The human colony on the planet Argo has long explored and exploited the technology left behind by an extinct alien race. But then an archaeology team accidentally activates a terrible weapon... Read More.
Praise for Star Dragon
"Seldom does a storytelling talent come along as potent and fully mature as Mike Brotherton. His complex characters take you on a voyage that is both fiercely credible and astonishingly imaginative. This is Science Fiction."
-- David Brin
"Star Dragon is terrific fare, offering readers a fusion of hard science and grand adventure."
-- Locus Magazine
"Star Dragon is steeped in cosmology, the physics of interstellar travel, exobiology, artificial intelligence, bioscience. Brotherton, author of many scientific articles in refereed journals, has written a dramatic, provocative, utterly convincing hard science sf novel that includes an ironic twist that fans will love."
-- Booklist starred review
"Readers hungry for the thought-provoking extrapolation and rigorous technical detail of old-fashioned hard SF are sure to enjoy astronomer Brotherton's first novel."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Mike Brotherton, himself a trained astrophysicist, combines the technical acuity and ingenuity of Robert Forward with the ironic, postmodern stance and style of M. John Harrison. In this, his debut novel, those twin talents unite to produce a work that is involving on any number of levels. It's just about all you could ask for in a hardcore SF adventure."
-- Paul di Fillippo, SCI-FI.COM
…will be announced very soon. They have been selected and notified.
First, however, I’ve heard from several applicants who never received a response from me. It seems that there was a glitch in the application process, and I did not receive all the applications (even if there was an immediate official “thank you we have received your application” response). I thought applications were down this year due to the need to charge tuition, and that may be the case, but they weren’t apparently down as much as I had though. If feel kind of sick about this, as it’s not fair at all.
Right now I’m trying to ascertain how many folks applied and have not heard back. If you applied, please send me an email (email@example.com) and let me know. Please include a copy of your application if you have one. There are different possible solutions or mitigations depending on how many were affected. In any event, you have my apologies, and steps are being taken to make sure this problem does not recur.
I got some things done yesterday, but not blogging, and then it got late and…well, you know…
I liked but did not love Star Trek Into Darkness. I may or may not write a review. The spoiler-free short version: better than the last one, not as many stupid things but still a few, and if I never see a lens flare again I’ll die a happy man.
Gerrold has written a number of episodes for a couple of the Star Trek series on TV. Star Wolf was born out of an unproduced script. Think serious Trek, a little grittier, World War II in space. I, personally, would love to see it, and think it has a chance to be one of the best space-based science fiction shows to date.
It was the best of times (and space)…it was the worst of times (and space)…
May 15th, 2013
There was a really great documentary on the History Channel tonight called Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe. I’m sure it’ll be on another half dozen times this week. There’s a lot of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues on the show (e.g. David Brin, Alex Filippenko, Geoff Marcy, and others). Now, it covers a lot of the usual ground, exploring the science of Star Trek in terms of modern astronomy mostly, but it does it well. It’s covers space travel, SETI, fusion, anti-matter, exoplanets, etc.
That was the best of times (and space), so what’s the worst?
Well, the show discussed the great successes of the Kepler Mission to find new exoplanets. Well, as of today, it looks like Kepler may be dead due to reaction wheel failure. Phil Plait covers it well here:
Last week, the Kepler spacecraft software detected an abnormal drift in the pointing of the observatory. As it was designed to do, the software sent the spacecraft into safe mode (putting the observatory to sleep, so to speak) and alerted engineers on the ground. When Kepler was restarted, Reaction Wheel 4 wouldn’t start back up. These wheels are needed to point the telescope; it needs three for normal operation. Reaction Wheel number 2 failed in 2012, so Kepler’s been running on that minimum of three for many months. With this new wheel problem, the mission itself is in danger.
It’s not clear how much danger, though. Once they initially found the wheel hadn’t restarted, engineers put full torque on its motor, but the wheel still wouldn’t move. In a press conference today, NASA said engineers are working on ways of possibly restarting the wheel, including trying to run it backwards, or starting and stopping it several times.
Even if the wheel doesn’t start back up, engineers think they can use the thrusters on board the spacecraft to help point it. That’s a pretty crude method and far from ideal, but may be possible to extend the mission.
There may be a solution, but this is an all-too-typical failure mode for a spacecraft like Kepler. It would be a shame, because Kepler has been awesome, with a spectacular scientific return for what is far from the most expensive astronomical mission. There will be follow-ups and more planets discovered.
