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1-in-1,000 Chance of Asteroid Impact In ... 2182? 326

astroengine writes "Sure, we're looking 172 years into the future, but an international collaboration of scientists have developed two mathematical models to help predict when a potentially hazardous asteroid (or PHA) may hit us, not in this century, but the next. The rationale is that to stand any hope in deflecting a civilization-ending or extinction-level impact, we need as much time as possible to deal with the threatening space rock. (Asteroid deflection can be a time-consuming venture, after all.) Enter '(101955) 1999 RQ36' — an Apollo class, Earth-crossing, 500 meter-wide space rock. The prediction is that 1999 RQ36 has a 1-in-1,000 chance of hitting us in the future, and according to one of the study's scientists, María Eugenia Sansaturio, half of those odds fall squarely on the year 2182."
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1-in-1,000 Chance of Asteroid Impact In ... 2182?

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    • Suit yourself. I fully intend to be not just alive, but enhanced beyond all the current boundaries and limitations of our ape heritage by then.
      Heck, with any luck I'll have ditched the last of the organic crap at that stage.

      • by yoyhed ( 651244 )
        The Omar offer a wide variety of biomodification canisters with full piezochem compatibility - you should talk to them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I'll certainly be dead; I'll be 230 in 2182. Actually, barring some fantastic breakthroughs in medicine and biochemistry, nobody alive now will be alive then.

      But you have to die from something; dying from a meteor impact would be a way cool way to go. Imagine the fireworks! Talk about going out with a bang...

  • 172 years people, geeze.

    We won't even be alive by then.. why be concerned about something that has a 0.1%chance of happening?

    You know this is going to be just like Y2K. Once the chance is realized to be 30% or higher, people will start working on the fix in 2181.

    • by Cyberllama ( 113628 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:04AM (#33079960)

      I imagine some people have, or plan to have, children which they will have some degree of fondness towards. As it may effect their children, or their children's children, it might be of some concern to you.

      Also, I'm pretty sure an unusually high percentage of Slashdot readers are not planning on dying. I mean, that's pretty much what science is for, right? I'm very concerned about how this asteroid will affect my robot-body . . .

      • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:24AM (#33080028)

        Also, I'm pretty sure an unusually high percentage of Slashdot readers are not planning on dying. I mean, that's pretty much what science is for, right? I'm very concerned about how this asteroid will affect my robot-body . . .

        Sad reality: if the robot-body technology WAS developed within our lifetimes, the vast majority of us couldn't afford it. That's going to be the ugly truth when it gets here: "immortality" will only be for the rich. The rest of us will live and die like we always have.

        That said - 500 meters? That's enough to cause some SERIOUS devastation, but it's not an extinction event impact. 6 miles wide killed the dinosaurs, but didn't wipe out EVERYTHING. This is 0.3 miles wide. As long as civilization as a whole goes on then I'm not TOO worried. Afterall, if they fail to successfully deflect it, the survivors could look at it as a learning experience.

        • by niftydude ( 1745144 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @03:27AM (#33080266)

          Sad reality: if the robot-body technology WAS developed within our lifetimes, the vast majority of us couldn't afford it.

          Oh I'm sure that banks will be willing to give you a loan to purchase (or better still - rent) your immortal robot-body, after all - you are going to have hundreds of years to pay it off.
          I know some executives who would salivate at the idea of having an indentured workforce like that.

        • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:47AM (#33080534)

          I personally am pretty confident that cryonics works. Yes, I have a degree in a related field and I am working on an MD. When I say "works", I mean that if a patient is frozen with a well oxygenated brain within a short time period following legal death (the heart stops), and cryoprotectants are used, then I am confident that nearly all personality and memories are preserved.

          The person needs to be kept cold for 100-200 years. Already, there are people that have been kept frozen for 40 years, so this is not implausible.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @07:38AM (#33081044) Homepage Journal

            Until the first person has been woken up from cryonic "sleep", I think it is silly to have any kind of confidence in it. But everything will be wonderful when the cargo comes, right?

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 )

              Until the first person has been woken up from cryonic "sleep", I think it is silly to have any kind of confidence in it. But everything will be wonderful when the cargo comes, right?

              Simply making a comparison to a cargo cult might be rhetorically fun but it doesn't actually help. First, almost no one is claiming that they have high confidence in cryonics. Indeed, most proponents of cryonics estimate fairly low chances of it working. For example, Robin Hanson estimates around a 5% chance that cryonics will actually work []. Indeed, when proponents have low confidence like this, claiming that there's a cargo cult mentality fails

            • Unfreezing is a conceptually simple thing to understand, although of course we are missing the tools to do it today. But we can describe how the tools would work, and point to existing examples of such tools in nature to state with near absolute certainty that such tools are possible and practical.

              The tools we need used to be called "nanotechnology", now are called "molecular manufacturing". We need the technology to make any arbitrary object atom by atom, and it's pretty straightforward from there.

          • by Yoozer ( 1055188 )

            Already, there are people that have been kept frozen for 40 years

            Freezing is not the problem, thawing is. Also, do these cryoprotectants work on cell level so the walls aren't punctured by ice crystals?

            • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @08:29AM (#33081268) Homepage

              Freezing is not the problem, thawing is. Also, do these cryoprotectants work on cell level so the walls aren't punctured by ice crystals?

              Yes, they do. This problem was solved for in the late 90s by using much more advance cryoprotectants which allow the body to vitrify at low temperatures rather than freeze. This has been true for about a decade now. Indeed, they've now successfully brought rabbit kidneys down to liquid nitrogen temperatures and brought back up, transplanted them, and had the kidneys function. See [] which includes discussion of this and other research (including direct examination of vitrified rat brains which show the cellular and synaptic structure largely intact.)

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Yes Cryo might even work, in a few years it might even be possible to bring back those that are now frozen... but why should we bring them back?

          • keep them frozen till 2999 dec 31

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by VShael ( 62735 )

          You don't think immortality would be available under say, a 5000 year mortgage plan?

          • No I don't because I don't think it would help anyone.

            As you increase the length of a mortgage the cost asymtopically approaches that of an interest only mortgage. In other words beyond a certain point (exactly what point depends on the interest rates) increasing the length of a mortgage will have negligable impact on the monthly cost of the mortgage.

        • As long as civilization as a whole goes on then I'm not TOO worried. Emphasizes of "civilization" is mine ...
          But you should be worried, perhaps mankind would survive, but the civilization "as we know it" certainly not. A few years of "nuclear winter" will cause havoc to our civilization, hunger, no flights, perhaps no sea travel either and possible break down of our energy provision and gone is our "industrial age".


      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        "Think of your children" also doesn't convey properly the scales, the stakes involved - most recent common ancestor of us all lived basically in historical times, possibly in Antiquity or so. If looking just at a group like "europeans and those at least partially descended from them", it's a matter of millenium. Even with low fertility rates, quite a lot of people could carry traces of your DNA in 2 centuries; with greater mobility nowadays... Not to mention the possibility for huge number of "spiritual des

        • I don't care if they have my genes, I just don't want humanity to get wiped out. If they do, then who will resurrect everyone who ever lived using their fantastic near-magic technology in the far-flung future? Humanity going extinct really messes with my plans to live forever.

          • by sznupi ( 719324 )

            Hence why the level of civilisation, humanity, was the focus. But also our ancestors - most of your genes are decently spread already.

            And hey, Omega point doesn't need non-extinction ;p (for that matter, we might as well already exist in it; how do you like your "forever life"? ;) )

    • 172 years ago (Score:2, Informative)

      by blai ( 1380673 )
      Nobody cared about global warming and burnt any kind of coal they found.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Well, we should be concerned about what happens to our home planet, right? If you knew for sure that an asteroid would cause the extinction of humanity on Earth in the year 2182, and we failed to prevent it, would you care? Anyways, I'd rather we have as much time as possible to deal with potentially fatal threats to our species, and hope that we have the science by then to either deflect the asteroid or preserve Bruce Willis.
    • by h7 ( 1855514 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:49AM (#33080120)

      More like 72 years. NASA says that they would need to start actual diversion operations 100 years in advance, which leaves 72 years to figure it out.

  • by DWMorse ( 1816016 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:06AM (#33079964) Homepage
    Begin the cloning process of Bruce Willis and a rag-tag team of loveable roughnecks.
  • With advancements in medicine and the declination of our environment, I for one, am looking forward to ending my artificially enhanced 212 year old life in the blaze of a fiery meteoroid blast!
  • Good news (Score:4, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:20AM (#33080016)

    NASA can finally have a mission...

    • You really think Congress is that farsighted? No, it will be the Congress of 2181 that grants the money to save us all. Hopefully by then companies like SpaceX will finally have moved us beyond '60s space travel technology.
    • And if Obama gets his moratorium on deep-water drilling, it should be no problem to find a handful of rag-tag well-drillers to complete the ultimate space mission.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:27AM (#33080034)

    or more precisely 0.00054 = 1 in 1852 according to TFA.

