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Nuke it, says Aussie scientist
Sydney Morning Herald ^ | July 25 2002

Posted on 07/25/2002 7:35:52 AM PDT by dead

An asteroid which could hit the Earth in 17 years time should be blown away with a nuclear weapon, an Australian astronomer said today.

If left untouched the asteroid could plummet to Earth, causing tidal waves and mayhem.

The best way to ensure it was diverted was to put a nuclear weapon beside it and blow it out of orbit, Stromlo Observatory astronomer Vince Ford said.

Scientists are still trying to determine whether the asteroid, known by NASA as 2002 NT7, will hit the Earth in 2019.

NASA says it is still too early to tell whether the remote possibility will become more likely.

Experts will have a clearer picture soon.

"As new observations come in, the situation will evolve in the next days and, as usual, either the probability associated with this object will go up somewhat, or, more probably, it will disappear," NASA said on its website.

Dr Ford said nudging it with a stockpiled nuclear weapon could help alleviate the problem for 1,000 years.

"That'd be the way to do it," Dr Ford told the Seven Network.

"Forget sending Brucie Willis up to drill into it and blow it into small bits, that's unlikely to work.

"No what you do is put a nuke along side the thing and blow it sideways...(a) use for some of the stockpile."

Dr Ford's solution echoes the plot of the movie Armageddon in which Bruce Willis starred as an oil driller who landed on an Earth-bound asteroid the size of Texas to insert nuclear charges to blow it up.

The movie had an 18-day time frame, but there was much more time to deal with 2002 NT7, Dr Ford said.

"You've got 17 years to think of how to do it but basically what you do is rendezvous with it, blow something alongside it, kick it off onto a different track," he said.

2002 NT7 is a chunk of rock four kilometres across.

"Now if that hits remember you've not just got the 20 kilometres per second movement of the asteroid, you've got the Earth coming the other way at 30km per second," Dr Ford said.

"You drop a chunk of iron travelling at 50km per second onto anything, you've got troubles.

"Let's say it hit anywhere in Europe, the whole of Europe would be well, in deep trouble.”

"Worst thing of course is if it hit the ocean.

"If this thing hit the Pacific Ocean anywhere, the whole of the Pacific rim would go, tidal waves, whatever.

"It might be the only time it's good to live in Canberra, in fact."

AAP


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: asteroid; jpl; neo; pha
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"Let's say it hit anywhere in Europe, the whole of Europe would be well, in deep trouble.”

As if that would be news.

1 posted on 07/25/2002 7:35:52 AM PDT by dead
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To: dead
I think this is a great idea. It would be the ultimate skeet shoot. I love it.
2 posted on 07/25/2002 7:37:54 AM PDT by KayEyeDoubleDee
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To: dead
As if that would be news.

LOL!!! I love FR!

3 posted on 07/25/2002 7:38:22 AM PDT by cardinal4
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To: dead
"As if that would be news."

As if that would be a bad thing....

4 posted on 07/25/2002 7:40:08 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty
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To: dead
"If this thing hit the Pacific Ocean anywhere, the whole of the Pacific rim would go, tidal waves, whatever.

This must be the guy they mentioned in 'Armageddon' who got a 'C' in astrophysics.

5 posted on 07/25/2002 7:41:18 AM PDT by TomServo
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To: dead
Let's put the Hubble between it and the sun and use the Hubble as a magnifying glass - heat the thing up till it melts, disintegrates, or pops like a rock in a campfire.

HA ha.....

6 posted on 07/25/2002 7:42:36 AM PDT by DETAILER
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To: dead
You drop a chunk of iron travelling at 50km per second onto anything, you've got troubles.

Big Trouble from Outer Space!

7 posted on 07/25/2002 7:45:25 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
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To: DETAILER
Let's put the Hubble Xlinton between it and the sun and use the Hubble Xlinton as a magnifying glass buffer - heat the thing up till it melts, disintegrates, or pops like a rock in a campfire. Take out the asteroid,too.
8 posted on 07/25/2002 7:48:04 AM PDT by cardinal4
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To: dead
"If this thing hit the Pacific Ocean anywhere, the whole of the Pacific rim would go, tidal waves, whatever.

Tidal waves???????? Ummm, don't think so, Doc. The article says he is an astronomer (hey, I have a telescope too), but what is he a doctor of, podiatry?

