back to article Aussie has answer to save Earth from asteroid attack

An PhD student with the University of Queensland's School of Engineering has won top prize in an international competition for her plan to wrap a giant asteroid with reflective sheeting to prevent a collision with the Earth. The asteroid, Apophis, is estimated to be perhaps 270 metres across and it will pass close to Earth in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modifying the orbit

    How do they know this won't bring forward the collision date by a few years?

  2. Paul Young

    Exactly How ....

    ... Are you supposed to wrap an asteroid in friggin cling film?

    And my surname used to be D'Souza, luckily my mum changed it when

    I was 10 years old.

    I have enough trouble wrapping a bloody left over piece of meat, to keep in the fridge for a few days.

    Someone needs to consider the problem here...

    This is not theoretical physics, it's practically in-plausable physics.

    <1> Locate Asteroid (It'll be up there somewhere)

    <2> Hire Bruce Willis & friends (they have experiance with asteroids)

    <3> Find an absolutly giant roll of cling film (Lets Say, 330m x 660m)

    <4> Develope a vehicle capable of carrying said roll of cling film

    <5> Then add to vehicle a way of despensing massive cling film

    <6> New vehicle sits in orbit and watches

    <7> Fucking big piece of rock hits earth

    <8> Atmosphere evaporates into space

    <9> Huge tidal waves swamp the planet

    <10> New cling film space vehicle departs earth orbit for the Klingon Empire

    Am I missing something here?

    She claims to be using something orbiting the asteroid, has this

    technology already been invented/deployed?

    If the thing is gonna be near us in 2011 then we need someone to start

    ordering the cling film from Lidl or Aldi or even the local car boot does

    400m rolls @ 50cm wide.


    Can I have my coat please, the one with the cling film in the pockets.

  3. Andy Barber

    @ Paul Young/D'Souza

    "She claims to be using something orbiting the asteroid, has this technology already been invented/deployed?"

    Yes look here

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ paul young

    Exactly How ....

    By Paul Young

    Posted Sunday 24th August 2008 20:37 GMT

    ... Are you supposed to wrap an asteroid in friggin cling film?

    I have enough trouble wrapping a bloody left over piece of meat, to keep in the fridge for a few days.

    I think that's most of us folks who aren't female

    <2> Hire Bruce Willis & friends (they have experiance with asteroids)

    Yea lets just nuke it.. it worked for them :P

    Paris, cus it would be funny watching her trying to fight with a roll of cling-film

  5. Joey

    If the end of the World comes...

    it will be the fault of illiterates who can't spell to save their lives using command line computers!!!

  6. Anonymous Bastard

    Nothing to add

    I don't have an original plan, I just wanted to have the coat icon and say:

    Mine's the one with the ICBM in the pocket. Ooer matron!

  7. David Webb
    Paris Hilton

    The answer....

    "... Are you supposed to wrap an asteroid in friggin cling film?"

    The answer is in the subject, a sattelite is put in orbit around the asteroid which then covers it with cling film. As the sattelite spins around in its orbit it releases a small amount of cling film with enough slack to not pull the spinny thing crashing into the surface of the asteroid. As it spins around its orbit, more of the cling film is wrapped around it. At least thats what I made of the bit in the article.

    Paris, to do with cling film, wrapping her up etc....

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Basically, you just blow them up...

    According to Wikipedia, the Apophis is approx. 270m in diameter. If you send up Bruce Willis with an old russian "Tsar Bomba", that should be plenty enough to disintegrate the entire asteroid with a fireall diameter of 4,6km...


  9. Dave The Cardboard Box

    I will use grammar to deflect this perfidious rock

    by spray painting "an asteroid" in gold paint on the side, rather than "a asteroid" which would surely mean it plunging into a major city. Don't laugh, it could be Bristol.

    I have an joint Ph.D in the grammar and world saving dontcha know.

    If that doesn't work litotes will. It always does.

  10. cor
    Paris Hilton

    F\/ck the cling film...

    ..I'm gettin' me tinfoil hat out.

    Anyways if this oversized astral pebble 'spends most of its time behind the sun', why don't we nuke it there?

