Stephen Hawking's amazing plan for getting us to the alien star Alpha Centauri.

Stephen Hawking recently announced that he wants to send spacecraft to Alpha Centauri.

Image from Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation.


Hawking made the announcement with Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner on April 12, 2016 as part of the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative.

"I believe what makes us unique is transcending our limits," said Hawking, as reported by Ars Technica.

This is huge because while Alpha Centauri is the star nearest to Earth (besides the sun), it’s still more than four light years away.

View of Alpha Centauri from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Image from ESO/DSS 2/Wikimedia Commons.

That's 25.6 trillion miles! To put that in perspective — if we magically shrank space to the point where the sun was just the size of a ping-pong ball, Alpha Centauri would still be nearly 800 miles away.

The biggest obstacle to achieving this journey so far has been that we don't have a spacecraft that can go anywhere near fast enough.

Image from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Wikimedia Commons.

The New Horizons probe that NASA just sent past Pluto is traveling at an eye-watering 36,000 mph, but it would still take it 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri.

So that’s why — according to Hawking — we’re going to build new spacecraft. Tiny spacecraft.

Yuri Milner holding an example of one of the chips that could be the brains of each probe. Image from Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Instead of one large ship, the plan is to launch thousands of small gram-sized probes. The idea relies on computer chips becoming increasingly smaller and more powerful over time — a trend that so far has held true.

We're going to build tiny spacecraft ... powered by LASERS.

GIF from Breakthrough/YouTube.

Each probe would fly behind lightweight reflective sails — known as lightsails. The lightsails would catch light from big arrays of lasers here on Earth, which could provide propulsion (the probes themselves, meanwhile, could be powered by small radioactive batteries).

These tiny spacecraft powered by lasers could — theoretically — get from Earth to Alpha Centauri IN JUST 20 YEARS.

GIF from Breakthrough/YouTube.

The lasers could accelerate the craft to speeds over a thousand times faster than what any current spacecraft are capable of, says Breakthrough. They predict they could get the mini-probes traveling up to about 20% the speed of light.

Of course, yes, it'll take time to get this project up and running — about 20 years just for that — and then another 20 years for the craft to get to Alpha Centauri, followed by a nail-bitingly agonizing at least four-year wait to send any pictures the probes take back to Earth.

The price tag on this project? A cool $100 million.

Getting these mini-craft working won't just be cool — they could help prove that lightsails are a good idea.

Artist's concept of a lightsail craft. Image from NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

There are many challenges ahead for Breakthrough's mini-craft, like how to actually even send signals back to Earth from such a distance, but if the project is successful, it has a couple benefits. The mini-craft could take pictures of alien worlds, for instance.

But the biggest benefit could be the proof-of-concept test of the lightsails. If they work, they could become commonplace, helping us explore the solar system and the universe beyond.

But for today, the most important part of the announcement is that it’s about always reaching for the stars — and that's a very good thing indeed.

Image from Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

"Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever," said Hawking in a statement reported by ABC News, “Sooner or later, we must look to the stars. Breakthrough Starshot is a very exciting first step on that journey.”

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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When Donato Di Camillo was a kid, his family couldn't afford film for their Polaroid camera.

So instead, he ran around the house with a film-less camera pretending to be a hotshot photographer on an African safari, mimicking the heroes behind iconic photos he saw in the discarded National Geographic magazines his dad grabbed for him out of the garbage.

Years later, when Di Camillo found himself in prison after collecting a lengthy rap sheet of thefts, he discovered a library full of those same magazines.

While other inmates were working out or getting into trouble, he pored over old issues of National Geographic, Life, and Time.

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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