Forget Warp Drive and "Faster-that-light" Space Travel: "Slow Light Is" Where It's At

Despite the fact that the speed of light is an absolute upper limit, faster-than-light space travel is deeply embedded in science fiction. Einstein showed that any object with mass cannot reach, let alone exceed, the speed of light. But science fiction tends to overlook this very inconvenient truth simply because the universe is so big. To reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star after our own Sun, would take more than four years for a spaceship moving at the speed of light, and a jaunt across the full diameter of our galaxy would take 100,000 years. Knowing this, script writers imagine solutions like Star Trek’s “warp drive” that allow the Enterprise to travel around the galaxy at multiples of light speed, or “worm holes” that provide cosmic short cuts.

End of the World

Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich has another blockbuster on his hands with 2012, if weekend box office returns are any indication. The film's premise derives from a popular doomsday prediction centered on the Mayan calendar. It lasts 5126, at which point the calendar abruptly stops at December 21, 2012. For whatever reason, the Mayans didn't bother to count any further, leading some folks to conclude this denotes the End of the World As We Know. It makes for great entertainment, but what's the science behind all this?

Emily at the Edge of Chaos

Comedy and theoretical physics aren't two things you'd normally think would go well together, but for humorist/writer Emily Levine, it's like combining chocolate and peanut butter. After writing for such TV series as Designing Women and Dangerous Minds, Levine worked for two years at Disney.

That's where she first became interested in esoteric things like chaos theory and quantum mechanics, but according to her official bio, she "found no studio executives, let alone Mickey and Goofy, willing and/or able to discuss these issues."

Goats in the Machine

The new film, The Men Who Stare at Goats, is based on the book by Jon Ronson detailing a weird military research project involving psychic warriors, LSD, astral projection and the like. But while the movie might be fiction -- and highly amusing fiction at that, thanks to stellar performances by the cast -- there really is a historical record of both the Army and the CIA experimenting with LSD and other hallucinogens as possible "incapacitating chemical agents."