Friday, July 31, 2009

Fermi Paradox Where Are They?

Fermi's paradox as you know, ask the question, given that there are millions if not billions of Earth class planets, that even if a fraction of these planets support life and only a fraction of them intelligent beings, where are they?

Some of the most interesting ideas are based around the colonization wave front.
From the Technology Review article:
  • Various analysis suggest that using spacecraft that travel at a tenth of the speed of light, a colonization wave could take some 50 million years to sweep the galaxy. Others have calculated that it may be closer to 13 billion years, which may explain why we have yet to spot extraterrestrials.

Speculation aside, Carlos Cotta and Álvaro Morales from the University of Malaga in Spain, take a slightly different path to explain the curious absence. Cotta and Morales' suggest that the automated probe idea may be closer to the truth.
Again from the article:
  • The scenario involves a civilization sending out eight probes, each equipped with smaller subprobes for studying the regions that the host probe visits.....this could advance much faster than the colonization wave front.
This still has a time scope of about 300 million years before there is any indication of life elsewhere in the universe. Taking into account that this is likely to be the time it would take to explore 4% of the galaxy.

Cotta and Morales ask, why do we assume that only one intelligent race exist at any one time in the galaxy. Why not several and each sending out probes. Ahh but now it gets interesting.

Say each major probe had a lifespan of 50 million years and any evidence of their visit to a solar system lasted 1 million years, the figure that comes up is no more than 1000 intelligent races in the galaxy. The bad news is, that if each sub-probe left evidence in each visited solar system that lasted for 100 million years there would be no more than 10 civilizations out there.

Not good news at all huh? Read complete article in Technology Review

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scientists create transparent aluminum?!

You remember that scene in the Star Trek movie where Scotty needs to retrofit the Klingon Bird of Prey to be able to carry whales? He teaches 20th century people on how to make transparent aluminum to build the cage with. Well that was the first thing I thought of when I first saw this article sent in by Shaun Saunders from

Its pretty amazing science. Oxford scientists bombarded a sample of aluminum with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. This knocked out sub-atomic particles from each atom, effectively making it transparent.

Now to be fair I have got to make a couple of points.
  1. the sample was diameter less than a twentieth of the width of a human hair.
  2. the sample was only invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.
  3. the effect lasted for only an extremely brief period - an estimated 40 femto-seconds (A femtosecond is one quadrillionth, or one billionth of one millionth of a second.)
  4. a FLASH laser was used in this experiment. It produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.
Close but no cigar.

Eureka gets a fourth from SyFy

Good news fans of SyFy's Eureka, SyFy has renews the quirky series and ordered 22 new episodes.

It looks like season four will play much like 3 / 3.5 did, breaking the episodes in two sections for airing next summer...though that hasn't been confirmed by the Science fiction Fantasy blog on About.

What is very interesting though is that some of the episodes will be set aside for special projects and there is some very interesting news items.

From the article:
  • One or two episodes of the new season have been set aside for a musical episode. We know Colin Ferguson is a comic and improv performer, but can he sing? Ferguson hinted to the panel that he might not feature heavily in that episode. Erica Cerra (Jo Lupo) can, but she seems likewise wary of a musical episode.
  • Matt Frewer will return as the (mysteriously absent) animal expert Taggart.
  • Show runner Jaime Paglia confirmed that Allison's pregnancy wasn't planned – they decided to incorporate Salli Richardson-Whitfield's real-life pregnancy.
Cool, well I am a fan, and I am glad to hear positive things going on.

Here is the complete article

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

G.I. Joes suits good for...Skateboarding?!

The A suits from G.I. Joe are probablly the best part of the movie...but still, they look cool. Well here is a viral video that does not seem to be part of the movie's release, but still it's pretty amazing CG

Jupiter just took a pounding, Is Earth next?

Since the huge impact on Jupiter is still fresh in our memories, I think it's fair to ask - what are the chances that the same could befall Earth any time in the near future?

Tim Sayell send in a good article from Yahoo News that deals with just such a question.

As the article points out: So far 784 near-Earth objects (NEOs) more than a half-mile wide (1 km) have been found. NASA has ruled out any of these as an impactor.

It's a safe bet that if 'an object of about the same size that just hit Jupiter also hit Earth — it was probably a typical cometary object of a kilometer or so in size (0.6 miles) — it would have been fairly catastrophic,'

Currently just one NEO poses any significant chance of hitting the Earth — 2007 VK184. This object is 425-foot-wide and should it hit Earth, it would strike with an energy of more than 10,000 times that of Hiroshima. 2007 VK184 has a 1-in-2,940 chance of hitting Earth 40 to 50 years from now.

Like the mosquito that you don't hear, it's the NEOs that we don't know about that are most worrying. NASA estimates that there are about 156 large NEOs 1 kilometer in diameter or larger that remain to be found. But the truly disturbing statistic is that objects of about 500 feet are extremely dangerous and only about 15% of these object have been discovered and only 5% of objects 150 feet in size.

Now the nitty gritty:
The dinosaur killers happen about once every 100 million years
Impacts of 1500 foot size hits about once every 500,000 nothing is expected soon...
150 feet, about 700 years, 98 feet about 140 years or so.

