When Science Met Awesome: Our Last Defense Against Asteroids? Nuclear Weapons!

Posted by on May 27th, 2010


The brilliant Phil Plait once penned an epic disemboweling of the film Armageddon which in turn morphed into a hilarious live talk that I was lucky enough to see in person. But it looks like at least one epic of the Michael Bay tour de force would be more of an omen than originally suspected.

Yes folks, Owen Wilson has offered his services to NASA just in case.

Just kidding, but it does look like our best defense from asteroids might be nuclear weaponry.

That’s the opinion of David Dearborn, anyway, who says we may need to tap our nuclear arsenal if a life-threatening asteroid suddenly comes into view. Dearborn, a research physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, laid out the nuclear case in a talk here Tuesday at the semiannual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Dearborn’s research on nuking asteroids is a fairly natural outgrowth of his other work, which has involved weapons development and testing, as well as three-dimensional modeling of astrophysical processes. He has run numerical simulations of how a nuclear detonation either near or on the surface of a threatening near-Earth object could divert or fragment it, and has found that with a little bit of lead time the weapons could do the job rather well.

And cue the music.

[Scientific American]

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