Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Genre-ally speaking

For years, one of my favorite genre news-and-reviews sites has been SF Signal. The latest news posted there is quite sad: they are ceasing operations (All Good Things…). To operate and sustain even a small blog -- and theirs is no small blog! -- is a commitment, so I understand their decision. I wish the principals, Messrs. DeNardo and Franz, well in their future endeavors. Gentlemen: you did our community a great service over the years.

So long, and thanks for all the fish ...

But as an old adage goes, when a door closes, a window opens. Must be an air-pressure thing ;-)

ANYway, on the upbeat side, it's great to see progress by the Museum of Science Fiction on their Escape Velocity project. (From the MOSF website: "Escape Velocity is a micro futuristic world’s fair to promote STEAM education within the context of science fiction using the fun of comic cons and fascination of science and engineering festivals. Escape Velocity seeks to make a measurable positive impact to boost informal learning on the more conceptually challenging academic areas.") Escape Velocity will be held July 1-3 at the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor (Maryland, just outside DC.) For the latest on the museum in general, and on Escape Velocity in particular, see MOSF's latest newsletter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Committing SF with my peeps

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be participating in the upcoming anthology, Science Fiction By Scientists. The editor is astronomer, SF author, Launchpad impresario, and my good friend Mike Brotherton.

My contribution is the AI story "Turing de Force," which draws upon my background in computer science. Each story in the antho, mine included, comes with a related essay about the science behind the fiction.

Until Mike can preview a cover, here (courtesy of Pulp-O-Mizer) is my concept:

So far, the book has no firm publication date -- but sometime before year's end seems likely. Updates as I know more ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Looking WAY up

The most recent post here (Looking up) reviewed some astronomy news within the Solar System. I deferred until this post a look at astronomy news from farther -- often much farther -- afield.

When the Large Hadron Collider was first about to be turned on, some people fretted (needlessly, as I pointed out in "LHC and FUD") that its operation might produce black holes, or stranglets, or whatever, to devour the Earth. The gist of my counterargument (and that of others) was that there exist cosmic rays with higher energy than anything the LHC can produce. (The LHC collides particles with combined energies of a paltry few trillion electron volts, tera-eV. Cosmic rays sometimes have energies up to a quadrillion electron volts, peta-eV.) If billions of years of cosmic rays smacking into Earth's atmosphere hasn't done in the planet, nothing the LHC can do is going to hurt us.

Cosmic rays and cascading showers
While it's long been known that very-high-energy cosmic rays exist, what scientists haven't known is: how? What could accelerate a particle to such enormous energies? But we're now a little closer to understanding ...

From the recent determination of the source of these ultra-high-powered charged particles -- the galactic core -- it seems likely that the super-massive black hole in that vicinity is involved. Without yet knowing the exact mechanism of cosmic-ray acceleration, it makes intuitive sense that something as powerful as a super-massive black hole is involved. See "Astronomers find source of most powerful cosmic rays."

Meanwhile, at the galactic outskirts ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Looking up

Recent posts here have focused upon my own writing (including one post about this blog itself). It's time to look up from my keyboard! Way up. Hence this news-in-astronomy post ...

 You know how "when lightning strikes" is a metaphor for the highly unlikely? It turns out that the odds aren't that long. According to National Geographic:

The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.

Lightning strikes aren't a lottery, of course. During thunderstorms you can influence the odds by (for example) standing next to -- or better, not -- tall conductive objects.

Heads up!
Meteorite strikes are something else. You can't avoid them (though maybe someone ought to be working on that) and they are far less likely than lightning strikes. Do meteorite deaths even happen (to anyone but dinosaurs)? Maybe. National Geographic reports your risk of being killed by a space rock at 1 in 75,000 or, in another study 1 in 700,000. See "Scientists investigate suspected meteorite death in southern India."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dark Secret ... now less of a dark secret

"Gripping. Impossible to put down."
-- Jack McDevitt, Nebula Award-winning author

    of The Devil's Eye (on Dark Secret)

In January I was happy to report that Arc Manor, through their Phoenix Pick imprint, had picked up my novel Dark Secret. (The Analog readers among you may remember that epic interstellar adventure in its 2013 serialized appearance.)

A dark super-Earth ... but is it Dark?
Today's update: the novel has been scheduled for release. Soon, even. Set your calendars for June 29th (and your phasers on stun?).

Before then, I hope, we'll get a preview of the cover.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Keeping the pipeline filled

I'm pleased to report two upcoming publications.

Cogito ergo sum
First, in my ongoing "The Science Behind the Fiction" essay series in Analog about SF tropes: a two-issue look at artificial intelligence. That's "A Mind of Its Own." Part I, tentatively scheduled for the September issue (which in publisher-speak, means released in July) covers all the basics of AI up to and including human-level intelligence. Part II, to run one month later, explores the opportunities and dangers inherent in a cascade of ever-more intelligent AIs possibly culminating in a Singularity. As always in the SBtF series, I illustrate the concepts with a plethora of examples from written and video SF.

(And if you've missed it, Analog is currently running -- that is, in the May and June issues -- another SBtF two-parter. This one is "Here We Go Loopedy Loop: A Brief History of Time Travel.")

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post haste

Time flies! It's five years to the day since I first compiled a list/overview of what were then the most visited posts here at SF and Nonsense. To my surprise, Postscript (or is that post post?) was itself instantly popular. It remains third on the all-time list.

Let the annual tradition continue.

Some rough posts :-)
Here's another year's all-time top-ten list, which I've assembled from data captured a few days ago. The format is: title/link; posting date; last year's rank in parens (if it was in the top ten); and a few words about the post content.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Can't make this stuff up

In any event, I shouldn't (and didn't) make this stuff up. Why? Because the "stuff" at issue is a guest editorial and a science article.

I contributed both of these nonfiction pieces to Analog's current/May issue. The editorial is "The Dread Question" and the article is Part I of "Here We Go Loopedy Loop: A Brief History of Time Travel. ("Loopedy Loop" will conclude in the June issue.)

Over the years, I've had the occasional Analog two-fer -- including, as it happens, the immediately preceding issue (as I posted in "Double Jeopardy") -- but till now at least one such overlapping appearance was a work of fiction.

None of which is to imply that I've given up on fiction. I learned a few days ago that my short story "Paradise Regained" has been accepted into the zine's queue.