Friday, May 31, 2013

Mr. Fixit Operates Remotely

Over at The Economist, an "inside story" on fixing spacecraft remotely. Adapt, improvise, overcome!


Can Christianity and "weird fiction" exist side-by-side?

Rich Field

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful rich-field view of The Eagle Nebula (Messier 16) and The Swan Nebula (Messier 17) as we look down the Sagittarius Arm towards the center of our home galaxy, The Milky Way. Red light courtesy of excited hydrogen and dust, stars being born, and a treat to the eye.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

One-Armed Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 4725, a single spiral armed galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices. Why does this galaxy only have one spiral?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Anti-Tail Grows

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a really beautiful shot of Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) as it moves into the outer realms of the solar system. Wonderful detail on the "anti-tail"!


Beautiful 360 degree view of the Milky Way.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lunar Glow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day continues the lunar theme with a nice view of the lunar corona (you really never think of that associated with the Moon, do you?) over Cochem, Germany.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grand Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful example of Messier Object 109, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Asimov at L5

Isaac Asimov "visits" the colony at Lagrange Point Five in this classic article from Modern Mechanix in 1976. If only...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spiders in the Storm

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is from our Third Rock from the Sun, even if it doesn't look like it possibly could be. Red sprite lightning arcs down and splits in the billowing red and green curtains of an aurora. Amazing stuff.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a strange sight in the constellation of Monoceros, the Red Rectangle Nebula. The text provides some possible explanations for the shape and color. Let's just hope it isn't some cosmic bulletin board warming up for blipvverts.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Under the Blue Glare

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day a view of our yellow star in a different light. By looking at the light emitted by ionized calcium, we can get a better view of the current activity on the Sun, including some large regions of sunspots.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Circular Motion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to our own planet. What caused this strange feature on the surface of our world?

Worth Reading for the Headline Alone

I'm doomed. Doomed, I tell you.

Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe was awarded the status as Grand Master in the field of SF/F last night at the Nebula Awards. And here I am, remembering his first appearances in anthologies such as Orbit!

Here's a recent article on the Tor Dot Com site about Gene in honor of his birthday. It links to a most excellent piece by Neil Gaiman on How To Read Gene Wolfe.

Addendum: How to Read Gene Wolfe by Michael Swanwick. It's a micro-industry!

Too Busy To Read

Some thoughts on being "too busy to read" from one of the great philosophers of our current age.

And because we can never get enough: best quotes!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anti-tail of the Comet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "anti-tail" (dust trailing along the comet's path, as opposed to the tail which is now preceding the comet as material is pushed ahead due to light pressure from the Sun) of Comet PanSTARRS, heading to the edges of our Solar System.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Moon Go Boom

Scientists have been monitoring impacts on the Moon and were recently rewarded with the brightest hit yet. Next up, targeting the area so that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter can look for a fresh crater.

The Bland Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the night sky over Iceland. Dull, dull, dull.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Echoes of 1604

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an image that combines data from both a visible light picture and a shot taken in the x-ray range. The skies of 1604 brightened with the light of a "new star" (nova). Now we can look at that region and see the complex patterns of the results of that explosion.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Could Be Special Effects

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is not a shot that uses special effects or composites/stacking or any other tricks. Just a lucky shot at the right time!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 77, in the constellation of Cetus. We have here a beautiful study of dust clouds, star-forming regions and the bright core (containing a massive black hole).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ring of Fire

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day celebrates the solar eclipse in Australia by showing a composite image of another solar eclipse from 2012.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day wonders what the Swift orbiting observatory recently observed as a flash of gamma rays in the sky? Amazingly, other telescopes were able to target the region and some possibilities have emerged. Will we soon see the visible flash of a supernova?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cove Composite

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a carefully constructed composite that would be impossible to see "for real" but is beautiful, nonetheless. Oh, but for those skies!

Tipping Point

I started to read a collection of reviews by Algis Budrys this morning and found myself grumping that it is not available as an eBook. This grumping seemed to have been inspired by something on The Twitters yesterday where a friend commented that she liked the Kindle, as when she came to the end of a book whilst sitting on the toilet, it was quite easy to start the next one.

The Kindle (and the predecessor eBook gadgets that I've used—Bookeen, Newton, various PalmOS devices) have made this increasingly true for me and also have shifted my reading and buying habits. My purchases of mass market and trade paperbacks have gone almost to zero (only non-fiction seems to be bought in those formats, and only if I can find an eBook). Hardcover purchase is also way down, narrowing to an increasingly small number of authors that I also want to "collect" as well as "just read".

