Friday, December 31, 2010

Three Girls, Six Books

Two trilogies (well, one trilogy and one trilogy due to the author's death) that I read this year were similar in that they both featured strong female characters, were written by men and could both be science fiction...sort of.

William Gibson has been working on his latest trilogy (do any of these start out as such?) since 2001, encompassing Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History.

Stieg Larsson had finished the first three (and, according to various reports, gotten well along a fourth) books of a ten (!) book series before he passed away. Featuring eye-catching covers (which is why I picked up the first, before it became the wonder that it did), they have spawned multiple editions (two or three different hardcover editions, the weird paperback that is between a mass market and a trade, and a "normal" paperback), a trilogy of movies filmed on location and in the native language, and plans for a (no doubt way overblown) Hollywood remake.

Both trilogies feature men in primarily secondary roles and women in the strong primary role (spoiler warning on Gibson). Both feature real-world and more or less present-day settings. Both feature a lot of technology and product placement (I propose a drinking game for each of the trilogies...every time a product is mentioned, take a long before you are totally drunk?).

Gibson started, ostensibly, as a science fiction writer. Larsson did not. But both trilogies are science fiction.

Seriously, think about it. What is one thing that science fiction is good for? It takes a trend that the author has noticed and puts it in a odd setting (the future, outer space, another dimension) in order to have us take a new look at that trend. Gibson and Larsson did that—but with a real science fictional twist of using our "reality" as the science fiction setting. Both look at our world through the lens of science fiction.

(Yes, yes, Larsson is not a genre writer...well, not a writer of the science fiction genre. But try reading both trilogies mixed in your yearly reading and you'll see what I mean, I believe.)

Six enjoyable reads. The third Gibson will, as with previous books, require one or two more readings for me to fully appreciate it (it seems to be a pattern). Recommended.

William Gibson; Pattern Recognition (Putnam; 2003; ISBN 0-399-14986-4; cover by Benita Raphan).

William Gibson; Spook Country (Putnam; 2007; ISBN 978-0-399-15430-0; cover by Nicole La Roche).

William Gibson; Zero History (Putnam; 2010; ISBN 978-0-399-15682-3; cover by Nicole La Roche).

Stieg Larsson; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Knopf; 2010; ISBN 978-0-307-26975-1; cover by Reg Mendelsund).

Stieg Larsson; The Girl Who Played With Fire (Knopf; 2010; ISBN 978-0-307-26998-0; cover by Reg Mendelsund).

Stieg Larsson; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Knopf; 2010; ISBN 978-0-307-26999-7; cover by Reg Mendelsund).

Addendum: And for another look at the Larsson trilogy, try this pastiche.

Addendum: Over 1 million electronic copies? Still thing eBooks are a passing trend?
Solar Cycles

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows 2010's solar pattern.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

News Flash!

A previously unreleased story by SF great Alastair Reynolds!
Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL (An Ongoing Series)

So, as 2010 winds up, what rotates through the iPod listening mix these days? Music and audiobooks, sure, but podcasts have increasingly dominated the mix.

I'll post this now, but I'll be updating it several more times. If you look at my 2010 Year in Shorts posting, you'll see that a lot of my "drive time" and "errand time" and the like was supplemented by listening to a wide variety of podcasts. The variety kept expanding as one podcast might suggest another, until you see this varied list below.

Authors and Books: I've listed here the podcasts that don't specialize (in genre fiction, for example). The problem with these podcasts? The wallet cringes! You may end up discovering way too many authors you want to try out.

Rick Kleffel's The Agony Column: It seems like Rick may have slowed down the postings during the year, but if you start with the backlog (as I have) you'll never notice as you'll constantly be discovering new and interesting authors. This year saw a number of excellent interviews including extensive interviews with some who rarely make interview contributions such as David Drake and Tim Powers.

Cuisine: Food and drink!

Basic Brewing Radio: Added late to the listening mix. I'm interested in learning how to brew beer, my father attempted this once in the early 1970's (along with making wine, root beer and the like).

Gaming: A long-running interest of mine (not as long as SF/F) but mostly dormant for the past several years. These podcasts are starting to awaken those interests again.

All About Miniatures: Most of the gaming podcasts that I've come across seem to deal with one particular game (fantasy or science fiction genre games especially). This one not was a rarity in that it dealt with mostly miniature games set in historical periods. Unfortunately it appears that health issues have scuttled the podcast.

Drop Pod Cast: One of many game-related podcasts dealing with Warhammer 40,000. Inactive.

The Eternal Warriors (formerly known as Dice Like Thunder): Late in the year, this podcast underwent a name and theme change. Still mostly genre miniatures focused (e.g., Warhammer 40,000 and Warmachine). Unfortunately, it appears that they have pulled the archives of Dice Like Thunder.

Fell Calls: A podcast about the various games from Privateer Press set in the FRP game universe known as the Iron Kingdoms. Ran for 200 episodes, now moved into the THACO podcast (which see). Even without (initially) knowing anything about the game setting, the podcast got me interested enough to pick up some of the rules books and miniatures.

The Two Half-Squads: Dedicated to the classic wargame Squad Leader/Advanced Squad Leader.

General: Podcasts that are hard to quantify. See also the "geek" category!

A Life Well Wasted: The first five episodes of this podcast made me think it was as good as anything produced by NPR. The sixth episode jumped the shark. Nothing since then, so has "podfade" struck again?

