Monday, July 30, 2007

Nautilus facts and misconceptions

I was speaking with my part time co-host Ron Huber the other day about mystery power generating systems in Science Fiction. Of course I slid blithely into how mysterious Vern's power generator was in his submersible The Nautilus. Well I came upon this article on GeekendTechReplubic about just this subject. Their article starts off with the US Navy's U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571) which was the first nuclear powered sub for the US and the first to navigate under the north pole. Now at the time SNN-571 was being commissioned - Disney's version of Well's 20000 leagues under the sea suggested that Nemo's sub tapped into some mysterious power. Between that and the fact that SNN-571 was nuclear cemented into a whole generations mind that Vern's Nautilus was similarly powered. Not so! Verne clearly wrote that his Nautilus‘ power came from sodium/mercury batteries, the salts for which Captain Nemo distilled from seawater using conventional coal-heated furnaces. Verne’s Nautilus was revolutionary electric, rather than steam-powered, but nuclear never entered the equation. I am sure I am not alone when I thought that the navy's sub took its name from the Disney movie which took its name and power source from the Vern classic. Which vessel took its namesake from which is actually a little backward. It would seem that Disney's Nautilus was nuclear because the navy's was, not because Vern's Nautilus was....

The 50 best movie robots

From Timesonline via Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing I have Times Entertainment list of the 50 best SF movie robots. This is how they rated them in the article -

Plausibility (meaning how likely it would be that, with advances on currently existing technology, such a device could be built)

Coolness (just how well designed, shiny or generally well-appointed the robot appeared to be)

Dangerousness (scoring not only on built-in weaponry, but the robot's eagerness to use it)

Comedy Value (how effective the robot is at providing light relief in the film in which it appears)

Here is some of the more interesting items I pulled from reading the article

Andrew Martin (Bicentennial Man) Andrew's model number is NDR-114. This is thought to be a tribute to Stanley Kubrick, who used the lucky number in several of his films for example A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove.

Preston (A Close Shave) The evil robotic dog is named for director Nick Park's home town

C3-PO (Star Wars ) gets his name from the map grid reference of George Lucas' local Post Office.

Ash (Alien) Ash's 'blood' is mixed water and food colouring. Milk could not used in large quantities as it would have soured under the hot studio lights, although a small amount is used for close-ups of his inner workings - together with a mixture of pasta and marbles.

Robbie the Robot (Forbidden Planet) Robbie had a long career beyond Forbidden Planet, appearing in many popular US TV series such as "The Thin Man", "Lost in Space", "The Twilight Zone", "The Addams Family", "The Love Boat", "Columbo", "Mork and Mindy", and, most recently, "Clueless".

Gort (The Day The Earth Stood Still) The actor inside the seamless suit was Lock Martin, the doorman from Grauman's Chinese Theatre, chosen for his great height., Unfortunately he was not a particularly strong man and had to rely on hidden wires camera dollies, and lightweight dummies to help him in scenes where Gort was called upon to carry a human being.

Swarms of robot spiders (Lost In Space) the robot in the original series did have a (rarely-mentioned) name: in the third-season of the ... TV show it was shown in its packing crate, and the crate was labelled "ONE General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental ROBOT" with the G, U, N, T, E, and all letters in "ROBOT" in red capital letters, while all the other letters were black; suggesting the acronym "GUNTER"

Terminator Series 800/Model 101 (The Terminator) O.J. Simpson was considered for the role of the Terminator, but the producers thought he might be "too nice" to be taken seriously as a cold-blooded killer.

Runaway with Gene Simmons was supposed to be the blockbuster for that year but it got slammed but low budget robot movie.....the Terminator

The word Transformer is only used once in the movie...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Single gene deletion boosts lifespan

According to

Researchers have created a mutant mouse that lives longer despite eating more and weighing less — all thanks to the loss of a single protein. Without this protein, the body is less susceptible to the heart-pounding effects of the hormone adrenaline, and may become more resistant to some forms of stress. Scientists are already developing drugs to inhibit this protein, called type 5 adenylyl cyclase (AC5). Drugs that block adrenaline signalling, called beta-blockers, are known to help patients who have had heart attacks or suffer from an irregular heartbeat. As the researchers revealed in 2003, mutant mice lacking AC5 were more resistant to heart failure caused by pressure within the heart. But in the process, the research team also realised that the mutant mice lived longer than their normal counterparts.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Three dead in California spaceport blast

