BA Video: How Likely Are We to Die From an Asteroid Impact?

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May 18, 2015

I guess today is Debunk Monday.

This morning I wrote about why a planetary alignment can’t cause earthquakes. In it I also mention that every time an asteroid passes Earth there are a bunch of breathless articles implying (or outright stating) that scientists are worried it will cause a mass extinction.

The vast majority of these articles are, to be technical, what comes out of the south end of a north-facing bull.

However, the threat of an asteroid impact causing harm is quite real, as I’ve written about many times. It’s a cause of concern among scientists, but translating that into realistic action by the public can be tricky.

For example, what are the odds that you’ll die in an asteroid impact? It turns out the chance is extremely low, but maybe higher than you might think. And that’s what’s covered in this week’s Bad Astronomy video:

To put it in even more understandable terms: Asteroid impacts are something I’m concerned about, but not something I’m worried about. I think about them, and work toward getting people to understand them, but they don’t keep me awake at night in terror, sweating and staring at the ceiling.

The good news, too, is that they are a threat we can do something about.  

Watch more of Slate’s Bad Astronomy videos with Phil Plait.

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