MIT says screw nukes, we’ll deflect asteroids with paintballs

Dan Seitz Contributing Writer, Tech

Firing a bunch of paintballs at an asteroid may sound, on the surface, to be an incredibly stupid way to prevent a rock weighing thousands of pounds from slamming into the Earth and wiping out all life.

Believe it or not, though, it’s actually a smart and relatively practical idea. Here’s why.

If you’re the video type, here’s a brief explanation:

If not, here’s the deal: MIT’s Sung Wook Paek did the math and found that firing two rounds of paintballs at an asteroid would do two things.

One, since this is space and every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the force of the pellets would shove the asteroid slightly off course. Secondly, the white paint inside the balls would increase the albedo of the asteroid.

No, it would not make the asteroid horny. What it would do is make it more reflective. Light, believe it or not, actually exerts pressure, and the brighter something is, the more pressure it exerts. It’s not a lot of oomph, but it is constant and would thus be relentlessly shoving the asteroid away from us.

There’s also the advantage of not losing a nuke if we miss, and the swarm of paintballs being easier to deploy.

So the next time you get yelled at for paintball, just tell people you’re researching some earth-saving strategies.

Deflecting An Asteroid With Paintballs [MIT]

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