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Other suggestions of damage meteorites can do


The energy released when a meteorite hits the Earth
Edward Teller Scientist
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Now let me finish by telling you of the third use of these technologies which looks probably more fantastic than anything I've talked about and which, while being fantastic, is completely real. I talk about meteorites hitting the earth. It happens. Air Force observations have shown that in not very long time intervals, meteorites come and burn up in the atmosphere, whose total energy in their burn-up can easily become as big as the energy developed in Hiroshima. Actually such meteorites hit the earth - the last big event of that kind occurred when I was about five months old. It was called the Tunguska Meteorite; an object more than hundred feet in diameter came in over Tunguska in Siberia not far south of the Arctic circle. It did not hit the Earth, it approached the Earth on a tangential orbit and as it got into more and more dense atmosphere the pressure ahead of it built up. This uneven distribution of pressure caused the object to disintegrate into small parts which in turn vaporized and released an energy very many fold that of Hiroshima. The trees were uprooted, pushed away, over an area of a thousand square miles. Maybe one or two people were hurt, there were not many people around, fortunately. Such an event, which we estimate is likely to come in once in a hundred, once in a few hundred years, if it should occur over a big city could kill millions - not likely.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 29 September 2010