Monday, December 27, 2010

Spacing out

As the year wraps up, some miscellaneous space news ...

One of the most fascinating results to come from the Apollo program concerned the longstanding puzzle of the origins of Earth's moon. (Our moon is anomalous, most visibly because it is so large compared to the planet it orbits.) The conclusion, based upon rock samples collected on the lunar surface: the moon likely resulted from the cataclysmic collision of a Mars-sized object with the (then very young) Earth.

This year's semi-related news item concerns Phobos, Mars's largest (but still tiny) moon. (The nearby picture is a [color-enhanced] image of Phobos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.) Phobos likely formed from a smaller impact with Mars itself.

The space-shuttle fleet will be retired in 2011. For the foreseeable future, the US will have to pay the Russians for crew rides to the International Space Station. As disappointing as is that situation (I've commented on it before), at least getting supplies to the International Space Station aboard American spacecraft just became more credible with the successful test flight of Space-X's Dragon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

History sniffing

My concern/dismay(/obsession?) about privacy -- or modern lack thereof -- has been fed again ...

It seems that the websites you visit can access (through your browser) the history of other websites you've visited. The practice is called "history sniffing," and I, for one, find it disturbing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ring(world) around the betrayer

(Updated December 14th)

The release (last October) of Betrayer of Worlds led to several interview requests, which Larry and I divvied up.  For those of you curious about things like how the book came to be written, how we work together, or about Larry's massively award-winning Ringworld -- to which Betrayer (and the rest, so far, of the Fleet of Worlds series) is a prelude -- here are a few items that you may find interesting:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Of cabbages and kings

The time has come, the blogger said, to talk of many things.  You guessed it: another potpourri posting.

JAXA, the Japanese space agency, has lost contact with its Venus Climate Orbiter. Perhaps this is only a temporary setback. JAXA's recent success with an asteroid-sample return mission shows what can be accomplished with perseverance (and a fault tolerant design)(and luck).

(This image, if you wondered, is a radar map of Venus composited from data captured by NASA's Magellan probe). 

But wait, there's (much) more!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rocky and giant and dwarf ... oh my!

I refer, of course, to the current official categorization scheme for planets -- and what isn't a planet.

(That's not the moon. Earth is only there for scale. Read on.) 

In our solar system the rocky -- or as some prefer to call them, terrestrial -- planets are Earth and its close neighbors: Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The gas-giant planets, of course, are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The dwarf planets -- not really planets --  include Ceres (in the main asteroid belt) and a cast of, probably, hundreds in the Kuiper belt.

It is into that last/new/contentious category that the International Astronomical Union reassigned -- many say, demoted -- Pluto in 2006.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buy a Book Saturday!

The latest shopping innovation for the upcoming holiday season -- choose the winter festivity of your choice -- is Small Business Saturday. SBS is being held for the first time this year, on the day after so-called Black Friday, on November 27. The basic concept: don't just shop. Make an effort, at least this one day, to explore and patronize small businesses in your area. It's nothing against big/chain stores -- they'll do fine.

Who is a smaller business than the solitary author toiling at home in his/her office, pounding away at a keyboard? So: while you're out shopping, buy a book! Or two! Support an author or two or more (and I'm not saying me, or even others in the genre -- but IMO, living authors would be nice).

You're obviously a reader -- what makes a better gift than a book/ebook/audio book? (And if you don't see the book you had in mind, ask the bookseller to order it for you. Most booksellers will be more than happy to oblige.)

Buy a Book Saturday! Nourish the meme -- and the rest of the mind! Spread the word!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of a fleet (of worlds) passing in the night

A recurring theme in reader emails and some reviews of Fleet of Worlds series books is, "Why don't the [your choice of crafty Known Space species] notice the Fleet as it barrels through space? Even today, astronomers see stars across great distances, and the worlds of the Fleet (with one exception, discussed below) are lit by artificial suns.

The traditional answer (found in Ringworld, long before my entry into Known Space) is that no one thought to look between the stars. People (and Kzinti, and ...) hunted for Puppeteers on some as-yet undiscovered conventional world orbiting a sunlike star.

What about before the Fleet set "sail" (not that, pre-Ringworld, anyone in Known Space suspected world-moving technology could exist)? Puppeteers had long ago relocated their planets to new orbits far from their sun -- which had undergone late-in-life expansion into a red giant. Any artificial suns close to planets would be very hard to spot from a great distance against the backdrop luminosity of a red giant!

In short: the Fleet went undetected because everyone looked in the wrong places.

But there's a second, more quantitative answer. I'm not sure it needs to be spelled (numbered?) out in the context of storytelling, but I think it's worth relating somewhere. So here goes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NORAD knows. How could they not?

During rush hour last night, a rocket was seen streaking across the sky over Los Angeles. The military professes bafflement. AFAIK, the FAA has had nothing to say.

California is end-to-end airports and Air Force bases -- including Vandenberg AFB, from which the Air Force launches missiles. With all those radars, how can the military not know exactly from where last night's rocket was launched and where it came down? I have to believe they do know. Hopefully, because they launched it (surely not meaning to send it over LA), and don't care to fess up. Regardless, because if anyone other than the US military launched it and the military can't track/trace it, that would be really scary.

I wonder if we'll ever get a truthful explanation?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A whole Pak of trouble

Pak are humanity's (fortunately only fictional) cousins: lean, mean -- and scary smart -- fighting machines. In Destroyer of Worlds (which I first announced here), the Pak were the latest menace to confront the Puppeteers, aboard the Fleet of Worlds, and their human allies.

As of today, Destroyer of Worlds is out in paperback.

I've been delighted with the reviews since the novel debuted. To mention only a few:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good times

I spent last Saturday at one of my favorite cons: Capclave.  It is (as the website describes), "a small relaxed literary convention," and always very pleasant. My three panels were "The Mule, Muad'dib, and Men Who Stare at Goats," "World Building: Planning and Execution," and "Military Science Fiction."

"Mule" -- despite an odd title -- dealt with a serious SFnal topic: humans with extraordinary abilities, and how we might get to Human 2.0. I'd not done a panel on that topic before, and enjoyed the change. (Small Miracles deals with nanotech in humans, and was certainly related, but the panel tended to go down the genetic-engineering path.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A still wacky universe

Oddities from the world of science continue to attract my attention ...

Can the language we speak affect how we perceive the world? Perhaps. See Lost in Translation.

I've always thought this relationship must exist. It's not that one can't imagine a concept for which vocabulary doesn't already exist -- or else nothing new (including new vocabulary) would ever be created -- but surely it helps to have suitable vocabulary to conceptualize the new thing.

Think that's strange? How about pinpointing the differences in brain wiring between introverts and extroverts? See Brains of Introverts Reveal Why They Prefer Being Alone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Betrayer of Worlds

Puppeteers are the sneakiest, most conniving -- and for many SF readers, most fascinating -- aliens in the galaxy. They're certainly the most cowardly. Arguably, they're the most ruthless.

Maybe that's why I so enjoy writing about them. As in -- just released today -- the latest installment in Larry Niven's and my epic Fleet of Worlds series: Betrayer of Worlds.
Since the chain reaction of supernovae at the galactic core sent a trillion Puppeteers aboard the Fleet of Worlds fleeing for their lives, the two-headed aliens have lurched from one crisis to the next ...

Until now, when -- like every Puppeteer's worst nightmare -- past crises have converged.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A big part of why I do what I do ...

NPR recently reported that "Sci-Fi Inspires Engineers To Build Our Future."


I already knew that, of course -- and I'm sure SF lures folks into science as well as into engineering. Heck, once upon a time, SF lured me into physics. I know I've read articles in which astronauts say about themselves that science fiction (never "sci-fi") first interested them in space, or science, or technology. From one such article, "Real Astronauts in Fictional Space," a quote:

"One thing most all astronauts have in common is their love of science fiction and “space-operas”, especially those that treat contemporary issues in their stories, and those, like Star Trek, that inspire future generations to put no limits on their imaginations and encourages them to excel in the sciences."

Inspiring others to expand human knowledge, unleash their imaginations, and explore new worlds. Not too shabby a reason to go to work every day.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

InterstellarNet: New Order

Machiavellian?  That's kids' stuff!  Beware humanity's new neighbors ...


Machiavelli advised that, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." And he only schemed about petty squabbles between Italian city-states.

That brings me to InterstellarNet: New Order, the latest installment in my InterstellarNet future history.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wild, wacky stuff

The universe is strange. If I'd ever been so foolish as to think I understood the place, any of the following recent discoveries would have disabused me of the notion.

Apparently the sun affects the decay rates of radioactive elements here on Earth. The effect is tied to solar flares and the rotation rate of the sun's core.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When robots collide

Today's topic: some interesting articles I've accumulated from the world(s) of computer science.

