No hurry for warp speed

Scientists gather in Dallas to discuss ways to exceed speed of light

Credit: Image credit: Flickr/LadyDragonflyCC - >;<

Who can forget one of the most iconic lines from the original Star Trek television show: "Warp drive, Mr. Scott. Make it so." Kidding! Just doing a little mash-up there. Before any Trekkie heads explode, here's the real line, delivered by a young William Shatner. All of which is a clumsy, Friday-ish way to lead into this week's meeting in Dallas of space scientists who will discuss possible ways to propel spacecraft faster than the speed of light and probably engage in master-level Star Trek trivia contests. From Yahoo news:

Spacecraft propelled by antimatter harvested by robotic factories on Mercury will be under discussion, as will spacecraft made from hollowed-out asteroids and a laser-beam “highway” to provide energy for ships to “hop” to nearby stars.

Some of these technologies may come into being within 20 years, the organizers claim -- but the goal is interstellar travel by 2100, visiting planets such as those found by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

Maybe it is possible that humans could go interstellar by then. After all, 2100 is more than 86 years from now -- a long time in terms of scientific discoveries and breakthroughs -- but we're still talking about taking nine months to go to Mars. We'll need a quantum leap to get to the interstellar level. Yet I'm not sure what the big rush is. Granted, we're well ahead of schedule in degrading the Earth's environment, but our planet is a long way from being uninhabitable. And while I agree with Dr. Friedwart Winterberg, a theoretical physicist from the University of Nevada, who tells Yahoo, “For the human species and its unique culture to survive the death of the sun, a bridge must be built to other solar systems with earthlike planets," scientists expect our sun to remain unchanged for several billion years. There's time. So while I think it's great that researchers are trying to advance the science of space travel, we're not yet in a doomsday scenario. To use a football analogy, let's work the ball upfield before throwing up a hail Mary. Now read this:

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