Archive for the ‘asteroid/comet impacts’ category: Page 29

Apr 25, 2011

Cosmic Connection: How Astronomical Events Impact Life on Earth

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

As I remarked in my heartfelt endorsement for astronomer Jeff Kanipe’s fantastic book at, Dobzhansky noted,

One can argue that all environments are hostile, and that death and extinction are probable events, while survival is improbable. Just how life has managed to overcome this improbability is a problem which many biologists find challenging and fascinating. In my opinion, this problem may well be used as the framework on which to build the teaching of biology [1].

Building upon profound observations along these lines, readers may find that Kanipe offers some poetically illustrated support for my conjecture that this problem may well be used as the framework on which to build the teaching of every science — from biology to cosmology to economics to political science.

On the Origin of Mass Extinctions: Darwin’s Nontrivial Error offers a few choice previews from this beautiful, optimistic, and most highly recommended book!

Continue reading “Cosmic Connection: How Astronomical Events Impact Life on Earth” »

Apr 19, 2011

On the Problem of Sustainable Economic Development: A Game-Theoretical Solution

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, complex systems, cosmology, defense, economics, education, existential risks, finance, human trajectories, lifeboat, military, philosophy, sustainability

Perhaps the most important lesson, which I have learned from Mises, was a lesson located outside economics itself. What Mises taught us in his writings, in his lectures, in his seminars, and in perhaps everything he said, was that economics—yes, and I mean sound economics, Austrian economics—is primordially, crucially important. Economics is not an intellectual game. Economics is deadly serious. The very future of mankind —of civilization—depends, in Mises’ view, upon widespread understanding of, and respect for, the principles of economics.

This is a lesson, which is located almost entirely outside economics proper. But all Mises’ work depended ultimately upon this tenet. Almost invariably, a scientist is motivated by values not strictly part of the science itself. The lust for fame, for material rewards—even the pure love of truth—these goals may possibly be fulfilled by scientific success, but are themselves not identified by science as worthwhile goals. What drove Mises, what accounted for his passionate dedication, his ability to calmly ignore the sneers of, and the isolation imposed by academic contemporaries, was his conviction that the survival of mankind depends on the development and dissemination of Austrian economics…

Austrian economics is not simply a matter of intellectual problem solving, like a challenging crossword puzzle, but literally a matter of the life or death of the human race.

–Israel M. Kirzner, Society for the Development of Austrian Economics Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech, 2006

Continue reading “On the Problem of Sustainable Economic Development: A Game-Theoretical Solution” »

Apr 2, 2011

A (Relatively) Brief Introduction to The Principles of Economics & Evolution: A Survival Guide for the Inhabitants of Small Islands, Including the Inhabitants of the Small Island of Earth

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, complex systems, cosmology, defense, economics, existential risks, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, lifeboat, military, philosophy, sustainability

(NOTE: Selecting the “Switch to White” button on the upper right-hand corner of the screen may ease reading this text).

“Who are you?” A simple question sometimes requires a complex answer. When a Homeric hero is asked who he is.., his answer consists of more than just his name; he provides a list of his ancestors. The history of his family is an essential constituent of his identity. When the city of Aphrodisias… decided to honor a prominent citizen with a public funeral…, the decree in his honor identified him in the following manner:

Hermogenes, son of Hephaistion, the so-called Theodotos, one of the first and most illustrious citizens, a man who has as his ancestors men among the greatest and among those who built together the community and have lived in virtue, love of glory, many promises of benefactions, and the most beautiful deeds for the fatherland; a man who has been himself good and virtuous, a lover of the fatherland, a constructor, a benefactor of the polis, and a savior.
– Angelos Chaniotis, In Search of an Identity: European Discourses and Ancient Paradigms, 2010

I realize many may not have the time to read all of this post — let alone the treatise it introduces — so for those with just a few minutes to spare, consider abandoning the remainder of this introduction and spending a few moments with a brief narrative which distills the very essence of the problem at hand: On the Origin of Mass Extinctions: Darwin’s Nontrivial Error.

