Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rocky and giant and dwarf ... oh my!

I refer, of course, to the current official categorization scheme for planets -- and what isn't a planet.

(That's not the moon. Earth is only there for scale. Read on.) 

In our solar system the rocky -- or as some prefer to call them, terrestrial -- planets are Earth and its close neighbors: Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The gas-giant planets, of course, are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The dwarf planets -- not really planets --  include Ceres (in the main asteroid belt) and a cast of, probably, hundreds in the Kuiper belt.

It is into that last/new/contentious category that the International Astronomical Union reassigned -- many say, demoted -- Pluto in 2006.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Buy a Book Saturday!

The latest shopping innovation for the upcoming holiday season -- choose the winter festivity of your choice -- is Small Business Saturday. SBS is being held for the first time this year, on the day after so-called Black Friday, on November 27. The basic concept: don't just shop. Make an effort, at least this one day, to explore and patronize small businesses in your area. It's nothing against big/chain stores -- they'll do fine.

Who is a smaller business than the solitary author toiling at home in his/her office, pounding away at a keyboard? So: while you're out shopping, buy a book! Or two! Support an author or two or more (and I'm not saying me, or even others in the genre -- but IMO, living authors would be nice).

You're obviously a reader -- what makes a better gift than a book/ebook/audio book? (And if you don't see the book you had in mind, ask the bookseller to order it for you. Most booksellers will be more than happy to oblige.)

Buy a Book Saturday! Nourish the meme -- and the rest of the mind! Spread the word!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of a fleet (of worlds) passing in the night

A recurring theme in reader emails and some reviews of Fleet of Worlds series books is, "Why don't the [your choice of crafty Known Space species] notice the Fleet as it barrels through space? Even today, astronomers see stars across great distances, and the worlds of the Fleet (with one exception, discussed below) are lit by artificial suns.

The traditional answer (found in Ringworld, long before my entry into Known Space) is that no one thought to look between the stars. People (and Kzinti, and ...) hunted for Puppeteers on some as-yet undiscovered conventional world orbiting a sunlike star.

What about before the Fleet set "sail" (not that, pre-Ringworld, anyone in Known Space suspected world-moving technology could exist)? Puppeteers had long ago relocated their planets to new orbits far from their sun -- which had undergone late-in-life expansion into a red giant. Any artificial suns close to planets would be very hard to spot from a great distance against the backdrop luminosity of a red giant!

In short: the Fleet went undetected because everyone looked in the wrong places.

But there's a second, more quantitative answer. I'm not sure it needs to be spelled (numbered?) out in the context of storytelling, but I think it's worth relating somewhere. So here goes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NORAD knows. How could they not?

During rush hour last night, a rocket was seen streaking across the sky over Los Angeles. The military professes bafflement. AFAIK, the FAA has had nothing to say.

California is end-to-end airports and Air Force bases -- including Vandenberg AFB, from which the Air Force launches missiles. With all those radars, how can the military not know exactly from where last night's rocket was launched and where it came down? I have to believe they do know. Hopefully, because they launched it (surely not meaning to send it over LA), and don't care to fess up. Regardless, because if anyone other than the US military launched it and the military can't track/trace it, that would be really scary.

I wonder if we'll ever get a truthful explanation?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A whole Pak of trouble

Pak are humanity's (fortunately only fictional) cousins: lean, mean -- and scary smart -- fighting machines. In Destroyer of Worlds (which I first announced here), the Pak were the latest menace to confront the Puppeteers, aboard the Fleet of Worlds, and their human allies.

As of today, Destroyer of Worlds is out in paperback.

I've been delighted with the reviews since the novel debuted. To mention only a few: