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Full ahead, warp speed!

Here’s something cool for all you sci-fi geeks…both of you…including me: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/29/nasa-is-actually-working-on-a-faster-than-light-warp-drive-but-it-might-blow-up-any-planet-it-travels-to/

Yeah, NASA is researching faster-than-light-travel. And ‘researching’ isn’t just a euphemism for watching old Star Trek episodes while drinking too much coffee. The math checks out: it’s theoretically possible to “warp” space, allowing a craft to travel in a calm bubble through the universe.

Given how long it’s taken just to build a new jet fighter, my guess is this technology won’t hit store shelves for a few decades, at least. It may be centuries. But we can be pretty ingenious when we need to be, so who knows?

More space news: astronomers have discovered a black hole 17 billion times the mass of our sun (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/29/newly-discovered-black-hole-is-17-billion-times-the-mass-of-the-sun-may-be-biggest-ever-found/). Not much to say about this, except that the scale of the universe is so absurdly vast it boggles the mind.

Not off the hook yet. Yup, more astronomical updates, this time closer to home. Mercury appears to have ice on it: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/29/nasa-probe-reveals-ice-organic-material-inside-permanent-night-of-mercurys-north-pole/

This is significant for a few reasons. First, it’s surprising. Most of Mercury’s surface is boiling hot due to its proximity to the sun. Second, it’s yet another celestial body with ice, and ice is made of water, which contains oxygen – so, we have further evidence that this substance which is central to the existence of life is widespread within our solar system, and very possibly beyond (http://www.space.com/18699-mercury-water-ice-alien-life.html) .

Finally, ice means water and water means power and air. Even with existing technology, we can take water and turn it into fuel and breathable air. In essence, other than its oven-like surface temperature – and we have materials that can withstand that level of heat – Mercury contains the one key thing needed to support a human habitat.

Again, nothing that will happen soon, but file that under “Places I’ll visit next century”.

If you’ve ever thought about stepping into amateur astronomy, it’s never been more affordable. For less than $500, you can get a telescope that will provide you with spectacular views of the moon. You’ll be able to see the planets, too, although you shouldn’t expect too much: the rings of Saturn will be barely visible; Jupiter will appear as a small disk, with a few moons strung in a line out from it.

An eight-inch reflector on a Dobsonian mount is an affordable place to start (I’ve never used this brand, but the customer reviews are positive: http://www.amazon.com/Orion-SkyQuest-XT8-Dobsonian-Telescope/dp/B001DDW9V6/ref=pd_cp_p_3).

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