Farewell Mr. Spock

Astronaut gives a heart-warming send off to Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy

Aloha – This week marks the departure of a science fiction icon, Leonard Nimoy.  His portrayal of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock is classic.  I remember while writing Heliotrope Pinoke’s character of taking her too far down the path of Mr. Spock and avoiding turning her into a logic machine although she does carry some of those elements, there is no question that she has emotion as well as logic.

Nimoy at first resented the type casting that the Spock character wound up limiting his career, but later embraced it.  Other roles for Nimoy of note are limited.  Probably my favorite is when he took on a short term, but important role in the television series, Fringe.

His appearance in the rebooted Star Trek series were great and nostalgic scenes.  I’ll miss his wit even more than his logic.  Doc

Ceres Business

Mystery Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres Has Mysterious Partner (Photos)

Aloha – Dawn has arrived, well almost arrived for its 16 month orbit of Ceres (largest asteroid or mini-planet) that is located in our Asteroid Belt.  This photo is taken at 29,000 miles.  The primary interest in this mission is whether or not Ceres does in fact contact more fresh water than Earth.  Considering it’s size I find that notion challenging but interesting.  Of late however, the focus has been on the lights coming from Ceres.  Hypotheses on what the light is has ranged from the probable (reflection of frozen water on the surface of Ceres to the extreme, peoples of Ceres signalling our approaching space probe.  As interesting as the latter idea is it does stretch my imagination to take that idea in.  If we continue to explore however, I would anticipate that such an event will eventually occur, but I personally don’t expect it to occur in our Solar System.  On the other hand, I’m becoming less convinced that we won’t find some form of life on other rocks in our Solar System be it Ceres, Titan or Europa.  Doc.

Biggest Black Hole ever, so far

Aloha – Reuters ran a story today about the largest black hole ever discovered.  The story reports that this particular black hole is 12 billion times larger than our own Sun.  So the first question I had was how big is the Sun.  The best information I could gather was that it is approximately 1.4 million km in diameter.  Okay, so we’re talking a diameter of approximately, so that makes the diameter of this black hole about 16.8 billion miles.  All by itself that doesn’t mean much to me either.  I need some perspective on this to understand.  Next thought, how far is it from the Earth to the Sun?  93 million miles or roughly 150 million km.  Looks like we have to further.  Okay, what is the approximate diameter of the entire Solar System?  The depends on how you define the Solar System (9-15 billion km).  Okay, now I have some sort of lens to compare this to.  The largest black hole would swallow up our entire Solar System and more.  Pretty darn big.  Doc

A story within a story

Aloha – As many of you are aware, book 3 of the Demeter series, Defending Demeter was published as an Amazon Kindle book in December.  Books 4 and 5 (Haumeah and The Orion Spur) are in editing now and will be out this year.  In the original draft the story arc of the series has a story within a story that is the introduction and epilog of each book.  Within this story we have an aunt telling the story to seven and then eight children.  As each book proceeds the linkage of the story to the children becomes more and more clear.  It was recommended that I remove this story within the story as it was a bit confusing for the reader.  I complied with the recommendations from the original editing, but the more I think about it the more I want to put it back into the series.  As a result, I started reading and proofing these short segments and realized that it was confusing and to be honest, poorly written.  I am now going through and revising and re-editing these segments and will share them as I proceed.  In some ways they are spoilers by the time you get to books 3-5.  I’ll take that risk and advise my readers that they may wish to avoid these short readings.  Meanwhile enjoy.  This is the missing Introduction and Epilog for the first book, Demeter.  If you have any thoughts or feedback please share.  Best wishes, Doc

Introduction

Three young boys and a girl were laughing as they chased each other across the green tussocks of grass in a large open meadow playing a game of tag.  The boys were all dressed in blue slacks and white dress shirts open at the collar.  The girl was in a blue jumper that covered a white blouse.  Shoes and stockings were piled chaotically under the magnolia tree that ruled over the meadow like a lonely king.

The game seemed lopsided.  Sophie and Johnny, who were twins, had barely turned eight years old.  Johnny had the added misfortune of giggling so hard when he caught up with someone that he would fall on the ground laughing and soon be it again.

All four of the young people had the same shade of dark brown hair, brown eyes, and thick eyebrows and eyelashes.  The oldest, Skyler was taller than the rest.  At thirteen years of age he was quicker, but something about his deep set eyes showed that he was mature beyond his years.

“Ethan!  Come back down here if you’re going to play,” Skyler challenged his younger brother.

Eleven year old Ethan was easily the most athletic of the four.  With Sophie chasing after him, he had launched to the lowest hanging branch of the magnolia tree and quickly shimmied out of reach of his younger sister.  “Nothing in the rules says I can’t climb a tree,” he countered in a heckling taunt; and then scampered to a higher branch as Sophie jumped futilely trying to reach his foot.

Skyler exhaled slowly, then responded in a level voice, “New rule; no climbing trees.  This is ground tag.”

