PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 91/2002 - 27 July  2002
-----------------------------
 

"President Bush gave a speech denouncing NT7 for its "evil intent"
but cautioned against overreaction since the overwhelming majority of
asteroids are actually "fine, upstanding galactic citizens." The
president later appeared at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner for
QX4, a stadium-sized asteroid running for Congress as a Republican."
--The Deal, 25 July 2002


"Mr Opik calls on Tony Blair to discuss the matter urgently with George
Bush - a naive plan, it seems to me, since it's 75,000-1 against Bush
knowing the difference between an asteroid and a haemorrhoid ("Tony, is
that one of them lumpy things you find on Uranus?")."
--The Mirror, 26 July 2002


(1) THE LATEST ON 2002 NT7
    Asteroid/Comet Connection, 26 July 2002

(2) HOW A/CC BROKE THE 2002 NT7 STORY
    Asteroid/Comet Connection, 26 July 2002

(3) COULD LASERS ZAP INCOMING ASTEROIDS?
    MSNBC, 26 July 2002

(4) KEEPING UP-TO-DATE WITH 2002 NT7: ALAN BOYLE'S COSMIC LOG
    MSNBC, 26 July 2002

(5) TOO MUCH ASTEROID SPIN BACKFIRES: SOWIET STYLE NEWS RELEASE ON NT7
    ITAR TASS NEWS AGENCY, 26 July 2002

(6) INDIA PLAYS DOWN FEARS OF MISTAKEN ASTEROID IMPACTS 
    HINDU (India), 26 July 2002

(7) 2002 NT7 IN THE PRESS
    Carl Koppeschaar <carlkop@xs4all.nl>

(8) DON'T BE TOO SHY OR TABLOIDS WILL FILL THE INFO GAP
    Pavel Chichikov <fishhook@erols.com>

(9) AND FINALLY: COMIC RELIEF

(10) ECONOMISTS LAUGHING THEIR HEADS OFF ABOUT PREDICTED DOOM AND GLOOM
     Daily Deal, 25 July 2002
 
(11) COMIC RELIEF: NT7 MAKES DAVE LETTERMAN'S TOP TEN LIST
     David Johnson <dr_david_johnson@hotmail.com>

(12) SPACED OUT: LEMBIT HAS JUST 17 YEARS TO GO (ANOTHER CRACKER)
     The Mirror, 26 July 2002


============
(1) THE LATEST ON 2002 NT7

>From Asteroid/Comet Connection, 26 July 2002
http://www.hohmanntransfer.com/news.htm

On July 26th, at 3pm JPL time in southern California, and Friday night
at NEODyS in Italy, neither site has updated its hazard reporting for
2002 NT7 since Wednesday. The NEODyS NT7 optical observations page
hasn't been updated and, indeed, the Minor Planet Center's Daily Orbit
Update today does not carry new NT7 observations. This seems to say that
no observatory anywhere in the world has reported an observation of NT7
since NEAT's Haleakala telescope last snapped it at 1:30pm UT on 24
April. The current full Moon does interfere with observing, but another
conclusion could be that the International Astromomical Union (IAU) may
have a formal technical review underway, which requires information to
be withheld until a concensus of experts can be reached about the
situation.

Be sure to check out NASA's statement today, headlined "Caveat
Impactor," from "Science@NASA Direct to the People!"
(http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/26jul_nt7.htm) The JPL NEO
Program also has posted a statement that the probability of impact is
not large enough to warrant public concern (http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/).
And see Klet Observatory's 504Kb GIF animation of six 19 July images
showing 2002 NT7's motion (http://www.klet.org/2002nt7.html).

The NEODyS and JPL evaluations of 2002 NT's risk, at last check, remain
where they were early Wednesday evening, the 24th, when we posted the
following report, slightly revised here: Later in the day on 24 July,
JPL and NEODyS eased off slightly on their Palermo Scale ratings for the
February 1st 2019 "virtual impactor" for 2002 NT7. The NEODyS assessment
is now 0.23, down from 0.31 yesterday morning and 0.38 the day before.
JPL's assessment is now at -0.25, down from -0.06 yesterday morning and
-0.14 the day before. JPL also eased back to -0.23 its cumulative
Palermo Scale rating for multiple events (2019 and later) from yesterday
morning's -0.05 and the day before's 0.0 (JPL's own first non-negative
Palermo Scale rating for near-term events).