So, nothing really worrisome with what we know so far....but a lot more has to be put into discovery and tracking before I feel safe.

Read the complete article here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shatner does Pailin

Did you ever hear Shatner's album? Well just to show he has still "got it" Shatner does Sarah Palin's exit speech...strange and very funny oh and Bill does a good job too!

Midsummer at Abandoned Towers Magazine

Well, July is almost over. Here in Texas summer's half gone and the new school year is fast approaching. June bugs are still hatching and flying in my back door, too. Someone needs to tell them that June ended several weeks ago, though my cats are certainly enjoying the feast.

Over at Abandoned Towers Magazine we added a nice selection of goodies to the online pages and released issue #3 as well. To recap the month, Here's just some of what came in and is waiting for you to go spend a few minutes reading.

Three Wishes in the Iraqi Desert by Stephen Patrick in the General Fiction Section
Reflections on Time by Ashutosh Ghildiyal in the Poetry Section
The Grey Div by David A. Hardy in the Fantasy Section
Elcano Syndrome by Gustavo Bondoni in the Audio Stories Section
Buy the Sword by Timothy A. Sayell in the Fantasy Section
Buy the Sword parts 1 and 2 by Timothy A. Sayell in the Audio Stories
Zatana vrs. Ms. Marvel by Eric S. Brown under Comics by Eric S. Brown non-series articles
The Goddess of Ganymede under Odd Reviews by Oddcube

And of course we have some great classics hidden around for you to find. Buried treasures and you don't even need a map. Or a shovel. Just a little bit of time.

I thought I'd share a few bits and pieces with it of some of the gems you might not have discovered yet. This excerpt is from a story in the Science Fiction section.Written by Doug Hilton, it's called The Billboard.

The dark blue sign crackled into existence around 4 P.M. on the first Thursday of June, near the westbound lanes of Interstate 565 in Madison Alabama. It was 60 feet by 40 feet, surrounded by a neon red border, but anyone could tell that it wasn't really there - it was clearly some kind of holographic projection, but from where? S

oon, strange characters appeared on the billboard and a few cars pulled off to see what was going on. The rush hour traffic slowed to a crawl at the mile marker, and the sign changed from dancing alien letters to dancing alien beings. Pictures from a faraway place flashed and bounced across the billboard, which now doubled in size. I-565 was stopped by now, and Alabama State Troopers were trying to sort out the mess. Two of them were forcing eastbound traffic to stop, and one was blocking westbound traffic.

A Channel 48 news chopper showed up, and one of the troopers used his bullhorn to tell the news team to stay away, but they couldn't hear him from the chopper. They circled low over the sign. The strange creatures disappeared and things that looked like cans of blue and yellow soup filled the billboard and seemed to spring right out of it. Red lasers shot tracers at the cans from the billboard, and they seemed to open up and spill their contents out onto the gathered masses.

Everyone was taking pictures with their cell phones. By now, traffic was backed up into Decatur, to the west and Huntsville to the east. The Troopers talked to each other by radio, and the crowd swelled. The exploding soup cans turned into strange-looking flowers that grew from microscopic dots into flowers that ate up the entire billboard, and then faded into fireworks of small dots. This went on for 3 hours, and then the billboard went away. Just like that.

If you'd like to read the entire story, just wander on over to the Abandoned Towers website, which you can find easily by going to google and searching on abandoned towers magazine. Once you're on the home page, click on the spot that says "click here to enter" and that'll put you on the table of contents page. Look to your left for the button marked Science Fiction, click on it and then click on Stories. You'll find The Bilboard right at the top of the list.

While you're there, take a few minutes to listen to some of the audio stories we have online, watch a few videos or read the Abandoned Towers blog. You can find those under the drop down menu called Things To Do on the Table of contents page.

And don't forget all the very cool serial stories we have for your enjoyment. Among them are:

Clock Work by Erin Basset
When Esther St. Claire rejoins her sophomore year a semester late she expects a relatively quiet return. But odd things begin to happen even before she can get to campus; starting with a strange encounter with a new student that escalates to an attack on Westin Academy’s student body. An other worldly battle is going on and somehow Esther is the key.

Gas Lantern Shadows by Malcolm Laughton
Gas Lantern Shadows is a series that stems from the short story Vennels and Wynds which appeared in Abandoned Towers print magazine issue 2. In that story the protagonist is looking at a print of a photograph of old Glasgow and is drawn into the past.

And Scion of the Immortals by Jared Evers
Scion tells the story of Razian, a man with uncommon talents and knowledge. The world of the dead holds few secrets for him, yet without a link to one of the five holy Orders there is little explanation for his skills. Few truly count him as a friend, but his protective nature and unique abilities ensure he is rarely forgotten. For better or for worse.

Coming online on August 1 we have a brand new serial as well. Dark InSpectre.
In a near-future society where "normals" fear and mistrust those with telepathic ability, Jack Garrett leads a special police unit of telepaths with the unique talent of contacting the psychic awareness of the dead. Seven years after solving a notorious murder spree that culminated in the killing of his best friend’s daughter, Jack starts receiving visits from the murdered girl. Determined to follow her paranormal clues, Jack uncovers a web of police corruption that threatens to end his career and his life the closer he gets to the truth.

