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A new study shows that the movie's idea of blowing up the asteroid is way off

If Bruce Willis' ability to destroy life-threatening asteroids put your mind at ease about the end of the world, here's a study to bring you back to reality.

Michael Bay's 1998 hit movie Armageddon depicted Bruce Willis and a team of oil drilling heroes setting off nuclear bombs on an asteroid that was rushing toward Earth, thus saving all of humanity from the end of the world -- aka Armageddon.

A class of physics students from the University of Leicester in the UK decided to look into whether this kind of scenario would ever be possible. The short answer is no, but they provided some evidence as to why.

To debunk this mystery, the class first gathered basic information about the asteroid itself (which were mentioned in the film), such as the total volume of the asteroid pieces, the clearance radius (radius of Earth plus 400 miles), its distance from Earth at detonation, the asteroid's pre-detonation velocity, and the density of the asteroid pieces.

Harry Stamper is not amused

Using this information, they created a formula to find the total amount of kinetic energy needed to blow the asteroid to smithereens. As it turns out, 800 trillion terajoules of energy would be needed to break the asteroid into two pieces, allowing it to bypass planet Earth. This means that any bomb used would have to be a billion times stronger than any bomb ever detonated on Earth.

FYI -- the largest bomb ever detonated on Earth was the Soviet Union's "Big Ivan," which was a 50 megaton hydrogen bomb that only had an energy output of 418,000 terajoules.

From there, issues arose with the time needed to detect the asteroid in order to be able to successfully blow it up. It would need to explode at the point in which it is detected at 8 billion miles.

"A series of assumptions must be made due to limited information in the film," said the class paper titled, 'Could Bruce Willis Save the World?' "First, the asteroid is approximated as a spherical object 1000km in diameter (the asteroid is quoted being the size of Texas) that splits into two equal-sized hemispheres. The asteroid in the film reaches a clearance either side of the Earth of 400 miles (640km) which is the assumed value for our calculation."

Source: Network World

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Great Movie
By aurareturn on 8/9/2012 10:03:09 PM , Rating: 2

I find it a little hard to believe that it'd take a bomb 8 billion times stronger to blow up an asteroid.

RE: Great Movie
By Reclaimer77 on 8/9/2012 10:41:22 PM , Rating: 1
That's because their theoretical asteroid has the size and mass of something far larger than anything we've observed coming close to Earth. I wish they had used something far more relevant and realistic, like 99942 Apophis. A near-Earth asteroid that came damn close to hitting us last time around.

But I mean, sheesh, Armageddon isn't exactly a hot item anymore. Was this their idea of a fresh topic? I guess UK students are an unchallenged as ours lol.

RE: Great Movie
By silverblue on 8/10/2012 3:14:04 AM , Rating: 2
The University of Leicester is Europe's biggest academic centre for space research. They've a vested interest in the area, though discussing whether Harry Stamper could've nuked an asteroid was probably a lunchtime topic. Still, nice to know it cannot be done. :)

RE: Great Movie
By Reclaimer77 on 8/10/2012 8:23:34 AM , Rating: 2
It couldn't be done on an asteroid the size of Texas, sure. But Apophis is about 2 football fields in length with a mass of 2.7×10x10 kg. And it is a real threat. I would have been much more interested to hear solutions to this very real potential problem, rather than a made up movie asteroid.

RE: Great Movie
By bh192012 on 8/10/2012 1:13:56 PM , Rating: 2
While we're at it, an iron ball the size of Texas is called a planet. Like I mentioned in another post above, they took some slang "the size of Texas" out of context and proved it wrong. Next thing, they'll be doing a paper proving that a nuclear explosion that would make a vapor cloud the size of Nebraska would have actually killed Ripley.

RE: Great Movie
By Ringold on 8/10/2012 3:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, makes their whole study irrelevant to me. If there was something floating around that, in and of itself in a different situation would be big enough to possibly be called a planet, I think we'd of noticed it directly or via its gravitational effects.

Unless some ejected exoplanet just happened to zoom through our solar system, but.. not likely..

RE: Great Movie
By JediJeb on 8/10/2012 5:16:38 PM , Rating: 2
If there was an object that size orbiting in the Ort Cloud I doubt we would have seen it yet. Also considering at 1000km diameter as the assumption, it is only half the size of Pluto which is not longer considered a plant. It took a lot of searching to find Pluto, to find one half that size would not be easy, even once it started moving towards us. It takes several observations of the same portion of sky over several nights to spot non-stellar objects with such a low visual magnitude as this would have.

Another problem would be if it was coming in at us from the Sun side of the solar system relative to Earth. If that were the case it could be practically on top of us before it was spotted unless we have a sky survey program operated for orbit which we don't have yet.

http://www.spaceweather.com/

Check here near the bottom of the page to see the count of Near Earth Asteroids currently known. That number changes pretty much on a weekly basis as more are discovered. There have been many listed there that passed within less than half the distance to the Moon and we still needed a telescope to see them. It is rather frightening to check that table often and see what is coming near on a regular basis.

RE: Great Movie
By bh192012 on 8/13/2012 1:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
That's like saying a dwarf human is not a human. Regardless, "the size of Texas" was slang for "big" and not the actual size of the asteroid in "Armageddon."

Lastly, if an object that massive is comming, we're screwed, period. That's like getting hit by the moon. We're not going to be diverting moon mass objects anytime soon. Fortunately hits like that come once every 10 billion years. So we're probably good for a while. :>

RE: Great Movie
By tng on 8/12/2012 1:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I wish they had used something far more relevant and realistic, like 99942 Apophis. A near-Earth asteroid that came damn close to hitting us last time around.
And according to the scientists who watch the NEOs Apophis will make another near earth pass in 2029 or 2039 (can't remember which). Six months after that, due to it's slight change in course due to Earths gravity on the first pass, it will come even closer and they still don't know if on that pass it will hit the Earth.

The Russian space agency has actually proposed a joint mission with NASA and the ESA to eliminate the threat somehow. They are taking it very seriously, we probably should be as well, cause now it the time, not 2 months before it may hit.

RE: Great Movie
By Helbore on 8/10/2012 5:33:39 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, these students' maths are wrong. They forgot to factor Bruce Willis into the equation. When you do that, the numbers add up.

RE: Great Movie
By kattanna on 8/10/2012 10:10:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:

LOL, as someone who works here in hollywood, I can tell you that real science rarely, if ever, makes it into a show/movie. I have come across some shows that were space shows that were AMAZINGLY bad at their "science". Most production companies do not hire people with actual science training, they are filled with lowly interns who are usually more focused on the "art" aspect of film making.

One BIG exception to that was the people who are doing "through the wormhole" I enjoyed my time with them as they were knowledgeable people. I could hang out with them and talk about the science with them for hours. a RARE exception

RE: Great Movie
By WalksTheWalk on 8/10/2012 11:50:48 AM , Rating: 2
This Hollywood prop was just crazy:

RE: Great Movie
By 91TTZ on 8/10/2012 10:55:26 AM , Rating: 2
Also keep in mind that even if you manage to split an asteroid into chunks, the gravity of them will make them come back together into one mass again. The bigger the asteroid the faster you'd have to fling the pieces to make sure they don't rebound. I'm sure that some of the small pieces ejected by the explosion would escape its gravity but the larger chunks will just come back together.

RE: Great Movie
By geddarkstorm on 8/10/2012 12:36:50 PM , Rating: 2
Gravitational binding energy is a beautiful thing.

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