=================
(2) HOW A/CC BROKE THE 2002 NT7 STORY

>From Asteroid/Comet Connection, 26 July 2002
http://www.HohmannTransfer.com/sas/nt7/

By Bill Allen, A/CC Editor & Links Librarian

The Asteroid/Comet Connection isn't particularly concerned with the
theory and politics of impact hazards and planetary defense. You will
find little in our pages about the lore and history of Earth impacts.
A/CC's mission is to present information about minor objects as
represents their developing science and exploration, and their future
development. That is, as constructive rather than destructive elements
in humankind's spacefaring future. It happens that two of the most
active sources for useful and linkable information about minor objects
are the JPL NEO Program and NEODyS impact risk pages, so we "monitor the
monitors," and that's how we came to notice that an unusual new asteroid
was getting special attention.

The big story about the asteroid 2002 NT7, according to the piece's
original time stamp, first began to go public ten minutes before
midnight in London on 23 July, when the headline, Space rock 'on
collision course' appeared on BBC News Online
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2147879.stm). It, and a version
stamped 3-1/2 hours later, got several details wrong, but it put the
essential point right: An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become
the most threatening object yet detected in space. A preliminary orbit
suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with Earth on 1 February
2019.

Impact hazards authority Benny Peiser, who is quoted in the BBC piece,
earlier that day led the 23 July edition of his Cambridge Conference
Correspondence (http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc072302.html) with a
full quote of the Asteroid/Comet Connection (A/CC) Monday evening 2002
NT7 news summation:


      It took until early evening Monday at NEODyS in Italy to update
their impactor table for 2002 NT7 with 13 new observations from Sunday
night. And no wonder. With this they have placed NT7's February 1st,
2019 "virtual impactor" at a first-ever positive Palermo Scale rating of
0.18, up from yesterday's -0.11, which had been an easing from
Saturday's -0.04. They and JPL, however, still have the 2019 impactor
Torino Scale rating at 1.0.

      JPL's NEO Program site this morning posted a new risk assessment
for NT7, giving it a Palermo Scale rating of -0.05 cumulatively, while
specifically rating the 2019 event at -0.10. Later in the day these
ratings were revised to -0.15 for the 2019 event (better), although the
cumulative rating that incorporates other later possible events,
especially one in 2035, is now -0.02 (worse).

      Sunday night's work includes nine observations from Siding Spring
in Australia, which figured prominently in Near-Earth Object (NEO)
searches until the government there cut funding.

      Since 18 July, NEODyS and JPL have had NT7 at Torino Scale 1
("merits special monitoring"). This is a large object with a diameter
estimated at more than 2 km. (1.4 miles). It has a 42°-inclined orbit
that crosses the orbit of Mars and barely crosses the orbit of Earth. It
approaches Earth most closely from south of the ecliptic, where there is
little PHO surveillance, and that, along with NT7's inclination, may be
part of why it hasn't been spotted until now.


As pointed out to A/CC by Jon Giorgini, JPL's lead scientist on studying
29075 1950 DA, that asteroid on 4 April 2002 actually became the first
ever to get a positive Palermo Scale rating. This rating was, and
remains in effect, for a possible event on 16 March 2880, 35 generations
from now. However, the NEODyS and JPL NEO Program risk monitoring
efforts and their Web sites only concern themselves with potential
hazards over the next hundred years or so.

To readers who regularly follow the A/CC News page, the 2002 NT7 story
had been developing for the whole previous week.

NT7 was discovered on 9 July by MIT's LINEAR program, and first came to
A/CC's attention when the Minor Planet Center (MPC) posted MPEC 2002-N38
on 14 July with early observations. Soon afterward that day, as A/CC
News reported at the time, both NEODyS and JPL added NT7 to their risk
pages at Torino Scale 0. So far this was all routine, just another
freshly discovered asteroid moving through the NEO surveillance system
that involves MPC, NEODyS, JPL, and the various observatories, including
many "amateurs" whose expert nightly volunteer work is critical to the
process of refining orbits to where it becomes known each object is not
a forseeable hazard.