By the way, just what we need, not one big asteroid coming our way, but millions of bits of busted-up, radioactive meteor surrounded by a cloud of radioactivity, headed straight for our vicinity.

Back to the drawing board, "Dr." Ford.

9 posted on 07/25/2002 7:57:29 AM PDT by KellyAdmirer
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To: dead
Forget the nukes. I have a lower cost way to plant explosives on it.

1. Israeli government declares the asteroid to be part of Israel and puts "settlements" on it. These settlements would look like Hollywood front-only buildings.
2. Arafat declares that the asteroid is part of the Palestinian homeland under Zionist occupation.
3. Suicide bomber line up to take care of asteroid problem (and suicide bomber problem, too).

10 posted on 07/25/2002 8:07:45 AM PDT by KarlInOhio
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To: dead
If the govt is involved, they'll probably nudge it into the moon.
11 posted on 07/25/2002 8:10:32 AM PDT by wcbtinman
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To: dead
What, we don't have one of these...

asteroid deflector thingies, that automatically zap encroaching space rocks...

Like that? Well, I *am* depressed. ;-)

12 posted on 07/25/2002 8:13:04 AM PDT by Charles Martel
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To: dead
Mind you, the 2019 date is when its' orbit intersects Earth's orbit and we're close at that time. It may or may not hit, but was discovered only a week or three ago. Further observation will tell, in a matter of months, if it's likely to hit, or, more likely, may pass within a few million miles or so. . .

If we find it's likely to hit, THEN we need to send up a mission of some sort ASAP: the earlier we start diverting it, the easier the job will be. You do NOT want to blow it up without changing the orbit: that just changes it from getting hit by a cannonball to getting hit by a shotgun blast, so to speak. Think about the NYC scenes from "Armageddon", on a worldwide basis. . .

13 posted on 07/25/2002 8:16:47 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: dead
How big of an asteroid would it take to knock the moon into a decaying orbit?
14 posted on 07/25/2002 8:25:07 AM PDT by Grig
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To: dead
See Barney Oliver's 1970s report, "Project Icarus".
15 posted on 07/25/2002 8:27:44 AM PDT by boris
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To: Grig
"How big of an asteroid would it take to knock the moon into a decaying orbit?"

Wrong question.

Need assumptions. From what direction? How fast? Etc.

Essentially 'impossible'.

Fuggedaboudit. A big rock hitting Earth is much more likely.

16 posted on 07/25/2002 8:29:04 AM PDT by boris
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To: KellyAdmirer
Let's see. . . rock is roughly 4KM in diameter. Assume a mostly iron composition: Iron is 7874 kg/m^3. Assume roughly spherical shape: that gives you roughly 270 billion cubic meters of iron. The math gives you a bit over 2 billion metric tons of iron with a total relative velocity difference of roughly 50 meters a second. That's 5.25 quintillion joules of energy. That's a BIG bang. . . .
17 posted on 07/25/2002 8:34:14 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: Salgak









18 posted on 07/25/2002 8:38:15 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: Grig
How big of an asteroid would it take to knock the moon into a decaying orbit?

I would guess one about the size it took to break the moon from Earth. That would be on the order of real big.

Orbital decay is a relative term, even geo stationary will eventually decay...if the solar systems exists long enough.

19 posted on 07/25/2002 8:46:38 AM PDT by Dead Dog
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To: dead
Lets send up all the envirowhacko luddites to the asteroid. Tell them to use "natural" methods, like, they can get together and PUSH REAL HARD.
20 posted on 07/25/2002 8:49:32 AM PDT by Paradox
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To: dead
"You've got 17 years to think of how to do it but basically what you do is rendezvous with it, blow something alongside it, kick it off onto a different track," he said.

Couldn't they hit it with Rosie O'Donnell, travelling at 50 kilometers per second? It'd go flying like an 8-ball hite with a cueball.

21 posted on 07/25/2002 8:56:34 AM PDT by archy
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To: dead
Hate to bring this up...but we may have more immediate concerns. See the website Planet X Facts. Scroll down to the research links. Some predict it will hit the earth in 2003...be sure to put on your tinfoil before you go there....
22 posted on 07/25/2002 9:01:07 AM PDT by ravingnutter
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To: Dead Dog
It wouldn't have to be that big, it took a lot to break off the moon and toss it up there, you only have to make a small change in the momentum of the moon to cause an orbital change.

