Tuesday, November 13, 2007

cosmic dancer

I was looking up at the sky and idly thinking what would happen if, say, some space-originated hunk of iron (with a typical density of, say, 8000 kg/m3) with a diameter of something like 100 meters, crossed into the atmosphere at, like, a 45 degree angle at a speed of roughly 50 miles/second, and then slammed into some sedimentary rock (with a density of something like 2500 kg/m3) about ten miles or so from where I sit. Would I be safe?

When in doubt, go to the internet. It just so happens that there is a Earth Impact Effects Program just waiting for your variable inputs – and mine!

If you just want the math behind the results, go here. Otherwise, read on – looks like I’ll be ok. Maybe. Wait, no. I think. Not sure. Sounds bad, actually.

First, there is some garbage about, “Energy before atmospheric entry” being 1.36 x 1019 Joules = 3.24 x 103 MegaTons TNT. I could not care less what happened before entry. I want to know about the impact on my ass where it sits – and I may not be a math or science or space guy, but I do know that energy before entry won’t blow down my walls.

We next learn that one of these things will slam into whatever I said it slammed into about once in every 56,000 years. That is not comforting. I checked the records. Ain’t nothing hit about ten miles up the road in the last 56,000 years. I know the probability is calculated as “average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth,” but that is stupid – how am I supposed to figure that out? If it ain’t local, it didn’t happen – a true Appalachian attitude. Got a problem with that? Wanna squeal like a pig? Here piggy, piggy! So adjust the 1:56,000 for the proportion of the Earth’s surface up the road those ten miles. Something-a-helluva-lot-bigger-than-56,000 – still didn’t happen. So there.

There is a spot of good news in that the thing that’s gonna hit will start to break up about 128,000 feet away. That’s like over by Hazleton, a couple two three miles away. No problem. That’s the town that hates illegals. Good thing Jerry Farewell is dead else he’d be screaming, “God’s revenge!” That’s the guy that whacked off in front of prostitutes, right? Bet he’s already bought his season pass to the porn drive-in in Hell. All forty foot penises and sweaty asses – he forgot all about Heaven by the second half of the first double feature. He’s hooked up with some sleazy pharmacist already and is popping Viagra like they’re Tic Tacs. “If your erection lasts more than four hours, seek prompt medical attention”? Hell, no – he’ll be counting on it! Probably trying to negotiate a lifetime movie pass for him and his 12-year-old, um, son (that boy over there in the dress and pink bow – the one that knows the true meaning of Hell).

Here’s the best news. The resulting complex crater will have a transient diameter of 2.83 miles with a depth of one mile, and a final diameter of 3.47 miles and depth of 0.309 miles. With a decent rainy season, I may have another fishing spot pretty close. The volume of the target melted or vaporized is 0.0159 miles, and roughly half the melt remains in the crater, where its average thickness is 13.3 feet. Fishing may not be too good for a millennium or so until the iron content fades, but I’m patient. Also, tain’t no hole close to ten miles. I could not care less what happens over there.

So what do we see? Visible fireball radius of 2.71 miles, with the fireball appearing 61.6 times larger than the sun. We’ll see it for 56.9 seconds. That’s long enough to get a video camera and say all sorts of stupid things like, “Wow, do you see that? Thelma, go get me a beer! Shut-the-fuck-up-and-get-me-a-beer! I’m taping it, dumbass, you can just watch the tape!”

What’s really cool is the effects of the thermal radiation: Clothing ignites, much of the body suffers third degree burns, newspaper ignites, plywood flames, deciduous trees ignite, and grass ignites. Very cool! When! When! When!?! 0.0618 seconds after impact. Wow! Sucks to be them. Distance, as in ten miles, does make the heart grow fonder, eh? No, wait, the thermal radiation effects can’t be for ground zero – that would be a hole. This affects me? This sucks! You mean their hole is going to become my problem? WTF? At least I don’t read newspapers, so I don’t have to worry about that part. Won’t have to badger the boy to cut the subsequently non-existent grass, either. One less thing to worry about. That’s good. Wait. In 6/100s of a second it will get to me? That’s kinda fast. Could that really be ten miles away? But if like this thing slams into the back of your head and leaves a hole about three miles wide, what the hell is someone calculating that the newspaper would combust? Gotta be ten miles away. This really sucks. Let me try some math to see if I can figure this out. If a train leave the station traveling northbound for 6/100s of second and travels ten miles, toasting all the grass and newspapers along the way, how fast is it going in MPH? Damn. Um. Wait, I know this one. Um. Let’s see. If I take miles/hour, and substitute 10 for miles, and the fractional hour in that lower thingey on the other side of the slash. No wait. I don’t know. Gimme a minute! Um. OK, I think I’m right. 6/100s of a second, figuring 3,600 seconds in an hour is 0.00001667 hours or something like that. OK. 10/that number I just said is 600,000 MPH. But the speed of light is the theoretical maximum speed, and that’s 186,282.397 MP--, MP--. Damn! Miles per SECOND. OK, if a train leaves the station traveling northbound at 600,000 MPH, toasting clothes and trees in its wake, how many miles will it travel in a second? Um. 600,000 miles divided by the number of seconds in an hour, right? This seems familiar. Um. 600,000 / 3,600 = 166.67 MPS. Is that right? If I take 6 times 16, that’s 96, close enough to 100 (being one second) and then 10 times 16 is 160 … OK. Rough check correct. So the, what were we talking about? Thermal radiation, right – yeah, in less than a second it would fry everything around me. Damn. “On second thought, Thelma, here, you hold the camera. I’ll get my own beer.”

There would be a touch of seismic activity, of course, but I’ve ridden out a 7+ before. Let’s see what this would do in light of being 10 miles from the epicenter. I would feel it at 3.22 seconds after impact. Not bad. Would still be locked into the drop-and-roll thing to put my clothes out – or laughing my ass off as Thelma did it as I watched comfortably from inside with cold beer in hand. Richter 6.9 – pussy strength. What does Mercalli say about damage here? Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken. Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned. Piece of cake. Except that it followed the radiation thingey. This is beginning to suck. For Thelma.

There will be an air blast, too. Good – time to cool off. Get to me about in 48.8 seconds at 69.2 psi and a maximum velocity of 1,130 mph. Ouch! Multistory wall-bearing buildings will collapse. Wood frame buildings will almost completely collapse. Multistory steel-framed office-type buildings will suffer extreme frame distortion, incipient collapse. Highway truss bridges will collapse. Highway girder bridges will collapse. Glass windows will shatter. Cars and trucks will be largely displaced and grossly distorted and will require rebuilding before use. Up to 90 percent of trees blown down; remainder stripped of branches and leaves. OK, this really sucks big time.

Before we get too depressed, we have to remember that ejecta is going to come. When? Approximately 57.4 seconds after the impact. So Thelma cooks in situ, add a little shake to the bake, turn on the cosmic-sized hairdryer, and then I have to dodge shit?!? How big? Average thickness of 36.5 inches and mean fragment diameter of 14.4 feet. That could hurt. Better go inside – Thelma can take care of herself. Are her clothes off yet? Didn’t mess up my hair, did it? I’m trying to grow it out. Damn!

This really blows. Maybe I should move about ten more miles away.

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