Hurrah, we've found an asteroid that might kill us all in 2032

2013 TV135 is meant to be a 410m space rock of death, but it's OK - there's a 99.998% chance it'll miss us.

Doomsayers, rejoice! Ukrainian astronomers have discovered Earth's new most dangerous space threat - a 410m-wide asteroid that will skim through our region of space twice between on 2032 and 2047.

To keep track of dangerous so-called Near-Earth Objects (or NEOs) there's a standardised ranking system known as the Torino scale. Zero means something isn't a threat, ten means a definite impact is expected. 2013 TV135 - as this terrifying new asteroid has been dubbed - has been bumped up to a whopping one out of ten, making it the joint-most dangerous threat to Earth that we know of. The other asteroid ranked at a danger level of one out of ten (as you can see on Nasa's Near-Earth Object Program site) is 2007 VK184. That one will pass near to Earth four times between 2048 and 2057.

However, before you start shopping for bomb shelters, it's always worth putting discoveries like this in context, especially since the Chelyabinsk meteor last year. That really was a scary event, a once-in-a-few-decades object that, this time, exploded over a heavily-populated area instead of the more usual oceans, deserts and other empty parts of this world where we don't notice.

That meteor is estimated to have been between 17 and 20 metres in diameter, and weighed about 10,000 tonnes. Compared to that, 410 metres sounds absolutely massive, and if it is that big - there's every chance that further readings will reduce that - it will post a serious risk to humanity's existence.

But, consider that its current chance of hitting us is somewhere in the region of one in 63,000. That's not very good. 2007 VK184 has a better shot of of an impact, at one in 1,750, but those are still, quite literally, astronomical odds.

It's very similar to the one in roughly 2,000 chance that the 5km-wide comet ISON had of hitting Mars (as estimated earlier this year), a possibility that left some scientists very excited. The chance to see an enormous bit of ice and rock smash into another planet - one that we have cameras and sensors trained on thanks to rovers and satellites - would have been extremely useful to observe. Even if it missed, a close pass by a comet that big should have looked pretty spectacular, and scientists expected ISON to put on quite a glorious show.

In the end, though, this is what ISON looked like:

See that white speck in the middle of those panels? That's ISON, as it flew past Mars this month. One of the most anticipated comets in years turned out to brighten a lot less than we thought, and the result was, well, that. A speck.

This is all to show that predicting asteroids and comets is a tricky business, but it's something we're getting a lot better at. We tend to spot the really big ones a long way in advance, and the organisations around the world which work to track them - which, along with Nasa, includes everything from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission to the work of the non-profit B612 Foundation and its Sentinel project - are pretty sure that we won't get caught out by anything like the asteroid that is presumed to have killed off the dinosaurs.

The problem is the smaller ones, the ones smaller than 100m. Those ones can knock out cities and towns out of nowhere (see: Chelyabinsk), and we think there are probably around 4,700 of those still out there that we haven't found. Compared to that risk, 2013 TV135 is almost small-fry - and it's a good sign that we've found it so early.

 

The impact site of last year's Chelyabinsk meteor. (Photo: Getty)

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

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The art of the YouTube Poop

What are YouTube Poops and why do we need them now, more than ever?

“The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

So, allegedly, said Pablo Picasso in a shrewd attempt to justify his love of putting noses where noses don’t actually go. It is imperative that you now hold this profound quotation firmly in your mind whilst you watch this four minutes and 57 second long clip of Arthur – the cartoon aardvark – being tormented by squirrels.

What you have just seen is an example of the art form primarily known as “YouTube Poop” (YTP). Beginning in the early Noughties, this cultural movement is characterised by confusing and shocking edits of Saturday-morning cartoons, video games, and viral videos. Though the Tens have seen the genre decline in popularity, the YTP is, nonetheless, one of the defining innovations of our era.

Those in the Poop community don’t actually like being labelled as artists, as one Yale student found out when he attempted to define them as such on the University’s technology blog. Though they have been compared to Dadaism, YTPs are more vile, violent, and most importantly, nonsensical than most artworks, but this is precisely why they are an asset to our age. In a world where – sorry Pablo, you got nothing on us – absolutely zero things makes sense, it is time for the YTP to have a comeback.

Despite its seeming randomness, the world of YTP is not without its rules. “Poopisms” are the common techniques and tricks used in videos to ensure they qualify as a true Poop. They include “stutter loops” (the repetition of clips over and over), “staredowns” (freezing the frame on a particular facial expression), and the questionably-named “ear rape” (suddenly increasing the volume to shock the viewer). One of the most humorous techniques is “sentence mixing”: forcing characters to say new sentences by cutting and splicing things they have said.

There are also firm rules about what not to do. Panning across a clip without adding another Poopism at the same time is considered boring, whilst using your own voice to dub clips is seen as amateur. By far the biggest barrier that Poopers* face in creating their videos, however, is the law.

Despite what many eight-year-olds on YouTube think, declaring that something is a “parody” in the description of a video does not make it exempt from copyright laws. The video below – regarded by at least two commenters as “the best YouTube Poop” ever – is missing audio 20 minutes in, as the creator was hit by a copyright claim.

Yet even the iron fist of the law cannot truly stop Poopers, who are still going (relatively) strong after the first YTP was created in 2004. YouTube Poops now even have their own Wikipedia page, as well as a page on TV Tropes and a WikiHow guide on how to create them, and for good measure, avoid them.

YouTube Poops have therefore undoubtedly secured their place in history, and whilst you might wander into a comment section to declare “What have I just watched?”, remember that Pablo Picasso once said: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” He almost definitely wasn’t talking about “You are a Sad Strange Little Man” by cartoonlover98, but still.

* The term “Poopists” was rejected by the community for being “too arty”.

 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.