Communion Of Dreams

Sights and insights.

A mix of little things, playing catch-up for the last couple of weeks …

Why catch-up? Well, this might explain why I took a break for a while there.

And we’re off …

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First thing, thanks to all who downloaded Communion of Dreams over the weekend, or helped to spread the word about it. There were a total of 693 downloads worldwide — and that includes various European portals, as well as Canada, India, and Japan! Pretty cool.

For those who have gotten the book, once you have a chance to read it please take a few moments to review it on Amazon or elsewhere – it really does help, and as I am finishing up writing St Cybi’s Well the feedback is most welcome.

Because, yeah:


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A long, but quite good, read about the value of the ISS: 5,200 Days in Space

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And a fun bit of perspective from xkcd about getting there:

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Some great images from one of the sites I’ve mentioned here before: Pentre Ifan

Petre Ifan is a haunting burial stack that stands in a verdant Welsh field as one of the most complete and dramatic stone dolmens still found anywhere on the planet.

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X-rays stream off the sun

Go see the full size image and explanation of the science. Worth it.

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An excellent read by an old and dear friend: There’s an App for That: Cancer in the Modern Age

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And another excellent read, all in all. But this paragraph is so painfully true:

“Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.”

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Any others to add? The 10 Sci-Fi Films That Defined 2014

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Of course, reading is always better for you: Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

See? I’m actually making you SMARTER! Keep that in mind when you write a review, will ya?

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And that’s enough for now. I need to get back to my “strange and solitary activity”.


Jim Downey


It’s a test.

Today’s xkcd triggered a thought: that we can think of the challenges of climate change as being akin to a planetary gom jabbar. Do we have the ability to endure short-term pain and survive, or do we give in to our immediate short-term desires and suffer the consequences?


Jim Downey


If you consider the full implications of what is revealed in Communion of Dreams, this might well be a fairly good explanation …

From the brilliant Randall Munroe, of course. Go to his site to see the ‘hidden text’.


Jim Downey

“What if we tried more power?”

Didn’t I just say that Randall Monroe is brilliant? Of course I did. That was writing about his artwork. And this morning he proved (once again) that his science is solid, as well:

Er, let me explain…

Monroe does the popular webcomic xkcd. If you don’t read it regularly, you should. Anyway, this summer he added in another feature called “What If?” which he explains with this subtitle: “Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday.”

And for whatever reason, today’s entry is in response to this question: “If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

Gee … where have I heard that question before? Hmm … perhaps in Chapter 9 of Communion of Dreams?

“You know, I could design a program that would enhance the image. Everyone who looked up at that would see our Moon,instead. Wouldn’t take much. I could even paint it red.”

“Paint it red? You mean the Moon?

“Yeah, old joke. There was this artist back at the turn of the century who had this project called ‘Paint the Moon’. He wanted to get everyone in the Western Hemisphere to focus these popular little hand-held laser pointers on the Moon all at once, with the idea that enough of the laser light would cause a red spot to appear. Had it all figured: what phase of the Moon was best to do it, how people could aim their lasers, the whole bit.”

“Crazy,” said Jon. Then, after a pause, “It didn’t work, did it?”

“Nah. But that wasn’t the point. He always described the project as a ‘shared lyrical fantasy’, designed to bring people together for a single moment, all doing the same thing. The first attempt got quite a lot of attention world-wide from the media. Millions heard about it, and maybe tens of thousands participated. It is still considered a seminal art event – we studied it in school.”

“But . . . what’s the point?”

“Oh, I just always liked that grandiose sense of whimsy. There were a number of crazy things like that back then, before everything went to hell.”

Unsurprisingly, Monroe concludes that the laser pointers wouldn’t accomplish the task. But then he uses that as a jumping-off point to explore what it *would* take to accomplish the task. And then some. It’s a fun piece, and likely the image of his I posted above has just become another instant classic, not unlike this one (which is the not-xkcd-approved Official T-shirt of BBTI).

Jim Downey

PS: Thanks to the people who sent me a link to the xkcd What If? entry this morning — very much appreciated. Now, if anyone would like to pop by the xkcd forums and mention this connection, I’d greatly appreciate it. Cheers!

“This is the LEAST crazy one anyone has come up with.”
September 19, 2012, 9:52 am
Filed under: Apollo program, Art, Comics | Tags: , , , , ,

The man is a genius:

If you’d like a zoomable version that’s much easier on the mouse/trackpad, here’s about the best one I’ve seen.

Thanks, Randall.

Jim Downey

Another small step for a man.
August 25, 2012, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Apollo program, NASA, Neil Armstrong | Tags: , , , , , ,

Wow – Neil Armstrong has died.

I find that I am incredibly sad at this news. There isn’t much else to say.

Jim Downey

Image from xkcd, of course.

Only nine left.

As something of a follow-up to yesterday’s post, first a quote:

The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space — each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.

That’s the “roll over” text of this xkcd cartoon:

Can you name the nine who are left?*

And related to that, here is an excellent hour-long item you really should check out when you get a chance:

An Audience with Neil Armstrong

It’s in four parts, so you can watch them in chunks. And it really is very good. Armstrong has given very few interviews over the years, and has always been remarkably self-effacing. This is an informal discussion with the man, and it provides some wonderful insight into the whole NASA program in addition to the mindset which led to the Apollo 11 mission.

Jim Downey