Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How To Stop Asteroids (see Jane Jones comment at end)

Blogs / Bad Astronomy
« Carnival and Lulin
Chang’e 1 impacts the Moon »
100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday!

Kelly Beatty at Sky and Telescope reports that an asteroid about 100 30 meters across will pass the Earth on March 2, missing us by a scant 60,000 kilometers! That’s a clean miss, but still pretty close. The rock, called 2009 DD45, was discovered only a few days ago — it’s small and faint, making it easy to miss. Closest approach is at 13:44 UT, and it happens over the Pacific. Hopefully lots of amateur astronomers will get images of it; it’ll be bright enough for awhile to catch. The problem is it’ll be moving really fast across the sky… well, fast meaning half a degree per minute, which in turn means getting images of it will be very tough; it’ll streak through a telescope’s field of view like a meteor at that rate.

You’ll never see it naked eye; at magnitude 10 at brightest it’s a fraction as bright as what you can see with just your eye. It’s also too high up to be a danger to any satellites (space is big, so even one getting much closer is really unlikely to smack into something). Still, it’s pretty cool.

And I’ll add that while news like this scares some people, it actually makes me feel somewhat better: we’re getting really good at finding these kinds of things. Sure, if this rock had happened to be headed right for us we’d only have a few days warning before it hit (generating an enormous blast, as much as a high-yield nuclear weapon). But the thing is we’re looking for and finding such rocks. That’s the first step; identifying potentially dangerous impactors. We’ve shown we can do it.

The next step is to do something about them. Smart folks are working on it, and I bet in the next few years we’ll have a realistic and deployable plan on what action to take if we do see one drawing a bead on us. Since the odds of getting hit at any given time are low, statistically speaking we still have time to figure this all out.

But we don’t have forever. Let’s let 2009 DD45 be a reminder of that. We need to start doing something about these things, before we find one that really is scary.

[Note: Please digg the original article from S&T, not my post. Kelly deserves the credit!]

March 1st, 2009 5:40 PM by Phil Plait in Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies! | 63 comments | RSS feed | Trackback >

63 Responses to “100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday!”
100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday! « The Schollnick Archives Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 5:50 pm
[…] 100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday!: “ […]

March 1st, 2009 at 5:52 pm
Ah, man! It’s 30 m wide not 100!

Approximately 63,500 km? At what velocity is it travelling?

And how close did that asteroid in 2004 get?

LukeL Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 6:05 pm
Get Bruce Willis on it along with Michael Bay filming the mission it self along with extreme closeups and 100s of cuts per scene.

Elmar_M Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 6:15 pm
I personally always thought we should put a few ICBM- equipped satellites into GEO strategically placed arround the globe. Of course thanks to some idiotic cold war treaties that is impossible. Just like Orion… and some other good ideas. Politics will be the end of the world one day.

Rick Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 6:32 pm
Unfortunately, it won’t be until something like this comes out of the blue and actually hits the earth with visible evidence of the damage before people would actually take any kind of threat seriously. You can bet that those crying about NASA spending too much would then be crying about NASA spending too little.

Tom Woolf Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 6:33 pm

So what would we be able to do if it was heading right for us. Sure, Uncle Jimbo would state the obvious and shoot it, but what could those of us not in Colorado do?

Seriously… Let’s say one with an estimated blast like the one over Siberia is heading our way. I imagine we could narrow down the strike area to the size of a mid-sized state. What would our options be? Running sounds like a good start.

Radwaste Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 6:59 pm
Elmar - physics, man, use your physics! For a bunch of situations, the A-bomb just flat isn’t the answer, however magical it is in the movies. You’d be better off with a rocket motor and a way to steer it. It can be tiny if you have enough time.

matteus Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:05 pm
Hmm… the schedule’s tight, but I think I can get my cult up and running in time.

Gary Ansorge Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:08 pm
Any idea if it’s nickle/iron or carbonaceous?

The latter has lots of potential for space industrial use. 30 meters or 100 meteres, it’s still a LOT of raw materials.

GAry 7

Levi in NY Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:10 pm
QUASAR is right. The rock is only 30 meters across, or 100 feet.

Ugh…can we in the U.S. just switch over to the metric system already?

Gary Ansorge Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:16 pm

One unfortunate problem with attaching rocket motors to an asteroid is that most are tumbling, which is why one of the better suggestions involved a gravity tug. THAT unfortunately requires we know about and get to the rock a LONG time before it is anywhere near Earth. For those we don’t notice until nearly too late, perhaps a very high power laser in orbit(to avoid beam dispersal from atmospheric interaction) could vaporize the surface, resulting in an approriate thrust. It would avoid the necessity of stopping the tumble to attach a reaction device(like a mass driver).

Gary 7

matteus Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:40 pm
@Levi in NY
Amen! The U.S. military uses mostly metric, except for the Navy and their nautical miles, damn them. Which believe me, I see abbreviated enough time as ‘nm’ that I have become expert at instantly judging context.

Timothy from Boulder Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 7:49 pm
“So what would we be able to do if it was heading right for us. Sure, Uncle Jimbo would state the obvious and shoot it, but what could those of us not in Colorado do?

Seriously… Let’s say one with an estimated blast like the one over Siberia is heading our way. I imagine we could narrow down the strike area to the size of a mid-sized state. What would our options be? Running sounds like a good start.”

At present? Given the same amount of time? Hope that the area it hits is over ocean or sparsely populated. If it’s headed for a populated area, evacuation is the only option. Sorry, them’s the breaks.

Phil Plait Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:08 pm
Yeah, I saw the 100 and assumed S&T would be using metric. Feh.

Gary Ansorge Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:24 pm
Timothy from,,,:

Actually, an ocean strike would probably cause more damage than an impact on land. That’s very dependent on size but some calculations done by Dr. Jerry Pournelle indicated a six mile wide asteroid landing in the pacific ocean would, within hours, eradicate every city and town within a hundred miles of the ocean by a half mile high tsunamie, while a land strike would just wipe out an immediate area a thousand miles in radius and of course, there would be the rock/smoke/other debris kicked up into the atmosphere. If the land strike was in a sismically active area, it could also trigger massive volcanoes, earthquakes and sulphur dioxide exudates. AH, I guess it would really be a tossup, die by tsunamie or SO2,,,
,,,at any rate, running probably wouldn’t help much,,,

Gary 7

Gary Ansorge Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:28 pm
That above comment is for a LARGE one. The 30 meter rock, depending on wether it’s nickle/iron or carbonaceous would likely only bust up a city. No big deal, as long as you’re not one of those living in THAT city,,,
With such a small one, driving would be a better option,,,”Drive fast, Luke. The Farce won’t help you in this,,,”.

Gary 7

March 1st, 2009 at 8:35 pm
Phil Plait, your link to www(dot)b612foundation.org (click on my name for the link), at the words “Smart folks are working on it”, is not working. You have neglected to add the “http:_//” prefix to the URL.

Phil Plait Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:46 pm
Thanks, I fixed it. I’m having some keyboard issues, I’ve noticed, where some keys (like the V (making it hard to paste), the left arrow, and the space bar) are becoming erratic. Time for a new one.

John Phillips, FCD Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:47 pm
60,000km, meh, I thought the bugs would be able to fling rocks more accurately than that.

jae rue Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 8:58 pm
Perhaps we could just lasso it like a june beetle on a thread ?

Timothy from Boulder Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Right, the question posed was for a Tunguska-sized impactor. Evacuation is stil the only option; even for a small impactor, there’s no available tecnology today that could alter its course given only a few days notice.

There are always a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas (lasers, particle beams, nukes) thrown around, but rarely a calculation to support the feasibility of the idea.

Here’s an exercise for the reader to solve: Given a 30-100m impactor heading right towards San Francisco with one week lead time. Assume calculations are accurate enough that you *know* it will hit downtown San Francisco spot on. Using technology available today, and a schedule of 7 days from today, devise a method of deflecting it several miles out into the Pacific Ocean to minimize the impact damage. Show all work.

I don’t believe you’ll find a viable method.