“Who says,” Ethan yelled over his shoulder as he reached out and swung on a limb half way up the tree.

“That’s the rule for ground tag,” Skyler’s voice rose to reach his younger brother.  Then he grinned, “Of course you can play tree tag if you want, but you’ll have to tag yourself as the rest of us are playing ground tag.”

Ethan said nothing as he swung on the branch for a few more seconds then disappeared into foliage that blocked him from view.

Skyler winked at the twins, and drew them further away from the tree.  They continued to play and laugh for two, then three minutes.  Finally, Ethan dropped to the ground and brushed himself off.  “Fine,” he groused.  And the ground tag game resumed with all four participants.

The open meadow was about fifty yards square.  To the east lay a large manor.  The other three sides of the meadow were bordered with trees and thickets of ferns and thorn nettle.  To the south was a clearly marked path of fine white gravel that wove in and out of sight.  The grounds of the manor seemed to go on forever.

A high pitched voice called out to them from somewhere along the path.  Skyler could see a thin older woman with light colored hair approaching along the white gravel lane.  “Auntie,” he yelled, and started racing across the meadow toward the woman.

Ethan caught up to Skyler and passed him by as Skyler slowed looking back for his youngest siblings.  Still, all four had their aunt surrounded in hugs within a few seconds.

“Oh, you’ve all grown so big,” Auntie exclaimed.  “What has happened since I last saw you?”

Four voices merged in pandemonium, each trying to talk over the others, telling of their injuries and adventures.  Ethan concluded with a sigh, “This place is boring.”  Johnny and Sophie nodded their agreement with exaggerated head bobbing.

Skyler tried to soften the complaints, “It really hasn’t been so bad.”

“Ethan cut his older brother off, “Bad?  No!  It’s been horrible!  Receptions and old people everywhere!”  He paused and looked at their aunt apologetically, “Not you Auntie, but everybody else is old and boring.  And we had to spend most of today sitting in those long meetings.

Their aunt’s eyes sparkled, “I agree with you completely.  I just arrived and I can feel lethargy.”

“Lethergee?” Sophie asked, “What’s that?”

“Boring,” their aunt grinned.  “Want to get out of here?”

“Can we?” Johnny and Ethan chimed in together.”

“Certainly,” their aunt responded with a laugh.  Then she bent down conspiratorially, “I know a place.”

Holding Sophie’s hand, she led the way along the white gravel path away from the manor.  They passed through tended gardens, and lily covered ponds.  Geese and ducks ignored their trek.  Ethan skipped a rock across a seemingly empty lagoon that disturbed a giant heron that took flight from the water with its wings brushing the water causing small ripples as it rose into the air.

They crossed a well-tended bridge that was painted white, with criss-cross beams of wood creating a rail fence that spanned a slow flowing creek.   They continued to walk into parts of the gardens they had never visited.  Now and then weeds sprouted in their trail.  The trees crowded in and the air grew damp and sultry.

Eventually they reached a white gazebo in a cleared area of the woods.  A large, round picnic table was the centerpiece of the gazebo.   Sitting at the table were three other children.

“Daniel,” Skyler called out.  A thin, blond haired boy rose and walked forward.  Another boy and girl were focused on readers and didn’t even look up.

“Hello Skyler.  Did you know that there are 47 varieties of birds and eight varieties of snakes in these gardens?” Daniel greeted the older boy.

Ethan moved in front of his brother, “How do you know that?  I haven’t seen a single snake in the garden yet.  I thought I found a red racer, but whatever it was slipped into the undergrowth too fast for me to catch it.”

“Red Racer?  I don’t think so.  It might have been a Scarlet snake or Cemophora coccinea copei.” Daniel replied thoughtfully.  We’re on the wrong side of the country for Red Racers.

“It’s funny when you talk like that,” Ethan chided.

“Talk like what?  Daniel asked blankly.

Their aunt interrupted, “Ah good, lunch has arrived.  Dig in, and I’ll tell you a story.”  She took a slice of Haumeahan bread and lathered it with dewsnip jelly then slid into a rocking chair that seemed out of place.

Twelve year old Daniel marched to his younger brother, Ryan and his sister Karen encouraging them to put down their readers and get something to eat.

Noise and jostling ensued as the five boys and two girls gathered sandwiches and treats from the two proffered picnic baskets.  But they quieted when their aunt called for their attention.  They quickly sat in a semi-circle around the woman.

“I want to begin a story today.  It is an exciting tale filled with adventure.  A story of heroic exploits, catastrophes, sacrifices, and decisions.”

“Do people die?” Ethan’s eyes opened wide.

“Yes,” their aunt responded, “people die.”

“Do people fall in love?” Sophie asked hopefully.

“Oh yes, people do fall in love,” their aunt replied with a tone of whimsy.

“Yuck!” Daniel and Ethan responded in unison.

