A few articles in the New York Times that might be of interest:
1) The same U.S. agency, DARPA, that initially funded the development of the internet is now offering a half-million dollars, to be awarded on 11/11/11, to an organization that will research stellar exploration. Are you interested?
Unfortunately, since gravity is so weak, some 36 orders of magnitude — 36 powers of 10 — weaker than the atomic force holding atoms together, objects in our Milky Way are very, very far away. Indeed, the nearest star beyond our Sun is Alpha Centauri, approximately 4.3 light years or 25 trillion miles from Earth.
Interstellar travel is a tall order. It would take Voyager 1, humanity’s fastest artifact, now traveling 38,000 miles an hour relative to the Sun, more than 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri, if it were headed in that direction.
2) A team of scientists has discovered single-celled fossils that are 3.4 billion years old, which is only a billion years after the formation of Earth. This is surprising for many reasons, not the least of which derives from the modern definition of a planet, which is a body large enough to clear its orbit of debris. This is one of the reasons Pluto, too small to accomplish this, was demoted from its planet status. But this also means that Earth was being constantly bombarded during the first billion years, a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, that created an environment so hot that life was not possible.
3) “The Kids Are Not All Right,” Joel Bakan writes, because these times are not like previous times. While each older generation tends to believe that the younger generation doesn’t measure up, the corporate culture that has evolved during the past 30 years is definitely a change from the past. The push to recognize corporations as “people” using legal arguments that have been so effective in the development of human rights has created an ethical dilemma because corporations have ever-increasing power whereas other groups that historically lacked rights — African Americans, women, children — lacked power. And corporations’ power to influence us, as we’ll see in my English 1 class during our discussion of advertisements, has had a profound influence on how our children think and behave.