The Starnes» Blog Archive » “Space Rock 2009 DD45 Buzzes Earth” Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 9:26 pm
[…] (Via: Discover) […]

Cosmic near-miss « Prince of Pithy’s Weblog Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 9:34 pm
[…] Cosmic near-miss I learned of this from Bad Astronomy. […]

«bønez_brigade» Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 9:38 pm
I’m a bit confused about this part:
“…fast meaning half a degree per minute, […] it’ll streak through a telescope’s field of view like a meteor at that rate.”

The Moon is about half of a degree on the sky, so something taking a minute to traverse that width doesn’t seem like it would streak through the field of view in a telescope, unless you have a rather high-power eyepiece on it. A streak in pics for sure, but I wouldn’t liken the pace to that of a meteor.

March 1st, 2009 at 9:50 pm
Phil Plait:

Yeah, I saw the 100 and assumed S&T would be using metric. Feh.

NASA made the same mistake, back in September 23, 1999, with the Mars Climate Orbiter (click on my name for the Wiki article) because a NASA subcontractor (Lockheed Martin) used Imperial units (pound-seconds) instead of the metric system.

Bazza Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 10:00 pm
It’s a metre, whether there’s 30 or 100 of them.

A meter is a device you use to measure things, such as electrical current, or speed.

March 1st, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Orbital Characteristics of 2009 DD45
(Click on image for the link to the JPL/NASA interactive tool).

Eiriks forfatterblogg :: Asteroide suser forbi Jorda idag - spektakulært! Says:
March 1st, 2009 at 11:43 pm
[…] for de fleste av oss, kan man si at dagens passasje av den 30 meter store asteroiden 2009 DD45 er. Discover Magazine har mer om saken, og skriver blant annet at den er på sitt nærmeste over Stillehavet i […]

Bein'Silly Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 12:38 am
Bein’serious for a sec :

Could the Hubble telescope be used to image it well or is it moving too quickly?

It’d be a good chance to get a look at & info on a small NEA if that’s possible ..

John Paradox Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:02 am
BA said:
I’m having some keyboard issues

Keyboard? How quaint.

-Montgomery Scott


MadScientist Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 2:08 am
@Bein’Silly: By the time you schedule a Hubble observation the earth would have already been hit. Interesting question though - how close an object can Hubble focus on?
Basically if you can see it from earth with a small(ish) telescope then Hubble will have no problem (as long as it can focus). At only 1/2deg per minute, maybe Hubble can even track it - you’d have to ask the ground control folks though.

March 2nd, 2009 at 3:24 am

Metrication in the United States

(Click on the logo.)

March 2nd, 2009 at 3:43 am
Sod it! That post did not work as expected. So, take two:

Metrication in the United States

(Click on the logo.)

When the bloody hell are we gonna get a preview/edit facility here?!

Lars Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 4:23 am
@John Phillips, FCD: I believe these are not bugs you’re looking for. Rather, they are large herd animals with multiple, bifurcated trunks.

amphiox Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 5:50 am
For an asteroid this size the effects would be only local (city sized), so even if it did hit, chances are it would strike a nonpopulated area and there would be no harm done.

If our detection was good enough that we could know for sure that it really was going to hit a city, then one would only have to deflect it a teeny bit so it would miss the city in question. Maybe a nuke blast would work, if we could aim it accurately enough (doubtful with current tech at present, I think)

There would be political implications with deflecting the asteroid so that it hits some other part of the world, though. Particularly if you made a mistake and it hit someplace that was not intended. (Imagine rock heading for Miami, try to deflect into Atlantic ocean, miss, and it hits Cuba) And environmental concerns as well.

amphiox Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 5:51 am
Make that “little harm” rather than “no harm”. Chances are, no matter where it hits, at least one or two people will be in the vicinity and at risk.

Cheyenne Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 6:06 am
I really wish we had more money and scopes looking for these things. I think the UN is so utterly inept in many ways but overseeing an international group for looking out for these kinds of objects would be a good role for them.

Now that it’s clear that English is becoming the chosen international language of the world (sorry Parisians- even the Mandarin speakers acknowledge this) I think the US should make the switch to the metric system. I mean, we can at least do that right?

ncc1701 Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 6:08 am
60, 000 kilometers? What is that, like 10 miles?
Let’s end the confusion and admit that it’s time for the rest of the world to switch to English units of measurement.

JackC Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 6:15 am
Or, perhaps, for ncc1701 to get a calculator. Or at least a sense of scale. I am going to proceed on the assumption that you were joking.


BaldApe Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 7:21 am
I still say we should practice by moving asteroids to lunar orbit. Resources for a permanent settlement there.

Cheyenne Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 8:03 am
@BaldApe - I think that like a lot of other space enthusiasts it might be fair to say that what you are proposing is a bit, well, overly ambitious and technically challenged at this point. I vote that we first try to figure out how to do our more practical endeavors first. Another NASA OCO (the CO2 bird) replacement (construction and funding) would be my first pick.

Greg in Austin Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 8:28 am
Did it pass yet? Are we still here?

Greg in Austin Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 8:35 am

The article says 63,500km, which is equal to 39,457 miles. The article also states it isn’t the closest approach,

“By the way, this isn’t the closest “near-miss” asteroidal fragment on record. According to the MPC, tiny 2004 FU162 skirted just 4,000 miles from us on March 31, 2004.”

As to switching to metric, the US tried that over 30 years ago, and it didn’t go over well. Its probably time to propose legislation for that again, but we seem too busy right now passing laws to spend money we don’t have to bail out companies that don’t deserve it.

Das Fernsehen ist die größte kulturelle Katastrophe, die die Erde in der Zeit, an die wir uns erinnern können, erlebt hat. » F!XMBR Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 9:04 am
[…] 100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday! Nur 30m groß ist dieser Asteroid und streift die Erde heute in einer Entfernung von knapp 60.000km - entdeckt wurde der kleine vor ein paar Tagen nur. Let’s let 2009 DD45 be a reminder of that. We need to start doing something about these things, before we find one that really is scary. […]

Alan Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 9:19 am
Where is Lilu the 5th Element when we need her?

Michael Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 9:28 am
@Timothy: Deflecting an object into the Pacific may not be such a good idea. Instead of S. F. being wiped out immediately it will be wiped out minutes later by a tsunami. Better deflect it east into the Nevada desert (or Las Vegas).

Lorenzo Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 9:38 am
Is it way too soon to worry about how the Earth’s gravity will affect it’s orbit?

When will the bigger brains be able to tell this rock’s future orbital plans?


Rift Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 10:21 am
Elmar_M “I personally always thought we should put a few ICBM- equipped satellites into GEO strategically placed arround the globe. Of course thanks to some idiotic cold war treaties that is impossible. Just like Orion… and some other good ideas. Politics will be the end of the world one day.”


Your kidding right? It’s already been shown by computer models that hitting a rock with a nuke is the LAST thing we want to do. And idiotic cold war treaty? How old are you? I lived through the last one and really don’t want my niece and nephews living through another one although we seem to be heading down that road. Nukes in space, or anywhere for that matter is a BAD thing. Orion may or may not be a good idea. And I know of no treaties that have outlawed Orion. Orion has some technical problems too, like where to launch it from, unless you are talking about the open air test ban on nukes. Then I would support that. Launching Orion from the surface using nukes gives me the hives too…

And people don’t want their tax money going to ‘big science’? 2 million dollars is a drop in the bucket, we need to spend some SERIOUS money on this. Why anybody that reads a astronomy blog is against their tax money being spent on astronomy is ironic and just baffling to me. I live in a small town of 10,000 and we just built a new elementary school for more than 10 times what McCain was bellyaching about. I suppose he’d claim that was pork even though we badly needed it. And posters are calling 2 million ‘big science’? Curse Ben Stein for ever popularizing that term, or that idea. There is no such thing as big science. More money was making the first Jurassic Park movie then has ever been spent in total on paleontology.

Tom Woolf Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 11:13 am
Thanks to everybody who took the time to respond to my question. I live in Raleigh, NC, so my “RUN AWAY!” direction is the only one left…

Hmmm, South to the sunny beaches of FLA?
North to the brother who can live without electricity for weeks if needed? (He lives near Quebec, so had to do that a few years back)
West to the mountains?

I know that running that far would not be necessary, but as long as I am driving, might as well make a vacation of it!