On Thursday we noticed that NEODyS had raised NT7 to Torino Scale 1 and
posted this lead news item: On 18 July JPL is showing 43 possible impact
solutions from 2010 to 2099, all at Torino Scale 0 based on 43
observations, according (at 16:21 UT) to its page with a 15 July date.
NEODyS has 30 solutions from 2019 to 2080, and nine are at Torino Scale
1, based on 50 observations. Later in the day JPL also elevated NT7 to
Torino Scale 1.

At 2:57pm Mountain Time (20:57 UT), A/CC News posted that, NEODyS today,
20 July, has a February 1st, 2019 virtual impactor for 2002 NT7 rated at
Palermo Scale -0.04, which borders on calling an unprecedented technical
review by the International Astronomical Union. However, this is based
on only 63 observations from 11 days, and further data is likely to ease
concern.

The JPL NEO Program did not update its NT7 assessment from sometime
Friday until Sunday afternoon, when A/CC News reported that, NEODyS
today, 21 July, has a February 1st, 2019 virtual impactor for 2002 NT7
rated at Palermo Scale -0.11. That's an easing from yesterday's -0.04,
however JPL's new rating this afternoon is -0.09 cumulatively, and -0.21
specifically for the 2019 event. That is the opposite of easing from
JPL's last ratings two days ago at -0.27 cumulative and -0.95 specific.
These NEODyS and JPL ratings are based on 83 observations from 12 days
(20 were added overnight), and time and further data is likely to bring
better news.

It was the last of our reports of the next day, Monday, reproduced in
full at the top of this page, that led to the world news media picking
up on 2002 NT7's looming danger. Bookmark the A/CC News page to watch
for further developments.

One certainly hopes this story will soon disappear and 2002 NT7 becomes
just another among a handfull of briefly famous but otherwise obscure
objects with orbits that eventually calculated to miss Earth for as far
into the future as today's detection methods and computer software can
predict. Many experts will now weigh in about the possibilities and
probabilities, and what if anything to do about it all. But the uproar
started quietly on a Summer Saturday afternoon in Santa Fe, New Mexico
as A/CC News routinely observed the routine work of NEO orbit
dynamicists in Pisa, Italy and Pasadena, California.
 
© Copyright 2002 Columbine, Inc. - All Rights Reserved

==================
(3) COULD LASERS ZAP INCOMING ASTEROIDS?

>From MSNBC, 26 July 2002
http://www.msnbc.com/news/786175.asp

Russian designer suggests space-based defense system
 
MOSCOW, July 26 -  If a massive asteroid threatens Earth, a powerful
space-based laser could be used to destroy it, a Russian space executive
said Friday. The scientist spoke in the wake of reports about an
asteroid that posed a small potential risk of hitting Earth in 2019.   

BORIS KARTOGIN, general director and designer at rocket producer
Energomash, was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying the asteroid
could be thwarted, using a powerful laser installation based in space.

"Defenses for the Earth can be designed," Kartogin told a news
conference.

Lasers in space were hugely controversial during President Reagan's
terms in office in the 1980s. His scheme to shoot down Soviet nuclear
missiles was dubbed "Star Wars," after the science fiction film series.

The 1.2-mile-wide (2-kilometer-wide) asteroid, designated 2002 NT7, was
first detected earlier this month by the LINEAR sky survey program.
Asteroid experts have estimated that the space rock could pose a better
than 1-in-a-million chance of colliding with Earth on Feb. 1, 2019. They
stress that further observations are likely to eliminate the risk - as
has happened in the wake of past asteroid alarms. But they also say
earthlings will eventually have to do something about truly threatening
near-Earth objects.

Kartogin said the laser defense scheme would require the assembly of 10
to 12 platforms in Earth's orbit, which would then be equipped with
powerful, chemical lasers capable of destroying the approaching
asteroid.

He added that "a laser of such power does not yet exist, but the
international community is already seriously talking about the need to
create one."

Energomash is carrying out work on laser technology.

Reuters contributed to this story.
      