So take a few minutes out of your busy day, wander on over to Abandoned Towers Magazine and spend a few minutes with an enjoyable read. You'll be glad you did.

And until next time, have a nice day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24th U,S.'s second choice for first spaceport

Today is a bit momentous. It's the date that the U.S. gets it's first spaceport. Well I should be fair
the date is right, except that the year was 1950. And the place? If you said Cape Canaveral, well you're almost right. You see, Canaveral was the SECOND choice even though it was in fact the FIRST launch facility.

According to the Wired article:
  • ...the original site in California was rejected after the Mexican government refused to let rockets traverse the air space over Baja California. (A near miss in Juarez, Mexico, where a wayward rocket from White Sands, New Mexico, crashed into a cemetery, probably influenced that decision.)
And the first off the pad? Well the old timers know it was a modified German V-2.

Lots of good space history here in an article on Wired

RIP: Ellie Frazetta

Any of us that were into the graphic comic or marveled at the other-worldliness covers of F&SF, Asimov's or any of the others, knew well the name Frank Frazetta. Frazetta's genius is the ability to take larger than life characters and worlds - and bring them down to digest size.

You have to wonder at the muse that motivates this type of amazing talent. With Frazetta it was Ellie Frazetta.

We learn today from Boing Boing and Golden Age Comics that Frazetta's muse has passed away.

One couldn't finish this post without passing on one of the notes that was posted on the Golden Age Comic site:
  • I doubt Frank Frazetta would ever became the Frazetta (the one name only needed version) without Ellie. her belief in her husband, her drive, determination, advocacy, protective abilities and inspiration allowed him to create at another level......
Talent comes in so many different packages and is expressed in an equal number of different ways.
I think the science fiction community is a bit less colorful with this passing.

The world of Saunders' "The Colors 12" may be closer than ever!

Shaun sends in this video posted on the Mercola site.

The really cool (if I can play fast and loose with the term here) is no matter you're opinion of the subject material, this is a solid and real fear of the present and as such the future. What Shaun points out is quote "And all this AFTER I wrote 'The Colours 12". And there is the rub, or what makes science fiction so good is that it can take seemingly unrelated trends and predict a wildly accurate future many years or just a few months into the future.

That the scenario is nightmarish is not the point, or the veracity of the claims, which in and of themselves are horrendous, but the very fact that a good author can see the trend in seeming unrelated clues.

Here is the Mercola article
where a reporter accuses the W.H.O. of complicity in the present swine flu epidemic.

Here is the Youtube vid from the article

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Suit Malf could have been 'naut's last first....

Ok, so I opt for a cheesy head line, but the thing is that the more people become blase about the ISS and space walks etc....the more we are reminded just how hostile the environment these people work in and just how close to the edge they are ever second. Here is what happened.

Astronaut Chris Cassidy on his first space mission during his first E.V.A. had something happen that very well could have been his last, anything.

For us oldtimers that experienced the ill fated Apollo mission number 13 know just how insidiously dangerous excess CO2 can be. Not only did that crew have to experience a mission ending explosion, lack of power and near freezing temperatures, they also faced slowly suffocating in their own exhaled waste due to lack of capacity and system incompatibility. The insidious part is that if someone had not been on their game, that crew would never even known it was happening until it was too late.

And that was almost what happened to astronaut Cassidy. His lithium hydroxide CO2 scrubber broke, allowing the lethal gas to build up to dangerous levels. What's more, Cassidy didn't notice any apparent effect, but the spacewalk came to a sudden ending after Houston noticed that things weren't right at all inside his suit. This according to a recent article in Gizmodo.

For the complete Gizmodo article click here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

America - distroyed by a comet?!

Now here is an interesting article. It seems, that North America has been destroyed by a comet strike taking all life with it. Not in the past though...well not in the distant past, but a short 13000 years ago.

This article from IO9
describes newly uncovered evidence that supports earlier research that suggested that the Clovis people, who went extinct nearly 13,000 years ago — and the disappearance of the pygmy mammoth may in fact have been victims of a large impact event. That research in 2007 suggested that the impact set off huge continental fires that brought about the disappearance of the Clovis people, but also the extermination of 35 mammal genera, including mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths and camels.

Read complete article at IO9 here

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Amateur Astronomer Spots Asteroid Hit on Jupiter

Something extremely large slammed into Jupiter on July 19th. The impact, which was the size of the Earth, was discovered by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, a 44 year old computer programmer in Murrumbateman, north of Canberra in Australia, using his 14.5 inch reflecting telescope.

NASA's JPL has confirmed the discovery which will only remain visible for a few more days.

The discovery of the impact was extremely lucky. Lucky in that someone had to be looking at the right time, right hour and have the right side facing toward us.

Needless to say the find has stunned the astronomy world since this was actually the first impact seen by astronomers since a comet collided with Jupiter in July of 94.

The bright white dot in the lower left of the photo is the object's impact

Complete story from Yahoo news submitted by Tim Sayell

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another step closer to Terminators?

You may laugh at the thought of Skynet giving humanity the big spanking, or discount it completely, then stuff like this comes along just to let us know that the pieces at least are in place.

