Saturday, November 5, 2005

Skunk Cabbage

In Robert A. Heinlein's 1949 novel Red Planet depicts a struggle of colonists on Mars trying to fight back against an Earth-imposed government that does not understand what it takes to live on Mars. The books depicts that Mars of Percivel Lowell: canals, ruined cities and Martians (reused by Heinlein in other books such as The Rolling Stones and Stranger in a Strange Land).

Part of the plot revolves around the journey of the main characters, Jim Marlowe and Frank Sutton, to warn their fellow colonists of the plans of the Mars Company. To survive a night on Mars, they hide inside a large plant that resembles the Earth skunk cabbage. Despite freezing temperatures, the plant is able to survive. Perhaps it is a cousin of Earth's skunk cabbage, which was recently found to have a mechanism to combat freezing?

Addendum (November 14, 2005): The posting was picked up by Technovelgy!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

American Gods and More

Three brief reviews of books by Neil Gaiman.

American Gods: Mixed feelings on this one. Overall, I enjoyed it. There was a lot of fun in this book, plus a few very moving or scary scenes. But (there's always a but) I'm not as thrilled with Gaiman as some seem to be. I do not, for example, understand why people can rave so much aboug Gaiman while ignoring somebody like Tim Powers. Both explore similar themes, threads and ideas, but Gaiman (in my humble opinion) barely can carry Powers' pencil case. Hype? Am I missing something?

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish: Hey, it's a short kids book...what are you doing reviewing it and listing it? True, but I bought it on the strength of Coraline, which I read last year. It's an amusing tale of a kid who loses his dad in a trade. Young Miss Laura gives it two thumbs up, and I agree.

Neverwhere: I tried reading this a few years ago, without success. It seemed a pale imitation of Tim Powers (yes, I know I keep harping on that...but I wonder why there is so much praise heaped on Gaiman when there are numerous other practising fantasy writers of equal or greater ability...such as Tim Powers). Anyway, given that I read American Gods, I gave Neverwhere another chance. I got through it, and enjoyed it, but felt that it felt more like a novelization of a movie (or television series) than an independently developed novel. I know that it was a BBC series, but I don't know which came first. Of course, if I ever make it to London and take the "tube", I'll certainly eye various stops with more interest. The tale alternates between our world and a shadow world and follows the adventures of a man who steps between the two worlds. He gets caught up in a major conflict between various factions of the shadow world. Lots of atmosphere, some interesting mythology, some interesting characters.

I'll continue to follow Gaiman as an author and see where he takes us as he matures.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Quantum Physics for Mind-Altered Substance Abusers

The Universe Next Door (Schrodinger's Cat #1) (Robert Anton Wilson): I first read these books in college. They were all the rage then. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through them a second time. One thing's for sure; if you're looking for a good introduction to quantum physics, this isn't it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Daddy's Little Girl

In remembrance, once again.
Her hair up in a pony tail, her favorite dress tied with a bow. Today was Daddy's Day at school, and she couldn't wait to go. But her mommy tried to tell her, that she probably should stay home. Why the kids might not understand, if she went to school alone. But she was not afraid; she knew just what to say, what to tell her classmates, on the Daddy's Day. But still her mommy worried, for her to face this day alone. And that was why once again, she tried to keep her daughter home. But the little girl went to school, eager to tell them all about a dad she never sees, a dad who never calls. There were daddies along the wall in back for everyone to meet. Children squirming impatiently, anxious in their seats. 
One by one the teacher called, a student from the class to introduce their daddy as seconds slowly passed. At last the teacher called her name, every child turned to stare. Each of them were searching, for a man who wasn't there "Where's her daddy at?" she heard a boy call out "She probably doesn't have one," another student dared to shout. And from somewhere near the back, she heard a daddy say "Looks like another deadbeat dad, too busy to waste his day." The words did not offend her, as she smiled at her friends and looked back at her teacher who told her to begin. 
And with hands behind her back, slowly she began to speak and out from the mouth of a child, came words incredibly unique. "My Daddy couldn't be here, because he lives so far away. But I know he wishes he could, be with me on this day." "And though you cannot meet him, I wanted you to know all about my Daddy, and how much he loves me so." "He loved to tell me stories, he taught me to ride my bike. He surprised me with pink roses and taught me to fly a kite." "We used to share fudge sundaes, and ice cream in a cone; and though you cannot see him, I'm not standing here alone." 
"Cause my Daddy's always with me, even though we are far apart. I know because he told me, he'll forever be here in my heart." With that her little hand reached up, and lay across her chest. Feeling her own heartbeat, beneath her favorite dress. And from some where in the crowd of dads, her mother stood in tears proudly watching her daughter, who was wise beyond her years. For she stood up for the love, of a man not in her life doing what was best for her, doing what was right. And when she dropped her hand back down, staring straight into the crowd. She finished with a voice so soft but its message clear and loud. 
"I love my Daddy very much, he's my shining star, and if he could he'd be here but heavens much to far." "But sometimes when I close my eyes, it's like he never went away." And then she closed her eyes, and she saw him there that day. And to her mother's amazement she witnessed with surprise; a room full of Daddies and Children all starting to close their eyes. Who knows what they saw before them, who knows what they felt inside Perhaps for merely a second they saw him at her side. "I know you're with me Daddy," to the silence she called out And what happened next made believers, of those once filled with doubt. 
Not one in that room could explain it for each of their eyes had been closed but there placed on her desk was a beautiful pink rose. And a child was blessed, if only a moment, by the love her shining bright star and given the gift of believing that Heaven is never to far.
For all the children that have lost their Daddy or Mommy in the tragedy of September 11th. Always remember they will be in your hearts.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Arp Galaxies

I'm not qualified to tell if this guy has a legitimate set of theories or not. But, I often wonder if "mainstream scientists" are just feeding conspiracy theorists by ignoring him.

Addendum (June 14, 2006): Hubble eyes an Arp galaxy.

Addendum (July 10, 2006): Speaking of conspiracy theories...

Addendum (July 12, 2006): A review of Arp's Seeing Red.

Addendum (August 6, 2006): Various cosmological theories (non-standard, intrinsic redshift, redshift quantization, Le Sage's theory of gravitation, Big Bang, Steady State).

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Matrioshka Brains

Man, you never know where you'll end up on the information superhighway. Some chance remarks and related postings at the ever excellent Centauri Dreams led me to this site and then this site. I passed the links onto a friend, who passed back this link. And somehow or another, through various people, I've had some talks about Dyson Spheres, J.D. Bernal's The World, The Flesh and The Devil, Cordwainer Smith and the Instrumentality of Mankind and Olaf Stapledon and the origins of Star Maker, back to Dyson and this time trees in space, and the Orion "boom boom" rocket. Bernal spheres!

Neptune's trojan asteroids! Another asteroid belt! Pluto's three moons! Next-generation spacesuits from Russia! Ion drives! Water in space! Moons spewing geysers! Life under the ice! Zounds!

There's got to be a science fiction novel in me somewhere. Or four!

Monday, April 4, 2005


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day combines a timed exposure of the sky with a surprisingly common setup for amateur astronomers these days.