To Boldly Go

Science and Technology @ UCSB

Interstellar travel, light-driven spacecraft, suspended animation. It sounds like the formula for countless science fiction stories, but it could be reality in the not-so-far future if UC Santa Barbara researchers Philip Lubin and Joel Rothman get their way.“Humanity has dreamed of interstellar flight for more than 100 years. We are working on bringing this dream to reality for all of us, but particularly for the next generation,” said Lubin, a physicist. He leads the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group, which investigates, among many things, travel in deep space and searches for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Through the UCSB NASA Project Starlight program, Lubin’s team plans to use laser-propelled miniature spaceships (or “spacechips,” as they have been called) to transport the Rothman Group’s miniature lab animals across vast interstellar distances. These humble microscropic creatures — nematodes and tardigrades — are extremely hardy and can be placed in suspended animation to withstand the cold of space and the rigors of near light-speed travel through the cosmos.
“Following the longest voyage ever taken by a terrestrial creature, we can wake them up and ask how they’re enjoying the trip, whether they reproduce normally and how well they remember what we taught them on Earth,” noted Rothman, a biologist.
With the (very delicious) possibility of turning science fiction into fact just around the corner, it’s no wonder Lubin and Rothman’s labs have become key participants in the upcoming Raw Science Film Festival (RSFF), taking place Jan. 5-7 at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It’s where science meets Hollywood in a series of thought-provoking film screenings, scientific and media workshops and exhibits that focus on the intersection of science and storytelling. The festival is in its fourth year.
Lubin and Rothman agree that “this festival will create a wonderful opportunity for cross-fertilization between filmmakers, scientists and the public, stoking the imaginations of all …

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