Articles like this are a word-filled goldmine for me. Immediately following that bold statement comes my confession that in no way do I understand a large portion of it. I start reading, and soon detect imminent brain implosion.

While I am endlessly fascinated by science, I have no delusions of being a scientist. That’s why what I love to read and write is called science fiction. Science fiction is born out of real life scientific discoveries, prototypes, and ideas extrapolated into future permutation– The reality is that it’s a way fun game of what if, triggered by whatever may be a budding reality or mere gleam in the minds of people with great big brains.

Nobody ever told me how to do it. Somewhere along the way my brain started thinking extrapolation was what it wants most to do. Honestly, I think it comes easiest to worriers. Let’s face it. Worrying is the ultimate, inherent game of what if. Chicken Little taught it to us as children. What if the sky falls? What if that impertinent asteroid decides to hit us in February? What if we have a secret colony of monkey astronauts on the moon poised to shoot it off its expected orbit with bananas gnawed into delicious pointy salvation missles? Anything is possible with enough imagination and a goofy sense of humor.

So I read stuff and watch stuff and absorb stuff. If I don’t understand every nuance of the science, I get the gist. Several things in this article leapt out at my particular imagination, my sense of humor, and the rubbery, expandable corner of my mind where worry lives.

–The first was the term “propellantless propulsion”. I understand what it means, but it made me laugh. It sounds like something Professor Farnsworth would say on Futurama. One of those nonsensical terms he tosses out like a too skinny Robot Santa from an Xmas parade float.

–The idea of solar sails is fascinating. I first encountered it in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, involving a father and son journey powered by solar sail. The conceptualization was beautiful, as was the bonding experience. There is no reason ships that sail the depths of space cannot be things of beauty. Just as there’s no reason mere concepts cannot be realized, given enough time, imagination, and technological advancement.

–Continuing the Star Trek theme, I am intrigued by the idea that this solar sail launch would carry some of the cremated remains of The Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry, and his wife Majel Roddenberry. As a long time admirer of their work, I think it’s incredibly touching that technology has advanced to a point that it can actually take them boldly into space. Not many of us can follow our dreams quite so literally.

–And the idea that solar sails may someday be able to help warn us of dangerous near earth objects is reassuring. Just because scientists are certain the upcoming encounter will be but a near miss does not mean they all will be. It seems to me that events like the one depicted in the movie Deep Impact are inevitable, over the long course of earth’s history. I feel better knowing that technological advances are constantly finding ways to keep the sky from literally falling another day.

So from this one article I got an unintended laugh, a bit of relief from the minor worry that distant objects we don’t even know exist may have us in their sights, information about new and improved upon scientific discoveries and advancements that may find its way into my fiction and my dreams, and a reminder that reaching for the stars is never foolish. Even death can’t keep the boldest dreamers tethered to the earth at their feet.

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