    Call this 1-in-1000 only if you can't do math.

  • I bet the odds of hitting the small black hole originated in one of the LHC sucessors will be far lower than 1 in 500. And if we avoid that disaster, a far worse one awaits us the 50 years previous of that event: remakes, sequels, prequels, reboots and so on of the Armaggeddon movie. Probably won't be any (sane) human alive after that.
  • 100% (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:32AM (#33080062)
    Even if the odds were 100% that it would hit it would be 171.5 years before any bureaucrat does anything.
    • Re:100% (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:41AM (#33080090)
      So, let's hear the libertarian solution:
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        Tax that fucker to death!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grimJester ( 890090 )
        Any large enough company would have the resources to divert the asteroid. It would be in their interest to extract as much money or property as possible as payment. As long as the asteroid has not been fully diverted and as long as they can still divert it to hit the earth, they can extract monthly payments. It will be in their interest to indefinitely keep the asteroid in an orbit where it can target the earth. Since everyone will have to pay or die we'll all be slaves to Sony, Microsoft and Intel, just li
      • The wealthiest person who wants to continue living on earth without the threat of being smashed by a giant rock from space can finance a project to deflect the object. Alternately, a consortium of those with means can pool resources to create said project. (And it would probably cost less and be more innovative and more efficient than a government option because people tend to care more when they are spending their own money.)

        The funny thing is there really isn't anything special about government that any
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:42AM (#33080092) Homepage Journal

    Statistically, we've probably discovered 1% of the potentially hazardous asteroids. Now we have a data point for an interesting occurrence: one of the ones we know about has a good chance of hitting us. What about the rest of them?

    • by Xemu ( 50595 )

      one of the ones we know about has a good chance of hitting us. What about the rest of them?

      They should be sufficient to justify generous research grants for us until 2182.

  • by Ken Broadfoot ( 3675 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:53AM (#33080130) Homepage Journal

        2182 - 2010 = 172 years

    Subtract 42 ( Life the universe and everything ) And you get 130 ( Hold this thought )

    In 1951, Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot heard round the world" (i.e The Asteroid)
    Against the Brooklyn Dodgers...(i.e Earth trying to "dodge")

    Take 1951 and turn it into a repeating Decimal .1951951951........ ( this is wrong but who cares )

    Then take the above 130 and divide by the repeating decimal and you get....

    666 !

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow, you have WAY more time then I do, and I'm jobless living in my sister's basement.

    • 2182 - 2010 = 172 years

      In the year 258, Pope Sixtus II is martyred. Turn this into a repeating decimal .258258258258

      Now divide 172 by the repeating decimal = 666

      How convenient that Pope Sixtus II is related to this future event by the number 666.

    • by geogob ( 569250 )

      2182 is the new 2012...

  • by h7 ( 1855514 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @02:58AM (#33080144)

    Actually there are many objects we are monitoring, please see [].
    This object's impact probability is 7.1*10E-4. That's 0.00071, and not 1/1000.
    The Torino Scale Color says white, which means impact is almost impossible.
    Most of the times even if the probability is increased, it is quickly reduced after some investigation.
    Currently the most dangerous object is 2007 VK184 (2048-2057) which gets green rating. This article is nothing more than sensationalist and stupid.

    • by Kentari ( 1265084 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:11AM (#33080396) Homepage

      But it has no torino scale entry because the torino scale is only defined for impacts in the next 100 years. Hence it is listed as n/a.

      And the impact probability you cited is the cumulative probability of 8 events. There is only a probability of 5.4E-04 (1/1850) of an impact in 2182.

      I don't quite get the publicity at the moment. It has been at that level for quite a while and is still at a much lower level than (99942) Apophis was (which hit 1% chance). In all likelihood new data will rule out an impact.

    • This article is nothing more than sensationalist and stupid.

      And the 10 ways of "deflecting an asteroid" are a collection of how not to do it*. The real solutions are to either slow it down or accelerate it, and let it miss Earth before or after it is crossing Earths way. That can be done for example by attaching a rocket to it.

      * Except for painting
      Breaking it apart with a nuke: Hard to do, creates more asteroids.
      Attaching a net/sail: Hard to do, asteroids are not static objects
      Mirrors/Lasers pointing at it: You need to shoot them up and aim correctly (which is alr

  • by Super_Ante ( 1867452 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @03:19AM (#33080224)
    As long as it isn't a million to one shot...
  • Interesting... But what are the odds that this calculation is right?

    • I am giving 100-1 odds against my position that it does not hit on that year, all money required at this time, min bet $100 USD.
  • this is great news! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreenCow ( 201973 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @03:26AM (#33080264) Journal

    A rock like this heading to our planet and we've got plenty of time to not just deflect the thing, but to move it into Earth orbit where it can be mined, turned into an outpost, and be used as a tether for a space elevator.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @03:51AM (#33080336) Homepage

      Maybe not - if you're the kind of civilisation that can apply enough delta-v, to such body, to capture it safely into MEO, you might be high enough on the Kardashev scale to not care much about such exercises. If not high enough - it's probably better to move some bootstrapping machinery towards the asteroid; avoids Kessler Syndrome where you really don't want it, too (minining in basically 0g could be a bit messy)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fkx ( 453233 )

      ... not to mention a military platform for use in our war with the Taliban which by then may not be going as well as it is today ..

  • You have 1 in 5,000 chance of a car accident today, while 172 years from now a 1 in 1,000 chance of world wipe out. That is a significantly high chance of extinction! And where I live is a 1 in 101 chance of being in a car accident :( []

  • Hopefully with development of better models, telescopes, etc, etc we can track asteroids extremely far out and get a good feel for if there will be impacts. As stated, it is the kind of thing that could take a long time. So, if you know about one 200 years in advance, no problem. You wouldn't do anything about it now, as such an object would be very far away. But it lets you start planning, and knowing when those plans need to be put in to action. When it is 30-50 years out, maybe that's when building start

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

      Better telescopes is moot. Figuring out the position and velocity of any specific detectable object in the solar system has been trivial for a long time now. The problem is our ability to predict how it will interact with every other body in the next hundred years. If it was a comet, and ignoring any potential flybys of smaller planets, just calculating how it will interact with Jupiter and the Sun every year for 100 passes adds more than a few earth diameters of uncertainty to the results.

  • Can't do it (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @04:02AM (#33080372)

    We cannot predict the course of asteroids over 200 years to within an Earth diameter. I have worked on this area, and the masses and positions of bodies (particularly all of the other asteroids) are simply not well enough known. So, it will come near the Earth, but we won't know if it is a true threat for at least a century.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Of course they can't predict it accurately. That's why they give odds.

      Otherwise they would just tell us "it's gonna crash" or "it's not gonna crash".

  • I know this sounds morbid , but i'd kinda like to be alive when something like this happens...

  • it'll fall on Mecca
  • at the Olympus Mons restaurant. The evening program includes Marsian comedy, drinks, and strippers, and we offer the best view to watch Earth when the asteroid hits!

  • I can't find it in me to care about 2182 as much as I do about 2036. I guess I'm kind of selfish.

    (Besides, those future people will all be screwed by global warming anyway; what's an asteroid or two?)

  • How long until the history channel devotes an entire hour to a bunch of jackasses telling us Nostradamus predicted this?
  • the dreaded PHB of doom?

    Whatever happens I'm going to check out of here long before the PHA, and hopefully long before the PHB from hell turns up. (Got a few PHB's around but they're of the manageable kind - just listen, nod, say yes and then go back to doing what ever you had in mind before they decided to part some sage-like wisdom (only problme is the sage in this case is a small somewhat bedraggled herb rather than a wiseman))

  • by Imabug ( 2259 )

    This is all moot because the world will end in 2012 anyway

    it's on the internet, so it must be true.

    but if it happens that nothing happens in 2012, i'm sure someone will say there was a slight error in the calculations and say the asteroid will cause the end of the world. after all, what's a couple hundred years on a time scale of thousands of years?

  • Russian rolette (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AbbeyRoad ( 198852 ) <> on Friday July 30, 2010 @07:32AM (#33081010)

    Image 13 boxes each containing 13 revolvers.

    One revolver has one bullet in it.

    Now imagine being offered $100,000 to pick a box, and then pick a revolver and then shoot yourself with it.

    That 1000:1 odds.


  • ... calling it a 1 in 1000 chance.

    It either hits, or it does not, and the actual outcome is 100% certain right now. ONLY we can not calculate it right now exactly. So I assume they are pretty sure the asteroid will miss, but give it a 1 in 1000 chance that they are wrong in that conclusion.


"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."