PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 96/2002 - 19 August 2002
------------------------------


"If one put on a philosophical debate or a squabble on the subject of
semantics about media reports vis-à-vis asteroid 2002 NT7, i.e. whether some
headlines were appropriately worded, such bickering could go on forever.
That is because in the case of NT7, the media got the basic astronomical
information right. While the wording may have been awkward, the basic facts
were certainly correct. Unfortunately, this cannot be said about yesterday's
media reports about 2002 NY40."
-- Benny Peiser


(1) "2002 NY40 MAY HIT EARTH IN 2022"
    THIS TIME THE MEDIA GOT IT TRULY WRONG
    Benny Peiser b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk

(2) ASTEROID MAKING SWING PAST EARTH
    News & Record, 17 August 2002

(3) ASTEROID FLY-BY VISIBLE FROM EARTH
    BBC News Online, 18 August 2002

(4) 'NEAR MISS' ASTEROID WHIZZES PAST EARTH
    CBS News, 18 August 2002

(5) GREAT IMAGES OF 2002 NY40
    http://home.freeuk.com/m.gavin/2002ny40.htm

(6) TELESCOPE, RADAR & RADIO CHECKS FOR CONTOR CONTINUE
    http://www.contour2002.org/news.php?id=20 
  
(7) ASTRONOMERS NOT GIVING UP ON MISSING US SPACE PROBE
    SpaceDaily, 19 August 2002

(8) COSMIC BOGS @ THE LONDON CATASTROPHES CONFERENCE
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(9) TUNGUSKA - MAKING AN IMPACT @ THE LONDON 'CATASTROPHE' CONFERENCE
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(10) PROGRESS AND CONGRATULATIONS
     Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

(11) RE: THREE WAYS TO SAVE EARTH FROM DISASTER
     Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

(12) AND FINALLY: WOULD ET VOTE?
     THE LIKELIHOOD OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL DEMOCRACY
     Space.com, 15 August 2002

==============
(1) "2002 NY40 MAY HIT EARTH IN 2022"
    THIS TIME THE MEDIA GOT IT TRULY WRONG

>From Benny Peiser b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk

If one put on a philosophical debate or a squabble on the subject of
semantics about media reports vis-à-vis asteroid 2002 NT7, i.e. whether some
headlines were appropriately worded, such bickering could go on forever.
That is because in the case of NT7, the media got the basic astronomical
information right: 2002 NT7 showed, for a short period of time, a very small
but "extraordinary" probability to collide with Earth in 2019. Besides,
science editors and journalists made sure that they
checked these facts first with leading experts in the field before
posting their stories.

Fervent NASA officials who have an aversion to phrases such as 'potential
collision course', "Earth collision", etc. should consider that the NEO
community habitually uses lingo such as "virtual impactor", "predicted
impact" etc.
 
Agreed, the headlines used by the BBC and other well-regarded media
outlets could have been better phrased. However, it should be underscored
that in many respects they were not worse than what astronomers said on
that occasion. Italian astronomer, for instance, issued a "breaking news"
release about NT7 which referred to "an Earth collision on 1 February
2019."

While the wording by the NEODyS team and other reports may have been
awkward, the basic facts were certainly correct. Unfortunately, this
cannot be said about yesterday's media reports about 2002 NY40.

According to Allison Perkins' story, published yesterday in the News &
Record (http://www.news-record.com/news/local/gso/asteroid17.htm) and which
is in parts based on a information from The Associated Press, asteroid 2002
NY40 "will soar past Earth, just outside the moon's orbit, this weekend.
When it returns in 2022, it has a 1-in-500,000 chance of slamming into the
planet.... Scientists say a collision would pack the punch of a 50,000- to
100,000-megaton bomb. The energy released would be greater than the entire
nuclear arsenals of the East and West."

Happily, the report, at once,,dismisses any suggestion of an impact risk.
Nevertheless, one wonders where the 1 in 500,000 probability for an impact
in 20 years time comes from. That this is not a local media mix-up but
appears to be a wider question is evident from the unnamed BBC report
published yesterday (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2201338.stm).

Under the heading "Collision risk", BBC News Online reports that "Scientists
will use the close approach to plot the course of the asteroid over the
years to come. They say there is a minute risk - one in 500,000 - that the
rock could strike Earth in 2022, but the new measurements could show it will
definitely miss us."

Once more, references to the likely results from further observations are
clearly designed to reassure the readership. Curiously, however, the
scientists who purportedly claim a small impact risk for 2002 remain
unnamed.

So where does this latest mini-scare has its origin?  After all, 2002 NY40
was removed from JPL's impact risk page more than two weeks ago
(http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/removed.html). To my knowledge, there is
absolutely no risk specified for the next 100 years by any of the
professional risk pages. [Due to technical problems, I presume, NEODyS still
provides a "2002NY40 - impactor table", although there are no dates listed
on the 'impactor table'
(http://newton.dm.unipi.it/cgi-bin/neodys/neoibo?objects:2002NY40;risk)].

One possible explanation for the latest muddle up may be the endurance of
outdated impact risk estimates that were published in July. Roger Sinnott,
for instance, wrote in Sky & Telescope on July 22
(http://skyandtelescope.com/news/current/article_670_1.asp):

"While there is no danger of 2002 NY40 striking Earth during this flyby, a
future impact has not been ruled out. Both NEODyS, operated by the
University of Pisa, and NASA's Near-Earth Object Program have identified a
small (1-in-many-million) chance of an impact on February 13, 2052."

Yet, neither impact probability nor the impact data correspond to the
information published by News & Record or the BBC.

I was not able to find out where, when and why the mini-scare took off. I
hope that curious subscribers may be able to illuminate us about the
mini-scare in the next few days.

Benny Peiser

=======
(2) ASTEROID MAKING SWING PAST EARTH

>From News & Record, 17 August 2002
http://www.news-record.com/news/local/gso/asteroid17.htm

By ALLISON PERKINS, Staff Writer

GREENSBORO -- You have a better chance of being hit by an asteroid,
1-in-500,000, than of winning the jackpot in the multistate Megamillion
Lottery, 1-in-135-million.

A newly discovered asteroid, several football fields wide, will soar
past Earth, just outside the moon's orbit, this weekend. When it returns
in 2022, it has a 1-in-500,000 chance of slamming into the planet.

Want to watch?

2002 NY40 will make its closest approach to Earth today as it moves high
through the southeastern sky, 330,000 miles from Earth, just outside the
moon's orbit.

It will be visible through binoculars and small telescopes, but still
may be hard to spot because it will appear several times more faint than
the faintest star visible with the naked eye.

The Greensboro Astronomy Club is hosting a viewing session from 8:30
p.m. to 10 p.m. today in the parking lot of Borders Books & Music, 3605
High Point Road, to look for the asteroid and other objects.

Scientists say a collision would pack the punch of a 50,000- to
100,000-megaton bomb. The energy released would be greater than the
entire nuclear arsenals of the East and West.

So, do humans need to worry about meeting the same demise as the
dinosaurs?

"Nope, not in the slightest," said Roger Joyner, curator of the Edward
R. Zane Planetarium at Greensboro's Natural Science Center. "Asteroids
are fairly regular, this is just closer than most.

"Once we've tracked it for a while, we can predict its orbit perfectly,
and it's not going to vary from that orbit," he said.

Joyner said the only way the asteroid could collide with Earth, even in
the future, is if it were tossed out of its orbit by something else in
the universe, and "we'd know that," he said.

"It's following Newton's laws of gravity. The law says once it's started
moving in one direction, it's going to keep going that way," Joyner
said. "There would have to be something out there to cause it to turn."