Geekiness: It is amazing the number of podcasts with the word "geek" in their title. Some are genre-related, some are technology-related, most cover multiple subjects under one overall name. So I'll list them in this separate category.

Geek Cred: Discovered this one due to an episode revolving around a podcast called We're Alive. Unfortunately seems to be caught up in "podfade".

Radio Free Burrito with Wil Wheaton: Wheaton has made a varied career out of being a geek, ranging from programming to acting to writing to presentations. This all-too-infrequent podcasts is about a free-ranging. Music, commentary, fiction, biography and more.

History and Politics: Most of these deal with history, with World Wars I and II and the Ancient World being the most popular topics. Production quality can vary, with Dan Carlin's shows, Ancient Rome Refocused, the two podcasts from Lars Brownworth and Mike Duncan's series on Rome.

Ancient Rome Refocused: Taking a fresh look at Rome. Start with the episode called The 24th Shitkickers We're Never the Same After the Peloponnese. Amazing episode.

Binge History Thinking: Mainly military in focus, and with relatively short episodes. Relatively slow production cycle (every other month or so).

Historyzine: Appears to be inactive. Good stuff while it lasted.

Military History Podcast with George Hageman: A series of relatively short episodes that ranged from the ancient world to current events. Unfortunately appears to be inactive.

Science: Mostly astronomy-related (my main hobby interest when it comes to science).

365 Days of Astronomy: Initially launched in 2009, 2010 saw an additional nearly 365 10-15 shows about many aspects of astronomy. I found myself skipping through certain episodes by certain repeating contributors either due to production problems, beating certain themes to death and the like, but overall this show continues to be very good.

Astronomy Cast: Another contributer to 365 Days (above). Episodes are usually linked (an episode about Lyman Spitzer will be followed by an episode about the Spitzer Space Telescope, for example).

Cheap Astronomy: One of the regular contributors to 365 Days (above). Podcasts and observing/equipment advice.

Jodcast: Massive episodes twice a month.

Science Fiction: I call it "science fiction" but many of these also cover fantasy, horror and the like.

Angry Robot Podcast: Hosted by the multi-talented and over-energetic Mur Lafferty, this podcast deals with the offerings of the relatively new publisher Angry Robot Books. Alas, this will limit the subject matter and a series of bad recordings have kept me from enjoying this podcast as much as I might.

Clarkesworld: Regular audio productions of stories that appear in the magazine.

Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas: Episodes alternate between a book/author and a television show/movie. Unfortunately seems to be caught in "podfade".

Transmissions from Beyond: Stories from magazines such as Interzone, Black Static, etc.

Variant Frequencies: Appears to be a victim of podfade. Lots of stories available, grab them now before the site is taken down.
Skylights and Glowing Horizon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows stars, signs of humanity, and zodiacal light over Libya.

Monday, December 27, 2010

We Are the Dead

I really have not been attracted to the whole zombie thing. Like the vampire thing, the werewolf thing and all the other reboots of various horror tropes I've passed them due to a lack of time or a lack of interest or a lack of understanding (I cannot get my mind around the romantic vampire, for example...these things want to drain your blood and your life and you lose your soul...)

That being said, this was the year of the zombie for me. I think I became interested when I realized the stories were less about the zombies themselves than those who survive. Toss in a change to the whole post-apocalypse sub-genre and I can relate to them more.

The second thing that got me interested was the AMC mini-series based on the graphic novel The Walking Dead. The first 15 or so minutes of the first episode got me, from the point where the main character wakes up in a hospital to the point where the leaves the hospital and sees what is in the loading area. Fantastic writing, directing and acting.

So, I will explore the sub-genre, to a limited extent. Here are three books that I've enjoyed so far!

Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn: The Walking Dead, Compendium One (; 2010; ISBN 978-1-60706-076-5).

John Joseph Adams (editor): The Living Dead (Night Shade Books; 2008; ISBN 978-1-59780-143-0; cover by David Palumbo).

Made up of: Introduction (John Joseph Adams); Some Zombie Contingency Plans (Kelly Link); Death and Suffrage (Dale Bailey); Blossom (David J. Schow); The Third Dead Body (Nina Kiriki Hoffman); The Dead (Michael Swanwick); The Dead Kid (Darrell Schweitzer); Malthusian's Zombie (Jeffrey Ford); Beautiful Stuff (Susan Palwick); Sex, Death and Starshine (Clive Barker); Stockholm Syndrome (David Tallerman); Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead (Joe Hill); Those Who Seek Forgiveness (Laurell K. Hamilton); In Beauty, Like the Night (Norman Partridge); Prairie (Brian Evenson); Everything Is Better With Zombies (Hannah Wolf Bowen); Home Delivery (Stephen King); Sparks Fly Upward (Lisa Morton); Meathouse Man (George R. R. Martin); Deadman's Road (Joe R. Lansdale); The Skull-Faced Boy (David Barr Kirtley); The Age of Sorrow (Nancy Kirkpatrick); Bitter Grounds (Neil Gaiman); She's Taking Her Tits to the Grave (Catherine Cheek); Dead Like Me (Adam-Troy Castro); Zora and the Zombie (Andy Duncan); Calcutta, Lord of Nerves (Poppy Z. Brite); Followed (Will McIntosh); The Song the Zombie Sang (Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg); Passion Play (Nancy Holder); Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man (Scott Edelman); How the Day Runs Down (John Langan).

Counts as five (5) entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

Counts as five (5) entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.

John Joseph Adams (editor): The Living Dead Two (Night Shade Books; 2010; ISBN 978-1-5978-0190-4; cover by David Palumbo).

Made up of: Introduction (John Joseph Adams); Alone, Together (Robert Kirkman); Danger World (Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due); Zombieville (Paula R. Stiles); The Anteroom (Adam-Troy Castro); When the Zombies Win (Karina Sumner-Smith); Mouja (Matt London); Category Five (Marc Paoletti); Living with the Dead (Molly Brown); Twenty-three Snapshots of San Francisco (Seth Lindberg); The Mexican Bus (Walter Greatshell); The Other Side (Jamie Lackey); Where the Heart Was (David J. Schow); Good People (David Wellington); Lost Canyon of the Dead (Brian Keene); Pirates vs. Zombies (Amelia Beamer); The Crocodiles (Steven Popkes); The Skull-Faced City (David Barr Kirtley); Obedience (Brenna Yovanoff); Steve and Fred (Max Brooks); The Rapeworm (Charles Coleman Finley); Everglades (Mira Grant); We Now Pause for Station Identification (Gary A. Braunbeck); Reluctance (Cherie Priest); Arlene Schabowski of the Undead (Mark McLaughlin and Kyra M. Schon); Zombie Gigolo (S. G. Browne); Rural Dead (Bret Hammond); The Summer Place (Bob Fingerman); The Wrong Grave (Kelly Link); The Human Race Scott Edelman); Who We Used to Be (David Moody); Therapeutic Intervention (Rory Harper); He Said, Laughing (Simon R. Green); Last Stand (Kelly Armstrong); The Thought War (Paul McAuley); Dating in Dead World (Joe McKinney); Flotsam and Jetsam (Carrie Ryan); Thin Them Out (Kim Paffenroth, R. J. Sevin, and Julia Sevin); Zombie Season (Catherine MacLeod); Tameshigiri (Steven Gould); The Days of Flaming Motorcycles (Catherynne M. Valente); Zero Tolerance (Jonathan Mayberry); And the Next, and the Next (Genevieve Valentine); The Price of a Slice (John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow); Are You Trying to Tell Me This is Heaven? (Sarah Langan).

Counts as three (3) entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

Counts as three (3) entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.
Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho

Dave Freer talks about eBooks, piracy and pricing in response
to a recent piece by Paul Cornell on the same subject.

Me? Give me reasonably priced eBooks in multiple formats without DRM. Stop treating me, the legitimate customer, like a damn thief. Stop imposing technology restrictions on me that don't exist when I buy a paper copy of a book. Respect me and I'll respect you.

Otherwise...maybe I'll need to resort to British Television.

And while we're at it, please pick up a copy of Dave's Dragon's Ring, now out in paperback. Or the eBook. Good stuff!
One Million Galaxies

What does infinity look like? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day will give you some hints.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sidewise Through Space!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a sidewise Orion over the skies of Ireland. Did the Hunter slip on some ice?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Winter Decorations

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a very nice detail shot of the area north of Orion's Belt. Think of it as the Milky Way's attic.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Some retro-style gadgets. I actually still have a number of LP records, so the ability to convert these to MP3 files would be nice.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows circum-polar stars rotating around the point in the sky where the pole "goes through".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Decline and Fall of a Writer

John Scalzi points out a problem with cloud computing. In retaliation, the people who do no evil suck him over to the dark side. He totters, he wavers...and then he is seen in a coffeeshop. With a laptop. In a cloud of coffee.

Pride goeth before the fall, Mr. Scalzi.

(With tongue planted in cheek and tinfoil hat on top my head, I am joking about this all but jealous that some folks get free computers!)
Red Moon at Night, Observers Delight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recently eclipsed Moon. There was a conflict between the curse of the full Moon and the curse of the astronomical event over my house: normally when there is an astronomical event, it is cloudy but normally it is clear when there is a full Moon (as the Moon washes out the faint fuzzies). The lunar curse won and I was able to see the eclipse.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Not Our Destination

Space Shuttle Discovery and the partially eclipsed Moon. Too bad we are not going there.

Jeph Jacques: Questionable Content (Volume 01) (Topatoco Books; 2010; ISBN 978-0-9824862-5-2; cover and interior by Jeph Jacques).

I'm not sure when I first ran across Questionable Content. Not at the beginning, but somewhere near the beginning. For several years now, five times a week, I tune in to see what is up with Marten, Faye, Dora and the others along with Pintsize and Yelling Bird.

Now, to be sure, I am not the target audience of this webcomic. Emos? Get a life. Hipsters? Get a job? Indy rock? Give me my Eno records. is dang funny. Sure, the indy rock references sail past me, but the comments about relationships, life, on.

This collection takes us from the first strip to 299 (plus a bonus). As of this writing, the strip is up to 1822 entries. You can catch up for free (heck, you can read everything but the bonus for free), but buy the book. And the t-shirts. That way I can keep up with Marten, Faye, Dora, Pintsize...and Yelling Bird.
Solstice Sun

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day marks the summer for some, the winter for others. Brrrrr!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Surprises of 2010

The biggest surprise is that The SF Signal Podcast keeps asking me to come back! Episode 21 is up!
Tech Talk

Lucy A. Snyder: Installing Linux On a Dead Badger and Other Oddities (Creative Guy Publishing; 2007; ISBN 1-894953-47-9; illustrations by DE Christman and Malcolm McClinton).

