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Science
THE MATERIAL WORLD
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Thursday 16:30-17:00
Quentin Cooper reports on developments across the sciences. Each week scientists describe their work, conveying the excitement they feel for their research projects.
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Listen to 5 January
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 5 January 2006
What would happen if this asteroid impacted on the Earth?
What would happen if this asteroid impacted on the Earth?

This week, BBC Radio 4's weekly science programme The Material World concludes its series of audience debates. The series is a co-production with the Open University and is designed to support the OU's Science in Context course, S250.

In the solar system, there are a number of asteroids and comets whose orbits intersect or pass close to Earth.

There is a possibility that some of these Near Earth Objects (NEOs) may impact on Earth at some point in the future.

The geological record shows that this has happened a number of times in the past.

This risk is attracting increasing attention from the public and the media.

Although the probability of an impact is quite low the consequences would be catastrophic.

What are scientists and governments doing to prevent such a collision? Can these objects be deflected, destroyed or even made use of?

Quentin Cooper is at the Open University in Milton Keynes to discover how scientists are monitoring NEOs.

He is joined by Professor of Earth Sciences, Simon Kelley who looks at the consequences of impacts, and John Zarneki, the OU's Professor of Space Science, who's more interested in how we might study NEOs in space and stop them from ever hitting; and Dr Benny Peiser a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University and member of Spaceguard UK who specialises in how catastrophic events influence contemporary thought.
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