A group of students from the University of Leicester has announced that they have debunked the premise of the Bruce Willis flick Armageddon. If you’re a fan of science fiction, you might recall the 1998 movie where Bruce Willis and his band of well drilling experts were sent the surface of an asteroid on a path to hit the earth. They used a nuclear weapon to split the asteroid in half so it passed harmlessly by the Earth.
The students at the University devised a formula to find the total amount of kinetic energy needed to divert the volume of the asteroid pieces as described in the movie. The students assumed that the clearance radius was the radius of the earth plus 400 miles. The students also calculated and the velocity of the asteroid, and the distance the asteroid in the film was from the earth when it was blown up. Using information from the movie and a formula the students whipped up, they arrived at a conclusion of whether or not using a bomb would have worked in real life.
The students determined that it would take 800 trillion terajoules of energy to split the asteroid in two with both chunks clearing the planet. However, the students say that the largest bomb ever detonated on earth, which was a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb dubbed Big Ivan detonated by the Soviet Union, lacked the power needed. The problem is that Big Ivan only produced 418,000 terajoules.
The students also note that for such an explosion to work, assuming a bomb large enough, the explosion would have needed to be set off virtually as soon as the asteroid in the film was detected. Interestingly, a group of scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory used in a supercomputer model back in March of this year to study how effective a nuclear bomb would be at destroying an asteroid on collision course with Earth. While this team of scientists didn’t use specifications from the movie, they did determine that a one megaton nuclear weapon would be able to divert an asteroid measuring 1650 feet long.