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Thread: Things to add to the next BA edition

  1. #1

    Things to add to the next BA edition

    Bought the book, love the book, have a suggestion and so started a new thread.

    In Chapter 15 ("Meteors, Meteor, and Meteorites, Oh My!"), on pages 139-140, is a discussion of what could be done about preventing an asteroid from striking the Earth. No mention is made of the first serious and detailed examination of the asteroid interception issue: Project Icarus, conducted by graduate students at MIT in early 1967. This was the report that, when published by MIT Press, gave Hollywood the idea to produce the movie Meteor and all subsequent movies of that ilk. When Worlds Collide lacked the prevention element, which Project Icarus supplied. Bad Astronomy implies that Hollywood came up with the idea of asteroid interception instead.

    I wrote a brief article on Project Icarus, with illustrations, for the National Association of Rocketry's Sport Rocketry magazine, and it was published in the March/April 2000 issue (pages 6-11). The grad students were given the task of finding a way to deflect the asteroid Icarus, scheduled to bypass Earth in mid-1968 but here assumed to be on the verge of impact (impact date: June 14, 1968). The multidisciplinary group settled on using a number of Saturn V launch vehicles and 100-megaton H-bombs to solve the problem.

    Finding copies of MIT Press's Project Icarus is difficult now, as the last edition was published in 1979 and it has gone out of print, apparently forever. If you can find a copy on e-Bay, get it soon.

    If there is interest in this topic, I can reproduce a longer version of my article here. I cannot reproduce the illustrations showing details of the Icarus/Saturn V launch vehicle or the Icarus interceptor spacecraft, as they were done by someone else and are copyrighted by Peter Alway and the National Association of Rocketry. You can get extra copies of the issue, however, from the NAR (do not confuse this with the NRA).

    Adding mention of Project Icarus (not my article, but the original MIT work) should be made on pages 139-140 in the book. That's my two pennies.

  2. #2
    (For the heck of it, here is the first part of the long version of my Project Icarus article, with footnote markers in square brackets. I can include the footnotes themselves later as resource material.)

    ===================

    EARTH IS SAVED! Remembering the Icarus/Saturn V Asteroid Interceptor

    A Science-Fiction/Future (F/F) Scale Rocketry Project

    By Roger E. Moore, NAR #70129


    Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many missions and modifications were considered for the Saturn V, by NASA and the contractors who built the famous moon rocket. However, one important possible use of the Saturn V was devised not by NASA or the aerospace industry, but by graduate students at MIT. It is unlikely that many readers will have heard of Project Icarus, the precursor of present-day studies on how to intercept an asteroid or comet on a collision course with Earth. This MIT study was widely reported in the media of the time, was published in paperback form in two printings (1968 and 1979), and is historically significant, though it is now almost forgotten.

    This article looks back at this grandfather of all “stop the killer asteroid!” works of fiction and science. Scale plans for a flying or static model of the proposed Icarus/Saturn V asteroid interceptor and launch vehicle are provided, with suggestions on construction and display.


    Cosmic Impact: Fact

    As the science of astronomy has grown, so too has grown scientific and public awareness of the possibility that a cosmic body could disastrously collide with Earth. Such awareness has come in spurts, usually following some related scientific announcement in the mass media that generates considerable attention from science-fiction authors. The interplay between science and science fiction on this topic is considerable. [1]

    The idea that a large and dangerous object might fall to Earth is not new. Falls of meteorites have been reported for centuries, but they were finally accepted as factual only after 1800. [2] Since the late 1800s at least, amateur and professional astronomers have reported seeing “bright objects” or “dark meteors”—fast-moving bodies seen to track across the evening sky in a manner indicating they were likely Earth-grazing asteroids or meteoroids. “Dark meteors” are small bodies seen crossing the face of the Moon; one was spotted as recently as January 1991. [3] Studies of ancient impact craters around the world have continued since the early 1900s, with a strong focus on craters in the Canadian Shield, the Carolinas, and Arizona (Barringer crater). [4]

    Actual impacts and related events in this century have been remarkable. A very large meteorite crashed into Siberia in June 1908 (the Tunguska Event), followed by a second in February 1947, devastating the wilderness for thousands of square miles around each impact site. [5] Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet in 1910, an event that proved harmless. Discovery of the Apollo asteroids, from 1932 onward, added a new dimension to this problem, as these asteroids cross the orbit of Earth. The asteroid 1937 UA Hermes, for example, was found to have come within 500,000 miles of Earth in 1937, less than twice the distance to the Moon, with the potential to come much closer than that. [6]

