"Asteroids are nature’s way of saying, ‘how’s that space program coming?’" - Dr. Ed Lu at TEDxMarin

It’s a humbling day to be an Earthling. Just sixteen hours before the highly-anticipated flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14, the skies above the Chelyabinsk region of Russia were shattered by the explosion of an incoming meteor. Although fortunately nobody appears to have been killed by the blast, more than 1,000 people reported injuries, mostly from flying glass and debris.

We know that these objects are out there, but what are scientists doing to locate them? And how would we respond if one were found to be on a collision course with our planet?

At TEDxMarin, Dr. Ed Lu gave a fascinating talk highlighting the efforts that scientists like himself are making to detect and deflect near-Earth objects.

Fortunately, says Dr. Lu, "You don’t need oil miners and Bruce Willis" to push an asteroid off course. "Deflecting asteroids is not that hard. We have the technology to do something like this."

The bad news? We can’t deflect an asteroid we don’t know is coming. And there are a lot of asteroids out there (check out the jaw-dropping graphics at about 6:00). That’s why Dr. Lu and his team are working on satellites to detect them from space — before it’s too late.