A Few Things Ill Considered

Fun with asteroids

I haven’t played Asteroids(tm) since the days when Atari was computer games King and 124K was an incredible amount of memory. And before any young gamers out there laugh at what an old geezer I must be, I will insist that that says much more about how fast computers have evolved than it does about how old I may or may not be!

But as the subject of asteroids was raised here in the comments recently, I thought I might play a climate customized version of that game today.

Before we get started, I would like to answer crakar’s referenced comment seriously because it may indeed resonate with some folks out there unfamiliar with the standard distractions we deal with all the time in the climate wars. If climate advocates want to engage in outreach, we really must avoid coming off as too dismissive of anything that someone somewhere might sincerely believe or even be inclined to believe. Immediately after, I will break the rule I just defined and have little fun (sorry crakar!).

The argument is something like this:

Taking actions towards mitigating climate change in the face of an uncertain future and imperfect models is invoking the Precautionary Principle. Similarily, we know there is a risk of an asteroid strike ELE though we can not predict when or where such a strike will occur. Now, if the world really took the precautionary principle seriously there would be well-stocked underground bunkers all over the place to ensure the survival of the human race. There aren’t, and climate advocates don’t call for constructing these, therefore the world should not try to avert warming and we are hypocrites for advocating doing so.

The argument is a failure on many levels, the most striking of which is the fact that the search for killer asteroids is very active and discussions of what to do if one is identified in time are serious and ongoing. And although bunkers for the masses have not been built, bunkers for our fearless leaders to hide in have been. (warning: unvetted link from a lazy google search!). Alot of money goes into these endeavours (granted underground bunkers are good for nuclear armageddon too). As providence would have it, I recently came across a lovely animation showing just how many asteroids have been discovered and orbits plotted in the last 50 years, have a look!

But that failure aside, we can also argue that two wrongs don’t make a right, so if humanity is failing on the killer asteroid issue why does that mean it is okay to fail on climate change? Another easy objection is that action on mitigating climate change is not simply money tossed down the drain if it turns out that some magic negative feedback or magic techno-pixie dust will dial down the global thermostat just in the nick of time. Weaning ouselves off of oil has to happen sooner or later and coal burning produces plenty of other pollutants and problems.


The relative risks are also very different. The odds of a large asteroid impact are in the order of 1 in thousands or even hundreds of thousands over the next century. Dramatic global warming is a certainty, though the consequences are as hard to define as they are very likely to be badly negative. And finally, there are many issues one can agitate about and just because I, or any other individual, have chosen to focus on climate change does not imply anything about my awareness of or concern for other dangers or injustices.

Okay, lecture over, how about the fun I mentioned? I thought it might be a kick to apply a climate denialist mindset to the issue of an asteroid impact. What arguments might the likes of Lord Monckton make? What junkscience would come from The Heartland institute? Let’s say that we have one monster in our sights set to strike in 2020.

I’ll start off with a couple of easy ones:

“Asteroid strikes are completely natural and have occured many times in the past! In fact, humans would never have evolved to what we are today without them.”

“Asteroids are great sources of mineral wealth, the more the merrier.”

Bonus points for complexity, opacity and equations!


  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    August 31, 2010

    Impacts, like the one that created the Barringer Crater in Arizona, help the earthworms stir up the topsoil, and therefore helps agriculture…

  2. #2 jyyh
    August 31, 2010

    The consistency of the said impactor hasn’t been probed. It may well disband itself for the fluctuating gravitational effects of the lunar tidal effects before it hits. Anyway the costs will be astronomical.

  3. #3 Chris S.
    August 31, 2010

    An asteroid strike killed the dinosaurs, the biggest dinos were herbivores and ate lots, thus asteroids are good for plants.

  4. #4 Chad
    August 31, 2010


    Anyway the costs will be astronomical.

    An unintentional pun?

