The initial estimates by NASA put the chances of a direct hit on the planet Earth by Apophis at one in thirty-seven. "Asteroid" examines what could happen if an asteroid that size were to strike the Earth and profiles NASA's asteroid hunters. They continually track Apophis and other objects while searching for new, threatening monster chunks of space debris. They routinely estimate the odds of these objects colliding with the Earth, and they figure out ways to avoid such impending disasters -- an asteroid strike is perhaps the only natural disaster we might be able to prevent.
As Cort was producing "Asteroid," NASA was continually adjusting the odds of a collision with Apophis, downgrading the risk of its impact. "I'm embarrassed to admit I was sort of hoping the odds wouldn't be reduced too far," confesses Cort. "At least not before the airdate!"
The latest estimates, computed in May 2008, would seem to afford humanity a collective sigh of relief. NASA now figures the odds Apophis will strike Earth to be a scant 0.0023 percent. But the scary truth, says Cort, is that even if Apophis is not a real threat, astronomers still estimate that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of large near-Earth objects out there that we haven't discovered yet. One of them could easily be headed our way.
Cort's award will be presented on March 19, 2009 at the American Physical Society's March Meeting in Pittsburgh. A recording of the broadcast can be viewed at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3313/01.html.
MORE ABOUT "SNEEZE!"
The first movie ever to be copyrighted in the United States was a short film made in 1894 by Thomas Edison called "Fred Ott's Sneeze." More than a century later we now understand much more about the physiology of the sneeze reflex and the microscopic particles that make us sneeze, but there is still something un
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American Institute of Physics