I first heard about this book while listening to a recent episode of The Functional Nerds podcast. The wallet cringes!

This is a short and very funny collection. It is clear that Snyder has spent way too much time eithe reading or writing corporate puff pieces and training manuals. There are a couple of more straightforward stories, as well, if one can tag "straightforward" a rescue of our planet through the use of a device to cook...french fries.

Made up of: Installing Linux on a Dead Badger; Authorities Concerned Over Rise of Teen Linux Gangs; Your Corporate Network and The Forces of Darkness; Faery Cats: The Cutest Killers; Dead Men Don't Need Coffee Breaks; Business Insourcing Offers Life After Death; Corporate Vampires Sink Teeth Into Business World; Unemployed Playing Dead To Find Work; Trolls Gone Wild; The Great VuDu Linux Teen Zombie Massacre; Wake Up Naked Monkey You're Going to Die; In The Shadow of the Fryolator.

Counts as twelve (12) entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.
All the Colors

Freeman J. Dyson: A Many Colored-Glass—Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (University of Virginia Press; 2007; ISBN 978-0-8139-2663-6; cover art uncredited).

I've been interested to note how the books I've read about Freeman Dyson seem to be shifting their scope. With the first encounter (Disturbing the Universe), we had large concepts such as the Orion atomic bomb "powered" spaceship and the Dyson Sphere. Each subsequent entry refined its focus smaller and smaller and sharper and sharper down to the Earth and the implications of technology such as the internet and advances in biology.

This collection is based on a series of lectures that Dyson gave for the Page-Barbour series in 2004 and focuses mainly on biology and biotechnology. Dyson is always controversial, always interesting and this serves as a good introduction to his smaller focus the past several years.

Made up of: Preface; The Future of Biotechnology; A Debate with Bill Joy; Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society; A Friendly Universe; Can Life Go On Forever?; Looking for Life; The Varieties of Human Experience.

Counts as three (03) entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.
Secret Powers

John Berlyme (compiler and editor): Powers: Secret Histories—A Bibliography (PS Publishing; 2009; ISBN 978-1-84863-011-6 for trade edition; ISBN 978-1-84863-012-3 for slipcase edition with two books; ISBN 978-1-84863-013-0 for slipcase edition with three books; cover by John Berlyne & Dirk Berger).

I've made it clear previously that I am a big fan of the works of Tim Powers and consider him one of America's best practitioners of fantasy (maybe a more marketable term would be "magical realism"?). My first encounter with his stuff was on the way to an opera (I kid you not) where I had a copy of The Anubis Gates in my pocket for the ride into New York City. I don't remember much of the opera at this point, but that book has stuck with me ever since and is one of my all-time favorites. Think of a cross between Dr. Who and Charles Dickens...that works.

I came across this book about a year ago and now have two (!) copies, one of the signed-and-numbered single volume set and one of the signed-and-numbered two volume set (if I win the lottery, I'll hunt down the three volume set, as well as copies of his other much more limited books and chapbooks).

The book is a combination of essays by other writers (mostly friends to Tim Powers such as James Blaylock) and bits and pieces from Powers, ranging from sketches to drafts to calendars used to keep track of events in various books.

This is an invaluable resource for fans of Tim Powers. If you've never encountered Powers, give him a try: I'd recommend the previously-mentioned The Anubis Gates or perhaps the inspiration (?) for the next Pirates of the Caribbean flick, On Stranger Tides. Last Call (mentioned above) is a strong start to a trilogy.

Excellent books. And this is an excellent resource.

Made up of: Foreword (John Berlyne); Introduction (Dean Koontz); Notes on the Bibliographic System (John Berlyne); Bibliography—Novels; Bibliography—Novellas, Short Stories and Other Works; Bibliography—William Ashbless: Selected Sightings; Putting Ashbless to Rest: A Refutation (James P. Blaylock); A Refutation of a Refutation (William Ashbless); A Look Behind the Curtain (John Bierer); Juvenilia; The Extraterrestrial Stories of Arthur Asteroidbelt; Selected Early Poetry & Drawings, 1969-1979; The Skies Discrowned/Epitaph in Rust; The Drawing of the Dark; Excerpt from To Serve In Hell; The Anubis Gates; Why The Anubis Gates Shouldn't Exist (China Mieville); Dinner at Deviant's Palace; On Stranger Tides; The Stress of Her Regard; Last Call; Expiration Date; Earthquake Weather; Declare; Three Days to Never; Afterword (Karen Joy Fowler).

Counts as twenty (20) entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.
Solstice Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an eclipse of the Moon allowing the viewing of some celestial sights that would normally be washed out by a full Moon. By coincidence, tonight will have a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. It looks like it'll be washed out by clouds here, so I hope you are able to see it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another 15 Picoseconds of Fame

Integration, A.E. van Vogt and having read too many books.
Bird and Continent

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the North American Nebula and the Pelican Nebula in the area of Deneb. I saw the North American Nebula once, under very dark skies and using a special filter. I was so excited I forgot to look for details of the other as well!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010: Odyssey Two

We're heading into the home stretch and if I find the time/energy I should be making a number of (mostly book-related) postings by the end of the year. Time to wind down!

What a year. I have never felt more exhausted, tired, depressed at times. My father died in January, my in-laws have faced a series of health-related issues the entire year. The job is in stasis, no news on the upgrade and if rumors about the incoming administration are at all accurate, it won't make much difference, nohow. I continue to have joint difficulties, to be sure I am not in "extreme" pain, but constant low-level pain gnaws at your soul as well. Nightmares continue to echo from the year of the last Clarke novel, as it were.