    I’ve got one:
    This “asteroid” may not even exist. Did the astronomers remember to clean their telescope’s lenses? Some speculate that an asteroid impact “seeded” the Earth with simple self-replicating organisms making life on Earth possible. You alarmists call it a catastrophe waiting to happen, we call it LIFE. Back to the astronomers: How did they do their calculations? I hope they didn’t use Newtonian mechanics because everyone, even my 5-year old, knows that Newton was debunked by Einstein. I want their data and code so I can do an unbiased audit. What? They wrote the code in Fortran? I hope they kept their punch cards in order. What was that? They did the calculations with both Newtonian and Relativistic mechanics and found the difference “doesn’t matter”? Well, everyone knows that general relativity was debunked by quantum and string theory, so there’s no real reliable way for us to know now is there?

  5. #5 Byron Smith
    August 31, 2010

    There’s no meteor strike hitting my backyard last time I looked.

    It would be cheaper to adapt to catastrophic impacts. We are very good at adapting. Why spend billions of dollars on unproven technologies in the hope of avoiding the situation when it might still hit us anyway?

    And just who, pray tell, is warning us of this coming apocalypse? The very same NASA hippies who warn us about climate change!

  6. #6 skip
    August 31, 2010

    Or as Paul in MN would argue, the sooner the asteroid hits the better, because then it would *force* the adaptations necessary for affected populations. Nonetheless, if we acted *now* to address killer asteroids, the resulting reduction in prosperity would kill more people than any number of asteroids.

    Ergo, do nothing about asteroids.

  7. #7 skip
    August 31, 2010

    Impacts, like the one that created the Barringer Crater in Arizona, help the earthworms stir up the topsoil, and therefore helps agriculture… Birger

    Also very true! Its obvious the earth is asteroid-starved.

  8. #8 mandas
    August 31, 2010

    The orbits of asteroids are based on model predictions, and we all know that models are notoriously inaccurate.

  9. #9 mandas
    August 31, 2010

    There are no telescopes within 1,200km of any asteroid.

  10. #10 Chad
    August 31, 2010

    These telescopes may not even be seeing asteroids. When they open up the roofs, that has to let a gust of wind into the lab. This kicks up dust and that’s what they’re seeing as asteroids. Call it the laboratory dust island effect.

  11. #11 crakar24
    August 31, 2010


    I would have thought you would have more important things on your mind at the moment than take the piss out of me :-))

    One thing i have learned is that not only is Mandas a very sad man he is also a very funny one…..not.

    Stick to your day job Mandas.

    I was going to say who cares as Apophis will only hit the USA but as you can see below it looks like it might take out Mexico instead (there is no God).


    I am surprised no one mentioned that it could be made out of 100% unobtainium and if we launch a few bottle rockets at it we could collect the unobtainium as it gently falls to earth and thus give us a clean alternative to coal and gas.

    Conversely it could be made of soot or something similar and after the bottle rockets do their job it would settle in the upper atmosphere and act as a natural geoengineering mechanism.

    Of course we could deflect it with our bottle rockets into the heart of the sun causing the sun to dim slightly (another form of geoengineering).

    We could just let it take out Mexico killing billions of people in the process much to the cheers of the green eco terrorists thus saving them from introducing their ZPG policies although this would come at a cost to all the little fury animals that get burnt to crisp but as they say there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Just thought of another one, if we do the maths right we could get it to take out the Moon thereby not only changing the tides but also the Earth’s tilt and precession thus eliminating the possiblity of another ice age and the climate will be steady as rock for eternity just as nature intended.

  12. #12 mandas
    August 31, 2010

    Asteroids are nothing to worry about. They originally came from the Earth when water was ejected into space as part of the hydrological processes that caused the great flood, and are composed of mostly empty space and small quantities of water and dust.

    source: http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/Asteroids.html

    I know this guy is a creationist, but his views on creationism and/or intelligent design should not affect what we think of him. We should focus on the science in his paper.

  13. #13 crakar24
    August 31, 2010

    I get it, Spencer…..creation…..ID, i take back what i said about you not being funny Mandas.

  14. #14 crakar24
    August 31, 2010

    I know this is the wrong place but i cant remember where to put it (feel free to move Coby)


    The Greens have done a deal with Labor, now called the watermelon party, the major policy effected is the carbon tax. Labor 74 seats Liberal 73 (76 needed) with 3 independants swinging in the middle.

    Question is will this push the 3 rural independants towards or away from Labor

  15. #15 natual cynic
    August 31, 2010

    Jesus is riding the asteroid and we should welcome the Apocalypse.

