Posts Tagged ‘Science Fact’

It’s “Our Favorite Fictionalized Scientists, Methematicians, and Inventors in SFF” on TOR.COM by Stubby the Rocket.  It starts like this:  Sci-fi and fantasy writers love populating their stories with towering geniuses.  After all, nothing lends credence to a work of SFF like a brilliant mathematician or an ahead-of-their time scientist.  But as fun as it is to see characters inspired by historical figures, it’s even more fascinating when authors take the real person and reimagine them within the context of SFF.  Recasting mathematicians as demon hunters, analysts as steampunk spies, and even Greek scholars as superheroes. . . .  Hypatia, Mandelbrot, Newton, Tesla. Einstein (sort of).  But what’s neat here is not just the article itself but some of the links, as with my favorite, fifth on the roster, the team up of “crime fighters” Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

For all, click here — if you’re anything like me you won’t regret it.  And be sure to scroll down to the very bottom with its link to Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant” archives.

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“Now comrades, I am finally convinced that a dream of mine — space travel — for which I have given the theoretical foundations, will be realized.  I believe that many of you will be witnesses of the first journey beyond the atmosphere.  In the Soviet Union we have many young pilots. . . (and) I place my most daring hopes in them.  They will help to actualize my discoveries and will prepare the gifted builders of the first space vehicle.  Heroes and men of courage will inaugurate the first airways:  Earth to Moon orbit, Earth to Mars orbit, and still farther; Moscow to the Moon, Kaluga to Mars!”

The square erupted in cheers, led by none other than the country’s leader Joseph Stalin.

Twenty-two years later, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into space aboard the R-7 rocket.  After its flight into space on October 4, 1957 — 60 years ago today — Sputnik-1 quickly entered into legend, and struck fear in the United States about falling behind in the space race.  But such a momentous launch likely couldn’t have happened without Tsiolkovsky, a mathematician, founding father of modern rocketry, and a science-fiction visionary that even inspired Arthur C. Clarke.

Thus starts today’s anniversary internet gleaning, “How a Russian Scientist’s Sci-Fi Genius Made Sputnik Possible” by Matt Blitz on POPULAR MECHANICS.COM, on the Russian visionary Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, rocket pioneer and, yes, science fiction author, remembering the October 4 1957 launch of the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik.  Some of us are so old we remember that day, even now when we’ve just celebrated a few weeks ago a space probe’s demise in crashing on the planet Saturn.  And some of us so young that we might live to see the first colony on Mars.  And some of us who became science fiction fans, or even scientists — or even writers — may share in a tip of the hat to those times, though Tsiolkovsky himself, born just over a hundred years before in September 1857, had died twenty-two years before the launch, on September 19 1935.

For more, one may press here.  And for even more than that, for the rocketry details also from POPULARMECHANICS.COM, please to peruse “The Rocket that Launched Sputnik and Started the Space Race” by Anatoly Zak by pressing here.

This is the time for second quarter royalties to (as it were) come home, and the first report was received this week.  One may recall that royalties for individual short stories in an anthology, for instance, or possibly as stand-alone chapbooks are rarely large, and it’s been my custom to avoid embarrassment on both sides by declining to identify either the publisher or the exact amount.  So let it suffice just to say a significant recipient this time around will be the US Postal Service for selling the stamp to send the check to me.

Then, continuing on the topic of matters postal, I stopped by the post office this afternoon needing to buy stamps for myself, and, having been tipped off, asked for two sheets (in this case of twenty stamps each) of the one honoring last month’s solar eclipse (cf. August 22).  The tip?  If you press your thumb on the stamp’s picture of the occluded sun, rolling it a bit perhaps to assure that all has been warmed by its touch, and then remove it — voila!  The picture you’ll see is now one of the moon!

The gravitational assist trajectories at Jupiter were successfully carried out by both Voyagers, and the two spacecraft went on to visit Saturn and its system of moons and rings.  Voyager 1 encountered Saturn in November 1980, with the closest approach on November 12, 1980, when the space probe came within 124,000 kilometers (77,000 mi) of Saturn’s cloud-tops.  The space probe’s cameras detected complex structures in the rings of Saturn, and its remote sensing instruments studied the atmospheres of Saturn and its giant moon Titan.  (Wikipedia, “Voyager 1”)

Two items occurred to me to close out the weekend, the first that there were space probes prior to Cassini (cf. September 17, 11, 7), including Voyagers 1 and 2 which also paid a visit to Saturn.  Launched 16 days apart in 1972, Voyager 1 was actually the second, but was on a trajectory that had it reaching Saturn first, performing flybys of not just Saturn and Titan, but also the moons Tethys, Mimas, Enceladus, Rhea, and Hyperion.  And while Voyager 2 also went on to Uranus and Neptune, on August 12 2012 Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space.  Also, unlike Cassini, both Voyagers continue to journey outward.