Asteroids are small, irregularly shaped bodies that orbit the sun. Many
follow paths inside a region called the asteroid belt, between Mars and
Jupiter.

Occasionally, asteroids' paths bring them close to Earth and,
astronomically speaking, too close, for comfort.

On June 14, an asteroid "narrowly" slipped past Earth - 75,000 miles
away but inside the moon's orbit. It was not noticed until three days
later.

The newest asteroid, designated 2002 NY40, was discovered July 14. It
should sail within 330,000 miles of Earth, just outside the moon's
orbit, and is about 10 times larger than June's visitor, measuring
between one-third and one-half-mile wide.

Its closest approach to Earth will come today, when it will be visible
through binoculars and small telescopes, but not the naked eye. The
asteroid should appear the size of a star or satellite and move slowly
but high through the southeast sky.

Joyner said humans may have a hard time seeing 2002 NY40 at all since it
will appear several times more faint than the faintest star visible with
the naked eye.

He said looking for the asteroid is "kind of cool" because "most people
have never seen an asteroid."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report

Copyright 2002, News & Record

======
(3) ASTEROID FLY-BY VISIBLE FROM EARTH

>From BBC News Online, 18 August 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2201338.stm

Amateur stargazers have had a rare glimpse of an asteroid passing the
Earth.

The close encounter could be viewed with binoculars or a small
telescope.

The space rock, 800 metres (half a mile) across and designated 2002
NY40, made its closest approach to the Earth on Sunday before heading
off in the direction of the Sun.

The opportunity for amateur skywatchers to get such a close-up view of
an asteroid occurs only once every half-century.

The nearest the asteroid came was within 530,000 kilometres (330,000
miles) of the Earth - slightly further away than the Moon.

Its track in the sky passed close by the bright star Vega and through
the constellation of Hercules.

It was significantly dimmer than even the faintest star visible with the
naked eye.

European skywatchers caught their best glimpse in the early hours of
Sunday. For viewing from North America, the best time to watch was on
Saturday evening.

Collision risk

Scientists will use the close approach to plot the course of the
asteroid over the years to come.

They say there is a minute risk - one in 500,000 - that the rock could
strike Earth in 2022, but the new measurements could show it will
definitely miss us.

The asteroid fly-by follows last month's reports of another, bigger,
rock, called 2002 NT7, which scientists speculated might be a candidate
for colliding with the Earth in 2019.

Further data revealed, however, that there was no chance of this
happening.

Copyright 2002, BBC

===========
(4) 'NEAR MISS' ASTEROID WHIZZES PAST EARTH

>From CBS News, 18 August 2002
http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2002/08/18/asteroid020818

EDMONTON - Star gazers got their telescopes and binoculars ready over
the weekend, trying to spot an asteroid which came closer to the Earth
than any space rock of its size has in 77 years.

The 800-metre-wide asteroid whizzed over North American skies late
Saturday, missing the planet by about 530,000 kilometres, slightly
farther away than the Moon but still a "near miss" by astronomers'
standards.

Edmonton star gazer

Several amateur astronomers in Edmonton almost missed their chance to
see the asteroid, known as 2002-NY40. Rain and cloud cover made for poor
visibility.

But then shortly after midnight, they detected the asteroid hurtling
through the constellation Hercules beside the star Vega.

"It's over right beside a fairly bright star," one person announced.

Star gazer David Roles said it was a moment he'll never forget. "Oh I'm
really happy that we got a glimpse of it," he said. "Because it's not
very often we see an object that close to the Earth."

Sara Poirier of the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto said it was
easiest to spot the asteroid under the darkest of night skies.

To put the asteriod's size into perspective, scientists described it as
being roughly eight times the size of a regulation Canadian football
field.

But looking at it from Earth through a telecope, it appeared to be
nothing more than a shooting star.

Professor Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario said while
the asteroid posed no danger to Earth, it was important to track its
speed and rotation.

"If the day ever comes that we ever need to go out and divert one of
these things and determine how we can move it then we need to understand
its physical properties," he said.

In June, an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by
120,000 kilometres, less than one-third the distance to the moon.

Now, that the 2002-NY40 asteroid has come and gone, scientists are
shifting their focus to another rock heading towards Earth, which is
more than two kilometres wide. Its approach is expected in 2019.

Copyright, CBS News

============
(5) GREAT IMAGES OF 2002 NY40
 
Some great images by Maurice Gavin in the UK
http://home.freeuk.com/m.gavin/2002ny40.htm

==============
(6) TELESCOPE, RADAR & RADIO CHECKS FOR CONTOR CONTINUE

>From the CONTOUR website, 18 August 18 2002 -- 2 p.m. (EDT)
http://www.contour2002.org/news.php?id=20 
  
Current Operations: Radar and Radio Checks

The effort to locate and contact the CONTOUR spacecraft - through
telescope, radar and radio checks - continues. Aided by an Aug. 16
telescope image from the Spacewatch Project showing two objects along a
path close to CONTOUR's predicted trajectory, mission operators "know
where to look now," says Dr. Robert Farquhar, CONTOUR mission director
from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 19, the team plans to check if CONTOUR carries
out a timed command to cycle and attempt to transmit through different
antennas. The sequence is timed to start 96 hours after CONTOUR receives
its last command - meaning it could start as early as 4:09 a.m. (EDT) or
as late as 10:09 p.m. Monday - and would last several hours.

"We aren't sure that the spacecraft is completely gone, and that's what
we're going to be working on over the next several days," Farquhar says.

===========
(7) ASTRONOMERS NOT GIVING UP ON MISSING US SPACE PROBE

>From SpaceDaily, 19 August 2002
http://spacedaily.com/news/020819013200.ibm8k6km.html

WASHINGTON (AFP) Aug 19, 2002

Mission controllers said Sunday they have not given up on the missing US
CONTOUR space probe in spite of indications it may have been destroyed
when it tried to fire its engines.

Telescope images showing two objects traveling along a path close to
CONTOUR's trajectory mean controllers "know where to look now," said
Robert Farquhar, CONTOUR mission director at the Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory.

"We aren't sure that the spacecraft is completely gone, and that's what
we're going to be working on over the next several days."

The telescope images taken Friday as mission controllers tried to
reestablish contact with the spacecraft showed two trails moving nearly
parallel from the area where the probe was last seen -- an indication
the probe may have broken into pieces.

The probe disappeared Thursday after its engines were to fire 225
kilometers (140 miles) above the Indian Ocean, an orbit too low for
detection by NASA's antennas.

The burn was meant to accelerate the probe to 6,912 kilometersmiles) per
hour to overcome the pull of Earth's gravity.

Farquhar said controllers still hope the probe automatically restarts
its radio transmitters after being out of contact with Earth for 96
hours, which could be as early as 0909 GMT Monday.

The Comet Nucleus Tour probe, or CONTOUR, was launched July 3 from
Kennedy Space Center on a Delta II rocket.

NASA hoped that by analyzing the hearts of two comets close up, CONTOUR
would reveal the secrets of the hydrogen-rich celestial bodies, which
could become mobile fueling stops for future interplanetary
explorations.

The CONTOUR probe was scheduled to pass through the comet Encke on
November 12, 2003, and the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 on June 19,
2006, traveling within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of each comet's
nucleus. Both comets are less than 50 million kilometers from earth.

The 970-kilogram (2,138-pound) probe, shielded in Kevlar to protect it,
might also have been sent to a third, as yet undetermined, comet.

All rights reserved. © 2002 Agence France-Presse.

============
(8) COSMIC BOGS @ THE LONDON CATASTROPHES CONFERENCE

>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

Geological Society of London
London, U.K.