Currently the moon's orbit is not stable, it is slowly getting farther from the earth, something like a quarter inch farther away per century. It wouldn't have to hit earth to cause a lot of damage either, if it made a near pass so that earth slings it out into the cosmos (Space 1999 anyone) it would cause massive tidal waves and earthquakes, might even pull some of the atmosphere away or mess with earth's orbit around the sun.
23 posted on 07/25/2002 9:04:20 AM PDT by Grig
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To: dead
I keep saying this...and will repeat it here. Why do you think the space station has been getting all of the work it has been? Half of France's GDP was spent on space! This is a no brainer here. We are teaming up with every nation that can and will afford here to knock this thing out of orbit. But I like how they say it will just miss us.

Have you read the numbers on just how close it will come? Even if it does miss...it won't be by much! That will cause so much chaos and disruption on Earth...it will make an Al Qaeda attack look like child's play.

24 posted on 07/25/2002 9:07:35 AM PDT by My Favorite Headache
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To: ravingnutter
Check out the year 2012 while you are at it as well. Also what year the Chinese calendar ends....
25 posted on 07/25/2002 9:09:30 AM PDT by My Favorite Headache
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To: Salgak
It seems like a relatively small change in velocity now might result in a change of orbit large enough to have this totally miss the earth. If we add say 1m/sec of velocity in any direction now that is a net change of about 536,000 km which should be enough. How much of a rocket boost would that require? As I remeber my orbital physics a break-up of the asteroid into small enough pieces would also protect the planet as they would burn up on entering the atmosphere.

Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown

26 posted on 07/25/2002 9:13:05 AM PDT by harpseal
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To: Salgak
Regarding breaking it up. If it were in smaller pieces, wouldn't the larger surface area of the smaller pieces (relative to one big rock) mean that a whole lot more of the kinetic energy of the entire mass would burn off in the atmosphere?

Plus, assuming NASA determines a high probability of a hit by a single big object, wouldn't blowing the object into pieces tend to spread the object out, making it likely that many of the pieces would miss Earth--that is, only the pieces in the center of the swarm (assuming the initial rock is dead on and assuming the orbit of the entire swarm is not changed) would hit. That rock is going to go a long way in 17 years and the swarm would have a long time to spread out.

Since you seem to know whereof you speak, one more question. Would our largest nuclear bombs have enough energy to nudge the rock enough or to break it into pieces? A lot of a nuclear explosion in space is just going to disappate in the wrong direction. In fact, since the nuclear weapon would not actually throw a subsantial amount of mass at the object, how would energy transfer to the object. Of course it would throw a lot of subatomic particles at the asteroid; but how much energy could be transmitted in that manner.

Sorry about the barrage of questions. This could be a very serious matter and I am curious.

27 posted on 07/25/2002 9:20:06 AM PDT by ffrancone
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To: harpseal
It seems like a relatively small change in velocity now might result in a change of orbit large enough to have this totally miss the earth.

I have a bit of a problem with this idea at this point. They don't know if it will hit, come close, or miss us by a LARGE distance. What happens if they nudge it INTO the path of the earth by accident?

28 posted on 07/25/2002 9:20:08 AM PDT by MrB
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To: Charles Martel
The female guest star in that episode was one of Jim's best looking ladies. Who was she?
29 posted on 07/25/2002 9:26:39 AM PDT by ASA Vet
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To: harpseal
Agreed, a small orbital change would do the trick. The question is, how ? Big 1-time impulse (i.e. use a nuke to push it away: I'd use several, myself, spaced over a period of days. . .), or long-term small input, i.e. constant impulse, a rocket, or more likely, a small mass-driver using asteroidal matter for reaction material. . .

I lean towards the several nukes school, give it a few good, hard nudges. We don't have a precise plot of the orbit, nor do we have a good idea of shape or rotation of the body. That will come in the upcoming months. If it DOES seem to be a problem (I define a "problem" as asteroid coming closer than lunar orbit. . . ), THEN we build ourselves a deep-space equivalent of a MIRVed ICBM, and send it off to nudge the rock out of our way. . .

As for the small pieces, you're correct, IF THE PIECES are small enough. If you break it into a conglomeration of city-block-sized pieces, you're going to have problems. . .

