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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Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
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Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears

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Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
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footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
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An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
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Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
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Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
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George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
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Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
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Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?