Contact:
Dr Iain Stewart
Department of Geography & Earth Sciences
Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
iain.stewart@brunel.ac.uk
+44 1895 203215

17 August 2002

Cosmic bogs @ the London Catastrophes conference

You may think that peat bogs are among the least interesting places
on Earth and you could be right. But according to speakers at Brunel
University's 'Environmental Catastrophes' conference, that doesn't
stop them being excellent recorders of catastrophic environmental
events like volcanic eruptions and cosmic influx.

According to Dr Lars Franzen, bogs in Sweden, Ireland and Norway
show high cosmic influxes in several periods. These are c.
7000 BC, 3000 BC, 2300 BC, 1700 BC, 1000 BC, 500 BC, 550 AD,
850 AD, 1300 AD and around the peak of "The Little Ice Age".
All of these peaks coincide with climatic, and many with known
cultural, downturns. Dr Franzen suggests that most of the rapid
climate shifts during the Holocene could be attributed to cosmic
activity. He will argue that such cosmic events, in one way or
the other, are responsible for the Dark Ages in our history.

A peat bog in Estonia that lies a few kilometres from a suspected
meteorite impact site, the Kaali impact crater (Island of
Saaremaa, Estonia) has yielded new and controversial results
about the age of the impact. Previous studies had suggested that
the peat layers containing extraterrestrial material and impact
ejecta dated the impact to about 6270-6500 BC. New research by
Professor Siim Veski suggests that the impact is far more recent
than that, lying between 800-400 BC.

Professor Veski's research suggests that the impact caused local
wildfires that resulted in an ecological catastrophe around the
epicentre of the site. It is possible that the fires were
connected with the burning of a nearby settlement in the period
800-400 BC.

Finally, bogs themselves may be hazardous! Research by Ben
Gearey of the University of Hull outlines how the catastrophic
failure of bogs has had major impacts upon past natural
environments and human communities in the Irish boglands, as
is vividly described in the historical literature.

Notes for editor

This release is one in a series of media advisories for the
forthcoming conference Environmental Catastrophes & Recovery in
the Holocene (28 Aug - 2 Sept., 2002) Brunel University, West
London. For further information, contact the convener Dr Iain
Stewart. Please note that the Geological Society of London is
only promoting the conference, and is not able to take media
enquiries concerning it.

This release covers papers presented on Saturday 31 August (3 -
6 pm): Special Session on 'Tunguska and other 'cosmic events'
(Fanzen, Veski), and Monday 2nd September (3-6 pm) Special
session on Catastrophes and the archaeological record (Gearey).

Dr Lars Franzen is Associate Professor in Physical Geography at
the Earth Sciences Center in Goteberg, Sweden. His principal
research area is peatlands, and particularly their role as
recorders of global catastrophes, especially meteorite impacts.

Dr Siim Veski is a senior researcher of Institute of Geology at
Tallinn Technical University. In 2000, the Estonian Academy of
Sciences awarded him their K. E. v. Baer Prize.

Dr. Benjamin Gearey is a Research Fellow with the Wetland
Archaeology and Environments Research Centre, University of Hull.
Benjamin carried out research for his PhD on 'Human-environment
relations on Bodmin Moor during the Holocene', work undertaken
in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Geography
at the University of Exeter.

Read the abstracts for these speakers at:

     http://atlas-conferences.com/cgi-bin/abstract/caji-26
     http://atlas-conferences.com/cgi-bin/abstract/caiq-55
     http://atlas-conferences.com/cgi-bin/abstract/caji-04

=============
(9) TUNGUSKA - MAKING AN IMPACT @ THE LONDON 'CATASTROPHE' CONFERENCE

>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

Geological Society of London
London, U.K.

Contact:
Dr Iain Stewart
Department of Geography & Earth Sciences
Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
iain.stewart@brunel.ac.uk
+44 1895 203215

17 August 2002

Tunguska -- making an impact @ the London 'Catastrophes' conference

The "Tunguska Event" refers to the tremendous explosion on the
morning of June 30, 1908, that laid waste to about 2150 square
kilometres of Siberia in the region to the north and north-west
of Lake Baikal in Russia. The event is widely attributed to be the
impact of a comet or asteroid.

