Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Physics updates

Has your GPS ever failed you? Perhaps it told you to turn in 100 feet or so, but once you were past a corner, on your way to the nearby next cross street, it decided you'd gone too far. Perhaps, at some critical juncture, it just failed to say anything, because reflections from nearby buildings confused it with too many signals. Or perhaps you were indoors, hoping for intra-building guidance, and -- of course -- there was no signal.

And it works!
Then be of good cheer (especially if you're in Japan)! Read up (from IEEE Spectrum) on "Japan’s Plan for Centimeter-Resolution GPS: A $1.2 billion system of satellites and ground stations would give unprecedented accuracy," then begin to anticipate the same functionality appearing in your neck of the woods. Doing pretty much anything for the first time is the hard part.

(Don't get me wrong ... I'm not down on present-day GPS. It's a wonderful service, and the technology beneath the hood is fascinating. I'm merely in favor of it becoming even better.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Of philosophy and planetaria

I was recently invited to review an issue of Sci Phi Journal, the new periodical that approaches science fiction from a philosophical perspective. I finished the magazine a few nights ago (full disclosure: I received the March 2015 issue as a free ebook, not that getting it for free will affect my comments) and I'm going to share my thoughts.

First: it's always great to see a new genre publication. Sci Phi Journal is professionally assembled, with a mix of familiar authors and others new to me. Like Analog, the genre magazine in which my own short works most often appear, Sci Phi Journal offers both fiction and essays (and in this issue, as it happens, a story and an article by two Analog regulars who aren't me). The artwork throughout is nicely done.

Where Analog tends toward stories of an adventure- or problem-solving nature, Sci Phi Journal leans (as the name suggests) toward philosophical themes. Most stories conclude with something of a discussion guide -- for a tête-à-tête between you and the author -- about the issues raised by that story. Most of the fiction in this issue was science-oriented, but one, "Bunny Rabbit" (E. J. Shumak), was of the fantasy persuasion.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Catching up

From the Department of Miscellaneous and Sundry (and saved for a rainy, er snowy day when a blog topic didn't jump out at me) ...

Home, cluttered home
Geologists, biologists, and others divide Earth's long history -- about 4.5 billion years -- into ages, epochs, and periods. Each marks a major shift in the nature of the planet. We humans, despite our grand airs ("homo sapiens sapiens ... twice wise? really?) are newcomers. Still, we are remodeling the place. And so, some scientists wonder: "Are we there yet? Scientists prepare for change of epoch."

What do you think? Has the Anthropocene epoch begun?

In a related vein, "Nation’s Historians Warn The Past Is Expanding At Alarming Rate."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fools' Experiments -- and other authorial goodies

Fools' Experiments, a novel of artificial life, artificial intelligence, and hubris -- and, as it happens, my most popular solo book -- has become relatively difficult to find.

Bummer, right?

The new cover
No longer! Phoenix Pick (an imprint of publisher Arc Manor) has just re-released Fools' Experiments in trade paperback and multiple ebook formats.

What is Fools' Experiments about? I'm glad you asked. 

"Lerner’s physics and computer science background serve him well for this pulse-pounding yarn about the creation of the first artificial life form inside cyberspace."
— BookPage Notable Title 

“Viruses and worms have come to be an important ‘feature’ of our network landscape. And yet this is just the beginning. In FOOLS’ EXPERIMENTS, Edward M. Lerner gives us a fascinating view on how awesome these threats could soon become.” 
— Vernor Vinge, Hugo award-winning author of Rainbow’s End

Or even more succinctly, as the tagline puts it: We are not alone, and it's our own damn fault.

This being an unabashedly commercial post, here are the Amazon links for the new Fools' Experiments paperback edition and Fools' Experiments Kindle edition. (Other etailers will also offer the novel, of course, in print and non-Kindle ebook formats. And your favorite brick-and-mortar bookseller will be happy to order the new print edition for you -- tell him or her ISBN 978-1612422343.)

And in other authorial news:
  • Tomorrow (March 10) is the final day to nominate works for the 2015 Hugo awards. Support your favorite authors.
  • Many of you participated in the recent book bombing (see "I've been book bombed! (And that's a good thing)". I hope you enjoyed "A Time Foreclosed."
  • MANY of you made your way to last week's free Kindle download of "Championship B'tok" -- a novelette which, by an amazing coincidence, is eligible for a Hugo nomination (see "B'tok (and ka-Boom)". I hope you enjoyed it. The ebook has returned to -- IMO, a still quite reasonable -- 99 cents.
  • Now I'm off to pore over the page proofs for InterstellarNet: Enigma. That's my latest novel (see "InterstellarNet redux"), of which "Championship B'tok" forms a key segment. The pub date isn't yet set, but late spring or early summer seems about right. I'll post about it when I know.
A final thought before I go ... please consider helping me get out the word. You might repost, share on Facebook, pin on Pinterest, or tweet about the  new release of Fools' Experiments. And there's always workd of mouth. Icons for sharing are immediately below this post (and its labels).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

B'tok (and ka-Boom)

I'm delighted -- and more than a little surprised -- to be bringing you this update to last Wednesday's "book bomb." So as not to bury my lead: "Championship B'tok," my novelette that's in the running this year for a Hugo award, has become available online. And we'll come to that. First, some context ...

