Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Really dark

Black holes, that is. It's long been inferred that a monster black hole lurked at the center of our galaxy. The evidence is now better than ever. See "Confirmed: a monster black hole at the heart of the Milky Way." A key quote:

New observations by the European Space Observatory (ESO) show clumps of gas swirling around at about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit just outside what astronomers conclude is the black hole’s event horizon. 

It’s the first time material has been seen orbiting close to the point of no return – and “a resounding confirmation of the massive black hole paradigm", according to study leader Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany.

And then there's this: "Has LIGO Seen Galaxy-Warped Gravitational Waves? Nobel laureate George Smoot claims LIGO has observed amplified signals of black hole mergers from the very distant universe, but LIGO scientists disagree."

(And just as an aside, LIGO has gotten really good. As in, "LIGO upgrade to allow ‘almost daily’ detection of gravitational waves." And that's germane to this post because short of black-hole and/or neutron-star-into-a-black-hole mergers, there aren't a lot of gravitational waves.)

Literally awesome
Of course the coolest black-hole-in-the-news story relates to imaging the super-massive black hole at the heart of the (relatively) nearby Messier 87 galaxy. Doubtless by now you've seen the nearby image many times. But have you read about the young computer scientist who (among many, of course) is chiefly responsible for this feat? See "Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image."

And now I must disappear into the metaphorical black hole of proofreading ...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Not a jug of wine and loaf of bread, to be sure, but still ...

Perhaps you've encountered my 2007 short story "A Stranger in Paradise," whether in its original (in the late, lamented Jim Baen's Universe) appearance, or reprinted in the Best of Jim Baen's Universe #2 anthology. Or maybe you've read that story's 2017, generations-after sequel, "Paradise Regained," winner of an annual Analog Readers Poll award

Art for "Paradise Regained" (by Eldar Zakirov)
If those two -- surely among my favorite short stories -- are not (with apologies to Omar Khayyam) "paradise enow," then I ask you to consider this late-breaking news:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Un-wordy (with, IMO, good cause)

Today finds me:
  • waiting for decisions on three story submissions.
  • on the lookout for paperwork on a story resale. 
  • expecting page proofs on the next (May) installment of an ongoing serial.
  • anticipating copy edits for the story collection in the publication process.
  • hoping to see draft cover art for the novel in the publication process.
Oh, and starting tomorrow, I'll have painters onsite for a few days.

I'm thinking it'll be a while till I start a new project. And that a bit of downtime is okay.

Monday, April 1, 2019


You guessed it: a post replete with astronomy news. (Wherein "news" is a relative term. My file of fascinating articles seems to expand faster than I can comment, and some of today's items first came to my attention toward the end of last year. Bear with me. These are all worth a read.)

Today's emphasis: how much remains to be understood about matters astronomical. And how much we continue to discover!

By Jove, that's hot!
Case in point: details of how how solar systems -- star(s), planets, and lesser bodies -- form. For example, it always seemed impossible that gas giants (i.e., planets like Jupiter) could originate close to a star -- but jovians *are* seen with close-in orbits. The inference drawn has been that such "hot Jupiters" formed farther out, and that the dynamics of interplanetary gravitational interactions on occasion caused planets to spiral inward. For all we know, that is sometimes the case -- but apparently not always. See "Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form."

And recent estimates of the number of potentially habitable exoplanets may be due for a downward revision. Determinations of which exoplanets orbit within habitable zones (basically, the range around their respective stars in which water will remain liquid) depend on estimates of the absolute brightness (energy output) of the parent stars. There are several ways to mis-estimate a star's absolute brightness, and if you get it wrong, your estimate of the habitable zone will be off. Planets you thought orbited in the Goldlilocks zone might instead be too hot or too cold. See "Number of Habitable Exoplanets Found by NASA's Kepler May Not Be So High After All."