Bigger bang

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The Independent Online

It is all terribly exciting, in the way that only serious crises can be. The news that a huge asteroid may be heading our way any time now - any time in the next few thousand years - has caused scientific uproar. We are now warned that the "small but very real risk" of being destroyed by a lump of flying rock means that we should think seriously about what to do. Britain, we are told, must take a leading role; there are suggestions that the offending rock should be attacked in outer space. A Centre for Near Earth Objects is to be set up, to track whether we will live or die.

It is all terribly exciting, in the way that only serious crises can be. The news that a huge asteroid may be heading our way any time now - any time in the next few thousand years - has caused scientific uproar. We are now warned that the "small but very real risk" of being destroyed by a lump of flying rock means that we should think seriously about what to do. Britain, we are told, must take a leading role; there are suggestions that the offending rock should be attacked in outer space. A Centre for Near Earth Objects is to be set up, to track whether we will live or die.

Given that a single lump of rock landing in the Gulf of Mexico is now generally reckoned to have been singlehandedly responsible for wiping out the world's entire dinosaur population, this is clearly a serious business. None the less, we can't help wondering: what exactly do we do when we see the asteroid heading our way? Should we put hard hats on? Or should we - following the advice of a famous Thatcher-era leaflet about nuclear bombs - hide in a cupboard under the stairs?

Forgive us our fatalism. But we rather think that we shall sit with our drinks on the terrace and wait for the end - not with a whimper, but with a truly enormous bang.

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