So, why my interest?  Thirteen years after Voyager 1 and Saturn, a story of mine, one marking a breakthrough in my writing in my opinion, appeared in the July 1993 edition of Algys Budrys’s short-lived magazine TOMORROW.  Titled “Moons of Saturn,” it told of a couple watching a detailed series of news items on TV of the Voyager mission as it might have been, bringing in also the mythical origins of the moons’ names.  Added to this are fancied adventures on, e.g., the “jewel mines of Rhea,” these conducted through dreams or, possibly, astral projection, all through which the woman, Phoebe, 518B8qShonL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_named for one of the moons herself, grows progressively weaker as the man (“Enceladus,” as named by Phoebe) attempts to find a cure.  This latter possibly with tones of vampirism. . . .

And the thing is (or, here comes the plug!), while TOMORROW and its electronic successor TOMORROW SF are now long gone, “Moons of Saturn” has been reprinted in my collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.  For more information, or possible purchase, just press its picture in the center column.

Then one more item in the life of the writer:  Gehenna and Hinnom Editor/Publisher C.P. Dunphey emailed that the payment for my story in THE YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR 2017 ANTHOLOGY (see September 13, August 10, May 8) has been sent to Paypal — a thing good to know since Paypal seems no longer to bother to tell people themselves when they’ve received money.  The story in question here is called “Flesh” — and like “Moons of Saturn” may be a little on the surreal side although with a more domestic setting — and also a reprint originally published in Spring 1999 in MAELSTROM SPECULATIVE FICTION.  THE YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR can be pre-ordered now, by pressing here, in anticipation of a September 30 publication date.

 

And this is it.  On Friday 15 September, after 20 years in space, 13 of which spent in Saturn’s system, Cassini plunged into the gas giant’s atmosphere.  NASA made this choice to prevented it crashing into and contaminating the moons Titan or Enceladus, which could host alien microbial life.  The end was quick: as described in details in this National Geographic’s article, “the spacecraft’s thrusters failed, overwhelmed by gravity and intense atmospheric friction.  It began to tumble, lost sight of Earth, and went silent forever around 4:55 a.m. PT.  Though scientists couldn’t observe the action, they knew that one or maybe two minutes after Cassini’s signal vanished, Saturn tore the spacecraft apart.  The probe shed flaming pieces into the planet’s atmosphere, streaking through the alien sky like a crumbling meteor.”

This is the start of this morning’s entry on Steph P. Bianchini’s THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, “So Long, Earthians.  Cassini, Over and Out.”  We may recall THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND from about a week and a half ago, referring us to a piece on Cassini on NATURE.COM (see September 7).  So returning the favor in a way, for Bianchini’s own final take (though with several more links there that can be pursued too) those interested are invited to press here.

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The caption on the picture reads:  An image created by the Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013, when the sun slipped behind Saturn and illuminated the planet in an eclipse, illuminating its magnificent rings all the way out to the faint E ring, which appears as a ghostly blue hue of icy particles.  And so another, extensive salute via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, “Farewell to the Greatest Space Mission of Our Time” by Jay Bennett, for which press here.  In four more days (cf. September 7) Cassini will be gone.  Quoting the article once again:  The Cassini spacecraft spent 13 years orbiting Saturn.  It revealed the planet and its rings in striking detail, found liquid around every corner, and invigorated the idea that alien life not only exists, but could be right on our doorstep.

Two items today, to look for in the near future:  The first is courtesy of Steph P. Bianchini’s blog THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, reminding us that the Cassini space probe will be sending its last signals to Earth just eight days from now.  Or from, as it were, the horse’s mouth, “on September 15, with its fuel tank now almost empty, the probe will make its final dive straight into Saturn, heading for the gas giant’s surface.”  And so, via THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, this sendoff:  “Cassini’s 13 Years of Stunning Saturn Science — In Pictures,” by Alexandra Witze on NATURE.COM.  To read (and see), press here.

For the second, we hark back a couple of months to an email from artist, poet, and sometime blog commentator Marge Simon:  Would you have a couple of vamp poems previously published that you could let Kathy Ptacek use for the HWA October newsletter?  If you’ve got an illo to go with it, great.  Maybe something we did for VAMPS?  The reference is to my poetry collection, VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), hopefully to be coming out in a second edition but for info on which, for now, click on its picture in the center column, and so I sent Kathy three favorite poems plus two of Marge’s illustrations.

So then a few days ago came the reply:  thanks, james! I appreciate you sending these to me!  and that’s great that marge sent the artwork for them!  this is going to be a fun issue, I think!  heh!  The issue in question will be the October Horror Writers Association NEWSLETTER with an extra flourish to celebrate the coming Halloween.  And the poems (with initial publication information):  “Night Child,” TOMORROW SF, Feb. 1998; “La Méduse,” ASYLUMS AND LABYRINTHS (Rain Mountain Press, 1997), with a note that it also serves as sort of a foreword to my THE TEARS OF ISIS (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013); and “Bon Appétit,” GOTHIC.NET, Aug. 2002).

