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Space Earth

No, a Huge Asteroid Is Not "Set To Wipe Out Life On Earth In 2880" 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-the-end-of-the-world-or-not dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Phil Plait wants you to know that asteroid 1950 DA is very, very unlikely to hit the Earth in 2880, despite what you may have read. He writes: "As it happens, 1950 DA is what's called a 'near-Earth asteroid', because its orbit sometimes brings it relatively close to Earth. I'll note that I mean close on a cosmic scale. Looking over the next few decades, a typical pass is tens of millions of kilometers away, with some as close as five million kilometers — which is still more than ten times farther away than the Moon! Still, that's in our neighborhood, which is one of the reasons this asteroid is studied so well. It gets close enough that we can get a decent look at it when it passes. Can it impact the Earth? Yes, kindof. Right now, the orbit of the asteroid doesn't bring it close enough to hit us. But there are forces acting on asteroids over time that subtly change their orbits; one of them is called the YORP effect, a weak force that arises due to the way the asteroid spins and radiates away heat. The infrared photons it emits when it's warm carry away a teeny tiny bit of momentum, and they act pretty much like an incredibly low-thrust rocket. Over many years, this can change both the rotation of the asteroid as well as the shape of its orbit."
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No, a Huge Asteroid Is Not "Set To Wipe Out Life On Earth In 2880"

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  • Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @07:49PM (#47691533)

    Everything I've read said it's very unlikely to hit Earth in 2880. One chance in three hundred does not "likely" make.

    On the other hand, 1 in 300 is pretty close to the chance of a Straight coming up without a Draw....

    • 2880? Wow, that's not even news. There are more things to worry about than what happens half a millenium after the Singularity or the Collapse of Civilization as We Know It. Presumably we'd be so advanced by that time that we'd know how to deflect any large rock that wanders into our cosmic backyard. Or we'd degenerated to such post-Apocalyptic backwardness all we can do is look up to the sky and watch the fireworks before we all die. (I mean we in a collective humankind way. I personally don't expect to be
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        At least the asteroid exists, your "Singularity" does not

        • by pitchpipe (708843)

          At least the asteroid exists, your "Singularity" does not

          Thanks, man from the future. We were very worried until your insightful and illuminating post reassured us.

          • by rubycodez (864176)

            Rational induction is all that is needed to debunk "the singularity". Instead, fear war and other dirty rotten things humans can do to each other.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        800 years is not that far off. There is no way that humans will advance to the stage where we can manipulate asteroids or explore space by then. Chances are, we will be extinct.
        • by innerweb (721995)

          The chances of us wiping ourselves out before the asteroid arrives is better than the odds of the asteroid wiping us out.

          Isn't that Ironic

        • by geogob (569250)

          I wonder on what basis you make those assumptions...
          Look where mankind was 800 years ago. Look where we stand today. Although such a leap forward isn't assured, it can nonetheless be assumed without too grand risk for error.

        • By 800 years from now, all it will take to deflect the asteroid will be emailing the manager of the Chinese steel mill on it and having him blip the thruster jets for long enough to nudge it in the proper direction.

        • by geekmux (1040042)

          800 years is not that far off. There is no way that humans will advance to the stage where we can manipulate asteroids or explore space by then. Chances are, we will be extinct.

          100 years ago man was barely grasping the concept of manned flight a few hundred feet off the ground.

          Now we have rovers on Mars chatting back and forth, and astronauts Tweeting "backyard" pics from the ISS.

          I find it a bit of a slap in the face that you assume what man is capable of 800 years from now when you can't even begin to fathom where we will be 100 years from now from a technological standpoint. We can't even imagine an environment devoid of the internet anymore, and that was a concept that only to

    • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:39PM (#47691739)

      On the other hand, 1 in 300 is pretty close to the chance of a Straight coming up without a Draw....

      That number is an old estimate which appeared in the article that TFA was actually complaining about for sensationalizing things. The current estimate is more like 1 in 4000, which is more like drawing 4-of-a-kind in five cards... not exactly a common poker hand.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        The current estimate is more like 1 in 4000, which is more like drawing 4-of-a-kind in five cards... not exactly a common poker hand.

        I dunno. 1 in 4000 is not such great odds when it's an asteroid destroying the earth.

        If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

        Suppose somebody built a nuclear power plant next door to you that had a 1 in 4000 chance of going critical on any one day. That's a median of 11 years, right?

        I hope that whenever a risk comes along of 1 chance in 4000 of destroying the world, people take care of it.

        • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

          by stjobe (78285) on Monday August 18, 2014 @04:41AM (#47693233) Homepage

          Suppose somebody built a nuclear power plant next door to you that had a 1 in 4000 chance of going critical on any one day. That's a median of 11 years, right?

          Yeah, sure. But the thing here is that it's not a 1 in 4,000 chance of this asteroid hitting us every day; it's 1 in 4,000 that it'll hit us once. 800-odd years from now.

