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Headscratchers / Deep Impact

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  • Astronomer Wolf must have known it was at least two years until impact. Why was he in such a dang hurry to get the news out?
    • Two years is no time to prepare for an impact of that magnitude.
    • He'd just discovered something that would be ground-breaking in both senses of the word, and he was panicking.

  • There HAD to be a better-qualified bunch of astronauts to be sent to the comet, what with the entire pool of humanity to choose from.
    • It makes no sense to send a man on what could unquestionably be a suicide mission when his wife is very pregnant
      • What about sending a man on a suicide mission that will save the lives of his wife and unborn child?
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    • None of them seem to grasp how dangerous the mission they are on is, nor that the loss of one member is acceptable when the existence of Earth is on the line.
      • Astronauts are trained to within an inch of their lives to meet dangerous situations while avoiding panic-just listen to the tapes of Apollo 13 after the explosion. And the loss of one member is acceptable, but it's a bit much to expect them to not even consider rescuing a crewmate they had known and trained with for months if not years.
    • They're obviously grumpy that the old, experienced guy is coming along with them. How very professional.

  • When Leo gets to the house to ask Sarah to marry him, her father is obviously already concerned about home security. The neighborhood is already heading downhill - the area is a mess, and he's chaining up his motorcycle plus affixing bars to the windows. Where is his daughter? Out on her own, unsupervised, far away from the house! Nice to see he has his priorities straight.

  • Why are there helicopters hovering over the traffic jam in the establishing shot? It's a few hours until impact! They can't be news choppers - there shouldn't be anyone home to broadcast to! What news organization has a staff that dedicated and wouldn't want to be home with their family?
    • "Nyah-nyah! We're in helicopters and you're stuck on the highway!"
    • What, people in California wouldn't be interested in the plight of the inhabitants on the East Coast? What about the rest of the world? There are tons of people to broadcast to! New York isn't the center of the world, y'know.
    • Plus, it's not like landing the helicopters would have been a good idea. It's unlikely their crews were armed and thus able to deter a mob of scared people trying to escape certain death.

  • Why is everyone waiting until the last moment to evacuate? They had hours warning to evacuate the eastern seaboard.
    • Well, it's not like there was anywhere to go. Most of them were probably planning to shelter in place until they found out that they would be sheltering under 2,000 feet of water. And they did have hours' worth of warning to evacuate the Eastern Seaboard... is that anywhere close to the time needed to evacuate 40-100 million people? Nope. But they should have known the final trajectory of Biederman for days before impact, so the real question is, why didn't evacuations begin long, long beforehand?
      • It could be that the final trajectory was slightly affected by the missiles. Rather than impacting on land, Biederman was pushed off to the Atlantic.
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    • Don't forget, there was a nationwide travel ban in effect while the caves were being filled. People with the sense to leave before the crisis peaked would've reached their destinations several days earlier, and the ones who didn't had to wait until the military abandoned the roadblocks to hit the road.

  • Why are almost all of the families of the astronauts available to say their goodbyes? Wouldn't you think that having your husband or wife on a mission that has the potential to save the planet would mean a guaranteed spot in the underground bunker? With hours until impact, wouldn't they already be in there?
    • If your family is safely tucked away in the shelter, do you have quite as much motivation to stop the thing? If you fail to stop it, is it likely they will offer protection to your family? These might seem fairly shallow and callous way to look at it, but AFAIR politicians were making the decisions, and any surviving ones in the shelters would know that humans under stress are hardly the most forgiving or understanding.
    • The blind astronaut's wife is being flown in from Utah to get on the video feed. Uh... he's blind. Couldn't they have just had her radio in?
    • They didn't know how long his flash-blindness was going to last when they sent for her, and nobody wanted to tell her he'd been blinded and never saw his son.

  • The tsunami rushing over the land behind Leo and Sarah should have had a massive wavefront, black from the detritus of the entire East Coast. Instead it's a neat, clean wave - even miles inland.
    • When has a megatsunami ever been realistically portrayed? People expect a wave to look like your average surfing wave in Hawaii no matter how much debris it's accumulated. Same goes for its behavior-people just don't understand that every cubic meter of water weighs a ton, and no human structure ever built could survive being swamped by one. If it had been portrayed "realistically", every building in New York would have been swept off its foundations (not just the skyscrapers between Front Street and the East River) and it would have been pushing the air in front of it out of the way at the same speed it was advancing, so people would have blown off their feet long before it got anywhere near them.
      • But, of course, if the movie were 100% realistic, there wouldn't be a megatsunami, because they don't propagate across oceans the way regular tsunamis do-impact events and enormous landslides cause enormous local waves, but they're a different wave type than regular tsunamis, and their height rapidly diminishes the further you get from the source. One possible source of a megatsunami is the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands-it was the subject of press hysteria that predicted that it would generate a megatsunami 650 meters high that would travel across the Atlantic and devastate the Eastern Seaboard. In reality, the Canary Islands would be devastated by this high wave, but by the time the waves made their way to the US, they would be 1-3 meters high, if you're lucky. So, in the movie where Biederman hits off Cape Hattaras, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland would bear the brunt of the devastation (with waves between 50-600 meters), the rest of the Eastern Seaboard would be affected by waves resembling the height of the Boxing Day tsunami (waves between 5-30 meters), and the rest of the Atlantic Ocean shoreline would get off virtually scot-free.
      • Once again, that's incorrect. Large scale impacts produces a massive wave HEIGHT immediately surrounding the point of impact, but that wave quickly subsides. However, the VOLUME of water is the same, and thus, while a mid-ocean tsunami is barely noticeable in height, you've got a wave that's dozens of miles long and a thousand or more wide. When it approaches land, the wave rapidly compresses, going back to being very tall and not as deep. You're also mis-interpreting the Canary Islands issue: there, the problem is that the initial volume of water displaced is substantially less than a cubic kilometer, so the problem is that this volume is spread out over a large linear coastline by the time it reaches the USA. It's not the *distance* to the USA that's the issue, it's that the wave progagates through the entire Atlantic basin. In short, it's the "width" that has to be traveled, not the distance from origin, that impact wave volume when it hits a shore. It can still cause 10m high waves once it hits the beach, because wave height is a function of the offshore underwater geography as well as wave volume. For comparison, something like the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami displaced a bit more than 1 cubic km of water. An impact the size of Beiderman would display several DOZEN cubic km.