I say crummiest because the subtle observer may note the disk in the picture is white whereas the point of a solar eclipse is that the disk should be black.  Shadowed by the moon, remember?  But here’s a weird thing, a photo in today’s local paper, via the South Bend Tribune, via Eddyville Illinois also shows a white-disked sun at totality (section 1, page 5), though the picture was set to show an observer in the foreground, the sun itself just a background detail.  So for the picture here, let’s cut it some slack, it was taken by the infamous $4.95 on Ebay camera (including shipping, see February 5), one which’s settings are completely automatic, not controllable by human hands or minds — and hence likely to take its hints from the foreground — although acquitting itself reasonably well on pictures of Morro Castle, etc., in Puerto Rico last month as well as of the Goth Cat Triana for which it was bought.  Also a friend with presumably more sophisticated equipment (in the world of fine optical instruments you can’t go much below $4.95 on Ebay), taking pictures of the partial eclipse locally, complained they all came out with the crescent sun looking “fatter” than it actually was.

My theory is that the sun, even with the moon blocking it, is so bright that the unsophisticated camera, lacking screening or special adjustments, exaggerates the extent of the white (becomes “overloaded” in a sense), encroaching into the adjacent sky in the case of my friend, or filling in the handy black disk in the center when it came to mine.  And anyhow it still shows the corona, which in some ways is the interesting part, so maybe it’s not the crummiest picture this year after all.

Since the path of totality was not that far from where I live (what my friend saw at its peak was 95 percent, even if her pictures made it look less), I was able to go on a charter bus trip to an area just outside of Hopkinsville Kentucky.  For a few observations:  the eeriest part was a little before totality, when the sky began dimming but in an odd over-all way, not in the east first as one might see before sunset.  I didn’t see moving shadows on the ground (from mountains on the moon as the sun became entirely blocked), but another person who’d spread out a white sheet saw them there — present, he said, but extremely subtle.  One man had six huskies on the site who were well-behaved and extremely quiet even through totality, but just after the sun “came back” started barking, as if to say “never do that again.”  Also while we didn’t hear birds or insects go quiet, possibly because with so many people on the site, the wildlife was frightened to silence anyway, but just after the dogs we heard loud cicada-like insect sounds all around us for several seconds.  Also, while NASA observers were, I believe, in Hopkinsville proper, we did have some TV people on our site, plus others with picture-taking equipment of much more sophistication than mine (for which see the second picture here, taken a little bit before totality but with the overall dimming beginning to be seen — this was at 1:10 or so p.m. local time on what otherwise had been a bright sunny summer afternoon [totality began at 1:24 p.m. CDT and lasted two minutes and forty seconds]; the buses parked just beyond them, incidentally, are two of the charters from Indiana that I had come with).

I also had some delicious barbecue from a food truck parked in our area, the grounds of the Casey Jones Distillery, that on non-eclipse days produces several boutique corn whiskeys — including, for the occasion, a special Eclipse “Moonshine.”

And for the first picture, the possibly still-crummiest eclipse picture for the year, it does have one special thing going for it.  It’s the picture that’s (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) mine.

Well, sort of, kind of, maybe in the ballpark, but science fiction writers and fans be alert.  More possibly Earthlike, possibly life-friendly planets, or at least their discovery,  may be on the way according to Tom Ward in “Our View of the Cosmos Is About to Get a Tremendous Upgrade” on FUTURISM.COM, courtesy of Steph P. Bianchini and THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND.  If curious, press here.  And, if even curiouser (okay, so I’ve watched a couple of ALICE IN WONDERLAND movies lately — warning:  avoid the Johnny Depp version of ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS if you possibly can), for some background via THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND itself, check into “Exoplanet Update — Where Are We Now?” by pressing here.

TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH postulates an exhausted, dying Earth with a climate increasingly hotter each year, a result, some speculate, of a sun that’s slowly swelling and getting redder.  One story, in fact, alludes to an exodus of part of humanity centuries, perhaps millennia before.  But what comes after that, that is after the sun has become a red giant, the Earth has been swallowed, and now the sun is shrinking back inward.  Could the exiles return?

Well, in terms of the story, we’re not nearly that far in the future by a long shot (truth to tell, if we’re going to bring facts in, even red-gianthood would still be billions of years off itself), but . . . maybe they could, according to Avery Thompson.  To find out more, one can check out his “Here’s the Last Place Humanity Could Ever Live” via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, including its own link to a 6-minute Youtube presentation on white dwarfs, by pressing here.

Then, entirely unrelatedly, Weldon Burge e-reminded us on Facebook today of an Amazon review of Smart Rhino Publications’s INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS mentioning . . . me:  “Excellent anthology with stories by modern masters of the macabre.  Lansdale and Ketchum are worth the read, but so are Mosiman and Dorr and Mannetti.  These are my kind of stories!” — Paul Dale Anderson

So what the heck, it’s the first review posted on Amazon’s site (including nine words omitted from the Facebook quotation) and can be found here.




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