Tom Woolf Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 11:17 am
Greg in Austin…. Haven’t you heard? That money is not being wasted on companies that don’t deserve it - it’s being wasted on “something called volcano monitoring”! (Last I checked, that “something called volcano monitoring” was actually monitoring volcanoes. HA! Go figure.)

Stark Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:14 pm
Hitting a BIG rock with a nuke is a bad idea… a 30m one though… well, assuming you could achieve a direct hit and that it’s a rocky asteroid as opposed to a metallic one you could, with the largest weapons we have available currently, reasonably expect to vaporise the object. For instance, a 100MT (mega-ton) weapon detonated subsurface completely vaporises an approximately 190 metre diameter sphere. This is the cause of all those interesting and somewhat terrifying craters in the Nevada desert (http://tinyurl.com/daojo8)- no material was blown out, the roof of the new cavern simply caves in as soon as the pressure wave from the nuke subsides. Of course, we still have no way to get a weapon to an asteroid (despite the movies ICBM’s do not have the capability needed) and certainly not with the needed accuracy with just a few days notice.

ElmerFud Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:17 pm
Metrics for dummies:
kilometers to miles - multiply times 6 and drop the last digit for approximate value. (10,000km aprox 6,000 miles)
Meters to Yards - about 40 inchs (30,000m aprox 32,800 yards)

Metrics are great, but not sufficient to solve every problem.
Pi expressed in decimal form is endless, yet in US Standard it is solved as 22/7 which can be reduced to 3 and 1/7th.

Sure! shoot the astroid with a nuke and create millions of radioactive particals to rain down on the world… duh!

We don’t have a solution to the problem, and likely will never have if left to politicians that are more concerned about cost than human kind survival.

The probability of destruction by astroid weighed against the various other potential threats we face make this a difficult argument to fight for in political circles.

Tsunami, earthquakes, eruptions also threaten our life on this planet and likewise we are powerless to prevent these also, but government still allows populations to develope within the known danger zone of these various threats. What is being done to solve these threats I ask you. Will that space laser/nuclear star drive stop or alter the impact of volcanic super eruptions, or a tsunami? Which threat is more likely? Likewise has ANYONE offered a suggestion how to deal with these other threats? Not that I have heard so far. With the world in peril of depleating fossil fuel supplies, should we be looking at how to harness the energy in these places by tapping into the source of heat, or kenetic energy of wave motion, or using one threat to counter the other threat some how? I don’t know, I’m just a rabbit hunter with time on my hands to think about it some times.

Elmar_M Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:46 pm
1. Actually it depends on the ICBM.
2. They carry multiple warheads, not just one.
3. They are pretty precise, at least the american ones.
I think we can get pretty close to an asteroid with sufficiently many warheads to pulverize it (unless it is “the size of Texas”, hahaha). Of course one single nuke wont be enough.
4. I got to see the cold war and I still have nightmares thanks. However, I was freely quoting Carl Sagan here actually. Nukes up there (used for propulsion or to fend off asteroids) are much preferable over nukes down here (targetted at cities).
5. There is a treaty that disallows nuclear weapons in space. It is one of the reasons why orion nuclear pulse propulsion systems have not seen any further funding/research.
6. Even if an asteroid does not get fully vaporized by the nukes, it is enough to slightly dodge it of course, or to slow it down just a tiny bit to make it pass us at a save distance.
7. In contrast to what some people have been saying, i think that breaking one big object up into many smaller ones is preferable. A lot of its mass would end up in particles small enough to burn up completely on reenty, or to at least loose a substancial amount of mass before they hit the ground. The reminder of big chunks sure would spread damage over a bigger area, but sufficiently small bodies hitting water e.g. would not cause as much damage on land as one big body. Right?
I hope I am making my thoughts a little clearer here.
And yes the treaty is idiotic, because it was made for all the wrong reasons.

Dave N. Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:57 pm
“Look Kodos, they actually bought it!! *evil laugh* ”

Good Idea about harvesting resources on the moon, but lets figure out how to make ‘em miss first!

Elmar_M Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 2:09 pm
Oh and a 100 Mton yield weapon does generat a lot more damage. The Tsar Bomba (the biggest weapon tested… as far as we know) had a 50 Megaton yield (it was designed for 100 Megatons, but was artificially throttled down). It created a fireball 8 kilometres(!) in diameter!
Enough to vaporize an asteroid a couple a few hundred meters in diameter, I would presume. The russians later built an ICBM launchable version, that was tested trottled down to 25 MT.
I few ICBMs with a few of these warheads should easily pulverize even larger targets, or at least throw them sufficiently off course (see nuclear pulse detonation) to ensure they are no harm any longer.
A 30 meter object… LOL, you can destroy that with conventional bombs, does not even need nukes.

Stark Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 2:55 pm
Elmar, the problem with larger objects and nuking them is simply a matter of transfer of energy. If you simply break up a huge object - as opposed to deflecting it or vaporising it (as in the case of our current little 30m friend going by) - it is still a huge amount of mass impacting the planet and transferring all of that energy to our atmosphere and surface. A Texas sized object striking the planet a 20,000 kph, whether it is shattered into bits or just a big lump is still a cataclysmic event. The energy still gets transferred and it is far to much to be absorbed without causing major and disastrous effects. A Texas sized mass of marbles would still release enough heat into the atmosphere to end life as we know it.

Another issue with the idea of destroying very large asteroids is that you cannot possibly hope to pulverize it all to dust and so are still left with many impactors large enough to do serious surface damage… only now you’ve spread them across a much larger area than the single impactor you’d have likely had before - thus greatly increasing the damaged area. It’s actually fairly analogous to the MIRV’s you mentioned - we could build one 200MT bomb and put it on a missile but you can actually inflict far more damage with 10 bombs of 20MT each spread over a much greater area.

So, for small impactors, say a couple of hundred meters at most, you could possibly deal with them using large nuclear weapons. Anything bigger than that and all you’ll do is spread the impact damage out over a much greater area of the planet.

Elmar_M Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 3:13 pm
I was not talking about a Texas size object. That was just a purposely stupid response (missed the hahaha?) to a stupid comment someone made about movies. An object like that we would see approaching from very far away.
The earlier you see them the smaller the problem.
I was talking about impactors one hundred meters or maybe a few hundred meters across, which are the most likely events to happen with rather short notice.
I am very certain that a 200m diameter object. even an object almost a kilometer across, can be dealt with easily with current technology. A 200m object can be destroyed and broken up into pieces 8 tons or less, which burn up completely on reentry. A larger object can be “pulsed” out of the way with multiple detonations.
Also the comparison with nukes is flawed. Nukes are designed to resist the forces of reentry. An asteroid is not. It will, especially if it has been previously subjected to the forces of a nuclear detonation, most likely break up even further when it reenters the atmosphere. Of course with a “texas size” (stupid movie quote again) object breaking that up wont do much, but that is a completely different matter all together. Something like this would be seen from far away, we would know it was coming a long time ahead.
In matters like this a lot depends on when you see the thing coming. The more time you have, the better. A large object could still be dealt with by either slowing it down, or affecting its course only a tiny little bit. At cosmic distances with the earth moving as well, you end up with a large miss in the end, even if you only divert the course by a fraction of a degree, or slow the thing down by just a little bit.
Again this can be done with nukes. You can use them as a means of propulsion. Remember that in space a nuclear weapon will mostly emmit heat, no blast damage effect (due to the lack of atmosphere). So you are basically heating up one side of the asteroid (a lot). That causes the surface to evaporate. This again causes thrust. Thrust causes motion and that will move the asteroid, slow it down, accelerate it, or nudge it ever so slightly.

jackd Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 4:10 pm
I tossed the following figures at the Impact Effects Calculator to see what 2009 DD45 might do:

Projectile Diameter: 30.00 m = 98.40 ft = 0.02 miles
Projectile Density: 3000 kg/m3
Impact Velocity: 17.00 km/s = 10.56 miles/s
Impact Angle: 45 degrees
Target Density: 1000 kg/m3
Target Type: Liquid Water of depth 100.00 meters, over typical rock.