30 posted on 07/25/2002 9:30:13 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: ffrancone
Let's say you break this puppy into dozens of large pieces. They will indeed spread out around the original trajectory, by many thousands of miles over a decade in all directions. As it is, the odds of the unified asteroid hitting the earth is extremely unlikely, the earth is small and empty space is huge. With dozens of large pieces spreading out in a pattern around the original trajectory, though, the odds of one or more intersecting earth's orbit go way up, and each one could do a whole lot of damage. Trying to destroy several smaller pieces would be a lot more complicated than dealing with one large piece, which is difficult enough, but at least it is easy to find and track.

Fooling with this until we are dead certain where it is going and what the effects of our meddling would be is not a good idea.

31 posted on 07/25/2002 9:42:14 AM PDT by KellyAdmirer
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To: ffrancone
As previously mentioned, depends on the size of the pieces. If you blow it to gravel, no problem. If you blow in into pieces ranging from mini-van to city block, lots of problems. You also assume that we can blow it up right now. Assuming we determine that it WILL hit, I'd say getting nukes in place to nudge it might take 4-6 years, plus up to a year of transit time. So we're likely talking 2008-2009 before we can actually do something about it.

Now, as for the throw-weight of our nukes, I know very little about yields, and I suspect that real detail here is classified. But, at least according to an article I read in Scientific American in the early 1980's, there appears to be such a thing as a "shaped nuke", just like there are shaped charges of conventional explosives. Assuming such IS actually possible, I suspect we'd use that sort of nuke.

As for the energy transfer, the energetic particles of the bomb itself would transfer their energy to the matter of the asteroid, and since it's vacuum on one side, and rock on the other, the explosive vaporization would be on the side of the bomb blast, producing a massive short-term thrust along the rough line of the original blast. It's all Newtonian physics from there (g)

32 posted on 07/25/2002 9:42:36 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: Salgak
Doesn't 4km diameter imply 4/3 2km ^ 3 = 10.66 km3 or about 11B cubic meters, or I am stuck in an alternate dimension again?
33 posted on 07/25/2002 9:45:26 AM PDT by Soren
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To: harpseal
As I remember my history, this happens every 1,000,000 years or so.

It's the Universes way of cleansing... totally natural and organic... with a hint of extinction!.

34 posted on 07/25/2002 9:46:37 AM PDT by johnny7
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To: MrB
That problem is fairly straight-forward Newtonian physics. Once you establish what the orbit is with sufficient precision. You then can model where and how to nudge it. The obvious place to do so is on it's closest approach to the sun: this is referred to as a "gravity well manuever": using the impulse at the body's deepest foray into a given gravity field. . .
35 posted on 07/25/2002 9:47:14 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: Soren
We're both wrong: you forgot "pi", and I plugged in diameter instead of radius. . . it's 33.5 billion cubic meters, 263 trillion kg, 321 quintillion joules. Still a big bang. . .
36 posted on 07/25/2002 9:56:25 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: dead
"Let's say it hit anywhere in Europe, the whole of Europe would be well, in deep trouble.”

Seems fitting.
It'll give the Euroweenie Green Party something valid to whine about for a change.
Let them figure out their own solution.
It oughta keep 'em preoccupied and outa our business.

37 posted on 07/25/2002 9:56:38 AM PDT by Willie Green
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To: Salgak
Doh!
38 posted on 07/25/2002 9:57:07 AM PDT by Soren
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To: dead
Somebody on this thread, Please educate me. I work in space but asteroids encounters aren't my area of expertise.

A quick search for '2002 NT7' brings up the long term asteroid encounter site which does list a 2019 encounter by '2002 NT7' but at .17 AU's distance, hardly a threat. See web page:

http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/lists/CloseAppLong.html

Another look at the 'Potentially hazardous asteroids' site at:

http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/lists/PHACloseApp.html

doesn't even list NT7, though there are obviously hundreds of others with more imminent encounter dates that we never hear about. No indication of the size (mass) of the listed objects is given, though it may be there and I can't read the product correctly.

So where is all the hubbub about NT7 coming from?

39 posted on 07/25/2002 9:58:02 AM PDT by Magnum44
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To: KellyAdmirer
I wouldn't mess with it until I figured out which continent or ocean it would hit. If it would impact China, for example, they should pay the bulk of the cost of diverting it.

If it was going to hit Massachussetts, we'd do nothing at all.

40 posted on 07/25/2002 9:59:14 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: dead
As a conservative, I generally oppose spending on government programs.

But in this case, I believe these close calls with asteroids warrant the U.S. government to find out where these asteroids are and research how to deflect them.

