August 8, 2012

Outrageous Claim Says Bruce Willis Couldn’t Save Earth

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

It may seem like poppycock, but the methods utilized in the popular movie Armageddon wouldn't work, according to science.

Students from the University of Leicester were the ones to burst everyone's bubble by using a popular arch-nemesis when it comes to battling the reality of a movie: physics.

In the 1998 film, Bruce Willis, an old-drilling platform engineer, must save Earth from being pummeled by an asteroid by drilling to the center of the celestial doom, and detonating a nuclear weapon inside it.

Under the movie's scenario, other than Bruce Willis dying (spoiler alert!), it is a happier ever after ending, with the planet saved and the star going out like a hero.

Upon detonating the nuclear weapon inside the asteroid, the space rock splits in half, sending the two pieces of the asteroid sliding past Earth, and Bruce Willis to live out eternity on a half baked rock.

However, to everyone's surprise, the four physics students are making an outrageous claim that this scenario, if played out in real life, would have a different ending.

The team found that the bomb would need to be about a billion times stronger than the biggest bomb ever detonated on Earth in order to save the world. Or, in movie scenario terms, Bruce Willis would instead have felt a tiny rumble, and gotten a first row view of the asteroid as it collided with his home town.

In order to create this buzz-kill finding, the team devised a formula to find the total amount of kinetic energy needed in relation to the volume of the asteroid pieces, their density, the clearance radius, which was taken as the radius of Earth plus 400 miles, the asteroid's pre-detonation velocity, and its distance from Earth at the point of detonation.

By using these measurements, which apparently J.J. Abrams and Michael Bay didn't think of, the asteroid shown in the film would need 800 trillion terajoules of energy to be split in two, with both pieces clearing the planet. Bay's bomb used in the film would've only outputted 418,000 terajoules.

The scientists kept the party going by adding that scientists would have to detect the asteroid much earlier if we had any chance to split the asteroid in time. Again, thanks a lot Michael Bay, for destroying Earth and all.

“One possible alternative method would be moving the asteroid via propulsion methods attached to it," Student Ben Hall said in a press release suggestion to J.J. Abrams for an Armageddon 2. "What is certain is that most methods would require very early detection of such an asteroid and very careful planning in deriving a solution."

“I really enjoyed the film Armageddon and up until recently never really considered the plausibility in the science behind the movie. But after watching it back I found myself being more skeptical about the film in many areas."

The students' papers "Could Bruce Willis Save the World?" and "Could Bruce Willis Predict the End of the World?" were published in the University of Leicester Journal of Special Physics Topics.

So while scientists continue to disprove the fictional-realm, it is good to know that real scientists out there are capable of doing the math that apparently Bay and Abrams are not.