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.

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


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


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.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mid-year writing update

 Updated May 19, 2018

While my recent focus has (understandably, methinks) been the April 30th release of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction, I have some fiction news, as well. If you'll allow me to catch you up ...

Amazon link
Can they top this cover?
"Chance of Storms," one of my rare non-SF stories will appear in the forthcoming reprint antho, Fantasy for the Throne. (You may recall I had a story in last year's Science Fiction for the Throne antho.)

A second short story, "Paradise Regained," also has a reappearance pending, this time as a podcast at Escape Pod.

And new fiction? Last January, when I announced the sale to Analog of "Harry and the Lewises," the novella had not yet been assigned to an issue. Now it has: the story is scheduled for the September/October issue. (And if that title brings to mind a campy movie from 1987? You won't be entirely misled. Just somewhat :-)  )

And newer still? If you were hooked by last year's story arc (in The Grantville Gazette) beginning with the novelette "The Company Man" and continuing with the novella "The Company Dick" ... be of good cheer. I'm about 10K words into "The Company Mole."

May 19 update:  I'm pleased to append, in breaking news, that "Paradise Regained" (indeed, the very same tale as mentioned above) was just announced as the short-story winner in the Analytical Laboratory (Analog readers poll) for 2017. You can find all the winners at Anlab Readers' Award Winners.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


And no, today's post isn't a further complaint about Yahoo Mail.  (In fact, they've actually begun in recent weeks to get a handle on spam.)

Nor much of a post at all.

One of the household PCs was picked (targeted?) this week for the latest Windows 10 "feature" update. The new features, as far as I can tell are:
  • Breaking my non-MS antivirus software
  • Breaking the UI to my non-MS cloud-backup service
  • Changing at least one past authorization in the firewall
  • Failing to support the installer for the only supported iteration of Adobe Reader

Well done, Microsoft! Love these new features!

So: rather than blog this week, I'm doing other things :-(

Monday, April 30, 2018

Trope-ing the Light Fantastic

I am pleased to announce the release today of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

Trope-ing? There's a funny word! So what is this book?

In a nutshell: The essential resource for anyone who reads, writes, watches, or studies science fiction.

In a few more words, borrowed from the back cover:
Men have walked on the Moon. Siri and Alexa manage — at least often enough to be helpful — to make sense of the things we say. Biologists have decoded DNA, and doctors have begun to tailor treatments to suit our individual genetic make-ups. In short: science and tech happen.

But faster-than-light travel? Time travel? Telepathy? A six million dollar — as adjusted, of course, for inflation — man? Starfaring aliens? Super-intelligent computers? Those, surely, are mere fodder for storytelling. Or wild extrapolations. Just so many "sci fi" tropes.

Sometimes, yes. But not necessarily.

In Trope-ing the Light Fantastic, physicist, computer engineer, science popularizer, and award-winning science-fiction author Edward M. Lerner entertainingly examines these and many other SF tropes. The science behind the fiction.

Each chapter, along with its eminently accessible scientific discussion, surveys science fiction — foundational and modern, in short and long written form, on TV and the big screen — that illustrates a particular trope. The good, the bad, and occasionally the cringe-worthy. All imparted with wit (and ample references to learn more).

So forget what the Wizard of Oz advised. Let's pull back the curtain ....
And what's the early buzz? I'm happy you asked.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The clock is Trope-ing (er, ticking)

One short week from today, the fine folk at Phoenix Pick will release Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.* As in:

The essential resource for anyone who reads, writes, watches, or studies science fiction.

(I've blogged more than once(!) about Trope-ing, but if you're new here -- welcome! -- here's the back story: "From mighty oak trees, little acorns grow.")

To order on Amazon
To order from Amazon
Being this near to publication of my first nonfiction book is exciting in its own right ... but isn't the ticking metaphor (whether it brings to mind time bombs or Neverland alligators) a tad overwrought? Nope. Not if you're a Kindle person. The pre-order discount for the Kindle edition disappears when, well, it's too late to pre-order. One week from today.

If you might be interested -- and given that you're visiting SF and Nonsense, how can you not? -- check out Trope-ing the Light Fantastic for Kindle. Because there's nothing wrong with a bargain :-)

(*) More specifically, the hardback and ebook editions will be released April 30, with the trade paperback edition to follow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Look! Up in the sky! ...

It's astronomy news!

And surely real news of astronomy beats an imaginary guy in tights and a cape.

The Mountains of Madness (er, Pluto)
Case 1: the mind-blowingly mobile mountains of Pluto. (Say that quickly ten times.) See "Pluto’s mountains may have slid along a kilometre a day."  That rate of motion isn't something you'd expect to see of a glacier on Earth, much less of ice mountains in the outer Solar System deep freeze. But facts are stubborn things ...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Move 'em on, head 'em out (the annual posts roundup)

Starting in the ancient past of 2011 with "Postscript (or is that post post?)", I've blogged every year around this date about popular posts here at SF and Nonsense. These annual summaries have always begun with the blog's top-ten, all-time hits -- but this year, I'm going to dispense with that bit of the tradition.  The all-time top ten remain the same as a year ago (see "Post posting"), differing only in a couple slight changes of position within the list.

Fine posts, every one
But recently popular posts? That's another story -- or ten stories, if you will ;-) and only two of these ten are also on that all-time list.

Herewith, the most popular ten posts for the past month (meaning the past thirty days, spanning a calendar-month boundary), Blogger providing that compilation.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Trope-ing update

Snapped moments ago from Amazon: Number 1 New Release in general technology and reference. Gotta admit, I like the sound of that.

(And incidentally, this Kindle edition of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction is on sale till the release date, April 30. The hardback edition will also be out that day.)