Continue reading “A (Relatively) Brief Introduction to The Principles of Economics & Evolution: A Survival Guide for the Inhabitants of Small Islands, Including the Inhabitants of the Small Island of Earth” »

Apr 14, 2010

Technology Readiness Levels for Non-rocket Space Launch

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, engineering, habitats, human trajectories, space

An obvious next step in the effort to dramatically lower the cost of access to low Earth orbit is to explore non-rocket options. A wide variety of ideas have been proposed, but it’s difficult to meaningfully compare them and to get a sense of what’s actually on the technology horizon. The best way to quantitatively assess these technologies is by using Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). TRLs are used by NASA, the United States military, and many other agencies and companies worldwide. Typically there are nine levels, ranging from speculations on basic principles to full flight-tested status.

The system NASA uses can be summed up as follows:

TRL 1 Basic principles observed and reported
TRL 2 Technology concept and/or application formulated
TRL 3 Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof-of concept
TRL 4 Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment
TRL 5 Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment
TRL 6 System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment (ground or space)
TRL 7 System prototype demonstration in a space environment
TRL 8 Actual system completed and “flight qualified” through test and demonstration (ground or space)
TRL 9 Actual system “flight proven” through successful mission operations.

Progress towards achieving a non-rocket space launch will be facilitated by popular understanding of each of these proposed technologies and their readiness level. This can serve to coordinate more work into those methods that are the most promising. I think it is important to distinguish between options with acceleration levels within the range human safety and those that would be useful only for cargo. Below I have listed some non-rocket space launch methods and my assessment of their technology readiness levels.

Continue reading “Technology Readiness Levels for Non-rocket Space Launch” »

Sep 25, 2009

Asteroid attack: Putting Earth’s defences to the test

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks

Peter Garretson from the Lifeboat Advisory Board appears in the latest edition of New Scientist:

“IT LOOKS inconsequential enough, the faint little spot moving leisurely across the sky. The mountain-top telescope that just detected it is taking it very seriously, though. It is an asteroid, one never seen before. Rapid-survey telescopes discover thousands of asteroids every year, but there’s something very particular about this one. The telescope’s software decides to wake several human astronomers with a text message they hoped they would never receive. The asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. It is the size of a skyscraper and it’s big enough to raze a city to the ground. Oh, and it will be here in three days.

Far-fetched it might seem, but this scenario is all too plausible. Certainly it is realistic enough that the US air force recently brought together scientists, military officers and emergency-response officials for the first time to assess the nation’s ability to cope, should it come to pass.

Continue reading “Asteroid attack: Putting Earth's defences to the test” »