Copyright 2002, MSNBC, Reuters
 
==========
(4) KEEPING UP-TO-DATE WITH 2002 NT7: ALAN BOYLE'S COSMIC LOG

>From MSNBC, 26 July 2002
http://www.msnbc.com/news/750150.asp

All about asteroids: This week's news [please check MSNBC website for
the many links provided in this report] that asteroid 2002 NT7 posed an
astronomically small risk of collision with Earth in the year 2019 had a
deep impact on the public as well as the professionals who monitor such
near-Earth objects. Astronomers and journalists are now debating whether
the reporting about the risk was overblown.

"We are in the midst of an orgy of misinformation and confusion in the
press concerning asteroid 2002 NT7," David Morrison, an asteroid expert
at NASA's Ames Research Center, complained in an e-mail dispatch. His
observations on the dust-up, along with other commentary, were posted to
the Cambridge Conference Network, an excellent resource for impact lore
that's maintained by Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University.

Morrison and other asteroid-watchers point out that a big factor behind
2002 NT7's risk is the paucity of observations - which means there's a
lot of uncertainty about the 1.2-mile-wide (2-kilometer-wide) rock's
orbit.
       
In every previous case of this kind, further observations have brought
the risk down to essentially zero. Donald Yeomans, the head of NASA's
Near Earth Object Program, expects that to happen for 2002 NT7 as well.
He says the process could take longer in this case, because 2002 NT7
traces such an inclined orbit that it's hard to find "pre-discovery"
images of the object. Click on the interactive at left to learn how
additional observations tend to lower the potential risk.

The risk estimates haven't changed much in the past couple of days, but
they're sure to be updated repeatedly. Click here for NASA's latest, or
here for the estimates from the Italian analysis group NEODyS. Look
under the heading marked "Impact Probability" or "p_RE." If you see a
number like "3.9e-06," that means the potential risk is 3.9 chances out
of a million. The number "1.12e-05" is 1.12 chances out of 100,000.

Both those estimates are more or less in line with what scientists think
is the average potential risk for collision with a near-Earth object
larger than 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) in a given year. Click here to learn
more about how scientists estimate impact risks.

If you check out all these links, you'll know about as much as I do
about the risks posed by 2002 NT7. But some of you wanted to know still
more about asteroids in general, so I put a couple of your questions to
NASA's Morrison:

Ian from Tampa, Fla.: "Wouldn't it be just as devastating to the earth
if a huge asteroid hit our moon damaging it, crushing it, or knocking it
off its orbit in such a way that could seriously affect the earth's
climate, tides, etc.?"

Morrison says: "There's nothing that can happen on the moon (that would
have a significant impact on Earth) ... A few rocks in space could get
to the earth and burn up in the atmosphere. It's sort of like asking, if
you were walking down the street and someone got shot 20 feet away,
would you be hurt?"

Morrison was speaking about the types of impacts that left their marks
on the moon in the ancient past. Of course, if there were a collision
with an object big enough to knock the moon out of its orbit, that would
be way more serious - like a Stinger missile hitting someone 20 feet
away. But Morrison didn't address that sci-fi scenario.

Socorro from San Juan, Puerto Rico: "We have seen movies in which
asteroids are destroyed before they can reach us. Is the government
working on such a plan should one asteroid come dangerously close to
Earth?"

Morrison says: "If we ever find one that's going to hit the earth, then
I'm sure we're going to defend ourselves by deflecting it." However,
scientists haven't yet figured out the precise technology to do so -
whether it's by using nuclear bombs, rocket tugboats, solar sails,
lasers or something else.

Morrison noted that NASA is sponsoring a conference in September on how
to reduce the risk posed by near-Earth objects - an event that will be
attended by Pentagon representatives as well as NASA officials and
researchers from around the world. "This is the first officially
NASA-sponsored discussion of this issue, and I look forward to it," he
said.

A recent study estimated that it could take 70 years to develop an
effective technology for dealing with a threatening near-Earth object -
so it's high time to start the process. But in order to come up with a
solid strategy, we have to learn more about asteroids and comets. Last
year's NEAR Shoemaker mission - the first to send a probe to the surface
of an asteroid - stands as a milestone. Here are a few links about
upcoming space missions:

 MUSES-C, launching this year to land on an asteroid and bring a sample back.
 Deep Impact, launching in 2005 to fire a projectile at a comet and study the results.
 Dawn, launching in 2006 to fly around the asteroids Ceres and Vesta.

