Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Clears throat awkwardly ...

This being, after all, a science- and SF-oriented blog ...

The Hugo Award process is currently accepting nominations. Are you a Hugo Award voter?(*) If so -- and it goes completely against the grain to mention this -- my lone nonfiction book is eligible this year in the Best Related Work category.

If this is a category in which you might nominate, I respectfully request your consideration of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

For a bit more about this book, see Amazon, this Tangent Online review, or my website.
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(*) "Members of Dublin 2019 and the 2018 Worldcon, Worldcon 76, can nominate works in each of the categories. Voters are encouraged to nominate up to five works/individuals in each category that they believe are worthy of a Hugo."

For more about the awards, award categories, and the overall process, see https://dublin2019.com/hugo-awards-wsfs/the-hugo-awards/ (the site from which the forgoing paragraph is quoted).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Enjoying the new year so far

Beyond having concurrent fiction appearances this month in three zines:
  •  "I've Got the World on a String" at Galaxy's Edge (That short story is, for now, appearing in its entirety at http://www.galaxysedge.com/. To check out the story, do a find on the zine's home page for: world on a string)
  • "Clockwork Cataclysm" at Analog
  • "The Company Mole (Part II)" at The Grantville Gazette

... I'm delighted to report the recent sale of "The Company Bane" (also in two parts) to run later this year at The Grantville Gazette. "Bane" completes the "Company" story arc.

Every year should begin so well :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A week to restore one's faith in humanity

Clearly, I refer to nothing in the political sphere. But think of the milestones (kilometer stones?) science and technology reached this week. From closest to farthest, we've got:

"China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft makes historic landing on far side of the Moon."

The lunar far side
The Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 has landed on the far side of the Moon and has begun relaying data and images back to Earth. It is the first mission to operate on the far side, which is the  hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. This half of the Moon has a much more rugged and varied landscape than the hemisphere that is visible from Earth and studying its geology could provide important information about how the Moon and the rest of the solar system formed.

Also, NASA's "OSIRIS-REx probe goes into close orbit around asteroid Bennu and sets a record."

Artist rendering
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft today maneuvered into an orbit that takes it within 4,000 feet of the surface of Bennu, a diamond-shaped asteroid that’s 70 million miles from Earth.

The orbit sets a record for interplanetary travel. The quarter-mile-wide asteroid is now the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft, and the spacecraft is tracing the closest sustained orbit around a celestial body.
 
And (IMO, the most awesome of all) in the distant Kuiper Belt, Nasa's New Horizons: 'Snowman' shape of distant Ultima Thule revealed."

4 billion miles away
"[Ultima's] only really the size of something like Washington DC, and it's about as reflective as garden variety dirt, and it's illuminated by a Sun that's 1,900 times fainter than it is outside on a sunny day here on the Earth. We were basically chasing it down in the dark at 32,000mph (51,000km/h) and all that had to happen just right," the SwRI scientist said.

We Homo saps actual can accomplish great things when we cooperate and focus.

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Visit from Old Nick

Neither a typo nor a synapse misfire, today's subject line does, nonetheless, reflect an error of sorts: it's what I should have named "A Visit to the Network Control Center."

Futurama version?
And having posted a link last year at this time to this very poem, I can now declare it a holiday tradition :-)

See you back in this space next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Random musing amid the end-of-year/holiday scramble

Above, I wrote scramble, not Scrabble, but still ... "Scrabble has a whole new vocabulary. Yowza!" (Yowza being one of 300 or so newly approved words.) Let the games resume ;-)

You remember how forests were going to soak up excess CO2? Well, maybe not so much. "Trees and plants reached 'peak carbon' 10 years ago." Like the oceans, the biosphere's CO2-absorption capacity has its limits ....

And speaking of eco-issues, consider this: "A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history." The Taylor spill is "only" leaking a few hundred barrels per day, but over 14 years, that adds up. As in:  
With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever.
Still eco-ish, consider how little we yet understand about earthquakes. As in, "Discoveries about 2017 Mexican Earthquake Rattle Geologists."
A magnitude 8.2 earthquake that struck southern Mexico on Sept. 7, 2017, not only occurred where existing earthquake modeling said it shouldn't happen, it also broke a tectonic plate, according to scientists ....
The epicenter of the Tehuantepec quake, however, was much deeper – about 28 miles deep in the Cocos plate – than earthquake models said it should be, according to a report in the journal Nature Geoscience ....