Thanks to Dvice for the heads up!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Apollo 11 speech that we NEVER heard!

Steve M. sends in an article from concerning a speech or better a contingency speech concerning Apollo 11 that then president Nixon would have given had their been a catastrophic failure of the moon landing system.

This extraordinarily unsettling speech was written for Nixon to read if the Eagle had crashed and left Armstrong and Aldrin marooned on the lunar surface with no hope of rescue.

The document was found in the national archives some 30 years after the successful lunar mission.

read the complete article and the speech here

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stringy Science

String Theory. You might have heard the term. Maybe you know what it means, but probably not. Since Beam Me Up is both science fact and science fiction, I thought I'd delve into this strange realm and explore it a bit.

Before we go into what String Theory is, let's first state what it's not. It is not something dealing with twine. It has nothing to do with winding something around your finger so you won't forget... It's not about small colored bits of thread or something to tease your cat with. Now that we have that out of the way, what is it?

Wikipedia says:
“String theory is a developing branch of theoretical physics that combines quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity. The strings of string theory are one-dimensional oscillating lines, but they are no longer considered fundamental to the theory, which can be formulated in terms of points or surfaces, too.”

While you uncross your eyes, let me see if I can explain that better. We live in three-dimensional space. There’s a limit to how small things can get before we can’t see them with our eyes any more. Fortunately, we have objects called microscopes to help us see those things that are too small. But microscopes have their limits too. Solid objects aren’t really solid as anyone that’s taken high school science knows. Solid objects are composed of things we call molecules. Molecules are made up of atoms and atoms are bits of energy glued together with various atomic forces. We can see all of those things with microscopes. But things get even smaller, the bits of energy become undetectable with our instruments and force us to do weird mathematics in order to learn anything about them.

Since we can’t see these things, and we can’t measure most of them, we call any explanations we come up with “theories” because, well… they aren’t fact. Not fact that we can prove absolutely at least. Strings are one of those things that we can’t see and can’t detect but we think exist because… we see other things that sort of tell us that they might be there.

To start with, strings are only made up of one dimension. Try to get your head around that. Objects that are three dimensional have height, width, and breadth. A box is a good example of a three dimensional object. A two dimensional object has width and height. Our box turns into a square drawn on paper. A one dimensional object has…. Not much of anything. It’s not even a dot. Put a dot on paper and then look at it under a microscope and you’ll see that it has some width and some height. The average size of a string is supposed to be about 10 to the -33 centimeters, or about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. That’s incredibly small. So small it’s down into the realm of quantum physics, even though it’s considered part of particle physics.

But just being able to define strings, and figure out how small they are, doesn’t make figuring out other things about them easy. There are as many different theories about what might be going on and what might be causing the strings as there are physicists.

Why are strings important? Why in the world should the world’s brightest minds be worrying about something too small to see? For several reasons, but among them is the fact that all of our wonderful technology is rapidly approaching the miniaturization level where parts will be composed of a few atoms, not a few molecules. Already we have small USB drives that can hold more data than a room full of computers could less than twenty years ago. Imagine a computer with holographic memory, storing all the data in molecular arrays, with what amounts to completely unlimited space. It’s coming. But in order to allow our gadgets and toys to continue in this direction, the scientists that are building them need to know how the basics of reality work. Strings just might be the key to those basics.

Toys. Lots more toys. Yeah!

Friday, July 17, 2009

RIP Walter Cronkite

How ironic that the very icon of the stalwart newsman on the eve of man's first steps on another world, Walter Cronkite picked the very anniversary to shuffle of this mortal coil.

From TV Squad:
  • Cronkite was a huge fan of the space program, and he was incredibly giddy during CBS news coverage of the first moon landing in 1969. And here we are on the 40th anniversary of that very mission.
I could not get enough of the coverage of Apollo 11. CBS and Walter Cronkite along with Wally Sheara. Chronkite always had clear and concise reporting on the events with a great deal of knowledge. It was obvious that he was an enthusiastic supporter of the program and was eager to share his knowledge and love of the exploration of space.

Walter Cronkite was 92

read complete TV Squad article

PSAs from the Future!

Whacky fun and if I don't miss my guess....all true? Well - they are funny at least!

Thanks to Suicide Bots for the post


We have all heard the stories from the likes of Shaun Saunders concerning worries that corporate entities bending society into little more than consumerism gone wild. Controlling both media and education to bring about this end. As scary and entertaining as this might be, Shaun has pointed out that this corporate philosophy is based solidly in reality.

Here is Ron Huber's review of a book recounting this very thing.....

The corporate capture of childhood

By Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden
Pluto Press, May 2009

A review:
Few parents are in doubt that their children are being targeted by big business for commercial ends – advertising, promotions and marketing aimed at children are a constant feature of everyday life. This book provides fresh evidence about the extent of this problem and shows this manipulation goes much further than we imagine.

Analyzing school reforms in English-speaking nations such as the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand, This Little Kiddy Went to Market investigates the ways in which business coalitions have persuaded governments around the world into shaping schools to suit corporate ends, rather than the interests of their children.

The authors argue that school reforms, driven by underfunding and corporate needs, have made the education system vulnerable to pressure from big business. The book examines the many prongs of this assault, including the flood of corporate-sponsored classroom materials being offered to teachers and children, and the role of corporations in promoting the privatization of schooling.

This Little Kiddy Went to Market is an incisive examination of what many parents have suspected - that the corporate culture is contributing to the decline of childhood.

`A chilling assessment of modern commercial culture and how it distorts childhood, corrupts civic institutions, and endangers the planet.' –
Alex Molnar, Professor of Education Policy, Arizona State University

Ron Huber

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Russian Mock Mars Mission ends

Tim Sayell sends in an article from Yahoo News reporting the end of the Russian mockup of a trip to Mars.

The six test subjects emerged after 104 day still in good humor. The group had been locked inside the mock spacecraft since March 31.

The mock-up consisted of windowless metal cylinders each the size of rail cars. Common facilities included a gym and a small garden, and the modules were equipped with the new European and Russian exercise and training equipment for biomedical research. Each crew member did have a private room for sleep. The crew also specially prepared meals and used toilets closely resembling those on the space station.

There was no internet or TV and all communications were strictly between the crew and mission control which had a built in 20 minute delay to simulate the delay that would be experienced on a real trip.

read complete story here

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Since the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 is at hand, Shaun Saunders thought it appropriate to send in some links and articles. Here are 10 things you might not have known about concerning that historic event.

1. The Apollo’s Saturn rockets were packed with enough fuel to throw 100-pound shrapnel three miles, and NASA couldn’t rule out the possibility that they might explode on takeoff. NASA seated its VIP spectators three and a half miles from the launchpad.

2. The Apollo computers had less processing power than a cellphone. (Shaun had a good point on this score. He wrote: "I think point No. 2 is far too generous - with what - 64K? - I reckon that they had far less processing power than a modern mobile phone. " and actually both sides are basically true. But you have to understand that the computers for the L.E.M. and S.M. were one offs custom made with ballistic rockets in mind. The software was custom written and for the most part was entered by hand as needed. The were not like computers today, they were built for one purpose only. They were also extremely fault tolerant, not like today's computers that if you look at them sideways they stop working. Remember the first personal computers ran extremely well on far less memory. My first had four kilobytes and could word process and play games etc. So by comparison the L.E.M.'s computer was 16 times more powerful than anything else out there in it's day!)

3. Drinking water was a fuel-cell by-product, but Apollo 11’s hydrogen-gas filters didn’t work, making every drink bubbly. Urinating and defecating in zero gravity, meanwhile, had not been figured out; the latter was so troublesome that at least one astronaut spent his entire mission on an anti-diarrhea drug to avoid it.

4. When Apollo 11’s lunar lander, the Eagle, separated from the orbiter, the cabin wasn’t fully depressurized, resulting in a burst of gas equivalent to popping a champagne cork. It threw the module’s landing four miles off-target.

5. Pilot Neil Armstrong nearly ran out of fuel landing the Eagle, and many at mission control worried he might crash. Apollo engineer Milton Silveira, however, was relieved: His tests had shown that there was a small chance the exhaust could shoot back into the rocket as it landed and ignite the remaining propellant.

6. The "one small step for man" wasn’t actually that small. Armstrong set the ship down so gently that its shock absorbers didn’t compress. He had to hop 3.5 feet from the Eagle’s ladder to the surface.

7. When Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface, he had to make sure not to lock the Eagle's door because there was no outer handle.

8. The toughest moonwalk task? Planting the flag. NASA’s studies suggested that the lunar soil was soft, but Armstrong and Aldrin found the surface to be a thin wisp of dust over hard rock. They managed to drive the flagpole a few inches into the ground and film it for broadcast, and then took care not to accidentally knock it over.

9. The flag was made by Sears, but NASA refused to acknowledge this because they didn’t want "another Tang."

10. The inner bladder of the space suits—the airtight liner that keeps the astronaut’s body under Earth-like pressure—and the ship’s computer’s ROM chips were handmade by teams of “little old ladies.”

These facts come to us from Craig Nelson while researching his new book, Rocket Men (Viking; $28) via

I.S.S. to end in 2016?!!

Yep you are reading that right! According to an article in send in by Shaun Saunders, NASA plans on de-orbiting the international space station in 2016! If that little fact don't grind your ass, think of it this way....this would mean that the ISS will have spent more time being build than fully functional!!! As idiotic as this really is just an add on to a list of what would be construed as blunders by any other commercial entity. Allowing the shuttle program to shudder to an end without a follow-on transportation system at the ready is bad enough but ending the only continuous space presence that humanity has available?!!! Oh and it gets better...

From the article:
  • Many of the station's research programs have already been cut and the US Space Shuttle program is ending in 2010, which leaves few big-ticket programs left on the agenda (save for the station's yet-to-be-installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which searchers for dark- and anti-matter).
Unbelievable! Where are the international partners in this boondoggle?

So we have the new lifting system that is still in R&D but heavy lift to where? The Moon?!!! Lets get real here, if the ISS has this many opponents what does an ongoing presence on the Moon have for a chance? Give it one or two launches before they start to understand the staggering cost of a manned Luna presence and they will question NASA's sanity.

And NASA's spin? Well seems there is a "study" to study an extending its lifespan into the 2020s...
NO KIDDING! I have a strong suspicion that if the decommissioning plan trickled down to the general public, there would be calls for a lynchin!

As Shaun puts it:
  • "Is it any wonder why space will be left to the small commercial outfits? Heinlein (i.e., 'the Man Who Sold the Moon') was right after all.
read complete article here

Monday, July 13, 2009

RIP: Charles N. Brown

Locus via Boing Boing reports:
  • ...publisher Charles N Brown, ... has died peacefully in his sleep on his way home from ReaderCon.
  • Brown co-founded Locus with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf as a one-sheet news fanzine in 1968, originally created to help the Boston Science Fiction Group win its Worldcon bid. Brown enjoyed editing Locus so much that he continued the magazine far beyond its original planned one-year run. Locus was nominated for its first Hugo Award in 1970, and Brown was a best fan writer nominee the same year. Locus won the first of its 29 Hugos in 1971.
Charles N. Brown, 1937-2009

It's cyborg cricket to the rescue!

Shaun Saunders finds a very interesting article in NewScientist. There is little doubt that robotics will play a major role in and on the battlefield of tomorrow. To some extent, this tech will trickle down to the private sector.

Now when most people think of battle field robots, they envision hulking monstrosities with awesome fire power. But one device could be a life saver on and off the battlefield and its hardly larger than a cricket.

The Pentagon is funding research on robots that give early warning of chemical attacks on the battlefield. Researchers say the technology could be put to good use in civilian life, locating disaster victims or finding gas leaks etc.

The newest effort is a step beyond robotics and well into cybernetics. Researchers have embedded electrodes in insect's muscles to get them to fly in unnatural fashions, but now the Pentagon plans to create living communication networks by implanting a package of electronics in crickets, cicadas or katydids and have their "calls" triggered by chemicals instead of a mate.

From the article:
  • The Pentagon's priority is for the insects to detect chemical and biological agents on the battlefield, but Epstein says they could be modified to respond to the scent of humans and thus be used to find survivors of earthquakes and other disasters.
read complete article in NewScientist

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Moon Flights by Elizabeth Moon

Moon Flights Elizabeth Moon

Night Shade Books 7.99 us

pb 401 pp collection of stories

When I first received Moon's new book, I went straight to the TOC. One look and I am thinking...what? No stories about trip to the moon? what gives?! So lets talk for a moment about the unfortunate title of this collection....Moon - stories - flights of fancy - ummmm Moon.....Trips! No....Moon - Flights! Yeah! Groan.. And what's with the same ole Vatta style picture on the front...that's downright misleading.

Ok, clumsy title and misleading cover art aside, lets take a moment to talk about the contents.

First off the book opens with an excellent introduction from the grand dame of science fiction Anne McCaffrey. Next we only have to consider Moon's earlier works like the Vatta Wars series or the short story Tideline to realize that she is a major force in the science fiction world. So how does that transfer to Moon Flights. Well consider Elizabeth has included a new Vatta story for the book...that alone should be reason enough to check the book out. Her story "Say Cheese" is a refreshing departure from the War series but still captures the universe well and does it with good humor. But shorts like If Nudity Offends You or Gifts demonstrate a full range of not only the science fiction and mil/sci-fi but well into the fantasy realm as well.

And if this deters you from reading Moon Flights, you're missing out on some of her best examples to date of science fiction and military based science fiction like "Politics"

And there are many more, 15 Stories in all, that straddle the line or land well on either side. What is clear with this compilation is Moon is a force to be reckoned with whatever style or theme she should choose to write in. Thought provoking, intriguing and vastly entertaining are not an overstatement. Well worth checking out!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Physicists Find Way to Control Individual Bits in Quantum Computers

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have overcome a hurdle in quantum com,puter development, having devised a viable way to manipulate a single "bit" in a quantum processor without disturbing the information stored in its neighbors. The approach which makes novel use of polarized light to create "effective" magnetic fields, could bring the long-sought quantum computers a step closer to reality. Full article
Image credit NIST

Thursday, July 09, 2009

WTF! Space Something....I guess...naa

Ok, I know...but come on guys....I was due! And it's frakin funni

Its a short call...swear to God...



Docking from Mato Atom on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What happens when advertising becomes less passive & more invasive

It is no surprise to BMU long timers that Shaun Saunders looks at advertising a bit askew and corporate involvement with thinly veiled hostility. Shaun sends in an article from New Scientist that once again demonstrates how advertising is becoming less general and through the use of technology, much more targeted and personal. The pervasiveness in the future of this type of technology is frightening and the invasive nature which under any other circumstances would be considered invasion of privacy is clearly unnerving.

Read the article first here and here is Shaun's submission on advertising and technology

While advertisers say that their new technology will allow more careful targeting of specific consumer demographics (and hence less wastage), the upshot is, simply, the intent to make sure that the advertising message that reaches you has the most personal relevance, the most power. While this has always been the aim of advertising, it must be considered that the way in which people are 'communicated' to is the point, and more specifically targeted persuasion is just that: the next step up in the grab for control of your thoughts and behaviours.

The question is, can the average person decipher what is being done to them here?

Let's take a historical perspective on this issue: according to Pratkanis and Aronson, authors of ‘Age of Propaganda’, in ancient Greece, all citizens were considered equal, with the expectation that they would be able to speak on their own behalf. In fact, their court system required citizens to plead their own cases before a jury of their neighbours. With this in mind, the average Greek citizen was highly motivated to learn how to form arguments and persuasively communicate their point of view: if they failed, they might lose their reputation and the togas off their backs as a result of a petty lawsuit.

It’s not surprising then that the average Greek citizen's education in the 3rd century BC included 4 yrs of rhetoric designed to teach them how to dissemble and construct persuasive arguments.

Roman students in the 1st century also studied persuasion, while students at Harvard in the US in the seventeenth century also learned how to get their point across: for four years, they would spend every Friday afternoon honing their proficiency at this by taking a stand on an issue, defending it and disparaging the opposition’s position (i.e., debating).

Could the average person today do this or defend themselves in court? I doubt it, but remember also though that these people lived in a world very different to ours – in the absence of TV, Twitter, radio, and before newsprint became widely circulated, how many religious sermons might a church attendee hear in his or her life? 3000? And how long does a sermon last for? I don't attend church, so I'll guess – 15 min to an hour???

Pratkanis and Aronson make the point that we, on the other hand, live in a message-dense or "over-communicated society", and remind us that the average American will be exposed to at least 7 million advertisements in their lifetime. Unlike sermons, though, advertisements (like modern news headlines) are usually short and simple. There is no debate, no invitation to discuss, and also little chance to fall asleep. They are very carefully crafted, bright fragments of information designed to lodge deep in your mind, quietly working even when you’re not aware, and sometimes very hard to remove.

The information overload applies equally to the workplace – since the advent of email, how much info do you receive, and how much attention do you give to it? And what about paper mail? Well, advertisers are hell bent on making sure that you DO pay attention to what they have to say...and there are a hell of a lot of them who want to talk to YOU. NOW.

Is the average modern person – is anyone – prepared for even more sophisticated forms of persuasion? Don't forget, the new technologies are designed to target advertising (and other) messages to individuals' personal characteristics, not broad groups. And with the grim possibility of individual RFID chipping peeking from around the next corner, the software will hardly stop at a quick assessment of your gender and where you're looking. The advertising software might have immediate access to an avalanche of your personal, financial, and medical data from which it can
finetune its message:

..."Like a new car Suzy, but don't have a great credit rating? We can fix that!"

"Jim! Been worried about your blood pressure / cholesterol/ weight lately? Ask your medical practitioner about Shonkyl today!"...

It may also no longer be a one-sided issue of walking away from a sidewalk poster or video message that doesn't interest you. The tech outlined in the article (and in books like my own 'Mallcity 14') will not let you go that easily...if it misses the first time, I'd bet that the programs will regroup, perhaps choose a different algorithm, a new strategy, and try again. Will there be any escape from the consumer maze?

It's one thing to choose to walk past a conventional billboard and ignore it. But what if that billboard - every new billboard, and more - is backed by programming and algorithms designed by the brightest computer experts, craftiest mindbenders and good 'ole fashioned advertisers, with access to your most intimate details (did you forget about that racy vid you bought online when you thought no one was looking, or that special gift for a special friend? The Billboards won't...). It's really a one sided battle - no matter where you go, that billboard's brother or sister will be ready to hit you with the most persuasive arguments, and they won't tire like you will. You'll be pleading a case, all day every day with the most powerful electronic judge and jury who perhaps know more about you and what you've done than you do.

No matter what you call it - '1984', 'Brave New World', 'Mallcity 14', 'Big Brother' or 'Little Brother', the outcome will be the same.

Your place in the maze is being reserved right now.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Russians attempted to land on Moon before Apollo 11

Wired online posts an article the describes the discovery of long forgotten audio tapes that document the Soviet's plans to land an unmanned craft on the moon in July of 1969 in hopes of upstaging Apollo 11 which was already in orbit at that time.

Luna 15 had been launched earlier in 1969 and was monitored by astronomers in England as it maneuvered and began it's decent only to crash into the Luna surface only hours after Apollo 11 /Eagle had already landed.

From the article:
  • Astronomers from the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics unearthed these forgotten audio files while researching materials for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. The recordings come from the control room of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, where astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell and colleagues were listening to transmissions from the moon on the Lovell radio telescope.
Read complete article Wikipedia article on Luna 15

Monday, July 06, 2009

Prometheus Award Winners announced

Science Fiction Awards Watch posted this announcement
  • Best Novel: Little Brother, Cory Doctorow

No surprise this one huh?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How will society react to robots with emotional responses?

I thought I could answer this question fairly easy until I read this article in NewScientist sent in by Shaun Saunders.

Outside of science fiction, the idea of technology that reads emotions has been limited. In the 90s computer scientist Rosalind Picard at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expressed interest in the science and technology of gaging human emotional responses. However her contemporaries were uninterested and in some cases outright hostile. When she suggested pursuing this sort of research. She was greeted with scepticism. "It was such a taboo topic back then - it was seen as very undesirable, soft and irrelevant," she says.

However the advertising business was vitally interested in how to gauge how effective a certain products ad are being received.

from the article:
  • Picard published a book in 1997 called Affective Computing, which laid out the case that many technologies would work better if they were aware of their user's feelings. For instance, a computerized tutor could slow down its pace or give helpful suggestions if it sensed a student looking frustrated, just as a human teacher would.
Simple versions of responsive tech are very familiar to us. Take for example the Microsoft paperclip. Ideally it was there simply to help you work more efficiently, however Microsoft wisely killed it off because people found it so irritating.

But what would it be like if a like featured robotic device or software started gauging how fast you typed or how hard, or using your web cam determined that you were upset or disturbed...could this undermine personal relationships? Is it possible that said technologies might serve to isolate you from human interaction even more so?

Saunders of course can clearly see a downside to this tech. That emotion-sensing technologies might be used covertly. Security services could use face and posture-reading systems to sense stress in people from a distance, even when they're unaware of it. Imagine if an unsavory regime got hold of such technology and used it to identify citizens who opposed it.

A classic piece of reading on the extreme is Jack Williamson's classic 'With Folded Hands'

Read the complete article

Friday, July 03, 2009

AntipodeanSF Issue 133 now online!

Editor ION writes to tell us that AntipodeanSF Issue 133 is now online.

You can find the new issue at:

This month's issue features:

A Death Worse Than Fate By Jackie Hosking

Curing Cancer By Kevin Phyland

Duty By Rodney J. Smith

Warrior By Rachel Holkner

Information Theory By Julie Wornan

Never Trust A Stranger By Jake Wickenhofer

Piece of Mind By Mark Farrugia

Secret Of The Cattle Mutilations By Stephen James Elgrove

Census Day Shaun A. Saunders

The Launch By Gregor MacNamara

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Abandoned Towers Magazine July Update

It's July and there are several updates to the AT website at I've posted a new Odd Review by Oddcube. This time he reviews Mike Resnick's The Goddess of Ganymede (pulp sci-fi all the way). A new Dragonslayer's cartoon is up, and there are several other items that'll go online in the next couple of days.

Also, as this is the start of a new trimester for the print issue, Abandoned Towers print issue #3 is now available from the AT website. To get a copy, go to the home page and click on the small, rectangular icon with the words Print Issues, then click on the cover of the issue you want. Keep in mind that the content in the print issues never goes up online, and what's online never goes into the print version.

Here's the table of contents for issue #3

The Crystal Cage By Timothy A. Sayell
Spirits By Jaleta Clegg
Fireworks at the Check-out By Samantha Priestley
A Fish was I By David J. Cohen
The Thousandfold Magic By TW Williams
Treasure By Aurelio Rico Lopez III
Weights By Harry Calhoun
Dr. Talbot’s Cider By Pat Tompkins
Interview with Scott Green
Reptile Bushido By Scott E. Green
The Shadow By Carol Allen
Dungeons and Dental Plans By Tim McDaniel
The Time to Strike By Andrew Braun
Pests By Aurelio Rico Lopez III
Cricket’s Melody By Del Cain
Missing in Action By Bruce Durham
The Mailbox By Colin P Davies
Another Piece of Pie By C.E. Chaffin
The Ghost of Preston Manor By S.J. Higbee
Eternity’s Prelude By Tommy B. .Smith
The Witch of the Westmoors By Jeff Draper
Realities By Lyn McConchie
Pathless By Michael D. Griffiths
And the Wind Sang By Bradley H. Sinor
Pernese Picnic (serves 8-10)Recipes created by Jaleta Clegg

And here's a couple of teasers. From Spirits by Jaleta Clegg:

A thick fog drifts over the ground beneath a gibbous moon, stirred by the passing of a tall, dark shape. Frogs stop their spring mating calls as the shadow sweeps by. All is still. A single frog peeps uncertainly.
The fog parts again. A slender creature the size of a small goat, burning white in the moonlight, trots from the forest, following the shadow. It pauses, posing. Moonlight glistens on the single spiraling horn that lifts from the masses of curling white hair. The unicorn blinks its lavender eyes and dances on split hooves after the shadow.
The shadow strides on, unaware of the unicorn. The land rises in undulating swells, cresting to a flat plain. Tall fingers of stone rise in the distance, a mysterious circle of monoliths. The shadow moves unhesitatingly towards them, mist and unicorn trailing at his heels.

From Jaleta Clegg's Pernese Picnic menu:

Summer sun tea
Igen Summer Salad with Ginger Lemon Creme
Quick Pickled Veggies
Deviled Sea Bird Eggs
Sea Greens
Purple Passion Salad
Parmesan crusted Wherry on Wheat Rolls with Mustard Sauce
Benden Wine
Ruathan Candied Cherry Bars
Southern Decadence Bars

Ruathan Candied Cherry Bars

1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 T. shortening
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1/4 c. maraschino cherry juice
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. maraschino cherries, halved

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Add baking powder, salt, vanilla, almond extract, cherry juice, and eggs. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in flour and cherries. Spread in greased 9x13 cake pan. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 24 bars.