Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Physics: nothing to sneeze at

For me, the early spring is definitely something to sneeze at. Pollen count is through the roof. (It must be, because it's getting to me indoors.)

Pollen. I'm not a fan.
But today's musings are neither a paean to pollen (say that quickly five times) nor a jeremiad. It's a collection of physics news -- all Really Neat Things -- well within the ambit of this blog. While my head does its best to explode (my free advice: don't watch ... especially if you've ever seen Scanners), here's some fare of likely interest:

Beginning with a second result from CERN -- independent of last September's startling report -- measuring neutrino speed. This time the elusive neutrinos were clocked at light speed (as expected), not a hair above. See "The Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Debate Rages On" and "Adagio, OPERA."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grand opening!

It turns out out that my authorial website (as opposed to this blog) dates back to 2001. Very Arthur C. Clarkeian, to be sure, but in Internet years that's very old. I recently decided it was time -- okay, well past time -- for a change.

Beginning with a new domain name: edwardmlerner.com. Catchy, if I do say so myself. And certainly easy for me to remember :-)

This first phase of the project mostly involved transferring old content into new software, shifting to a new hosting service, and updating page layouts to a more modern look. But that new software (and me owning the domain) will make it easier -- for some purposes, make it possible for the first time -- to add new sorts of content. There will be more phases.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Space-y program

Post-shuttle, the US manned space program requires NASA to buy seats on Russian flights to the International Space Station (ISS), until crew-rated US commercial launchers and capsules come along. (I carefully don't call this NASA's manned spaceflight program, because I doubt anyone in NASA truly wants things to be this way. Congress and two successive administrations have been mucking up the works.)

Let's see how that plan is going ...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ice, water, and fire

Google searches on "Gw'oth" are among the top referral sources to this blog. Reader emails and (at cons and signings) in-person questions that I'm asked also often relate to the Gw'oth.

Europa: ice, cracks, and all
(The Gw'oth, if the word doesn't ring a bell, are aliens who feature prominently in the Fleet of Worlds series of space operas that I write with Larry Niven. The Gw'oth evolved on a world somewhat  like Jupiter's moon Europa, in an ocean beneath the ice. Above the ice lies deadly vacuum. A Gw'o (that's the singular) is an aquatic creature who looks something like a starfish crossed with an octopus. I gave a more detailed physical description in the post Gw'oth revealed! And other fun stuff).

And the question that I am most often asked about the Gw'oth is: living underwater, how did they ever develop technology? Doesn't it take fire to develop technology? As regards non-biological technology, my guess -- like many readers' suspicions -- is: yes.

Wildfires were a part of our forbears' natural environment. Fire was possible in our forbears' natural environment. How the Gw'oth would master (or encounter) fire underwater is less than intuitive ....

One such reader question came up several weeks ago, far down in a thread of comments about a merely semi-related post. I answered with another comment in that same thread, but on reflection, I decided to address the topic in a post of its own. A post that people Googling "Gw'oth" will more readily find. This post.

There aren't major plot spoilers in my answer; I'm dealing primarily with back story before the opening of the series. Before humans and other species of Known Space ever met the Gw'oth. But if you continue, know you will encounter snippets of plot and text from a couple of the books.

Continue as you think best ...