Three people were killed and three others critically injured on Thursday July 27, 2007 - in an explosion at the California testing facilities operated by commercial spaceflight pioneer Burt Rutan.The blast occurred at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where Scaled Composites, the company formed by Rutan, was testing rocket motor components. Two people were killed instantly in the explosion at 1434 local time and four others were rushed to a local hospital. One of those died following surgery. Rutan was the first person to privately put a crewed space craft into space, collecting the XPrize with the feat.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Top 10 best Spacewalks in History

Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) is work done by an astronaut away from the Earth and outside of a spacecraft. The term most commonly applies to an EVA made outside a craft orbiting Earth (a spacewalk). As of September 13, 2006, 158 astronauts had made spacewalks (out of 448 astronauts ever in space). These are some of the most interesting moments in spacewalks history.

Click on the article title or the photo to go to the blog site which contains some fantastic pictures and videos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Organic compound found in the stars


Astronomers have found the largest (organic) molecule so far seen in interstellar space. The discovery, of an organic compound, suggests that the chemical building blocks of life may be more common in the Universe than had been previously thought. The discovery, along with that of three smaller organic molecules in the past year, opens up a suite of potential chemical reactions and products. It suggests that 'prebiotic' molecules such as amino acids, the building blocks of protein, could form all over the Universe

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunder for the post

photo by NASA

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Space station's future threatened

According to NewScientist online magazine

NASA and its international partners may be hard-pressed to keep the space station alive after the planned retirement of the space shuttle in 2010. The US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on the status of the space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) on July 24th in Washington, DC, US. After the shuttles retire in 2010, current plans call for other vehicles, such as the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), to pick up some of the slack.

NASA is relying on commercial space vehicles currently under development in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme to make up the rest.

But Tommy Holloway, who retired in 2002 from his position as manager of NASA's space station programme, said he doubts that the commercial vehicles will be ready by the time the shuttles retire, as planned.

thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gardner Dozois is on the mend

As I read last week, Gardner Dozois was in for bypass surgery. He had a major setback about a week ago that required surgery to install a defibrillator. However, as I am reading now, he has been steadily improving and is going or already is home.

Pig To Human Transplantation Getting Closer

Hey Shaun.....Of Pigs and.....? huh huh? I swear you were dead on with this!!!!

Science Daily Experiments using pigs genetically engineered for compatibility with the human immune system have raised hopes that cross-species transplantation could soon become an option for patients with diabetes and other currently incurable diseases. However, many scientific hurdles remain before the ultimate goal of inducing long-term tolerance of animal tissues and organs in human recipients.

Progress (is being made) ... with a strain of pigs genetically engineered in the hope of addressing chronic shortages of organs and tissues for transplantation. The animals lack the gene responsible for "alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase" (GT)—an enzyme normally present in the pig vascular system. Humans have natural, preformed antibodies to GT, resulting in immediate (acute) rejection of any pig-to-human transplant.

New Stargate series in the planning stage

Executive producer Robert C. Cooper told GateWorld exclusively That there is a new Stargate series on the drawing boards. The new series has a working title of Stargate Universe.

The new series has been conceived to be "a completely separate, third entity," Cooper said "much more so than Atlantis was. Atlantis was much more of a spin-off series of SG-1 and was sort of born out of SG-1."

Cooper said, the idea for Stargate Universe was originally conceived as a stand-alone movie. Also Stargate Universe will not be set in a different era, Cooper confirmed, neither as a prequel nor in the far future of the Stargate program.

Ben Bova speaks on space exploration

Author and editor - Ben Bova talks about space exploration, and he sums up justification for manned spaceflight in just two words: Human survival. Here’s his two minutes of reasoning on why NASA is worth the money, and why it still isn’t enough.

Chips: High tech aids or tracking tools?

I just had to put this up. The article goes on a bit longer with a bit more informaton, however the point here is that just because it was in a science fiction novel a couple of years ago, don't mean it's still fiction. If you thought it was distressing to read about it then, think of how it should frighten now that it is being used now as you read this! (The book I speak of is in fact Shaun Saunders book Mallcity 14), a provider of surveillance equipment, attracted little notice itself -- until a year ago, when two of its employees had glass-encapsulated microchips with miniature antennas embedded in their forearms. The "chipping" of two workers with RFIDs -- radio frequency identification tags as long as two grains of rice, as thick as a toothpick -- was merely a way of restricting access to vaults that held sensitive data and images for police departments, a layer of security beyond key cards and clearance codes, the company said. News that Americans had, for the first time, been injected with electronic identifiers to perform their jobs fired up a debate over the proliferation of ever-more-precise tracking technologies and their ability to erode privacy in the digital age.

REVIEW Too Far From Home - Chris Jones

Too Far From Home

Chris Jones

288 hc pp

DoubleDay 2007

Front cover reads On February 1 2003 10 astronauts were orbiting the planet. Seven were headed back to Earth on the Space Shuttle Columbia. They never made it. The 3 men left behind found themselves.... Well you get it.

Chris Jones has given us an in depth description of what life was like aboard the International Space Station in the weeks and months after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry. At times the story is poignant . At times it's extremely interesting. And at other times it is frightfully boring. Now your saying, how can any telling of the drama of being marooned in space be, well, boring. Jones has managed that feat....and done it well. Now am I saying that the book is a complete snooze fest? Oh hardly. The book is written in such a way that you feel like there is another seat in the cramped Soyuz tma -1 during a malfunctioning reentry module fires too long, or just beside astronaut Bowersox during an EVA to repair electrical connections. Or for that matter several other instances where Jones has all but sealed you into your own space suit and sent you on your way. The research he put into this book shows all through it and on every page. But for every firey reentry or heart stopping E.V.A. You get several instances of how things taste in space, or run on descriptions of astronaut's experiments and what can be more boring that a hugely descriptive telling of what is boring about being in space.

Plus Jones seaways into various other earlier mission that he uses to fill in knowledge gaps that the reader might have, especially when it comes to the finer points of the inner workings of NASA. Initially this seems like a good idea, however several times the seaways are longer than the section of the book they are meant to shore up. I found myself several times flipping through page after page when unending descriptions became very tedious. All this with the understanding that I am truly a space geek. So with that said, I loved most of this book, but at times Chris Jones has managed to take a truly awe inspiring event and make it mind numbingly boring. Thats not all the time mind you. I was amazed by the make-do attitude of the Russians and the cramped interior of the new Soyuz. This book is filled with so much insider knowledge that Jones must have been right there with them instead of just writing about it. And for that point alone I would recommend the book. However be warned, there are many places in the book that are frightfully hard to get through. Forewarned you should be able to enjoy this book and come away better informed about one of the most tragic moments in space exploration history.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Navigating in the New World by Shaun A. Saunders is out!

Navigating In The New World Review Quotes

The Illustrated Man for the 21st century.
Paul Cole, ‘Beam Me Up’ Science and SF radio show (WRFR 93.3 Maine) and Podcast.

An eminently readable and often hilarious collection of cautionary tales.
Jack McDevitt

Not since reading (and rereading, and rereading) Arthur C. Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God" as a kid have I come across a short story (Curtain Call) with this power.
Sara Bordowitz, Israel.

Saunders' singular style evokes Ray Bradbury and George Orwell, with a generous dash of O. Henry.
Sunni Maravillosa, creator of the pro-freedom culture 'zine Sunni's Salon ( .

Saunders picks targets that matter and hits them with frightening accuracy.
David Southwell Author of a number of best-selling books on conspiracy theories and the nature of organized crime in the twenty-first century.