Check the National Space Science Data Center for much, much more about
asteroids, comets and space missions.

Morrison isn't sure whether the repeated asteroid alarms are doing
anyone any good. "But I'm very glad that there is enough awareness of
the general impact problem that we're able to pay the salaries of the
few astronomers to address this problem."

Copyright 2002, MSNBC

=================
(5) TOO MUCH ASTEROID SPIN BACKFIRES: SOWIET STYLE NEWS RELEASE ON NT7

>From ITAR TASS NEWS AGENCY, 26 July 2002

"NEWLY FOUND ASTEROID UNLIKELY TO COLLIDE WITH EARTH - EXPERTS"

St. PETERSBURG, Jul 26, 2002 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) -- Newly discovered
asteroid, that has two kilometers in diameter, may approach the Earth as
close as several million kilometers in 17 years' time from now, but the
risk of its collision with our planet is infinitely small, a high-raking
Russian expert said Friday.

Dr Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Research Institute of
Applied Astronomy, which is Russia's leading center in asteroid dynamics
research and celestial bodies monitoring, said at the same time that a
collision could not be ruled out altogether.

He explained that the asteroid's orbit had been calculated very roughly
and the body, believed to be one of the smallest [sic] in the group of
asteroids moving towards the Earth, would not again be seen by the
astronomers for 837 days [sic]. This means that exact forecasting will
not be possible within slightly more than two years from now [sic].
[actually, 2002 NT7 will be easily visible for the next 18 months, BJP]

In the autumn, the Applied Astronomy Institute will present to the
international community of researchers a catalog of several hundred
asteroids moving towards the Earth, Finkelstein said.

The asteroid 2002-NT-7 was first traced by astronomers from a New Mexico
observatory July 9.

A suggestion was made that it might dash into the Earth February 1, 2019
-an encounter that might put an end to whatever forms of life on the
planet [sic]. The researchers said the early data indicated that the
asteroid was moving at an extremely high speed.

The body might well turn into the most sinister object over the entire
history of astronomical research, foreign experts surmised.

Leading researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of
Astronomy said earlier this week the panicking predictions [sic] about
the dangers of tiny planet [sic] 2002-NT-7 might have been overstated.
They said that the U.S. astronomers had watched it for too brief a
period of time to make far-reaching conclusions [sic] and that its size
might have been miscalculated [sic].

One of the experts, Sergei Vorobanov, said that the most probable size
of the asteroid was 50 meters by 120 meters [sic], not two kilometers
widthwise as the New Mexico researchers had said.

By Nikolai Krupenik

(c) 1996-2002 ITAR-TASS. All rights reserved.
 
===============
(6) INDIA PLAYS DOWN FEARS OF MISTAKEN ASTEROID IMPACTS 

>From HINDU (India), 26 July 2002

FEARS OF N-WAR UNFOUNDED, SAYS CHIDAMBARAM

The Principal Scientific Adviser to the Centre, R. Chidambaram, today
dismissed as "unfounded" fears expressed by anti-nuclear weapon
activists that asteroids entering the earth's atmosphere could trigger a
nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

"We have systems in place which look after these eventualities. There
are a lot of checks and balances. There are a lot of levels to be gone
through," he told The Hindu, when asked if the apprehension, articulated
in a section of the international media, meant that the country was
having a re-look at its nuclear weapons delivery and decision-making
systems.Every year, about 30 asteroids, several metres in length, pierce
the atmosphere and explode. Recently, an Israeli pilot flying over
Ukraine reported a blue flash in the sky, similar to the type of trail
left by a surface-to-air missile. Ukraine said that it had not launched
any missile during the period. Later, experts confirmed that the pilot
had seen an explosion caused by an asteroid entering the atmosphere at
high speed.

Citing the incident, the anti-nuclear activists say that happenings such
as these could trigger conflicts involving nuclear weapons, especially
in South Asia. In fact, an expert group met in Washington DC recently to
discuss what would have happened had a similar incident taken place in a
volatile region such as India and Pakistan.

Asked if there was a pattern in the concerns expressed of late, in the
wake of another report saying that terrorists could lay their hands on
nuclear fissile or waste material from India, Dr. Chidambaram said that
only a few were spreading these stories.

