Survivor: Oh great—now what?
Scientists warn that the only way to avoid total extinction would be to somehow divert the offending asteroid into a different orbit, therefore altering its path into a collision course with something less vital, like, say… New Jersey.
Until recently, experts believed that the only way to accomplish this would be through the use of nuclear missiles. These missiles could be launched from space and lodged into the asteroid, where they would remain undetonated until reaching the precise location astrophysicists determine would be far enough away to safely deflect the asteroid while, at the same time, still being close enough to scare the pants off of everyone on Earth.
However, a recent study suggests that there might be a more practical way of handling the situation by simply having someone go up and paint the asteroid white.
Wanted: commercial painter. must enjoy air travel. experience with spray gun preferred; will consider brush and roller if time allows.
According to an article in Science magazine, changing the surface temperature of an asteroid can lead to a dramatic shift in orbit by creating an uneven release of heated gas known as the “Yarkovsky Effect.” As an illustration, this very same phenomenon has been observed in my own home, where it is known as the “franks and beans” effect; and Yes, in both cases there was a notable shift in orbiting bodies.
If it comes down to it, there are essentially three ways of changing temperatures of an asteroid.
The first, as I mentioned, would be to actually paint a large section of the asteroid white. Or maybe even a nice mauve or fuchsia. This would not only induce the Yarkovsky Effect, it could potentially save the entire planet. More importantly, it could also be the first step toward adding some much needed color to what many agree is a really drab solar system.
However, we need to remember that painting an asteroid isn’t without its drawbacks.
For example: What if we get the thing painted, then decide we don’t like the color? Unless we can talk someone into going back, we’ll be stuck looking at a giant, orbiting eyesore.
Of course, this is assuming we can get paint to work in zero gravity in the first place. Even with gravity, it’s hard enough not to lose half the paint down your arm while trying to paint the ceiling. Now try doing it while flying through the air at 800 mph and trying to keep your Dutch Boy from floating away in the shape of an orb. Even if we were able to develop a special paint with its own super-gravitational pull strong enough to overcome the vacuum of space, who’s going to lift it?
As you can see from this live ABC remote, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan have just put on their painters caps and are entering the space capsule….
Our second option, according to Joseph Spitale of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, would be to “put a lot of dirt on the asteroid.” Apparently, this would change the temperature and aerodynamics of the asteroid enough to potentially cause an orbital shift.
Now, I’m no scientist, but wouldn’t adding tons of dirt also make the asteroid BIGGER?
The good news is that we successfully added an extra 60 tons of dirt to the asteroid. The bad news is that we’ve doubled its size and, consequently, doomed all of mankind. Still, we’d like to thank our premier sponsor, Bill’s Gravel and Dirt….
This leaves us with our third and final option, which is to send a specially trained team of astronauts into space in order to intercept the asteroid and shift its orbit by heating it with a giant hair dryer.
Okay, that’s just a subtle way of saying there IS no third option.
Unless you include nuclear missiles.
Which is about the only way of guaranteeing that we can, once and for all, kiss our asteroids good bye.
(You can write to Ned Hickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Or. 97439)