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Archive for the ‘asteroid/comet impacts’ category

Sep 24, 2018

Asteroids and comets as space weapons

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, existential risks, robotics/AI

A dual use research of concern (DURC) refers to research in the life sciences that, while intended for public benefit, could also be repurposed to cause public harm. One prominent example is that of disease and contagion research (can improve disease control, but can also be used to spread disease more effectively, either accidentally or maliciously). I will argue here that DURC can and should be applicable to any technology that has a potential dual use such as this.


Approximately 66 million years ago, a 10 km sized body struck Earth, and was likely one of the main contributors to the extinction of many species at the time. Bodies the size of 5 km or larger impact Earth on average every 20 million years (one might say we are overdue for one, but then one wouldn’t understand statistics). Asteroids 1 km or larger impact Earth every 500,000 years on average. Smaller bodies which can still do considerable local damage occur much more frequently (10 m wide bodies impact Earth on average every 10 years). It seems reasonable to say that only the first category (~5 km) pose an existential threat, however many others pose major catastrophic threats*.

Given the likelihood of an asteroid impact (I use the word asteroid instead of asteroid and/or comet from here for sake of brevity), some argue that further improving detection and deflection technology are critical. Matheny (2007) estimates that, even if asteroid extinction events are improbable, due to the loss of future human generations if one were to occur, asteroid detection/deflection research and development could save a human life-year for $2.50 (US). Asteroid impact mitigation is not thought to be the most pressing existential threat (e.g. artificial intelligence or global pandemics), and yet it already seems to have better return on investment than the best now-centric human charities (though not non-human charities – I am largely ignoring non-humans here for simplicity and sake of argument).

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Aug 24, 2018

‘Potentially hazardous,’ 500-foot asteroid set to zoom past Earth at 20,000 mph

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

NASA — National Aeronautics and Space Administration has issued an alert that a “potentially hazardous asteroid” is on a “close approach” towards Earth.


NASA has issued an alert that a “potentially hazardous asteroid” is on a “close approach” toward Earth. However, it’s nothing to be alarmed at, as the asteroid is expected to zoom past the planet approximately 3 million miles away.

The enormous space rock, known as asteroid 2016 NF23 and estimated to be between 230 and 525 feet in diameter, will zip past Earth on Aug. 29 at a velocity of 9.04 kilometers per second, or approximately 20,000 miles per hour, the government space agency said on its Earth Close Approaches page.

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Aug 22, 2018

Massive asteroid bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza will make a close approach to Earth NEXT WEEK

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱


A massive asteroid estimated to be double the size of a Boeing 747 is headed toward a close approach with Earth next week.

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Aug 8, 2018

Uncertain human consequences in asteroid risk analysis and the global catastrophe threshold

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, existential risks, policy

By pure coincidence, the article by Seth Baum was published just 5 days after a small asteroid exploded over early warning Tule station in Greenland.


This paper studies the risk of collision between asteroids and Earth. It focuses on uncertainty in the human consequences of asteroid collisions, with emphasis on the possibility of global catastrophe to human civilization. A detailed survey of the asteroid risk literature shows that while human consequences are recognized as a major point of uncertainty, the studies focus mainly on physical and environmental dimensions of the risk. Some potential human consequences are omitted entirely, such as the possibility of asteroid explosions inadvertently causing nuclear war. Other human consequences are modeled with varying degrees of detail. Direct medical effects are relatively well-characterized, while human consequences of global environmental effects are more uncertain. The latter are evaluated mainly in terms of a global catastrophe threshold, but such a threshold is deeply uncertain and may not even exist. To handle threshold uncertainty in asteroid policy, this paper adapts the concept of policy boundaries from literature on anthropogenic global environmental change (i.e., planetary boundaries). The paper proposes policy boundaries of 100 m asteroid diameter for global environmental effects and 1 m for inadvertent nuclear war. Other policy implications include a more aggressive asteroid risk mitigation policy and measures to avoid inadvertent nuclear war. The paper argues that for rare events like large asteroid collisions, the absence of robust data means that a wide range of possible human consequences should be considered. This implies humility for risk analysis and erring on the side of caution in policy.

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Jul 2, 2018

A huge meteorite just splashed into the ocean, and scientists want to find it

Posted by in category: asteroid/comet impacts

A two-ton rock from the depths of space just plunged into the Pacific Ocean, and researchers want to find it. Fortunately, an oceanic research vessel is nearby, and it’s ready to deploy its high-tech to aid in the search. The Nautilus contains sophisticated sensors and two remote-controlled submarines that can scour the seafloor for fragments.

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Jun 29, 2018

Kick Asteroid

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Our new Kickstarter project lets you help save the Earth from an asteroid impact! Let’s go #KickAsteroid! https://planet.ly/kickasteroid

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May 14, 2018

What If an Asteroid Hit the Earth?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Would we suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs?

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Apr 20, 2018

Weekend Asteroid Flyby Confirms We’re Worrying About the Wrong Space Rocks

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

This asteroid flyby was so close it was about halfway between the Earth and Moon. How’d we miss THAT? #SCINow


An asteroid approximately the size of a football field flew close by Earth only a day after it was first spotted this weekend. This near miss is a perfect example of an argument I’ve been making for some time: These are the asteroids we should worry about, not the so-called potentially hazardous rocks being tracked by NASA and periodically hyped by panicked headlines.

NASA scientists first observed the asteroid, now called 2018 GE3, on April 14, according to a database. It ventured as close as halfway the distance between Earth and the Moon, and was estimated to be between 47 meter and 100 meters in diameter (~150 and 330 feet). This is smaller than the asteroids governed by the NASA goal, which is to track 90 percent of near-Earth objects larger than 150 meters (~460 feet) in diameter. Nevertheless, it still could have caused a lot of damage if it had hit Earth.

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Apr 10, 2018

Elon Musk: We Must Leave Earth For One Critical Reason

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, Elon Musk, existential risks, particle physics

In its early life, the Earth would have been peppered nearly continuously by asteroids smashing into our young planet. These fiery collisions made our world what it is today. It may seem like things have changed since then, given the vast assortment of life and wide blue oceans—and things have indeed changed. At least in some respects. However, Earth still receives thousands of tons of matter from space, but this is in the form of microscopic dust particles (as opposed to recurrent, energetic collisions).

Fortunately, in modern times, a large asteroid colliding with the surface of the Earth happens only very rarely. Nevertheless, it does happen from time to time.

As most are probably already aware, it is widely believed that an asteroid initiated the dinosaurs’ extinction some 65 million years ago. And more recently, the Russian Chelyabinsk meteor hit our planet in February of 2013. It entered at a shallow angle at 60 times the speed of sound. Upon contact with our atmosphere, it exploded in an air burst. The size of this body of rock (before it burned up and shattered) is estimated to be around 20 meters (across) and it weighed some 13,000 metric tons.

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Mar 28, 2018

Mars Colony Would Be a Hedge Against World War III, Elon Musk Says

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, climatology, Elon Musk, existential risks, robotics/AI, space travel, sustainability

Humanity’s brutal and bellicose past provides ample justification for pursuing settlements on the moon and Mars, Elon Musk says.

The billionaire entrepreneur has long stressed that he founded SpaceX in 2002 primarily to help make humanity a multiplanet species — a giant leap that would render us much less vulnerable to extinction.

Human civilization faces many grave threats over the long haul, from asteroid strikes and climate change to artificial intelligence run amok, Musk has said over the years. And he recently highlighted our well-documented inability to get along with each other as another frightening factor. [The BFR: SpaceX’s Mars Colony Plan in Images].

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