A group of
scientists is seeking a standardized protocol for dealing with
the possibility of an asteroid or comet striking the Earth, saying
humans can do more than the dinosaurs ever could before a colossal
impact precipitated their extinction 65 millions years ago.
The call comes
as interest grows in the swarm of asteroids and comets that orbit
the sun in the Earth's immediate neighborhood. The concerns were
sparked in part by several recent false alarms about impending
"In some sense,
it's something we know we need to worry about, but we need to
decide at what level we need to worry about it -- and that's a
question for everybody," said Daniel D. Durda, a research scientist
in the department of space studies of the Southwest Research Institute
in Boulder, Colo.
weeks, a paper written by Durda and fellow scientists Clark R.
Chapman and Robert E. Gold has been making the rounds among experts
who study impact hazards. The goal, they write in the 19-page
paper, is to encourage discussion of how to replace the "haphazard
and unbalanced'' way the world now addresses any potential impact.
spot-on that this is a problem. They are also right on time in
terms of this just now being recognized as serious enough a topic
so as to go to the next step in terms of 'what if,''' said Richard
Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology who developed a scale to rank the potential
danger of an impact. "We have now overcome the giggle factor.''