Skip to comments.Giant comet may collide with Earth late October
Posted on 10/09/2006 9:40:33 PM PDT by tlb
click here to read article
Harvey said, "Look. Hamner-Brown will hit atmosphere a lot harder than any normal meteorite, and it's mostly ice. The masses will burn faster, won't they?"
He saw two shaking heads: a thin face wearing insectile glasses, and a thick bushy beard above thick glasses. And over against the wall Mark was shaking his head too. Sharps said, "They'd bore through quicker. When the mass is above a certain size, it stops being important whether Earth has an atmosphere or not."
"Except to us," Forrester said, deadpan.
Sharps paused a second, then laughed. Politely, Harvey thought, but it was done carefully. Sharps took pains to avoid offending Forrester. "What we need is a good analogy. Um . . ." Sharps's brow furrowed.
"Hot fudge sundae," said Forrester.
Forrester's grin was wide through his beard. "A cubic mile of hot fudge sundae. Cometary speeds."
Sharps's eyes lit up. "I like it! Let's hit Earth with a cubic mile of hot fudge sundae."
Lord God, they've gone bonkers, Harvey thought. The two men raced each other to the blackboard. Sharps began to draw. "Okay. Hot fudge sundae. Let's see: We'll put the vanilla ice cream in the center with a layer of fudge over it...."
He ignored the strangled sound behind him. Tim Hamner hadn't said a word during the whole interview. Now he was doubled over, holding himself, trying to hold in the laughter. He looked up, choked, got his face straight, said, "I can't stand it!" and brayed like a jackass. "My comet! A cubic mile of hot . . . fudge . . . sun . . . dae . . ."
"With the fudge as the outer shell," Forrester amplified, "so the fudge will heat up when the Hammer rounds the Sun."
"That's Hamner-Brown," Tim said, straight-faced.
"No, my child, that's a cubic mile of hot fudge sundae. And the ice cream will still be frozen inside the shell," said Sharps.
Harvey said, "But you forgot the"
"We put the cherry at one pole and say that pole was in shadow at perihelion." Sharps sketched to show that when the comet rounded the Sun, the cherry at the oblate spheroid's axis would be on the side away from Sol. "We don't want it scorched. And we'll put crushed nuts all through it, to represent rocks. Say a two-hundred-foot cherry?"
"Carried by the Royal Canadian Air Force," Mark said."Stan Freberg! Right!" Forrester whooped. "Shhhh . . . plop! Let's see you do that on television!"
"And now, as the comet rounds the Sun, trailing a luminous froth of fake whipped cream, and aims itself down our throats . . . Dan, what's the density of vanilla ice cream?"
Forrester shrugged. "It floats. Say two-thirds."
"Right. Point six six six it is." Sharps seized a pocket calculator from the desk and punched frantically. "I love these things. Used to use slide rules. Never could figure out where the decimal point went.
"A cubic mile to play with. Five thousand two hundred and eighty feet, times twelve for inches, times two point five four for centimeters, cube that . . . We have two point seven seven six times ten to the fifteenth cubic centimeters of vanilla ice cream. It would take a while to eat it all. Times the density, and lo, we have about two times ten to the fifteenth grams. Couple of billion tons. Now for the fudge . . ." Sharps punched away.
Happy as a clam, Harvey thought. A very voluble clam equipped with Texas Instruments' latest pocket marvel.
"What do you like for the density of hot fudge?" Sharps asked.
"Call it point nine," Forrester said.
"Haven't any of you made fudge?" Charlene demanded. "It doesn't float. You test it by dripping it into a cup of cold water. Or at least my mother did."
"Say one point two, then," Forrester said.
"Another billion and a half tons of hot fudge," Sharps said. Behind him Hamner made more strangled noises.
"I think we can ignore the rocks," Sharps said. "Do you see why, now?"
"Lord God, yes," Harvey said. He looked at the camera with a start. "Uh, yes, Dr. Sharps, it certainly makes sense to ignore the rocks."
"You're not going to show this, are you?" Tim Hamner sounded indignant.
"You're saying no?" Harvey asked.
"No . . . no . . ." Hamner doubled over and giggled.
'Now, she's coming at cometary speeds. Fast. Let's see, parabolic speed at Earth orbit is what, Dan?"
"Twenty-nine point seven kilometers per second. Times square root of two."
"Forty-two kilometers a second," Sharps announced. "And we've got Earth's orbital velocity to add. Depends on the geometry of the strike. Shall we say fifty kilometers a second as a reasonable closing velocity?"
"Sounds good," Forrester said. "Meteors go from twenty to maybe seventy. It's reasonable."
