Some general netleechery:

>>Kepler mission launched successfully.
The Kepler mission will go hunting for exoplanets - planets in other solar systems close (in astronomical terms) to our own.
Why care? Kepler's instruments should allow it to detect tiny planets - Earth-scale - and with the recent flood of exoplanet discoveries, the general expectation is that quite a number of these will be found. Who knows, there might be one or two with just the right combination of orbit distance (temperature), atmosphere, surface composition, to more or less match our own preferred environment. That would be cool, wouldn't it? All we would need would be transport...


>> And talking about transport, there's been some debate following Charlie Stross' predictions about space colonization not being a realistic scenario, because of the many inhibitive factors (cost to lift sufficient mass outside of the earth's gravity well being the main one). Some people keep coming back to "Orion project"-style propulsion as the solution to all these problems.
Sorry, but I for one am not convinced the rapid detonation of nuclear bombs is the great way forward. Rocket launches - even using conventional technology that has been around for over sixty years - go wrong at an astonishing rate. Is it two out of every ten launches that fail? I'm not sure I got that statistic right, but anyway, rockets keep malfunctioning under the extreme conditions that arise when you shoot something out of the atmosphere. And call me a coward, but I'd rather not see a vehicle carrying enough fuel for millions of nuclear explosions blow up in the night sky.


>> Why do Killer Asteriods Fascinate Us So?
To continue on the spacey theme, Discover Magazine (via Jay Lake's link salad) has a story on why asteroids fascinate our collective conscience. I know it is something that worries even my four-and-a-half year old son; it's been something he keeps asking from time ever since learning about the asteroid impact as a possible extinction event for the dinosaurs. From that perspective, I don't think it has anything to do with cultural predilections, but everything with an innate fear of the unpredictable, the unpreventable, "divine intervention"-style events that no one can do anything about.
And who can blame us?