    And the Atari 2600 used 128K of memory.

  16. #16 crakar24
    September 1, 2010

    NC @ 15,

    Reminded me of Slim Pickings riding the nuke down to the ground in Dr …something or other?

  17. #17 adelady
    September 1, 2010

    Come on crakar, you’re having me on.

    One of the best images from one of the best films of all time? Take care of those precious bodily fluids, now.

  18. #18 coby
    September 1, 2010

    How embarassing, I’ve forgotten the powers of 2! 124K indeed…

  19. #19 coby
    September 1, 2010

    Here’s another for the game:

    “The average asteroid is only 100kms across, whereas the earth is over 12000. Clearly an asteroid can have no detectable effect on the earth.”

  20. #20 Dappledwater
    September 1, 2010

    Crakar @14 – no attempts to derail this thread. This is serious, we’re trying to see the world through the lens of denial. Consider it an experiment.

  21. #21 adelady
    September 1, 2010

    I don’t know why anyone’s fussing about this asteroid business. You’re doing it wrong!

    Watch this…… 1 Get telescope. 2 Turn telescope through 180. 3. Look through telescope. 4. There. No problem.

    You can hardly see it, it must be much further away than those silly people said.

  22. #22 skip
    September 1, 2010

    The asteroid “threat” is a conspiratorial contrivance by media and bureaucratic elites to frighten the populace into accepting a socialistic one-world government: “Start digging bunkers, comrades.”

  23. #23 adelady
    September 1, 2010

    Comrade nothing.

    You start digging and those lizard people will find a way out and enslave us.

  24. #24 mandas
    September 1, 2010

    Asteroids have occured all throughout history. During medieval times, they were quite common. In fact they have been recorded in the ancient texts of most cultures, and a comet is even shown in the Bayeux Tapestry. Here is a link with some info:

    Meteors and asteroids were so common back then, that astronomers call it the ‘Medieval Asteroid Period’, or MAP for short. This proves conclusively that if asteroids occured in the past in such great numbers, then they are obviously just a cyclical natural phenomenon, and are nothing to worry about now.

  25. #25 mandas
    September 1, 2010

    But if asteroids turn out to be a problem, then we need to develop some sort of defence against them.

    Asteroids are large rocks, so we need something to deflect them away from the Earth. I think the best thing we can do is to build a giant hockey stick to hit them away.

  26. #26 Michael Hauber
    September 1, 2010

    The distance between Earth and the Asteroid has actually been increasing since 1998.

    One volcanic eruption emits more Co2 than 10 years of Asteriod impacts.

    I saw an asteroid last night, and all it did was make a pretty little light in the sky for a second or two.

    The telescopes used to track this asteroid are near airports, and the vibration from the airplanes is making accurate location of the asteroid impossible.

    No one denies that the asteroid will impact with earth. However we disagree that it will have a catastrophic impact on earth. The assumption that an asteroid will have a catatrophic impact on earth rests on untested assumptions that the interaction of the asteroid with earth’s surface will have large postive feedbacks.

    The nuclear winter hypothesis has been shown to be overstated. Therefore its obvious that the government is exagerating the risks to charge an asteroid tax, and its calculations of its trajectory can’t be trusted either.

    First scientist say that the extreme heat from the asteroid impact will destroy everything near its impact point. They also state that dust knocked into the atmosphere will cool the earth. Therefore both cooling and heating are consistent with the asteroid hypothesis, meaning the hypothesis is unfalsifiable and not science.

    It is arrogant to think that puny man can affect almighty nature in any way. Therefore calls to deflect the asteroid are the deluded ravings of the space ship cult.

    The sun has always had more of an impact on the earth than asteroids. We should be fearing an ice age due to the current solar minimum more than we should be fearing an asteroid strike.

    Nature always acts to maintain earth in equilibrium. The approaching asteroid will be preceeded by shockwaves, which will act as points of condensation for clouds. The increased cloudiness will be natures way of protecting us from this asteroid.

    No one is making any attempt to deal with the climate change menace, so calls to deal with this looming asteroid impact are hypocritical.

  27. #27 coby
    September 2, 2010

    Well done, Michael! Nice wrap up too 🙂

    mandas, I like the hockey stick geoengineering approach 🙂

    And, btw, crakar, no, the upcoming big distraction has not arrived yet, so still have time to pick on you, thanks for being a sport about it!

