Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/11/04/stealth_comets/
Boffins issue stealth comet apocalypse alert
We're all going to die, part 347
Not content with scaring us half to death with dire predictions about killer comets, asteroids, tsunamis, plagues, global warming, floods, locusts and general pestilence, scientists have now discovered a new threat to humanity - the invisible killer comet.
According to the Independent, a team led by Chandra Wickramasinghe at Cardiff University's Centre for Astrobiology says that the chances of Earth being wiped off the celestial map are much greater than previously thought because of the presence of giant invisible comets "made up of loose material [which] reflect so little light that they cannot be seen".
Avoiding the natural desire to panic, professor Wickramasinghe remained calm enough to say: "It's possible we need to think again about mitigating strategies," although he did not elaborate as to whether these strategies might include deploying Bruce Willis to destroy the comet with his bare hands (if he can find it) or simply retiring to the nearest piece of high ground, getting completely drunk and hoping that you'll escape the blast, the subsequent tsunami, the nuclear winter which would undoubtedly follow during which space microbes would destroy 94 per cent of survivors* in the manner of the Andromeda Strain.
Mercifully, though, the Bruce Willis option might not be a hopeless as it at first seems, because by 2008 we can rely on NASA's shiny new Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer which - since it is half-a-million times more powerful than previous telescopes - will be able to "de-cloak" stealth comets.
So there you have it - problem solved. Because if you can see 'em, then you've got enough time to develop a "mitigating strategy" before all life on the planet is wiped out. We at El Reg will sleep sounder in our beds tonight knowing that the threat from stealth comet apocalypse has been duly mitigated. ®
*The other six per cent? Eaten by locusts, naturally.