Copyright © 2002 Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.
 
============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(7) 2002 NT7 IN THE PRESS

>From Carl Koppeschaar <carlkop@xs4all.nl>

Dear Benny and other NEO researchers:

I missed part of the 2002 NT7 hype as I was flying home on July 24 after
a 3 weeks vacation on the Galápagos Islands with my family. In a taxi
from Schiphol Airport to Haarlem in the Netherlands I heard the story on
the radio and was puzzled. 'Great to be home again', flashed through my
mind. Just a few hours later Dutch radio and TV kept calling, asking if
I would like to comment.

I refused as 1) I didn't believe the accuracy of a prediction for the
far future by a newly found NEO, 2) did not have time yet to track the
original news and 3) was suffering from a nasty jetlag. Later that
evening I was astonished to see the news on national TV. In the
newspapers a former teacher of mine from the Anton Pannekoek Institute
in Amsterdam stated that this was a most important discovery. 'Don't
panic yet', was his message, 'within two years time (sic!) we will know
for 100 percent if it is going to hit us or not.'

I felt sorry that I had not accepted the media's invitation.
Astronomical phenomena, spherical astronomy and perturbation theory were
my favourite subjects and I had already written a lot on NEO's and the
Torino and Palermo scales in Dutch popuar science magazines. But luckily

a day later Dutch newspapers were already stating that NASA declared
that the chances for a hit were slim and would diminish in time. Repair
done.

I do realize that this kind of news raises the public interest in
astronomy in general and NEO research in particular. So far no harm
inflicted. The general opinion will be that it is good to have
astronomers taking care of the world, watching for these kinds of
threats.

Crying 'wolf' is yet another thing. I am popularizing astronomy for more
than 25 years now and remember all too well a former doomsday (sic)
prediction by Brian Marsden as well as exaggerated predictions for
comets, Leonid meteor outbursts and other phenomena. After dissappointing
displays of the Leonids in Europe I already received public complaints
like 'Well, it is only astronomy. So it can be 200 to 300 percent off.'
These kind of complaints worry me a lot. One reason why I did not want
to comment before knowing what exactly was going on.

Well, thanks to Benny for his CCNet updates and to the others for
putting into perspective the real risks compared to the inaccuracy of
the preliminary orbit. I have put some of the the links and information
on my website Astronet  to keep the public informed.

One last question remaining. Who started all this news? The
Asteroid/Comet Connection that I could track in Benny's first CCNet
message has been updated already. So orginal text is no longer shown.
How did the BBC get the information? Just like to know out of curiosity.

It may be good to learn how things started eventually going to lead
their own life.

Furthermore I do agree with David Whitehouse that most of the
publications in the press did warn that this was a preliminary
prediction only. At the same time I share David Morrison's concern about
harm that can be done to the credibility of astronomy or astronomical
predictions in general.

Best regards,

Carl

--------------------------------------
Carl E. Koppeschaar
asteroid (7973) and science journalist
URL: http://www.astronet.nl
E-mail: carl@astronet.nl
--------------------------------------

MODERATOR'S NOTE: See Bill Allen's report about how ACC broke the 2002
NT7 story. How did the BBC get the story? There are a couple of hundred
science writers and space journalists from around the globe subscribed
to CCNet. The BBC's David Whitehouse is one of the most attentive and
respected among them. I understand that his NT7 report on BBC Online was

- by a factor of 20 (yes, 20) - the most hit story on the BBC News
website on Wednesday and that it broke all records for a story of ANY
category. Sorry folks, but that's how good journalism works! BJP

============
(8) DON'T BE TOO SHY OR TABLOIDS WILL FILL THE INFO GAP

>From Pavel Chichikov <fishhook@erols.com>

Dear Benny,

Either the chances of a large impactor arriving any time soon are
nugatory - in which case spaceguard programs seem an extravagance, and
an irrelevance - or the possibility of such an impact within the next
few decades is appreciable, in which case a spaceguard program is a
necessity.

It's all very well for experts to turn away public panic and conserve
their own credibility. If they go too far they really will relegate the
problem of Earth-impactors to the cursory interest of the supermarket
check-out line.