    The dawn of the Space Age did nothing to reduce such concerns; if anything, it made them worse. Unmanned spacecraft in the 1960s revealed the crater-battered surfaces of the Moon and Mars. Increasing numbers of astronomers began to speculate about the consequences of a giant impact on human civilization and all life on Earth. [7] For example, scientists Dandridge Cole and Donald Cox, writing in Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids (1964), proposed using nuclear weapons to change asteroids’ orbits, deflecting them from Earth. [8] A new flare of interest in the topic came prior to the computed fly-by of the asteroid Icarus in June 1968. After an Australian physicist, Dr. S. T. Butler, spoke out in July 1966 about the consequences of a collision with Icarus, the 1967 MIT Project Icarus study was conducted, though it swiftly faded from the public mind. (Project Icarus is detailed later.) [9]

    Interest in the consequences of asteroid impact has (forgive the pun) exploded in the latter third of this century. The year 1980 brought publication of the Alvarez-Michel meteor-impact theory of dinosaur extinction, sparked by the discovery of iridium in Cretaceous-Tertiary sediment. The idea that the dinosaurs had been killed off by a celestial impact gained great support with the discovery of the Chicxulub “dinosaur-killer” asteroid crater in the Mexican Yucatan, announced as such in 1991. [10] This spawned a number of serious impact studies, with humanity increasingly perceived as endangered in the long run. This subject resonated greatly with the “nuclear winter” studies investigating dramatic climatic changes following a massive thermonuclear exchange. [11]

    The number of Earth-grazing bodies sighted from the 1970s onward has increased rapidly with improved technological ability. [12] Near-misses by asteroids were recorded in 1972, 1989, 1991, and 1996 (twice); an actual strike of 10 kilotons power over the Pacific Ocean was detected by the USAF in October 1990. [13] An unforgettable demonstration of the power of celestial-body collisions was given by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which crashed into Jupiter in 1993; its astounding multiple impacts were widely witnessed and reported. [14] Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are now described and documented on the Internet, with the list of newly discovered threats growing every year. [15]

    Recently, the public was shaken by several (thankfully) incorrect reports by astronomers and the media that celestial bodies were going to hit Earth, including incidents involving Comet Swift-Tuttle in 1992 and asteroid 1997XF11 in March 1998. [16] Numerous scientific conferences have improved understanding of the problem, and cataclysmic impact is now seen by many as an unlikely but not insignificant possibility that must be given consideration because of the extreme consequences of a collision. References on the current scientific and political debate over impact detection and prevention are given in the appendix.


    Cosmic Impact: Fiction

    Imaginative writings about a cosmic collision with Earth were scarce but not unknown before the late 19th century. In this vein, Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” (pub. 1839). Following a series of 1890s magazine articles by French astronomer Camille Flammarion, more celestial impact stories appeared, such as “The Star” by H. G. Wells (1897). Flammarion tried his hand at writing a scientific romance about a cometary disaster, producing La fin du monde (1893-1894). [17]

    These early stories of impact disasters put humanity in a passive role, unable to prevent the cataclysm. As technology and science advanced, this perceived helplessness began to vanish. An example was When Worlds Collide (1933), by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie; the novel was made into a popular movie in 1951. Here, Earth is destroyed in a collision with a rogue planet, but a few humans escape on rockets to colonize a new world. [18]

    Just getting out of the way was not enough, however, once atomic weapons, computers, and space vehicles became reality. A tale of a far-future asteroid impact, A Torrent of Faces (1967) by James Blish and Norman Knight, has astronaut-miners blast away much of a large onrushing body before it strikes, greatly reducing its terrible effect. Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (1973) has humanity set up a vast network to detect approaching bodies after a collision destroys part of Italy. (The name for this fictional system, Spaceguard, was borrowed as the name for a real-world committee investigating this problem.) Four recent asteroid-impact movies—Meteor (1978), Deep Impact (1998), Armageddon (1998), and the NBC-TV movie Asteroid—depicted attempts to blast approaching bodies with nuclear devices or lasers. (The movie Meteor itself was directly inspired by Project Icarus.) Still, humanity is not always able to prevent cataclysm and suffers the consequences, as in the 1977 comet-crash novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer. [19]