    Better still, wrap it up in 2011, see if her theory works. Why wait until the shit is getting caught in the grating of the ventilator?

  11. Andy Barber

    @ Basically, you just blow them up...

    More like 47km with a "Tsar Bomba" is More than enough.

    A 5Mtn warhead damage is what you described. The "Tsar Bomba" was enough to turn London to Brighton to a crater!

  12. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Ok, now...

    1) That "Journalist's Impression" must have been made with Heavy Afghan Resin. An asteroid like that would be the size of France and the impact would most certainly not look like a plume from a depth charge with a kind of shockwave around.

    2) Breaking up a 'roid with "electromechanical devices" is going to take some serious energy I would imagine. I hope that idea does not come from the corner of the crowd who want to to break up the Earth with a device Tesla invented in 1910 and which feeds on two car batteries but produces "resonances".

    3) Otherwise the Mylar idea sounds interesting, you have to wrap the object early enough to get good leverage though.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    According to my poor calculations, that's just shy of three gigatons. That's probably well within the "earth shattering kaboom" range.

    Anyways, I'm taking issue with the 'Hiroshima bombs' explosives metric. That has become so trite that we really need a better one. I can't think of anything better off hand, but surely there should be a Reg standard for explosives.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This isn't exactly a new idea.

    There's been plenty of talk about changing albedo to redirect asteroids and comets, some using mylar, some using foil, some using white paint/titanium dioxide powder. The only thing the author seems to have added is a potentially complicated application system.

  15. Gareth Pye


    How fast can something orbit an asteroid of that type of size? I would have thourght rather slowly.

    But I guess this plan only works if the approach after 2011 isn't the fatal one, as we'll have to use that approach to launch the satellite to glad wrap it up to start slowly pushing it.

  16. Captain DaFt

    My submission was disqualified for some reason

    Even though the physics behind it had been proven time and time again:

    Step 1- Train a coyote to place a giant Acme coil spring on the precise part of Earth the asteroid's going to hit.

    Step 2 - Then place coyote in a space ship heading away from Earth's orbit.

    Step 3 - Asteroid lands on giant coil spring and rebounds. Due to the laws of cartoon physics, the asteroid will now fly directly toward the coyote, which is why we have him moving away from Earth.

    Step 4 - After the asteroid collides with the coyote, a roadrunner will mockingly call, "Beep-beep". Earth is saved.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    About as much use as a foil hat....

    First, is it even possible to get a space-faring loo roll dispenser to orbit something as small as 270m across (Eros is 33Km), and if so I fail to see how wrapping it up in a shiny suit is somehow going to attract more sunlight than would otherwise hit it anyway.

    And just how long would it take for the pressure of sunlight to change the orbit of a substantial lump of rock by any significant amount?

    Nah, keep Mr Willis and friends on standby for the time being.

  18. Kanhef

    re: blow them up

    Nuclear weapons are significantly less effective in space. There's no atmosphere to conduct a shock wave or burn things, so all you get is the radiation blast. No fireball or mushroom cloud. If the bomb is in direct contact with the asteroid there will be a seismic shock wave, but it won't shatter finely enough for this to be a solution. Even if half the asteroid is turned into dust, there's enough material left for a cloud of 10,000 ten-meter-wide chunks. That's big enough to cause significant damage, and since the cloud diverges, dozens are guaranteed to hit the earth. The shotgun may not hurt as much as the rifle, but it still hurts plenty.

  19. Fozzy
    Thumb Up

    Alternate theory

    For my money I think the simpsons are onto something where the thick smog and pollutants in the air burned the asteroid to a small rock by the time it hit the ground. So I'm doing my part and bruning all the fossil fuels I can get my hands on

  20. Mark York

    Paper Title

    It's 3am & I am bleary eyed & in pain, I read her paper title as A Bloody Solar Sail Concept for the Deflection of 99942 Apophis.

    Doing a Arthur Dent & getting my dressing gown.

  21. T. Harrell
    Thumb Up

    Missing the opportunity of the millenium!

    Push it away!? No!

