Science or science fiction?

•Communicators: Trekkers point to flip phones, modern mobile/cellular telephones, as being a Trek prophesy come true-well, not really. Trek's communicators are hand held like modern cell phones, but they are far more. Communicators use subspace radio to work. Subspace is a purely fictional invention. But it is fun to mention that American engineer Martin Cooper, inventor of today's cell phones, thanked "Star Trek" for his inspiring his invention.

•Extraterrestrial life: We haven't found life on any planet beyond the Earth-yet. In 1996, NASA scientists found what might be traces of microscopic life inside a martian meteorite found in Antarctica, but the discovery sparked a scientific controversy that was never really settled. A few astronomers are involved in SETI-the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. They employ large, radio telescopes to listen for audio communications among the stars. To date, ET has neither phoned home nor phoned NASA.

What's in the Sky: Look for beautiful Antares, also called Alpha Scorpii, the orange star, to the upper right hand side of the Moon this weekend. Best time to look is late evening. Giant Antares is 600 light years away; its diameter is 700 times the size of our Sun.

Lou Varricchio, M.Sc., is a former NASA science writer. He is involved with the NASA-JPL Solar System Ambassador program and is a second lieutenant with the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

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