Another brilliant, funny, satirical, succinct and realistic-while-imaginative work by this contemporary Huxley-Orwell-Asimov. Very entertaining and oh-so-true...
Brian O'Leary, Ph.D.,,

for more information, please click here

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Remote control brains: a neuroscience revolution

In a laboratory in Germany, a tiny worm dances to flashes of colored light. The worm is not a toy or a robot but a living creature. It has been engineered so that its nerves and muscles can be controlled with light. With each flash of blue its neurons fire electric pulses, causing the muscles they control to clench. A flash of yellow stops the nerves firing, relaxing the worm's muscles and lengthening its body once again. The worm is in the vanguard of a revolution in brain science - the most spectacular application yet of a technology that allows scientists to turn individual brain cells on and off at will. One possibility is that the technology, coupled with a method of getting light into the human skull, could create a Brave New World of neuro-modification in which conditions such as depression or Parkinson's disease are treated not with sledgehammer drugs or electrodes, but with delicate pinpricks of light.

Thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the submission

'Heroes' Grabs Eight Emmy Nominations

PLUS: 'Lost' earns six nods, 'Battlestar Galactica' four - Thanks to SyFy Portal

Masi Oka was the only member of the "Heroes" cast to get nominated for his role as Hiro Nakamura. Some of the other nominations were for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor. Other "Heroes" nominations were for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series, Oustanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series, and Oustanding Stunt Coordination, all for "Genesis," while the episode "Five Years Later ..." earned an Outstanding Visual Effects for a Series nod.


Yes, those brilliant minds at The University of Warwick in the UK have developed synthetic polymers that eerily imitate snot, and aid with machine scent detection like nobody’s business. The mucus improved the sensitivity of a conventional electronic sniffer five-fold, helped deliver results more quickly, and allowed the nose to distinguish between scents, such as milk and vanilla, that it never could before.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Claudia Black interview

Thanks to the blog SF Signals for the heads up

For you Claudia Black fans (I know your out there and you know who you are!) Farpoint Media's Slice of SciFi has an excellent interview the the raven bombshell.

Claudia Black has been an actress on great SF television series’ such as the highly acclaimed “Farscape” where she portrayed Aeryn Sun and also in the tele-film “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.” From there she assumed the role Vala Mal Doran on “Stargate-SG-1,”. Claudia is currently shooting two made-for-DVD Stargate films which will continue the series in that format.

Her talents have not been confined to the small screen at all. Black has appeared in the Anne Rice feature film “Queen of the Damned” as Pandora and and in the SF hit movie “Pitch Black” with Vin Diesel.

Sci Fi Mondays on NBC this fall

NBC announces Sci Fi Mondays. NBC will air Chuck, Heroes and Journeyman. Expect the premieres of most of these series in September. "Chuck" is about a tech support guy for a Best Buy-like store who unwittingly becomes the holder of important government information and a pawn for the CIA and the National Security Agency. "Journeyman," about a time-traveling newspaper reporter.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shatner sign on for new show!

according to

Shatner has signed up for a new show titled Shatner's Raw Nerve. It will air on the Biography Channel. Shatner will interview celebrity and political guests. The show will run for 13 episodes to start.

Is this science fiction? No Is it science fiction related....? huh? Maybe
You know, after all these years, I like to think of it as my 'semi-sometime' blog entry titled
What the F*bleep* is Will Shatner up to now!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Antipodean issure 110 is now available

Just got a note that Antipodean #110 is up. Here is the note they sent me:

... This month's issue we celebrate the publication of the fiftieth piece of flash fiction to grace our pages from the pen of Shaun A. Saunders. Please also visit to find out more about Shaun's upcoming anthology "Navigating In The New World" which is already receiving rave reviews. As for the magazine, this month's stories are:

"Fine Tuning" by J. Alan Brown
"Little Green Apples" by Angela Slatter
"Assassin's Sorrow" by Chris Pavey
"Lie Back And Think Of Efficiency" by Meika Loofs Samorzewski
"A Fine Madness" by Shaun A. Saunders
"Egg Sharing" by Julie Bailue
"All For An Orchidaceae" by Andrew Leadbeatter
"Framework" by Rodney J. Smith
"Sweat" by Deven Kivioja
"Yum Yum" by Charles Richard Laing

Also, this month, we bring you more reviews than ever of recent fantasy and SF in "Vide", where Nuke dreams of Electric Sheep & ascend's Elliott's Spirit Gate, while Craig Miles gets into a little Shadowplay. Sue Clennell does her usual stuff too, in E-scapes, and finds out what word is applied to you when you have a phobia about conspiracies. Are you frightened to go outside lest the UFOs land? If you are, you're not one of us, it seems, and you ought to visit this month's Ionospherics to discover the usefulness of the notion of "dedicated weird".