  • I'll admit its been a decade since I've seen this movie, but I seem to remember that Morgan Freeman's character saying that after sending astronauts to blow it up failed, they tried launching nuclear weapons at the asteroids, which then fail off-screen. And then later we see the asteroids in the same condition they were in before the supposed nuclear strike. Is the movie trying to tell me that all those weapons inflicted no damage whatsoever? They didn't even destroy the smaller one? Is this plausible?
    • According to NASA, there would be three major changes if a nuclear weapon were detonated in space. First, no atmosphere means no blast. Second, no atmosphere means no thermal radiation. Third, no atmosphere means nuclear radiation would spread much farther and be more lethal.
    • Or they just plain missed. Nuclear missiles from existing arsenals aren't exactly designed to target things in space.
    • Nuclear *surface* detonations would be virtually useless, especially in space. On Earth, a 1MT surface detonation causes a crater less than 100m deep, and maybe 300m or so across. Too much energy is expended in directions other than down into the earth. It's far less effective on a comet. There, the missiles would have no chance of "burrowing", and would just detonate on the surface, with no really effect. Remember that even the reduced Wolf has a mass of billions of tons (density of 1 ton/m3, and a volume of a dozen or more cubic km).

  • Leo and Sarah's behavior near the end doesn't make any sense to me. Sarah is offered a place in the shelters with Leo, but that would require leaving her other family behind, so she chooses to stay and face almost certain death, over her parents' insistence. As Leo is being driven off in the bus, she chases after it, crying. Then Leo changes his mind and decides to go back and find her for some reason. He only finds her in that huge traffic jam because she saw him and yelled to get his attention. Leo again offers to take her on the motorbike along with the baby, and she again refuses, saying she wants to be with her parents. Her parents finally get her to take the baby and run, and she cries the whole way. The point is, what did she want? What did Leo want? What were they trying to accomplish? Why were they changing their minds every 30 seconds?
    • I agree it's a muddled, stupid plotline, but: Leo thought Sarah and her family could come with him, and was too unsure, confused, and rushed to get off the bus and stay with her when they couldn't. He also thought he could talk to an official once he got to the caves and get everything worked out. Once he did get there, he saw how chaotic and busy it was and realized he had no chance of making special arrangements, so he went back for her - a stupid idea, since he had no resources to help them, or even any means of finding them. Doing so on the highway was dumb luck. Sarah finally gave in to leaving her family since she might save her sister (and herself), and it was clear they would not make it to high ground through the traffic all together. In short: A) Leo wanted to try to save Sarah, even with absurdly low chance of success and high risk. B) Sarah wanted to try to survive with her family until she ran out of options. C) They changed their minds a lot because they're dumb kids and the situation was nuts.
    • I'm personally surprised Sarah's dad didn't make her get on the bus. I'd have done it if I was her father or even just her brother, even if it meant physically hurting her in the process. I wouldn't sit there and let her be that foolish. I understand her not wanting her to be separated from her family members, but I don't understand her parents' actions.
      • In high stress situations people do not make rational decisions. It is a well documented bug with humanity.
    • Same with Leo's parents — most dads would have knocked him out, rather than let him head off to face certain death searching for Sarah.
      • With a Tap on the Head? Knocking people out does not work like that, you are as liable to kill someone as you are to knock them out. Leo's dad thought his son had a fighting chance of finding Sarah and getting back before the impact, and decided that This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself.
    • There were soldiers all around the buses to keep the evacuation of the lottery-winners orderly, who were already leery of troublemakers trying to force their way on board. Who's to say the authorities hadn't already warned the chosen families that anyone who got violent would be tossed off the bus and left behind, no matter who they were or what their excuse?
  • When Wolf-Biederman was split in two, why wasn't the far larger piece given the much longer name, instead of the opposite? It's only logical.
    • Wolf was the older (and in some languages literally "bigger") person of the two. Hence it works that the larger piece gets the name of the elder.
  • Why does the President advise the people on the east coast to move away from the floodwaters when the comet hitting Montana is going to kill them all anyway?
    • Because the comet is not going to kill them all instantly. Its that simple.
  • Why is Houston still operating normally after Biederman has hit? They're in Houston, a couple meters above sea level on the Gulf Coast, which is about to be flooded by the megatsunami.
    • Gulf Coast. The comet hit off North Carolina in the Atlantic, quite a distance from Houston.
  • How did the info about the comet get out if the astronomer was killed in that car crash and the floppy disk presumably incinerated? And furthermore, how did it get named Wolf-Biederman if the original record was destroyed?
    • Someone probably went to the observatory soon after the crash. Death in a car accident isn't exactly something that's gonna stay quiet for long. They probably found his notes and something indicating who phone the discovery in, then notified the government.
      • The explanation presented in the script is much less plausible. The envelope containing the disk was thrown out of the car during the crash, remaining undamaged. It was then spotted by a female teen convict on a litter detail.

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