If a pure gold asteroid, 2,600 feet in diameter and exploding at 77,000 miles per hour, came in at a 48 degree angle and hit New York’s Upper East Side, that is around from home, I unfortunately now know this would happen.
Myself and 6,363,353 people would be vaporized into the resulting space rock crater, a massive sinkhole more than half a mile deep. The shard is said to release more energy than the last volcanic eruption at Yellowstone, a colossal disaster that thousands of years ago spewed ash, magma and debris far enough to cover most of the continental United States.
Or at least that’s what I learned at an asteroid simulation site this afternoon while sipping a cup of coffee.
The Asteroid Launcher is a free, data-driven concept created by Neal Agarwal, a developer widely known by his online persona: neal.fun. Agarwal’s goal is basically to mix huge arrays of data and interesting mental dilemmas to form clever and interactive online thought experiments, like this one that tells you what kind of devastation a crashing asteroid would follow. in your city.
“The main inspiration,” Agarwal told me over email, “definitely grew up watching movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon! impact and see the effects.”
But of course, the key here with Asteroid Launcher is Agarwal’s nickname.
Fortunately, there are no known significant impact threats for the next hundred years or more, according to NASA – and, in the worst-case scenario, the agency is well on its way to generating some sort of defense system against asteroids with the resounding success of itswhich took place earlier this year.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to respond to our intrusive thoughts once in a while. Just for fun.
Peruse Agarwal’s projects and you’ll find an impressive array of rabbit holes to get lost in.
The size of space gradually introduces you to larger and larger objects, starting with an astronaut and working your way through stars so huge they make our sun look like a faint yellow bobble. Spend Bill Gates’ Money gives you $100 billion to spend on items ranging from a 12-pack of Coca-Cola to a real Boeing 747 commercial jet. It shows you how much money the multi-billionaires work with day to day day.
And my personal favorite, Absurd Trolley Problems takes you on an illustrative and ethical journey based on the fictional scenario by English philosopher Philippa Foot where a spectator is given the choice of saving five people in danger of being hit by a trolley — except the only way to save them is by killing someone in their place. The hard part about this isn’t so much the decisions, but the fact that you should, hypothetically, stay consistent in each of those decisions.
“I’ve kept a big list of ideas since I was 16 and recently went through 1,000 (most of them terrible) project ideas in writing,” Agarwal said. “Ideas can come from anywhere, from books and movies to a conversation with a friend. I think the important thing is to write them down and be as open as possible to new and strange ideas. Sometimes two or three bad ideas can combine and form a beautiful project.”
Which brings us to Agarwal’s latest attempt: the asteroid launcher.
You start by designing your own asteroid, entering a material, rock diameter, velocity, and angle of impact. Then you can select any location on a realistic map on the left of the screen. All that’s left, at this point, is to click on a giant button that says LAUNCH ASTEROID.
You arrive on a page which tells you, theoretically, what you have just done at the location of your choice.
These results are surprisingly detailed, as Agarwal integrated his code with asteroid information gleaned from academic scientific publications, such as a doctoral thesis on asteroid impact risk and an assessed population vulnerability model. peer-reviewed and written by experts from NASA, Lancaster University and the University of Southampton. .
However, it seems some are questioning the results of the asteroid launcher – one scientist, for example, tweeted his preference for the older Earth Impact Effects program to satisfy doomsday cravings.
However, to that end, Agarwal says the Earth Impact Effects program uses the same equations as the asteroid launcher, as both are based on a research paper written by Gareth Collins, an asteroid impact expert at the Imperial College London. “They will give roughly the same results,” he explained, noting that Clemens Rumpf, an asteroid risk expert who previously worked at NASA, had also contributed to his project.
“Neal.fun’s goal is to bring the internet weird and fun back!” said Agarwal. “I grew up in a time when the internet was full of weird and fun flash games and experiments, and I’ve seen it all slowly disappear as social media took over. Now the web is finally getting powerful enough again to creating fun digital experiences, and I’m excited to continue exploring the potential with new projects.”
On Asteroid Launcher, once you’ve hit the big red button, scroll down a bit and you’ll catch more than just the fatalities your asteroid design causes.
Agarwal tells you how many gigatons of TNT your explosion equaled, how many people would suffer second-degree burns if your asteroid was closer to a huge ball of fire, the radius in which people’s eardrums would rupture from the shock wave and in which the houses would be completely leveled by the wind speed upon impact.
He’s darkly obsessed with checking out as many asteroid designs as possible. Immediately after making the gold impactor of my dreams, I plugged in the statistics of the asteroid that NASA’s DART spacecraft pierced in an attempt to alter the orbit of the relatively small space rock around a large piece of space rock.
I couldn’t make things right totally accurate, because it’s so theoretical, but here’s what I found.
Dimorphos is considered to be made of “rubble”, i.e. a bunch of material, so for the material I went with generic stone. It’s actually about 525 feet in diameter, but the asteroid launcher requires some rounding. I put 500 feet. As for the speed at the moment of impact, a parameter we don’t know, I have indicated the speed at which the DART spacecraft hit the rock, because, well, why not? That was something like 14,400 miles per hour, which also had to be rounded up. I set the location to London and the angle to 90 degrees for no reason.
Here’s what we got for the results – they’re a lot less shocking than my first ridiculously shiny monster asteroid.
My next plan was to enter the dinosaur killer asteroid settings,. But understand this: it was so gigantic that it didn’t even fit in the diameter section.
“The science of asteroid impact is still an evolving field and not everything is known yet,” Agarwal said. “Generally, the bigger the asteroid, the more uncertain we are about the effects.”