THE TODAY SHOW. 8:30 A.M. SEGMENT.
Excerpt of an interview with Wesley Feinberg by Jay Christopher. Christopher: Why does it have two tails? Isn't that unusual? Feinberg: Not at all, Jay. Comets often have two tails. One's composed of dust, which is more or less blown off the comet head. Unlike the ion tail, it's illuminated only by reflected light. Christopher: An ion tail is not dust, obviously. Feinberg: That's right. It consists of ionized molecules, so it glows on its own. Christopher: Professor Feinberg, you spoke with the president about the comet? Feinberg: That's correct, Jay. Christopher: Can you tell us what you told him? Feinberg: I don't think that would be appropriate. That's probably a question you should ask him. Christopher: All right, then. What can you tell us about the collision? How much real danger is there? Feinberg: Well, we'll undoubtedly see some meteors. If the Moon breaks up, as now appears quite possible, the situation could become serious. There are several scenarios that raise the question whether life on Earth could survive. Christopher: (After a long pause.) Are there others who agree with this assessment, Professor? Other scientists, I mean? Feinberg: Oh, yes. I'd think most would. Christopher: Are we talking about tidal waves? Feinberg: That's certainly a concern. But a major impact anywhere on the planet could cause immense damage, trigger an ice age, or a runaway greenhouse effect. This is really not a comfortable situation, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens. On the other hand, we're fortunate as regards the position of the Moon and the angle of the strike. Christopher: Can you explain that? Feinberg: Of course. (Graphic appears.) If the worst happens, and the Moon is destroyed, you can see that most of the material will be blown away from the Earth. Christopher: What's going to happen to it? Feinberg: Oh, the bulk of it will remain in orbit. You know, we talk exclusively about safety concerns. And that's certainly understandable. But we shouldn't overlook the fact that this is a priceless opportunity. Christopher: You mean to watch the collision close up. Feinberg: More than that. We tend to forget, because our lives are very short and nothing around us ever seems to change, that the universe is really a very violent place. It's not necessarily a bad thing that we be reminded of that periodically. Christopher: Provided we survive it. Feinberg: Of course.