    Space agencies everywhere are entirely missing one of our greatest opportunities! Here's an asteroid already headed straight for our orbit, not too far out from our own satellites. Put a few tiny thrusters on the rock and bring it into a proper orbit around Earth, then strip-mine it for raw materials! Asteroids like that are estimated to be loaded with valuable minerals, and NASA's been drooling over the possibility of bringing one in from the asteroid belt since the 70's!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Modify Orbit

    I'm with the first AC...

    So the suggestion is to make an unknown and uncontrolled change to the orbit of a rock that may or may not hit us?

    Was this a competition for pre-schoolers? Was it judged by pre-schoolers?

    This suggestion is akin to putting on a blindfold, spinning around a couple of times and then blowing as hard as you can in the asteroids general direction. Sure you might change its path, but is it going to be better or worse?

    Are the morons who thought this was the smartest idea, also the ones who are responsible for actually protecting us (I really hope not).

    Paris - she could probably come up with a better plan.

  23. Alan Potter

    @Dave the box

    You've just given me an idea - why don't we just send in the Piranha Brothers?

  24. norman

    It's easy...

    Tell President Bush the Asteroid has WMDs.

    We can have a color coded Asteroid threat level...

    What are the odds?

  25. MacroRodent

    The environment impact statement of Tsar Bomba to consider

    > If you send up Bruce Willis with an old russian "Tsar Bomba",

    Um, compare the environmentalist/peace activist hue &cry between this option and just sending a huge roll of Mylar... Not hard to see which solution is harder to get off the ground. (Barring a globally-imposed state of emergency in the face of imminent asteroid impact, of course).

  26. Chris G

    Citroen Picasso saves the world

    Actually spray painting it might be easier, we already have a lot of technology with spray painting robots.We just need to stick a couple of rocket engines up one and programme it with Bruce Willis' determination. If the asteroid already has an electrostatic charge, even easier.

  27. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    @Paul Young: Locating the asteroid is easy

    we know where it is. Not rocket science at all. In 2011 we want to be sure to within a far smaller error margin where it will be in 2029, and astronomers can do that readily.

    As for blowing it up is not such a good idea: you are turning a rifle bullet into a shotgun blast. As any hunstman can tell you, it is WAY easier to hit a bird with a shotgun than a rifle. It will only work if you can be sure ALL bits are small enough to burn up at entry, and you cannot be that sure.

  28. Bronek Kozicki

    rocket science...

    deflection of sun rays would create force (very small, but persistent) and that force applied to asteroid will skew its orbit away from Sun (as well as from Earth). I wonder, too, whether that force would be strong enough, and whether skewed orbit might endanger Earth some time later again.

  29. TeeCee Gold badge

    Deep Nuclear Penetrator

    Time to resurrect that particular project methinks.

    Combines the drill hole, insert nuke, asteroid go boom process in one handy fire 'n forget package.

    As for the shotgun blast argument, an impressive firework display, a few nasty holes and a few tens of thousands of corpses is infinitely preferable to one sodding great big hole and extinction.

    Mines the one with "best before 2029" written on it.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    How about...

    ...using Murphy's law.

    Spray the far side of the asteroid with butter.

    Everyone knows the principle that buttered toast always lands face down.... so in theory and asteroid with butter on the "up" side would not hit the earth at all.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Windmill science

    The idea seems to be to replicate one of those executive-toy solar windmill things to change the orbit by a fraction of a percent, which wwould be enough to avoid an impact... that I see and could actually work.

    However, we need to make sure that it gets deflected in the right direction - we don't want it hitting into the moon either, coz that would really fsck things!

    Critically though, I see two problems:

    first: the article says that the asteroid is spinning - if we apply anything to it, we may change it's axis so it's spinning differently and thus have unpredictable consequences.

    second: This thing's in space, subject to the full force of the sun, how do you ensure that you don't wrap up a gas pocket, that once the sun hits will then generate a lot of pressure that wouldn't otherwise have been there?? Could be dangerous

    I vote for paintballing it - we could make it a competition, and I'm sure there's a market for the PS3 game version, which could generate enough revenue to pay for the tech to get to the asteroid, paint a bullseye on it, then proceed to paint half the thing with silver paintballs!

