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.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
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The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
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Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
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Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
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Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
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Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn