How a Nuclear Bomb Would Stop an Asteroid

Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have simulated exploding a one-megaton nuclear bomb against an asteroid 500 meters in diameter. The results are encouraging. 

What's the Latest Development?


The Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the nuclear weapon was first engineered, is running complex computer software to hedge against a worst case scenario for our planet: The discovery of an asteroid with an Earth-bound trajectory just months away from impact. Los Alamos scientists were encouraged by their findings that a one-megaton blast would disrupt all the rocks in an asteroid 500 meters in diameter. There might still remain the risk, however, that those smaller chuncks would fall to Earth with harmful consequences. 

What's the Big Idea?

The nuclear option is one of last resort, say workers at Los Alamos. Given more time to divert an asteroid's path, a spacecraft could be launched to travel alongside the space rock, gently changing its trajectory by using gravity. Over months or years, scientists could predictably alter the asteroid's path away from Earth. Another potential solution is a direct impact, slamming a satellite into the surface of the asteroid, much like the impactor which NASA sent hurtling at comet Tempel 1. The trajectory of an asteroid after such an impact, however, would be harder to predict. 

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Physicists puzzled by strange numbers that could explain reality

Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

Surprising Science
  • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
  • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
  • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less