Saving the World From Asteroids

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Mar 12, 2013
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In 2011 I gave a TEDxBoulder talk about asteroid impacts. It was a lot of fun—I even ad-libbed a little, too, since the audience clearly thought my Star Trek comment was funny—and I’ve been honored and humbled to see the video get over 800,000 views.

The folks at TED have created a radio interview series called “TED Radio Hour”, themed shows where they talk to various TED speakers about their talk topics. I was interviewed by Guy Raz about asteroid impacts, the latest news about rocks from space, and what we can do if we see one headed our way. That talk is now online for your listening pleasure.

I’m pretty happy how it turned out (though at roughly the 2:30 mark I mention that April 13, 2036 is a Friday, which is incorrect; the first approach of the asteroid Apophis is on Friday, the 13th of April, 2029). I’ll note that this interview was recorded a) before we knew Apophis would miss us for sure, and 2) before the Chelyabinsk impact in Russia. We were able to update it about Apophis, but the Russian meteor happened too late for us to squeeze that in. Make sure you listen all the way to the end of the interview.

By coincidence, I was also interviewed on this topic for WILL radio in Illinois—I gave a talk on asteroid impacts in Illinois over the weekend (more on that in a later post).

And for the trifecta, my pal Cara Santa Maria, who does the video science show “Talk Nerdy to Me” for the Huffington Post, also wanted to talk about asteroids and the Chelyabinsk event. She talked to me about it for the show:

I think it's important to raise awareness about this issue. As I said in the TED interview, I don’t lie awake at night in a cold panic over them, but they’re something we need to take seriously. Because if we don’t, an impact isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. It may not be for a century, or it may be tomorrow night. Given that we have the technology to do this, and that no matter what there’s a huge scientific (and perhaps commercial) bounty to be gained, asteroids need to be a priority for our space and space science programs.

We can literally save the world. All we need to do is make up our minds to do so.