Jun 19, 2009

Asteroid hazard in the context of technological development

Posted by in category: asteroid/comet impacts

Asteroid hazard in the context of technological development

It is easy to notice that the direct risks of collisions with asteroids decreases with technological development. First, they (or, exactly, our estimation of risks) decrease due to more accurate measurement of them — that is, at the expense of more accurate detection of dangerous asteroids and measurements of their orbits we could finally find that the real chance of impact is 0 in the next 100 year. (If, however, will be confirmed the assumption that we live during the episode of comet bombardment, the assessment of risk would increase 100 times to the background.) Second, it decreases due to an increase in our ability to reject asteroids.
On the other hand, the impact of falling asteroids become larger with time — not only because the population density increases, but also because the growing connectedness of the world system, resulting in that damage in one place can spread across the globe. In other words, although the probability of collisions is reducing, the indirect risks associated with the asteroid danger is increasing.
The main indirect risks are:
A) The destruction of hazardous industries in the place of the fall — for example, nuclear power plant. The entire mass of the station in such a case would evaporated and the release of radiation would be higher than in Chernobyl. In addition, there may be additional nuclear reactions because of sudden compression of the station when it is struck by asteroid. Yet the chances of a direct hit of an asteroid in the nuclear plants are small, but they grow with the growing number of stations.
B) There is a risk that even a small group of meteors, moving a specific angle in a certain place in the earth’s surface could lead to lunch of the system for the Prevention of rocket attacks and lead to an accidental nuclear war. Similar consequences could have a small air explosion of an asteroid (a few meters in size). The first option is more likely for developed superpowers system of warning (but which has flaws or unsecured areas in their ABM system, as in the Russian Federation), while the second — for the regional nuclear powers (like India and Pakistan, North Korea, etc.) which are not able to track missiles by radars, but could react to a single explosion.
C) The technology to drive asteroids in the future will create a hypothetical possibility to direct asteroids not only from Earth, but also on it. And even if there will be accidental impact of the asteroid, there will be talks about that it was sent on purpose. Yet hardly anyone will be sent to Earth asteroids, because such action can easily be detected, the accuracy is low and it need to be prepared for decades before event.
D) Deviations of hazardous asteroids will require the creation of space weapons, which could be nuclear, laser or kinetic. Such weapons could be used against the Earth or the spacecrafts of an opponent. Although the risk of applying it against the ground is small, it still creates more potential damage than the falling asteroids.
E) The destruction of the asteroid with nuclear explosion would lead to an increase in its affecting power at the expense of its fragments – to the greater number of blasts over a larger area, as well as the radioactive contamination of debris.
Modern technological means give possibility to move only relatively small asteroids, which are not global threat. The real danger is black comets in size of several kilometers which are moving on elongated elliptical orbits at high speeds. However, in the future, space can be quickly and cheaply explored through self-replicating robots based on nanoteh. This will help to create huge radio telescopes in space to detect dangerous bodies in the solar system. In addition, it is enough to plant one self-replicating microrobot on the asteroid, to multiply it and then it could break the asteroid on parts or build engines that will change its orbit. Nanotehnology will help us to create self-sustaining human settlements on the Moon and other celestial bodies. This suggests that the problem of asteroid hazard will in a few decades be outdated.
Thus, the problem of preventing collisions of the Earth with asteroids in the coming decades can only be a diversion of resources from the global risks:
First, because we are still not able to change orbits of those objects which actually can lead to the complete extinction of humanity.
Secondly, by the time (or shortly thereafter), when the nuclear missile system for destruction of asteroids will be created, it will be obsolete, because nanotech can quickly and cheaply harness the solar system by the middle of 21 century, and may, before .
And third, because such system at time when Earth is divided into warring states will be weapon in the event of war.
And fourthly, because the probability of extinction of humanity as a result of the fall of an asteroid in a narrow period of time when the system of deviation of the asteroids will be deployed, but powerful, nanotechnology is not yet established, is very small. This time period may be equal to 20 years, say from 2030 — until 2050, and the chances of falling bodies of 10 km size during this time, even if we assume that we live in a period comet bombardment, when the intensity is 100 times higher — is at 1 to 15 000 (based on an average frequency of the fall of bodies every 30 million years). Moreover, given the dynamics, we can reject the indeed dangerous objects only at the end of this period, and perhaps even later, as larger the asteroid, the more extensive and long-term project for its deviation is required. Although 1 to 15 000 is still unacceptable high risk, it is commensurate with the risk of the use of space weapons against the Earth.
In the fifth, anti-asteroid protection diverts attention from other global issues, the limited human attention and financial resources. This is due to the fact that the asteroid danger is very easy for understanding — it is easy to imagine, it is easy to calculate the probabilities and it is clear to the public. And there is no doubt of its reality, and there are clear ways for protection. (e.g. the probability of volcanic disaster comparable to the asteroid impact by various estimates, is from 5 to 20 times higher at the same level of energy – but we have no idea how it can be prevented.) So it differs from other risks that are difficult to imagine, that are impossible quantify, but which may mean the probability of complete extinction of tens of percent. These are the risks of AI, biotech, nanotech and nuclear weapons.
In the sixth, when talking about relatively small bodies like Apophis, it may be cheaper to evacuate the area of the fall than to deviate the asteroid. A likely the area of the impact will be ocean.
But I did not call to abandon antiasterod protection, because we first need to find out whether we live in the comet bombardment period. In this case, the probability of falling 1 km body in the next 100 years is equal to 6 %. (Based on data on the hypothetical fall in the last 10 000 years, like a comet Klovis , traces of which can be 500 000 in the craters of similar entities called Carolina Bays crater, and around New Zealand in 1443 and others 2 impacts in last 5 000 years , see works of ). We must first give power to the monitoring of dark comets and analysis of fresh craters.

Feb 24, 2009

I Don’t Want To Live in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, futurism, habitats, robotics/AI, space

Image from The Road film, based on Cormac McCarthy's book

How About You?
I’ve just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road at the recommendation of my cousin Marie-Eve. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world and the main protagonists — a father and son — basically spend all their time looking for food and shelter, and try to avoid being robbed or killed by other starving survivors.

It very much makes me not want to live in such a world. Everybody would probably agree. Yet few people actually do much to reduce the chances of of such a scenario happening. In fact, it’s worse than that; few people even seriously entertain the possibility that such a scenario could happen.

People don’t think about such things because they are unpleasant and they don’t feel they can do anything about them, but if more people actually did think about them, we could do something. We might never be completely safe, but we could significantly improve our odds over the status quo.

Continue reading “I Don't Want To Live in a Post-Apocalyptic World” »

Oct 26, 2008

Refuges and bunkers

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, cybercrime/malcode, defense, existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, sustainability, treaties

Here I would like to suggest readers a quotation from my book “Structure of the global catastrophe” ( there I discuss problems of preventing catastrophes.

Refuges and bunkers

Different sort of a refuge and bunkers can increase chances of survival of the mankind in case of global catastrophe, however the situation with them is not simple. Separate independent refuges can exist for decades, but the more they are independent and long-time, the more efforts are necessary for their preparation in advance. Refuges should provide ability for the mankind to the further self-reproduction. Hence, they should contain not only enough of capable to reproduction people, but also a stock of technologies which will allow to survive and breed in territory which is planned to render habitable after an exit from the refuge. The more this territory will be polluted, the higher level of technologies is required for a reliable survival.
Very big bunker will appear capable to continue in itself development of technologies and after catastrophe. However in this case it will be vulnerable to the same risks, as all terrestrial civilisation — there can be internal terrorists, AI, nanorobots, leaks etc. If the bunker is not capable to continue itself development of technologies it, more likely, is doomed to degradation.
Further, the bunker can be or «civilizational», that is keep the majority of cultural and technological achievements of the civilisation, or “specific”, that is keep only human life. For “long” bunkers (which are prepared for long-term stay) the problem of formation and education of children and risks of degradation will rise. The bunker can or live for the account of the resources which have been saved up before catastrophe, or be engaged in own manufacture. In last case it will be simply underground civilisation on the infected planet.
The more a bunker is constructed on modern technologies and independent cultural and technically, the higher ammount of people should live there (but in the future it will be not so: the bunker on the basis of advanced nanotechnology can be even at all deserted, — only with the frozen human embryos). To provide simple reproduction by means of training to the basic human trades, thousand people are required. These people should be selected and be in the bunker before final catastrophe, and, it is desirable, on a constant basis. However it is improbable, that thousand intellectually and physically excellent people would want to sit in the bunker “just in case”. In this case they can be in the bunker in two or three changes and receive for it a salary. (Now in Russia begins experiment «Mars 500» in which 6 humans will be in completely independent — on water, to meal, air — for 500 days. Possibly, it is the best result which we now have. In the early nineties in the USA there was also a project «Biosphera-2» in which people should live two years on full self-maintenance under a dome in desert. The project has ended with partial failure as oxygen level in system began to fall because of unforeseen reproduction of microorganisms and insects.) As additional risk for bunkers it is necessary to note fact of psychology of the small groups closed in one premise widely known on the Antarctic expeditions — namely, the increase of animosities fraught with destructive actions, reducing survival rate.
The bunker can be either unique, or one of many. In the first case it is vulnerable to different catastrophes, and in the second is possible struggle between different bunkers for the resources which have remained outside. Or is possible war continuation if catastrophe has resulted from war.
The bunker, most likely, will be either underground, or in the sea, or in space. But the space bunker too can be underground of asteroids or the Moon. For the space bunker it will be more difficult to use the rests of resources on the Earth. The bunker can be completely isolated, or to allow “excursion” in the external hostile environment.
As model of the sea bunker can serve the nuclear submarine possessing high reserve, autonomy, manoeuvrability and stability to negative influences. Besides, it can easily be cooled at ocean (the problem of cooling of the underground closed bunkers is not simple), to extract from it water, oxygen and even food. Besides, already there are ready boats and technical decisions. The boat is capable to sustain shock and radiating influence. However the resource of independent swimming of modern submarines makes at the best 1 year, and in them there is no place for storage of stocks.
Modern space station ISS could support independently life of several humans within approximately year though there are problems of independent landing and adaptation. Not clearly, whether the certain dangerous agent, capable to get into all cracks on the Earth could dissipate for so short term.
