ANYway, I refer to the November 2009 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, which has already found its way to my mailbox. I've not yet ready any of the stories, but I did read all the nonfiction -- and what I read was thought-provoking.
One of my lengthier -- and most commented upon -- post series deals with tropes in SF ("Trope-ing the light fantastic"). In brief, a trope in SF is a science-centric author/reader agreement to willingly suspend disbelief. As in: what if faster-than-light travel were possible?
Some folks find such tropes unacceptable in *science* fiction. For them, there's a movement called "mundane SF." No FTL (for the lack of a basis in current science). Perhaps no interstellar travel of any kind (too hard). No time travel. Etc. Mundane SF stories tend to be Earth-centric and near-future.
In "Aiming High -- Or Low?", the editorial in the November issue, editor Stan Schmidt takes exception to the premise that what exceeds present-day science is beyond science (and beyond legitimate SF). Stan's challenge, in my brief paraphrase, is: we don't know what we don't know. A hundred years ago we didn't know -- to name only a few items -- about quantum mechanics or general relativity or plate tectonics. If a story's "science" premise can't be disproven, and if the imagined new science/technology is used consistently within the story, then, Stan would have it, it is legitimate SF.
The adjoining graph, typical of many in the global-change conversation, shows a dramatic change. Note that that is somewhat a matter of representation. By showing only changes around a recent-year mean, the changes are emphasized. And by showing only a short period of time, long-term climate trends are left out. A graph of temperatures referenced to absolute zero and covering all the years since the Little Ice Age would look much different. I say this not by way of stating a position on the extent of global change but to emphasize we're dealing with measuring small (in relative terms) changes.
Which brings me to physicist (and SF author) Jeff Kooistra's "Lessons from the Lab" (an instance of the monthly Alternate View feature). I've long been aware of the measurement problem caused by heat islands: the effect of (for example) the expansion of paved areas on temperatures measured in cities. Jeff adds the complication of perhaps improperly calibrated weather measurement stations around the country. The article cites meteorologist Anthony Watts and his "surface stations" project, which surveys measurement stations of the National Weather Service. The project reports:
- different paints used in the instrument enclosures (paints differ in how they reflect or let through energy),
- extraneous equipment (that generates heat!) within enclosures,
- measurement stations sited too near external heat sources (such as parking lots and air-conditioner vents).
Finally, we come to the main science article. "Rock! Bye-Bye, Baby" deals, as you might expect, with possible asteroid/comet strikes on Earth and what might be done to prevent them. Current thinking has it an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. And astronomers very recently saw something smack Jupiter. It made an Earth-sized black mark.
Said Analog science article was written by Your Humble Blogger, a followup to attending last year's Asteroid Deflection Research Symposium. Writing SF is one of the cooler jobs in the world.
So there you have it ... much to think about.