Like progress toward self-driving vehicles. See how the University of Parma’s Artificial Vision and Intelligent Systems Laboratory drove a robotic car from Italy to China. (It wasn't always quite autonomous, or always entirely trusted, but this was an impressive feat nonetheless. See article for exceptions. )

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of Gw'oth and Jotoki

It's less than obvious from this post's subject line, but I can still type. Gw'oth (singular, Gw'o) are starfish-like aliens that figure in the Fleet of Worlds series of novels. Jotoki (singular, Jotok) are starfish-like aliens that figure in the Man-Kzin War series of books.

The FOW novels are my space-operatic collaborations with Larry Niven. The MKW books are short-fiction space-operatic collections "created by Larry Niven," with most stories contributed by other authors. Both series share a setting Larry calls Known Space.

But that's a very spacious (pun unavoidable) setting: call it a thousand years of future history in a steadily growing volume that is many light-years across. Plenty of room therein for storytelling ... MKW and FOW do not meet.

Humanoid aliens teem in SF, with seldom any speculation that the species are related even when the humanoids share a fictional universe. No such forbearance for starfishoid aliens. Speculation abounds, as in this Wikipedia article about Known Space, that Gw'oth and Jotoki are related.

They're not.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Juggling chainsaws

Mental chainsaws, anyway. Working too many projects at the same time *is* hazardous to one's mental health. But there's relief in sight. In the past few days I:


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Privacy? We don't need no stinkin' privacy

The tug of war continues between privacy and network-enabled conveniences.  To support that thesis, herewith some clippings from my comment-sometime-on-this-stuff file.

Your cell phone (unless it's a many-years-old relic) reveals your location. That is: most cells contain GPS locators or accomplish the slightly less accurate equivalent by triangulating your position from nearby cell-phone towers. So, naturally, many online services want to track you. Think the only downside is too many discounts sent to your cell as you walk by stores? Read this PC World essay by security consultant Dan Tynan.

Love your smartphone? No doubt, but how secure is the data you store on it? Sure, there's sensitive data on your PC, too -- but it, hopefully, is behind a firewall. Mobileburn reports a major breach in the security of the new, popular Android OS for cell phones. So how sure are you about storing your credit-card info on your cell for shopping convenience?

My stories "The Day of the RFIDs" and "The Night of the RFIDs" looked ahead to the privacy risks inherent in smart wireless tags in, for example, clothing. (Ditto my nonfiction article, "Beyond This Point be RFIDs.") Far fetched? Actually, the future is here.  Last month Wal-Mart announced its plans to put RFID tags in individual garments.

One reason to worry about someone reading RFID tags is that neither privacy-centric public policy (should one ever emerge) nor the good intentions of data collectors assures data will be used only appropriately -- even assuming we could agree on uses that are appropriate. How secure are big data repositories? The National Security Agency's 'Perfect Citizen' program primarily worries about mayhem made possible by networked access to infrastructure (as did, in part, my 2008 novel Fools' Experiments), but it also begs the question of organized crime finding some data repositories too tempting to leave alone.

Yet to come on any large scale -- but eminently doable -- is RFID chips implanted in people. Some pets are already chipped, allowing them to be IDed if they roam. Chipping people offers some real advantages, such as a repository for medical records instantly available for patients who are unable to speak for, even to identify, themselves. But how secure will the data be on your chip? And will the chips all of us may someday carry become vectors for spreading malware to computers? The latter has already been done, at least as a stunt.

"Privacy is dead," we were told by Bill Joy, the Chief Technical Officer of (defunct) Sun Microsystems. Now Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook tells us the same thing. Having helped to kill it, so he should know.

We live in interesting times ...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wanted: quantum scientist

We have quantum mechanics -- lots of them -- and they are extremely good at what they do. A bazillion transistors, lasers, and solar cells leave no room for doubt.

(Warning: I haven't cluttered this post with links, because practically every phrase in it could be a link to an article defining some esoterica. Wikipedia is your friend. The eye-crossing graphic nearby is from the double-slit-experiment article at Wikipedia.)  

And Roman engineers built extremely good roads, bridges, and aqueducts without any clue about material science.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deconstruction

I spent the weekend before last (i.e., August 5-8) in Raleigh, NC at ReConStruction / NASFiC (aka the Tenth Occasional North American Science Fiction Convention). NASFiCs are held in the years, like this year, that Worldcon is outside North America.

The con had a lot to offer, and I thank the organizers for their hard work and for including me in the program. I took part in four panels, did an autograph session (and thanks to all of you who came), and held a kaffee klatch. I synched up with friends usually scattered around the country, especially from among the MAFIA. (Acronym.com does not yet know it, but that's writers  Making Appearances Frequently In Analog.) I saw a bit of downtown Raleigh, which seems quite nice. All good fun. 

And yet ...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clawing one's way to literary success

Today's post will be something of a change.

I met Stacey Cochran last summer at Launch Pad, the NASA-funded astronomy program for writers. Stacey has been charting his own course, through self-publishing and ebooks. It's an interesting story -- and the stories Stacey has to tell are interesting, too -- so I invited him to SF and Nonsense to explain.

Without further ado, heeeeeere's Stacey.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Real nanotech. Real medicine. And zombies.

Small Miracles is my near-future medical nanotechnology thriller -- and as of today, it's been reissued in mass-market paperback.

For the paperback edition, the cover background has been made lighter and brighter. That's a welcome change: you no longer have to take my word for it that those nanobots are swimming in blood :-)

Curious? Here's my October 2009 announcement of the hardback edition. For a sample from the novel, click through to Amazon. And here are a few recent reviews: 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keeping track of progress

Golden Age SF promised us a future that still eludes us.

Cheap and limitless power from fusion? Hah! True AIs, the kind that can be your Internet avatar or operate a multi-purpose home robot? Hah! Hah! Space colonization? Yeah, right. Space tourism, only if you're a millionaire. Commercial air travel is no faster than in the Sixties (and actually much slower end to end, when adjusted for TSA delays and ATC congestion). People have built flying cars, but they're (IMO) silly curiosities, poor choices as either a plane or a car.

Of course SF mostly missed computing and computers. We do have a wondrous Internet, smartphones, and personal computers that run rings around the mainframes on which I learned to program.

Still: even the Internet/smartphones/PCs sometimes disappoint. How much Internet capacity supports pointless drivel? (I'm thinking: 500 *million* people on Facebook. Umm, why? Plenty o' porn. 99% of what's on YouTube. And don't get me started on Twitter.) And how many smartphone apps are totally trivial?

Although I buy a new PC every few years, always vastly more powerful than the last, it's hardly because of progress. Invariably the old computer can still process words, calculate spreadsheets, browse the web, and email to my satisfaction. No, the reasons to buy a new computer are (a) because the old bloated, unreliable, nonsecure OS will no longer be supported, so that Microsoft can make me buy a new bloated, unreliable, nonsecure OS and (b) to run a new generation of security software against the @#$%! who write malware.

And yet there *is* progress. Witness: the Global Positioning System. For not much over a hundred bucks (although you can certainly spend more, for more features), you can own a GPS receiver to locate yourself precisely anywhere in the world and plan your route to most anywhere else. For sure, the Golden Age prognosticators entirely missed that possibility.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

Like many SF aficionados, I enjoy time-travel stories. I've written them myself, most recently in Countdown to Armageddon.  So I enjoyed a recent article (although I was disappointed by its lack of detail) claiming that Physicists Tame Time Travel by Forbidding You to Kill Your Grandfather. As for the notion that time protects itself -- and grandparents -- by diddling with  probabilities -- I used that in "Grandpa?" in 2001.

You gotta love a particle so elusive that it passes through the Earth with effectively a zero probability of interacting with ... anything. A particle that may represent a fraction of the universe's mysterious dark matter -- and if it does, will raise questions about the long-lived, heretofore very successful Standard Model of particle physics. A particle that spontaneously cycles between various forms. That particle (more precisely, a class of particles), is, of course, the neutrino

Neutrino astronomers have studied solar neutrinos for years -- and now they're starting to look at Earth's own neutrinos. Since neutrinos are produced in nuclear decays, radioactive elements in the Earth's core are neutrino sources -- and a way to study Earth's deep interior. Details at Physicists hunt for a trace of the elusive, invisible geoneutrino.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sounding off

Last updated August 31, 2016

I'm asked almost as often about the availability of my books in audio formats as about ebooks. So: I've decided to maintain a running list of my titles to which you can listen.

(Because what the heck -- high-tech mayhem, exotic aliens, and monomaniacal AIs are sure to enhance any road trip.)

Availability in any audio format often implies a variety of listening options: CDs, tapes (I'm not making this stuff up!), MP3, and other downloads. The links that follow give more information about a particular title. If you click through from my descriptive page to the corresponding Amazon page (or get to a title by way of Ed's Bookstore), the "formats" box, generally just below and to the right of the book cover, will list your audio (and other) format options. 

