Communion Of Dreams


Got them low-down, no-good, post-ballistics-tests blues.

Man, I still feel like someone beat me with a bag of nickels.

I wonder if this is just an effect of having subjected myself to a lot of blast shock over a four day period? Shooting a lot of the ‘real world’ guns (we test something on the order of 40 with all the different ammos available from the previous tests) wasn’t such a big deal. But some of them – particularly the Bond derringers in the larger calibers – were just brutal to shoot 20 – 30 times in a row. And the blast from the short barrels of the chop tests could knock your teeth loose.

Anyway, I ache everywhere. And I’ve been fighting a mild depression for the last couple of days. At first it was just masked by being tired (the tests were hard, and I got too little sleep). Also, I figured that the emotional energy it took to be in close proximity to several other people constantly over five days time was a component – don’t get me wrong, I like everyone involved in the testing a lot, but I am just not used to being with people that much. But I have now had some time to recover, and I should be past the worst of that.

So, a little post-project blues. Or maybe the blast shock, repeated several thousand times, has something to do with it. I dunno. I’ll write more tomorrow, in the meantime take a few minutes to enjoy these great images of the Saturn system from the Cassini spacecraft, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Big Picture series.

Jim Downey

(Via Phil Plait.)

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Oh! Lookit the purty pictures!

Do you like APOD? Dig great shots of space? Love to poke around the various and sundry sites where NASA has images?

Then boy, are you in luck:

NASA AND INTERNET ARCHIVE LAUNCH CENTRALIZED RESOURCE FOR IMAGES

WASHINGTON — NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA’s vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday. Located at www.nasaimages.org, the Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the www.nasa.gov home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis. Over time, integration of www.nasaimages.org with www.nasa.gov will become more seamless and comprehensive.

“This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. “This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations.”

How many images are we talking about? Over 100,000 at present. Completely searchable. The homepage is broken down into several categories (Universe, Solar System, Earth, Astronauts) and contains an interactive timeline of the space program going back 50 years. Each search generates a page of thumbnail images – Titan calls up almost 1,500 – leading to photos, animations, audio files, and artist’s renderings.

Wow. Just wow.

Damn, and I have work I need to get done this afternoon . . .

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)



Annoying, yet exciting.

Gah. I am either having a relapse of the very stubborn flu that had me laid low last month, or am fighting some new bug with similar (yet still considerably less severe) symptoms. This is highly annoying.

So, I’m about to go take a nap. But first a couple of quick notes, and then a bit from Phil Plait’s blog about a recent discovery that is very exciting.

Note one: downloads of the .pdf of Communion of Dreams have crossed 8,200 and downloads of the audio version continue to climb as well. That’s exciting.

Note two: heard nothing yet from the agent I mentioned contacting the other day. No surprise – I expect that it will take a month or so to hear from them. But I needed something else to note.

Now, about the news from space . . .

I have written previously about the Cassini probe’s 10 year mission to Saturn, and how there have been a lot of great images and information coming back to scientists about that planet and its moons. Information that helps to confirm what we knew when I was first writing Communion (since most of the action of the book takes place on and around Titan.) But there is news which would potentially require me to revise the novel slightly – not about Titan, but about its sibling Enceladus. You may have heard something about this, but I’ll go to the Bad Astro Boy himself for the news:

Life’s cauldron may be bubbling underneath Enceladus

A few days ago I wrote about how the Cassini Saturn probe dove through water ice plumes erupting from the surface of the icy moon Enceladus. The pictures were incredible, but it may very well be that the other detectors got the big payoff.

They detected organic compounds in the plumes.

Now remember, organic molecules don’t necessarily mean life. What Cassini detected were heavy carbon-based molecules, including many that are the building blocks for making things like amino acids and other compounds necessary for life as we know it.

Edited to add: Carolyn Porco, imaging team leader for Cassini, says:

[…] it is now unambiguous that the jets emerging from the south polar fractures contain organic materials heavier than simple methane — acetylene, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, propane, etc. — making the sub-surface sources of Enceladus’ dramatic geological activity beyond doubt rich in astrobiologically interesting materials.

Whoa. I mean, *whoa* . Seriously. It ain’t life, nor even proof of life – but it is *damned exciting*.

Now, a nap.  All this excitement makes me tired.

Jim Downey