Monday, July 9, 2018

Life, the universe, and everything ...

And yet, the number 42 isn't involved :-)

The not-so-little observatory that could
Great observatories have (ahem) greatly extended our understanding of the universe. So, first, let us mark an imminent sad passing: "NASA put its famous planet-hunting telescope to sleep because it’s almost out of fuel: The Kepler Space Telescope’s life is finally coming to an end." This fine astronomical instrument detected more than 2K subsequently confirmed exoplanets (with more confirmations likely  yet to come). Quite the legacy.

The ESO VLT
Another fine instrument -- this one Earthbound: the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope -- has, for the first time, caught a planet in the very first stages of formation. See: "First confirmed view of a newborn planet: A planet coalesces from the disc of dust and gas around the dwarf star PDS 70."

The JWST. Much assembly required.
Alas, the it's-been-coming-forever James Webb Space Telescope -- NASA's long-heralded successor mission to the (fortunately still hanging in there) Hubble Space Telescope -- has hit another snag. As in, "NASA Delays Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Again — This Time to 2021."

That's one day's view of (viewing) the universe. As for the life part of the subject line, an over-hyped bit of last week's science news. First, an example of the more breathless reporting: "Large molecules show Enceladus 'clearly is habitable for life' " And here is a more cautiously (IMO, more precisely) worded version: "No, NASA Did Not Find Even 'Hints Of Life' On Enceladus."

And everything? That was everything for today ;-)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Who knows where the time goes?

(Yes, that's a Judy Collins song title and album. A very good -- if retro -- album as it happens. But take it as a point of departure.)

Yeah. That kinda week
I didn't post last week, not even an "I'm too busy to post" post. Trying to reconstruct where that week went, I see:
  • a routine dental exam
  • a routine eye exam (and hours thereafter during which the world was fuzzy)
  • a broken sprinkler system
  • overgrown bushes trimmed so the sprinkler people could get at the water cutoff
  • landscapers contacted because I have way more overgrown bushes than I care to deal with
  • a semi-repaired, aka semi-broken, sprinkler system to diagnose, and the return of the sprinkler people(*)
  • headsets researched; one acquired, installed, and tested for an upcoming authorial interview/podcast (more on that another day)
  • sysadmin duties on my wife's recalcitrant computer
(*) Hmm. "The Return of the Sprinkler People." A title yearning to become a story?

All that coming, of course, on top of life's usual distractions ....

When I managed to eke out time to actually work, I focused on "The Company Mole." This new novella follows my SF-mystery novelettes "The Company Man" and "The Company Dick," which appeared last year in The Grantville Gazette ("Universe Annex" Department).

And herewith the good news! A complete draft of "The Company Mole" is in the hands of my first and favorite reader, aka my wife. (Also, fair compensation for the aforesaid sysadmin services.) I have high hopes of wrapping up and submitting this story ere long.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Starstruck

Today's post is astronomy-related.

Arguably challenging my subject line -- but "planet" did, originally, mean "wandering star" -- the first of two subtopics herein could be described as planet-struck. The generally accepted theory of solar-system formation involves a great deal of accretion and sweeping up of matter from the ancestral "solar nebula." If I may quote myself: (*)
"Aggregating, clumping, sweeping … it all sounds stately and serene. It can happen that way—but usually doesn’t. The heavily cratered surface of the Moon testifies to the violence of the Solar System’s (not thought to be unusual) Late Heavy Bombardment period. The Moon itself, it is believed, coalesced from Earth-orbiting debris after a Mars-sized protoplanet struck the young Earth a glancing blow."
(*) from Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction 
The Moon is born?
So. The first of today's spectacular astronomy reports involves the opening of a metaphorical window into that violent process, that ancient era, in the form of apparent fragments discovered of a long-vanished protoplanet. More specifically, asteroid remains have been recovered that: 
 "... could only have formed under incredible pressure — the equivalent of diving 600 kilometers into Earth's interior or attempting to hold up 100,000 tons with your bare hands...
...
"... the meteorite's parent body would have to have been a planet at least as big as Mercury and possibly as large as Mars."
For the full story, see, "These diamonds from space formed inside a long-lost planet, scientists say."

