Asteroid DA14 is the size of a city block and will pass within 17,000 miles of Earth in February

How to defend against asteroids and meteors

Typically the preserve of science-fiction, now top of the news agenda, the prospect of an asteroid striking earth is raising alarm. This morning a meteor streaked across the sky in Russia, causing explosions and injuring 400 people. Later today a 150-ft asteroid will shave past earth at 17,000 miles distance, the closest recorded. If it hit, it could flatten London. So what defences do we have?

Shavers and Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in 1977 getty

Jonathan Rendall meets Earnie Shavers: 'Our rendezvous was a cheap Chinese restaurant...'

Jonathan Rendall, the award-winning journalist who died last month aged 48, was one of the greats of ‘Independent’ sportswriting.  He was a key figure in the early years of ‘The Independent on Sunday’, gracing the pages of both titles throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He specialised in boxing, bringing to life its characters with a Runyonesque vividness. In a tribute to his life and work, we here reprint one of his best pieces, an encounter from 2003 with the American ex-heavyweight boxer Earnie Shavers, whom Rendall tracked down in the unlikely setting of a Chinese restaurant in Liverpool

Diff'rent Strokes star Conrad Bain dies at 89

Actor Conrad Bain, best known for his role on the 1970s and '80s television comedy Diff'rent Strokes as a wealthy, white New Yorker who adopts two young black boys from Harlem, has died at age 89, his daughter has confirmed.

Journeyman: Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins takes on the Dwarves

The Hobbit: An Unexpected box office smash with $200 million global opening weekend

Despite weak reviews and a problematical production process, Peter Jackson's first Hobbit instalment looks set to be more successful than the Rings films

Toyota's violin-playing robot plays at Tokyo's Universal Design Showcase in 2007

Will machines kill mankind? Cambridge academics want to know

Academics highlight threat of super-intelligent technology

Cold Specks, Union Chapel, London

When Al Spx sings away from the mic, her earthy vocal carries through the airy nave, proving this a fine match of venue and performer: a cavernous church, with its hard, cramped pews, and the stark spirituality of this Canadian singer/songwriter.

County Championship round-up: Monty magic upstages Trescothick milestone

Marcus Trescothick completed his 50th first-class century, confirming his return to form in an injury-hampered season, but was upstaged by Monty Panesar as Sussex push to prove themselves to be authentic title challengers by beating Somerset at Taunton.

Surrey are up against it after Tim Murtagh picked up five wickets

County Championship round-up: Surrey edge nearer trap door after Murtagh's five-wicket haul

Once upon a time, the punishment for an England player deemed to have let his country down would have been to be sent back to his county to serve his time. How Surrey would wish that were the case now. With Kevin Pietersen made unavailable by England despite his exclusion from the Test side at Lord's, they were bowled out for 144 by Middlesex at The Oval, and a quick return to Division Two as reward for a desperate, tragic season seems all the more likely.

Will Smith is Agent J, and Josh Brolin does an uncanny impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones as a young Agent K in <i>MIB 3</i>

Men In Black 3, Barry Sonnenfeld, 106 mins (PG)
What to Expect When You're Expecting, Kirk Jones, 110 mins (12A)

What we want from Smith and Jones is ray guns, bug-eyed monsters – and a lot more fun

The Cabin in the Woods (15) / Battleship (12A) (3/5, 2/5)

Starring: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth / Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson

Pantomime dame dies during show

A pantomime dame has collapsed and died during an amateur performance of Dick Wittington in Curdridge, near Winchester.

Close encounters with the master

As J J Abrams's homage 'Super 8' hits the screens, Ryan Gilbey reveals his own eight-point guide to building a Spielberg-inspired blockbuster

County round-up: Smith brings terrible year to an end with unbeaten 153 for Durham

Will Smith went to the same school as Alastair Cook but there, of late, the similarities have ended. While Cook has just enjoyed the finest year of his career, batting England to a tremendous Ashes success Down Under, the last 12 months have not been kind to fellow Bedford boy Smith. The Durham man stepped down as captain just over a year ago and last season he featured only on an irregular basis for the then county champions.

County round-up: Sidebottom and Pyrah leave Yorkshire on top

Ryan Sidebottom wreaked havoc against his former county as Nottinghamshire's decision to bat first backfired badly at Headingley yesterday but it was the in-form all-rounder Rich Pyrah who ultimately took centre stage.

Justin Bieber praises father figure Will Smith

Justin Bieber says Will Smith has become a father figure to him.

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Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
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J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
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Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
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scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
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The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick