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, Connections, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: astronomy, Communion of Dreams, exoplanets, Gliese 1214 b, jim downey, Norio Narita, science, Science Fiction, space, Space.com, St. Cybi's Well, writing
From the article at the link:
A nearby alien planet six times the size of the Earth is covered with a water-rich atmosphere that includes a strange “plasma form” of water, scientists say.
Astronomers have determined that the atmosphere of super-Earth Gliese 1214 b is likely water-rich. However, this exoplanet is no Earth twin. The high temperature and density of the planet give it an atmosphere that differs dramatically from Earth.
“As the temperature and pressure are so high, water is not in a usual form (vapor, liquid, or solid), but in an ionic or plasma form at the bottom the atmosphere — namely the interior — of Gliese 1214 b,” principle investigator Norio Narita of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan told SPACE.com by email.
You should read the whole thing, it’s pretty cool.
And yes, there is a reason why the prequel to Communion of Dreams is based around visits to holy wells in Wales …
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.