SciFi Channel Brings Back 'Farscape'

interesting news from the SyFyPortal blog!

Fans who still have dart boards with SciFi Channel executives on it might be ready to take those pictures down as the network has announced it is bringing back its cult favorite "Farscape" as a new Web series. No word has been announced on when such a project would be released, or how long each episode would be (or who will star), but SciFi Channel officials said they have ordered a 10-part series based on "Farscape" that will be executive produced by Brian Henson and Robert Halmi Jr. Just like the original series, this Web series will be produced by the Jim Henson Co. and RHI Entertainment.

Well, I am not taking down my pictures yet....but I will stop throwing darts...

Sleek new spacesuit design

In the 40 years that humans have been traveling into space, the suits they wear have changed very little. The bulky, gas-pressurized outfits give astronauts a bubble of protection, but their significant mass and the pressure itself severely limit mobility.

Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, wants to change that.

Newman is working on a sleek, advanced suit designed to allow superior mobility when humans eventually reach Mars or return to the moon. Her spandex and nylon BioSuit is not your grandfather's spacesuit--think more Spiderman, less John Glenn.

Photo / Donna Coveney

MIT IDs mechanism behind fear

Ron Huber came across some information concerning research on behavior modification. Well, augmentation? Here are his comments and the link to the story. Very very interenting.

Mushroom-champing berserkers, hashish-puffing Assassins, the drunkard's hazy courage, Popeye the sailor man after downing a can of spinach, the cowardly lion with his medal; humankind has, for better or worse, sought biological or at least mechanistic ways to instill bravery on the unbrave.

And, just as importantly, ways to RESTORE courage and peace of mind to the war-traumatized and the tortured.

Now, in the July 15 online edition of Nature Neuroscience. A team of MIT scientists report that they may have discovered how to do both of those things. How? In their report A hippocampal Cdk5 pathway regulates extinction of contextual fear (abstract), researchers Farahnaz Sananbenesi, Andre Fischer, Xinyu Wang, Christina Schrick, Rachael Neve, Jelena Radulovic & Li-Huei Tsai explain that reducing the amount of an enzyme named 'cdk5' that is naturally present in the brain's hippocampus region reduces the intensity of traumatic-stress-induced fear, and may actually extinguish it.

Actually in the story, the scientists only report on the fear-reducing quality that decreasing the amt of the enzyme in the hippocampus has on the courage of mice. But of Mice and Men, they, you and I know, there are similarities (viz Algernon)....

TechDigest takes things a bit farther, claiming bluntly that mice without Cdk5 brain enzyme are smarter.

Just as important: What happens when the amount of cdk5 in the brains of mice or people is INCREASED beyond natural levels?

Some interesting possibilities emerge:

(1) Decreasing the amt of cdk5 in the hippocampi of 'normal' non-traumatized persons should create 'chemically courageous' smarter people. Even recklessly so at really low levels. Isn't that the continuum? From not-fear to anti-fear? Maybe suicide bombers have zero cdk5 in their noggins. Hard to test for, though, after the fact.

(2) Increasing the amount of cdk5 present in the hippocampuses of non-traumatized people should _create_ generalized fear and stress in them, that will be related to whatever they are doing when the fear chemically imprints. Hmmm...They must _already_ be putting it in
America's drinking water.

Maybe. Read the article below.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gardner Dozois has Major Surgery

From SFScope

Editor and author Gardner Dozois had quintuple bypass heart surgery last weekend. His close friend Michael Swanwick told SFScope that Gardner came through the surgery fine, but later in the week, he had a minor setback. He again appears to be on the road to recovery.

