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Space Science

Schoolboy Corrects NASA's Math On Killer Asteroid 637

spiracle writes "A German schoolboy, Nico Marquardt, has revised NASA's figures for the chances that the Apophis asteroid will hit earth. Apparently if the asteroid hits a satellite in 2029, its path could be diverted enough to cause it to collide with Earth on the next orbit, in 2036. NASA had calculated the chances as 1 in 45,000 but the 13-year-old, in his science project, made it 1 in 450. NASA agreed." Update: 04/16 16:47 GMT by Z : This is not entirely accurate, it turns out — more details.
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Schoolboy Corrects NASA's Math On Killer Asteroid

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  • by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:24AM (#23086082)
    Not peer reviewed.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:28AM (#23086110)
      NASA previously estimated the chance "Apophis" the asteroid would strike earth in 2027 was 1 in 45,000. But a german schoolboy, Nico Marquardt, pointed out that NASA overlooked the probability the asteroid would strike one of the 40,000 sattelites orbiting Earth and enter a new solar orbit intersecting Earth in 2036. A german newspaper reports that NASA now concurs the chance this will happen is about 1 in 450. If the 200 billion tonne ball of iridium and iron stikes the planet then it's literally light's out for earth: 800 foot tidal waves followed by an indefinite period of dust cloud covered darkness, not to mention metal vapor in the atmosphere. The original Slashdot discussion [] was in 2007 when the odds were better. At that time it was known that there was a small risk of a gravitational slingshot dropping it into the 2036 collisional orbit, however, to do so the asteroid had to pass through an improbable 400 meter wide strike zone to be properly deflected, as described in 2006 in Popular Science [] from 2006. Today's announcement of the new finding is here []and here [].
      • Friday the 13th (Score:5, Informative)

        by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:42AM (#23086210)
        By the way, it passes by the earth in 2027 on friday the 13th. If it hit's it will hit in the pacific ocean. So California may get wet. The energy content is said to be 26,000 Hiroshimas which is not that much but recent calculation suggest is more than enough to darken the earth.
        • Re:Friday the 13th (Score:5, Interesting)

          by terrymr ( 316118 ) <terrymr&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:09AM (#23086378)
          > 26,000 Hirshimas

          So a little less than 1 Mt St Helens then.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ricree ( 969643 )
            True, perhaps, but 1 Mt St Helens isn't that terrible contained in a relatively small area (of course, with anything of this magnitude small is a very relative term). If something like this were to hit in the pacific, what would the tsunami produced by such an event be like?
            The wikipedia article for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami states that the earthquake released around the equivalent of 1502 Hiroshimas, so we're talking over an order of magnitude difference. That said, a lot of the death toll in 2004 was
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If it hit's it will hit in the pacific ocean. So California may get wet.

          Is that in the same way that ~250k people in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand "got wet" after the earthquake in 2004?
        • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:30AM (#23086780) Homepage
          26,000 Hiroshimas?! Why, that's almost an Africa!
        • Re:Friday the 13th (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:38AM (#23086810) Homepage

          The energy content is said to be 26,000 Hiroshimas
          Huh, wait a second. The estimates for the Hiroshima bomb is 13-16 kiloton which would make it in the 340-415 megaton range. That's just 8 times the Tsar Bomba of 50 megaton the Soviets tested, and last I checked the world did fine. That number must be way off or the potential damages way exaggerated.
          • Fuzzy math (Score:5, Funny)

            by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @04:05AM (#23087184)

            Huh, wait a second. The estimates for the Hiroshima bomb is 13-16 kiloton which would make it in the 340-415 megaton range. That's just 8 times the Tsar Bomba of 50 megaton the Soviets tested, and last I checked the world did fine. That number must be way off or the potential damages way exaggerated.
            Sounds like they need another German schoolboy to help them out here.
      • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:03AM (#23086344)
        Congress announced today that there's a 1 in 450 chance you will be eligible for social security at retirement.

        There's an alanis morriset kind of irony here. If we were just moneys in trees and had not put up the sattelites we would not have magnified our risk a 100 fold.

        Given that sort of cosmic irony, I predict it has to hit Hubble.

        And speaking of hubble they should have known it had a faulty mirror when they say the stencil on it that said "asteroids in mirror are closer than they appear".

        Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

      • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:14AM (#23086412)
        Here's the (semi hilarious) machine translation [].

        I forgot the World Downfall chosen! ... AND NASA HAS SAID, I HAVE QUITE


        Potsdam - He is the greatest threat our planet: On Sunday, 13 April 2036, the asteroid crosses "Apophis" the orbit.
        Nevertheless, the probability that we killer lumps from the All true, is 0.2 percent! This is a student from Potsdam calculated.