And, the place I reach (so to speak) for the next book is increasingly becoming electronic. I started the Budrys because it was on the shelf and I read a mention of him in an electronic collection of essays by Samuel R. Delany (Starboard Wine). This is the second collection of Delany essays I'm reading this year, as I finished the first, I started the second, because they were "next to each other" on the Kindle, in direct vision. The Budrys collection is on a physical shelf, not in direct sight. I started reading a number of the chapbooks by Alastair Reynolds in their electronic versions...I have them all as physical books (signed, for the most part), but they are not in "front" of me wherever I go.

No, I haven't stopped buying physical books. I doubt I ever will. The numbers will continue to shrink and focus. The amount of reading I do will continue, and probably increase (now that I'm adding more audiobooks into the mix, yes, that is "reading" for me). But the tool changes and splits and fractures into new forms.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hail, Columbia!

Space Shuttle Columbia on the pad, prior to its first launch in 1981. How long before we can launch humans into orbit from this country again?

Heading Out

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6 Lemmon) as it heads out to the edges of our system. Great detailing and coloration here!


Pictures of scribblers. Some great quotes there as well.

The Electric Slide

Artist conception of a possible solar electric propulsion vehicle to be used for NASA's announced mission to capture, reroute, and then study an asteroid near the Moon. (Somehow this is tied into a hypothetical goal of landing humans on Mars in the 2030's. Weren't we supposed to go to Mars in 1984?)

E.T. Phone Home

Houston, we've launched smart phones into orbit. And they are calling home!

Saturn Space

The long-lived Cassini orbiter has caught a glimpse of meteors hitting...Saturn's rings. What mad univese! The rings not only get hit by meteors, but they rain down on Saturn itself. And here are two more stories about the mega-cane on Saturn.

Mars 3?

"Citizen scientists" examining the wealth of images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may have found the lost Mars 3 lander, a probe from the former Soviet Union that touched down on the dusty red planet in 1971.

I'd have to dig out the book to check, but I believe that this is the lander found by one of the character's in William K. Hartmann's Mars Underground.

Creeping Out

Slowly, slowly, the twin Voyager probes head towards the "end" of our Solar System. NASA has a way of tracking their progress. If you're on the Twitters, be sure to "follow" the Voyager 2 account for progress reports as well.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a supercell thunderstorm cell. Actually, it's a disguise for a unidentified flying object.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


How to make a Hypercard. Out of a playing card.

The Merry Month of May

David Langford is never late, but I was in posting the link to the latest issue of Ansible!

Brian Aldiss OBE revealed his special relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi: 'Since my novel Forgotten Life has extensive passages concerning Burma in it, I sent a copy out to Burma when she was confined to her house. She wrote back, thanking me, saying "I loved the sex." (One entirely understands.)' (letter, Oxford Today, Trinity Term 2013)

It's Dead, Jim. 'I'm here to tell you that in a mere forty-five years the filmic genres of fantasy and science fiction have been wrung dry, have sprouted moss and ugly white squiggly things, and are no more. Gone. Done. Finis. Kaput...' (Harlan Ellison, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1986) [BA]

Not Dead, Jim. '...if I have to masticate my manuscripture, I'll do it in as flamboyantly gourmandising a manner as was my original pronouncement. I herewith eat my words. The belief that sf is dead...was a precise and correct view of the universe except...I hadn't seen Brazil...' (Harlan Ellison, F&SF, March 1986) [BA]

Moreover, ' the reader who accepted at face value my statement that sf was dead as a filmic gesture...this was a literary technique called engrossment. Sometimes referred to as satire...' (Ibid, May 1986) [BA]

Lunar Sequencing

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a time-lapse sequence of the lunar eclipse last week.

International Cliff

Released on the anniversary of his death, a new international bibliography of the works of Clifford D. Simak.

Dispossessed Triton

A long analysis of Ursula K. Le Guin's Dispossessed and Samuel R. Delany's Triton.

Aquila Rift

An interview with SF author Alastair Reynolds.

Digital Publishing

Neil Gaiman on digital publishing. Stirred up some controversy, he did.

Origin Story

The (not so) secret history of Buck Rogers.

Ring! Ring!

One of these days I will get through these recordings!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Another Horsehead

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "stacked" image of both ground-based and space-based telescopic images of the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) embedded within the greater overall Orion Nebula (Messier 42). This object is a tough one to spot under light-drenched New Jersey skies!

Scream and Scream Again

Harlan is still screaming. Long may he scream.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Polar Storm

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a fantastic shot (courtesy of the long-running Cassini orbiter) of the long-lived polar hurricane on Saturn. What mad universe!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013