  32. Alex


    Tinfoil to deflect a big piece of rock? I want what she and the judges were smoking -.-'

    The giant coil idea is the best i've heard so far ^^

  33. Mike Smith

    Lol @ Nuking it

    Not only will nuking it have the shotgun effect as mentioned above, but all the buck from the shotgun will surely be radioactive!

    How will cling film even act in such harsh sub zero conditions? And if light is so effective at pushing things away, how do they know the sun isn't constantly changing the orbit of this chunk of rock in the first place?

    I think we should invent big-ass lasers that will push it out of harms way. For a start, it's far far cooler than using cling film, don't you think? Secondly it may also heat up the rock, causing pockets of gas to explode and shift it further out of orbit, as well as having the same photon push effect as the cling film.

    Ahh, armchair physics :) We're all doomed

  34. Pete Silver badge

    @T. Harrell

    Hmmm, a large rock hanging over our heads. Have a quick read of Larry Niven's "Footfall" for some ideas how to use this (hint: not for mining)

    Success is being at the top of the gravity well, not the top of the food chain.

  35. Christoph

    @ various objections

    I know it seems weird but the scientists investigating this actually have thought of and considered the various objections. They haven't simply decided to try some wild idea while cackling madly.

    Several decades ago we managed to steer a tiny primitive spacecraft right across the solar system. We put it in exactly the right path, even at the outer planets. So yes, with vastly better computers we really can get to a nearby rock, and predict with good enough accuracy where it will go when we push it.

    What we need is the best technically feasible and practicable and safe way of doing the pushing. Which is what this is all about - asking for ideas that can then be tested and refined, *before* they are urgently needed.

  36. Mark Duncan

    This was solved in the 60s

    Clearly what is required is a small triangular spaceship which fires lasers out it's nose, is capable of 360 degree rotation and has a thruster. While bigger asteroids may require hits to break them up i'm confident that at 270m one shot should be enough to vapourise it

  37. Muscleguy
    Paris Hilton

    A biologist speaks

    The point is to *change* it's albedo. Yes, the sun does already push on it and we can calculate it's orbit with that. The idea is to change how the sun pushes on it and calculate how that will push it, if it pushes it away from us then job done.

    An argument based on your ignorance of how something works speaks only to your ignorance. Good point Mike Smith about the shotgun remnants being radioactive, mmm how I love the smell of fallout in the morning.

    Paris, because whe knows all about arguments from incredulity.

  38. Adrian Midgley

    more clever than most commentators

    Only the numbers matter.

  39. Zmodem

    sails are fiction

    if they could move a asteriod nasa would use them to get to the moon to build its base. with a next gen shuttle. it would be easier to fly out like a movie and drill some trusts onto it

  40. Matt Thornton

    Wrong way round

    Why not just wrap earth in cling film and let the sun reflection wotsit move us out of the way of the asteroid?

  41. James Pickett


    If you can get a satellite capable of deploying all that plastic up there, why not send one with a bigger motor and just give it a push? It won't need much deflection at that range, and the nice thing about space is that there's no friction - just a lot of inertia.

    Of course, that wouldn't make such an impressive thesis, but it would be bit simpler. Alternatively, we could just throw things at it...

  42. Wize

    Missing step

    There is the dramatic moment where they struggle to find the end of the cling film and realise their gloves are not helping.

    Could almost make its way into some kind of epic movie

  43. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    Well the problem is rather simple

    How do you modify the orbit of a big space rock?

    The current answers look to be fine examples of the human species' genius for looking at problems and coming up with really stupid solutions.

    Eg 4 suicide bombers kill 54 people in london.... how to prevent it happening again? turn the UK into a giant prison camp.

    going over to the nuclear solution, are you aware the tsar bomba weighed in at 27 tons, the onlty spacecraft we have able to launch that is the ares 5 rocket and that aint even built yet, then you have to design a suitable spacecraft to deliver said nuke to the big space rock.. then hope nothing goes wrong between launch and explosion.

