Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mars or bust!

It's not like a human landing on Mars is imminent -- certainly not by way of NASA's planning --  but people are thinking about it.

To begin, consider (from Dvice) that:

2018 is not going to be the year that humans land on Mars. But, if millionaire space tourist Dennis Tito has his way, it could be the first year that humans visit Mars. Tito has formed a group called the Inspiration Mars Foundation, which is going to try to swing two people around Mars without stopping and then bring them back to Earth on a mission lasting 501 days. 

More at "Millionaire wants to send humans to Mars (and back) in 2018."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Looking both ways before we cross into 2014

'Tis the season of lists, look-aheads, and look-backs, from which I'll single out a few science-and-tech specific instances.

A small part of the LHC
Let's begin with Physics World. After the (by now) pro forma acknowledgement that the big science news this year was discovery of the Higgs boson, their focus is "The world of physics in 2014." And it's quite the year they foresee, everything from the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at incredible new energy levels to the billion-star-search of ESA's newly launched Gaia observatory to enhanced sensitivity in the hunt for dark matter at the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector. And that's only a small part of their preview. Neat stuff.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Museum of Science Fiction

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Viggiano, executive director of the hopefully soon-to-be Museum of Science Fiction. Greg's vision is to set MSF in Washington, DC, nestled among (though not as a part of) the many museums of the Smithsonian.

EMP Museum, Seattle
(Until a few weeks ago, I'd labored under the misconception that there was an SF Museum in Seattle. It turns out that science fiction is but an exhibit area within Seattle's much larger EMP Museum (formerly the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame or EMP | SFM. )

MSF's mission:
The Museum of Science Fiction will be the world’s first comprehensive science fiction museum, covering the history of the genre across the arts and providing a narrative on its relationship to the real world.
Given the popularity of SF -- as in: Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, The X Files, Terminator, Firefly, Avatar ... -- the prospective audience, IMO, is huge.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Books to knock your socks off ...

I've been known to blog in this space about my own writing, but this isn't that sort of post. This is, rather, about what I read this year -- more specifically, some standout books, both fiction and non -- that I heartily recommend.

  • In a couple cases I know the author, but those are the exceptions. (And those friendships are immaterial to a book being mentioned here.)
  • When some acclaimed title, especially of a recent release, isn't on this list, please don't take the absence as a vote of no confidence. My to-read stack is piled many electrons deep -- as you might reasonably infer from a few of the books that I did read. 
Herewith, in no particular order ...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Publishing trends

However devoted one may be to ebooks, there are times when only a physical book will do. Such as when the book:
  • isn't available in digital format,
  • is a gift for a reader yet to make the switch,
  • is in a series of which you already have a collection, and you want all the copies to match,
  • has large graphics or detailed tables or copious footnotes, any of which makes the ebook edition awkward to use, or
  • in some ineffable way just calls out to be held.
These are all reasons why even ebook aficionados sometimes want to visit a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Online recommendation engines have their place, some are even fairly good, but IMO browsing shelves retains its virtues -- like the serendipitous find. But browsing becomes tricky when there are no bookstores to be browsed ...