The study also showed that the Cocos plate completely split apart, National Geographic writes. A tremendous amount of energy was released in seconds.
What we don't know about seismology pales next to what we never really knew about psychology. See "Psychology’s Replication Crisis Is Running Out of Excuses." The subtitle says it all: 
Another big project has found that only half of studies can be repeated. And this time, the usual explanations fall flat.
And lastly (for today, anyway) to keep you musing, consider this: "Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck."
Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

Alas, I need urgently to step back from such random musings to focus on my own end-of-the-year crunch.

Monday, December 10, 2018

End-of-year(ish) writing update

It seems I'm overdue on reporting authorial news. And there's much to report ....

Remember these?
Let's begin with Analog. The November/December 2018 issue is currently running my guest editorial "Dystopic? Or Myopic?" As you may have guessed from that title, I'm no fan of the genre tendency these days toward dystopias.

The January/February 2019 issue of Analog will have my short(est ever) story "Clockwork Cataclysm." And in an issue TBD, look for "The Gates of Paradise," sequel to the last year's award-winning "Paradise Lost."

On to The Grantville Gazette (Universe Annex). Following up on last year's novelettes "The Company Man" and "The Company Dick," the November 2018 issue is currently running "The Company Mole (Part I)." Part II will run in the January 2019 issue. Suffice it to say, the plot has really thickened ....

Over at Galaxy's Edge, you can look forward to the short story "I've Got the World on a String" in the January 2019 issue.

Oh, and have I mentioned my cameo in The Washington Post? That's in the article "We crashed a science-fiction writers convention to ask about Trump’s 'Space Force' " (I believe my "could" got turned into a more definite "would," but otherwise the conversational snippet that's quoted is as I remember it. Could be I mumbled.)

I've saved the best for last ... a new collection coming in 2019 from Phoenix Pick. The new book has story selections that originally appeared in more than a half-dozen disparate venues. This will be -- mirabile dictu -- my nineteenth book (twentieth, if I count a chap book). The new book's working title is Muses and Musings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cyber Monday? Good ...

Cyber currency? Not so much.

I consider cyber currencies, such as bitcoin, to be a solution for which there is no good problem. (We don't need new ways to launder money!) To draw an important distinction, blockchain -- the technology which underpins any cyber currency -- is seriously keen. Blockchain, I firmly believe, can be used in many productive and worthwhile ways (each such application, in one way or another, taking the form of a distributed ledger). Minting faux money isn't one of those socially beneficial uses ....

Fool's gold?
Has yet another bitcoin crash (see, from Bloomberg, "Bitcoin’s Crash Looks Like a Real Currency Crisis") given you pause? If not, ponder a key question raised in the article: In a virtual world without a central bank, who is the buyer of last resort?

Still unconvinced? Then consider -- this time, from The Washington Post -- that "The only currency worse than bitcoin is Venezuela’s." That, Dear Reader, is a record no one should aspire to break ...

"Mining" bitcoin (or any other blockchain-based currency) is -- again, IMO -- one of the more ridiculous possible uses of energy. And we're talking about a lot of energy. As discussed by The Balance in "How Much Power It Takes to Create a Bitcoin." By a conservative estimate:

... the bitcoin network runs at 342,934,450 watts—roughly 343 megawatts. Calculations based on EIA data reveal that the average U.S. household consumes about 1.2 kilowatts of power, meaning that 343 megawatts would be enough to power 285,833 U.S. homes.
All that said? I don't expect bitcoin (or ethereum, litecoin, ripple ...) to go completely away. After all, even after Tulip Mania you can still buy tulip bulbs :-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Buy-a-Book (you know you want to) Saturday

Regularly since 2010, at about this time of year, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation of Small Business Saturday: a day (specifically, the second day after Thanksgiving, and one day after retail's infamous Black Friday) on which holiday shoppers are especially encouraged to patronize small businesses. The big-box stores and Internet giants will do fine this holiday season. But will your neighborhood, non-chain shops and boutiques?

Rara avis! Is that a book store? Check it out.

Why do I promote the buy-a-book variant? Because what business is smaller than the author toiling away by him- or herself? Because, as I (and many others) post from time to time, the publishing business is becoming tougher and tougher -- especially for authors. Because more than likely you're a reader, else you wouldn't have stopped by this blog.

So: I'm here to suggest you give serious consideration to books -- whether print or electronic or audio -- for some of your holiday gifting. Friends, relatives, coworkers, your kids' teachers and coaches, the local library you support ... surely there's a book that's right for each of them. And at least one book for yourself, of course ;-)