published Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Kennedy: Awed by amazing scientific discoveries

My wife and I were standing in the checkout line at Walmart last Sunday when she held up an item from the magazine rack.

"Can I get this?" she said. "It's $12."

I started to frown -- $12 is $12 -- but then I thought better of it. The item was Time magazine's "100 New Scientific Discoveries: Fascinating, Momentous, and Mind-Expanding Stories."

"Sure, baby," I said. "Whatever you want."

(Note to newly married men: If you will have "sure, baby, whatever you want" tattooed on the back of your eyelids, your next 50 years will be golden.)

I pegged the publication as a year-end recycling of Time magazine's 2012 science and technology reporting. In the journalism world we even have a euphemism for this practice: repurposing.

Still, I later found myself captivated by the content. As an aging baby boomer, the progress made in the last half-century is astonishing.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets.

* Fascinating fact: A manned mission to Mars will be possible, if not probable, by the 2030s.

Observation: When I was 11 years old, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and even the sky was no longer the limit. My oldest son is 11 at the moment and, when he turns on the TV, he gets, not Neil Armstrong but Lance Armstrong.

* Fascinating fact: Forget recycling. The kitchenware and food packaging of the future, Time says, will be made of edible substances. Finish a meal, eat the plate -- no clean-up required.

Observation: If you find this farfetched, I would like to introduce you to my two sons who would eat through a sleeve of Dixie Cups if the last one was filled with Mayfield ice cream.

* Fascinating fact: The next big thing in technology is the 3-D printer. Time explains that these machines are actually "desktop manufacturing systems" that can make copies of three dimensional objects -- from "pork chops to handguns."

Observation: I can see a pistol, but I will not be eating a desktop pork chop.

* Fascinating fact: Physicists are crying tears of joy over the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the so-called God Particle that heretofore had been the missing link between mass and energy -- i.e. the glue that holds the entire cosmos together.

Observation: Last week, I discovered a fascinating particle that made me whoop and cry, too. My particle is called a "kidney stone."

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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