    A nasty sideline to the above concerns the proposed use of asteroids and other celestial bodies as weapons, deliberately crashing them into inhabited worlds. This idea was explored two SF novels by Niven and Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) and Footfall (1996); in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966); in Stephen Baxter’s Titan (1997), and even in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series (Children of the Lens, 1954 and earlier). This idea has even been considered in the real world, and it has made many people rightfully uncomfortable, as the negative consequences of using such power destructively cannot be predicted. Some authors suggest that we are not very far from gaining the power to try this in real life, but—given the existence of Project Icarus—it is reasonable to assume that the basic knowledge and tools required for such a military operation have been in existence for over 30 years. Certainly, given the recent soft-landing of a robotic spacecraft on the asteroid Eros, the United States has the technological know-how to accomplish this, though the asteroid’s course after deflection could not be accurately charted. It might land on us as well as anyone else. [20]

    Now, on to Project Icarus.

    (I'll stop here.)

  3. #3
    (Oh, what the heck.)

    ----------------

    Footnotes (with shortened attributions)

    1. Chapman, website; Clute and Nicholls, pages 337-339, 382-384.
    2. Asimov, page 146.
    3. Corliss, pages 279-281, 283-284, 499, 503-505, 507-508, 510-513, 515-519; Cox and Chestek, page 39.
    4. Asimov, pages 147-148; Cox and Chestek, page 37; Enever, pages 10-13, 16, 25; Kobres, website.
    5. Asimov, pages 140-141; Baxter and Atkins, passim; Corliss, Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena, pages 19, 56-57, 59-60, 140; Cox and Chestek, pages 17, 32-33.
    6. Asimov, page 144; Milton, pages 240-241.
    7. Chapman, website.
    8. Cox and Chestek, page 150.
    9. Chapman, website; Kobres, website.
    10. Cox and Chestek, pages 76-92. For more information, see: Alvarez, T. rex and the Crater of Doom, passim.
    11. Ehrich et al., page 5.
    12. Cox and Chestek, page 38.
    13. Asimov, page 144; Cox and Chestek, pages 30, 34, 39, 58-59, 97, 298.
    14. Chapman, website; Cox and Chestek, pages 111, 282-285; Eicher, pages 40-45. For more information, see: Spencer and Mitton, The Great Comet Crash, passim.
    15. Cox and. Chestek, pages 112, 297, 317-328. The Internet address given on page 112 is out of date now; go instead to: http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/index.html, “Asteroid Comet Impact Hazards,” maintained by the NASA Ames Space Sciences Division. Of great value are “The NEO Page,” from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. (http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/lau/NEO/TheNEOPage.html), which has an extensive NEO list, and the “Near Earth Asteroid Tracking” home page, mentioned in Cox and Chestek, page 297 (http://huey.jpl.nasa.gov/~spravdo/neat.html), managed through NASA’s JPL center.
    16. Chapman, website; Cox and Chestek, pages 121-124.
    17. Clute and Nicholls, pages 337-339, 382-384, 432. Martin Gardner, in Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (chapter 3, “Near-Earth Objects,” pages 29-39), names several other early cosmic-impact and near-impact tales from science fiction, most of them little known today. Two appear to have anticipated the use of manmade explosions to deflect an oncoming planetoid (Arthur Train and Robert Wood’s novel, The Moon Maker (pub. 1916), and Isaac Nathanson’s “The Falling Planetoid,” from the April 1930 issue of Science Wonder Stories).
    18. Clute and Nicholls, page 1320; Balmer and Wylie, passim.
    19. Chapman, website; Blish and Knight, passim; Clarke, passim; Clute and Nicholls, page 61; Cox and Chestek, pages 17-18, 21; Niven and Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer, passim; Project Icarus, cover. There is a highly entertaining website, Bad Astronomy (by Phil Plait, updated 2 November 1998, at: http://www.badastronomy.com/) that has a detailed critique of the NBC TV-movie Asteroid. It’s worth reading. See also Gardner, Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (pages 29-39).
    20. Chapman, website; Heinlein, passim; Langford, pages 114-123; Niven and Pournelle, Footfall, passim; Niven and Pournelle, The Mote in God’s Eye, passim; Baxter, pages 507-517, 528-559 (passim), Smith, passim. At the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in January 1962, space visionary Dandridge Cole, then of General Electric’s Missile and Space Vehicle Development Department, proposed the use of a cis-Martian asteroid as an impact bomb. Citing the possibility that the Soviets might be working toward the same goal and able to achieve it by 1970, he outlined a plan whereby a manned vehicle would be launched by Nova (i.e., Saturn-V class) rocket toward a three-mile-diameter, 500-billion-ton asteroid. Once there, the crew would plant hydrogen-bomb charges capable of blasting the body toward Earth, where it would come down upon an enemy nation with which the United States was at war. The size of the explosion was estimated to be about one million megatons, twice the power of an Icarus collision per the Project Icarus study. Guidance of the asteroid bomb was not discussed (Missiles and Rockets, January 22, 1962, page 10; Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 29, 1962, page 89). The information and technology required to push an asteroid away from Earth are identical in all respects to those required to push one toward Earth.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2005-Oct-03 at 01:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quite interesting, but I'm afraid that Bad Astronomy has gone out of print. Perhaps in the second book that is in the works now...