        And doing so, Nico Marquardt (13) the research of NASA corrected! For his disturbing discovery was the small physics genius now for the youth researchers Prize.
        "The asteroid has left me no rest," says the SiebtklÃssler from Potsdamer Humboldt Gymnasium. "On the Internet, I had high bets on the impact of Apophis was discovered. But NASA is the impact likely only 1 to 45000. I wanted to know how it really is. "
        With the telescope of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam Nico was allowed to observe asteroids train.
        The student: "Then I said Spahn professor at the University of Potsdam, as the attractions of the sun, moon and earth the way of Apophis influence." Astrophysicists had a suitable formula.
        Nico: "With Professor Landgraf, ESA's satellite control center, I train then recalculated."
        Frightening picture: "The harvest probability is 1 to 450," said a young astronomer. For comparison: For a lottery-six (without super number), it is at 1 in 14 million.

        Nico: "When would the impact force of 98000 Hiroshima bombs freely. Stürben million people, dust would darken the sky, a super-tsunami swamped parts of the earth. "
        But: "I hope that Apophis nearly vorbeischrammt to us ..."

  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:26AM (#23086096) Journal
    From TFA:

    The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.

    And thanks to little Nico, we now know that the likelihood of this happening is one thousand times greater than we thought.

    Thanks, little buddy! You're a regular ray of sunshine.
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alaren ( 682568 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:27AM (#23086100)
    Never tell me the odds!
  • Damn him! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:28AM (#23086108) Homepage Journal
    Little bastards gonna get us all killed!
  • by rubypossum ( 693765 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:33AM (#23086146)
    And the 2038k problem solves itself, thus vindicating Ken Thompson and pessimists everywhere.
  • by Theatetus ( 521747 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:34AM (#23086154) Journal
    ...or they forgot to do the metric conversion. Again.
  • So..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MadUndergrad ( 950779 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:35AM (#23086164)
    What's Plan B?

    Giant laser? Kinetic kill vehicles?

    Nuke it from orbit?
  • Where's the math? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meatmanek ( 1062562 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:36AM (#23086172)
    I want to see the math. What miscalculation did NASA make? Did they use centimeters instead of meters? Was it a simple math error? Did they use an incorrect statistic?

    Why did the kid have access to this information?

    • Re:Where's the math? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:45AM (#23086226)
      He didn't really correct NASA. He only extended their prediction: NASA predicted, correctly, that the asteroid had a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting the earth in 2029. Nico pointed out, also correctly, apparently, that if the asteroid missed the earth but hit a satellite in 2029, then it would have a 1 in 450 chance of hitting the earth in 2036.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evanbd ( 210358 )

      I want to see the math. What miscalculation did NASA make? Did they use centimeters instead of meters? Was it a simple math error? Did they use an incorrect statistic? Why did the kid have access to this information?

      Why wouldn't he have access to the info? Scientific data gets published. You know, so that other people can read it and check the results. And correct them if they're wrong. Like in this case (though as others have pointed out, it may be less of a correction and more of a clarification).

  • And how long will it take to figure out if we're boned? 2 years? That leaves about 5 years to do something about it.. or, ya know, go on a long killing spree.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:37AM (#23086544)

      And how long will it take to figure out if we're boned? 2 years? That leaves about 5 years to do something about it.. or, ya know, go on a long killing spree.

      That's the depressing part.

      To answer your question: Probably a few months after the 2027 encounter (and hypothetical collision with the satellite), but at that point, it'll be impossible to do anything about it in the 9 years between 2027 and 2036.

      The right strategy is to use the 20 years between now and 2027 to build an orbiter/lander (with a big-ass nuke, nuclear reactor powering a big-ass laser, or big-ass solar sail of reflective/absorptive paint -- and as much as I like nukes, the big can of paint's probably the best way to go -- attached).

      We use the 20 years to build the orbiter/lander. We send it up to rendezvous or orbit in 2027. If Apophis smacks into a satellite (or we're just unlucky), we'll have an orbiter and countermeasures in orbit around the asteroid on that pass, and those countermeasures will have nine years in which to do their work. A nuke's pretty cool, but it can't compete with nine years of momentum transfer from the sun shining on a rock painted white on one side and black on the other side.

      Suppose we cut it short and by 2027 we still don't have any good countermeasures - just a crappy-ass nuke as a last-ditch measure. Even if we go this route, we've still got 9 years for this orbiter to give us an exact gravity map of this object, and we'll have a couple of years after that to figure out where to land the nuke for maximum trajectory deflection away from the earth. (Hell, if we get the orbiter up there early enough in 2027, we can blow the nuke at/near closest approach to Earth and guarantee a miss in 2036!)