New research, however, is suggesting alternative homegrown
geophysical mechanisms to explain the event. Andrei Ol'khovatov,
an independent Russian researcher, will be convening a special
workshop to air the competing sides of the growing 'Tunguska
debate'.

For Ol'khovatov, the Tunguska event has all the hallmarks of an
extreme terrestrial geophysical event. He argues that it can
be explained by the combined effects of known tectonic and
meteorological activity -- albeit combined at a much larger
scale -- and argues that there is good evidence that such a
peculiar and rare combination of tectonic and meteorological
activity was reported from the Siberian region at the time of
the event.

Wolfgang Kundt of the Institute for Astrophysics at the
University of Bonn argues that the event was the result of the
tectonic expulsion of some 10 megatons of natural gas. This
natural gas, vented outwards at supersonic and subsonic speeds,
was responsible for the peculiar meteorological activity across
the region.

Another researcher, Christoph Brenneisen, reports that soil
samples collected by the second German-Russian Tunguska
expedition in autumn 2000 from the epicentre of the disaster
area showed clear enrichment of the disaster layer of 1908 with
alkaline earth metals such as lanthanides and strontium. However,
he argues that the source of these elements need not definitely
have an extra-terrestrial, but might instead come from the
Earth's mantle via deep-seated geologic-tectonic structures.

Jesus Martinez-Frias of the Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)
in Madrid proposes an alternative impact origin for Tunguska,
that it may be related the fall of anomalously large atmospheric
ice blocks ('megacryometeors'). Such large ice blocks have been
reported striking the Earth's surface at an increasing rate
during the past few years. These unusual events of falls of
large blocks of ice were first reported in Spain in 2000, but
additional occurrences have been identified in many others
parts of the world (e.g. Italy, Austria, Argentina, Colombia,
Canada and The Netherlands). A research program was initiated
in Spain to study the nature of the ice blocks, showing that
they mostly share the characteristics of large atmospheric
hailstones. Professor Martinez-Frias argues that while
megacryometeors represent a much less violent threat than
extraterrestrial impacts, they constitute a more immediate hazard.

Notes for editor

This release is one in a series of media advisories for the
forthcoming conference Environmental Catastrophes & Recovery in
the Holocene (28 Aug - 2 Sept., 2002) Brunel University, West
London. For further information, contact the convener Dr Iain
Stewart. Please note that the Geological Society of London is
only promoting the conference, and is not able to take media
enquiries concerning it.

Abstracts

     http://atlas-conferences.com/cgi-bin/abstract/caiq-07
     http://atlas-conferences.com/cgi-bin/abstract/caji-24

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(10) PROGRESS AND CONGRATULATIONS

>From Andy Smith <astrosafe22000@yahoo.com>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

It is great to have the lines open again and we hope you and family had
an enjoyable respit. There were many delightful news items in the
opening issue (15 Aug) and there was one of major concern.

First, we want to express our appreciation to the Sloan Digital Sky
Survey (SDSS), in southern New Mexico, and to Zeljko Ivezic (Princeton)
for releasing the Moving Objects Catalog and for getting more involved
in the critical NEO hunt. We also want to thank Ted Bowell and others
for their contributions to that effort and we want to congratulate
LINEAR and NEAT on their impressive recent discovery record.

Second, we salute Roy Tucker and congratulate him for receiving the
grant from the Planetary Society which he needed to enhance his data
handling capability.  Roy, the Planetary Society and all of the other
distinguished award recipients deserve our thanks for the contributions
they are making to our vital cause.