The Andromeda Strain is being developed as a miniseries

From Blackfish publishing via SF Signals:

Michael Crichton's first novel The Andromeda Strain has already spawned a decent movie version, directed by SF legend Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still The Haunting Star Trek: The Motion Picture) back in 1971. But now it's been snapped up by Ridley and Tony Scott who will produced a TV series of the story – the apocalyptic tale of an alien germ that comes to Earth and threatens to wipe out humanity. Planned as a four-to-six hour mini-series, it will be broadcast late next year on America's A&E network

Dwarf Star Gulps Giant To Form Supernova

New research proposes the formation of type 1a supernova

Science Daily A team of European and American astronomers has announced the discovery of the best evidence yet for the nature of the star systems that explode as type Ia supernovae. The team obtained a unique set of observations with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and the Keck I 10-meter telescope in Hawaii. The researchers were able to detect the signature of the material that surrounded the star before it exploded. The evidence strongly supports the scenario in which the explosion occurred in a double-star system where a white dwarf is fed by a red giant.

(Credit: European Southern Observatory)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We are meant to be here!

Nelson fired over an interesting article in

The article concerns the argument among scientists that in the words of the late cosmologist Fred Hoyle who called the universe "a put-up job." Or princeton physicist Freeman Dyson (who proposed the Dyson sphere that is a common science fiction theme even today) has suggested that the universe, in some sense, "knew we were coming." British-born cosmologist Paul Davies calls this cosmic fine-tuning the "Goldilocks Enigma." Like the porridge for the three bears, he says the universe is "just right" for life. Many scientists hate this idea -- what's often called "the anthropic principle." They suspect it's a trick to argue for a designer God.

Thanks Nelson, the article is VERY thought provoking. Click on the article title for more

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dogland and The Gospel of the Knife go CC!

from Boing Boing via SFSignals:

Will Shetterly has released two of his books under a Creative Commons License: Dogland and The Gospel of the Knife.

Top cop predicts robot crimewave

Boing Boing first brought this to my attention. From "The"

It seems that the head of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty is telling is to be afraid, be very afraid.

Technology such as cloned part-robot humans used by organised crime gangs pose the greatest future challenge to police, along with online scamming, Keelty says. Mr Keelty said scams had sprung up in online virtual worlds such as Second Life, where people can spend real money via credit cards to buy products such as virtual real estate and gifts.

"Policing that is going to be quite difficult," he said.

Australian and UK police had also noticed a trend of internet pedophiles crossing into real life pedophilia, and were planning a joint operation in developing countries, he said.

"We are watching people in the virtual world convert what they are doing in the virtual world to travel to some of these countries where children are at risk," he said.

AS Fate Decrees by Denyse Bridger 8/15/07

Announcing "As Fate Decrees"

EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing would like to announce "As Fate Decrees" by Denysé Bridger which arrives August 15th 2007.

Denysé Bridger is an award winning Canadian author whose writing will leave the reader wanting more. She is able to captivate the reader with each page and image as she sets up her main character, Amarantha, on a journey through challenges only found in myths and legends of the ancient Greeks.


The gods of ancient Greece must find a mortal champion to defend their fate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A rare confluence of sci-fi and history

Jay Garmon over at Geekend blog came up with a coincidence in the date July 11th.
He writes:

*Take a moment to recognize one of those odd historical coincidences that history occasionally *serves up: Today is the anniversary of both Cordwainer Smith’s birth and John W. Campbell’s *death. For those outside sci-fi literature, this date probably goes utterly unnoticed, but it *shouldn’t. These two men literally changed the course of not just science fiction, but history *itself.

As you know Campbell was the editor of the pulp fiction mag Astounding Science Fiction (today known as Analog Science Fiction & Fact) from 1937 until his death on this date in 1971.

and Cordwainer Smith's fiction well was vividly bizarre with an emphasis on psychological distortions and strange devices.

click the title for more

Happy anniversary to Skylab’s criminal record

On July 11, 1979, the U.S. space station Skylab accomplished two feats: Re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and wrack up a mild criminal record Down Under. It's well known that Skylab's decent from orbit was ummm less than perfect. The miss-calculated trajectory led to a barely controlled deorbit that sent Skylab into Australia’s Western regions. Specifically, the town of Esperance, which was blanketed with a light coating of miniscule Skylab debris — enough to earn the U.S. State Department a $400 fine for littering that — 28 years later — remains unpaid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Telstar 1 Aniversary! 45th!

