The Plot Of Armageddon Is Actually Possible, According To Science

Folks, forget all the conventional wisdom about asteroids and nuclear weapons. I am unreasonably excited to report that everything you've ever heard about how "implausible" and "unrealistic" Michael Bay's 1998 disasterpiece, "Armageddon," apparently is ... is a lie. 

Well, okay, it's obviously still pretty ridiculous and absurd — that's simply part of the movie's charm. 

In this case, it's more like exhaustive and genuinely impressive scientific research has yielded surprising results that have furthered our collective understanding of the cosmos and our place in it, specifically regarding the makeup and composition of planetary bodies and our own capacity to protect our planet from potential wayward strikes. But I'm sure we can all agree that the "Armageddon" rehabilitation is a great unintentional side-effect of this news!

Michael Bay Was Right

Gather 'round, space enthusiasts and movie lovers. We've had some drama-filled weeks lately, with the Russians beating Tom Cruise to space to shoot a feature film at the International Space Station and William Shatner exploring the final frontier aboard yesterday's rocket launch. This latest development should be catnip for those interested in our continued exploration of space, and those with an inexplicable fondness for cheesy, not-very-good '90s action extravaganzas. Gizmodo broke the news about a promising new research study that suggests shooting some sort of weapon at an incoming asteroid could plausibly break it up, changing the trajectory of their fragments to avoid hitting Earth. However, this comes with a few important caveats that some (read: me) might interpret as a killjoy.

The generally accepted belief has been that movies like "Armageddon" would be preposterous to put into practice. Anything launched towards an asteroid without months or years of warning, as the idea goes, would only result in the remaining rubble causing even more damage across a wider area of our planet's surface. It's a reasonable and legitimate train of thought that many scientists agree on. The latest study used the results from a simulation run multiple times to chart the aftermath of a nuclear blast on a 100-meter long asteroid, which confirmed that "99% or more" of the approaching asteroid fragments were successfully prevented from causing any harm. Go science!

Now for the caveats. The best results from the study applied to asteroids that were blown to bits up to six months in advance, so, unfortunately, "Armageddon" and the two-ish weeks of foreknowledge that humanity is given about the asteroid would be cutting it close. Secondly, the 100-meter asteroid used as a template in the simulations pales in comparison to the Texas-sized monster from Michael Bay's imagination. 

There's good news, though. The lead scientist mentions that fragmenting an asteroid (as opposed to setting off an explosion that would deflect its orbit away from us, another popular theory) actually holds water, possibly limiting the scale of damage to a significant degree, "...if we disrupt the object by as little as two weeks before impact."

Ultimately, the scientists admit that this should all be a measure of absolute last resort, but I'm taking this as a victory, anyway. "Armageddon" isn't quite as far-fetched as we may have thought. Take that, Cinema Sins!