Sure am a happy camper, am I not?

Let's not even trot down the path of the economy, politics (let alone elected officials) and the overall tone of "social discourse" of late. We just put the FUN in dysfunctional, don't we all?

Ah yes, update. Less than four hours after getting out of the hospital, my father-in-law is back in. With a broken hip.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a downfall of Geminids over the skies of Kitt Peak Observatory.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Hey look, the sun is getting active again. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a recent solar filament.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nice View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a nice close-up of a launching Delta IV Heavy. Not a place you'd **actually** want to be standing in, mind...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Desert Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a meteor streaking across a dark desert sky.
Save the Monkey, Buy a Coconut

A vast confluence of events appears to have shot a hole in the sales of a hardcover by an author I enjoy. This could mean the end of his career as an author, at least as a solo author. So help the Monkey! Buy a coconut! Please pre-order the paperback edition of his book, Dragon Ring!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kiss the Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an occultation between an extremely thin crescent Moon and a fairly dim planet Mars.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

M81 and Arp

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a fantastic shot of galaxy M81 and the tidal tail known as Arp's Loop.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice view of Intrepid Crater on Mars, as imaged by the MER Opportunity. Hey, let's go to those hills in the distance!

The "demonstration flight" of the SpaceX Falcon IX and Dragon capsule just took off. Looks good so far (from this non-professional set of eyes).

Addendum: Staging went well. Terminal burn went well. Dragon in orbit: deploy verified!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Back. It. Is.

Ansible 281. We're edging closer to two-hundred away from the half-millennium mark!
I'm A Wanderer

While it is "inverted", is this a streambed on Mars? Created by water? Or?
GREAT 2010

Face recognition, computer programming and cosmology. Do you have what it takes?

Atlas and Saturn and the Rings. Wowza.
So, How Do You Like Them Ribs?

Top Chef, a guilty pleasure that my wife watches (but which I generally don't watch, except when Anthony Bourdain is on, like the current season!) runs a pair of contests each episode, designed to kick people off the island (or is that a different show?). Two seasons ago (or last season, if you ignore that horrible dessert show) one of the contests was to come up with a dish to be served in space. That dish is now making its way (slowly) to the ISS. I wonder how much the space version will resemble the original dish?
My, It Has Grown

A shot of the International Space Station after less than a year of habitation. It has gotten a tad larger.
Humorous Puzzles

Would children learn more if more learning was...funny? That and more thoughts on thinking.
Paging A.E. van Vogt

I read this and thought of A.E. van Vogt. Along with his various "supermen" (the Slans, the Players of Null "A", etc.), he also came up with "Nexialism" in the "Space Beagle" tales. Writing at that time he saw that we were accumulating more and more knowledge...with the problem that people were becoming more and more specialized...and knowing less and less about "everything else".
Bow-Wow-Wow, The Dog Said

Alas, my employer did not make the cut.

Some kids at JPL have launched a model rocket! Well, not really a model...
Best Of

The SF Signal Podcast returns! We pick our best for 2010. What did I mention?
The Space Review

This week's episode of The Space Review has several articles of interest. Travis Senor looks at the past as a gate to the future. Can we get beyond the glory days of Apollo and make significant progress with a different model? Dwayne A. Day follows up on last week's interesting bit of Apollo history (by Vance Mitchell) and looks deeper (hah) into how Apollo would have worked with spy satellite technology. Lou Friedman beats the drum for SETI. Finally, Jeff Foust reviews a new book (monograph) on space debris. Send up the Toybox!
To the Blue Event Horizon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a depiction of what you would see if you get too close to a "frozen star".

Monday, December 06, 2010

First Light

The Large Binocular Telescope (the mind boggles) has taken initial images of Beta Peg (part of the constellation Pictor). Two mirrors, with their light combined, create one big scope. Now for an amateur version...
Silicon Next?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Mono Lake in California. Mono Lake is the home of the recently discovered bacteria that proves that the Poet is once again correct. The universe is a darned strange place.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Double Mountain

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Moon rising between two mountains. No, in between two mountains. Or does it?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

More Stars

I hadn't really noticed this, given all the light pollution I live under. Apparently we are seeing more stars recently.
Groundbound, But Thinking in Space

Before some computer code is sent into space on the ISS, it is first tested on the ground. These computers replicate the space-based systems.
Clear, Cold Water

Where did Earth's water come from? Our planet? Or space (well, technically, we are part of space, but you know what I mean...). A recent study suggests our water is "home-grown".
Clarke's Laws

Ray Kurzweil and the dangers of prediction. I'm sure some of his stuff will eventually come to pass, just later rather than sooner.
Rays and Jetty

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a sunset (with crepuscular rays, they're back!) over the spiral jetty at Utah's Great Salt Lake.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cometeers and Clusters

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Hartley 2 (103/P Hartly) passing in front of Messier 47 and Messier 46.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Very, Very Scary

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a sight firmly on the Earth. One that would probably make you a bit nervous if you saw it heading your way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Send Up the Toybox!

An orbital debris collector with "real money" behind it? I'm skeptical about the money mentioned, given the usual Russian approach to space projects (Kliper, anyone?). A nice mention of Quark and Planetes (I'm rewatching Dark Star currently, not mentioned...but that was "debris on a grand scale).

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the resurgence of Jupiter's dark Southern Equatorial Belt. Shuttling moons, the Great Red Spot and an occasional splatdown by a meteor...Jupiter is an ever-amazing view.
Migrating Books

Books in the iPad boring? The quest to make books "better through technology" has been going on (for me) ever seen "hypertext" on the first Macintosh I bought. For most books, I'm not sure how "interactive" they would need to be (the same philosophy can probably apply to most "features" to a word processing most people need to embed videos in their documents?).

Magazines seem to be dead out of the gate from what I've read. Never mind making them exciting...make them more compact! Magazines should not be a tad more "lite".
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review we find several articles of interest. Dwayne A. Day looks at the Apollo program. Plans were in place to combine the Apollo command and service modules with secretive reconnaissance satellites. I'm sure the conspiracy crew will have a field day with that! Lou Friedman waves the budgetary flag. And people wonder why I don't belong to The Planetary Society anymore... John Hickman looks at the theme of space colonization as it appeared in several popular works. Bonus points for the citation of the classic work by J.D. Bernal, but here's a corrected link. Jeff Foust says what we all know: NASA is in limbo. No kidding.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows anticrepuscular rays over Colorado. These are formed by a combination of clouds and the setting Sun. I've seen these a couple of times and they've even been depicted in at least one science fiction film.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thin But Rich

Saturn's moon Rhea has been found to have an oxygen-based atmosphere. Not quite at the level we can take vacations there without equipment, but it is significant in that we have now found a second body with an oxygen-based atmosphere out there.
Star Streams and Dust Lanes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a section of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. A favorite haunt of professionals and amateurs alike, this section of the sky is so dense with galaxies that you need a computer-assisted telescope or lots of patience and a good map to identify all the targets that you see.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flame On!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula. Located at the edge of Orion's more famous nebula, this is one sight (alas) better viewed with a professional scope than an amateur scope.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a portion of the night sky in the constellation Aries. Reflection nebula, dusty nebula and more!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Even Closer

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another (much closer) shot from the recent flyby of Comet Hartley 2. IMMMPAAACCCCCTTTT!!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Innnnn Spppaaaaccce!

Technology on the International Space Station. Makes you feel all retro at times!
Dune...Desert Planet...Arrakis...

Well, not quite. But today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is evocative of that book. A dune field in Proctor Crater on Mars, first imaged 35 years ago by Mariner 9, the probe that was the "singularity" of studies of Mars.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cloud Carver

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 6357 and a star that resides within. As time goes by, radiation (heat, light) pressure from the star causes the gas of NGC 6357 to move, creating the clouds and patterns we see here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7319, 7318A, 7318B and 7317, Stephan's Quintet. They are also film stars.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I've Only Seen This Once

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a sight in the sky that I was only lucky to see once, under very dark skies in New Mexico. Cygnus (the Northern Cross) and associated nebula (run the cursor over the picture to get some pointers).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gifts for Geeks

In Episode 16 of The SF Signal Podcast, I contribute a couple of low-tech no-battery ideas for our gift guide. Links for the items are below.

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (three volumes), edited and compiled by Leslie Klinger.

Zombie Dice from Steve Jackson Games.

Space Hulk—Death Angel: The Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

Phil Eklund's High Frontiers (and expansion) from Sierra Madre Games.
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of one of those favorite Fall/Winter objects: the Pleiades (also known as The Seven Sisters). What did the poet have to say?

Locksley Hall (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

COMRADES, leave me here a little, while as yet 't is early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.

'T is the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;

When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:

When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.--

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, "My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee."

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn'd--her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs--
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes--

Saying, "I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong";
Saying, "Dost thou love me, cousin?" weeping, "I have loved thee long."

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.

Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,
And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fullness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush'd together at the touching of the lips.

O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,
Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!

Is it well to wish thee happy?--having known me--to decline
On a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be; thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay.

As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.

What is this? his eyes are heavy; think not they are glazed with wine.
Go to him, it is thy duty, kiss him, take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:
Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.

He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understand--
Better thou wert dead before me, tho' I slew thee with my hand!

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart's disgrace,
Roll'd in one another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.

Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten'd forehead of the fool!

Well--'t is well that I should bluster!--Hadst thou less unworthy proved--
Would to God--for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho' my heart be at the root.

Never, tho' my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter'd crow that leads the clanging rookery home.

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?

I remember one that perish'd; sweetly did she speak and move;
Such a one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.

Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
No--she never loved me truly; love is love for evermore.

Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.

Like a dog, he hunts in dreams, and thou art staring at the wall,
Where the dying night-lamp flickers, and the shadows rise and fall.

Then a hand shall pass before thee, pointing to his drunken sleep,
To thy widow'd marriage-pillows, to the tears that thou wilt weep.

Thou shalt hear the "Never, never," whisper'd by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;

And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow; get thee to thy rest again.

Nay, but Nature brings thee solace; for a tender voice will cry.
'T is a purer life than thine, a lip to drain thy trouble dry.

Baby lips will laugh me down; my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother's breast.

O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.

O, I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,
With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart.

"They were dangerous guides the feelings--she herself was not exempt--
Truly, she herself had suffer'd"--Perish in thy self-contempt!

Overlive it--lower yet--be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.

What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys.

Every gate is throng'd with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy; what is that which I should do?

I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman's ground,
When the ranks are roll'd in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other's heels.

Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;

Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;

And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.

