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How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth July 24, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Science and Science Fiction news.
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SolarStormOn July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years….

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA….

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid.

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

For the complete story, go to the WaPo article.

Legislation seeks to promote use of asteroid resources July 10, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Science and Science Fiction news.
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From Space Politics
By Jeff Foust on 2014 July 10 at 6:52 pm ET

A bill introduced Thursday by two members of the House Science Committee seeks to promote commercial asteroid ventures, including securing property rights for resources extracted from asteroids by American companies.

The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, HR 5063, was introduced Thursday by Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), members of the House Science Committee. The relatively short bill (about four and a half pages in the copy provided by Posey’s office late Thursday, since the bill is not yet posted on Congress.gov) would direct the president, through the FAA and other agencies, to “facilitate the commercial exploration and utilization of asteroid resources to meet national needs,” “discourage government barriers” to asteroid resources ventures, and promote the right of American companies involved in those activities to both explore and utilize asteroids as well as transfer and sell them.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill provides property rights to resources extracted by those companies: “Any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law.” The bill does not extend those property rights beyond the resources a company extracted, such as a claim of property on the asteroid, or of an asteroid itself. The bill also provides for freedom from harmful interference, noting that “any assertion of superior right to execute specific commercial asteroid resource utilization activities in outer space shall prevail if it is found to be first in time,” at least among companies subject to US law.

Go here for the complete story.

Scientists Discover a Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics June 30, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Uncategorized.
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QuantumPysicsJewelAll that math physicists and their computers have to grind through may be a thing of the past.

Physicists reported this week the discovery of a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

“This is completely new and very much simpler than anything that has been done before,” said Andrew Hodges, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University who has been following the work.

The revelation that particle interactions, the most basic events in nature, may be consequences of geometry significantly advances a decades-long effort to reformulate quantum field theory, the body of laws describing elementary particles and their interactions. Interactions that were previously calculated with mathematical formulas thousands of terms long can now be described by computing the volume of the corresponding jewel-like “amplituhedron,” which yields an equivalent one-term expression.

For the complete article: http://www.wired.com/2013/12/amplituhedron-jewel-quantum-physics/

This type of discovery could lead to all sorts of new “gee-whiz” stuff that can make science fiction stories come true. Those of us in the imagination business need to stay ahead of these things lest we be overtaken by reality.

Dwarf planet discovered at solar system’s edge June 27, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Science and Science Fiction news.
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In this combined image, the colored dots show the movement of 2012 VP113. Each image was taken two hours apart.

In this combined image, the colored dots show the movement of 2012 VP113. Each image was taken two hours apart.

It is named 2012 VP113 and is at 83 AU.

But even farther out is another dwarf planet Eris. “Eris is bigger than Pluto, and has a satellite called Dysnomia.

A new exciting find from the far reaches of our solar system: Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that’s even farther away than Pluto — so far, in fact, that its orbit reaches into a new edge of the solar system.

The dwarf planet’s current name is 2012 VP113, and it is located in a “wasteland or badland of the solar system,” said astronomer Chad Trujillo, head of adaptive optics at Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and co-discoverer of this object. His study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

This dwarf planet is unusual because of its orbit, Trujillo said. On its elliptical path, the closest it ever comes to the sun is still very far away from the rest of the solar system. Its full orbit is farther than the orbit of any other object we know of in the solar system.

The most distant major planet from the sun is Neptune, orbiting our star at a distance of 30 astronomical units. One astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the sun — about 150 million kilometers, or 93 million miles.

Beyond Neptune is the Kuiper Belt, a doughnut-shaped ring of small objects, which extends from about 30 to 55 AU, according to NASA. This belt may contain hundreds of thousands of large icy objects and trillions of comets, if not more. Pluto is considered a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt.

2012 VP113 is much farther from the sun, currently at 83 astronomical units. That puts it at 83 times the distance between our own planet and the sun (The closest point of its orbit is 80 astronomical units).

But in terms of average distance from the sun, there is a dwarf planet even farther out: Eris, which Trujillo helped discover. Eris is bigger than Pluto, and has a satellite called Dysnomia. Sedna takes about 10,500 years to orbit the sun.

Click here to see the entire story from CNN

Weapon of the Future Here Today June 26, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Industry News and Views.
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TrackingPointRifle

Augmented hunting with a $17,500 Linux-powered rifle.

TrackingPoint has come out with a rifle that can calculate bullet drop to the target and make the aiming adjustment for you.  With the proper equipment, it can also allow you to aim and fire it without exposing yourself to hostile fire (or the site of that buck you’re after).

The scope can be rigged to send a picture to Bluetooth enabled glasses, so the operator can remain hidden behind obstacles with only the rifle and perhaps his hands exposed.

A “smart bullet”, as seen in some science fiction movies, remains the dream of futurists who write the books and scripts. But small “smart” missiles are probably possible today, although I haven’t seen any.

For the complete stories see: Augmented Hunting and Kill from Behind Cover.

The Rites of Spring and Summer June 23, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Meanderings.
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BeautifulRoseBudAh, Spring. When a young man’s fancy turns to …

Mowing the grass!?

Well, around here, it’s still Spring, although the calendar and the passing of the summer solstice says it’s summer. The blasted green stuff is knee high in some places and the Geek’s poor lawnmower is hard pressed to knock the stuff down. He gets out there during his lunch hour (both of us work from home) and huffs and puffs as he chases the mechanical beast back and forth over the overgrown drain field (a combination of grass and weeds).