"Right. Call it fifty. Square that, times a half. Times mass in grams. Bit over two times ten to the twenty-eight ergs. That's for the vanilla ice cream. Now we can figure that most of the hot fudge boiled away, but understand, Harvey, at those speeds we're just not in the atmosphere very long. If we come in straight it's two seconds flat! Anyway, whatever mass you burn up, a lot of the energy just gets transferred to the earth's heat balance. That's a spectacular explosion all by itself. We'll figure twenty percent of the hot-fudge energy transfers to Earth, and"more buttons pressed, and dramatic rise in voice"our grand total is two point seven times ten to the twenty-eighth ergs. Okay, that's your strike."
"Doesn't mean much to me," Harvey said. "It sounds like a big number...."
"One followed by twenty-eight zeros," Mark muttered.
"Six hundred and forty thousand megatons, near enough ' Dan Forrester said gently. "It is a big number."
"Good God, pasteurized planet," Mark said.
"Not quite." Forrester had his own calculator out of the belt case. "About three thousand Krakatoas. Or three hundred Thera explosions, if they're right about Thera."
"Thera?" Harvey asked.
"Volcano in the Mediterranean," Mark said. "Bronze Age. Where the Atlantis legend comes from."
"Your friend's right," Sharps said. "I'm not sure about the energy, though. Look at it this way. All of mankind uses about ten to the twenty-ninth ergs in a year. That's everything: electric power, coal, nuclear energy, burning buffalo chips, carsyou name it. So our hot fudge sundae pops in with about thirty percent of the world's annual energy budget."
"Um. Not so bad, then," Harvey said.
"Not so bad. Not so bad as what? A year's energy in one minute," Sharps said. "It probably hits water. If it hits land, it's tough for anyone under it, but most of the energy radiates back out to space fairly quickly. But if it hits water, it vaporizes it. Let's see, ergs to calories . . . damn. I don't have that on my gadget."
"I do," Forrester said. "The strike would vaporize about sixty million cubic kilometers of water. Or fifty billion acrefeet, if you like that. Enough to cover the entire U.S.A. with two hundred and twelve feet of water."
"All right," Sharps said. "So sixty million cubic kilometers of water go into the atmosphere. Harvey, it's going to rain. A lot of that water is moving across polar areas. It freezes, falls as snow. Glaciers form fast . . . slide south . . . yeah. Harvey, the historians believe the Thera explosion changed the world's climate. We know that Tamboura, about as powerful as Krakatoa, caused what historians of the last century called 'the year without a summer. Famine. Crop failure. Our hot fudge sundae will probably trigger an ice age. All those clouds. Clouds reflect heat. Less sunlight gets to Earth. Snow reflects heat too. Still less sunlight. It gets colder. More snow falls. Glaciers move south because they don't melt as fast. Positive feedback."
It had all turned dead serious. Harvey asked, "But what stops ice ages?"
Forrester and Sharps shrugged in unison.
"So," Hamner said, "my comet's going to bring about an ice age?" Now you could see the long lugubrious face of his grandfather, who could look bereaved at a $60,000 funeral.
Forrester said, "No, that was hot fudge sundae we were talking about. Umthe Hammer is bigger."
"Hamner-Brown. How much bigger?"
Forrester made an uncertain gesture. "Ten times?"
"Yes," said Harvey. There were pictures in his mind. Glaciers marched south across fields and forests, across vegetation already killed by snow. Down across North America into California, across Europe to the Alps and Pyrenees. Winter after winter, each colder, each colder than the Great Freeze of '76-'77. And hell, they hadn't even mentioned the tidal waves. "But a comet won't be as dense as a cubic mile of h-h-h"
It was just one of those things. Harvey leaned back in his chair and belly-laughed, because there was just no way he could say it.
"...Well, did you evah! What a swell party this is...."
Did Pravda mention the "Saturn Like Object" accompanying the new comet?...
Yup. We're just two payments away from having the house paid for; and we just got our deferred taxes paid yesterday.
Yea, I told the wife, "hell will freeze over or the world will end when we get out of debt."
I guess the world is going to end.
. . looting, an' pillaging, an' talking like pirates . . . . aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!! Har! Thar's a gloomb big asssssstttteeerrrooooooiiiid aimed at yer yardarm!!! Shiver me timbers an' lub me libbers!! Gangway ye landlubbers!! Load ye cannons afore aft an' light 'em aimed straight ye piiiirrrraaaattteees!! It be Davy Jones's locker fer ye if ye be sityeated whar yon gloomb rock blogits doon! Harrrrr!!
Anyone else on this thread speak pirate?
YAH BABY..TELL SALLIE MAE WHERE SHE CAN STICK IT!
LOL! That's great. Hope you don't mind that I snatched it.
He's plotting our doom again.
"Anyway, whatever mass you burn up, a lot of the energy just gets transferred to the earth's heat balance."
Now there's yer "Globular Warming," Gore baby!!!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.