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No, the Earth (almost Certainly) Won't Be Hit By an Asteroid In 2032 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the too-late,-already-panicked dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Last week, astronomers discovered 2013 TV135, a 400-meter wide asteroid that will swing by the Earth in 2032. The odds of an impact at that time are incredibly low — in fact, the chance it will glide safely past us is 99.99998%! But that hasn't stopped some venues from playing up the apocalypse angle. Bottom line: we do not have a good orbit for this rock yet, and as observations get better the chance of an impact will certainly drop. We can breathe easy over this particular asteroid."
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No, the Earth (almost Certainly) Won't Be Hit By an Asteroid In 2032

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  • well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:57PM (#45167213)

    ...that's until the U.S.'s tolerance of gay marriage changes its trajectory.

    • ...that's until the U.S.'s tolerance of gay marriage changes its trajectory.

      I'm not sure why this was down modded. I actually got a chuckle out of it personally.

      • It was modded off topic according to the history. Some mod was mad that we weren't taking "We probably aren't all going to die in 2032" seriously, or at least not directly discussing it.

        I, for one, am glad that if I am smooshed by a big rock in 2032, odds are around 99.99998% that it will be a big terrestrial rock and not a space rock. Perhaps slightly lower given that there are other space rocks out there which could fall on me.

        There, anonymous troll mod, are you happy?
    • by adamstew (909658)

      undoing mod. It was funny, not overrated.

      • I think your comment just undid your undoing of the aforementioned mod.
        • Yes his comment just undid his undoing of the aforementioned mod which is why I am commenting because I won
          t be undoing his non undoing of moderation. (sorry but this is more funny to me than the comment.)

          • by idontgno (624372)

            We apologise again for the fault in the moderation. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked.

  • But how do we know you aren't preparing for a quick bug out when its only a month away? I've seen 2012, I know how this stuff works!!

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      Protip Tiger, we all saw 2012 and we all woke up December 26 2012 didn't we?

      Let's also not forget Y2K.

      We all survived that didn't we?

      All throughout history each generation preaches the end is nigh.
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Protip Tiger, we all saw 2012 and we all woke up December 26 2012 didn't we?

        If by "we all" you limit yourself to "everyone who is alive to day and reading this particular story in /.", well, yes, you are absolutely correct. Everyone who woke up this morning also probably woke up on December 26, 2012. A very uninteresting statistic.

        Now, a more useful reading of your words that isn't quite so self-referential and circular in reasoning would be that you're claiming that everyone in the world woke up that morning, which is patently false. There are 26 documented cases of people who d

      • we all woke up December 26 2012 didn't we?

        No. I think I spent the night from 25 to 26 awake.

      • we all woke up December 26 2012 didn't we?

        No we didn't. We are just a simulation of what would have happened if we weren't killed back then.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:01PM (#45167261)

    In fact, the chance it will glide safely past us is 99.99998%

    Since the odds of any asteroid of a city-destroying size or larger only hit the Earth every 5,000 years or so... this particular asteroid's odds are 36.5 times better than the average one's.

    • by isorox (205688)

      In fact, the chance it will glide safely past us is 99.99998%

      Since the odds of any asteroid of a city-destroying size or larger only hit the Earth every 5,000 years or so... this particular asteroid's odds are 36.5 times better than the average one's.

      We've had cities for 5,000 years. How many have been destroyed by asteroids?

      None. Overdue for one dont-ya-think?

      • None.

        That we know of.

        Like a large, isolated city that just disappeared. And stories were written how it sank under the water...

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        not really, three percent of the earth land is covered by cities. but that is of 29% of earth covered by land. We'll thus probably go for hundreds of thousands of years before a city gets hit by "city-destroying" asteroid. boring.

        • by necro81 (917438)

          We'll thus probably go for hundreds of thousands of years before a city gets hit by "city-destroying" asteroid. boring.

          Until the next Michael Bay film, in which case we'll lose half a dozen cities before reaching the third act. And it will be... still boring.

      • None. Overdue for one dont-ya-think?

        No. If you roll a six-sided die and you roll five 1s in a row, what's the odds that the sixth roll you make will be a 1? 1 in 6. What you're doing here is called the Gambler's Fallacy.

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        I know that game destroyed my spare change when it came out, I'm sure it could have impacted a few cities.
  • If you tell me that there's going to be no asteroid, then I'll just go up and make one hit the Earth, just to spite you.

    You'll know it by the blinky LED lights I'll have on it that will spell out "2032 suckers!" in bright red and green lights.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:02PM (#45167279)

    99.99998% miss from extinction-level objects means that, on average, they kill a mere 1,400 people.

  • While I'll admit it's a problem for everything within about a 200 mile radius, and has a potential to create a 50+ meter tsunami, depending on where it hits... globally speaking, it doesn't represent a significant threat.
    • A far greater risk is the high probability that the Pacific Rim will unzip from BC down to CA sometime in this decade.

      That means tsunamis and 9.0 quakes and volcanoes like Rainier going.

      But ... there's not a single thing you can do about that, so stop wasting time worrying about it.

      • by cusco (717999)

        High probability? Do you mean it's probable that you imagine such things while you're high? Because back in the real world the probability of such an event is pretty close to zero.

        • The probability on any day is close to zero.

          But we know the Cascade Subduction Zone does rip over the entire chain, and it's done this quite a few times in recorded history, based on temple records in Japan and other areas of Tsunamis and local tree subsidence (ghost forests) and grey zones in the tidal aspects from the deposits.

          As I said, you can't do anything about it, but it will happen and we're in the middle of the highest probability zone right now.

          • by cusco (717999)

            Wasn't clear, sorry. I was mostly referring to the sometime in this decade portion of the post as being unlikely.

            An event as large as you describe, stretching from BC to CA, doesn't appear in the record anywhere. Tsunamis, ghost forests and the like are the effects of local events that, while they may be devastating to the area affected, are not region-wide disruptions. In fact to my knowledge an earthquake on that scale is pretty much unknown anywhere on the planet, ever. Rainer's last eruption 10,00

            • Wrong.

              If you want more info, just check out the UW recent research.

              I think you're confusing eruption of an active volcano with eruptions within a timespan of a few years of active volcanoes (plural) including other triggered events.

              Of course, just ask people in the Phillipines how safe they feel right now.

              It isn't called the Ring of Fire because we like to have beach cookouts, you know.

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                It isn't called the Ring of Fire because we like to have beach cookouts, you know.

                No, it is because of the spicy food that people in those regions tend to eat.

              • by cusco (717999)

                Well, I've looked, and I don't see anything referring to a possible earthquake occurring along 800 kilometers of fault at once. Do you have a link?

  • Lower odds has not stopped people from buying the lottery, and so let them at least make up stories of the apocalypse. Human nature is such that they have more fun hoping for the worst.
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      That is lower odds of success. This is about very low odds of failure. Tell any banker that the odds of losing in an investment are so low and probably will lend all the money of the world to bet all on it (probably 1 in 10 would be enough to invest millons, and this is several orders better).
  • 99.99998% of a miss.
    0.9999998 ^ 100,000 = 0.980 -> 2% chance of at least 1 hit with 100,000 such events
    Or approx 3.5 million such events for a 50% chance of at least 1 hit

    Next questions are
    a) how often do such events occur ?
    b) how long since the last such event ?

  • by CHK6 (583097) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:16PM (#45167461)
    There is still a chance that a viral zombie outbreak will happen before we are hit by an asteroid? Because a population ending asteroid would ruin the fun of it. Now if a population ending asteroid wanted to hit say after humanity overcame the zombie apocalypse, then I'm okay with that. Unless there is a space alien invasion. Then we need a zombie outbreak to be in full swing just as the space aliens invade. Then an asteroid can hit killing everything. However, if there is a chance for machines to become self-aware and bent on killing all organic life, then we need to hold off on the asteroid. So first we have the zombie outbreak, then the space aliens invade, and finally the rise of the Terminators comes about. Then after the dust settles, an asteroid can hit.
    • Not really. Local flora and fauna would kill off a zombie epidemic fairly quickly, if live humans weren't around. Just insects alone would have a field day, and in 72 hours would grow fast enough to deal with it.