  28. #28 Dappledwater
    September 2, 2010

    Whoa, great job Michael Hauber!.

    Mandas @ 25 – c’mon every skeptic knows that hockey sticks are broken, that won’t work. No, you deal with giant rocks with giant paper. Of course if a giant pair of scissors was hurtling toward the Earth, then the giant paper would be rendered ineffectual.

  29. #29 skip
    September 2, 2010

    I have no training in astronomy. I have never been published in a peer reviewed astronomical journal. I have never read a scientific article about asteroids.

    However, I am an expert on asteroids.

    The only reason my disproof of the asteroid threat is rejected by mainstream astronomy is because the gatekeepers of astronomical ‘knowledge’ subscribe to the monolithic asteroid-threat religion, which is really a cult of like-minded drones who parrot the sham ‘consensus’ to garner research money from a duped public.

    But they cannot silence me. For a more extensive and detailed disproof of the asteroid delusion please visit my website at


  30. #30 mandas
    September 2, 2010


    Re your post #29, I would have to ask what’s up with that?

  31. #31 Monado
    September 3, 2010

    Dude, a princippal is a person. You must mean Precautionary Principle.

  32. #32 Monado
    September 3, 2010

    Grr, sorry, meant to type, A principal is a person.” Murphy’s Law strikes again: “Any correction of a typo will have a typo in it.”

  33. #33 Monado
    September 3, 2010

    Skip, “To wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough to be persecuted. You must also be right.” Can you give us a precis of your reasoning?

  34. #34 coby
    September 3, 2010

    oops! How embarrassing…the evidence has been erased (exept for these comments, oh well)

  35. #35 jyyh
    September 4, 2010

    Yes, Chad, written before realising that 🙂 . I might add that any probing of the said impactor might affect adversely to it so any mitigation measures are useless since the probe alters the course of the asteroid.

  36. #36 skip
    September 8, 2010

    In this latest fraud, look how the asteroid paranoia cult at NASA twists even their own data to stir up asteroid panic:


    Even though

    The double encounter is an unusual event . . . [But] the objects don’t pose a threat to Earth . . .

    We see the *real* motivation for hyping this “near miss”:

    [We] don’t have the telescopes large enough to find them or surveys that are looking full-time,” [NASA spokesman Yeomans] said.

    “This demonstrates the system’s working on some level . . . . . . But we need larger telescopes and more of them to find objects that are coming this close.”

    Translation: “We want more research money.”

    The asteroid fear mongers are exploiting your irrational fear of asteroids to sluice your hard earned money for their pseudo=scientific racket.

  37. #37 skip
    September 8, 2010

    I would apologize about the formatting, but in fact its Coby and the asteroid-panic henchman trying to sabotage my truth.

    Resist the Asteroid World Religion!

  38. #38 mandas
    September 8, 2010

    I have writeen to NASA on numerous occasions to try and get the source code for all the models they use to predict asteroid paths, but they have not been forthcoming. As a result, I submitted approximately 50 FOI requests, but they have been stalling and resisting. They obviously have something to hide.

    I need the data for my paper entitled ‘Asteroids: a Cosmic Conspiracy’, which I have submitted for pulication in dozens of journals. But it gets rejected every time. I know that the head of NASA has told the editors of several journals that the paper should never be published. There is obviously a conspiracy to keep the truth from being printed, and the peer review process is plainly broken.

  39. #39 skip
    September 8, 2010

    The Heaven’s Gate cult designed their religion around an asteroid (comet technically . . . but work with me people).

    Therefore, only crazy people believe in asteroids.

  40. #40 crakar24
    September 8, 2010


    Wasnt the star that guided the 3 wise men also a comet or something, therefore you can add Christianity to your heavens gate cult. In fact Christianity is basically based on pagen rituals.


    We all know that NASA stands for Never A Straight Answer so what would you expect.

    I am a little bored so i will respond more to post 38, firstly Mandas we know a great deal about gravity and orbital escape velocities etc so i think it is a simple task to track and then predict the future flight path of an object as opposed to climate science were we have to fudge the numbers to get our models to work.

    Having said that Apophis is predicted to come close to striking the Earth however it has now travelled to the far side of the sun so we are not exactly sure what its flight path will be once it re appears as we do not know if other bodies will change its course.

    The Russians are taking this very seriously and want to emulate a hollywood movie just in case (precautionary principle) no one else seems to be all that concerned, but as Mandas is about to tell us the Russians are nut jobs too.

  41. #41 mandas
    September 8, 2010

    And I will add totally lacking in a sense of humour to my statements about you being a fucking moron.

  42. #42 skip
    September 9, 2010

    There are certain climate change zealots who deny that dingos are native to Australia.

    There exists a website which calls dingos “native” to Australia.

    Therefore only foolish people who deny the nativity of dingos to Australia believe in anthropogenic climate change.

  43. #43 skip
    September 9, 2010

    Oh right . . . asteroids.

    Dingos–which are native to Austrialia, according to the very credible government of New South Wales (unless they’re talking about climate change)– have coexisted with asteroids for millenia.

    Therefore asteroids cannot hurt dingos. Because humans introduced dingos (not that that violates dingos’ native status; see above), humans must also be immune to asteroids.

    Therefore asteroids are no threat.

  44. #44 crakar24
    September 9, 2010


    Your theory is flawed because Mandas has shown the NSW Govt web site you are referring to, to be in error.

    I think it is about time Mandas learnt a new swear word the term “fucking moron” is starting to lose its lustre. Can anybody suggest a new one for him?

  45. #45 mandas
    September 9, 2010


    Over at the thread on Monbiot, I said this:

    “….that tiny useless, lump of cells that inhabits your cranium…”

    Would that be a better way to describe you than the ‘fucking moron’?

  46. #46 skip
    September 9, 2010

    The purveyors of the asteroid-threat religion have bought stock in anti-asteroid technology such as bunker construction and/or space based interceptor missiles.

    Their hypocrisy proves that the threat is false.

  47. #47 adelady
    September 9, 2010

    All this alarmism about asteroids is counter-productive.

    Come on, people, look for the positives. There’ll be new materials for industry and lots of very interesting topics for academic study. All you white-coated boffins should be pleased about that.

    And there’ll be great post-impact business opportunities if we position ourselves to take advantage of them.

  48. #48 crakar AKA Fucking Moron
    September 11, 2010

    Think about all the new life that could be in that asteriod, hey would this life be considered Native or introduced?

  49. #49 skip AKA lapdog
    September 12, 2010


    Native, of course!

    The cosmic panspermia theory says life on Earth could have arisen from organic material deposited by asteroids.

    As to whether life thus originated satisfies the definition of “native” I will leave to this self-evident link I found on the New South Wales government website:


    This website proves that my position on the matter is correct–unless it doesn’t, in which case it only demonstrates the inferiority of the website.

    Some might claim this link does not “exist”. However, if it does not in fact, exist, it proves all the more that I am right, as a nonexistent website could not possibly disprove my position.

  50. #50 crakar24
    September 12, 2010

    49, Skip a lapdog does not make the sound “WOOF” it makes the sound “yap, yap , yap” as it dancers around the feet of its owner.

    41, “And I will add totally lacking in a sense of humour to my statements about you being a fucking moron.” Yeah i got that i laughed my head off when you started in on me with your “Kneel at my feet peasant for i am superior” attitude, in fact i am still laughing so no i dont lack any sense of humour.

  51. #51 skip
    September 13, 2010


    I am an Ayn Randian superman. My truth is my own reason and will. I am subordinate to no man; nor do I ask any others’ subordination.

    The sniveling mediocrities who resent my prowess are using state-sponsored action against the asteroid threat as a way to destroy my achievements.

    However, I will not live as a slave. I will stop the motor of the world before I let the collectivist cannibals feed of my greatness with their asteroid pretext.

    (Reading the latest biography of Rand and couldn’t resist. Yap yap.)

  52. #52 mandas
    September 13, 2010

    Despite all the protestations and discussions to the contrary, I own a cattle dog – blue heeler – by the name of Ernie.

    He definitely goes ‘woof’, not yap.

  53. #53 Chris S.
    September 14, 2010

    Wrong thread I know but I can’t be bothered to find the ‘correct’ one.

    Looks like Trenberth’s travesty could be explained: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n9/full/ngeo938.html

    If there’s less SLR due to isostatic adjustments being incorrect then that could mean there more SLR due to thermal expansion, thus more of the ‘missing’ heat accounted for.

    Not sure if anyone’s done the calculations yet but it does seem feasible?

  54. #54 skip
    September 14, 2010


    Former space program officer Chris Kraft:

    “The space program . . . is a travesty for . . . the United States.”

    These are the exact words used. Check the link. I only edited out superfluous “context”.

    This proves NASA is a “travesty” and that asteroids pose no threat.

  55. #55 crakar24
    September 14, 2010

    I had a red heeler once who was infact more Dingo than anything else and he could neither woof or yap which some may think was a good thing except when there was a full moon he used to howl, usually at about 3 AM.


    Do they factor in magma flows when they measure gravity?

    By my calculations SLR will not be a problem when the asteriod hits as it will vapourize many giga tons of sea water thus reducing sea levels way below current levels. Therefore confirming asteroids pose no threat and NASA is all but a travesty.

    On the other hand the asteroid may hit land in which case we can use NASA’s bloated budget to deflect it into the sea thereby saving the planet whilst simultaneously raising NASA’s status from “travesty” to “Has its moments”.

  56. #56 skip
    September 15, 2010

    Furthermore, there is a log linear relationship between the damage the asteroid will inflict and its size, so the larger the asteroid, the less additional damage it will do.

    But there’s more. The residence time of an asteroid in the atmosphere decreases with its size and velocity, as it moves faster. The problem thus ends more quickly the larger the asteroid.

  57. #58 skip
    October 1, 2010

    The Medieval Asteriod Maximum Anomaly (MAMA!) shows that the current threat of asteroids is neither unusual nor threatening.

    What? You want evidence of MAMA?

    Well, what proof do you have that there was *not* a MAMA?

  58. #59 skip
    October 13, 2010

    As asteroids are denser than air molecules, they will have already settled to the surface of the earth by now, and everyone knows that all available instruments detect no asteroids.

  59. #60 skip
    October 13, 2010

    Furthermore, a very informative experiment is to fill a vast balloon with asteroids and see what happens.

  60. #61 crakar24
    October 13, 2010

    We could set up giant CO2 scrubbers on the top of volcanos (as that is where all the CO2 is), by doing this we could control the weather. All the CO2 collected could be used to fill ginormous balloons, when released these balloons would float on the winds throughout the atmosphere and deflect any incoming asteriods.

  61. #62 skip
    November 8, 2010

    The concentration of small asteroids and large asteroids has been converging. Even though the asteroids are increasing in frequency, they are less larger, or more smaller, or something.

    I’ve taken down giants; watch the asteroid myth crumble by the time I’m done with it.

    (First let me fix the wicki link.)

  62. #63 skip
    November 30, 2010

    Asteroids are only a threat if they contain flouride.

  63. #64 skip
    November 30, 2010

    excuse me . . .


  64. #65 coby
    November 30, 2010


  65. #66 skip
    January 10, 2011

    There is no evidence that summer AstMax has increased in the 20th century–whether in southern Canada, Melbourne, or Perth and thus the trend holds for the globe.

    I bet Judith Curry would find this interesting.

  66. #68 skip
    April 20, 2012

    Joe Romm says natural market forces will solve the asteroid problem, and that’s good news–not that I’m saying I agree with Joe Romm, mind you. Besides, if you have not done your homework then there is no point discussing the matter on a mere blog–not that that this will prevent me from posting or discussing it.

    You might object that what I just wrote is utterly nonsensical. To that I respond that you are a kook and should learn to be more polite.

    On another matter, asteroids profit everyone. Can you tell me how?

  67. #69 JamesMadison
    April 21, 2012

    Quite funny.
    Quite illustrative.

    (And point taken)

    (In a live setting with people present, these types of prompting usually serve well to open up a discussion with each persons honest thoughts or mindset at the moment.)

  68. #70 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “On another matter, asteroids profit everyone. Can you tell me how?”

    Apparently, it can’t, skip.

    It can only demand explanations, never give one.