Energy before atmospheric entry: 6.13 x 1015 Joules = 1.46 MegaTons TNT
The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth is 147.5 years

Atmospheric Entry:
The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 54000 meters = 177000 ft
The projectile bursts into a cloud of fragments at an altitude of 15100 meters = 49400 ft
The residual velocity of the projectile fragments after the burst is 8.66 km/s = 5.38 miles/s
The energy of the airburst is 4.54 x 1015 Joules = 1.08 x 100 MegaTons.
No crater is formed, although large fragments may strike the surface.

Stark Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 5:16 pm
I do not disagree with anything you have said except for the heating a nuclear weapon in space would cause.

The physics actually show that you get negligible heat out of a space born nuclear detonation (well, negligible when compared to an in atmosphere detonation)- the thermal radiation effects of a nuclear blast on the ground are directly related to and caused by the presence of the atmosphere to conduct said heat. In space there is no method of conduction. On the ground much of the blast wave and high frequency radiation of a nuclear detonation are absorbed by the atmosphere and then propagate as thermal radiation- aka. a big freaking fire ball. Since there is no air in space for the blast wave to heat you get much larger quantities of higher frequency radiation emitted from the weapon instead - while this would have some thrust effect on the asteroid it’s not anywhere near the kind of force one would intuitively expect.

Elmar_M Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 6:04 pm
Yes, the effects are reduced quite a bit. You do not get any blast and other atmospheric effects (as I mentioned). In return the lack of atmosphere should not slow down any radiation as it does here. So heat transmitted via radiation should be hitting the asteriod even harder than it would on earth, melting and vaporizing its surface.
For a greater blast effect one could also cover the bomb in a shell of material that can provide some additional blast damage. I think they can also build bombs now that focus the explosion into one direction. This could also help increasing the effect.
For my part, I am actually building on the fact that the explosion will result only in radiative heat though. This will cause a melting of the asteroid versus a breakup. For larger asteroids I would expect the localized heating to result in a rocket engine like effect (super heated asteroid material bursts away from the asteroid resulting in thrust).
Thats my theory anyway. Hey if it does not work, we can all still die

BA Alert: Coast to Coast AM tonight! | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 6:19 pm
[…] so you can listen on your computer. We’ll be talking about various current events, probably the asteroid that just skimmed past us, Comet Lulin, Pluto’s atmosphere, the Chinese Moon probe, and anything else we have time for. […]

Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:
March 3rd, 2009 at 7:57 am
It’s a pity that there isn’t a concerted space program directed to visit and, ultimately, herd asteriods (foremost for safety reasons). I mean, the Moon won’t go anywhere (dangerous) soon.

There are always a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas (lasers, particle beams, nukes) thrown around, but rarely a calculation to support the feasibility of the idea.

Hear, hear!

Now that it’s clear that English is becoming the chosen international language of the world (sorry Parisians- even the Mandarin speakers acknowledge this)

By coincidence I recently read a (local) article about the official EU language politics potentially breaking down. Apparently EU politicians when they meet tend to do as we all do for best effect, choosing a sort of minmax principle of using the most (max) spread language at a useful (min) level instead of the stated policy of using the (approved) ones they know best and then have to put up with translation. Which most often means english.

[IIRC there was an interesting aside that this is reflected in media as well, now providing english translations, which opens up a more international arena - especially since the UK luckily is quite isolationistic and doesn’t take the opportunity to push an agenda.]

So if EU in practice is going for a two language region (english + native) instead of the formal target of a three language education (native + two; i.e. enforcing something added besides english), it seems hopeful that this will be another large language arena that may ultimately facilitate the use of english.

Nuclear Near-Miss on Monday - The Michael Jackson Internet Fan Club Says:
March 3rd, 2009 at 2:00 pm
[…] The Bad Astronomer had a blog post about this as well: 100 meter asteroid will pass Earth Monday! | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine Exciting stuff! __________________ "Changing your mind is one of the best ways of […]

Leave a Reply
Name (required)

Mail (will not be published) (required)


Maybe one day, we will discover that space is denser than solid matter and thus be able to manipulate matter. Once this happens, it is all a matter of playing pinball - Right on Tommy!

About Bad Astronomy
If you went to BadAstronomy.com and found yourself here, never fear: the BA Blog has moved to its new home at Discover Blogs. The original BA site (with the Moon Hoax debunking and all that) is still online, too.

Phil Plait, the creator of Bad Astronomy, is an astronomer, lecturer, and author. After ten years working on Hubble Space Telescope and six more working on astronomy education, he struck out on his own as a writer. He has written two books, dozens of magazine articles, and 12 bazillion blog articles. He is a skeptic, and fights misuses of science as well as praising the wonder of real science.

Bad Astronomy was chosen as one of Time.com's Best Blog of 2009.

Subscribe to BA using an RSS Feed

Subscribe to Bad Astronomy using RSS!

Death from the Skies!

Order a copy of Death from the Skies! from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.

"If things worked the way I wanted them to, any reporter about to do another 'sensational' story on deadly meteors would consult this volume, and bang! common sense would find its way into the news. How strange would that world be?"
-- Adam Savage, Mythbusters

"Reading this book is like getting punched in the face by Carl Sagan. Frightening, but oddly exhilarating."
-- Daniel H. Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising

The opinions and ideas expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Discover Magazine and/or the James Randi Educational Foundation, of which Dr. Plait serves as President.
Recent Posts
Why you should listen to celebrities
Holey costume
Ten Things You Don’t Know About the Sun
BA Alert: Coast to Coast AM tonight!
Pluto’s atmosphere is upside-down!
Recent Comments
Shane on Holey costume
CR on Fryed astronomy
Shane on Why you should listen to celebrities
Greg in Austin on Time lapsed Lulin
Greg in Austin on Why you should listen to celebrities
Social/Networking/Cool Stuff
I support the International Year of Astronomy 2009!




Post Categories
Select Category 10 Things About this blog Antiscience Astronomy Cool stuff DeathfromtheSkies! Debunking Humor IYA JREF NASA Pareidolia Piece of mind Politics Pretty pictures Q & BA Rant Religion Science SciFi Skepticism Space Time Sink TV/Movies Uncategorized Video Blog
Select Month March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 March 2005
Bad Astronomy (old site)
Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum
Commenting Policy
Computer Support
Contact Information
DM: 80 Beats
DM: Better Planet
DM: Discoblog
DM: Reality Base
DM: Science Not Fiction
DM: The Loom
James Randi Educational Foundation
Planetary Society Blog
Politics and Religion posts
Press Kit
The Antivax Bible
Universe Today
DISCOVERmagazine.com: Latest Articles on Space
Like the Milky Way (Candy Bar), the Milky Way (Galaxy) Contains Sugar
Reviews: The Best New Science Books
Pictured: The Rocket That Could Save Astronauts' Lives
Numbers: From Hi-Tech Communications Beacons to the Infamous Flying Tool Bag
We All Live in Darwin's World
DISCOVER Blogs: The Loom
Like A Frightened Turtle?
The 300-Million-Year-Old Brain: Now In 3-D
Microcosm A Finalist for the LA Times Book Prize
Ice, Ice Baby: When Fact-Checking Is Not Fact-Checking
Astrophilia [Tattoo]

Privacy - Terms - Reader Services - Subscribe Today - Advertise - About Us


  1. jane jones comment was difficult to find...here it is again..there ya go!

    Maybe one day, we will discover that space is denser than solid matter and thus be able to manipulate matter. Once this happens, it is all a matter of playing pinball - Right on Tommy!

    Marc J. Seifer, Ph.D. MetaScience Publications, Box 32,Kingston, RI 02881
    July 10, 2011

    It was a warm winter morning in the new millennium. The seeker hailed a cab for the New York Public Library, strolled over to Bryant Park and waited as he was told. It was not too long before he noticed a tall, exceedingly thin gentleman feeding pigeons at a nearby bench. The man wore a long black coat, colorful scarf, and a derby hat with ear flaps. With a gleam in his eye, he looked over. "Seeker?" he asked, and the initiate nodded. "Come," the wizard motioned. There could be no doubt, it was Tesla. Considering the hobble to his gait and his advanced age, there still was a perceptible bounce to his stride. Nodding to an elderly couple who seemed to know him, the wizard grabbed two segues, exited the park and led his visitor down 5th Avenue to the Hotel St. Regis. Motoring up a ramp, they parked their vehicles and entered the foyer, taking their seats beneath a painting of John Jacob Astor where Part I of this interview took place.

    PART 1

    Seeker: From the Tesla archives we have obtained an interview with you from The New York Times July 11, 1933 where it states, and I quote, "Inventor says his health and mind are better than ever -- expects to live beyond 140." You were born in Croatia in 1856 and were 77 at the time. How does it feel to have been on this planet for so long?

    Tesla: I never think of my age. Really, you know, even now, I'm still a youngster. Knowing that I have descended from a people who came from the mountains of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia who lived to 110 or 120 -- we even had one relative who made it to 140, -- I began from the start with the plan to outlive each of them. I feel mentally stronger and more fit than ever.

    Seeker: How do you do it?

    Tesla: First of all, it is not as uncommon as you think. Humans are a simply machines who must follow natural law. An individual who is an offender of the law is a machine that has been degraded so that its responses are no longer accurate and death ensues at an earlier age. The recent story about that French lady who the media said was the oldest living person who died at the age of 120 was poppycock. There are many people today living in mountain villages in Europe and South America who are easily 140. I believe that aging is caused by bacteria on the skin. These can be eradicated by taking electrical baths, which I do daily.

    Seeker: An electric bath?

    Tesla: I step aboard a special platform which can transmits millions of volts through my body. This is at a very low power, but very high frequency, as much as 80 million oscillations a second. The electricity, for the most part, travels around the surface throwing off unwanted molecules with extreme vigor. I believe that electrotherapy can also be used to cure numerous ills, particularly cancer. The idea would be to find a resonant frequency for the corresponding virus or tumor and rattle it with such a high intensity that its molecular structure would be shattered asunder.

    Seeker: All one needs is an electrical bath, and that's it, you live to 140?

    Tesla: That's a key component. For my ancestors and those others who have survived well past 100 who are not bombarded by the disease one finds in the urban environment, there are other factors which include exercise, I walk ten miles a day, pure thoughts, abstinence, hard work, an occasional glass of wine, and a strict diet of a product I call factor actus.

    Seeker: Which is?

    Tesla: It's a simple health potion equivalent to the protein value of a dozen eggs, made from twelve vegetables including white leeks, cabbage hearts, flower of cauliflower, white turnips and lettuce hearts. The product can be eaten warm in a soup or as a powdered substance added to purified water. I also recommend fish, stewed prunes marinated in honey and fresh oranges.

    Seeker: What about sleep?

    Tesla: Oh, I don't sleep. Sleep is a racial habit growing out of the fact that humans spend half their life in darkness due to the rotation of the earth. Sometimes I doze for an hour or so, and once in a long while, perhaps once in a year, I have a long sleep of five, six or seven hours. When I awake from that I am so full of energy that I have to work it off!

    Seeker: What about naps.

    Tesla: That was Tom Edison's trick. He used to stay awake around the clock until he nodded out, and then he would sleep on a problem. Tom used to hold two rocks in his hands and sleep over a bucket. And if he got the answer he was looking for in his sleep, he would drop the rocks, and the racket would wake him up. I admit I also doze during the day when I get tired, but that is mainly to recharge my batteries. Unlike Edison, I do my work while I'm conscious.

    Seeker: You are credited with a long list of inventions. We've even heard you developed waterwheels at age five. Can you give us an easy summary of the inventions you lay claim to?

    Tesla: I didn't invent anything. I discovered and created. Below is a modest list of some of my achievements:

    1. Rotating magnetic field.
    2. Induction motor.
    3. AC power transmission, transformers, alter-
    nators, turbines.
    4. Commutators, and regulators for dynamo
    5. Electric meter.
    6. Electric arc lamp
    7. Fluorescent and neon lights.
    8. Radio tubes and precursor to TV tube.
    9. Refrigeration devices.
    10. Ozone producing machines.
    11. Electrical igniter for gas engines.
    12. Lasers
    13. Dematerialization devices.
    14. Particle beam weapons.
    15. Wireless transmission.
    16. Cellular telephone, scramblers, encryption
    17. Remote control.
    18. Radar, stealth technology.
    19. Lightning protectors.
    20. Artificial intelligence and automatons.
    21. Oscillators and Tesla coil.
    22. Steam turbines.
    23. Bladeless pumps.
    24. Water fountain.
    25. Hovercraft.
    26. Reactive jet dirigibles, flying wing designs.
    27. Helicopter-airplanes.
    28. Magnifying transmitter.
    29. Fueless planes and automobiles.
    30. Weather control devices.
    24. Method for obtaining fertilizer from nitrogen
    in the air.
    31. Electro-therapeutics.
    32. Electric bath.
    33.Teleogeodynamics & earthquake machines.
    34. Speedometers and tachometers.
    35. Cosmic ray generators for power tranmis-
    sion between planets.

    Seeker: That's quite a list. How do you think it compares with Edison.

    Tesla: Edison invented. I discovered.

    Seeker: If you had it to do all over again, would you forgo working with Edison?

    Tesla: Of course not. Edison had the most advanced electrical operations at that time. It was an invaluable experience.

    Seeker: What was it like to meet him?

    Tesla: My first encounter was a memorable event. He was at that time, the most famous man in the world, known then as the Napoleon of Invention. I was amazed at this wonderful man who without early advantage or scientific training had accomplished so much. But after working with him, round the clock, day in and day out, I became frustrated. If Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would not stop to reason where the needle might be, but rather, would examine every straw, straw after straw like a diligent bee until he found the object of his search. It was almost sad to watch him at these times, when with a little theory and mathematical calculation, he would have saved 90% of his labor.

    Seeker: Why did you leave his employ?

    Tesla: Let's just say we had a misunder-standing. Edison was simply incapable of comprehending my alternating current electrical system. At the time, he had over 1,000 small direct current power stations dotted around the country. I tried to show him that by using AC, all of those stations could be scrapped, and electricity could be sent from one central source. He would hear none of it. The invention was too new. I had no publications on it. So I pulled back and suggested I redesign his DC system instead. I knew I could increase its efficiency at least 15%. The manager said "There's $50,000 in it if you succeed." And when I did, and tried to collect, Edison laughed and said it was a joke, that I didn't understand American humor. That was the last time we worked together. And pretty soon after that, my AC system became the standard, and Edison's DC system went the way of the passenger pigeon.

    Seeker: Is it true that he electrocuted cats and dogs in order to win the battle of the currents?

    Tesla: Most definitely, and a cow and even a rogue elephant! The problem at the time was how to harness a current that changed its direction of flow at many times per second into a unidirectional flow. No one could do it before me, so the electricians of the day simply eliminated the up flow and only used the downflow current. This became known as direct current. The advantage of direct current was that electricity could now be harnessed to light bulbs and run electrical equipment, but at a great price of efficiency. What I did was figure out how to eliminate the commutator which caused the current to go direct, and use alternating current in its natural state.

    Seeker: What was the difference in outcome?

    Tesla: With Edison's system, and a similar system that the Westinghouse company was using, one would need a power station for every mile of lighting. So, for instance, if one wanted to light the city of New York, one would need a dozen or more electrical plants for every square mile of homes, and even then, the power dropped off with distance. Thus, if a home was near the plant, it's lightbulbs shone brightly, but if you lived, say three quarters of a mile away, your bulbs were dim. And, what's more, this systems could only be used for lighting, not for running machinery.

    Seeker: Then how did they power factories in those days?

    Tesla: By being close to a power source which usually was a river. In the early 1890's during the height of the battle of the currents, the great industries of the day were all planning on moving to the banks of the Niagara, because that is where the power was. Edison was upset that we had a competing system, as I had already sold the system to Westinghouse, so he got a man on death row sentenced to die by alternating current. It was Edison's hope that the public would be so afraid of my AC system that they would keep his DC instead.

    Seeker: What happened?

    Tesla: Well, the first thing I did was figure out how to send AC through breathing organisms without gaining injury. I toured the world explaining my system and at the same time sent hundreds of thousands of volts through my own body without harming myself. By increasing the frequency and dropping the power to a whisper, it became child's play. Nevertheless, the current was still strong enough to illuminate wireless cold lamps which I held in my hand. That was another reason why Edison was so upset with me.

    Seeker: Because the lamps were cold?

    Tesla: Yes. I had removed his precious filament. You see the common electric light wastes 95% of its energy in heat. Try touching an Edison bulb when it is on, and you will see what I mean. I realized that the vacuum in the bulb was more important than the filament. It's one of my most important discoveries, namely, that when electro-magnetism reaches a certain high frequency it creates light. Now almost all major buildings are lit by my fluorescent lights. They use less power, are cold to the touch, and the bulbs almost never have to be changed.

    Seeker: People have said that the war of the currents is similar today to the war between Microsoft and Apple Computer. Would you agree?

    Tesla: There are similarities, but I think it would be best to first point out the advantage of my AC system over Edison's DC. As stated above, with the Edison system, electricity could only be transmitted about a mile, and then only for lighting homes. The upshot was, that if Edison had won the battle of the currents, the entire country would have been dotted at every mile with direct current generators harnessed mostly by coal. One can imagine the amount of air pollution that was being created in the late 1880's and early 1890's when there was already nearly 3000 smoking plants -- and that was just the start. With my AC system, however, one needed only one clean energy producing station at Niagara Falls, and with that, the entire northeast could be illuminated. By the turn of the century, harnessing my system through the Westinghouse Corporation, we transmitted electrical power from Niagara to Chicago, Toronto, Boston and New York. Now factories could stay in their respective states. They did not have to all line up along rivers or way up at Niagara Falls. It also meant that housewives for the first time, could run electrical appliances in their homes. They couldn't do that with Edison's DC system.
    Now, if you look at the history of the home computer, you see that there were three major competing systems in the mid 1980's, the Apple II disk operating system, Microsoft DOS which became the standard for IBM, and the new Apple system called the Macintosh. Mr. Jobs liked the Macintosh because it was set up specifically for graphics capabilities, and so he sought to dissolve the other profitable Apple II system. His company resisted this idea and fired Jobs instead, even though he was the largest shareholder. Since IBM was the dominant force in the computer field, whatever DOS they settled on was destined to become the standard. Bill Gates knowingly settled on a slap-dash DOS which was sloppily assembled for word processing and for crunching numbers, but it was not set up for graphics. In the long run, it became clear that the Macintosh had the best system, but Gates had the market. In an interview in a men's magazine....

    Seeker: Playboy (July 1994)?

    Tesla: Perhaps, I only had the article, Gates said, and I quote, "Actually, [our DOS] would have been obsolete some time ago if we hadn't come along with Windows and sort of built it on top of DOS to renew its capabilities.... [And] believe me, it would have been a lot easier to write Windows so it didn't run DOS applications." What Gates was really saying, of course, was that he should have scrapped the Microsoft DOS because it was inferior, and adopted the Macintosh DOS instead, but it risked great market share, so he took the expedient route at the cost of ultimate efficiency.
    Here we see some key similarities and the differences. If Edison had won in our battle, the air would be polluted, factories would have to move near water falls, or install great smoking generators and homes would not have electrical appliances. My system was so far superior that its advantages soon became blatantly obvious to the financiers, even though a number of the Westinghouse people did not want to scrap their inferior power distribution system and take mine on.

    Seeker: Then why did you give up your royalty clause?

    Tesla: Because Westinghouse, like Edison, had over 1000 of his own small power plants providing electricity for lighting to a few hundred homes a piece, and these plants were making money. My system threatened this profitable scheme, so I had conflicts with some of their engineers. I told Westinghouse that money was not the issue. They had to change over to my system, and to make my point, I ripped up the royalty clause. In the long run it hurt me financially, but I wouldn't feel the effects for nearly a decade, as I was still receiving compensation on the invention, and revenues from other patents I had.
    And, so my AC polyphase system was put in at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and at Niagara Falls in 1897, and the system is still used essentially unchange today. Gates' system is clearly inferior, just ask any computer animator or graphics designer, but it is not so obvious as to why it is inferior, so he was able to prevail in the short run. His chip maker, Intel, is also figuring out how to make faster and faster chips. However, their foundation is wrong. The Macintosh starts with a more elegant premise, so it is my belief that in the long run, all computers will be run on Macintosh based disk operating systems. Obviously Gates knows he had an inferior disk operating system, but his pride was involved and he was too afraid to scrap the system to take on the better foundation. It is sad, although from a business point of view, he's still way ahead.
    Seeker: According to your speech at Niagara, the system of AC electrical transmission that we use today, your system, was also obsolete.

    Tesla: Not the whole system, but the means for transmitting electrical power over long distances was obsolete. Look what happened with that ice storm a few winters back in the northeast in Maine and Canada. The power lines broke and tens of thousands of people were without power for weeks in the dead of winter. My idea was to do away with long-distance power lines entirely.

    Seeker: Is that really possible?

    Tesla: Of course. I had built my first wireless power transmission station in Colorado Springs in 1899 to study the principle, and then I moved back to New York and erected my second station out on Long Island.

    Seeker: Wardenclyffe.

    Tesla: Yes. The idea was to erect a large transmission tower which could do a variety of things. For instance, if a similar tower were placed in England, which was my plan, than energy could be jumped from the Long Island plant over the Atlantic to the receiving tower in England. From there the electricity could be transmitted either by means of wireless to the local dwellings or by conventional means, that is, but using wires. Mostly, the idea would be to locate receiving plants at distant places that were not near sources of power.

    Seeker: But Wardenclyffe was not near a water fall.

    Tesla: True enough. But this was really an experimental station. My full plan involved the erection of a source plant at Niagara, and I had designs with both the American and Canadian power companies to put this in but other complications prevented me.

    Seeker: You claimed in 1900 that you had a wireless telephone?

    Tesla: That was nothing new. I also had facsimile machines. All of the principles to what today is called the cellular phone is in my patents. I told Morgan at the time....

    Seeker: J. P. Morgan?

    Tesla: J.P. Morgan was the son. This was J. Pierpont Morgan, the father, that I could create an unlimited number of separate wireless channels, but he didn't believe me.

    Seeker: Was that because Marconi sent his message across the Atlantic before you got the chance?

    Tesla: That was part of it. I told Mr. Morgan that the microbe was using outmoded equipment based in large measure on the work of Heireich Hertz, even if he did pirate my oscillators, and that he was merely trying to send Morse code, dots and dashes across the seas, where I was going to transmit voice, light, pictures and power. I had already calculated that Hertz' system was not conducive. That is why I invented a continu-ous wave oscillator because that was the only way to go. Today, no-one uses Hertzian frequencies to transmit radio, wireless television and cellular conversations, they all use Tesla waves.

    Seeker: How did you create an unlimited number of separate wireless channels?

    Tesla: By using what John Hays Hammond Jr. called my prophetic genius patent. This was achieved by combining frequencies. Let me give you an example. Say you have an oscillator which produces ten frequencies. You then have ten channels. Do you see?

    Seeker: Yes.

    Tesla: Then how do you create more channels?

    Seeker: Hey, who's asking the questions! I don't know. How?

    Tesla: By inventing a receiver that is receptive to a combination of frequencies. If the receiver works when it is activated by two separate frequencies, then you have 10 times 10 or 100 channels. If it is three frequencies, there are 1000 possible channels, and so on. In reality, we are already starting off with thousands of channels, so when you multiply the frequencies, you see that there are a virtually unlimited number of possible stations. That is how every person on the planet can have their own cellular phone, and that is my invention.

    Seeker: How do we know that is true?

    Tesla: First of all, it is in my patents, but also, I displayed this principle in my remote controlled boat which I showed at Madison Square Garden in 1898.

    Seeker: So, you invented remote control as well?

    Tesla: And selective tuning and telautomatics. The whole idea of thinking machines can be traced back to my boat whose patents I displayed in the electrical journals at that time. Now we see this applications in dozens of ways, such as in beepers, garage door openers, remote controlled toy cars, airplanes and boats, the television remote, and so on, all based on that patent. One can also see that telephone scramblers and computer encryption devices, cable and satellite station blockers are also based on this simple principle of using multiple frequencies.

    Seeker: And you say humans are simply biological automatons too?