Plan A become B
In author Larry Correia's widely circulating book bombing of recommended Hugo candidates, "Championship B'tok" could only be mentioned. Apart, alas, from its magazine appearance (Analog, September 2014 issue), "Championship B'tok" simply wasn't available. For those curious about my writing, Larry's post pointed instead to my time-travel novella, A Time Foreclosed

Well. A lot of you went out and bought A Time Foreclosed, to which I say (a) thanks! and (b) I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I've been book bombed! (And that's a good thing)

Book bombing is, in a nutshell, a coordinated -- hopefully to go viral -- promotional blitz. See BOOK BOMB! Short Stories from the Sad Puppies Slate! Hat tip to the mad bombers, fellow authors Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson.

http://blog.edwardmlerner.com/2013/06/a-time-foreclosed.htmlMy book-bombed work is the time-travel novella "A Time Foreclosed." It comes bundled with a bonus short-short, "Grandpa?", basis of the hilarious, award-winning, short movie "The Grandfather Paradox." Here's the Kindle link for "A Time Foreclosed."

Funny thing ... this all came about because of another of my stories. "Championship B'tok," a 2014 novelette in Analog, ended up on this year's Sad Puppy slate for a Hugo Award. (Sad Puppies is a whole 'nother funny story.) "Championship B'tok" is the latest installment in my popular, long-running InterstellarNet series.

(B'tok? I'm glad you asked. It's a game of strategy played by the alien Snakes. B'tok is to chess as chess is to rock-paper-scissors. You do NOT want to get into a war with the Snakes ...)

Why, then, is "A Time Foreclosed" a book-bombed work? Because it is available online while "Championship B'tok" is not, and Larry and Brad are all about (fairly enough) authors being paid. If you're interested in "Championship B'tok," shoot me an email (eml (at) edwardmlerner.com) and I'll email back a copy. If you're a Hugo Award voter ... well, you'll connect the dots.

And you'll find plenty more good stories to consider via that Book Bomb link.

Final word: no one will complain if you share, tweet, blog, or otherwise pass this along. That's how book bombing works :-)

March 1, 2015 update. See B'tok (and ka-Boom).

Monday, February 23, 2015

Of not-so-tiny bubbles, infinities, and other news

Catching up with items of fascinating physics ...

Click here to enlarge
"Despite extensive analysis, Fermi bubbles defy explanation." Fermi bubbles (named for the Fermi gamma-ray observatory that first spotted them) are structures 30 thousand light-years across lying both above and below our galaxy. They emit incredible amounts of gamma-ray energy. (Gamma rays are extremely high-energy photons, more energetic even than hard X-ray photons.) Why are the bubbles there? How did they come to be? There are plenty of theories, none perfectly matched to observations. 

Now tip your head (or your perspective, anyway) by ninety degrees. Presto! Segue!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reader-survey summary

Five weeks ago I posted to announce a survey of SF and Nonsense readers. Briefly, I asked about subjects that bring visitors, their familiarity with aspects of my published writing, and their specific interests among science and tech topics.

Readers have spoken
That survey recently closed, and today I'm posting about the results. (There are results. We will get to them. First, though, let's get the caveats out of the way. If caveats don't interest you, that's what the scroll wheel is for.)

How many of you responded? Well, I know how many responses were reported by the polling service. But did every response get to me? Of course I don't know what I don't know -- like which responses ended up in a bit bucket.

I do know that website usage stats are notoriously unreliable. For this blog I get page-hit data from two independent services -- and they never agree. They're seldom even close. Even different views within the same service sometimes show different/inconsistent data. Plus, I know that not all readers actually hit my blog directly: SF and Nonsense is subscribeable through RSS and email, and it's syndicated through Goodreads, my Amazon Author page, and other sites. Maybe online polling data are more dependable -- but I'm skeptical.

Hence: I don't assume I got every reply. (You took part? Of course I got your input, and thanks for that. It's that other guy whose input went astray. You feel better now, right?) I likewise can't be sure I know how many people viewed the specific post that announced the survey. If I were to take the available data at face value, about one in four who viewed the invitation clicked through and completed the actual survey. That would be a decent response rate -- how many among us take every survey sent our way? -- and I appreciate it.

Having said all that, I believe I can draw valid inferences from the relative frequencies of responses. That is, it seems unlikely that any particular type of response is more likely to have gone astray than another type. (And having said that, I recognize that those who responded self-selected. They may not be representative visitors to the blog -- but a case can be made they are among the most interested visitors.)

So what what did people have to say? Read on ...