The concept of a Dyson Sphere is not a new one. It was first described by futurist writer Olaf Stapledon in his 1937 science fiction novel, Star Maker.
Though both dark matter and dinosaurs are independently fascinating, you might reasonably assume that this unseen physical substance and this popular biological icon are entirely unrelated. And this might well be the case. But the Universe is by definition a single entity and in principle its components interact.
It's a question that plagues amateur science geeks everywhere: where to go on vacation? The water park is too crowded, and furthermore, teeming with the kind of aggressive microbial subcultures that make relaxation difficult.
"There is no doubt that those Martians perished while waiting to get on the ride," says professor Irwin Lafferdean of the Institute of Interplanetary Amusement. "Can even advanced species survive the quest for reasonably-priced fun for all ages? I don't know. Damn it, I just don't know."
The problem, as with most astronomical phenomena, is the huge timescales in which things happen. We therefore rely on supercomputers to feed them data and get simulations which show us what happens in thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, or billions of years.
Asteroids are leftover rocks from the creation of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago.
The Sun's twilight zone is actually full of living worlds -- geologically speaking. And we have no idea why that is, and how that happened. Which is the way discoveries in science are supposed to be made -- as surprises.
Ultimately, it does not matter whether Pluto is called a planet or not. People get together, exchange arguments, give new names to the things around them. But Pluto is whatever it is, and has not changed a bit since we demoted it into a dwarf planet.
"What planet is Donald on?" Well, wonder no longer. The Donald has been located!
The first impressions you glean from the released New Horizons high-resolution images is that Pluto is vastly different from its dwarf planet cousin Ceres. Ceres lives in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and its surface has been pummeled by asteroids, leaving behind thousands of craters from meters to tens of kilometers across.
Next week on July 14, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons will have completed its nine-year journey to Pluto. There is no telling what we will discover when we get there, but it will certainly be both alien and exciting!
Might want to start stockpiling those down jackets: The sun could nod off by 2030, triggering what scientists are describing as a "mini ice age."
The New Horizons spacecraft will skim dwarf planet Pluto on July 14th at 7:49:57 a.m. EDT after nine and a half years of rushing through the Solar System at speeds of up to 83,000 km per hour [relative to the Sun]. You can follow the encounter live through NASA's TV webpage.
Here you have it. In the next few centuries, we can colonize the solar system in any number of different ways using largely conventional technology extended to meet the reasonable challenges of week-long hope to Mars, Saturn or elsewhere.
If you are a planetary scientist, you are having one of your best years... ever! Beyond the drama of the images, the technology that makes them possible is also amazing. How could anyone NOT be excited by the exploration of our solar system? Who needs the distant stars... for now.
Here are seven stargazing sites, all recognized by the International Dark Sky Association for their inky-black nights, that offer stellar views of the heavens above.