Getting killed by a meteor

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Ironicism
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Getting killed by a meteor

Postby Ironicism » Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:15 pm UTC

So I was talking with my friend about why I'm trying to avoid something. When she asked why I responded with what if i get killed by a meteor! Maybe not a big meteor maybe something more bullet sized or slightly larger. What are the odds of this and would the collision kill me?
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby JBJ » Thu Apr 22, 2010 12:48 pm UTC

Let's say you occupy 1 square meter of space on the Earth's surface. Considering that the surface area of the Earth is about 120 trillion square meters, so you start by having a 1 in 120,000,000,000,000 chance of being in a spot that is hit by a single meteorite. The next thing to figure out is how many meteorites hit the Earth's surface per day/month/year. According to this Google Answer, the average is 2 per day. So on any given day, you have about a 1 in 60 trillion chance of being hit by a meteorite. It's more really, but for ease of calculation, we'll say that being within one square meter of a meteorite impact qualifies as a "hit."

Would it kill you? If the meteorite lost most of it's energy and was only falling at terminal velocity (between 100-150mph depending on size and shape) it would really depend on how big it was. Something the size of a bullet would hurt, but not likely kill. Something the size of a baseball would be more likely to kill you, especially if you were hit on the head or your torso. Anything faster or larger is only going to be more likely to kill you.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Hydralisk » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:19 pm UTC

@JBJ, surely a bullet falling at terminal velocity would kill you? I'm pretty sure even a small chunk of rock would kill, or at least seriously wound you, if it was directly impacting your skill/head?

Besides, a small rock hitting you directly is even less likely than a largish one hitting you!

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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby mdyrud » Thu Apr 22, 2010 2:29 pm UTC

Actually, Mythbusters tested the danger of a bullet falling. If it is still spiraling after being shot into the air, it has enough energy to injure or kill, but after it has lost its spin, it is not at all dangerous. I'm thinking that a rock falling from space would be even less aerodynamic, so a small chunk of rock would probably have a terminal velocity low enough to keep from killing you or even seriously injuring you.

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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:36 pm UTC

People have been hit by meteors and lived, though sure, if one hit you just right on your head, it'd be pretty dangerous, but the likelihood of that is probably orders of magnitude less than of you being struck by lightning on your way to work tomorrow.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Macbi » Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:41 pm UTC

The probability of being killed by a meteor in general is much greater, since there's a small probability that a large meteor will just kill everyone, and this tugs the estimate way to one side.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:54 pm UTC

Not if we define it as "the probability of only yourself being killed by a meteor." That rules out global catastrophes. Also, an astronaut would have a disproportional risk compared ot everyone else.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Ironicism » Thu Apr 22, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Hmm, thanks for the input. I was trying to avoid walking on stage for graduation. I have a habit of giving ridiculous reasons for avoiding things. I felt like this one needed numbers. Sadly I don't think it helped me in the end lol. :)
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Sockmonkey » Thu Apr 22, 2010 7:13 pm UTC

mdyrud wrote:Actually, Mythbusters tested the danger of a bullet falling. If it is still spiraling after being shot into the air, it has enough energy to injure or kill, but after it has lost its spin, it is not at all dangerous.

Correction, if it's aimed at all to the side instead of perfectly straight up then it will be traveling in a spin-stabilized ballistic arc and still have inertia left over from being fired. It's the inertia not the spin allthough the spin does allow it to maintain a nice arc.

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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:20 am UTC

We might also want to consider that unlike a bullet, the meteor in question is superheated.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:27 am UTC

Not if it's slowed down to terminal velocity.
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Cobramaster » Fri Apr 23, 2010 5:03 am UTC

Heat is not the major concern with a meteor Size, speed and where it hits you are the 3 that matter. A sufficiently large but slow meteor hitting you above the waist would pose serious threat to your life, any meteor larger than you will probably kill you far more often than not and cause a good bit of collateral. Bowling ball sized Meteors that hit you in the head or fast enough in the torso would be fatal. Smaller than that speed and being hit in the head are the dangers. And as it was pointed out a good sized meteor that can take out a city or larger hitting anywhere near you will also do the job.

But to give a number on the actual odds of being hit by something falling from space is about 1 in 1 trillion according to the documentary on satellites I was watching the other day. And that number seems reasonable in that people have actually been hit by things from space.
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Ironicism
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Ironicism » Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:23 pm UTC

So at the very least serious injury would most likely occur right?
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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby Cobramaster » Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:35 pm UTC

Ironicism wrote:So at the very least serious injury would most likely occur right?

Well if I remember correctly one woman that was hit only had a large bruise but the meteor hit her after going through the second story of her house.
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Re: Getting killed by a meteor

Postby PM 2Ring » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:51 am UTC

Wikipedia wrote:Sylacauga (meteorite)

The Sylacauga meteorite fell on November 30, 1954 at 2:46pm (18:46 U.T.)[1] near the town of Sylacauga, Alabama.

It is often improperly[2] called the Hodges Meteorite, which was a fragment of the meteorite. The Hodges Meteorite is the first documented extraterrestrial object to have injured a human being.[3] It was a grapefruit-sized fragment of the Sylacauga meteorite[2] which fell on November 30, 1954. It crashed through the roof of a frame house in Oak Grove, Alabama, bounced off a large wooden console radio, and hit Ann Elizabeth Hodges (1923-1972) who was napping on a couch. The 31 year old woman was badly bruised on one side of her body but able to walk. The event received worldwide publicity.

The Hodges Meteorite is not the only extraterrestrial object to have struck a human. In 1992 a very small fragment (3g) of Mbale meteorite hit a young Ugandan boy,[4] but it had been slowed down by a tree and did not cause any injury.

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Re: Getting killed by an meteor

Postby wst » Sat Apr 24, 2010 2:05 pm UTC

Cobramaster wrote:
Ironicism wrote:So at the very least serious injury would most likely occur right?

Well if I remember correctly one woman that was hit only had a large bruise but the meteor hit her after going through the second story of her house.
So if it had hit her before hitting her house, she'd be in a bit more pain, I'd hazard.
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Re: Getting killed by a meteor

Postby makc » Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:25 am UTC

to all concerned with bullet-size object travelling at 150 mph, it probably wouldn't kill you even if it travelled at bullet speed. your body has enough places a bullet could hit without killing you, although none where it could hit without injury :)

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Ironicism
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Re: Getting killed by a meteor

Postby Ironicism » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:46 am UTC

Curse, my ridiculous reasoning is beginning to lose its validity as an excuse.
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Re: Getting killed by a meteor

Postby Josephine » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:16 am UTC

Yeah, just, um, don't get hit by a meteor on the moon.
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Re: Getting killed by a meteor

Postby phlip » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:24 am UTC

And really, the question isn't "how likely are you to be hit by a meteor" but "are you more likely to be hit by a meteor while on stage, compared to what you'd be doing if you weren't on stage, and if so, by how much?"...

Like, if you have a 1 in x (for some very huge x) chance of being hit by a meteor while on stage, but you also have a 1 in x chance of being hit by a meteor while in the audience for the same period of time... then it's not really a good excuse, whatever the value of x is.

Now, obviously, the probability will fluctuate a bit depending on where you are, and your proximity to objects likely to give ricochets (like the radio in that Hodges Meteorite story)... but I'm pretty sure the difference will be significantly less than the already low probabilities already being thrown around, and will easily be lost in the noise of all the other potential-but-unlikely killers out there...

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