Perhaps an admission by experts that no one is expert enough to
guarantee an impactor-free future within the next 20 or thirty years
would be conservative but helpful. Even then, that would be stretching
the public attention span rather thin.

All best wishes.

Pavel

=============================
(9) AND FINALLY: COMIC RELIEF
=============================

(10) ECONOMISTS LAUGHING THEIR HEADS OFF ABOUT PREDICTED DOOM AND GLOOM

 
>From Daily Deal, 25 July 2002
http://www.TheDeal.com

Investors, corporate executives and public officials weary of ongoing
financial scandals and the depressingly steep stock market slide have
been wondering if the bad news will ever cease: the answer could be Feb.
1, 2019.

Investors, corporate executives and public officials weary of ongoing
financial scandals and the depressingly steep stock market slide have
been wondering if the bad news will ever cease. Thanks to some
sharp-eyed scientists at Liverpool John Moores University in England, we
now know exactly when it will all end: Feb. 1, 2019.

On that date, space experts at the Liverpool school calculate, a huge
asteroid will crash into Earth and "reduce us to dark age conditions."

Naturally, there is some debate over this forecast. Some astronomers
caution that the rock - 1.2 miles wide and named "NT7" - could miss
Earth entirely and instead hit the planet inhabited by equity analysts
and major league baseball owners.

Other experts, surveying the charred landscape that once was the U.S.
economy, believe that a massive object has already smacked into the
Earth. The evidence suggests that this huge chunk of otherworldly debris
- dubbed "Kenneth Lay" - was so big that when it entered the atmosphere
smaller chunks broke off and continue to rain down on the market.
Several reputable scientists believe they have identified deep stock
price craters caused by impacts from meteorites code-named "Adelphia"
"Tyco" and "Vanilla Coke."

But assuming that NT7 poses an even greater danger, the logical question
is: "What could be worse than Vanilla Coke?" A more important question
is whether a return to the dark ages would represent an improvement. But
the most important question is whether anything can be done to avert the
terrifying destruction, social upheaval and traffic jams that would
follow such a crash.

Toward that end, the Senate Banking Committee cleverly issued a subpoena
for the asteroid, expecting that the rock would attempt to duck service,
thus diverting it from its deadly collision course. But NT7's lawyers
promised that the asteroid would appear before the committee, assert its
Fifth Amendment rights, then trigger an apocalypse.

With that in mind, the panel decided that jurisdiction over the asteroid
really rests with House of Representatives.

Other branches of government are also racing to prevent the end of the
world. President Bush gave a speech denouncing NT7 for its "evil intent"
but cautioned against overreaction since the overwhelming majority of
asteroids are actually "fine, upstanding galactic citizens." The
president later appeared at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner for
QX4, a stadium-sized asteroid running for Congress as a Republican.

SEC chairman Harvey Pitt announced that his agency would launch an
investigation into NT7's accounting practices - as soon as Congress
approves his raise. Critics, however, question whether the SEC will
conduct a thorough inquiry, since Pitt himself is a former asteroid.

The FTC and the Department of Justice did their part, filing suit
seeking to block the asteroid-Earth merger. (The European Commission
approved the combination after further calculations showed there was
virtually no chance NT7 would strike Brussels.)

Pointing out that the projected impact date is less than 17 years away,
lawyers for the antitrust agencies sought an expedited briefing and
discovery timetable. The judge noted that her vacation schedule would
preclude hearings on certain dates, but she granted the request to
accelerate the proceedings. The first status conference is set for Feb.
2, 2019.

Copyright 2002, The Deal
 
==============
(11) COMIC RELIEF: NT7 MAKES DAVE LETTERMAN'S TOP TEN LIST

>From David Johnson <dr_david_johnson@hotmail.com>

Thursdays Letterman Show: Top Ten Things Dumb Guys Think We Should Do
with the Asteroid

10 Have NASA Tow the Earth a Mile to the Left.
9 Special Helmets
8 Doesn't the Pharmacy sell creams for that sort of thing ?
7 Has anyone Phoned Superman?
6 Stay calm, It's just as affraid of us as we are of it
5 Bubbl Wrap
4 We should start testing them baseball players for asteroids
3 Stop, Drop and Roll
2 Can we talk about it after Wrestling?
1 Use my Full Power as President to mobilize the Nation

============
(12) SPACED OUT: LEMBIT HAS JUST 17 YEARS TO GO (ANOTHER CRACKER)

>From The Mirror, 26 July 2002

MATTHEW NORMAN COLUMN: LEMBIT OPIK .. A SPACE ODDITY

ANYONE who shares a passion for terrible films will have a special place
in their heart for Deep Impact, the disaster movie about a huge asteroid
on a collision course with Earth.