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today, it's official. And still epic.

Tor Books today released a discounted five-ebook bundle of the entire Fleet of Worlds series. That series is my joint venture in Known Space with Larry Niven.

(What about the Other Good News hinted at in last week's preview of today's release? That independent event came a few days earlier than I'd anticipated, and I posted then. So: if you only drop by here Tuesdays, my typical posting day, and so missed my out-of-cycle celebratory post Woohoo!, you may want to check it out, too. Stat. Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction (ebook) won't remain on deep-discount for long.)

But let's get back to the Fleet of Worlds series, and the news of the day ...

Fleet series ebook bundle on AmazonBottom-lining it: This is an epic offer on an epic -- and much acclaimed -- hard-SF story line that spans centuries and light-years. A story line with: Existential dangers. Larger-than-life deeds, both villainous and heroic. Truly alien aliens. Amazing advanced technologies.

How epic? Here's my favorite blurb per novel (in series order, from first to last):

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Woohoo!

Bookbub's featured special today is Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

That's big :-)

Purchase link for Kindle edition
If you're unfamiliar with the ebook deal-alerting service Bookbub (a) you really should check it out and (b) while the special continues, Trope-ing ebooks are really inexpensive. As in $2.99, versus the regular price of $9.99.

Here's how Bookbub presents the book:

Are time travel, aliens, and telepathy just figments of the imagination — or something more? Explore the reality behind your favorite sci-fi tropes in “the best-ever guide to putting the science in science fiction” 
Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer

If you're not enrolled to receive SF-centric alerts through Bookbub, here's Trope-ing's Bookbub promo page; select the "Get Deal" button for links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple editions. Or click the cover at left to go straight to Amazon for the Kindle edition.

(If you're new to SF and Nonsense (a) welcome! and (b) here's my release-day post for a bit more about the book.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Talk about epic!

On June 12, Tor Books will be releasing a discounted five-ebook bundle of the entire Fleet of Worlds series. That's my joint venture in Known Space with Larry Niven.

Why the advance mention? Because there is Other Good News in the pipeline to be announced next week :-)

And any of the major ebook providers will be happy to queue up your order ....

Fleet series ebook bundle on AmazonBottom-lining it: This is an epic offer on an epic -- and much acclaimed -- hard-SF story line that spans centuries and light-years. A story line with: Existential dangers. Larger-than-life deeds, both villainous and heroic. Truly alien aliens. Amazing advanced technologies.

How epic? Here's my favorite blurb per novel (in series order, from first to last):

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Does not compute

I've begun streaming the Netflix remake of Lost in Space. That may be why today's subject line occurred to me. But not the only reason. Consider:

"IBM's tiniest computer is smaller than a grain of rock salt." Actually, the amazing fact is that something so small does compute. "IBM has unveiled a computer that's smaller than a grain of rock salt. It has the power of an x86 chip from 1990 ... The publication says that the machine will cost under $0.10 to manufacture, which gives credence to IBM's prediction that these types of computers will be embedded everywhere within the next five years."

But what surely doesn't compute is the mess Facebook has made of elections and (un)civil discourse. See -- if you can bear to revisit it -- " ‘A grand illusion’: seven days that shattered Facebook’s facade."

I have my doubts this omelet can be reassembled into eggs, but if you are (or want to be) more optimistic, consider, "How the Government Could Fix Facebook."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

That's life

Life has been intruding -- not in a bad way, but it's intrusive nonetheless. What more appropriate way to offer a prospectively interesting post despite those distractions than with a post about ... life.

Onward, then, to some recent items from the life sciences.

Given the number of forecasts, dating back, at the least, to Thomas Malthus, that humanity will breed itself to disaster, it's nice(!) to read a counter-argument. As in: "The Population Bomb Has Been Defused: The Earth and humanity will survive as fertility rates fall almost everywhere." This is, unequivocally, Good News.

After a spate of reports about unreproducible and/or statistically questionable psychology experiments, it's also encouraging to see, "Psychologists Have a Plan to Fix the Broken Science of Psychology." There may be a whole new paradigm emerging for performing psychological research.