Well, I know they’re already starting to do it from a recent personal experience. We (meaning Christian Ready) got them to contribute a small but meaningful amount toward Launchpad. We’ll soon be adding them to our website there as official sponsors. Even though they won’t be fully covering our workshop costs, with no funding available from NASA and NSF grants getting very hard to get, this is an important milestone for us. We run the workshop on a shoestring budget and even small contributions help a lot. We’re grateful to Uwingu for the support.
We’ll be attempting some of our own crowd sourcing soon, as well as sharing the names of the 2013 attendees. It’s another great, diverse bunch.
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
– Chris Hadfield, Commander, Expedition 35, International Space Station
I’ve been able to follow that advice much of my own life, but there are times, sometimes stretching into years, when life kicks me around more than I determine it’s course. You don’t always have control over everything, but we all have more control than we think we do.
Another variation on an old concern: are we screwing ourselves by making radio broadcasts into space? It’s too late in any case, and technology changes will make us quieter in the future probably. Any race advanced enough to detect our radio signals and wipe us out can probably detect us by other means. So, we’re at their mercy. Or, if we’re first, they will be at ours, and we invented the Prime Directive after all.
The first is the one that makes me the most upset about how stupid our species is. On the Montel Williams show in 2004, lying “psychic” Sylvia Browne said Amanda Berry was dead. A word synonymous for “psychic” is “phony.” They claim knowledge they do not have, have been proven not to have (as in this case and others), and have failed to prove under valid experimental conditions. They are predators of the desperate and gullible and should be held in scorn and ridiculed. So, I’m holding Sylvia Browne in scorn and ridiculing her as a charlatan.
I’m not going to spell it out, but consider these two images.
The first is the cowboy on a bronco logo the University of Wyoming uses, and in fact much of the state.
The second is an image one of my former grad students took of a memorable life-size T-rex statue we have on campus just outside the geological museum and across a walkway from my own building:
Look at one, then the other, and back again, until you go “aha!” Not the most original idea, but so obvious once grasped that you want to see it done…
I mean, not me. I’m a responsible adult. I’ll just try to satisfy my dinosaur cowboy daydreams by rewatching Valley of the Gwangi or visiting the creationist museum where they saddle triceratops for the kids to ride.
I pulled some pranks in my day. There’s nothing like hearing a blood-curdling scream from a good friend in the middle of the night, in a good, healthy, fun way of course.
(Okay, he might not fully agree, but I don’t feel *that* guilty about that one. It was clever and he was high-strung.)
When I was at college, some of the engineers got together and turned a multi-ton statue of the University’s founder 180 degrees using nothing but primitive technology. A construction firm, costing tens of thousands of dollars failed to turn the statue back around without damaging it. The team of students were identified and billed. They managed to pay the bill off by selling t-shirts showing how they did it. The administration should have gotten these smart kids to turn the statue back for free, for a full pardon and a demonstration of the good engineering program for tv crews.
Well, now I’m a middle-aged professor, respectable, mostly, but I got an idea for a good prank to pull last week. It doesn’t feel right doing it myself, although maybe I should not let my misguided youth go so easily.
If I share the idea, however, someone else might do it. If they go hurt or caught, I might feel guilty about it. Or I might get some of the blame. Or no one would notice and I’d suffer some disappointment that such a good pranks wasn’t executed (which reminds me of the Doctor asking Davros if he’d push a button that would destroy the galaxy, and getting the reply how could he have that power and NOT use it?).
It’s not that dangerous of a prank, not galaxy-destroying or even property-destroying, although there’s a small risk involved I’d have to admit.
Alan Alda wants scientists to cut out the jargon. It’s hard, I know, because the jargon expresses the ideas succinctly and accurately, which every day language fails to do simultaneously. But if it’s an issue of being understood by the general public, we have to try.
Patty Jansen is wondering about women writing hard sf, and if there are publishers who want the gendered names changed and if there are readers who won’t buy it otherwise. Informal polling here a few years ago indicated there probably is some fraction of readers who won’t (small but not negligible) that may not be offset by those who said they were more likely to buy hard sf by a woman (arguing it had to be better to be bought). Personally, I would like to see publishers buy, promote, and sell good books and ignore gender issues completely. More good hard sf with clear female bylines will help dispel the notion that women can’t write hard sf well, because many can of course.