As someone who's taken a fair share of science classes, I know that it can be difficult to tie the daily homework assignments of configuring compounds in chemistry or calculating velocity in physics to a broader world perspective.
Last week, the first round of papers related to last year's spectacular asteroid explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, appeared. One of the most significant conclusions suggests that we may have underestimated the number of building-sized asteroids by up to a factor of 10.
It isn't statistically probable that we will encounter a supervolcanic eruption within the next century (or even millennia). But it isn't statistically probable that an asteroid will hit us either, and that doesn't stop us from preparing for the worst.
The Moon! Mars! Asteroids! Rockets! Helium 3! Space solar power! Space tourism! We go through fads, swarm around the hero de jour, and spend far too much time trashing the other guy's ideas in favor of our own.
Because comets contain large amounts of water and other ices, the notion that bombardments by comets deposited much of Earth's water has seemed to be almost a measure of faith. But a variety of recent studies place this idea into a somewhat harsh context.
A huge asteroid hitting the earth is the global equivalent of a nighttime heart attack. Well, you might suspect it is coming -- high blood pressure, angina, cholesterol -- but, then, suddenly curtains.
The scope of the event was vast, the presentations compelling and the ideas soaring. These are the mavericks among mavericks and, despite the fact than many will fail to accomplish their current goals, some will lead us to a better- and private- future in space.
Twenty years ago, a cosmic oddball was photographed by a team of three scientists. The dry language of the announcement in the International Astronomi...
Today scientists are closely tracking 434 asteroids that are large enough and come close enough to the Earth to be of potential future concern, and while none of these pose any significant risk today, increased surveillance is required.
As much as we celebrate writers and poets as speakers of truth, sometimes I can't help but think that the real voice of a generation is someone like Stephen Hawking.
Our goal is nothing less than the human breakout into space, the expansion of human civilization and the life of Earth beyond our world, to all worlds and all places in between.
Should we take measures to thwart an impending asteroid collision if we're able to do so? Of course. But if we expend too much energy in anticipation of such a rare and unlikely event, then we're drawing resources away from more homegrown challenges that are far less remote and much more likely to occur in our lifetimes.
Unfortunately for us, earth has experienced at least five mass extinctions during the past 540 million years. Some scientists believe it may be as many as twenty. In other words, mass extinction events are not uncommon.
The underlying theme of this fascinating speech is of course much more fundamental. The real issue at hand here is governance. How do we, as a species, handle impending catastrophes? How do we allocate resources to initiatives that will benefit us in the long-term?
The probability of impact by one of these before the end of the century is 0.0005 percent. On the other hand, recent research suggests a 2 percent probability of global catastrophe from anthropogenic climate change by the end of this century.