    BTW, welcome to the board.

  5. #5
    Ouch. Well, thank you for the welcome, and here's hoping that Bad Astronomy will be with us once again. The book, I meant, not.... oh, never mind.

  6. #6
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    Don't worry. A second book is in the works now. Just give it a while. :wink:

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Supreme Canuck
    Don't worry. A second book is in the works now. Just give it a while. :wink:
    Has the BA made an announcement or is this just speculation?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickal555
    Quote Originally Posted by The Supreme Canuck
    Don't worry. A second book is in the works now. Just give it a while. :wink:
    Has the BA made an announcement or is this just speculation?
    It's in the works.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    COOL 8) 8) 8)

  10. #10
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    Speculation abounds!!

  11. #11
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    I posted this site on phsylink and asked for it's accuracy.
    It is a site that shows the Earth's Timeline in 1my increments. Read the comments by the author. Psylink offered debunk but I would love to have someone here take a look....

    IS THIS BAD ASTRONOMY?

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7615/EARTH.html

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by skwirlinator
    I posted this site on phsylink and asked for it's accuracy.
    It is a site that shows the Earth's Timeline in 1my increments. Read the comments by the author. Psylink offered debunk but I would love to have someone here take a look....

    IS THIS BAD ASTRONOMY?

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7615/EARTH.html
    It looks really good to me overall if you ignore the bits about exploding planets and asteroids and the whole Velikovskian paragraph about time 0. But those bits are definitely out of the mainstream.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  13. #13
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    I was impressed by how many increments. I actually considered printing it out for my son to take to his high school science class. Didn't have a drum full of ink and a paper mill tho.

    if you ignore the bits about exploding planets and asteroids and the whole Velikovskian paragraph about time 0.
    Pretty close to the response I recieved at psylink!

    =D>

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Quote Originally Posted by skwirlinator
    I posted this site on phsylink and asked for it's accuracy.
    It is a site that shows the Earth's Timeline in 1my increments. Read the comments by the author. Psylink offered debunk but I would love to have someone here take a look....

    IS THIS BAD ASTRONOMY?

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7615/EARTH.html
    It looks really good to me overall if you ignore the bits about exploding planets and asteroids and the whole Velikovskian paragraph about time 0. But those bits are definitely out of the mainstream.
    Yeah

    I kinda wonder how he got that much right, and yet still managed, to have that Mindless Drivel, at the End.

    Ya' think he would notice how Bad the Fit is, between the HUGE Timescale, on the One Hand, and the TINY Time Span of Catastrophe, at the End.

    My guess, two Different Authors, anyone have any idea, as to where we can find, the Original version?

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    I think there's a link at the bottom for his resource but if I remember right its a dead link 404 at the main site.
    You may be able to find out more by surfing the main site...if you care to.

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    I actually considered printing it out for my son to take to his high school science class.
    Just think what a timeline of the universe would look like. Tape the pages end to end and take that to school. I bet it would open some eyes!

