A couple of other studies suggest that these are not the flying rubble piles
we feared, but the jury is still out. In fact a giant rubble pile may never
have caused an extinction even like 65 million years ago, or 250 million
years ago. Best understanding is that these are pretty dense objects, iron
based, rather then silica of carbonaceous. Time will tell. Also, the concept
is to set a nuke plasma blast in front of or alongside the killer Roid' to
nudge it away for a few decades--buying us time to develop ion drive pushers.
Never on top of the offending asteroid or inside, as depicted in Deep Impact
In a message dated 6/24/00 10:21:46 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
<< These Pollyannas are presumptuous. They assume that asteroids are hard,
cohesive objects that will be shoved aside by a few megatons of explosive
energy. There are two things wrong with this idea, and these reveal how
radically our ideas about the nature of asteroids have changed in just
First, most astronomers will now agree that asteroids are orbiting rubble
piles rather than monolithic objects. For example, the near-earth
asteroid Mathilde, 53 kilometers in diameter, has a density of only
1.3 grams/cubic centimeter. Its porosity must be greater than 50%.
It is not a hard, coherent object. Instead of a bullet, it is more
like a cloud of shotgun pellets. It would be hard to divert all this
debris with a nuclear blast.
Many asteroids are really probably only plum-puddings of accreted debris.
To make matters worse, asteroids like Mathilde are stickier than a cloud
of buckshot. This fact is deduced from photos of asteroids showing many
to be marked by huge craters. (Mathilde has one 33 kilometers wide.)
K.R. Housen et al, using laboratory tests and scaling data, argue that
asteroid craters were not blasted out by collision. (Mathilde is not
"shattered" as one would expect given such a huge crater.) Rather, the
craters are "dents" instead of holes! Cosmic rubble piles are like
sponges. Collisions with other rubble piles result in compression of the
target surface and accretion of the smaller object. In effect, asteroids
are energy absorbers and will hardly be fazed by a nuclear detonation.
(Asphaug, Erik; "Survival of the Weakest," Nature, 402:127, 1999.
Comment. We are doomed---but not right away.
Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) >>
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