    On the plus side, the tsar bomba had been de-tuned somewhat by replacing the ueanium tamper with a lead one, so it should be easy to scale up to 100 megatons without a weight penalty


    <<wearing his tinfoil hat that prevents government mind control and bits of spacerock from affecting his mind

  44. Zmodem


    the current shuttle weighs around 110tons and a payload of 20tons. and it has absolute to carbon fiber/graphite anywhere, and crap old 1980s tube monitors for the primitive computer systems with mamoth cpus of back in the day

  45. wayne

    Solar sail.

    What about a solar sail like wrap?

  46. Steve Glover

    Who was that German again?

    We could simply tell him Roy Orbison moved there....

  47. Christoph
    Thumb Up

    @ James Pickett

    Two problems.

    1> Getting enough fuel for the rocket up there. You need far too much. The reflective idea doesn't need it.

    2> As far as we know, small asteroids are not a solid lump of rock. They are a pile of loose rubble. Pushing this with a rocket is not likely to work.

  48. Chris

    Orion.. the answer.

    Not the latest sad idea, but the original one.

    It used a series of fission explosions to 'push' against a battleship sized spacecraft's 'pusher-plate'.

    What's that you say? 'Nukes don't work properly in space because there's no medium to transmit a shockwave'?

    Well, oddly enough, a bunch of the world's best minds KNEW that when they started to design it.

    What they also knew was that it's possible to direct a fission explosion (think shaped charge conventional explosive) - indeed, fusion explosions would be difficult to arrange without a directed fission explosion trigger.

    If you then place a quantity of a suitable substance (tungsten seems to work well) in the path of the directed energy release it will turn pretty smartly into a narrow cone of rapidly moving plasma.

    And when that hits a nearby object (be it the pusher-plate of a spacecraft, or an asteroid), kinetic energy is released and it MOVES.

    So, to deflect the offending incoming asteroid you simply launch a stream of these small (say, 1kt) nuclear propulsion 'bombs' at the target, set to detonate at the required distance from it.

    No rains of meteors from a fragmented asteroid. No need for Bruce Willis style heroics. Just a steady push (avereged out) to change the course of the asteroid, either to impact another body (the Moon?) or into a non-threatening new orbit.

    I imagine a sort of gatling gun in space launching the propulsion bombs. The Orion designers did, in fact they got design help from a major soft drinks manufacturer,

    Of course, that was launching the bombs to explode behind the spacecraft, from inside the spacecraft. The principle works equally well from an external launcher though.

    It's established technology. In fact, OLD technology.

    Of course, it would be handy if the documentation still existed... It was recently discovered that quite a lot of Orion data had been lost by the US Government (that's lost, not 'lost') and had to be re-created from copies of documents obtained from ex-employees and their heirs (yes, the technology is that old, mid-60s).

    And this sort of thing's not that uncommon. NASA was found, some years ago, to have accidentally thrown away the engineering details of the Saturn launch booster during a 'spring cleaning'...

  49. Louis Cowan

    Simple answer

    Leak a memo saying it's full of oil. Someone somewhere will have it hollowed out to a thin shell in no time

  50. Torben Mogensen

    Re: Missing the opportunity of the millenium!

    The problem with this idea (mining) is that the asteroid whizzes past at so high a speed that it would take enormous energy to change its orbit to be around the Earth instead. It would be far easier to mine the moon.

    As for foil wrapping the asteroid, I agree that spray-painting would be a lot easier.

  51. Martin Lyne

    Can we..

    get it to hit the moon and give us a pretty ring around Earth?

    As for nuking it.. yeah.. we'll slightly irradiate it and THEN it'll crash into us.

    Can't we just build a magnifying glass (but not glass, as that'd be a nightmare to shunt up) and focus some sun onto it (the whole of it, not a part of it).

    Same sort of idea as the paint/mylar, but we'd also have some cool giant sun-focussing thing afterwards SO WE CAN SOLAR POWER OUR NEW MOON BASES!

    Ha, I fucking hate that humankind is so backwards. The first person to mention "cost" of a potential planet-saver should be shot. Or better yet, shot AT the asteroid. Deflecting disaster one idiot at a time..