          1 in 4,000 is a small enough chance to be a virtual certainty over a few hours for events happening once a second - does that mean anything at all to a 1 in 4,000 once-in-a-lifetime chance? No. And this event is not even a once-in-a-lifetime event; it's once-in-several-tens-of-lifetimes.

          Or to put it another way: People suck at probability assessments.

          • by nbauman (624611)

            It's a 1 in 4000 chance of destroying the entire world. The risks are low, but the damage is great.

          • by geekmux (1040042)

            Suppose somebody built a nuclear power plant next door to you that had a 1 in 4000 chance of going critical on any one day. That's a median of 11 years, right?

            Yeah, sure. But the thing here is that it's not a 1 in 4,000 chance of this asteroid hitting us every day; it's 1 in 4,000 that it'll hit us once. 800-odd years from now.

            1 in 4,000 is a small enough chance to be a virtual certainty over a few hours for events happening once a second - does that mean anything at all to a 1 in 4,000 once-in-a-lifetime chance? No. And this event is not even a once-in-a-lifetime event; it's once-in-several-tens-of-lifetimes.

            Or to put it another way: People suck at probability assessments.

            Let's put it another way. By the time this 1 in 4,000-chance event comes around, we will have invented new math that will make it equal to a pint of blueberries. But that's OK, because the holodeck was invented in 2350, so it's all good. Like we need to worry about the real world. It's not even on MTV anymore.

        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

          Boy are you in for a rude shock. Even a common place apendectomy has a mortality rate of about 2% last time I checked.

          Have fun never having surgery for anything!!

          • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Informative)

            by ibwolf (126465) on Monday August 18, 2014 @11:02AM (#47695255)

            Even a common place apendectomy has a mortality rate of about 2% last time I checked.

            You must have checked it a VERY long time ago. It is true that the rate of complication is about 2-3%, but the MORTALITY rate (i.e. the number of people that die as a result of the surgery) is

            estimated at one to two per 1,000,000 cases of appendicitis

            (Source: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia... [surgeryencyclopedia.com])

            Not 1 in 50 as a 2% mortality rate would indicate.

          • by jeffmeden (135043)

            If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

            Boy are you in for a rude shock. Even a common place apendectomy has a mortality rate of about 2% last time I checked.

            Have fun never having surgery for anything!!

            You think the odds of surviving the appendectomy are low? Try surviving without one...

            • I had a nephew who didn't have an appendectomy in time. That was really scary. (He doesn't have normal pain reactions, and the doctor didn't account for that.) Fortunately, the only remaining effect is a large scar.

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

          If you are having surgery and the mortality rate is 1 in 4000 (0.025%) those are excellent odds. Usually surgical mortality rates vary between 1% and 6% depending on the procedure.

          • by nbauman (624611)

            If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

            If you are having surgery and the mortality rate is 1 in 4000 (0.025%) those are excellent odds. Usually surgical mortality rates vary between 1% and 6% depending on the procedure.

            Actually you're right. I had to look it up. I remember a mortality rate of 1% in the 1970s for anything with total anesthesia, and since then the rate has gone down. Not as far down as I thought.

            More precisely, the mortality rate varies with the procedure and the patient. Lung function, kidney function, heart function and the presence of diabetes are usually the big ones.

            I think an angiogram of the heart or brain has a mortality of 1 in 1,000 or less. I wouldn't take it lightly.

            Suppose I had a jar with 1,00

            • Last time I had somebody run a catheter (or whatever) into my heart, I was having a heart attack. Having the clot simply removed is worth a bit of risk. I wouldn't do it for fun (particularly since lying still while the groin incision healed enough for me to move was agonizing).

              • by nbauman (624611)

                Last time I had somebody run a catheter (or whatever) into my heart, I was having a heart attack. Having the clot simply removed is worth a bit of risk. I wouldn't do it for fun (particularly since lying still while the groin incision healed enough for me to move was agonizing).

                It sounds like you either got a thrombolytic like TPA, or you got a stent placed.

                In principle, the doctor should be able to say, "In randomized controlled trials, when people in your situation are treated with this procedure, their survival rate is X, and when people are untreated, their survival rate is Y."

                I haven't been following the literature carefully lately, but in my understanding there's a small but significant advantage to using a thrombolytic or a stent.

                Cardiology has a lot of treatments with smal

                • Yup. Thanks for the figures.

                  When my father had his first heart attack, they put him in a hospital bed and essentially let him recover by himself. Things have improved a lot since then.

        • by bware (148533)

          If a doctor recommended surgery, and the mortality rate was 1 in 4000, I'd make damn sure the benefits outweighed the risk. And I'd update my will.

          That's right in the ballpark for general anesthesia [wikipedia.org] by itself. When I signed the release form, it said 1 in 2000, but then they knocked me out (yay, propofol), so my memory might be faulty :)

          Relative risks of common events is something people are just not good at estimating.