      But we're short-sighted. So we'll do nothing between now and 2027. And odds are it'll sail on by in 2027 and we'll conclude that the odds of an impact in 2036 are only one in a few tens of thousands. But what an irony -- if we're wrong, then it'll be too late in 2028 for us to send anything to catch up to the rock and do anything about it. For the sake of a month's pork-barrel spending in Iraq, we'll condemn a few billion of our fellow humans to certain death in 2036.

      If it's not Apophis, it'll be some other rock in the next few centuries. Just like the dinosaurs, we'll go extinct because we don't have a space programme. Unlike the dinosaurs, this time around, we'll deserve it.

  • Dang (Score:5, Funny)

    by mandolin ( 7248 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:44AM (#23086220)
    I hope that kid won the science competition he was in!

    "... and for my science project, I proved NASA wrong and made a discovery of potentially epic proportions..."

    Kindof tough to follow that one.
  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:45AM (#23086224)
    A 1 in 450 chance that this thing will hit an asteroid in the way that makes it MORE likely to hit Earth?

    Hitting anything in space is like hitting a needle in a haystack. Actually, that's vastly understating it.

    There better be an explanation of exactly what it is going to hit and how it will "improve" its trajectory.
  • Hang on ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by attonitus ( 533238 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:46AM (#23086238)

    ... it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes ...
    If this thing weighs 200 billion tonnes, it seems surprising that hitting a satellite is going to divert its course very significantly (unless that satellite is the moon). And:

    NASA and Marquardt agree that ... [it] will crash into the Atlantic ocean
    Ah, so there's only a 1 in 450 chance of it hitting earth, but we know which ocean it will land in if it does (7 years after it hits the satellite).

    Next week: 13 year old boy discovers new chemical reaction in which a combination of scientifically illiterate PR bunnies and sub-editors produces large quantities of bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evanbd ( 210358 )

      NASA and Marquardt agree that ... [it] will crash into the Atlantic ocean

      Ah, so there's only a 1 in 450 chance of it hitting earth, but we know which ocean it will land in if it does (7 years after it hits the satellite).

      Yes, actually, that's the easy part. We know very precisely when and from what direction it will be coming, the question is will it go left, right, or straight down the middle? (Metaphorically speaking... I don't know the details, for all I know we're above and to the left of the center track.)

      Once you know when and what direction, you know which hemisphere. Once you account for projection distortion, that puts the odds as pretty good it lands in an area well less than half of the Earth's surface. S

  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:47AM (#23086242) Homepage
    I for one welcome our new German asteroid overlords.
  • by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:50AM (#23086256)
    OH-NOES! Kurzweil predicted that sometime in the 2030s computers will be able to match human brains. Combined with this recent news, this means we have to worry about killer robot overlords AND killer asteroids ending the world! OH-NOES!
  • by MarkLR ( 236125 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:52AM (#23086270)
    This does not sound right. The article states that Apophis has a mass of 200 billion tonnes. How would colliding with a satellite which except for the ISS max out at about 20 tonnes do anything at all to Apophis' orbit? Forget the link to the wire story where is a link to NASA statement that the impact chance is really 1 in 450?
    • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:04AM (#23086658)
      Thinking about the problem for a second, I can see how you can make some rough calculations. Generally any GEO, HEO, etc. type orbit will be fairly slow, especially compared to the hyperbolic orbit that the asteroid will be entering at (in the Earth's reference). Thus based on the range of velocities and masses you could predict a range of possible perturbations to the orbit.

      Though I don't have any numbers to back it up right now, a small perturbation in the velocity can propagate forward to be a very large error after 7 years. Thats why we have so much trouble predicting whether or not it will hit us; a 10 meter error in its position or a 1 m/s error in velocity measurements translates into multiple Earth radii over a few years. So combine the small change in velocity from an impact with the gravitational slingshot from the 2029 close approach, and it may be enough to shift the keyhole.

      Of course I think the article is misleading, it may be more like there's a 1/450 chance of some kind of impact that will have an unknown effect on the orbit but may shift it into an impact trajectory, or something like that. At any rate, there are still other unknowns such as the effect of solar wind that can vary the trajectory dramatically too.

