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 ;-)

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 best reads

Thanksgiving comes as early this year as it possibly can -- which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday do, too. It's best I get this annual feature posted comparatively early.

I continue to read a lot: as research, to stay current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, I wanted to volunteer a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) so far this year. When I mention a book, you can be certain I really enjoyed it and/or found it very useful. Life's too short to gripe about anything I didn't find notable (much less the several books I elected not to finish).
Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my take on science or technology or fiction, you might find, in the post that follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates shown are for original publication. Each cover shown is an Amazon link, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).

What's made the cut so far this year? Read on ...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Physics cornucopia (physicopia?)

You know my eclectic file of intriguing news from the world of physics, into which I dip from time to time? Well, that file (metaphorically speaking, anyway) is bulging. Which gives us this week's topic.

You know all those tidy equations we learn in physics classes? They often deal with idealized situations, like friction-less planes. The real world tends to the chaotic.(*)
(*)  To physicists and mathematicians, "chaos" has a precise meaning: dynamic, generally nonlinear, systems that are extremely sensitive to initial conditions.

Or does it? See "Is nature really chaotic and fractal, or did we just imagine it?" A key quote:

The way we perceive reality is a function of how we slice and dice the physical world.

No matter how you slice it, the power of mathematics -- an invention of the human mind, surely --  to explain physical phenomena remains amazing. From the Department of Mathematically Examined Arcana, consider this: "History's most successful mathematical prediction." (Because, I'm pretty sure, regular readers here yearn to understand the origin of the precise magnetic field of a single electron.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This isn't the time

I occasionally post here that I don't have the time, or choose not to spare the time, to blog, such as that I'm in the throes of writing.

This week I'm not posting for a quite different reason. SF and Nonsense is neither a political nor a cultural venue -- far from it. That won't change. But in contemplation of last week's horrific events in the US, topics that are germane to this blog seem just too superficial to post about.

Maybe next week ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Some days, everything modern is maddening

Cryptocurrency mining isn't something I chose to undertake, but plenty of people do. If that's you, please note: "If you’re mining bitcoin from home, you’re now losing money." (In detail, the truth of that assertion depends on the rate you pay for electricity -- but subject to typical retail rates ....)

Do you use any Apple website? How about Amazon? Maybe you care about the integrity of (private) cloud servers used by the DoD. If any of those apply, you would have been justifiably alarmed by this recent Bloomberg headline: "The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies." Only Apple and Amazon deny the assertion vehemently, and other journalism shops find the claim unsubstantiated, impossible to confirm, and otherwise dubious. See (from the Washington Post), "Your move, Bloomberg."

(Is hardware with hidden trapdoors a threat? You bet your sweet bippie. This peril was the premise of a novel I started way back, circa 1990, and then shelved, when the Cold War -- however fleetingly -- went away.)

Get a lot of spam/scam calls on your cell? And the majority spoofed to look like your area code, and plausibly real? Me, too! And the trends are ever more ominous. See (again from the WaPo), "Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says."

Monday, October 15, 2018

I *do* exist (and other biological updates)

So, no post last week. A rush task took all my attention (details once the paperwork catches up to make matters official). But that job is done, and I'm back ...

With interests as eclectic as ever. Today: news of topics biological.

The core concept in modern biology is (and long has been) evolution -- and yet there are those who remain skeptical of evolution. Here (not that I expect it to make any difference) is one more demonstration: "Ultra-violet experiment confirms 'Darwin’s moths' "

The (in)famous double helix
Genetics is a messy thing. It's far more complex than was understood when DNA's role was first ascertained, or even after the first genomes were decoded. Witness this analysis of the surprising intelligence of octopi (fair warning: it's a long-ish article): "How the octopus got its smarts."
Did the octopus evolve its unique intelligence by playing fast and free with the genetic code
And turning to truly scary things ...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Back from Capclave

I just spent an exhausting but fun weekend at Capclave, the excellent annual DC-area con hosted by the Washington Science Fiction Association.

Did I encounter any SF and Nonsense readers there? I wouldn't be surprised. Certainly I had the pleasure of chatting with many readers of my novels, short fiction, and related articles -- and maybe some of my future readers. To all of you who sought me out -- thanks!

Check it out on Amazon
Part of the fun? Picking up an author's copy of the latest antho in which I made an appearance, containing one of my rare fantasy pieces. Seriously, you gotta love that cover.

Here's hoping Dial and Easton wind up doing Horror for the Throne -- because you gotta wonder what that cover will be like. (Cthulhu and an outhouse ... the mind boggles.)

Now back to my post-con to-do list ....

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Of the universe

Today's post is a roundup of recent astronomy news.

First, and closest to home, a look at a neighbor: "Ice Confirmed at the Moon's Poles." Such ice has long been suspected, of course, and indirect evidence of it gleaned -- but this is the most definitive proof yet. Water on the Moon is seriously important to any hopes for a permanent lunar presence.

Lucy (in a few years)
If I may then look ahead to upcoming discoveries, consider "NASA’s Lucy in the sky with Trojans." "Lucy" in this context is a probe to be launched in 2021 to explore (mainly) Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. These asteroids co-orbit with Jupiter, one bunch 60 degrees ahead of the planet, the other 60 degrees behind. (They're called "Trojan" because the first few of these rocks were named for heroes of the mythic war.) And they're darned varied and interesting ...