Today is the 45th anniversary of Telstar I, America's first active telecommunications satellite.
Launched in 1962, Telstar 1 wast the first satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications. It was roughly spherical, was 34.5 inches (880 mm) long, and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg). Its dimensions were limited by what would fit in one of NASA's Delta rockets. Telstar was spin-stabilized, so its outer surface was covered by solar cells in order to always receive some power. The power produced was a relatively tiny 14W. Telstar was equipped with a helical antenna which received microwave signals from a ground station, then amplified and rebroadcast the signal. The broadcasts were made from a series of somewhat directional feed horns distributed around the satellite's "equator". The electronics switched which antenna was active as the satellite rotated. Telstar was placed in an elliptical orbit (completed once every 2 hours and 37 minutes), revolving at a 45 degree angle above the equator. Because of this, its transmission availability for transatlantic signals was only 20 minutes in each orbit. Telstar relayed its first television pictures (of a flag outside its ground station in Andover) on the date of its launch. Almost two weeks later, on July 23, it relayed the first live transatlantic television signal.

Telstar I is still orbiting the Earth even though it permanently broke down seven months after launch.

Thanks Shaun for the math udate...duhhhh!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Life Elsewhere In Solar System Could Be Different From Life As We Know It

from the online science magazine ScienceDaily we have an article that at first glance we (and I mean the hard science fiction geeks amonst us) would say uhhhhDUH! but its clear that alternative chemistry lifeforms have got to be addressed....and so:

The search for life elsewhere in the solar system and beyond should include efforts to detect what scientists sometimes refer to as "weird" life -- that is, life with an alternative biochemistry to that of life on Earth -- says a new report from the National Research Council. The committee that wrote the report found that the fundamental requirements for life as we generally know it -- a liquid water biosolvent, carbon-based metabolism, molecular system capable of evolution, and the ability to exchange energy with the environment are not the only ways to support phenomena recognized as life. Presently there is the assumption that alien life would utilize the same biochemical architecture as life on Earth. This means that scientists have artificially limited the scope of their thinking as to where extraterrestrial life might be found.

A Look at Some Upcoming SF/F Films

John over at SF Signal, who I think is drinking way too much espresso, has put together a very funny impression of the upcoming science fiction and fantasy films. Here is a sample:

Aliens vs. Predator - A sequel to the singular Alien vs. Predator.
PROS: Aliens was good. Predator was good.
CONS: The original Alien vs. Predator...not so much.
BOTTOM LINE: I'll pass.

Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She Vampires - Bruce Campbell reprises his role as an elderly Elvis Presley in this sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep.
PROS: I liked Bubba Ho-Tep.
CONS: Nothing as far as I can tell.
BOTTOM LINE: They had me at "Bruce Campbell". At "She Vampires" I was already packing a suitcase and moving into the multiplex.

The Dark Knight - The sequel to Batman Begins.
PROS: It's Batman!
CONS: I really, really must see the first film.
BOTTOM LINE: Sure to be a huge hit. Everyone will rave about it and then I'll wanna go see it. Damn you, fanboys!

Jurassic Park IV - The script is still being written, but you can be sure dinosaurs are involved.
PROS: The return of the CGI dinosaur!
CONS: The return of the CGI dinosaur.
BOTTOM LINE: Meh. Been there, done that.

click the title to go to the comple blog listing or here

Hydrocarbons, Necessary For Life, Found On Saturn's Moon Hyperion

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed for the first time surface details of Saturn's moon Hyperion, including cup-like craters filled with hydrocarbons that may indicate more widespread presence in our solar system of basic chemicals necessary for life. Hyperion yielded some of its secrets to the battery of instruments aboard Cassini as the spacecraft flew close by in September 2005. Water and carbon dioxide ices were found, as well as dark material that fits the spectral profile of hydrocarbons.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Strange Horizons fund drive

Strange Horizons — which has been bringing you short fiction, poetry, articles, columns, art and reviews, every week, for free, since September 2000 — is having its annual fund drive! Strange Horizons is run entirely by unpaid volunteers - so all your donations go into paying contributors and the upkeep of the site. And hey, if you donate, you could win a prize.