    Mine's the one with a stasis pod, ion engine and an EeePC with Homweworld installed.

  52. vincent himpe

    It's MYLAR ! not cling film

    Mylar is NOT cling film !!!

    Mylar is a hard film like the hard shrinkwrap they pack some software boxes in.

    It doesnt tear .. it shatters..

    Anyway. why does everyone think about nukes. The asteroid is only 150 meter diameter. Small sattelite with big motor. Slingshot the satellite to 'land' on the asteroid. Upon landing it attaches itself to the asteroid and starts its motor.

    Even a 5 tons of TNT may do the trick.

    Drill hole 20 meter deep. Put in a ton of tnt. boom

    During world war II they did that in belgium. Make a tunnel under german installation and blow it to smithereens,. the Dikkebus pond was made like that ... and its waaaay larger than 150 meter...

  53. scotchbonnet

    @ Christoph

    "1> Getting enough fuel for the rocket up there. You need far too much. The reflective idea doesn't need it."

    As far as pushing the body out of it's earth-crossing orbit goes, the 'fuel' required is not a show-stopper. If we started pushing early enough on an asteroidal body, an ion-drive motor could exert a steady enough force over a long-enough time and the 'fuel' requirements would be well within our current launch capability. In reality, the most modern thinking about this problem involves using a ion-drive spacecraft as a gravity tractor to pull the body out of orbit. The methodology proposed involves parking the spacecraft close to the asteroid and using the ion drive motor in combination with the mutual gravitational attraction of the two bodies to slowly change the orbital mechanics of the body.

    "2> As far as we know, small asteroids are not a solid lump of rock. They are a pile of loose rubble. Pushing this with a rocket is not likely to work."

    I'm not sure where you came up with that information, but everything I've read says that asteroidal bodies fall into three groups with respect to make up: iron/nickle; solid rock and loosely bound rubble piles. At the size of Apophis, the chances of it being any of the three are about equal. The better-informed among us know that any strategy we suggest with regard to diverting Apophis would best be based on an exploratory visit to the body to assess matters like the make-up of the body and it's current albedo, maybe even a crash into the body with an impactor like we did a couple of years ago with Comet Tempel 1.

    I'm not, I repeat not, saying the reflective idea is wrong or bad and shouldn't be pursued. What I am saying is that your comment about the fuel requirements being too large is misinformed. What I am saying is that your statement about the make up of Apophis is simplistic and misleading and has a two-thirds chance of being wrong.

  54. RichardSmith

    Bomb makers studied using nukes...

    ... and found that they were not very efficient at moving big asteroids. Big asteroids are like trying to push around a mountain or a mountain range. Light pressure gives a VERY small acceleration. I wonder that it would be enough.

  55. Paul Young

    @ Steve Glover & @ Andy Barber

    @ Steve Glover

    Roy Orbison is already dead!

    Maybe he came from Pluto anyway

    his music was pretty much for aliens

    @Andy Barber

    They might have got something to visit an asteroid, orbiting it and

    deploying cling film is a very different problem.

    It would be pretty cold up there, the cling film would freeze in which case

    even peeling the bloody stuff off the roll would be impossible.

    Like I said

    Easier to let Bruce Willis deal with it

    At least Armageddon had "some" plausable physics (although not much)

    The coat with the shares in the clingfilm maker in the pocket

  56. James Pickett


    1) I don't think my idea requires any more weight than the mylar one, considering the mechanical requirements of the latter. I'm just suggesting that it takes a bit more fuel than it needs for the journey.

    2) If it just an accretion of rubble, i.e. not one big rock, why are we worrying?:-)

  57. Chris G

    Go to Put in 270metres at the top and the asteroid destruction calculator will do the rest. This site is Reg worthy

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's been looked at

    "How do they know it won't bring forward the collision date by a few years?"

    NASA already looked at it, check out

  59. Peter Gold badge

    Forget Mylar - bubble wrap!

    Look, if you just wrap it in bubble wrap it'll land softly. Afterwards just unwrap the thing and use it as a new mountain or something. Obviously you need one with a higher melting point but I'm sure that can be solved.

    And the bubble wrap can be recycled for stress therapy.

