Filed under: Amazon, Bad Astronomy, Feedback, ISS, Kindle, Marketing, Music, NASA, Phil Plait, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, YouTube | Tags: Amazon, Bad Astronomy, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, ISS, jim downey, Kindle, music, NASA, Phil Plait, promotion, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, video, www youtube
Yeah, what Phil said:
Stop whatever you’re doing (unless you’re performing brain surgery) and watch this astonishing and enthralling time-lapse video, showing the Earth from space using photographs taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station
I rarely read sci-fi anymore, but this reminds me of the best I read when I was younger. There’s a lot of background on the worlds the author is creating, followed by a resolution to multiple problems in the worlds. I truly enjoyed it.
If you’ve read the book and haven’t yet gotten around to posting a review, please consider it. It’s a little thing that does more than just massage my ego — it helps others have some idea what to expect from the book. And every so often I do things like give away nice hand-bound copies of the book . Thanks.
Filed under: Apollo program, Arthur C. Clarke, movies, NASA, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science Fiction, Space, tech, YouTube | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, humor, jim downey, Moon, movies, Open Culture, predictions, Science Fiction, space, technology, www youtube
As the Open Culture post says:
The Apollo 11 moon landing would, of course, come just three years later. A Look Behind the Future reflects the enterprising if square technological optimism of that era, a tone that perhaps hasn’t aged quite as well as the haunting, bottomlessly ambiguous film it pitches.
Filed under: Art, Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Cassini, NASA, Phil Plait, Saturn, Science, Science Fiction, Space | Tags: art, Bad Astronomy, Cassini, Communion of Dreams, jim downey, NASA, Phil Plait, Saturn, science, Science Fiction, space
Via Phil Plait, had to share this:
Saturn, obviously. But from a new perspective, as Plait explains:
But dominating this jaw-dropping scene are Saturn’s magnificent rings, seen here far more circular than usual. Cassini’s mission has been to observe Saturn and its moons, which means it tends to stay near the planet’s equator. But now scientists are playing with the orbit more, to do more interesting science. The spacecraft is swinging well out of the equatorial plane, so here we see the rings at a much steeper angle, and they are less affected by perspective.
And here’s the link to the full-size image, which is definitely worth a look.
Filed under: Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Brave New World, Fermi's Paradox, NASA, Phil Plait, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech | Tags: Adam Becker, Bad Astronomy, Communion of Dreams, Drake Equation, Fermi's Paradox, jim downey, Kepler mission, NASA, New Scientitst, Phil Plait, predictions, science, Science Fiction, space
How many Earth-like planets are there in our galaxy? Ones which are reasonably like ours, in terms of size, density, and location relative to their sun’s ‘habitable zone’? That’s one of the basic components of the Drake Equation, and until fairly recently all estimates were little more than speculation.
Expanding our view from Kepler’s corner of the galaxy to show more of the Milky Way, the sky fills with billions of potentially life-bearing worlds. If we showed them all, the sky would be a mass of green. So now the green dots illustrate stars that might host such planets, visible with a good pair of binoculars on a dark night here on Earth.
From this perspective, the chances that we’re alone in the cosmos seem very slim, indeed.
The final answer? 15 – 30 billion Earth-like planets.
Of course, that doesn’t include the rest of the Drake equation values. Such as: what percentage of planets which could potentially develop life actually do so? Then what percentage of those planets develop intelligent, technologically sophisticated life? Then what percentage of such intelligent species develop interstellar communication capabilities? Then how long will such a civilization survive, out of the billions of years of history?
The last time I played with the numbers, the best guess from Phil Plait was that there were some 2.5 billion potentially habitable planets. Kepler indicates that number was too conservative, by something on the order of a factor of 10. Running the rest of the equation is largely just an experiment in gut feelings (since we don’t yet have any real data), but what is impressive is that at each stage as solid data has become available, we’ve had to adjust our “best guesstimate” numbers *upwards*. Meaning that the the total number of technologically sophisticated civilizations capable of interstellar communications out there at this point in time also goes up.
From Chapter 4 of Communion of Dreams:
“But in any event, as Arthur Bailey said this morning ‘where are they?’ Where are the aliens? That’s what’s bothering me.”
Where, indeed? I came up with my own answer, explained in Communion.
But I wonder what the real answer will be.
Filed under: Astronomy, BoingBoing, NASA, Science, Space, YouTube | Tags: BoingBoing, jim downey, Lunar Reconissance Orbiter, Moon, NASA, science, space, technology, www youtube
Via BoingBoing, an interesting animation using images from the Lunar Reconissance Orbiter:
Filed under: Amazon, Apollo program, Astronomy, BoingBoing, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Mars, movies, NASA, Paleo-Future, Politics, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, Travel, Wales | Tags: Amazon, Apollo, ars technica, blogging, BoingBoing, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, jim downey, Kindle, Mars, movies, NASA, politics, predictions, promotion, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, technology, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, travel, Venus
Imagine three astronauts, 125 million miles from the Earth, talking to Mission Control with a four-minute time lag. They have seen nothing out their windows but stars in the blackness of space for the last 150 days. With a carefully timed burn, they slow into orbit around Venus, and as they loop around the planet, they get their first look at its thick cloud layer just 7,000 miles below.