    Tesla: Essentially, yes. Man, however, is not an ordinary mass consisting of spinning atoms and molecules and containing merely heat-energy. He is a mass possessed of certain higher qualities by reason of the creative principle of life which he is endowed. His mass, as the water in an ocean wave, is being continuously exchanged, new taking the place of the old.

    Seeker: Would you say this concept is analogous to the modern day idea of artificial intelligence.

    Tesla: I do not believe that intelligence is artificial, but rather a property of matter. I have, by every thought and every act of mine, demonstrated and do so daily, to my absolute satisfaction that like these machines, I am nothing more than an automaton endowed with a power of movement, which merely responds to external stimuli beating upon my sense organs, and thinks and acts accordingly. I remember only one or two cases in all my life which I was unable to locate the first impression which prompted a movement, or a thought, or even a dream.

    Seeker: Wasn't one of those two instances the intuitive flash you received which gave you the insight to realize that a solution to the AC problem was possible.

    Tesla: Yes.

    Seeker: And you mention dreams. You do not believe in Carl Jung's idea that dreams can be prompted from something inside like genetic memories, which he called archetypes. You say that dreams only come from something external.

    Tesla: I don't want to get too far afield. But even if Jung's idea was correct, it would still prove my point that information ultimately was derived from a reaction to something from the environment, even if it was in the environment of our ancestors.

    Seeker: Implanted into the DNA?

    Tesla: DNA is merely a special arrangement of particular atoms. Even matter called inorganic, believed to be dead, responds to irritants and gives unmistakable evidence of a living principle within. Take a crystal, for instance. Certainly its growth and structure gives evidence of this animating principle. DNA, much like the crystal, is made up of matter, just five elements arranged in a peculiar fashion: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and phosphorous. Everything that exists, organic or inorganic, animated or inert, is susceptible to stimulus from the outside. There is no gap between, no break in continuity, no special and distinguishing vital agent. The momentous question of Spencer, What is it that causes inorganic matter to run into organic forms? has been answered. It is the sun's heat and light. Wherever they are there is life.
    It was from this premise, that the life principle, which, ultimately, is electrical in nature, is present not just in the plants and animals that inhabit the earth, but also in the structure of matter itself, which enabled me to create the first of a new race on the planet, a race of non-biological life-forms.

    Seeker: So, this was the basis for the robot you invented?

    Tesla: I prefer the term automaton, or telautomaton, because it was activated by remote control. Long ago I conceived the idea of constructing such a machine which would mechanically represent me, and which would respond, as I do myself, but of course, in a much more primitive manner to external influences. Such an automaton evidently had to have motive power, organs for locomotion, directive organs and one or more sensitive organs so adapted as to be excited by external stimuli. Whether the automaton be of flesh and bone, or of wood and steel, it mattered little, provided it could provide all the duties required of it like an intelligent being.
    The automaton that I created and displayed before the public at Madison Square Garden in 1898, was constructed so as to follow a course which I laid out, and obey commands given far in advance. This mechanical being was capable of distinguishing between what it ought and what it ought not to do, and of recording impressions which would definitely affect its subsequent actions. This original automaton had to use a borrowed brain, my own, but my ultimate plan was to continue evolving the entity so that it would be able to reproduce itself. This machine has evolved into various kinds of computer entities and automatons existing in the real world and displayed in movies.

    Seeker: What do you think of these modern thinking machines such as Big Blue which recently beat Kasparov in a chess match.

    Tesla: I am impressed but only so far as its applications to more important problems. Big Blue has the advantage of storing tens of thousands of games and hundreds of thousands of chess moves that are reversed in the machine for inevitable conclusions. The real question was if Big Blue had reflective capabilities, and I don't believe that Big Blue achieved this level of thought. The big difference between these thinking machines, and, to use your term, the robots is in motivation. Humans are motivated to live and to improve themselves. Machines have no motivation. This is what must be instilled in order to train the machine to want to think for itself. That is why I laid out the plan to inspire my future automatons to want to reproduce.

    Seeker: What would you use to motivate a machine?

    Tesla: I don't know. Maybe an extra zap of juice! (laughs) if it came up with a new thought. The idea of creating computers that would program themselves, however, is not new. There are many articles on this concept.

    Seeker: You mention in your writings the possibility of weather control and the creation of artificial lighting.

    Tesla: Yes. Wardenclyffe was set up to do a variety of things. I had realized long ago that cloud bursts and rain showers were often triggered by lightning. This whole El Nino thing could have been averted if my system of weather control had been in place.

    Seeker: Really?

    Tesla: Of course. I knew that if I could change the electrical matrix in the skies I could generate clouds and create rain or do the reverse and diminish a weather storm's capacity. I was also planning on lighting up shipping lanes over the high seas so that ships would be able to see at night.

    Seeker: I'm not quite sure what you mean?

    Tesla: Aren't you listening man? I would use my giant Tesla coil, which I called my magnifying transmitter, to beam up frequencies, say, between New York and England, over the seas, and these vibrations, much like the Northern Lights, would create luminescence so that ships could see where they were going at night. Had I finished my plans, that is, if I had not run out of money, then my good friend Colonel John Jacob Astor, and his friend Benjamin Guggenheim would not have died during that awful mess when the Titanic sank. The captain would have seen the iceberg, the event happened at night, and 1500 lives would have been saved.

    Seeker: So, is it your belief that had Wardenclyffe been completed, the Titanic would not have sank.

    Tesla: The lighting of the shipping lanes was the back-up plan. My main invention would have been an efficient world telegraphy system. Had that been in operation in 1912, and it should have been, the Titanic would have been able to radio a half dozen nearby ships who could have come and rescued the remaining passengers. The problem was that the dolt Marconi, had placed his inferior dot and dash system on board the Titanic. The range and capabilities of that system was woefully inadequate. My system of what today is called mass communications, was more efficient then in its final form than the wireless system of even today. The Titanic would have had instant access to all neighboring ships and these people would have been rescued.

    Seeker: Have you seen the recent movie Titanic?

    Tesla: Yes, I have.

    Seeker: And what did you think of it?

    Tesla: I liked the one with Clifton Webb better.

    Seeker: Why was that?

    Tesla: Because the story line of this one was too narrow. I thought the love story was inspirational, I'll give the director, Mr. Cameron, that, and I tip my hat off on the special effects on the sinking of the ship, and the pointing out the idiocy of letting the ship go to sea without enough life boats, but his depiction of Mr. Guggenheim and Colonel Astor was simply dredful. An insult to the intelligence of anyone who knew these find gentleman. There were mere cardboard cutouts and cowards in Cameron's picture. The real men were men of substance, who gave their lives so that women and children could be saved in their stead. Don't you think a man of Astor's stature, who at that time was worth probably four or five times what Bill Gates is worth today, could have had the means to get himself onto one of the lifeboats? He was a gentleman as was Guggenheim. Astor had donated his ship thirteen years before that during the Spanish American War and he went down to Cuba to help Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders. He was helping me fund my flying machine when he died.

    Seeker: You had a flying machine?

    Tesla: Several. I had designed a hovercraft for Astor to travel over the Hudson, much like the hydrofoil of today. It worked like a charm. I had a dirigible jet, you know, a Zeppelin, lighter than air ship that was propelled by a jet engine. And later, I had my famous flivver plane, which was a small aircraft that took off vertically, like a helicopter and then the propeller was rotated into the airplane position to fly like a conventional craft.

    Seeker: Much like today's military plane the Osprey tilt-roter?

    Tesla: Precisely. But the cost would not have been 40 million dollars a piece as the Osprey is. My plan was to construct small flivver planes that could fly five or six people. They were being priced right before the crash of '29, at about $1000 a piece. I was negotiating with Henry Ford. But then the Depression came. This vehicle was going to compete with the automobile. Each home would need a small helipad, or there could be helipad centers every few blocks. I'm not sure that the flivver plane would have worked in densely populated areas, such as New York City, but in the suburbs they would have been fine, particulary for trips between cities and states.

    Seeker: In 1970, there was a book written by Arthur Matthews about you entitled Wall of Light: Nikola Tesla and the Venusian Spaceship, which stated that you were still alive at that time living on a space ship that came from Venus.