A few million dollars spent on asteroid detection and defense will pale in comparison to the trillions of dollars in damage that would result from the impact of an asteroid of this magnitude.

Or better yet, maybe Steven Speilberg can spend the money he made from Deep Impact to fund such programs.

Opinions?

41 posted on 07/25/2002 10:01:32 AM PDT by Momaw Nadon
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To: Salgak
321 quintillion joules.

I need a reference to make sense of that number. Like Mt St Helens or H-bomb blast or something similar.

42 posted on 07/25/2002 10:03:02 AM PDT by Soren
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To: Salgak
As for the energy transfer, the energetic particles of the bomb itself would transfer their energy to the matter of the asteroid, and since it's vacuum on one side, and rock on the other, the explosive vaporization would be on the side of the bomb blast, producing a massive short-term thrust along the rough line of the original blast. It's all Newtonian physics from there (g)

Actually, much of the energy transfer would be in the vaporization of the surface of the asteroid that is exposed to the blast (via radiation). This vaporization would lead to a "jet" of sorts, nudging the asteroid. 'least dats what I reads...

43 posted on 07/25/2002 10:05:02 AM PDT by Paradox
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To: dead; All
Further searching yields that NT7 is ~45 degrees inclined orbit. Not sure whether that is equatorial or ecliptic, but in either case, that means the intercept problem just from an energy point of view becomes very difficult. I won't spend time on the math here, but I can confidently say that to intercept with the intent to rendezvous (match energy states) would probably require a multi year, planetary flyby with gravity assists to get an intercept orbit with a reasonable chance of remaining propellant to capture verses just fly past it. And if you cant rendezvous, you can't appropriately place charges to ensure your blast will give you the desired orbit correction.

Just pointing out that the method of creating the force for deflection is probably the easiest of the issues to deal with here.

44 posted on 07/25/2002 10:38:04 AM PDT by Magnum44
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To: MrB
At this point the orbit is not well enough known to even try but if the orbit is going to eventually hit this planet then we need to consider remedial measures. Just what those remedial mesures would be is an open question. They could include a Solar Sail, Mass driver, nuke, rocket, and some other options. At present we have 17 years to examine the problem and devise a solution if needed.
45 posted on 07/25/2002 10:39:53 AM PDT by harpseal
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To: harpseal
See my post 44. More like 12 to 15 years to decide if its a problem, figure a method to prevent, develop, test, deliver, and get it on its way. That is an engineering challenge if you use shuttle, space station, etc as benchmarks for program developmet. But per my post 39, I still want to know why NT7 is the current focus?
46 posted on 07/25/2002 10:45:12 AM PDT by Magnum44
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To: ASA Vet
The female guest star in that episode was one of Jim's best looking ladies. Who was she?

Sabrina Scharf, according to one of those excruciatingly detailed Star Trek plot explanation websites.

Running a Google search on her does not reveal much. She turned up in guest roles in a number of television shows of the late 1960s and early '70s, as well as appearing in three "biker" films - including Easy Rider. The last filmography notation was from 1975, so she evidently got out of show business.

Oh, yes... before becoming an actress, she was a Playboy Bunny at the New York City Playboy Club. I reckon that's where she was "discovered". ;-P

There's a website out there collecting interviews from a number of "Drive-In B-Movie Starlets of the 1960s". They have her name on the "no interview yet, but stay tuned" list, so she must still be alive and kicking.

Okay, enough fun. Back to discussion of Newtonian physics and speculations on how best to boot that big sucker off of the Plane of the Ecliptic. :-)

47 posted on 07/25/2002 10:54:39 AM PDT by Charles Martel
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To: dead
Stromlo Observatory astronomer Vince Ford

Right. Ask an astronomer about nuclear weapons. As if. Want to move dirt? Hire a civil engineer.

48 posted on 07/25/2002 10:58:12 AM PDT by RightWhale
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To: Paradox
That's what I said. The energetic photons from the bomb would be absorbed by the matter of the asteroid, thus imparting energy to it. The net effect of the energy input is conversion from gamma energetic photons to heat, resulting in explosive vaporization, and thus, thrust. I was just getting down to detail on the energy transfer mechanism. . .
49 posted on 07/25/2002 10:58:33 AM PDT by Salgak
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To: dead
Wasn't this already made into a movie.....Twice? And the greatest tragedy was that Ben Affleck got to live.
50 posted on 07/25/2002 11:00:18 AM PDT by PJ-Comix
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