It might sound like the plot of a science fiction movie, but in the late 1960s, NASA investigated missions that would send humans to Venus and Mars using Apollo-era technology. These missions would fly in the 1970s and 1980s to capitalize on what many expected would be a surge of interest in manned spaceflight after the Apollo lunar landings. They would be daring missions, but they would also be feasible with what was on hand.
Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t remember this at all. Though of course these were just “proof of concept” studies which were put together for NASA. Still, they were fairly well thought-out, as the article on ars technica demonstrates. As is often the case, technological limitations are less of an absolute factor in accomplishing something than economic/political limitations are. To borrow from a favorite old movie: “You wouldn’t believe what we did. It’s possible. It’s just hard work.”
What isn’t hard work? Getting entered into the drawing for a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams. Full details here. Yesterday’s Kindle promotion pushed us over 500 copies of the electronic version given away this month, and that puts the total number of copies out there somewhere in the neighborhood of 26,000. There are already 65 reviews posted to Amazon. Yet so far only 9 people have entered the drawing. You have until midnight this coming Saturday.
Filed under: Amazon, Astronomy, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, movies, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Survival | Tags: Amazon, appendectomy, appendicitis, blogging, bookbinding, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, David Casarett, direct publishing, emergency, feedback, free, health, hospice, jim downey, Kindle, leather, literature, movies, NPR, Philip James Bailey, predictions, promotion, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, travel, video, Voyager
This morning, NPR repeated the story of Voyager 1 having apparently left the solar system.
I wonder why?
* * *
Philip James Bailey, Festus:
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
Life’s but a means unto an end; that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things,—God.
* * *
We went shopping yesterday.
Big deal, right? Actually, it kinda was. It was the first time my wife had been in good enough shape to do so since her emergency appendectomy. Things are slowly returning to whatever passes for normal.
* * *
Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions.
At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. “It’s a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing … and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request,” he says. “Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?”
It’s a good story.
* * *
Tomorrow’s the last day this month to get the free Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams. And this week is the last one to get entered into the drawing for a hand-bound leather copy of the special edition. Remember, you have to have posted a review on Amazon of the book, and then post a comment with a link to that review in this blog entry. There are currently 65 reviews on Amazon, but only 8 entrants for the drawing — don’t delay, as the end will come sooner than you expect.
As it usually does, for good or ill.
Filed under: Art, Babylon 5, Book Conservation, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Health, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Kindle, Marketing, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, appendicitis, art, Babylon5, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, G'Kar, health, heliosphere, J. Michael Straczynski, jim downey, JMS, Kindle, leather, NASA, NPR, predictions, promotion, revelations, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Voyager, writing, Z'ha'dum
“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation.”
Sometimes you don’t recognize when things change — the moments of transition — except in hindsight. That could be because the change is incremental enough that you don’t notice it for a while, or it might be that you’re so completely involved in the moment that the realization of what just happened doesn’t sink in immediately.
* * *
This morning there was a news item on NPR which caught my attention: that perhaps the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already left our solar system.
Scientists have known for a while that it was approaching the limits of the heliosphere. The expectation was that there would be a fairly clear change in orientation of the magnetic field when the craft crossed the boundary of the Sun’s influence into true interstellar space. But perhaps that boundary was less defined than we thought. From the story:
How did we miss that? As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely our fault. Researchers thought the solar system was surrounded by a clearly marked magnetic field bubble.
“There’s one at the Earth, there’s one at Jupiter, Saturn, many planets have them. And so just by analogy we were expecting there to be something like that for the solar system,” Swisdak says.
Scientists were waiting for Voyager to cross over the magnetic edge of our solar system and into the magnetic field of interstellar space. But in in the September issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, Swisdak and his colleagues say the magnetic fields may blend together. And so in July 2012, when Voyager crossed from the solar system into deep space, “Voyager just kept cruising along,” Swisdak says. All they saw was a change in the field’s direction.
* * *
Last Thursday my wife had a follow-up with her surgeon to see how she was doing in recovering from her emergency appendectomy. She had been released from the hospital the previous Saturday, but there was some concern over the risk of secondary infection within her abdomen.
Well, without getting too much into the details, tests indicated that she might be developing exactly that sort of infection. The surgeon ordered a procedure called a needle aspiration and scheduled it for the following day.
We dutifully reported to the hospital for the procedure. It didn’t go smoothly, and the upshot was that it didn’t help her condition at all. A couple hours later we left the hospital, and she’s been mostly resting since. We’re now waiting to hear from the surgeon about what happens next. And what it means.
* * *
“Yeah, but it’s like the way that the people involved in your book – the characters – are all struggling to understand this new thing, this new artifact, this unexpected visitor. And I like the way that they don’t just figure it out instantly – the way each one of them tries to fit it into their own expectations about the world, and what it means. They struggle with it, they have to keep learning and investigating and working at it, before they finally come to an understanding.” He looked at me as we got back in the car. “Transitions.”
* * *
Where Communion of Dreams was largely about transitions, in many ways St. Cybi’s Well is about revelations. How we experience them. How we understand them. How we do or don’t recognize them when they happen.
The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams is free today. And you have less than two weeks to enter into the drawing for a hand-bound, full-leather copy of the book. So far only two people have entered. Don’t miss the moment.