“Remember, if people didn’t fall in love, you wouldn’t be here,” their aunt chided the boys.  “But let me get started.  This story begins with a young man, not much older than you Skyler.  He has a younger sister, Debbie; a beautiful friend, Cynthia, and…”

Epilogue

Crickets were chirping, and Auntie felt the chill of the evening in her bones.  Goosebumps were forming on her arms and she was feeling spent.  “All right, that’s the end of our story for this evening, she spoke with enthusiasm she was not feeling.   She rose from the chair, and could feel bones cracking as they realigned to her new standing position.

“But what happened?”  Skyler complained.  “Did Ryder go back to Demeter?”

“Ethan and Daniel chimed in, “Hey, you said people died.”

“Do Cynthia and Ryder fall in love?” Sophie asked expectantly.

“What happened to Aster Freeport and his goons?” Ethan interrupted.  “Did they get hung?”

“Hanged,” their aunt corrected.  Let’s see, Aster and his conspirators are not killed, although I’m not really sure what happened to his thugs.  I do know what happened to Aster.  I’m rather glad he was not executed.  People do die.  We just haven’t gotten that far in the story yet, Ethan.  And love?  Sophie, you’ll have to decide for yourself.”

Stretching and looking toward a rising full moon, their aunt yawned.  Turning again to her audience she whispered in a stealthy voice, “Would you like to know more?”

Seven heads should affirmatively.

“Well in that case, you can meet me back here tomorrow afternoon after the meetings in the great house.  I know, I know, the meetings and rituals are boring, but we still have several days of them to sit through,” their aunt’s eyes betrayed her own resignation to sitting in long meetings.  “What we can endure will make us stronger, and you all need to be stronger.”  She smiled, “So, tomorrow afternoon, after the final meeting of the day we shall meet here again.  I’ll have Xavier bring another picnic dinner if you like.”

Again seven heads shook in affirmation, “and dewsnip jelly,” Ethan challenged.

“And dewsnip jelly,” their aunt agreed.

Turning back to the pathway, their aunt started walking slowly with her cane, but Sophie and Karen quickly took either hand, so their aunt handed her cane to Sophie, who swooshed it back and forth like a sword.

“You have a good stroke there.  Reminds me a lot of Hondo,” Auntie reflected.

Moon Condos

What Would It Be Like to Live on the Moon?

Aloha – I ran across an interesting series that examines what living on different planets, and in this case the Earth’s Moon would be like.  A news tidbit for me at least, is that living near the lunar poles would make many on the East Coast this winter consider it balmy, with constant temperatures right around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sight seeing would of course be awesome.  Canyons that dwarf the Grand Canyon, dramatic mountains, although still not Mt Everest, and more.  The most intriguing sight seeing was described as follows:

“Skylight” holes puncture some of the plains where lava likely drained into sub-surface caverns — the perfect adventure for lunar spelunkers.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story, you can click on  http://news.yahoo.com/live-moon-215749381.html

Best wishes,

Doc

Five space missions that never were

titan mare explorer

Aloha – I’m still fascinated with the current missions to Pluto and to Ceres, but I ran across this story that made me smile.  The link is below if you’d like to read it.  The article discusses five missions that were proposed, but never passed muster.  The first that I’m noting was a proposal to send a probe to student the methane seas on Titan (moon of Saturn).  This one still has some hope, but got cut in 2012.  There is another possible version now suggesting that we send a submarine to Titan.  But that idea also tanked for the present.

Another proposal that didn’t find a home was a probe to Alpha Centauri.  This is one of the nearest stars to our system.  The main problem with this proposal, abandoned in the 1980s was the length of time to gathering data.  It would have taken a hundred years to get there, and then 4 or more years for data to begin pouring back in.  Imagine the technology changes since the 1980s and contemplate how frustrating the 1980s technology would be just 35 years later.  Hmmm..

There was also a manned mission to conduct flybys of Mars and Venus.  Based on today’s technology I’m not sure what that sight seeing expedition hoped to accomplish.  I can see boots on the ground having more flexibility than even the really cool rovers we’ve sent to Mars, but for a flyby?

In the 1970s, hot on the success of Apollo, there were plans afoot to build space stations to house complete colonies.  The artist’s concept drawing looks hauntingly like the station to which the protagonist returns in the recent movie, Interstellar.

Finally, back in the 60s, GM designed a combination ATV, RV for explorers on the Moon to truck around in and live in for several weeks.

For more information check out  http://www.vox.com/2015/2/22/8077449/nasa-colony-missions

Doc

Faster than the speed of light

Aloha – The article linked below demonstrates one way objects can travel faster than the speed of light.  This is always a problem for writers trying to write stories that involved interstellar travel.  Shall we have the protagonist go through a black hole?  That one I always find problematic because you have to be able to get to the black hole before you can use it at sub speed of light drive speed.  Bending space is another fun idea and actually works better than the black hole thesis for the reason stated above.  This particular assessment does not really help the sci fi writer that much, other than demonstrating that in some relationship things can travel faster than the speed of light :o)  Doc

http://www.universetoday.com/119068/how-can-space-travel-faster-than-the-speed-of-light/