So I triumph'd ere my passion sweeping thro' me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;

Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint:
Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point:

Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.

What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho' the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy's?

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:

Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder'd string?
I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman's pleasure, woman's pain--
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine--

Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;

Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr'd,--
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward.

Or to burst all links of habit--there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.

Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.

Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag;

Droops the heavy-blossom'd bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree--
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.

There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.

There the passions cramp'd no longer shall have scope and breathing space;
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.

Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;

Whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks,
Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books--

Fool, again the dream, the fancy! but I know my words are wild,
But I count the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child.

I, to herd with narrow foreheads, vacant of our glorious gains,
Like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains!

Mated with a squalid savage--what to me were sun or clime?
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time--

I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua's moon in Ajalon!

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun.

O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.

Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Insurance Agent Needed

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7252, two galaxies involved in a massive collision.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Chandra has discovered a black hole that is only 30 years old. Holy frack, I'm older than a cosmic object!

(O.K., O.K., before everybody yells at me...yes, I know how old it really is...)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looking at Earth through the recently-installed cupola. What. A. View.

Addendum: A different view of the cupola.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Across the Multiverse

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a depiction of the multiverse concept. Credit to Philip Jose Farmer, Michael Moorcock and others for exploring a hot topic in physics (probably before most of the physicists were born!).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nice Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day won't get any cute commentary from your guide (me). M66. A spiral galaxy. Coolness abounds.

Addendum: More here. Another interesting story about Saturn here.

Friday, November 12, 2010


A view of the spokes in the Rings of Saturn. A comparison between images collected during the Voyager missions and the current Cassini mission.

The Ground Utility Carrier Plate: A closer view (videocast) of what has grounded Space Shuttle Discovery.

While I am sporting a red eye (courtesty of an over-energetic Miss Mocha, a.k.a., New Dog Mark 4.0) today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is the Iris Nebula, NGC 7023.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Double Crescent

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two views of the same thing: a thin crescent Moon and a thin crescent Venus.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Eerie reflections in the nebula around Merope (part of the Pleiades star cluster).
What Mad Universe

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the highly active central region of the very active galaxy Centaurus A. Local eyes could see some interesting sights in their night sky!

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows IC 1396 and the "Elephant Trunk" (how many shades of red can you spot?).

Friday, November 05, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the flyby of Comet Hartley 2 by the EPOXI probe. This was the fifth close encounter with a comet by a spacecraft from Earth. Trivia: what was EPOXI before it was EPOXI? Answer here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Night Lights

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the night sky...or rather the ground at night...from the ISS.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us the recently discovered Necklace Nebula. A subtle hint for the upcoming frenzy of gift purchasing?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fermat's Last Theorem


"Yes, dear?"

"Can you do some equations for me?"

"Sure, what kind?"


"Anything else?"

"Wear a bowtie."


"And don't say math. Say 'maths'!"

He sighed. It was a strange relationship. But somehow, it worked.
Fred's Reading Report (Through October 2010)

Yep, behind on my updating. But the numbers have ended October nicely.

Long works? 88 books YTD. Reads through October included Lois McMaster Bujold (re-reading the Canon According to Miles before reading the newest addition); more Jim Butcher and the exploits of Harry Dresden; two volumes by William Gibson; steampunk by Mark Hodder; various bits of non-fiction and much more.

Short works? Since I started including short audio (as I had included long audio last year), it just goes to show you: I drive way too much. One-thousand, nine-hundred and sixty-six items. Gadzooks.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows spicules (jets) on the "surface" of our Sun.

Monday, November 01, 2010

He's Back!

Ansible 280! Accept no substitutes!

The Dead Past. 36 Years Ago, Robert Silverberg wrote a booklet on drugs in sf, now extensively cited in the latest Druglink magazine from the UK charity DrugScope: Marcus Roberts's article 'Dream-Dust from Mars' acknowledges having 'borrowed from Robert Silverman's [sic] "Drug Themes in Science Fiction" published by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1974.' Dr Rob Jackson comments: 'As well as using the surnames Silverman and Silverberg in a randomly interchangeable way throughout the article, he also refers to some bloke called Chine Mieville, and a 1984 William Gibson novel called Necromancer. I have also spotted a Robert Silverman novel called Downward to Earth. (No "the".) If their proofreading is this good in the rest of the journal, I'm not that sure I can trust them to tell the difference even between cocaine and codeine, let alone between methadone and mephedrone.'
Stars in the Furnace

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Milky Way arching over Piton de la Fournaise.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows vdb 141 (Sh2-136). A more poetic name is the Cepheus Flare.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hide and Seek

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Mirach's Ghost. This is one that has eluded me, so far. Need darker skies and more aperture!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Andromeda Strain

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a dual image of the Andromeda Galaxy ("mouseover" the picture to see the alternative view): ultraviolet light vs. visible light.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rambling With Gambling

Oh noes! Another installment of the SF Signal Podcast! Number thirteen in a series!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Hartley in the neighborhood of one of the best sights in the Fall evening sky: the "Double Cluster" in Perseus.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wet Moon

What lies beneath our Moon? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows how much hydrogen was detected in various areas of the Moon during last year's "splatdown" of the LCROSS probe.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Girl with the Memory Stick

Lisbeth? Lisbeth? Was that you?