Lerner solos in audio format

Probe (1991 [2011 reissue])
Moonstruck (2005 [2011 reissue])
Creative Destruction (2006)
Fools' Experiments (2008)  (For the moment, unavailable in audio format. Stay tuned.)
Small Miracles (2009)
InterstellarNet: Origins (2010)
InterstellarNet: New Order (2010)
Countdown to Armageddon (2010) (*)
A Stranger in Paradise (2010) (*)
Energized (2012)
A Time Foreclosed (2013)

(*) Sold separately in audio and e-book formats, but combined in print. (You'll have to ask the publisher why.)




Lerner collaborations in audio format

Fleet of Worlds (2007)
Juggler of Worlds (2008)
Destroyer of Worlds (2009)
Betrayer of Worlds (2010)
Fate of Worlds (2012)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A ray of sunshine

In practice, finally, as well as in theory, every ray counts.

JAXA (the Japanese aerospace agency) has successfully demonstrated solar sailing with IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun). IKAROS does more than ride the sunlight; it also has thin-film solar cells to generate electricity from the light.

The nearby image was taken with a tiny camera jettisoned by IKAROS itself. Beautiful, isn't it? More here.

There's nothing in the image to provide a sense of scale, but IKAROS is twenty meters across. For the follow-on mission, JAXA envisions a fifty-meter sail.

How much pressure does sunlight exert? Very little: the measured force exerted on IKAROS is 1.12 millinewtons. By tacking toward the sun -- IKAROS is headed for Venus -- the mission will reach regions with more intense sunlight. The thing about sunlight in space ... it just keeps coming. Over time, that bit of a push will produce serious acceleration.

(A millinewton, you ask? That's the force on a Fig Newton crumb falling at standard gravity. Or maybe it's a many-legged critter eating a Fig Newton. Or Mrs. Isaac Newton. Or 0.001 kg meter squared / second squared. You decide  :-)  

Solar sailing is the type of project NASA might try (or retry -- AFAIK, the last NASA solar-sail attempt failed in 2008) if NASA's priority -- according to the Administrator! -- wasn't raising self-esteem in the third world.

Don't believe me about NASA's current priorities? Check this syndicated op-ed piece from the Washington Post (among many papers).

And try not to cry.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Space -- the good, the bad, and the oblivious

Lots of interesting news about space  -- you know we SF authors love the stuff. But interesting and credible can be different ...

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has completed a year on station. And an exciting year it's been. I'm especially impressed by the quantity of data: 40 terabytes! Read all about it, here.

But you don't need an expensive spacecraft to make space news. An expensive telescope will suffice, as we see with this report of an asteroid(?) strike on Jupiter.

It's seriously keen that the Hayabusa probe made it home with samples from an asteroid.

Not news -- except in the way any person making wild claims is news -- is this assertion of a Watergate-scale cover-up of UFOs.

Meanwhile, astronomer and SF author Mike Brotherton, bringing us the sociological perspective, suggests that overly sensitive people be eaten by black holes. I wonder what the people who have drawn Mike's ire would make of the Winnie the Pooh lyric, "Sing Ho! for the life of a bear."

Friday, July 2, 2010

The great read spot

Nope, not a typo.  An atrocious pun, I'll grant you.  It all has to do with my recent silence -- due, in turn to a lot of reading.

Possibly the most overused cliche of recent years, (the Mother of All Cliches, if you will), is "the perfect storm." And the mother of all storms, in our solar system, at least, is the way-larger-than-Earth-itself Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

There's no way I can write four books in a year.  Two is pushing it.  But not all books make it through the publisher's pipeline on the same time line. And so, in 2010, I'll have four books come out:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hear, hear!

The latest astronaut (of about twenty) to speak out.  John Glenn to NASA: Keep shuttles flying.  

 A few choice quotes: 

"The U.S. for the first time since the beginning of the Space Age will have no way to launch anyone into space - starting next January.

"Our astronauts will have to be launched in Russian spacecraft, from a Russian base in Kazakhstan, to go to ... International Space Station.

"Starting at the end of this year, and probably for the next five to ten years, the launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV.

"For the 'world's greatest spacefaring nation,' that is hard to accept."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kindle-ing interest

(Last updated: September 9, 2016)

Readers frequently email to ask about the availability of my writing in ebook formats. The short answer is: most books, sooner or later, come out as ebooks. The timing varies from title to title, ereader by ereader, and country to country.

