The asteroid’s name is 99942 Apophis - Apophis being the name for an evil spirit of destruction in Egyptian myth and an appropriate name for this Near Earth Object (NEO) discovered in 2004 by Roy A. Tucker, David J. Tholen, and Fabrizio Bernardi of the NASA-funded University of Hawaii Asteroid Survey from Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The asteroid was initially named ‘2004 MN4′. Scientists at the time insisted that there was very little time left to prepare a defense strategy for a possible collision. Technology to deflect the asteroid, they said, would take decades to design, test and build.
NASA had estimated that an impact from Apophis, which has an outside chance of hitting the Earth in 2036, would have released more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima. Thousands of square kilometers would be directly affected by the blast but the whole of the Earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere.
As Monica Grady, an expert in meteorites at the Open University, said:
“It’s a question of when, not if, a near Earth object collides with Earth. Many of the smaller objects break up when they reach the Earth’s atmosphere and have no impact. However, a NEO larger than 1km [wide] will collide with Earth every few hundred thousand years and a NEO larger than 6km, which could cause mass extinction, will collide with Earth every hundred million years. We are overdue for a big one.”
Apophis had been intermittently tracked since its discovery in June 2004 but in December 2005, it began to cause serious concern As of this time, the chances of Apophis hitting Earth has been reduced to 1 in 12.3 million.
In projecting the likely orbit of the Apophis into the future, astronomers calculated that the odds of it hitting the Earth in 2029 were alarming and the odds got higher as more observations were received. At the peak of the scientists’ concern, Apophis asteroid was placed at 4 out of 10 on the Torino scale - a measure of the threat posed by an NEO where 10 is a certain collision which could cause a global catastrophe. This was the highest of any asteroid in recorded history and it had a 1 in 37 chance of hitting the Earth. The threat of a collision in 2029 was eventually ruled out at the end of 2004 and the collision date extended to approximately 2036. The Torino scale threat has also been lowered to 0 out of 10.
Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer from Queen’s University Belfast, has stated that the asteroid should pass close to earth on April 13th 2029 and when it does:
the Earth will deflect it and change its orbit. There’s a small possibility that if it passes through a particular point in space, the so-called keyhole, … the Earth’s gravity will change things so that when it comes back around again in 2036, it will collide with us.”
The chance of Apophis passing through the keyhole, a 600-metre patch of space, was 1 in 5,500 based on information in 2005 but as of the most recent information, it is now 1 in 45,000.
The Advanced Concepts Team at the European Space Agency have led the effort in designing a range of satellites and rockets to nudge asteroids on a collision course to Earth into a different orbit. Even nuclear powered spacecraft are being considered but the negative aspect of nuclear powered is that it has not yet been put to the test as is the case with solar electric propulsion, for which there are already several spacecraft that do use the latter technology.
The European Space Agency (ESA) favoured method is also one of the easiest methods - to throw a spacecraft at an asteroid to change its direction. ESA plans to test the idea with its Don Quixote mission, where two satellites will be sent to an asteroid. One of the spacecraft, Hidalgo, will collide with the asteroid at high speed while the other, Sancho, will measure the change in the object’s orbit. Decisions on the actual design of these probes were to be made in 2006, with an expected launch to take place sometime between 2007 and 2017 launch expected some time in the next decade. Astronomers are not considering the use of explosives as an option due to the fact of potential spread of damage by the collision of many fragments.
In September 2005, scientists at Strathclyde and Glasgow universities began computer simulations to work out the feasibility of changing the directions of asteroids on a collision course for Earth.
Possible Effects of Impact
NASA initially estimated the energy that Apophis would have released if it struck Earth as the equivalent of 1480 megatons of TNT but later refined this to 880 megatons. The impacts which created the Barringer Crater of the Tunguska event are estimated to be in the 10-20 megaton range and the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was the equivalent of roughly 200 megatons.
The exact effects of any impact of an asteroid varies according to the asteroid’s composition, and its the location and angle of impact. Any impact is aid to be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometres, but information says that any impact would probably not cause long-lasting global effects, such as the initiation of an impact winter as many fear.
Scorn a popular role-playing or online game which sells in the millions and scorn the gamers who play it without reasonable proof and you’re up for a rage and revenge by this dedicated online community that speaks of total commitment and loyalty to their group - and that includes even the conservative gamers who openly show scorn for the critic. There are a few lessons learnt here and learnt very well.
A self-help writer, Cooper Lawrence and author of the book “The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace With Your Inner Overachiever”, openly criticized Mass Effect, one of the most critically praised games of 2007, on “The Live Desk With Martha MacCallum”, a Fox News program featuring a discussion of the apparent sexual content of the hit video game.
Even worse, the author admitted on the programme to not having played the game after having delivered intense criticism that the game contained frontal nudity and explicit depictions of sexual activity. The assertions of virtual lasciviousness first appeared earlier this month amongst online bloggers who were incensed by short ‘YouTube’ clips which were taken from the 30- to 40-hour game. Cooper Lawrence appeared to mischaracterize the game when she stated:
“Here’s how they’re seeing women: They’re seeing them as these objects of desire, as these, you know, hot bodies. They don’t show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality. And it’s a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with.”
Mass Effect is a science fiction game which includes a complicated romantic subplot that is no more inappropriate in its plot or graphic in its depiction than any television show played in the evenings to public viewers. Factually, and as a point of further embarrassment to Ms. Lawrence, Mass Effect allows users to play as either a man or a woman, and the few suggestions of intimate contact occur in the context of a detailed interpersonal story line.
