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View Diary: Welfare for scientists: The killer asteroid is overhyped (75 comments)

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  •  Want to know a fascinating thing? (7+ / 0-)

    Non-avian dinosaur statisticians, if you ask them, would tell you the exact same thing!

    Oh, wait...

    •  But seriously... (5+ / 0-)

      If the object causing the Tunguska explosion had been a slightly different trajectory, that 10-15 megatonne explosion could have happened over a much more populated area.

      Say it happened over London. The metropolitan area at that time had about 7 million people and the resulting explosion would have devastated the entire area. And your math would look very, very, different. The death toll would easily have been in the hundreds of thousands, and the resulting hit to the world economy at losing one of its most important cities (not to mention the capital of the, at the time, still largest empire in world history) would have had worldwide repercussions.

      And that was with a small object a few tens of meters across.

      •  Any argument that relies on chance is weak (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew Lazarus

        As stated above, the argument would be very different if the Tunguska impact had occurred over London, which was a matter of chance.

        "The Obama Administration has been an unmitigated disaster" - Osama Bin Laden

        by Explorer8939 on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 03:02:39 PM PST

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        •  Although you can calculate that chance (0+ / 0-)

          The probability should be roughly equal in any given square mile of land on Earth.  It turns out that densely populated cities take up very small amounts of the total surface area of the earth.  Exactly because they are densely populated.

          This is why we have no major events recorded in all of human history over the last 5000 years.  Even with world population at the levels they are now, the probabilities are just vanishingly small.

          Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

          by mbayrob on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:12:40 PM PST

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          •  If it happened, would they know what it was? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BlackSheep1

            How many people were literate over that time period? We should survey the sky and work out what the risks actually are, not make hand-wavey arguments to save a few short-term bucks. There is plenty of money. It's just the wrong people have it.

            •  How do you like your hand waviness? (0+ / 0-)

              We certainly should be looking.  But a sizable strike leaves traces.  We don't need to depend on historical records to know these events are rare.

              We don't even have legends of these kinds of things.  Literate or not, people do have their some understanding of the past.

              There does seem to be some understanding that rocks could fall from the sky.  But the idea that the rocks would be real threat to you doesn't seem to be a part of human experience previous to the last couple of hundred years.  And not because of anything that happened, but because we became aware that beyond the Earth things are a lot more complex than folks like Ptolemy thought.

              I'm inclined to agree with you that the wrong people are making research priorities.  But even if our research money was entirely disinterested and separate from what makes some people rich at the expense of others?  I think we still need to set our priorities according to what is more likely to happen.

              An extraterrestrial impact is exceedingly rare.  We weren't even aware of the possibility until comparatively recently.  And once we started to know that the world was much, much older than we naively thought it was before.

              Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

              by mbayrob on Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 12:01:02 AM PST

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