Despite the presence of the great Morgan Freeman as the President who
keeps telling people "we shall prevail" while a tidal wave is wiping out
the Eastern Seaboard, Deep Impact made the similar Armageddon - a Bruce
Willis vehicle (a hearse, really) - look like Citizen Kane.

But it did decent box office for one reason: there's nothing people love
more than a good scare story - and what could be scarier than one about
an ELE (extinction level event)?

Newspapers understand this better than anyone, of course, which is why
the banner headline on a London evening paper's newstands the other
night warned solemnly of humanity's imminent demise.

A big lump of space matter, romantically named 2002 NT7, is heading
straight for us, we were told, and civilisation as we know it will cease
at 11.47am on February 1 2019 - a relief, as someone noted, for those
fretting about their pensions, but a worry for the rest of us.

Some may find their nerves soothed by the fine detail. Although it's the
first asteroid to be rated as "impact risk positive" on something called
the Palermo scale, the chances of it hitting us are 75,000-1.

For those who don't bet much, these are not short odds. The longest
priced Grand National winner, the legendary Foinavon, was 100-1. The
bookmaker Coral quotes Big Brother's Jade as a 5,000-1 shot to succeed
Jeremy Vine as a Newsnight presenter.

According to one recent report, the odds on Elvis riding Shergar to
victory in the 4.15 at Atlantis are 10,000-1. Meanwhile, betting experts
rate the chances of Paul McCartney ever writing another decent song as
merely 15,000-1. So 75,000-1 qualifies as a pretty remote possibility.
Even if you backed NT7 each way - to hit any other planet in our solar
system - you'd still get almost 20,000-1 against it taking out Pluto or
Neptune.

That's the same odds as Ladbrokes quotes on Paul Gascoigne becoming
Professor of Greek at Oxford, or a peanut-butter covered Ann Widdecombe
being discovered in Peter Stringfellow's bed.

YET there is one voice shrilly raised in warning. If you or I had
serious political ambitions but a comedy name, I feel sure we would try
hard to cultivate a sober, sensible image.

So, in a sense, you have to admire Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik for
having the courage of his convictions to make such a relentless arse of
himself about this nebulous threat from galaxies far, far away. Mr Opik,
a likable Scouser [sorry Matthew, but Lembit is not even an honourary
Liverpudlian - yet, BJP] is obsessed with asteroids, and barely a week
passes without this youthful Private Fraser telling us we're all
dooooomed.

Yesterday he wrote in The Daily Mirror of the need to spend pounds 5
billion [and I thought he had demanded 3 trillion?] on asteroid early
warning systems (how early does he want - isn't 17 years enough?).

He also wants to develope a "solar sail" which will somehow use sunbeams
to push asteroids off their earth-bound paths. Doo doo doo do, Doo doo
doo do... can anyone else hear the Twilight Zone theme tune?

Mr Opik calls on Tony Blair to discuss the matter urgently with George
Bush - a naive plan, it seems to me, since it's 75,000-1 against Bush
knowing the difference between an asteroid and a haemorrhoid ("Tony, is
that one of them lumpy things you find on Uranus?").

There are many, many worthwhile things to fret about in this rotten old
world, from how poor Jade will cope tonight to whether the new
Archbishop of Canterbury should shave his beard. But asteroid NT7 is not
one of them.

Mr Opik should concentrate on being a loyal Lib Dem MP by emulating his
leader Charles Kennedy.

Half a bottle of Glenfiddich a night would do the trick, and nip this
nonsense in the bud before he finds himself marching up and down Oxford
Street carrying an "end of the world is nigh" placard and asking passers
by if they happen to know where he parked his spaceship.

Copyright 2002, The Mirror


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