      Note of course that I could be completely wrong, although I do plan to attempt some simulations now, since one of my advisors classes is working on a related project.
  • Original article (Score:5, Informative)

    by ulash ( 1266140 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:57AM (#23086304)
    Here is the original article [], in German, from the German newspaper. It looks like a professor helped him (Professor Spahn from Potsdam University). Bild is semi-infamous in Europe for sensationalizing stories but at least we know that the boy is real if nothing else...
  • by TheMohel ( 143568 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:03AM (#23086332) Homepage
    Let's see. We begin with the original source of data, "telescopic observations." Good, but perhaps a bit, shall we say, lacking in nine-digit precision. Then we add the element of a bright schoolboy (always a favorite in the papers) doing something big and being validated (instantly!) by "NASA" (not a person, but apparently the entire agency). Oh, and "NASA" told "ESA", but we still don't have the identity of anyone other than the putative schoolboy.

    So far, doing well.

    Then we hit the big problems. First, we have the scare factor of "40,000" satellites surrounding Earth. Most of which, actually, are in LEO, with a few more in geosynchronous orbit. Which makes the space around the Earth only about 99.999% empty space, rather than a few more nines. As it turns out, space is big.

    But it sounds good to imply that somehow there's this asteroid belt around the earth, and that the "killer" asteroid might hit a satellite.

    Well, WHICH ONE? They have a lot of different masses, they are going in different directions, and we pretty much have to get a specific momentum change in the right direction in order to get just the right perturbation. Hitting a small piece of space junk is one thing, but the variation in weight of those "40,000" satellites is orders of magnitude. And that makes a big difference in orbital perturbation, even if the difference in orbital velocity is small compared to the velocity of the asteroid. We're talking about a subtle effect here.

    And let's not figure in things like elastic collisions, off-center collisions, pieces flying off, or anything else. Nope, it's gonna happen perfectly, just like that seven-ball four-cushion bank shot we all can hit again and again.

    Heck, they even called the pocket. Right into the Atlantic, after an orbit measuring in the decades. Now I will grant that the orbit is pretty well known, but again, that little "satellite assist" must be just precise as heck.

    A nice touch gives us the "destroy both coasts and darken the world indefinitely." While it's good to be so certain, couldn't they be more specific about the method of destruction? Seeing as how they apparently know everything else, and all.

    And finally, we have the 450:1 odds. Not 500:1, and certainly not 1000:1, but exactly 450. Cool. About as believable as my old homework excuses, but infinitely cooler. Can you say "significant figures"? I knew you could.

    I think it's what you get when you let AFP (my source of news of the world for sure) loose in spring.
    • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:38AM (#23086546)

      Collisions in space are actually quite predictable. The asteroid is huge and fast, so the entire satellite gets obliterated -- no random debris falling off, because odds are that the satellite is either entirely within the path or entirely outside it. Supersonic (relative to speed of sound in asteroid / satellite, not something irrelevant like Earth's atmosphere) collisions are basically completely inelastic (details more complex, but reasonably well understood).

      Satellites don't vary in mass all that much. The big ones are a few tons to a few tens of tons, once you ignore the ISS. The little ones don't matter, so you ignore them.

      Telescope observations can most definitely produce the many nines of precision needed for this work. It goes something like this: on day one, it's within this error bar. On day two, within that error bar. On day a few thousand, this other error bar. Individually, the error bar is large, but as they spread out, the path through every one of them gets rather precisely defined. Imagine positioning a set of 1 meter wide gates across the US -- sure, you can't measure the position of the bowling ball you rolled through them to better than 1 meter at any one point, but by the time it's gone through *all* of them, you have sub-ppm accuracy on its exact angle. Extend the scale a bit and you get the precision needed.

      Calling the pocket is the easy part: if it hits, then the piece of the Earth pointed in that direction will be the Atlantic. Sure, it might strike a glancing blow and hit at the edge, but thanks to foreshortening the odds are against that.

      • by TheMohel ( 143568 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:52AM (#23086878) Homepage
        Sadly, I actually used your cogent comments to waste a fair bit of time and go look at the original press paper (in German, it's at this link []). It's a story of an intrepid science fair paper. Let's hear the Google translation:

        Perhaps the most "exciting moment in human history", as Nico Marquardt promises Completes had chosen on Friday, 13 April 2029 at 22:45 am Central European Time. Then flies from the iron and Iridium existing space-potato, 320 metres in diameter and 200 billion tons, only 32500 kilometres of the earth over.

        There, I hope that gave you a flavor. BTW, there is no mention here either of any named individual in NASA or ESA that is standing behind the numbers quoted.

        The article is breathless about how wonderfully catastrophic this all is, but I do have some questions about the math. For one, are there really 40,000 satellites in geostationary orbit (or geosynchronous orbit)? That's the quoted number - I was under the impression that there were rather fewer. And how on earth do they get a figure of 1:450 that the satellite will hit one of them? And that that hit will guarantee the catastrophic outcome they so desire?