There is a difference between gaso — and bio — refuges which can be on a surface, but are divided into many sections for maintenance of a mode of quarantine, and refuges which are intended as a shelter from in the slightest degree intelligent opponent (including other people who did not manage to get a place in a refuge). In case of biodanger island with rigid quarantine can be a refuge if illness is not transferred by air.
A bunker can possess different vulnerabilities. For example, in case of biological threat, is enough insignificant penetration to destroy it. Only hi-tech bunker can be the completely independent. Energy and oxygen are necessary to the bunker. The system on a nuclear reactor can give energy, but modern machines hardly can possess durability more than 30–50 years. The bunker cannot be universal — it should assume protection against the certain kinds of threats known in advance — radiating, biological etc.
The more reinforced is a bunker, the smaller number of bunkers can prepare mankind in advance, and it will be more difficult to hide such bunker. If after a certain catastrophe there was a limited number of the bunkers which site is known, the secondary nuclear war can terminate mankind through countable number of strikes in known places.
The larger is the bunker, the less amount of such bunkers is possible to construct. However any bunker is vulnerable to accidental destruction or contamination. Therefore the limited number of bunkers with certain probability of contamination unequivocally defines the maximum survival time of mankind. If bunkers are connected among themselves by trade and other material distribution, contamination between them is more probable. If bunkers are not connected, they will degrade faster. The more powerfully and more expensively is the bunker, the more difficult is to create it imperceptibly for the probable opponent and so it easeir becomes the goal for an attack. The more cheaply the bunker, the less it is durable.
Casual shelters — the people who have escaped in the underground, mines, submarines — are possible. They will suffer from absence of the central power and struggle for resources. The people, in case of exhaustion of resources in one bunker, can undertake the armed attempts to break in other next bunker. Also the people who have escaped casually (or under the threat of the comong catastrophe), can attack those who was locked in the bunker.
Bunkers will suffer from necessity of an exchange of heat, energy, water and air with an external world. The more independent is the bunker, the less time it can exist in full isolation. Bunkers being in the Earth will deeply suffer from an overheating. Any nuclear reactors and other complex machines will demand external cooling. Cooling by external water will unmask them, and it is impossible to have energy sources lost-free in the form of heat, while on depth of earth there are always high temperatures. Temperature growth, in process of deepening in the Earth, limits depth of possible bunkers. (The geothermal gradient on the average makes 30 degrees C/kilometers. It means, that bunkers on depth more than 1 kilometre are impossible — or demand huge cooling installations on a surface, as gold mines in the republic of South Africa. There can be deeper bunkers in ices of Antarctica.)
The more durable, more universal and more effective, should be a bunker, the earlier it is necessary to start to build it. But in this case it is difficult to foresee the future risks. For example, in 1930th years in Russia was constructed many anti-gase bombproof shelters which have appeared useless and vulnerable to bombardments by heavy demolition bombs.
Efficiency of the bunker which can create the civilisation, corresponds to a technological level of development of this civilisation. But it means that it possesses and corresponding means of destruction. So, especially powerful bunker is necessary. The more independently and more absolutely is the bunker (for example, equipped with AI, nanorobots and biotechnologies), the easier it can do without, eventually, people, having given rise to purely computer civilisation.
People from different bunkers will compete for that who first leaves on a surface and who, accordingly, will own it — therefore will develop the temptation for them to go out to still infected sites of the Earth.
There are possible automatic robotic bunkers: in them the frozen human embryos are stored in a certain artificial uterus and through hundreds or thousand years start to be grown up. (Technology of cryonics of embryos already exists, and works on an artificial uterus are forbidden for bioethics reasons, but basically such device is possible.) With embryos it is possible to send such installations in travel to other planets. However, if such bunkers are possible, the Earth hardly remains empty — most likely it will be populated with robots. Besides, if the human cub who has been brought up by wolves, considers itself as a wolf as whom human who has been brought up by robots will consider itself?
So, the idea about a survival in bunkers contains many reefs which reduce its utility and probability of success. It is necessary to build long-term bunkers for many years, but they can become outdated for this time as the situation will change and it is not known to what to prepare. Probably, that there is a number of powerful bunkers which have been constructed in days of cold war. A limit of modern technical possibilities the bunker of an order of a 30-year-old autonomy, however it would take long time for building — decade, and it will demand billions dollars of investments.
Independently there are information bunkers, which are intended to inform to the possible escaped descendants about our knowledge, technologies and achievements. For example, in Norway, on Spitsbergen have been created a stock of samples of seeds and grain with these purposes (Doomsday Vault). Variants with preservation of a genetic variety of people by means of the frozen sperm are possible. Digital carriers steady against long storage, for example, compact discs on which the text which can be read through a magnifier is etched are discussed and implemented by Long Now Foundation. This knowledge can be crucial for not repeating our errors.

