Almost all science-fiction writers agree, nothing kicks more ass than a good apocalypse. So which of these scenarios will actually happen (or rather, which will happen first)?
Let's find out.
As seen in:
Armageddon, Deep Impact.
How it goes down:
A gigantic fucking rock is found heading toward Earth. The whole world has to band together with some kind of shot-in-the-dark, desperate space mission to intercept it and blow it up. Hollywood filmmakers say this would almost certainly involve some kind of band of misfits who have a problem with authority.
Why it kicks ass:
Because we'll know it's coming with quite a bit of warning, and thwarting it involves spaceships and explosions.
Chances of it happening:
100 percent. Eventually.
For instance, there's an asteroid that will pass really freaking close to Earth in 2029, and if it hit it could land around southern California. The rock is about 1,300 feet long and would create a 900- megaton explosion (the force of several hundred nuclear bombs). That would fuck things up on a level unlike anything we've seen (killing everyone in an area the size of New Jersey), but wouldn't do anything on a planet-wide scale. Also, while it's passing within a hair of us in cosmic terms, the chances of it actually hitting us are lottery-small.
But asteroids do hit. The last time a serious one impacted was in 1908, in Siberia. That one was one-seventh the size of the one we were just talking about, and it flattened 800 miles of forest and splattered countless elk. But we know what you're thinking: Screw the elk, what about the gigantic Deep Impact-sized planet killer?
According to experts you'd expect that one to hit every 100 million years or so. The last one was a 6 mile-wide bastard that crashed into us 65 million years ago and killed 70 percent of everything on the planet. It's the reason the dinosaurs don't run the planet any more.
How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
Interestingly, Hollywood's films on the subject all involve thwarting an asteroid strike, rather than living in the aftermath of one. That makes us think that a guide on surviving an actual planet-killer impact would apparently be useless, unless it could be read by cockroaches. That's probably what the strangely-cheerful Japanese announcer is saying in this simulation.
As for how to actually stop the asteroid, scientists have laughed off the "land on it and plant a nuke" theory as ludicrous Hollywood fantasy, and have proposed building a swarm of asteroid-eating robots instead.