Thursday, February 11, 2016

Leggo my LIGO

Mind-blowingly awesome.

I can't get over my excitement at today's announcement by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) team. If, somehow, you've missed it: a century after gravitational waves were first predicted as a consequence of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, gravitational waves have been detected. Adding to the wondrousness of the announcement is that this particular detection also provides the first-ever direct confirmation that black holes -- another implication of General Relativity -- also exist.

Making waves
A paradigm-shifting theory a century young. An experimental quest begun way back in 1972. The sensitivity to detect ripples in space-time, each passing ripple momentarily changing an aspect of the measurement instrument by less than the width of a proton.

And let's not forget the source of those tiny ripples: a cataclysmic event that happened 1.3 billion light-years from us! Two colliding black holes that, in a trice, converted into energy the mass of three suns!

Monday, February 8, 2016

The write stuff? Of science, fiction, and language

Looking for some good SF to read? You might check out this compilation of scientists' preferences in the genre. Such lists pop up regularly; this latest example is from Down Under. See: "Australian Scientists Choose Their Favourite Science Fiction Books."

There's nothing to read, and precious little to view -- you do not want to get me started on "reality" TV -- without writers. On the subject of writers, here's something to make you think (at the least, to smile): "5 Things TV Writers Apparently Believe About Smart People." Some of those odd perceptions deal with scientists.

When "they" were plural ...
From writing, we'll segue to language, from the Department of The World Is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket: "Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year."

Alas, if I want my dictionary to include words like nanotechnology, I have to chance coming across abominations like singular "they." We live in perilous times.

Now I'm off to sling some words into my own book ... hopefully with few abominations among them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Getting physical (again)

I haven't posted physics news for weeks, and there is much to catch up on. This should give us a good start.

Now with hidden dimensions!
A battle is underway for the soul of physics. That battle rages over the proper balance and relationship between theory and experiment, and the extent to which the subjective beauty of the mathematics underpinning any particular theory matters.

Me? I'm all for bold theorizing -- it offers great grist for the SF-authorial mill -- but when wearing my physicist hat, I'm troubled when a theory, such as string theory (the umbrella term, as it happens, for many theories, not just one), not only hasn't been confirmed experimentally, but offers no hope, even (ahem) theoretically, for testability. For a longer discussion, see "Data vs Theory: The Mathematical Battle for the Soul of Physics."

Now we can all calm down :-)
A longstanding riddle about our understanding of the Universe -- aka, Big Bang theory -- involves the relative abundances of specific elements from the periodic table. In particular, the observed prevalence of lithium is simply way below Big Bang predictions. So is our overarching cosmological theory wrong?

Perhaps not. A recent study concludes all that lithium was produced and still exists, but much of it has disappeared down the maw of stars. Cool (or, er, hot) stuff. See one of Astronomy Magazine's top-ten stories of 2015:  "Solving the lithium mystery."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Modesty precludes any comment ...

Popular genre website Tangent Online just posted a combination review/interview of last year's InterstellarNet: Enigma. Take a look, and you'll see why I'm (delightedly) speechless.

Okay, okay. You twisted my arm. I'll permit myself one short excerpt: 

From the personal travails of a single human fighting against unknown and powerful forces, to the unraveling of a galactic-scale conspiracy involving the origin of several intelligent races, mankind among them, you’ve made InterstellarNet: Enigma one of the most rewarding SF reading experiences anyone could ask for, on both an intellectual and emotional level.

You'll find the full review/interview here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SF news: the good, the cautionary, and the sad

First up, the Museum of Science Fiction posted their 4Q15 report. One highlight: MoSF's interim/mobile museum will open in Fall 2016 in Rosslyn, VA. (For the non-Washingtonians among you, that's just across the Potomac River from DC.)

Like your SF on the big screen? Then check out "8 Original Sci-Fi Films to Look Forward to in 2016." ("Original" may be code for "obscure," but that's okay. Among last year's indie films, I quite enjoyed Ex Machina and Predestination.)

Looking for a good book? Check out "50 Essential Science Fiction Books." One can pick nits with any such list, but Richard Davies is to be commended for this conscientious and well-informed overview of the breadth and history of SF. (FWIW, I've read a majority of the recommended novels; in only a very few instances do I question a particular item making the list.) Davies limited himself to one title per author, and so he also is recommending to you fifty great genre authors.

If written short fiction is your thing, don't miss the "Tangent Online 2015 Recommended Reading List." With 416 recommendations (my novelette "A Case of Identity" among them), selected from many different zines and anthos, you'll surely find many stories to like.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


A roundup of recent interesting astronomy news ...

NASA's mantra in the search for extraterrestrial life has been "follow the water." That puts Enceladus -- one of the few worlds in the Solar System known to have a liquid-water ocean -- high among the most intriguing destinations for near-future (robotic) space exploration. The Cassini probe orbiting Saturn has already detected organic compounds in the geyser sprays shot from Enceladus. (That probe isn't equipped to test for life.)

It all goes to make this tidbit intriguing: "Are those geysers on Saturn's moon running out of steam? The geysers on Saturn's sixth-largest moon, Enceladus, seem to be blasting out less material than they did 10 years ago, and nobody knows exactly why."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

An unexpected pleasure

Analog's recent review of InterstellarNet Enigma (see Grinning from ear to ear) was, of course, delightfully welcome -- but it didn't come as a total surprise. That is: my SF at every length appears regularly in Analog. The Reference Library there often recommends books similar to the stories that brings people to the zine.

But it's been years since my last appearance in Asimov's Science Fiction.

Until, that is, Asimov's current (February 2016 issue). This morning I came upon, in the current issue's On Books feature, a long and thoughtful review of InterstellarNet: Enigma. That discussion concludes: "Here’s an author you definitely need to check out. Good fun for fans of hard SF."

Should F&SF (in which my writing has yet to appear) make it a trifecta, I'll fall out of my chair. Beaming.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Grinning from ear to ear

My March(!) issue of Analog arrived in today's mail, and with it a review of InterstellarNet: Enigma

(Updated January 16, 2016 to add a link to the review, newly posted to the Analog website.)

Together with kind words for the InterstellarNet series as a whole, I was tickled to read this: "... you have waiting for you a unique interstellar society of humans and some really cool aliens; an answer to the Fermi Paradox; philosophical questions of identity, power, and the place of humanity in the universe; and now some temporal travel thrown into the mix." 

Made my day, this did :-)