No, I'm not talking about those Space Balls.
NASA will be landing the truck-sized Mars Research Laboratory on Mars in Fall 2009. If the Swedes have their way, the gigantic rover will be accompanied by a number of ball-shaped probes that will roll around the larger probe. The idea is that the balls can go places the rover can't, and that their round shape will prevent them from getting stuck.
One of the exceedingly cool things about living in the time we live in is this: some of the really hardcore science fiction ideas of the past 50 years are becoming technically possible. Now they may not be practical, but I find it amazing that we can seriously contemplate building something like a space elevator.
I don't doubt that some people feel that knowing the physics of baseball removes some of the romance from the game. Me? I think it makes the game all the more fascinating. CNET's Daniel Terdiman writes about a presentation on the physics of baseball by Paul Doherty at San Francisco's Exploratorium. Doherty talks about how curveball's curve, why knuckleballs are so damn hard to hit, and where the sweet spot is on a baseball bat.
It was bad enough when the corn biofuel debacle drove up gas and food prices, but now the biofuel debacle is messing with my beer, as chronicled in this article on Reason.
Actually, I already knew this -- the my local brewery, Weyerbacher, had already explained how ethanol was driving up their costs by increasing demand for corn, leading to a shortage of less profitable hops.
When I hear people lamenting the eventual end of the Age of Oil, and gnashing their teeth about where our power is going to come from, the science fiction geek in me has to laugh. The sun radiates enough power to keep us in electricity for billions of years; we just need to figure out the most efficient way to capture it. Which is why this story is such a good read; it discusses using fast-growing algae to produce oil, which then can be used as biofuel.