Next, we want to welcome the initiative announced by the Deimos-Space
(DS) team and the involvement by the spanish technical community in the
research and development aimed at planetary asteroid/comet defense. DS
and the Elecnor Group are an impressive team and we hope they will be
able to obtain ESA assistance. ESA also deserves our appreciation for
such initiatives as GAIA, etc. and for joining the crusade.

We also appreciate the growing recognition of the need to get larger
telescopes involved in the NEO hunt, ASAP and the need to begin to plan
for an effective an rapid emergency NEO deflection response. The Deep
Impact mission is a very impressive move, in the right direction and we
hope many teams, from around the world, will contribute. In this regard,
we want to salute the Russian study groups and the Space Shield
Foundation for the mitigation-related studies they have done, over the
last decade, and we hope they will join in the NASA sponsored Hazardous
Objects Workshop, this September.

Finally, we want to commend David Morrison, Don Yeomans and the NASA
NEO Staff, the MPC, the UK teams, the Planetary Society, Spaceguard,
Space Shield, and others for the excellent jobs you are doing of
expanding and improving your Web pages. This is the most important
technical challenge in history and we thank you for helping to keep the
public (specialists and non-specialists, alike) informed.

Cheers

Andy Smith

=========
(11) RE: THREE WAYS TO SAVE EARTH FROM DISASTER

>From Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

Dear Benny,

some proposals for deflecting NEOs are reviewed in "THREE WAYS TO SAVE
EARTH...", in Robert Matthews' article from The Sunday Telegraph (posted
CCNet, 29 July 2002), including a promising suggestion to vaporise
material from the surface of the NEO by a stand-off nuclear explosion.
Several proposals mentioned in the article and elsewhere involve landing
on a NEO headed for Earth, and to perform one of a number of possible
maneuvers in order to move the impactor off collision course. Clearly,
this will depend on plenty of lead time being available.

As long as we are landing anyway, my proposal is to use airbags.  It
seems a safe, simple, and realistic idea that requires flying alongside
the asteroid or comet in order to inflate airbags in contact with a NEO
on its impact trajectory.  One or more spacecrafts would deliver the bags
and supply momentum impulse to the NEO for a course correction.  This can
be done gently and with sufficient care to avoid fragmentation, a concern
since recent observations have tended to confirm the fragility of comets
and even of asteroids.  Small forces would be applied by using the bags
as buffers and thus distributing pressure over a large area, and by
controlled thruster jet firing.

The bags must have enough strength and could be manufactured in advance,
packed into small volumes while still empty, and kept ready for
deployment either from the ground or from space stations.  To deploy,
blow up the bags using gases from a suitable chemical reaction.  The
bags would come in various sizes, from perhaps a hundred feet up to a
mile. Undoubtedly, solution of many questions not considered here will be
required.

Regards,
 Hermann

==============
(12) AND FINALLY: WOULD ET VOTE?
     THE LIKELIHOOD OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL DEMOCRACY

>From Space.com, 15 August 2002
http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_vote_020815.html

By Douglas Vakoch
Special to SPACE.com

Although it's still two years until the next presidential election,
we're already seeing signs of politicians positioning themselves for the
Oval Office. If extraterrestrials some day pick up our radio and
television broadcasts, hearing the latest news of political jockeying,
will they be flabbergasted by our methods of choosing a leader? Would
the idea of one vote per person seem hopelessly quaint to an advanced
alien nation?

Maybe not.

If psychologist Albert Harrison is correct, ETs might feel very much at
home with the notion of going to the ballot box. Or at least they would
be familiar with the process of having input into the control of their
lives, even if it doesn't take the form of presidential elections.
According to Harrison, a Professor of Psychology at the University of
California at Davis, if we detect a signal from advanced
extraterrestrials, there's a good chance that the basic principles of
democracy play a role in their society.

"When we intercept a transmission from an ancient society," Harrison
argues, "that society is likely to have achieved its great age not
through an autocratic, belligerent government, but through a democratic
government whose emphasis on bargaining, negotiation, and peaceful
solutions to internal problems are brought to bear in dealing with other
democracies." In Harrison's view it's possible that "democracy involves
a set of functional principles that will work for other intelligent
species in other places and at other times."