    There. Any more problems?

  60. Zmodem

    @Re: Missing the opportunity of the millenium!

    why future craft technology is needed, you could have a reactor and ion thrust on a drill head. move the asteriod a few degrees and come back to earth orbit to get picked up. leaving the drill head behind

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    My own submission

    I hearby submit my own leaned essay on doomsday-prevention, entitled "Rock Your World!! Paintball Modalities and Ballistics Concerning the Prevention of the End of Days".

    I humbly suggest that we launch a giant paintball gun armed with gold paintpellets the size of cows. Said gun would roam the cosmos tagging one side of dangerous space debris so that the solar sail effect pushes them slightly off course where they can crash into the homeworlds of alien civilizations. Hopefully these aliens would be good humored and easygoing about the extraterrestrial bombardment, but if not we have Will Smith to dispense wittisisms and galactic justice.

    If budgeting for such a project is an issue, we can work in a corporate product placement and replace the space gun with a giant can of gold Rustoleum....

    Paris because she can play my love interest in the "based on a true story" Hollywood blockbuster.

  62. Stuart Gepp

    Why would you want to get hit by a shotgun?

    This thing is supposed to do a fly-by in 2011. If you blow it up just after it been past you won't get hit by the rubble.

  63. Michael MacAskill
    Dead Vulture

    Hit by a shotgun

    There really is a lot of Wile E Coyote physics going on here: it doesn't matter when it is blown up: the centre of mass will remain in the same orbit around the sun. If blown up in 2011, the radioactive cloud of remnants will still rendezvous with the Earth in 2029.

    Newton's Laws don't take a holiday.

  64. Evil Mike

    Easier Solution

    When it comes by in 2011, we send up a work crew and have them build a complete replica of the Hadron Super Collider in the asteroid... the tune it wrong and blow it up.

  65. Anonymous Coward

    Solution Zero

    Answer to all our problems is much simpler: Tinfoil hat.

    Give every person on the planet one and make it mandatory to wear them. The reflective surface will create small, but measurable thrust to planet directed away from the sun.

    Advantages are obvious:

    1) The Planet Earth will move away from Sun and thus away from that nasty asteroid's orbit.

    2) CIA mindcontrol ray is nullified.


    3) By moving away from the Sun we also solve the problem of greenhouse gases; Every time temperature goes up, it is tinfoil-day and again we cool down.

    Tinfoil hat, is there anything it can't do?

  66. Anonymous Coward

    @How do they know this won't bring forward the collision date by a few years?

    "How do they know this won't bring forward the collision date by a few years?"

    It's called classical mechanics. Been around since Isaac Newton wrote 'Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica', published in 1687. It's how people like me are able to sling space probes around several planets for gravity assist boosts and all that and literally hit a cross sectional area of space a couple of hundred square meters in size after traveling millions of kilometers. The Cassini probe gained gravity assists by passing with precision past Venus twice, then Earth, and finally Jupiter on the way to Saturn. The spacecraft can pick up to twice the velocity of the planet it is slip shotted about.

  67. Anonymous Coward

    yes but..

    AC Quote:

    I have enough trouble wrapping a bloody left over piece of meat, to keep in the fridge for a few days.

    I think that's most of us folks who aren't female


    Well your problem is that you use a piece of film that appears to be big enough to do the job, it inevitably isnt. however the missus just starts with the whole roll and uses a second if necessery, admitedly its wrapped, but probably the term encased is more appropriate. more plastic than sandwich.

  68. Tony

    That's no asteroid...'s a space station

  69. Ian Hunter

    I can't believe...

    that not a single person has mentioned this: Intergalactic Pool, just like on that episode of Red Dwarf.

    Get some cheeky, loveable rogue Scouser, and send him into space armed with eight cans of special brew and a tikka massala. He could trickshot the asteroid straight into the sun, and we could stoke him a clipper as he'll back in time for Christmas.

  70. Joe Montana


    // 2> As far as we know, small asteroids are not a solid lump of rock. They are a pile of loose rubble. Pushing this with a rocket is not likely to work.

