Man I love Quora. The questions posed and answered on the platform offer an exhilarating window into the wide worlds of science, politics, apocalyptic asteroids, and beyond. Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by Quora. No it's not.
But here is a fine exemplar of why I'm obsessed with it. In Hypothetical Questions, a user posed the following: "If it was discovered that an asteroid was about to wipe humanity out, say in 2 months, how would the governments of the world respond?"
Robert Frost, a NASA engineer and instructor and a dude who seems to supply a lot of popular answers to Quora questions, offered what is by far the most up-voted response, and for good reason:
That's a tough one. Movies tell us they would keep it secret. There's a lot of sense to that. Mass panic can be more dangerous than the actual event. But my experience working in government is that the government really isn't good at keeping anything secret unless it begins within a secretive part of the culture, like the military.
Something like this would likely be first discovered by someone that couldn't spell "security clearance". It would be evident to astronomers all over the world.
Feeling helpless, the government would likely just tell us to "hunker down" and duct tape our window seams. Then the Democrats would blame it on the Republicans for ignoring global warming and the Republicans would blame it on the Democrats for not praying in school.
Although the first bit should be amended: in films, governments always try to keep it secret, but news leaks out and causes mass hysteria anyway. And as often as not, the ensuing asteroid obliterates everything anyway, making panic a perfectly acceptable response to news that a life-extinguishing interstellar object is going to smash into the region in which you live. And by "as often as not," I clearly mean Armageddon vs. Deep Impact.