Jul 15, 2008

Apophis Asteroid still a risk for 2036

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, space

On April 16, 2008, NASA News Release 08–103 reaffirmed that its estimation of a 1 in 45,000 chance of impact in 2036 remains valid.

The B612 Foundation is working towardcs the goal of of significantly altering the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.

the B612 Foundation made estimates of Apophis path if a 2036 Earth impact were to occur.

The impact result is a narrow corridor called the ‘risk corrider’ which would be a few miles wide. Countries estimated to be in the direct path:

Continue reading “Apophis Asteroid still a risk for 2036” »

Jan 24, 2008

Is 2007 TU24 A Wake Up Call?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks, space

On January 29th, 2008 Near Earth Object 2007 TU24 will intersect Earth’s orbit at the startlingly close proximity of only 0.0038AU — or 1.4 lunar distances from our own planet. According to the resources I reviewed this NEO represents the closest known approach to earth until 2027 — that is of course assuming no more surprises like 2007 TU24 which itself wasn’t discovered until October 11th of 2007.

It seems to me that this is an assumption we can’t afford to make. It appears that 2007 TU24 is not going to strike the planet however it is possible that it will pass through a portion of earth’s magnetosphere. The repercussions of this transit can’t at this time be predicted with any certainty though they apparently range from no effect whatsoever to potentially catastrophic changes to weather, tectonic plate movement, the oceans and more.

Some might say that we’ve no need to be concerned — that this kind of near miss (and lets be frank here — in the vastness of even our solar system 1.4 lunar distances from earth is a near miss) is a freak occurrence. Don’t be so sure. Just one day later — that’s right, on January 30th it was thought possible — one might even say reasonably likely — that another asteroid will strike our second nearest celestial neighbor, Mars.

Recent updates based upon more detailed information about the path of asteroid 2007 WD5 have concluded that the odds of an impact occurring have now dropped to one in ten thousand making an impact exceptionally unlikely. However, it should be evident that our ability to identify objects less than 100 meters across is insufficient to provide us with enough time to do anything aside from evacuating the regions likely to be impacted by a collision with an incoming NEO.

More than one expert has come out and stated that NEO’s represent one of the most pressing potential mega-disasters threatening human — or even all — life on earth, yet this is a problem that could be solved within the capabilities of our technology. Between better early detection and development of a meaningful defensive strategy it is possible to protect humanity from this threat. All we need is the funding and the mandate from the people that would secure the resources required.

Page 29 of 30First2324252627282930