Saturday, 16 February 2013

World Without Zinc

Sorry, i cheated with the title.  Anyway:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/2e0Y8 . Yesterday's asteroid and meteorite strike were, amazingly, unrelated!  The Chelyabinsk meteorite strike yesterday morning caused 1200 casualties due to broken glass, but it was coming from the opposite direction from 2012 DA14, yesterday's asteroid approach.  The asteroid came from the south, the meteorite from the north.

The meteor was first detected in Alaska and presumably crashed into Earth a few minutes later.  It had a mass of about 10 000 tons and was seventeen metres in diameter, so it wasn't that much smaller than the asteroid, in a way, which has a mass of 190 000 tonnes, which is about the same as a supertanker, and is forty-five metres in diameter.  However, clearly an asteroid weighing twenty times as much would've been a much bigger disaster if it had hit us.  And there is of course spectacular footage of the meteorite hitting, which of course has presumably now mainly been sold to news agencies and therefore i can't show you.

2012 DA14 is a stony asteroid and may, like other asteroids, be a rubble pile, i.e. rocks adhering together due to gravity.  As such, it could easily come to bits.  However, we no longer need to worry about this particular asteroid as its approach caused it to shift from an Apollo asteroid (those which cross our orbit) to an Aten class asteroid (those which mainly orbit closer to the Sun than we do).

Having said that, we clearly didn't spot the one coming the other way, and this is a concern for us because we don't want to go the way of much of the life on this planet after Chicxulub, when the asteroid which wiped out non-avian dinosaurs hit.  In order to avoid that, we really do need to get more interested in astronomy and space travel.  There are various possible techniques for avoiding them once they're picked up by telescope.  Blasting them to bits with nuclear weapons is not one of them as the chances are we'd just get pelted with them instead, which would probably be a lot worse.  An interesting approach is to paint the asteroid so the pressure of sunlight moves it away from us.  Finally, a mass driver could be placed on the surface to push rocks off it and move it away that way.

Whatever we decide to do, we should do something, because one day an asteroid will most definitely hit us, and we need to be prepared.


Well, i had to do this, didn't i?  It would be silly not to.  It also has interest beyond the topical, since we could be hit by an asteroid at any time.  Incidentally, i also thought about using this thumbnail:

I'm not sure people know about Chad nowadays, but there he is on Eros.  I also wonder if people will twig it's Eros and the link with Valentine's.  Actually, no i don't - i realise nobody at all will realise and wonder why i bothered, but it's probably the easiest photo of an asteroid to finden.  Red's probably not the best choice - maybe it should just be covered in foil.

To be honest, though i haven't performed any calculations, i find it a little hard to believe that just painting an asteroid white would make any difference to its orbit, though i realise they are very light and a tiny change can snowball.  I briefly wondered why this didn't make our orbit bigger during ice ages but i presume that's to do with momentum.

The really surprising thing about all this is that the Russian meteorite seems to have had no connection with the asteroid, although I wondered if it might have been something in a very large orbit round it.  I have in fact asked a question on Y!A about this.

Anyway, here's a fairly easily avoided human extinction scenario:  nobody bothers to look up or go up (or out, rather), and all of a sudden a dirty great rubble pile hits us and we're all dead.  Shame that.

A sign of my madness (and by the way, here's an old video describing my policy on being mad:

) is that i have chosen to believe that the K-T event was the result of technology.  I have refined this delusion somewhat in recent years to the point where it's more parsimonious than it used to be, and now believe that intelligent coelurosaurs steered an asteroid into Earth orbit and something went wrong.  This is an improvement over my previous hypothesis that they wiped themselves out in a nuclear war because of the lack of radiation - i used the iridium anomaly to justify that.

Incidentally, the idea that i have an actual policy on my own psychosis is going to make no sense to you at all unless you watch the above video, and it will seem completely pointless.  Speaking of which, i'm openly wondering why i bother with this blog right now.  It makes sense to post educational resources here for Big Science, and in the past it made sense to post rants here, but i no longer seem to do the latter.  Nobody (other than you, VanillaRose and you're a brick!) ever comments either, so i presume it's not read and has no following.  So why do i do it?  Well, as Liz pointed out yestern, most of what we do is pointless and in a way that's a good thing because it means we don't end-gain.  This is in fact such a wonderfully good point that i find it has a siren-like attraction, making me want to waste 100% of my time doing this kind of thing rather than occasionally taking breaks from it to do things like see patients.  Theintrostealer has also pointed out that i'm way too focussed on views.

Ah!  Forgot to mention - i interacted with Wheezywaiter!  Not in a big way, but i did.  I have to say he somehow gives the impression of being more approachable than many other popular YouTubers.  Of course, the thing is that they're all basically human beings like me.

Anyway, on the subject of being obsessed with views and subs, there's this:

So they've both gone up.  One is a sub-4-sub, which i dislike because i doubt they lead to views and are not motivated by talent, but it was on a whim.  I've been wondering how to get round this problem.  I want to come up with something which means that people either - well, two things actually.  I want people to subscribe if they like and watch my videos but not otherwise.  Simply having subs is not the point.  I also want people to give me helpful feedback rather than just ignoring me or putting a single word comment like "Useless", hence this "dialogue":

 Clearly i am being a little sarcastic here but my point is that yes, maybe i'm useless but one thing which would help me, and therefore lots of other people, improve would be to have constructive criticism.  It's along the lines of "if you like us, tell your friends.  If you don't like us, tell us."  That kind of comment is not going to help the person making it.  I don't feel strongly about the comment, as it happens, but i do feel strongly about the attitude.

So what i'm trying to do is come up with something that will encourage people to make helpful criticism and to share at the same time, which is the YT equivalent of what that does.

One more thing:

That video is an hour old and has eighteen views.  YT want me to advertise it for some reason.  It's probably a blip, but it's there.  Which reminds me:  double-dip recession.