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I watch way too much science fiction.  The question I started to research which goes along with light speed is, “how long would it take a traveler from outside our solar system to get here?”  “How fast would they have to travel to get here in a reasonable length of time?”  The first thing I’m always struck with is just how far away things really are.  The nearest star outside our solar system is Promixa Centuri.  It’s just a mere 4.2 light years away.  Doesn’t sound so far.  But that over 24 trillion miles.  Let’s say if you traveled at a million miles an hour, you would travel a little less than 9 billion miles a year.  It would only take about 2700 years to get there.  That’s the time span from ancient Egypt to today.  That’s too long.  The speed of light is about 67 million miles an hour which in our understanding of physics is beyond the speed matter can travel.  But to make it in a single life time, let’s say we have to go about 30 million miles an hour.

So how advanced to you need to be to figure out how to travel at 30 million miles an hour?  Anybody’s guess, might be easy might be hard, might be impossible.  If you can get your speed up, there are 32 star systems within 14 light years.  That’s a quick 84 trillion miles.    It’s hard to imagine how far away a trillion miles is.  If you traveled 100 miles to work and back everyday, it would only take forever to travel a trillion miles.

These are only our close neighbors.  The milky way galaxy is 100,000 light years across. That’s 6 quintillion miles and how knows what a quintillion is anyway.  The nearest galaxy is Andromeda only 2,500,000 light years away.  It seems that you won’t be able to do intergalactic travel by bus.  Don’t worry plenty to see in our galaxy.  There are about a billion stars in the Milky Way so you won’t run out of things to do.

Let’s imagine this situation.  Your traveling from Earth to the Andromeda galaxy at light speed.  You’ll be arriving in about15 million years.  It’s likely in the 15 million years that technology will advance so that people born millions of years after you will get there first.  Well no other point, I was just thinking about it.  Great video to watch:

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Science is good at a lot of things.  Predictions aren’t one of them.  It’s still hard to pick a winning horse at the track.  But this is just my observation so I did a little homework.  Here’s an interesting article about the quality of scientific predictions.  Try not to get caught up on what the prediction is about.  That’s not the point.  It’s about the ability to predict.  Also I’m not talking about the ability to predict what happens when you mix two chemicals.  I’m talking about predicting what will happen in a complex system like real life.

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There are a number of articles with this time of year that rank scientific accomplishments.  I guess there still is more to learn.  Here’s a link to one in Wired Magazine.  I especially like the chimps that make spears.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/12/YE_10_breakthroughs

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This is a great video.  Ignore the guy singing about 1/3 the way through it goes on to better stuff.  It presents the greatest picture every taken.  It’s what the hubble telescope sees when it looks into blank space. 

It shows the first real proof of what deep, deep, deep space looks like billions of light years away. 

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I’ve used the show “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”  to talk about knowledge retention and how to eliminate was in training.  I’ve run across a number of clips that basically speak for themselves.  This one is about science education.

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