A WORLD NEXT DOOR  Proxima Centauri casts a reddish glow over the surface of Proxima b (illustrated), the closest exoplanet to Earth, while two companion stars, Alpha Centauri A and B, appear as bright pinpricks of light.

Ever since humanity journeyed for the first time into outer space, we’ve been fascinated to push the boundaries of interstellar travel. For decades, astronomers have been searching for a planet that would offer us habitable conditions or even indicate signs of life already existing there. So far either the nature of the planet and its surroundings or the remoteness makes


Usually when we order some fragile items, they come in a somewhat amusing packaging that might employ some in popping craziness. The talk is about the bubble wrap. But some people take it further than others and decide to incorporate it into science. Engineers from MIT probably thought along those lines and came up with a pretty handy bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device that soaks up natural sunlight and heats water to boiling temperatures, generating steam through its pores.