Archive for April, 2009

Apr 24 2009

Gliese 581

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space

It was another good week for planetary astronomy, with the announcement of the discovery of the smallest exoplanet (planet orbiting another star) yet, only twice Earth’s mass, orbiting the red dwarf Gliese 581. The planet, dubbed Gliese 581 e, orbits very closely, and would be too hot for life as we know it. However, in other news from the same system, one of the earlier discovered planets (we now know of four) Gliese 581 c, is orbiting in the habitable zone, which means liquid water could exist. It’s a big planet, Neptune-size, and may very well be a water world. Of course any moons it has (which would be too small for us to detect yet, even if they were large by our standards) would also be in the habitable zone.
Gliese 581 and planets
Currently exoplanets are named after their parent star with a lowercase letter in the order found, with “a” reserved for the star itself. Thus Gliese 581 c was the second planet discovered orbiting that star, the recent Gliese 581 e the fourth. This has nothing to do with the traditional (at least in sci-fi) convention of using roman numerals to indicate position from the star; until we discover all the planets a star has, we won’t know the order. But at the moment, until we discover more, Gliese 581 e would be Gliese 581 I, and Gliese 581 c would be Gliese 581 III.

Gliese 581 is only about 20 lightyears from here, within T-Space. I really need to set a story there.

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Apr 20 2009

Another sale!

Published by under Uncategorized

I just sold my short story “The Gremlin Gambit” to MindFlights online magazine. Woohoo! Still not into the SFWA pro-rate markets yet, but I’m getting there.

This story was fun to write, it’s a mix of science fiction (alien invasion) and magical-creature fantasy. I’ll update when it gets published.

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Apr 18 2009

Internet timesinks

Published by under Uncategorized,Writing

As if I wasn’t already spending too much time on other people’s web sites instead of getting writing done, I now find myself  in a few Yahoo! groups (relevant to a writer’s workshop coming up in June), Livejournal, (because Eric Reynolds, my editor for Footprints, was there, as were a few co-contributers) and now Facebook (again, several co-contributers to Footprints and a number other authors I know, and a few family members).  Problem is, I just spent (I won’t say “wasted”, since it wasn’t totally unproductive) several hours on Facebook instead of getting things done.  Like finishing the short story I’m working on, or writing the new scenes for Venaticorum Archive to bring it up to saleable length.  Sigh.

Speaking of Footprints, Eric now has a proof copy and posted a picture of it of Facebook, it looks great.  I can hardly wait to my hands on a copy.

The workshop I mentioned above is being presented by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, both prolific and award-winning writers. He just sent us details on accomodation, and there are still a few slots left.  If you’re interested in selling a novel or becoming a professional writer, it could be worth your while.  They did a very abbreviated version of the “Kris’n’Dean show” at the Denver Worldcon last summer, it was fantastic.

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Apr 13 2009

Updates – Footprints and T-Space

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space,Writing

I just received the proofs for the anthology Fooprints, where my story “Snowball” will be appearing. It looks great! I’ve only skimmed it so far, but there a lot of wonderful stories in there. I’d buy it even if my story wasn’t in it. (grin).

As promised earlier, I’ve added a page on Alpha Centauri to the “T-Space Encylopaedia”.

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Apr 08 2009

More T-Space

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space,Writing

I’ve added a page on the star system Delta Pavonis to the T-space pages. I plan to add pages there on a regular basis. They give the astronomical facts about the star (or other location) and some detail about how it fits into my T-space stories, and other writer’s stories too, occasionally. As best I can I want to keep things consistent with what we know about other star systems, but that still leaves plenty of room to play in what “hasn’t been disproved yet.”

Next up will probably be Alpha Centauri, a popular location for countless stories (being our nearest neighbor, and all). It’s possible, astrophysically, for both the main components (Alpha Centauri A and B) to have habitable planetary systems. I’ve also just found out something odd about it that has serious implications for T-space: its galactic orbit is very different from ours.

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Apr 03 2009

No warp drive after all?

Published by under Physics,T-Space

One of the best things to happen for those of us who like both hard SF and space opera was Miguel Alcubierre’s 1994 paper demonstrating how General Relativity does allow for faster-than-light (FTL) travel, using “warped” spacetime. (Yes, Star Trek and all the SF writers before it seem to have guessed right, but Alcubierre did the math. See my article “Yes Virginia, There Really is a Warp Drive”.)

However, I see today on the Technology Review arXiv blog that a recent paper by Finazzi, Liberati and Barceló, “Semiclassical instability of dynamical warp drives”, applies quantum theory to Alcubierre’s analysis and comes up with two potential problems: Hawking radiation (the effect that makes small black holes “evaporate”) could be hazardous to the occupants, and the warp bubble itself might be unstable because of the “stress-energy tensor” growing exponentially. (No, I’m not exactly sure what that means either, I never got that far in my physics classes.)

Does that mean Finazzi et al. just killed Santa Claus? No. For one thing, they make some assumptions about the properties of the exotic matter needed to maintain the warp which may not hold. For another, it looks like they just analyzed an Alcubierre warp rather than Van Den Broek’s refinement (see the “Yes, Virginia” piece mentioned above for the difference), so the Hawking radiation may be confined to the “shell” in the latter case. Finally, instabilities can be overcome if you have a fast-responding control system. Maybe that means the controller needs a quantum computer.

Addendum: There may be another way to overcome Finazzi instability, depending on the physical constraints of how you generate the warp in the first place. The idea came to me in the course of writing a novel about the first Alpha Centauri expedition. The details are one of the plot points so I won’t go into it here (besides, I may just be handwaving — the math is beyond me), but consider the simplifying assumptions we can make to predict the behavior of large systems. — AM, 2010

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Apr 02 2009

Footprints – update

Published by under Writing

Eric Reynolds has just announced the final cover for Footprings on his blog. It’s the same Apollo photograph as the concept cover in the earlier post, with some added text. Co-contributors getting cover credit are Brenda Cooper, James Van Pelt, and Lawrence M. Schoen. You can see the full-size cover here. I think it looks great — although it would look better with my name on it too (grin).

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