It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane… It’s Armageddon!

Have you ever wondered what would happen to your city if an asteroid were to crash into the ground a few miles outside of the city limits?

There’s an app for that.

A new seriously cool website developed by Jay Melosh, distinguished professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and physics at Purdue, with graphic help from Information Technology at Purdue, can give you all of the gory details. And those details are so accurate that the results are used by the Department of Homeland Security, NASA and the U.S. Air Force, to name a few.

For example, if a dense rock the size of the Empire State Building entered the atmosphere on a direct hit trajectory for 10 miles outside of Lansing traveling 94,000 miles per hour, it would bombard the city with 10-foot-wide fragments of Earth a minute after impact. However, nobody would notice because they’d already have been subjected to enough heat to instantly ignite clothing, an earthquake of 7.4 magnitude, and a blast of air strong enough to collapse most buildings and blow down 90 percent of trees blown down with the remainder stripped of all their branches.

Besides just being plain cool, this application is awesome for classrooms. It can help get kids interested in the sciences involved, including the engineering of buildings, the physics of impacts, the thermodynamics of atmospheric entry, the geology of craters and the use of scientific notation. In fact, it already is being used in classrooms across the country. The team has done a wonderful job constructing an interface that is simple enough for kids to use but useful for scientists as well.



About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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