Yes, yes, I know that you already know all about global warming. How it will inevitably kill a good portion of the human race, how very boring. Evan, you’re thinking right now–or yelling at your monitor depending on your current state of mental health–this is all somebody else’s problem.
While my entirely justified misanthropy salutes any sort of attitude that effectively dooms the human race, I’m a little perturbed at the vast number of animals we’re taking out with us. This, among other things, completely negates my plans to save the tiger. It also will probably have somewhat of a negative impact upon my own personal well-being. So today I figured I’d single-handedly end global warming so I can go back to playing StarCraft and humanity can find a method of self-harm with less collateral damage.
I’m also not here to discuss who or what is responsible (hint: it’s humans,) since fighting the corporate attitude of we’re all going to die but I’m going to die rich, isn’t productive. Let’s just focus on solutions.
The only issue for me is finding a solution that is even more absurd than some of the ideas already floating around out there. Let’s see what we’ve got here, giant mirrors to deflect some sunlight,
Futurama did an episode where farting robots push the Earth further away from the sun, we tried solving the issue with porn, and a scientist has brought up the possibility of spraying the atmosphere with sulfuric acid, which we’ll probably end up doing. The most absurd solution of all has to be asking people to be just a smidgen more reasonable about energy consumption and use renewable technologies, la dee da dee da.
That last option seems a little boring. There are no giant explosions. And anything without giant explosions is, frankly, un-American.
A good example of when a giant freaking explosion led to rapid global cooling is right before non-avian dinosaurs went away. Now, we all know the leading theory is that the extinction event was caused by
aliens, mammalian time travelers, dinosaurs trying to end global warming, a giant rock from outer space (so, still totally aliens). But the exact mechanics of how one big impact destroys countless species isn’t well understood. What we do know is that this space rock kicked up enough dust into the air to bring on global cooling.
Alright, problem solved! Let’s steer a giant asteroid into the Earth.
The asteroid that destroyed a good chunk of what would become Mexico hit with 100 million megatons of force and ultimately ended up killing off some 3/4s of all plant and animal species by blocking out the sun for decades–a situation I’d like to avoid repeating.
Unsurprisingly I’m having a little trouble finding data on the exact amount of force we’d need to end global warming but not end life as we know it on planet Earth. I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a mathematician or physicist so we’re just going to hope that the giant rock we fling into the Earth will be big enough to counter act the global warming we already have and not so big as to kick up enough dust to cover the land in enough darkness to make Sauron blush.
So first we need to find an asteroid to steer into the Earth. Good thing there’s something like 10,000 of them.
Unfortunately most are like Apophis (scheduled to make a close pass in 2029) in that they’d destroy a town or a state or country or whatever, but wouldn’t hit hard enough to cause an impact winter. What I’m learning from writing this article is that life is a lot less exciting than I thought: most large asteroids have an absurdly low chance of hitting us.
That’s okay though. We can increase those odds. All we have to do is wait until the media freaks out about the next big asteroid that will hit us, then the scientists will calm them down and say that it is much less likely than winning the lottery. Then we alter the asteroid’s course through the heavens.
Now, various space agencies have landed probes on the moon, Mars, Venus, Titan, and yes, even an asteroid when NASA’s NEAR Shoemaker touched down on Eros in 2001. So the technology to navigate there is fine.
The real problem is fuel. A fundamental problem with rocket launches, and one of the reasons we need the space elevator already, is that the heavier the load, the more fuel a rocket has to carry. But the more fuel a rocket carries, the heavier it is, so we need more fuel to carry… etc. (A more sciency explanation, here,). One of the many reasons launching probes is cheaper than launching humans is that because we don’t really give a crap if they die alone out in the cold cosmos; we don’t have to pack them a ride home.
Anyway, we need enough power to move a giant rock through space and to counteract its considerable inertia. Eros, for example, has a mass of 6.69×1015 kg, which is a fancy way to say that it weighs more than 1.02 trillion bull elephants. The Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever put into use, could have brought a mere 39 bull elephants into Low Earth Orbit.
Which is not exactly the same thing, since altering an object’s orbit and bringing elephants into near Earth orbit isn’t entirely comparable. Again: I’m not a physicist, and solving these sorts of problems is why the phrase “well it’s not rocket science!” exists.
The other thing is that 39 elephants worth of mass can pack a hell of a punch if that mass is put to use as nuclear bombs. America put men on the moon six times at a cost of only about 4% of its GDP. We can bump this number up to seven if we figure that we won’t make the same mistakes we made during Apollo 13 (the mission, not the movie, you know that movie is flawless,).
Placing bombs directly on the surface of the asteroid would probably be better than shooting them from some outer-space silo because we can time the explosion and make sure that it is positioned exactly where it needs to be on the asteroid to have the desired impact.
The largest nuclear bomb ever detonated was Tsar Bomba by the Soviets in 1961. We’d be able to lift about 150 of these things if we had seven Saturn Rockets and somebody managed to miniaturize them (totally not a dangerous precedent, to have suitcase-sized bombs,) to fit on board. Given enough time, that is actually plausible.
Also, we could also strap a rocket to the asteroid and push it in our direction. Again, this would require a large amount of advance knowledge since acting earlier has bigger effects over the long term.
Longest term, we could have a probe orbit the asteroid, which due to the fact that it would slightly attract the asteroid thanks to the intricacies of gravity, would change its course.
Unfortunately the exact math at this stage is impossible to calculate, since astronomers aren’t 100% certain of where asteroids will be over the next 86 years and I am, again, not a mathematician.
The other issue is that in order for this to kick up dust, we have to hit land, which usually means people. Siberia, Antarctica and Greenland, watch out, I’m looking at you as possible asteroid impact sites.
Just as an estimate, the Apollo Program cost 145 billion in today’s dollars, which, actually, sounds a little cheap. China can add a bit to our debt right? Just so we can watch two giant explosions, devastate a large portion of Antarctica and probably kill off 75% of animals and plants on Earth.
But damn, that would be a cool way to go.