer there?

      The other side of the Appalacians. Nothing like a small mountain range to block a big wall of water.

      Or have you seen the Rockies, and now consider the Appalacians to just be kinda tall foothills? Still tall enough. But you might not want to be standing in the Cumberland Gap.
  • by zakezuke (229119) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @04:47AM (#6055339)
    The problem I see when ever any reads an article like this is the fact that they think, "oh well, that's so long away, I won't worry about it", when in reality the danger is real. Not nessicarly 1950 DA, but earth asteroid impact is a realistic happening, though pretty rare. Given our present technology, it takes months to prep a shuttle, and we don't really have much experence beyond sending probes to the outer / inner planets, let alone anything close to a game plan in the event that that a huge object is set to smack into the earth.

    We spend much time monitoring volcanos, fault lines, things that have proven to cause a danger to man, yet we still don't have much in the way of program to reliably spot dangers from our own solar system, which while we haven't had a trully catastrophic event in human history, there is enough in the way of evidence that this sorta event does take place.

    Even the smaller meteor strikes which are much more common place, though less destrictive then many forms of earth natural disaster, are much more common place, and near as I can tell, there pretty much isn't any program to detect and alert people as to the danger. The best thing we got are amature astrometers, who have been great, but are limited to earth bound telescopes.

    This is why we need a space program... if but for nothing else but to provide simple observation satalights in orbit to help detect such threats in advance.

    A moon base would also be somewhat spiffy too as far as creating a staging area in the event we do actually find a huge rock with a destination of earth.
  • oh well (Score:2, Funny)

    by Debian Troll (676582)
    Debian 3.0 delayed again: developers blame difficulties of locating 800 year old 32 bit hardware to complete kernel 2.4 testing on. Claim current quantum computers 'not stable enough'. spare a moment to think of joel "espy" klecker.
  • In the event that it impacts in the Atlantic, they predict that the '60,000 megaton blast' would create 400 foot waves along the east coast


    Phew, at least Europe is safe!
  • this is old news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Debian Troll (676582) <debian_troll@yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:33AM (#6055456) Homepage Journal
    yawn...

    according to this story [yahoo.com], this simulation was done on a debian cluster running the hurd.

    check out the date, it was published months ago.

  • by Cackmobile (182667) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @05:56AM (#6055501) Journal
    Check out the Billabong XXL Surf Contest [billabongxxl.com]. They are only surfing 66 footers now. This would have them creaming the inside of their strides.
  • '400 foot high waves'? My little Garmin Emap says that I'm at 435' of altitude, here in Maryland. I guess I'll be laughing at all the guys down the hill a little ways, sitting on their roofs, trying to stay dry. Do I know how to pick 'em or do I know how to pick 'em? Some people say coincidence or blind luck, I say 'Asteroid Collision Simulation Software'. It's good to be a geek.
  • Interesting "fact" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by minton (644094)
    "The so-called K/T impact, for example, ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago." So this is now a fact? Why wasn't I told?
  • Comfort Ye (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ReadParse (38517) <johnNO@SPAMfunnycow.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:58AM (#6055948) Homepage
    Does anybody else feel unbelievably comforted that the biggest asteroid concern scientists have is 800 years from now? I guess that pretty much rules out the possibility of getting hit by an asterioid by surprise.

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