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By Joe Pelton on in Asteroids and Comets

Space Safety » Space Hazards » Asteroids and Comets » Identifying Potentially Dangerous Asteroids

The last few decades has dramatically changed our knowledge about the dangers that near earth objects (NEOs) like asteroids and comets pose to our planet.

The system that was created to monitor nuclear explosions has revealed that asteroid, bolide and meteor impacts are on the order of four to ten times more common than we previous thought. Each day 100 tons of space debris descends on Earth, or about 40,000 tons a year of space dust and particles settle to ground. If we look up at night we can see to rather constant bombardment. The Leonid, Perseid, Lyrid, Cetid, Centaurid,Taurid, and the Orionid meteor showers are among the best known, but there are dozens more.

Fortunately the dust, the particles and even the meteors of small size burn up in the atmosphere, and descent only as ash or small rocks. But larger space rocks are a true danger.

We now know that it was a 5 to 6 kilometer asteroid that crashed in Earth some 66 million years ago along the Caribbean coast of Mexico. This horrendous crash triggered a “death cloud” that blocked out the sun for over a year. This so-called K-T mass extinction event not only wiped out the dinosaurs but up to 80% of all flora and fauna species on Earth. Sir Arthur Clarke has often cited Sci-Fi guru Larry Niven famous quip: “The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!”

Detecting Near Earth Object (NEO) Threats

Unispace III was held in Vienna, Austria in 1999 to address the subject of catastrophic asteroid strikes in some detail. At that time, the Conference ratified the so-called Torino Scale that set up a 1 to 10 rating system that maxed out at a very unlikely catastrophic level of an asteroid like the one that killed the dinosaurs and like the Richter scale for earthquakes gave us a simple way of sorting out likelihoods of NEO strikes. A “1” is something that will likely occur every few years but does comparative little damage, while a “10” is highly unlikely over time but is threatening to human survival. This asteroid hazard index is for popular understanding of these threats, scientists use a more sophisticated and information intensive rating system that is called the Palermo scale.

The Unispace III Conference also approved Recommendation 14: “”Improve the international coordination of activities related to near-Earth objects”. As a consequence of this recommendation the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) created Action Team 14 to follow up on this recommendation. This international group met and eventually agreed to back the creation of two groups that was endorsed by the COPUOS plenary session and then by the UN General Assembly in December 2013. These two units that are now established are a U.N. International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) to coordinate information on NEO threats, and a Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) that is to consider any and all detected threats and devise a suggest defensive strategy to deflect or eliminate such an impending asteroid or comet strike.


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Of the 15 women with the fetal head high enough to begin with position 1, no woman used all 3 positions because 100% of them rotated to OA before fetal descent dictated use of position 3 . I calculated what percentage of women who began with position 2 or 3, in other words fetal head at -2 station or lower, achieved an OA baby and found it to be 75%— the same percentage as when nothing was done . What could explain this? One explanation is that a position with belly suspended is more efficacious regardless of fetal station, another is that positioning is more likely to succeed before the head engages in the pelvis, and, of course, it may be a combination of both.

Common sense suggests that the baby is better able to maneuver before the head engages in the pelvis. If so, it seem likely that rupturing membranes would contribute to persistent OP by depriving the fetus of the cushion of forewaters and dropping the head into the pelvis prematurely. Research backs this up. A literature search revealed a study, “ Associated factors and outcomes of persistent occiput posterior position: A retrospective cohort study from 1976 to 2001 ”finding that artificially ruptured membranes was an independent risk factor for persistent OP. Returning to the trial, all women had ruptured membranes because it was an inclusion factor. One wonders how much better maternal positioning might have worked had this not been the case, and an earlier trial offers a possible answer.

In the earlier trial, “ Randomized control trial of hands-and-knees position for occipitoposterior position in labor ,”half the women had intact membranes. Women in the intervention group assumed hands-and-knees for at least 30 minutes during an hour-long period while the control group could labor in any position other than one with a dependent belly. Twelve more women per 100 had an OA baby at delivery, a much bigger difference than the later trial. Before we get too excited, though, the difference did not achieve statistical significance, meaning results could have been due to chance. Still, this may have been because the population was too small (70 intervention-group women vs. 77 control-group women) to reliably detect a difference, but the trial has a bigger problem: fetal head position at delivery wasn’t recorded in 14% of the intervention group and 19% of the control group, which means we don’t know the real proportions of OA to OP between groups.

Take home : It looks like rupturing membranes may predispose to persistent OP and should be avoided for that reason. The jury is still out on whether a posture that suspends the belly is effective, but it is worth trying in any labor that is progressing slowly because it may help and doesn’t hurt.

Take home

Does maternal positioning in pregnancy prevent OP labors?

Some have proposed that by avoiding certain postures in late pregnancy, doing certain exercises, or both, women can shift the baby into an OA position and thereby avoid the difficulties of labor with an OP baby. A “ randomized controlled trial of effect of hands and knees posturing on incidence of occiput posterior position at birth “(2547 women) has tested that theory. Beginning in week 37, women in the intervention group were asked to assume hands-and-knees and do slow pelvic rocking for 10 minutes twice daily while women in the control group were asked to walk daily. Compliance was assessed through keeping a log. Identical percentages (8%) of the groups had an OP baby at delivery.

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