Bruce Willis won’t save us if asteroid threatens

Fresh from explaining to us why Batman’s cape wouldn’t save him from crash-landing, University of Leicester students have moved on to raining on Bruce Willis’s parade.

His dramatic blowing-up of an asteroid to save the earth in Armageddon, they say, would require a bomb a billion times more powerful than any yet developed.

In the 1998 film, Bruce Willis plays an oil-drilling platform engineer who lands on the surface of an Earth-bound asteroid, drills to the centre and sets off a nuclear weapon. This splits the asteroid into two pieces, which then pass either side of the Earth.

The two pieces of the asteroid then pass either side of the Earth, saving the planet’s population from annihilation.

However, the cynical physicists have developed a formula to find the total amount of kinetic energy (E) needed in relation to the volume of the asteroid pieces (⅔πr3), their density (ρ), the clearance radius (R) – which was taken as the radius of Earth plus 400 miles – the asteroid’s pre-detonation velocity (ν1) and its distance from Earth at the point of detonation (D).

Using the measurements and properties of the asteroid as stated in the film, the formula revealed that 800 trillion terajoules of energy would be required to split the asteroid in two with both pieces clearing the planet. However, this is about a billio times the power of ‘Big Ivan’, the Soviet Union’s 50 megaton hydrogen bomb, which was the biggest ever detonated on Earth.

In any case, they say, the film’s scientists were far too dody when it came to detecting the asteroid in the first place, locating it much too late for any chance of splitting the asteroid in time.

“This would leave no time for Bruce to travel to the asteroid and drill into its centre – let alone share any meaningful moments with Ben Affleck or Liv Tyler along the way,” they suggest.