Another workweek is dawning, and we at the MUI PR Blog recognize you need some fodder for vicarious water cooler conversation, in order to maintain that elusive aura of white-collar cool. To whit, we have compiled five scintillating science stories to occupy your attention and grace your gab. Babble on about these beauties and you may be able to sustain the illusion of scientific literacy, something your correspondent lost forever when his weekend Fat Tire-Guinness concoction bombed spectacularly. This is one of the reasons he chose law school over a life traipsing the peaks of scientific discovery.  Without further ado:

 

1. Traveling Light

Talk of warp drives is usually confined to “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” and other beloved bastions of science fiction. Man can not really travel faster than the speed of light, can he? After all, we are formed from the same electromagnetic forces light is made of. “How can an object travel faster than that which links its atoms?”

 

Turns out, warp travel may not be as wildly unrealistic as it seems. In 1994, a physicist named Miguel Alcubierre published a paper called “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity.” Alcubierre theorized that faster-than-light travel could be realized by manipulating the very fabric of space-time itself.

 

By expanding regions of space-time to the rear of spacecraft while simultaneously contracting them in front, warp drives could literally pull space-time around interstellar ships, creating “warp bubbles” that could move craft at unthinkable speeds. A journey to the closest star, a hefty jaunt of 4 or 5 light years, would now be reduced to an easy two weeks.

 

There is a lot of complicated physics at play here, which your correspondent does not fully understand. NASA scientist Harold White, who heads the Advanced Propulsion Team, understands it a bit better. White’s version of the Alcubierre drive, which contains key design changes to lessen the amount of energy required to create a warp bubble, is currently running the circuits of the theoretical and may or may not ever see the light of practical development. It is all very tantalizing, to be sure, but we are still a long way from frolicking between the stars.

 

2. Waves Beneath Waves

Ever dabble your toes at the edges of the deep blue sea and marvel at the gargantuan beauty of it all? Our watery planet may contain an ocean three times as vast as any that lap around your feet — and it is hundreds of miles underground.

 

Measuring the paths of seismic waves through the Earth’s crust, a team of scientists came to the conclusion that the layer of the blue-colored mineral ringwoodite is saturated with water — lots and lots of water. This subterranean sea could explain just why our planet is so water-logged to begin with, and why its crust shifts so much. A pity we will never be able to take a dip.

 

3. Tesla Opens Its Vaults

The battle to take the automotive electric just got a little more interesting. In a stunning move, Tesla CEO Elon Musk released the manufacturers’ patents to the world, hoping to capitalize off a wave of open-source innovation and pave the way to a sustainable future for electric cars. Decrying the zero-sum game of intellectual property patenting in the U.S., Musk encouraged bright-eyed, big-brained idealists to jump in the market and build from Tesla’s framework. It is a daring gamble, but one that could reap huge dividends for the company and the planet.

 

4. The Smell Of The Stars

With the manned space program all but directionless, the good folks at NASA are mixing things up a bit. During an analysis of Titan’s atmosphere, scientists at the American space agency re-created the moon’s chemical mixture back home on Earth. This type of chemical creativity will allow NASA to create atmospheric signatures for a range of distant planets, perhaps aiding the search for life beyond our own. For now, though, all we know is that Titan smells “like somebody passed gas while pouring gasoline.”

 

5. Interstellar Football

Okay, this is not exactly hard science, but it is far too cool to pass by. As it turns out, the three members of humanity currently orbiting our planet are adamant football fans. As the globe beneath readied itself to explode in raucous celebration over the world cup, they decided to join in on the fun. Et voila!

 

 

What do you think? Does scientific progress thrill you or chill you? Any interesting science stories you’ve been following? Start the discussion in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter @aa_murph