Prices change, too. For example, ebook prices for a title tend to drop after release of the corresponding mass-market paperback edition.

Click here to shop for a Kindle
To Google, Yahoo, and Bing (and, ultimately to you, the blog reader, who has come upon this post): here's a snapshot of my novels and collections available in the most popular ebook format: Kindle.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let's get physical

From the world of experimental physics, two very interesting recent reports ...

Theory suggests that the Big Bang should have created matter and antimatter in equal quantities. But of course related matter and antimatter particles (e.g., proton and antiproton), when they meet, create a big bang all their own. After a while, if all were in balance, one would expect matter and  antimatter to wipe each other out.

So: how are we made-of-matter beings here to wonder about such things?

Monday, May 31, 2010

A tale of two sticking points

Nanotech is, IMO, seriously neat stuff,  Seriously counter-intuitive, too.

Simply scaling down familiar designs ceases to work below a certain size. If you want (as I have, in fiction) to put nanobots into a living cell, you must contend with random molecular jostling: Brownian motion.

Scale down a bit smaller still, and weird, wacky quantum-mechanical effects make matters yet more challenging. Things don't get much wackier than real forces manifesting because of the ephemeral appearance and disappearance of virtual particles from the quantum foam.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Countdown to Armageddon / A Stranger in Paradise

A highlight of my youth was book racks lined with Ace Doubles: two short science-fiction titles bound back to back.

In the spirit of Ace Doubles, Wildside Books has begun doubling up -- and that brings me to the latest collection of my shorter fiction.

On one side, the short novel Countdown to Armageddon (originally serialized in Jim Baen's Universe):
Hezbollah has obtained an atomic bomb and a would-be martyr eager to deliver it -- and that's the good news. The bad news, unknown even to Hezbollah, is that their physicist has also found a way to take his new bomb back to a turning point in European history.
Harry Bowen, an American physicist, and Terrence Ambling, a British agent turned historian, are determined to stop Abdul Faisel and prevent the nullification of all Western civilization. Their mission can be accomplished, if at all, only in the darkest of the Dark Ages --
And there, too, time is running out
But wait! There's more ...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Life, happily, didn't imitate art

(Minor updates 03-12-2011)

I've not blogged for more than a week, with life (in the form of the Nebula Awards weekend and some before-and-after vacationing) keeping me too busy.

No: I was not up for a Nebula award. (Thanks, though, to anyone who thought that.) What made the trip irresistible was the timing and the location. The place: Florida, just down the Atlantic coast from Cape Canaveral. The time: overlapping a shuttle launch.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A whole new spin on things

Moving individual atoms and "pictures" of the deed aren't new. This iconic photo is how many of us first learned it had been done. (Guess for whom the researchers worked?) Last year, in fact, when evidently I was not paying attention, was the twentieth anniversary of the accomplishment.

(Why the quotes above around pictures? Because a Scanning Tunneling Microscope doesn't use visible light -- atoms are too small to be seen that way.)

Twenty years later, here's a really neat update: manipulation of the spin state of single electrons in individual atoms, and images of that.

We live in interesting times, and not only because stock/bond/currency markets can make one giddy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A strange and wondrous web

If you will excuse a terribly mixed metaphor, for a writer the web is a double-edged sword.

Of course the web is an indispensable resource, for reference data from the mundane (like the Social Security Administration database of popular baby names by gender and birth year) to the routine (Wikipedia -- subject to verification, of course), to technological and historical esoterica (wherein Google becomes essential). I can't not have Firefox open while I write.

But there's also all that time-devouring ... stuff.  Here's just a smattering of the fascinating and the weird that has recently caught my eye.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No gap between Worlds

The Fleet of Worlds series so far consists of Fleet of Worlds (#1), Juggler of Worlds (#2), and Destroyer of Worlds (#3). (If that's Greek to you, check out the Fleet series page on my website.)

Fleet and Destroyer were released for the Kindle almost concurrently with the hardback edition. Not so Juggler: I've gotten lots of frustrated emails about the nonavailability of Juggler as an ebook. (One irate Amazon customer even gave Destroyer a one-star review solely because he couldn't get JOW on his Kindle. As much as I sympathized, I thought that a bit unfair.) As for why books one and three, but not two -- truthfully, I simply don't know.

So: I am delighted to report that the Amazon Kindle Store now offers Juggler of Worlds for the Kindle. For all of you who have been waiting -- I appreciate your patience.