        For another, I'm not getting a picture of a long observational period and multiple telescopes. Only one telescope is mentioned, and the science fair aspect makes it more suspicious. It looks more like a novel hypothesis ("what if it rams a satellite?") combined with some serious guesswork.

        And finally, did anybody else get a little bothered by the description of a 160-meter radius asteroid that weighs 200 billion tons? That gives a density of a little under 12 kilograms per cubic centimeter, which would make it a rather unique and valuable material. As near as I can tell, Wikipedia being your friend and all, they missed by three orders of magnitude. Speaking of correcting the numbers...
    • by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @03:49AM (#23087122)
      As it turns out, space is big

      You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
  • by kpainter ( 901021 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:04AM (#23086346)
    NASA has plan to deal with killer satellite by 2054.
  • Hollywood (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eth1csGrad1ent ( 1175557 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:19AM (#23086440)
    And now Hollywood can turn the German boy into an American boy, chuck the complex math for a backyard telescope, name the asteriod after the boy, throw in a baby to add drama and get Morgan Freeman to play the President... Oh wait... ...never mind.
  • by FoolsGold ( 1139759 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:20AM (#23086448)
    We're all gonna die!

    I bet by the time 2036 hits, stats will how it's now without a doubt, the year of Linux on the desktop. But it won't matter cos we'll be dead. Wouldn't that be a kick in the balls.
  • by The Bender ( 801382 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @01:56AM (#23086632) Homepage
    Well, think on the bright side.
    At least we don't have to worry about fixing the 2038 UNIX 32-bit date bug [] any more.
  • Darn! (Score:3, Funny)

    by fluffykitty1234 ( 1005053 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:05AM (#23086662)
    And I just read Duke Nukem Forever is slated to ship in 2037. :(
  • by TiberSeptm ( 889423 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:26AM (#23086760)
    I'd love to see the computer-cluster this kid calculated the 100k+ iterations of the many-bodied system of time-retarded lagrangians required to solve something like this. His parents power bill has to be insane. Considering uncertainties involved in orbital trajectories and timing for asteroids like this, 100k might even be a low number of runs for something like this. The number of satellites in orbit, their varying masses, uncertainty in the current un-colided trajectory, etc. can't possibly create a situation where you have improved odds of impact anyways. There is actually a greater solid angle of impact for collisions that would decrease the likelihood of eventual earth impact than increase it. Maybe these odds are after the most favorable possible satellite impact plus the help of magical space faries?
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @03:07AM (#23086946)

    We are developing several strategies to deflect the course of asteroids. If these mature over the next few years before our close encounters with Apophis, we may have the chance of bringing into Earth orbit, providing nearby and easily accessible resources for space construction.

    Providing it with enough energy to slow from solar orbit to Earth orbit could be tricky, so I suggest the best way is to deflected in such a way it undergoes aerocapture.

    People always seem concerned about the possibility of the rock just smacking into Earth, and think this is a reason not to pursue such a strategy. Tell me, am I being too Lex Luthor about this?

  • by Peregr1n ( 904456 ) <> on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:30AM (#23088060) Homepage
    Sorry to burst the balloon, but apart from the one German article that was picked up by AFP, there's no source for this story. And NASA and the ESA deny ever saying that the schoolboy was right. It seems that the schoolboy's sums were wrong, and NASA's original workings are right. More info: [] I'd file this under 'web hoax' or 'lazy journalists pick up on anything sensational'
  • The News is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by phoenix_nz ( 1252432 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @07:33AM (#23088078)
    Just in case anyone still believes we'll all be killed by an asteroid in 2029 or 2036, here's an article from El Reg, claiming that the boy got it all wrong.
    I guess we'll have to live with the miniscule 1 in 45,000 chance.

    link to article: []
  • by RKBA ( 622932 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:08AM (#23089768)
    Schoolboy's asteroid-strike sums are wrong []

    There's only one problem with the story: the kid's sums are in fact wrong, NASA's are right, and the ESA swear blind they never said any different. An ESA spokesman in Germany told the Reg this morning: "A small boy did do these calculations, but he made a mistake... NASA's figures are correct." It would appear that the intial article in the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, which says that NASA and the ESA endorsed Nico Marquardt's calculations, was incorrect. The story was picked up by German tabloids and the AFP news wire, and is now all over the internet.
  • by mehtajr ( 718558 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:27PM (#23093868)
    So in Slashdot's world "not entirely accurate" is the same thing as "completely, utterly, bloody false." Good to know.

"Unibus timeout fatal trap program lost sorry" - An error message printed by DEC's RSTS operating system for the PDP-11