An exacting revenge by online gamers - who turned their caustic disdain and anger on Cooper Lawrence - materialized. Ms. Lawrence’s most recent book user-rating on Amazon.com, “The Cult of Perfection”, was sent spiraling into near oblivion with one-star ratings given by these gamers who sought their retribution.
The book was tagged with the keyword “ignorant” and tied for 2nd place for keywords “garbage” and “hypocrisy,” and tied for 4th place with the words “hack” and “hypocrite”. Gamers went on to attack the book further on the Barnes & Noble Web site, symbolically fulfilling the game’s now seemingly most appropriate title ‘Mass Effect’. Amazon has stated that they would soon begin to remove reviews written by users who, obvious to them, did not read the book.
What is ironic and causes the most humorous aspect in this fable is that many of the reviewers admit that they have not read Ms. Lawrence’s book - as one Amazon user puts it:
“I know all about this book but have never fully read it. Why? Due to the overwhelming backlash, I have no choice but to agree with the 1 star ratings. The rumors are rampant that this book was poorly written and poorly researched. So without verifying the contents myself — I give it a 1 star. Good thing video games aren’t judged in this manner — whew!!!”
In all contrasts, the game Mass Effect, which sold more than 1.6 million copies since November 2007, is far more popular that the book “The Cult of Perfection”.
Since her interview on Fox Channel and the ‘mass’ ensuing controversy, Ms. Lawrence has said that she had watched someone play the game for about two and a half hours (after the fact) and further:
“I recognize that I misspoke, … I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke… Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography, … But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”
Coming on the heels of the controversy and seeking an apology of some sorts, Electronic Arts, the giant publisher that owns Mass Effect, has asked Fox News for a correction but Fox only offered that Electronic Arts be given a chance to appear on the channel. Electronic Arts has not yet decided whether to accept this offer. Chief executive of BioWare, the Electronic Arts studio that made Mass Effect, Ray Muzyka and who is a medical doctor, further stated:
“We’re hurt. We believe in video games as an art form, and on behalf of the 120 people who poured their blood and tears into this game over three years, we’re just really hurt that someone would misrepresent the game without even playing it. All we can hope for is that people who actually play our games will see the truth.”
Lesson #1 learnt: Prove it before you speak.
Lesson #2 learnt: Revenge is not fair.
Lesson #3 learnt: Ms. Lawrence’s ‘Making Peace with Her Overachiever’ is obviously still a ‘work in progress’ for the author.
An article by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times today, as well as other articles issued by various leading news media, reported that the group ‘Public Citizen’ wants more health warnings about the drug Botox as well as similar drugs, after it was established that at least 16 persons, among them 4 children, died using these drugs. Only one of those patients used the drug for cosmetic reasons - others used it for medical reasons to relieve pain associated with muscle knotting and other unknown complications.
The drug, a neurotoxin that is used to relax muscles and to remove wrinkles, was known to spread to vital organs, Public Citizen says and insists that the drug should come with a far stronger warning label and that patients should be given a letter detailing its risks. Public Citizen filed a petition this Thursday with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA. Julie Zawisza, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said she could not comment while the petition was under review.
Allergan, the maker of Botox, issued a statement via their Executives saying that adverse reactions were rare because many patients who get the drug are seriously ill, it is not proven that Botox causes the reactions. Solstice Neurosciences, the maker of a similar drug, Myobloc, did not return a message for comment.
Botox is approved to treat cervical dystonia, a painful knotting of neck muscles and the procedure requires that doctors inject it into multiple spots on the neck, sometimes relieving disabling pain for weeks or months. However, it is reported that the locations of the injection sites sometimes come dangerously close to the esophagus, causing partial paralysis that can lead patients to have difficulty swallowing and to suffer aspiration pneumonia, caused by breathing in food or liquids.
The director of Public Citizen, which is a health research and advocacy group, Dr. Sidney M. Wolf, states that these deaths might have been prevented had patients been adequately warned of the possible dangers. Presently, labels for Botox and Myobloc mention the issue but not prominently enough, Dr. Wolfe said. According to Dr. Wolfe, patients don’t have a clue about these problems and he insists that “Nobody should die from the medical use of Botox”. Dr. Wolfe gave Britain and Germany as good examples of countries that require drug manufacturers to send letters to doctors warning of the dangers. The European drug labels also have a prominent section titled “special warnings and precautions for use” that warns of the dangers of the spread of the toxin and patients in Europe are also advised and warned to seek medical help if they have trouble breathing, experience dry mouth or have trouble swallowing by receiving a leaflet.
Public Citizen also illustrated the procedures of the Danish Medicines Agency (DMA), which published an analysis of adverse events associated with the products on August 9th 2007. Public Citizen’s petition states that the DMA’s analysis found 600 problems associated with the drugs, and that half of the serious problems associated with the drugs occurred after the toxin spread. The DMA also warned that muscle weakness associated with Botox may be long-lasting, especially among children, the elderly and those suffering serious neurological problems.
According to Public Citizen, the drugs’ manufacturers and others in th USA have reported 658 cases of problems associated with Botox and Myobloc to the FDA.
This fabulous new Cariboo Activity Gym gives your baby child all the excitement and exercise it can handle. Recommended for ages birth through 10 months, it provides a unique activity center for your child that blends beautifully with your home décor. The Activity Gym may be used as a natural play environment on the floor or as a bassinet mobile for any of the Cariboo model bassinets.