On this day in history...Valentinian III became Emperor of the Western Roman Empire (425 AD), The Battle of Edgehill (1642 AD), The War of Jenkins' Ear (1739), the Hungarian Revolution (1956), Operation Linebacker (1972) and the attack on the USMC barracks in Lebanon (1983). Oh, and I got married (1983).
Water from the Sun

This reminded me of Freeman Dyson's The Sun, The Genome and The Internet. Not as far seeing as J.D. Bernal's The World, The Flesh and The Devil but still a darned good read.
Two Shakes

I have discussed this research with my dogs. They feel it needs more peer review. The physics of shaking dogs.
Do No Evil

Sounds like some really tasty food! Dutch Sandwich! Double Irish! no evil. Google-a-ga-ga.
Future Schlock

The amazing precognitive powers of Howard Tayler! If you don't already read this strip...take the rest of the weekend and do so! Now! You'll sleep better!
Know Your Rights

England "owns" images of Stonehenge no matter who took them? What?
A New Model

Wikipedia as a model for universities? It'll never happen, too many groups have too much vested in the "old school".

The UN does not want us to blot out the Sun. If somebody actually has the ability to do this, will they bother listening to the UN?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A house made from a 747. Massive reuse in action! Now about all those cargo contains in Port Newark...
Bricks on Bricks

You can make anything with Legos...including, apparently, more bricks!
Long View

NASA is now looking at starships. Not much money involved, but it'll be interesting to see what comes of this over time.
Triple Your Pleasure

Joseph Mallozzi, of Stargate Universe, discusses culinary secrets. Still catching up on the first season of the show, I recommend you watch the DVD set as I find it works better as a really long movie rather than a series of hour-long episodes.
Pale Ale

Next up, Monty Python and the Holy Grail gets re-cut.
Head to Toe

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a mosaic of images showing one of the best sights in the night sky: the Great Nebula in Orion.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Flaming Pillars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7822 in the constellation Cepheus. Pillars, swirls, young stars and more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Overstaying My Welcome

Wow! Episode 012 of The SF Signal Podcast. We discuss things that have overstayed their welcome. For some reason I'm back again!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a nice planetary nebula in Cygnus. A nice challenge for fall skies!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pattern Recognition

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the path of Venus through the early evening sky over a period of time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Prometheus Rising

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn's small "shepherd moon" Prometheus as it sweeps through the F-Ring.

Monday, October 18, 2010

SF Signal

Episode 12 is up! We discuss genre series (written and otherwise) that over stay their "welcome". And David J. Williams is interviewed. Go, download and listen!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day...IT CAME FROM THE SUN!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Benoit Mandlebrot has passed away. I first came across his name in some non-fiction essays by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who later used fractals in The Ghost from Grand Banks. (I've blogged about the dangers of reading Clarke's essays and afterwords in the past). I bought a book on fractals, downloaded programs to make fractals, zoomed into fractals.

Interesting guy, interesting stuff.
The Other Neighbor

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the LMC's neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Time to catch a sailing ship south.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Large Cloud of Magellan, one of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies. Another reason for a trip south!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scale Model

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day depicts a model of the Hubble Space Telescope in a (very nice looking) museum. The real HST will not be displayed, alas.
The Ringworld is Unstable! The Ringworld is Unstable!

On its 40th anniversary, an introduction to a SF classic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Galactic Edge

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2683, a galaxy seen on its edge. Somebody should dust!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Worlds in Collision

Asteroid collision...caught on film.

Frederik Pohl continues his stroll down memory lane and looks at the various ways (minus one) he collaborated over the years. Jack Williamson, C.M. Kornbluth and Isaac Asimov are touched upon.
The Restless Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Buzz Aldrin standing near the lunar seismometer. It turns out for a "dead planet", the Moon has a whole lot of shaking going on.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us NGC 6934, a globular cluster in Delphinus. Globular clusters are wonderful sights in small to medium telescopes, resembling spilled sugar crystals in my mind.

Friday, October 08, 2010

When Worlds Collide

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows at opposition with Earth: Jupiter (nice overexposure to capture the belts and the moons!) and (no jokes, please) Uranus.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows emission nebula NGC 281 (The "Pacman Nebula") and Comet Hartley 2, the green comet.

Beware the Cometeers!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Knight of Orion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of one of my favorite places to visit in the winter sky: the Orion Nebulae with the Horsehead Nebulae. The Horsehead is a difficult object to spot in my muddy, light-polluted skies.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

Interstellar Communications Portal

Ansible 279 is out!

Stephen Baxter is thrilled that 'some Czech biologists have named a new trilobite after my "Xeelee" books. The beast itself looks like a woodlouse (to me), is about a centimetre long, and apparently was a big cheese about 500 million years ago. "This is very important species with surprisingly very advanced features just very close to the origin of entire group," they say. Quite an honour! For me, I mean, not the trilobite.' From the 10 September paper: 'We place it tentatively in the genus Mezzaluna as a new species Mezzaluna? xeelee ... DERIVATIO NOMINIS: Xeelee – a legendary civilization of very advanced extraterrestrial beings forming a mainstay of excellent science-fiction sequence of Stephen Baxter.' (Journal of the National Museum [Prague])
Eaux le Deux

I've been podcastified! Again! Three men locked in a Honda Civic for about an hour, fogging up the windows. What WERE they doing in there?

As soon as the shows are up, I'll post links.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist depiction of Zarmina's World, better known as Gliese 581g, a potentially habitable world around another star.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Double Image

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an airplane passing in front of the Moon. Happens a lot, when I observe. Dang startling at times!