      The Earth really doesn't need us.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        The Earth really doesn't need us.

        You're projecting again. The doctor called, he wants his thermometer back.

        • The Earth really doesn't need us.

          You're projecting again. The doctor called, he wants his thermometer back.

          Most of the earth is molten, actually, and most of the rest is covered with water.

          Now, if I were talking with a whale, you might have an argument, but I kind of doubt that.

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Now, if I were talking with a whale, you might have an argument, but I kind of doubt that.

            "Projection" is a psychological term that means you are assuming someone else has the same feelings and beliefs that you do. For example, you are mad at someone for some reason and based on that you assume they are mad at you.

            In this case, you feel the Earth doesn't need you and you project that into a statement that it doesn't need "us". The Earth may very well not need you, I can't speak to that issue. If that is true, you are welcome to leave; the rest of us who want to stay will wave goodbye as you ex

    • "before we get hit by that asteriod?"

      There are plenty more rocks in space for us to be hit by. There's hope yet!

  • by LNO (180595) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:17PM (#45167475)

    It's all a scam. They're hiding the possible cure for asteroid impacts, because this way they can continue to get unlimited grant money from the government. They've already planned their off-planet habitat for when the earth is destroyed, but they won't admit to its existence because then the sheeple would question the purpose of those radio telescopes and interplanetary probes.

    WAKE UP! STOP BIG ASTRONOMY!

    • You're only complaining because they rejected your application for the asteroid vaccine trials.
      Would it make you feel better to know th*&!@at th&$#^ som%$* minor^%!)* side-effects?

  • Corrected (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Phil Plait just posted a correction, 99.998% chance of a miss. [twitter.com]
  • If the odds were higher, then governments might start taking money off their war spending and start putting some serious money into space technology and asteroid deflection programs, which would certainly lead to a faster space colonization, asteroid mining and so on,
  • Math. Sigh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Bad Astronomer (563217) <thebadastronomer&gmail,com> on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:30PM (#45167685) Homepage
    Folks- Please note a couple of math errors in the article (and in the headline I submitted here at /.). 1) The chance of it missing is 99.998%, and not 99.99998%. I misplaced a parenthesis when I did the math and wound up essentially getting 100 - 1/63000 instead of 1 - 1/63000. D'oh. 2) Also, the original circle I drew in the article was too big. This one makes me smile wryly: I first drew up the analogy as the circular cross-sectional area of a target region in space versus the cross-section of the Earth. Both are circles. However, a pixel is square! So my circle was too wide by a factor of the square root of pi, since the radius of the circle is the sqrt(area/pi). Put in 63,000 pixels for the area and the radius is 141. I corrected the article, sent a note to TPTB at Slashdot, and beg the forgiveness of math pedants everywhere. :)
    • ...after reading your username
    • The chance of it missing is 99.998%, and not 99.99998%

      The chances of it happening went up a thousandth of a percent in the half an hour since the summary was posted? If these trends continue, the asteroid will have a 157.68% chance of hitting us!

      (9 years x 365 days x 24 hours x 2 half hour x 0.001 chance, if anyone's curious about what I typed into my calculator. There are bigger problems with the above statement anyway. To any cable news journalists reading, this is a joke.)

    • You can add "The Bad Mathematician" to your title now sir.
  • The odds of an impact at that time are incredibly low — in fact, the chance it will glide safely past us is 99.99998%! But that hasn't stopped some venues from playing up the apocalypse angle.

    A 1 in 5,000,000 chance of this asteroid hitting is super high compared to the 1 in 175,223,510 [powerball.com] odds of winning the grand prize in the Powerball lottery, yet tons of idiots still line up to play.

