Sunday, August 17, 2008

A B612 Foundation Cameo: Ed Lu For The Win!

I was watching the History Channel yesterday and they were replaying "The Last Days On Earth" from 2006. The show is a documentary that has some amazing science for the first hour and a half followed by a thirty minute lecture on why none of what they mentioned in the first half matters if we don't stop global warming because things will get too crowded and there won't be any water to drink.

Yes, it gets that stupid at the end. Even Al Gore gets in to compare global warming skeptics with the Tobacco executives who lied under oath to a grand jury in the 1970's. Fortunately for Al, another scientist says something so ridiculous and offensive that Al's own hypocrisy can be ignored. Bill McGuire, a Professor from University College in London, makes the argument that those who are skeptical about global warming are just as bad if not worse than those that deny the holocaust.

Yes, really. The History channel, to their credit, has a discussion board where you can read various posts in agreement about how insulting and absurd this comparison is. ("Last Days on Earth" -Insulting)

The show does however have a nice bit about asteroids, which comes in at #4 on the list of apocalyptic scenarios. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a little cameo where he gives bits of essentially the same speech from this lecture. Again, Mr. Tyson clearly lays out the specifics behind asteroids and the threat they raise to humanity. One of my favorite points he always makes is how Hollywood always shows an asteroid strike as this dramatic explosion where people slowly watch this streaking ball of fire crash in to a building or something. The reality is that these asteroids are moving at several thousand feet a second, at essentially hypersonic speed. This means that anyone anywhere near close enough to see this object slam in to the earth will be dead before they really see anything hit. Astronaut Stan Love, also a contributing member of The B612 Foundation, describes during the show thusly-
"If you are anywhere in the let's say 1000 mile diameter area where you can see this thing coming down, the light and the heat coming off it would just burn you to death immediately".
Here's a link to the computer analysis of what this impact would look like from a thermal level Via the Sandia Labs-


But the quote of the weekend, which further typified why this show had so much potential that fizzled out was this quote from Astronaut and B612 Foundation member Ed Lu-

Narrator: "So what is humanity doing to address this deadly threat?"

Astronaut Ed Lu: "The number of people, worldwide, who are actively working on this problem, is enough to staff one shift at McDonalds. And that's about accurate."

It is well past the time that NASA and the B612 Foundation start planning a mission to Apophis to track and further detail our respective options for mitigating the threats posed by asteroids. U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has been backing the efforts of the B612 Foundation, and this issue needs continual support.

We need more people than one shift at McDonalds.

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