I’d get a kick out of it, except, since I live in his head, I’m kinda pooped out too after he stows the thing and stumbles back into the house and into the office.

I keep telling him to take a break and do some pruning. A lot of the ornamental bushes around here have declared war on their immediate neighbors with each one trying to smother the other out of existence. Oddly enough, when he first planted them 11 years ago, they didn’t look that close together. Must be all the compost he worked into the soil. He can’t even get to the drip system emitters for some of them to see if they’re still working. We’ll just have to see if any of them start to die, I guess.

Just to make matters worse, the rhododendrons are done blooming and need to be headed back along with some of the roses.

He’ll sure be happy when winter comes back.

I got sidetracked. One of the signs of summer is that book sales slack off. At least they have for mine. Everyone is out waging war in their yards or happily running around on vacation with their families. There just isn’t enough time to sit around and enjoy a good book like there was in winter. And southern hemisphere sales aren’t enough to make up for the lost sales up north.

So, I’ll continue to struggle with the Geek over time to write in the hope that I can finish another book in time for Fall when things start to slow down and a young man’s thoughts turn to …

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Sigh! There’s always something.

Independence Day is just around the corner for us Yanks. Enjoy the annual celebration of our freedoms, bought and paid for by the blood of patriots and our awesome men and women in the military.

And for us science fiction fanatics, there’s always the predictable annual showing of the movie Independence Day, where Will Smith sticks it to the aliens again with the help of an all-star cast.

Review: Demona by K.R. Hulsey June 17, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Reviews.
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 I finished a book on my Kindle and browsed for another to read and selected Demona. I was well into the story when I discovered that some of the scenes sounded familiar. Turns out I’d read it before, but I couldn’t quit reading it again. I think I’ll remember it now (I must have been horribly distracted the first time; probably around the time my wife was having a hard time with her health and half of my reading was done in her hospital room while she slept).

Demona has had a hard life as a tortured slave of a “normal” human who displays her in a ring for the derision and missiles of a small crowd of sickoes. Her brother rescues her and they start the journey home. But Demona is a hard one to control since she’s been reduced to animal reactions by her years of abuse.

Most of the book is about the journey home and her redemption – if she can survive that long.

There are two other story lines. One of them merges with Demona’s adventure. The other one is still hanging out in left field at the end of the book.

I was intrigued and hated putting the book down in the evening when it was bedtime. The only saving grace was that I’d remind myself that it wasn’t going away and would be there tomorrow evening.

The story is not finished in book one and there’s a huge hole (and a teaser) at the end for the next book in the series. However, some of the plot lines are settled enough to satisfy most readers.

What I want to know is: WHERE’S THE NEXT BOOK??? I want a copy.

The only problem I had with the book (which is why I took a star away) was that it needed copy editing by another pair of eyes. There are very few published books in the world which are perfect in spelling and punctuation, but this has too many of these minor glitches. Still, there aren’t so many that the flow of the story wasn’t interrupted enough to throw me mentally out of the plot.

I highly recommend this book for people who like a bit of magic with their fantasy adventures.

4-stars

Review: For Love of Mother-Not June 5, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Reviews.
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ForLoveOfMother-not A boy and his pet. How cute.

Except this pet is an Alaspinian Mini-drag who can fly and spits an extremely corrosive venom. “Pip” by name. Also, she’s very protective of Flinx (her owner). Actually, he found her in a pile of rubbish, cold and hungry.

They live on a backwater planet called “Moth” in the shady section of town, where Flinx’ “mother”, a querulous old woman who bought him off a slave block, plies her trade out of a shabby storefront.

Moth is part of the “Humanx” Commonwealth, made up of humans and an insectoid race who are “natural partners” with humans (in other words, they get along quite well in spite of their different appearances and cultures).

The story gets off to a rousing start when Flinx’ “mother” is kidnapped and he and Pip have to find and save her.

This is the first book in the Humanx series and it gets it off to a great start. I was hooked from the beginning. I heartily recommend it along with the rest of the series.

Star Wars Day May 4, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Meanderings.
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Weather guy on Seattle’s Channel 13, as well as the nice folks at AKW Books, told us that May the 4th is Star Wars Day.

“May the 4th be with you.”

Finding time to Write April 5, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Uncategorized.
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For me, finding time to write is a major chore. Good writers block out some time every day. I’m happy if the geek will give me Sunday afternoon after church to write.

Well, I lucked out today (Saturday) and go almost the entire day to write and actually laid down over 2500 words in addition to some nit-picking with the parts I’d already written. Very relaxing.

I’m actually starting to get comfortable with my characters, especially Eric, the “hero” of the yarn. He’s been tough to get to know because there’s very little of me in him. He started out in my eyes as almost mythical. An Adonis with Herculean abilities, but he’s starting to step off Mount Olympus and acquiring some humanity. It’s the start of a journey, but he’s still not where I want him to be. But being a hard-headed character, he may never fall into line. They all develop minds of their own and tell me to get stuffed when I try to “tame” them.

By the way. If you haven’t read Buck’s interview (Children of Destruction), by all means give it a look. He agreed rather reluctantly to the grilling, so we may never get another chance to talk to him outside the book.

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