Take Me to Your Dictator?

By a similar line of reasoning, extraterrestrial dictators may be very
rare.

Autocratic governments on Earth face an uphill battle, Harrison says,
and the same challenges may limit the life expectancies of fascist
regimes around distant stars. For example, autocracies tend to ignore
the desires of their citizens. The resulting disconnect between leader
and followers can become increasingly extreme, resulting in discontent
of the masses. By contrast, democratic processes incorporate input from
a wide range of individuals, yielding a more responsive and thus stable
form of government. Harrison suggests that this lesson would not be lost
on extraterrestrials. "The greater the number of democracies in a
galaxy," he says, "the greater the zone of galactic peace."

Furthermore, he argues that if a federation of extraterrestrial
civilizations exists, as some astronomers have suggested, its policy
toward newly emerging civilizations such as ours might be guided by the
values of democracy. "Members of the 'Galactic Club,'" says Harrison,
"should do everything they can to promote the evolution of stable
democracies, because, by so doing, they increase their zone of peace."

Ideals of universal peace, however, may come no more naturally to
extraterrestrials than they do to humans. Harrison acknowledges that
aggression can be found across a range of terrestrial species, and it
may well evolve on other worlds too. But he points out that Darwin's
notions of "survival of the fittest" don't directly translate from
biology to culture: "belligerent posturing and aggressive behaviors that
make an animal fit do not necessarily make a society fit." Those
extraterrestrial societies that find themselves perpetually at war may
not last long enough to make contact with other civilizations.

But suppose they do manage to survive. Could they maintain an
intergenerational dialogue with another civilization that might require
centuries or millennia for each exchange? "If paranoid, berserk, or
thoroughly selfish societies last long enough to make contact with other
civilizations," Harrison says, "their foreign policies would put them
out of business."

However slight the chance, what if extraterrestrials really are as
malevolent as Hollywood often portrays them? Would we be opening
ourselves up to interstellar war if we respond to a signal? In all
likelihood, Harrison says, "Our response to their signal will not be a
beacon encouraging them to exterminate us." Hostility at interstellar
distances, he maintains, is hard to imagine: "The immense distances that
separate stars and galaxies make hostile action unlikely. Immense
distance also interferes with the trade of material goods and services,
but it leaves open the possibility of trading information."

Interstellar Altruism

Is it realistic to expect the bartering of information between stars?
Could the potential benefits of interstellar commerce justify the
long-term commitment that interstellar communication requires? In
Harrison's view, there might be yet another motive for extraterrestrials
to look out for the best interests of humankind: their own
self-interest. By providing primitive civilizations such as ours with
some guidance at a distance, ET might help stabilize our society. In
return, our interstellar interlocutors might benefit by having more
cooperative neighbors. "In a sense," Harrison notes in his book After
Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life, "they could
provide us with just enough aid to 'keep the lid on our garbage can.'"

Harrison has no doubt that the powerful survive, even on other worlds.
But he suggests that we need to expand beyond our usual conceptions of
power, which often focus on destructive power. Instead, he suggests that
the concept of "integrative power" may be more applicable to
understanding extraterrestrial civilizations. When viewed in terms of
integrative power, Harrison says, "The powerful person, organization, or
society is one that can communicate, persuade, create loyalties, and
build social bonds." And this is exactly what he expects to find among
extraterrestrial civilizations that have lasted long enough for us to
detect them: "the odds are stacked in favor of finding an old
civilization whose cooperative views have contributed to its longevity."

Perhaps the most important question we need to ask ourselves if we
detect a signal from extraterrestrial intelligence is whether we should
reply. "The risk of responding is vanishingly small," Harrison says.
"The least productive response may be no response at all."

Copyright 2002, Space.com

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