    If it'a small pile of loose rubble, push a nuke into the middle of it and detonate it while it's the opposite side of the sun.. by the time any of it gets round here, it should be small enough pieces to just burn up as it enters the atmosphere.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    google grief

    The obvious answer is to get it painted. I bet that's a bit of real estate that Google would love to auction off. Gotta have the obligatory Google logo though... Just so you know your master...


    If you can read this, then you are too close.

  72. MacroRodent

    @ Michael MacAskill

    "If blown up in 2011, the radioactive cloud of remnants will still rendezvous with the Earth in 2029."

    But the most radioactive isotopes would have burned out in 18 years, and the cloud of debris would have dispersed so much that it would amount to nothing worse than a meteoroid shower if it hit the Earth. Most of the fragments would miss the Earth anyway. Proper placement of the big bomb should help ensure this: You naturally want to place it so that in case the asteroid stays intact, its orbit is pushed away from the intersection with Earth. (I am of course assuming the bomb is set off on the surface of the asteroid, or in nearby space, not inside the asteroid). If it shatters, the impetus from the explosion gets distributed among the shards, but on the average they, too will be nudged away from the Earth.

  73. Sam

    @ Ian Hunter

    That's "smoke him a kipper".

    Rock band hearing loss from Mott the Hoople, mayhap?

  74. TeeCee Gold badge

    Where's the beer?

    Let's face it, it's no surprise that the clean, quiet, clingfilm solution was dreamed up by a woman.

    We want big sodding bombs and the associated huge explosions. Then we can celebrate the results with beer and barbequed steak as the small, radioactive pieces put on a show in the atmosphere.

    Both solutions may well work, but the latter has style (and beer).

  75. Gianni Straniero

    Three bites of the cherry

    Apophis was recently downgraded to 0 on the Torino impact scale. This number is a function of the probability of earth impact and the damage it would cause. It's a big rock, so damage would be extensive. Ergo, zero should tell you quite a bit about the likelihood of an impact.

    But the rock will have three bites of the cherry, which you can see here:

    It's "best" chance to consign humanity to firey oblivion will be 13th April 2036, when there's 0.0022% probability of a collision. That's 1 in 45,000, which is not dissimilar to the odds of matching 5 balls in the lottery.

    There's a chance that Apophis will pass throught a 400m-wide gravitational keyhole in 2029, setting it up for guaranteed Armageddon-style action in 2036. It is now "likely" that Apophis will miss this keyhole, but just in case, don't make any plans for April 13 2036.

  76. Chris

    @Gianni Straniero

    "It's "best" chance to consign humanity to firey oblivion will be 13th April 2036, when there's 0.0022% probability of a collision. That's 1 in 45,000, which is not dissimilar to the odds of matching 5 balls in the lottery."

    Ah, that's OK then - because no one ever wins the Lottery, do they?

  77. irspariah

    asteroid attack

    Preparation-H is the answer.

  78. Gianni Straniero


    "Ah, that's OK then - because no one ever wins the Lottery, do they?"

    That was kind of my point. But remember that the lottery gets drawn every week, and a lot of people buy tickets. This is more like having one lottery draw in April 2036, and Apophis gets to buy the only ticket.

  79. Chris

    @Gianni Straniero

    Duhhh... Another person who simply doesn't understand the laws of chance, statistics, sample-space.

    Look, it's like this: Toss a coin, the chance of it coming up heads is 50%, right?

    OK, now, do that 10 times, 1000 times, 1000000 times - guess what?

    The chance of it coming up heads remains 50% EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU DO IT.

    It doesn't matter how many times you toss the coin (buy the lottery ticket/see the asteroid approaching) the chance of it coming up heads (winning the lottery/earth getting hit) remain the same.

    Got it?

    And please, not the old 'but if I buy every possible lottery ticket' chestnut. The quoted chance is for any single random ticket. That's where sample space comes in.

    The Asteroid hit chance? Calculated for any given orbital pass WITHIN the currently defined parameters. That's the relevant sample space for that calculation.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Dream Time

    Just for a moment I though that we were going to be advised to wrap the earth in cling film to keep the bits together. Works on the barbie.

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