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Dresden Files on the move?

From the Sy Fy Portal blog:

While it still doesn't ensure that SciFi Channel will bring back "The Dresden Files" for a second season, it appears that the network is still looking for ways to make it work. The Edmonton Journal is reporting that the city could see one of two series move to the Alberta city, with one being "The Dresden Files." The SciFi Channel series allowed "Dresden Files" renewal deadline to pass last month without any word on the series. "Dresden Files" currently films in Toronto, Ontario, and a move to Edmonton would mean a more than 2,000-mile relocation. Both Alberta and Edmonton are offering nearly $9 million in incentives for one of the television programs to film 13 episodes in the city. An announcement is expected to be made by mid-month, and if "Dresden Files" isn't chosen, it could mean the beginning of the end for the series.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Micro-generator feeds on good vibrations

A sugar-cube-sized electric generator that feeds on environmental vibrations has been developed. It could power swarms of wireless sensors or even medical implants, researchers claim.

The new micro-generator harvests power electromagnetically, exploiting the wobbling of several magnets attached to a millimetre-sized cantilever. It measures just 7.0 millimetres by 7.0 mm by 8.5 mm, and the team behind it say it is the most efficient micro-generator yet developed.

The generator converts 30% of environmental kinetic energy into electrical power, and could keep all sorts of low-power devices running without batteries – particularly when alternatives like solar power are not an option.

(Image: Steve Beeby/University of Southampton)

thanks to Shaun A. Saunders for the post

You Can't Travel Back in Time, Scientists Say

from Live Science online

While the idea makes for great fiction, some scientists now say traveling to the past is impossible. There are a handful of scenarios that theorists have suggested for how one might travel to the past, said Brian Greene, author of the bestseller, "The Elegant Universe" and a physicist at Columbia University. "And almost all of them, if you look at them closely, brush up right at the edge of physics as we understand it. Most of us think that almost all of them can be ruled out."

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Fred Saberhagen RIP

Locus Magazine online reports:

SF and fantasy writer Fred Saberhagen died June 29, 2007, at the age of 77. He began publishing in 1961 with short stories in Galaxy and If magazines, and published collection Berserker in 1967, first in a series about interstellar killing machines programmed to destroy all life. Saberhagen's 60+ books also included the Empire of the East sequence, beginning with The Broken Lands (1968), the Dracula sequence, beginning with The Dracula Tape (1975), and two books co-written with Roger Zelazny, Coils (1981) and The Black Throne (1990). His last book was Ardneh's Sword (Tor, 2006).

• The family will announce a date for a Memorial Celebration later this year.� Donations would be appreciated to Doctors without Borders, Catholic Relief, SFWA Emergency Medical Fund, and John 23rd Catholic Church in Albuquerque.

Photo by Scott Edelman)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Quantico: by Greg Bear - Ron Huber's impression

Ron's comments about Quantico (shorter version of our conversation about this book on the podcast : 59

Paul, I enjoyed yakking away today about Quantico by Greg Bear. I couldn't call it my review so much as my impressionist rant. The Thinking Man's Tom Clancy, I recollect saying. Quantico is a good read for those (like me) that like that sort of near future action adventure.

True to that genre, coincidences pile up, major characters survive unsurvivable crashes and explosions, and murderer-wannabes are thwarted by a sudden need to declaim at length to helpless prisoner Rebbecca before delivering the lethal stroke, giving the cavalry time to come to the rescue.

But those are practically de rigeur for the AA genre. Bear's futurist equipage for the large cast of characters is entirely believable or at least suspension-of-believable: the neo-blackeberry 'slates', the mini-UAV 'midges' ; characters on the whole believable; the Arab-bashing is within present-day American norms--though Bear is fairly merciless in Quantico to middle easterners of all types.

I liked the meeting of the protagonists and supporting characters with Madame President. It powerfully depicts the personality stresses of such a gathering.

As Chief Villain, Lawrence Winter was rather interesting - starting off as your basic merciless amoral maniac, then going through a sort of flowers-for-Algernon decline and fall into final irrelevancy for his hubris.

I look forward to reading more of Greg Bear's works.