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Deserting Earth for a Chance in Space August 19, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Science and Science Fiction news.
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For most, space exploration has been a fascination since adolescence; series like Star War and Star Trek, romanticizing the concept of far off planets and uninhabitable lands, filled with vast expanses of the darkness of space. Letting dreams take you beyond the clouds, aspirations of a career as an astronaut seem closer than before, but what about those who cannot make it through the rigorous process of entering NASA’s elite profession? Turns out you can buy your way off this planet; but there is still catch-you can’t come back.

mars-oneAs news of NASA’s plan to construct a permanent greenhouse on our local neighboring red planet Mars, other news comes from the red planet’s private sector-the newly funded “Mars One”. The independently crowd-funded Dutch company, Mars One is estimating that they can colonize Mars for human pilgrims as soon as 2023. And people are flooding in for a chance to explore the red planet. (more…)

What Constitutes a “Novel”? August 17, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Escape from Earth.
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When I was a young fellow, the average “novel” was 50,000 words. One of those narrow mass market paperbacks that used to be everywhere, but are rarely seen today. Any thing less was either a novella, an even shorter “novelette” (harken back to the old “Ace Doubles”), or a short story.

Somewhere along the line, the public started demanding larger books and the publishing industry complied. 100,000 words became the “standard” for a “novel”. 50,000 words was still technically a “novel”, but the industry wanted to put the fatter books on the shelves. A fat book had more of the spine showing and attracted buyers more easily than the thinner books of the past. And they could charge more for it. (more…)

NASA: New “impossible” engine works, could change space travel forever August 1, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Science and Science Fiction news.
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Until recently, every physicist was laughing at this engine and its inventor, Roger Shawyer. It’s called the EmDrive and everyone said it was impossible because it goes against classical mechanics. But the fact is that the quantum vacuum plasma thruster works and scientists can’t explain why.

NASA: New "impossible" engine works, could change space travel foreverShawyer’s engine is extremely light and simple. It provides a thrust by “bouncing microwaves around in a closed container.” The microwaves are generated using electricity that can be provided by solar energy. No propellant is necessary, which means that this thrusters can work forever unless a hardware failure occurs. If real, this would be a major breakthrough in space propulsion technology.

The entire idea that we have found something that seems to go against the the principle of conservation of momentum just seems crazy …. But the fact that it has worked for two independent parties can’t be denied.

For the complete story, go here.

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

Weapon of the Future Here Today June 26, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Industry News and Views.
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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. (more…)

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. (more…)


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