    • And now with the updated number, so it's 1 in 50,000 odds of this hitting us, nearly 3,500 times more likely than a lottery win.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

      but you're confused, only one person wins the lottery jackpot but we're *all* playing the asteroid game.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      There are multiple lotteries drawing every week; but there is only one asteroid lottery. More importantly, people witness numerous life-changing lottery payouts every month. Nobody in historical times has ever witnessed a civilization altering asteroid event.

      So. Simply looking at the odds isn't enough. The experimental results are that voluntary participation in the lottery produces a handful of millionaires every month, while mandatory participation in the asteroid lottery produces a few rumored deaths

  • ...it's still worth reading The Last Policeman. [wikipedia.org]
  • chance of an impact will certainly drop

    If it would certainly drop, then it would be already zero today. The reason why the estimate is currently 0.00002% is because it is not known at which side the real value is. Actually, a defining criteria of a proper estimate is that it is located in the middle of the probability distribution, meaning that the actual value might lie on either side, with equal probability.

    Note that the original article uses "likely" instead of "certainly".

  • > Bottom line: we do not have a good orbit for this rock yet, and as observations get better the chance of an impact will certainly drop.

    What is that supposed to mean? It should get closer to 1 or to 0. It will get closer to 0 with probability .9999998, and to 1 with probability .0000002. So it will not "certainly" drop.

    • by Arkh89 (2870391)

      pr(impact) = 1 - pr(miss)
      If pr(impact) decreases, it is equivalent to pr(miss) being increased (by the same amount).
      So if pr(impact) drops closer to 0, then pr(miss) increases closer to 1.

    • I think what he means is that they have already made up their minds that it will miss us, so as their calculations get better the probability that it will miss is going to go up from .9 to 1.0.

      But, right now we have calculated that there is a .9-whatever chance that it is going to miss us, and their is a .0-whatever that it is going to hit us. In the real world it has already been decided, but we are unsure what which course is already set in stone.

      So there is a 99% chance that there is a 100% chance that i

  • by DdJ (10790) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:42PM (#45167839) Homepage Journal

    ...I was hoping to avoid the 2038 bug.

  • Asteroid Apocalypse: What Could Happen, But Probably Won't, in 2032

    [Cue a solid hour of CG destruction porn.]

  • With only 19 or so years to go, we'll have to act quickly to get a long range space craft up to this asteroid if we want to alter its trajectory so it certainly will hit Earth! There's no time to waste if we're going to set up for this future crisis!

  • I had a big retirement fund blowout bash planned for 2032. After all, you can't take it with you. Now I'll have to text everyone that's it's been cancelled....

  • What would happen if it came really close but didn't hit? Like 2 miles up? What about 500 feet above land? 50 feet?
    • If the angle is just right, it skip off the atmosphere like a stone skipping on the surface of a pond. Too low, and the atmosphere would slow it down and it would break up into lots of little pieces and burn up..
  • I'm sorry. Astronomers didn't detect Eris until 2005. Eris is a dwarf planet that's more massive than Pluto (that's why Pluto's not a planet anymore, we'd have to admit there was another planet closer and bigger than Pluto, and that we're basically blind. Now, when we factor in that these city or country or world killing asteroids can be smaller than dwarf planets... Yeah, sorry bub. You've got no legs to stand on when you make predictions. The evidence doesn't bear out. This particular asteroid prob

    • by readacc (3401189)

      You humans

      I think I finally understand why you post with such a superiority complex and arrogant attitude - you're an alien. I mean you must be - you can't be human because you refer to use as "you humans", as if you're separate from the species.

      Either that or you're a fucking disgrace of a person who thinks they're better than everyone else. To be honest though, most elitist Linux users have similar views.

  • I guess we gotta start updating UNIX to have 64 bit dates after all.
  • So 1/50,000 chance... better than winning any lottery, better than winning a 50/50 draw at a sporting event. Considering the consequences, such a number is awfully scary - no?
  • However, remember we only observe a small fraction of the skies, and much of the things that have a 99.99998% chance of missing us, were never detected.

    Also.... when asteroids get close enough to our orbit to have a 0.9999998 chance of impacting us; eventually, the number of times this is happening adds up to a million, and the number of expected collissions is 1 or greater.

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