    Take that and figure in the distance for each 1m light years. Write the distance a photon has traveled at each entry. Now print the ending figure out in long form/ in feet. Tape that number side to side. How much area would that take up in Sq in?
    Divide that by pi to the 10th and add 3
    what you get as a result is the mathmatical equivelent of a migraine
    LoL!
    Giggle roll and slap leg!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by skwirlinator
    I actually considered printing it out for my son to take to his high school science class.
    Just think what a timeline of the universe would look like. Tape the pages end to end and take that to school. I bet it would open some eyes!
    It would only be about three times the size of this one.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    appx 14 by? I thought that age was under serious debate. Something about space curvature and Hyper torus or something. Supposed to be comming out to like 25by

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by skwirlinator
    appx 14 by? I thought that age was under serious debate. Something about space curvature and Hyper torus or something. Supposed to be comming out to like 25by
    13,701,483,324

    (Well, I added some precision, but you get the idea.... )
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    earth's timeline

    I created the web site’s timeline you are talking about. Originally I created the timeline on a roll of adding machine tape. The year along with a one or two word description beside the number was listed down the entire roll. That idea didn’t work out to well because people did not have the patience to scroll through the entire roll. Since placing the time line on the web, another person has come up with the idea of putting the timeline on a roll of toilet paper. I think that idea is an excellent one and looks very impressive when rolled out on the school’s science hallway.
    I agree that Velikovsky’s theory has problems. But, I strongly believe that his premise is correct: A world wide catastrophe occurred during the time of the exodus that erased much of human history. I can’t understand how people feel comfortable believing that wandering tribes of primitive people got together one day and built the pyramids. There had to be a long history of societal development and scientific discovery before the pyramids could be built, and that history is missing. The same thing is true all over the globe: recorded history starts at about the same point in time.

  21. #21
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    Re: earth's timeline

    Welcome to the BABB, Tim123!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim123
    [edit]I agree that Velikovsky’s theory has problems.
    Like violating just about every principle of physics, and heaping unlikely on top of improbable?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim123
    But, I strongly believe that his premise is correct: A world wide catastrophe occurred during the time of the exodus that erased much of human history. I can’t understand how people feel comfortable believing that wandering tribes of primitive people got together one day and built the pyramids. There had to be a long history of societal development and scientific discovery before the pyramids could be built, and that history is missing. The same thing is true all over the globe: recorded history starts at about the same point in time.
    "...wandering tribes of primitive people got together one day and built the pyramids"? The structures at Giza didn't happen in a day, or even a few years. The many earlier pyramids of the preceding dynasties, built over a time span of more than 500 years, demonstrate the evolution of the builders' techniques, including a few failures along the way.

    Velikovsky's tract is just a faintly disguised biblical apologetic with some shaky astronomical ideas thrown in to make it look scientific to the uninformed.

  22. #22
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    Re: earth's timeline

    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    Welcome to the BABB, Tim123!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim123
    [edit]I agree that Velikovsky’s theory has problems.
    Like violating just about every principle of physics, and heaping unlikely on top of improbable?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim123
    But, I strongly believe that his premise is correct: A world wide catastrophe occurred during the time of the exodus that erased much of human history. I can’t understand how people feel comfortable believing that wandering tribes of primitive people got together one day and built the pyramids. There had to be a long history of societal development and scientific discovery before the pyramids could be built, and that history is missing. The same thing is true all over the globe: recorded history starts at about the same point in time.
    "...wandering tribes of primitive people got together one day and built the pyramids"? The structures at Giza didn't happen in a day, or even a few years. The many earlier pyramids of the preceding dynasties, built over a time span of more than 500 years, demonstrate the evolution of the builders' techniques, including a few failures along the way.

    Velikovsky's tract is just a faintly disguised biblical apologetic with some shaky astronomical ideas thrown in to make it look scientific to the uninformed.
    Even more Importantly ...

    As hard as the Pyramids are to Fathom, the Idea of the Planets Moving Around, anywhere Near, THAT Much, is Even Harder to Fathom!

    Face it, it's Bunk, The Timeline Works, Up Until The Historical Period; Why Ruin it, with All That, Woo-Woo Garbage?

  23. #23
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    Re: Things to add to the next BA edition

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore
    I wrote a brief article on Project Icarus, with illustrations,
    For anyone looking for more information on Project Icarus, this article by Dwayne Day has some aditional background plus some further comments on Meteor!

    Also it would appear that the MIT study may still be available.

    Graham

  24. #24
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    Know what I'd like to see in the second BA book that isn't in the first? Two things:

    1. A chapter on Planet X. Hey, if it has its own forum on this board, why not its own chapter in a book?

    2. A description of what really happens to a human body exposed to a vacuum. Many a sci-fi movie has gotten that wrong, and someone like the BA ought to inform the public about it.

    - Maha Vailo

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