    • by Notabadguy (961343) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @08:43PM (#47691755)

      Hopefully Morgan Freeman will still be around to save us from ELE!

      • by jd2112 (1535857)

        Hopefully Morgan Freeman will still be around to save us from ELE!

        No, clone Bruce Willis and send him to blow it up.

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday August 18, 2014 @12:42AM (#47692691) Journal

      Everything I've read said it's very unlikely to hit Earth in 2880. One chance in three hundred does not "likely" make.

      Especially since it is actually 1 in 4,000 or 0.0248%. Still I'd actually think it would be a good thing to have the odds a lot higher, like 90%, with a lead time like this of 800+ years. To date the existential threat posed by wars have caused science to make massive advances but this has come at a huge cost of misery and death

      Think of the scientific advances that could come from an existential threat that, instead of pitting us against each other, actually puts all of humanity on the same side for a change. In the past 800 years we have come from the dark ages to the internet age. If we can't get it together enough to develop the technology needed to cause a small deflection to an asteroid in the next 800 years then I'd say it was probably time for evolution to give it a second roll of the dice.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Everything I've read said it's very unlikely to hit Earth in 2880. One chance in three hundred does not "likely" make.

      On the other hand, 1 in 300 is pretty close to the chance of a Straight coming up without a Draw....

      If we can't figure out a way to reduce that probability to approximately zero sometime in the next 866 years, we deserve to get smashed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's not like any other unknown celestial body could just show its ugly face from behind the sun and hit us while we are happily spending billions in stupid wars.

    • by gtall (79522)

      Right. Drop what you are doing and go over the mideast and tell the Islamic nutjobs to stop it. The world has more important things to worry about. I'm sure they'll listen to you. Swing by Putin as well and tell him to be a nice boy.

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    If we can't sort out an asteroid coming right at us by 2880, we kind of deserve what we get. I'm not going to worry about it too much in any event.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It makes me think of the steamroller scene from Austin Powers. It's a very tiny chance of us hitting us to begin with, but we have plenty of time to dodge it (or rather, make it dodge us) even if technological advancement were to stop today.

  • I wasn't particularly worried about a 2880pocalypse to begin with.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      An Asternado hasn't been ruled out. Nor Sharkroids, which is like Goatse x million

  • THAT specific meteor isn't, another may be.
    • THAT specific meteor isn't, another may be.

      Another small correction: it's not a meteor :) Not yet, anyway, and hopefully never.

  • I was worried for a minute. But now I know I'll be okay.
  • according the some billboard on I-35 the bible says the world will end in 2017

  • It's really 2018, sorry for the miscalc. We'll be more careful next time.

  • So they're saying they're not sure which year it will hit? That's worse!

  • Damn. The over/under was set to 2881 and I put $50 on the under.

  • I had bought a bunch of futures based on there being an impact in that year....
  • Kind enough not to point out that by that time 'man himself' has already long accomplished what said asteroid some 800 years before was assured not to be able to do for other reasons.

  • So I shouldn't have quit my job and sold my house? Is that what they're trying to say?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are way too many variables involved to be able to predict that something is going to hit us in the medium to long term.
    You would need to precisely map the trajectory and momentum of every single object, large and small, which could have a gravitational influence on the candidate impactor, then calculate the effect of each on the other, then iterate for the change in trajectory and momentum imparted.

    Predicting a hit in 2880 is just clinically absurd.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every time I turn around I hear things like "The polar ice caps are gonna melt due to global warming, flood the earth, and wipe out all life on the planet", or "A giant earthquake is gonna cause California (where I live) to sink into the ocean killing everybody", or "A giant asteroid is gonna hit the earth, cause the sky to become black, and wipe out all life on the plaent".

    And every single time some scientist come out and says "Don't worry guys, it's not gonna happen" and my hopes and dreams are crushed. :

  • Like most of us care if the world will end in 2880.
    The majority of our planet only cares how their profits will turn out next week.

  • 2880 is so far away we have nothing to fear. If humanity survives in some form to the 29th century it will be sufficiently advanced to make a meal out of the said asteroid. It may not even make prime time TV.
    If its 2080...yes we may have something to think about.
  • 860 years is long enough away that we would be able to develop any number of solutions to the problem, plus it would give us something to shoot for. I mean, nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a fiery death.

    Then again, if we're still stuck on this rock, arguing over pieces of land by then, I guess we deserve it...

  • I was kind of hoping for a global wipeout.

  • That's what they WANT you to think...

  • When Yellowstone goes, you'll have no place to stay, oh no.

    Mean old National Park, taught US to weep and moan

    Mean old Supervolcano, taught US to weep and moan

    Thinking bout my baby and my happy home

  • Blowing some karma on this one...

    >> No, a Huge Asteroid Is Not "Set To Wipe Out Life On Earth In 2880"

    Damnit.

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