    Tesla: I can neither confirm nor deny that book. However, I will say that Venus is much too hot to live on.

    Seeker: You had some fundamental issues with Einstein's theories when they first came into the scientific noosphere. Today, however, they are widely accepted. Do you feel you owe the quantum physics community an apology.

    Tesla: You neglected to mention that Einstein, himself, never accepted the premise of indetermancy that lies at the basis of quantum physics, and we have yet to hear him apologize. Einstein was a pad and pencil scientist who deduced mathematical equations instead of constructing physical devices which would have proved or disproved his lofty cerebrations. There is, however, one area where we are in agreement and that is the notion that "God doesn't play dice," the idea that the world operates like a great machine, where everything is interconnected.

    Seeker: Surely you see now that you were in error about atomic energy.

    Tesla: You know what they say about hindsight. In retrospect I realize that we had been talking about different parts of the atom. You see, I had split atoms hundreds of times through extremely high voltages, but never released the kind of energy Einstein talked about. The problem was that he was discussing the splitting of the nucleus of the atom, and I was discussing the disintegration of its larger structure which involved the breaking down of the electron orbits, and the changing of one element into another, not the demolition of the inner workings of the components of the nucleus. Either he did not make that point clear in the 1930's when I voiced my disapproval, or somehow I missed it.

    Seeker: You split atoms?

    Tesla: Many times. It only takes about one million volts to vaporize carbon and about four million volts to change it into helium, but this process does not involve the destruction of the nucleus.

    Seeker: You also say lightspeed can be transcended?

    Tesla: So do the physicists, and I'm not talking about tachyons although that idea bears some merit. I'm talking about the problem of trying to apply relativity to the structure of the atom. Read Gamow's book Thirty Years that Shook Physics. He tells us that the orthorotational speed of the electron is 1.37 times the speed of light. That violated relativity so the quantum phycists did some fancy mathematical footwork and somehow skipped this real problem entirely. But it remains one of the key reasons we don't have, as yet, a unified field theory. They can't completely combine quantum physics with relativity. My magnifying transmitter, is another instance of violatiing relativity. In this device, I created electrical waves that travelled one and a half times the speed of light.

    Seeker: That is on a whole different order, and as I understand classical physics, this just can't be possible.

    Tesla: Let me ask you a question. How big around is the earth?

    Seeker: 25,000 miles?

    Tesla: Right. Now, light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Let's round that off to 200,000 miles per second to make the mathematics more easily understood.

    Seeker: OK.

    Tesla: So, that means that it takes light approximately 1/8 of a second to travel around the earth. Do you agree?

    Seeker: Yes.

    Tesla: Now, let me ask you another question. How long do you think it takes the electrical field of the North pole to interact with the electrical field of the South pole?

    Seeker: What do you mean?

    Tesla: Will you agree that it has to be a lot faster than 1/8 of a second?

    Seeker: I can't tell.

    Tesla: You're missing the point. The earth is a single entity. So obviously it is instantane-ously connected to itself. The field of the North pole is connected the field of the South pole instantaneously. And if that is true, that violates relativity. Let's take it one step further. Jupiter's diameter is about 10 times that of the earth, or, in round numbers approximately 250,000 miles around. Thus, it would take light well over a second to travel around Jupiter. There simply must be forces involved that exceed the speed of light as one end of Jupiter is obviously connected to its other end. Now, if we apply this same concept to the solar system as a single unit or to the galaxy as a whole, which is many millions of light years long, we see how absolutely silly it is to think that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The angular momentum of the galaxy, caused by its spin, can be measured. Owing to the immense charge of the sun, it alone produces cosmic rays that travel 50 times that of the speed of light.
    Another example is the ubiquitous presence of gravity which also suggests a mechanism that vastly exceeds lightspeed. Mach's principle suggest this, whereby every part of the universe is linked to every other part. We don't have to go into such far out ideas as non-locality to comprehend this point. I myself, have transmitted impulses around the earth at speeds 1.5 time that of light, and further, I have measured cosmic rays that exceed lightspeed by five times.

    Seeker: And you have proof?

    Tesla: Naturally. I am presently working on a interplanetary tube that will send signals at twice the speed of light.

    Seeker: Can you describe how this tube will function.

    Tesla: This device should be ready sometime next year, and at that time I will demonstrate it and explain its principles in detail.

    Seeker: Are you talking about hyperspatial dimensions?

    Tesla: No. The physicists went wrong when they abandoned the ether theory. If you read Einstein carefully, he never said the ether did not exist, what he said was that it could not be detected. There must be something between the stars and galaxies and I prefer to call that something the ether. And this is easily proved. In fact, it is self evident.

    Seeker: What do you mean.

    Tesla: Take any point in space, say somewhere millions of lightyears between galaxies.

    Seeker: OK. Now what?

    Tesla: Will you agree that if you were situated at that point and had a telescope, you would see millions of stars and some galaxies.

    Seeker: Yes.

    Tesla: So, we see that every point in space contains the intersecting light from millions and millions of stars and galaxies. And that is only part of the story. The ether exists and has threshold values associated with its various properties. Certainly lightspeed is one such threshold. Rather than call the next level hyperspace, I prefer to link it to frequencies or oscillations that exceed that of light. Hyperspace implies popping in and out of dimensions, travelling back and forth in time and so on, and I for one, will not accept such views. My idea is much more simple. Certain cosmic rays vibrate and travel through the ether at frequencies that exceed lightspeed.

    Seeker: You also disagree with Einstein concerning his idea that space is curved.

    Tesla: It's nonsense. How can "nothing" be curved.

    Seeker: Then how do you explain how light bends around large objects such as planets and stars.

    Tesla: The light is bent by a force-field. All of this will be explained when I publish my theory on gravity. And for that matter, I also do not agree with Stephen Hawkings and his ideas on black holes in space. You read about these black holes in all the science magazines as if they are real things. They are not. They are theoretical constructs that do not exist in the real world.

    Seeker: Since your work is so important, why is it that you are so little known by the general public?

    Tesla: There are a number of reasons. The first is that once I sold my patents to Westinghouse on the AC polyphase system, this then became known as the Westinghouse system. Of course Steinmetz didn't help either.

    Seeker: Why is that?

    Tesla: Because he left my name out of his textbooks on my system! Same thing in wireless, as I alluded to earlier, once my Tesla coil and oscillators became part and parcel of any workable wireless system, such as the radio, one would think that the term Tesla waves would come into vogue. But no, the people in power referred to them as Hertzian waves, which are a myth. Intelligent information cannot be transmitted with Hertz's system, but can only be transmitted by my system, which I displayed before societies in England, France and America one, two and three years before Marconi even began his studies in the field. And then, of course, the conspiracy continues to this day.

    Seeker: Is this just philosophizing or do you have proof?

    Tesla: Proof?! Take Scientific American. Is that big enough for you. April 1997 -- there's a big three-page article on me and my work so what do they do, they say that Sebastian Ferranti invented the AC polyphase system in England in 1889. I write the editor, some young whippersnapper with a haughty grin, sticks his picture on the inside of every cover, and I show him my letter from Gisbert Kapp dated in 1888 where he thanks me for allowing him to publish my lecture so that engineers in England could begin to build my apparatus. And lo and behold, the following year Ferranti makes good. Do you think Scientific American would correct its story. NO! They ignored me even when I gave them signed proof! Not only that, this editor never even wrote me back! And then there is Nature. They actually said in their July 1997 issue that I had no mathematical skills! I had to threaten them with a lawsuit before they finally printed a retraction, which was done the following year!

    Seeker: What about Morgan?

    Tesla: What about Morgan?

    Seeker: Do you think he sabotaged your work on wireless because of his holdings in copper, timber and rubber?

    Tesla: Not a disparaging thing can be said about him. Mr. Morgan adhered to our contract to the letter.

    Seeker: Well, do you think he played any role in diminishing your fame?

    Tesla: Certainly not. I can only laugh when I hear people criticize Mr. Morgan. He was a nobleman of the highest order and towered above the Wall Street people like Samson over the Philistines.

    Seeker: So, why is it that you failed?

    Tesla: The world wasn't ready. Certain devices can be great advances, but if the time is not right, society does not integrate the invention into its markets.

    * * *