Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Progress comes of looking in the dusty corners

Climate-change assertions notwithstanding, there is no such thing as "settled science."

No, this isn't a post about climate change, neither for or against, convinced or skeptical. But I'm not above -- before I move on to today's main topic -- a crack against those (not typically scientists) who believe anything in science is ever proven. What science can do is:

(a) propose theories (read: models, aka simplified representations) of reality useful for solving problems and making predictions in particular circumstances and

(b) refine -- or refute -- theories as their shortcomings and limitations become clear, or as conflicting data show up.

(A favorite Einstein quote, after which I promise to come to the point: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”)

A brief history of time and space
Thus Newton's simple and elegant seventeenth-century theory of gravity sufficed until astronomers and physicists began theorizing about extreme conditions (e.g., in the vicinity of black holes) and were able to make increasingly precise observations (e.g., to discern in nineteenth-century observations the deviations between Mercury's actual orbital motion and the predictions of same from Newtonian theory).

These and other difficulties were resolved a century ago with Einsteinian gravity theory -- aka General Relativity. A century later, after many tests have been performed to poke and prod GR theory for limits to its accuracy and applicability, theorists look for alternative models (see Alternatives to General Relativity) and experimentalists continue to test GR's predictions and implications (see "Tests of general relativity").

And with all that by way of stage setting, let's have a look at some recent peering into the dusty corners of our physical understanding of the universe ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two worthy SFnal causes

I continue to be enthused that the Museum of Science Fiction is (with a bit of luck) coming to DC, to take its place alongside -- though not as a part of -- one of my favorite institutions, the museums of the Smithsonian. I've blogged before about MOSF, but it's been awhile. To remedy that lapse, here are a few recent highlights:

... the Museum has signed a partnership agreement with DC Public Schools and was approved by Reagan National Airport (DCA) to install the "Future of Travel" exhibit in mid 2015.

One of the coolest things happening w.r.t. MOSF is architectural, as in (reported by the Washington Post, "Contest seeks entries in science fiction museum design."

Seriously cool.
My architectural skills are exceeded even by my drawing skills, which are at the stick-figure level. (I paint pictures with words for a living, but somehow I can't see that technique extending to architectural renderings.) Hence I didn't enter MOSF's contest -- and it was just as well. I could hardly have competed with (at left) this winning vision.

Would you like to see MOSF open in Our Nation's Capital? Of course you would! Then consider the museum's ongoing fund-raising effort.

In any event, for more recent/complete museum news, check out MOSF's 3Q2014 progress report.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nanotech and starships and fusion, oh my!

Over a recent twelve-day period I:
  • gave a talk at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of many of their projects involved with nanotech.
  • took part in a 100 Year Starship Symposium and, in the process, was a panelist for Science Fiction Stories Night.
  • attended a lecture on the state of fusion energy research, cosponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the National Electronics Museum.
Six days out of twelve immersed in cutting-edge science. Some days, I just love my job :-)

So what was all that about?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Slightly larger Small Miracles

I'm pleased to report that my medical nanotech thriller, Small Miracles, briefly out of print (and also electrons), was just re-released in a classy, trade paperback edition. And that new edition comes graced with an eye-catching new cover.

Back in print
What's Small Miracles about? Well, I blogged about that in 2009 when the original HB came out ("Small Miracles") and again in 2010 when the mass market paperback hit the streets ("Real nanotech. Real medicine. And zombies."). But in a buckyball (a nano nutshell, if you prefer) Small Miracles is a near-future, post-human thriller based upon the amazing potential of nanotechnology.

Or, as SFRevu put it: