11.2 Billion and counting

This artist's rendering shows the Kepler-444 star system, with at least five Earth-size planets. (Tiago Campante, Peter Devine/AP)

Aloha – Articles about Kepler-444 have been circulating for the past week.  This artist rendering seems to have staying power in a week with loads of interesting galactic news.  Based on techniques developed to determine age of stars and planets it has been determined that this system, a mere 117 light years from Earth (about the same distance as fictional Demeter is from Earth, but not necessarily in the same direction) is 11.2 billion years old.  That makes it more than twice the estimated 4.5 billion years of our own Solar System.

The star does have five planets, but they’re smaller than Earth, and much closer to their Sun, orbiting in ten short days.

Posit, over the years, planets eventually break away from their star as it ages, or get drawn ever closer to the sun as in this case.  That would suggest that Earth would shrink do to super heating and eventually coast around the Sun at a distance of perhaps 10 or 12 million miles.  Of course that wouldn’t happen for another 4 or 5 billion years so I suppose we can create any number of hypotheses :o)

Doc

Pellucidar meets Ceres meets Demeter

Aloha – More news from Ceres brings back a flood of memories.  I’ve mentioned At the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs before.  It came back to mind yet again with theories popping up about ice volcanoes and sub-surface water on the asteroid, Ceres.  Burroughs pulp fiction novel (originally a magazine serial) was published in 1914.  As was the case with all of Burroughs many novels, it is a slick adventure story told in episodes (fit for magazine segments).  I was fascinated by the concept of a juggernaut type vehicle that drilled into the Earth.  In fact, I used the concept to entertain another high school student through a very boring class for weeks on end.

Burroughs’ iron mole goes out of control and takes the crew 500 miles below the surface of the planet to a world within a world, Pellucidar.  Much like the John Carter of Mars series, this one is all action and honor.  I would hardly categorize it as great literature, more of a fun ride especially for a young teenager.

Now the worlds of Ceres, Demeter, and Pellucidar can almost be merged into the latest exploration and upcoming arrival of Dawn near Ceres in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, do I recommend the Pellucidar series to you for reading.  If you want a politically incorrect, sexist, adventure story, it’s okay.  I have first editions at home.  I actually think you’ll enjoy the Demeter series better, but then again I wrote that one.  I don’t recommend the Doug McClure movie rendition.

Best wishes,

Doc

Is that the asteroid that just swept past the Earth?

NASA Just Released The Best Images Of A Dwarf Planet We've Ever Seen

Aloha – Afraid not.  NASA is releasing more images of Ceres, the asteroid in the Asteroid Belt not the one passing by Earth last night.  This rendition is cool as it gives a perspective on size.  Ceres is approximately 1,000 miles in diameter (a bit smaller).  There is speculation that it is the second largest source of water in the Solar System.  We’ll know more about that in the coming months.

Meanwhile back to Demeter, a planetoid the size of Ceres about a hundred light years from Earth (science fiction, not fact).  Along with the size comparison, it is a water world on the interior.  The exterior is as devoid of life forms as the Moon or Demeter (speculation).  However, the interior is full of life.  I’ll continue to keep you posted on Ceres as NASA keeps that info coming.  If you’d like to review the article this was taken from it is available,

http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-just-released-best-images-194400789.html

Best wishes,

Doc

Free flow water on asteroid?

Artist's concept of Dawn approaching Vesta under ion drive (Image: NASA)

Aloha – I believe Edgar Rice Burroughs had a novel where the center of the North Pole was warm, and that it led to an entire world.  Burroughs lesser known novels did inspire some of the configuration of the world of Demeter.  Today, I would be surprised to find a free-flowing river in the center of Antarctica.  However, even more surprising than that is to discover that Vesta (a larger asteroid in the Asteroid Belt) had free flowing water at one time.  Marks of water erosion are apparently abundant from data fed back to NASA from space probe, Dawn.  Dawn is fast approaching Ceres.  Who knows what we’ll find there.  It will be a bummer if it turns out to be exactly like the world of Demeter.  Meanwhile, the analysts are starting to provide the data analysis from the Vesta flyby.  If you’d like to read the article it is at

http://www.gizmag.com/vesta-water-dawn-probe-nasa/35736/pictures

Galactic light show

When a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, it left behind an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0. Here, multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra (blue). The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from Hubble.

Aloha – Although I’m continuing to promote the Salt Lake City Comic Con this coming weekend I don’t want to get lost in one of the objectives of this blog, to bring highlights from the galaxy.  NASA released a series of photos promoting International Year of Light.  As the Demeter series is limited to the range between the Sagittarius and Perseus
Arms of the galaxy, the characters have yet to experience some of the most interesting aspects of the known universe.  Check out NASA’s release of pictures (link below).  Which do you think ranks #1 for most interesting and/or beautiful photos?

The notes on this one, “After a massive star exploded in a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, it left behind this beauty – an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30975047

Comic Con is coming to Town – SLC

Aloha – Looks like Dr. Who, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones is converging on what has already become the largest convention in the state of Utah.  This week, January 29th – 31st over a hundred thousand people are expected to attend.  This is the fourth event being held in Salt Lake City, and the first of two in 2015.  Will Demeter be represented?  Maybe.  Might be a good time go get an e-book copy at Amazon and give the participants something to do while they’re waiting in line :o)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZFH8R6

What mischief can Debbie and Becky get into when they’re grounded

Under the Sea

This is one of a number of short stories I wrote (part 1) that chronologically would belong early in Demeter after they reach the planetoid, but after they started to learn to fly.  I will bring in the other parts of the story over the next couple of days.  I looked for some artwork that reflect the look and feel I envisioned for the Stringray (above).  It has been a good weekend for the Demeter series.  All three books, Demeter, Return to Demeter, and Defending Demeter have been in the top 100 books in their category at Amazon this weekend so I felt like celebrating :o).  Enjoy

After two separate incidents with Slick security, and starting a bureaucratic battle with the meteorology division when Debbie grazed an outcropping causing a landslide, which in turn caused the pencil necks to have to recalculate an entire quadrant of the weather patterns, Captain Jonas White was facing a dilemma.  When it came to flying Debbie was a natural, but when it came to judgment, he paused, well she was only fourteen.

Two girls were approaching from the monorail station that bordered the tarmac at Europe.  Both girls sported pony tails, one blond, and one light brown.  Becky, the girl with the brown hair was sensible and methodical.  “She’ll be a good quality pilot, and she’ll probably outlive Debbie by a hundred years,” Captain White reflected.

“So, can we try out the flyers today?” the blond girl began.  “I studied the manual last night; they don’t look much harder to fly than the hoppers; maybe even easier.  I bet I could fly one without even getting any more instructions.”  She paused, as she took in the sober expression on the flight instructor’s face.

“Debbie, you aren’t even cleared for hoppers yet.  And after that incident yesterday,” Jonas began.

“It was their fault,” Debbie erupted.  Turning to Becky, “Wasn’t it?” Turning back to Captain White, “We were just minding our own business, and bang, out of nowhere they were shooting at us.”

Becky stood straight with her arms behind her back, and said nothing.

“The flight recorder indicates that you had violated Sagittarius League space on three separate occasions, before they fired warning shots,” Captain White responded flatly.  Then looking skyward, he continued, “What am I going to do with you?”

The sky of Demeter was, as it always was during the day, an opaque shade of blue that shifted into a haze the more one looked at it.  If the sky were clear, and a person could look straight above their heads roughly 847 miles from Europe, they would see the ice fields that were the counter balance to what most people thought of as the surface of Demeter.

Demeter was an asteroid/planetoid hundreds of light years from Earth.  The surface was barren, with no atmosphere.  But the interior, which could be accessed through one of seven active lock systems, was very much alive.  The Sea of Demeter stretched from the capital city of Europe at one end, to Kuu’Aali Falls at the opposite end of the interior.  One side of the interior, and the ice fields were governed by Terrans and Cryellians, but they were still under the protectorate of the Sagittarius League, privately referred to as the Slicks.  The Slicks maintained roughly half the habitable surface perimeter with four active military bases, protecting three of the lock systems providing ingress to Demeter.

“I think we need to let things settle down from a boil to a simmer before I put you back up in the air,” Captain White continued.

“You can’t do that to me,” Debbie’s voice rose as she tried to get in Captain White’s face, which was comical as she was a foot shorter than the Captain.  “I won’t let you!”

“You … won’t …. let… me?” Captain White stiffened.

Becky interceded, “I think what Debbie means is that we’re just starting to get the hang of this, and it would be a pity for us to slide backward in our training.”

Captain White grinned with a lopsided smile, “Miss Creer, I know exactly what Miss Ryder meant.”  He paused for effect, “but your training isn’t ending, we’re just going to take a different approach for a week or two.”

“What?  What are we going to do?  Are we going to fly on the exterior?  Train in the fighters?  Are we going to be gone long?” Debbie showered a series of questions.

Jonas White had the little devil now.  “Just follow me and I’ll show you.”

The trio returned to the station, and took the next train out that turned right at the beach, and continued through several stations.  They had traveled for half an hour, when without another word, Captain White, who had remained totally silent through a non-stop torrent of questions and speculative statements from Debbie, exited the car, and started walking toward the beach.

An outcropping of rock, a quarter of a mile wide, and a narrow sandbar created a natural harbor.  Three long wooden piers running parallel to each other supported a number of water craft.  Captain White walked toward the last pier, then walked down the pier to the last moored vessel.  “This is your new trainer,” he smiled sardonically.

“What is it?” Becky looked down.

“This isn’t a flyer?  I’m not going to fly a boat?  This doesn’t even float.” Debbie exploded.

Captain White ignored Debbie and looked Becky in the eye, “This is the Stingray.  Notice the resemblance?”

Becky nodded looking down at the long, almost flat design of the vessel whose top barely cut the surface.

“The Stingray,” Jonas White spoke loud enough to cut Debbie off, “Is my personal vessel, and one of the best trainers in Demeter for young pilots.”

Having Debbie’s attention he continued, “The Stingray was built for speed and maneuverability,” he paused, “under the sea.  However, its functionality is very much in line with learning to fly.  Let’s take her for a spin.”  As if by magic the craft began to rise level with the pier, and a gangplank emerged from an opening in the vessel.

“Cool,” Becky quickly followed Captain White aboard.

Debbie hesitated but a moment, and then rushed aboard, “Can I drive it?”

“Let’s test the system first,” Captain White pulled out an old clipboard with several sheets of paper beneath the large clip.  “Read these off to me,” he handed the checklist to Becky.

“Power on?”

“Check,” the Captain responded.

“Fault detection unit green?”

“Check,” Jonas replied.

“Stabilizer Trim green?”

“Check,” Captain White continued.  Jonas White had done this checklist hundreds of times.  He not only had it memorized but could also see it on his microcomputer lens in his eye, but he wanted to make his point.

Debbie started to twitch, but remained silent.

After all 67 items had been confirmed to be on, and or in the green, Captain White ordered, “Take your seats, put on your restraints and let’s see what this old tub can do!”

Rather than screens, the protective shields cranked down, and a broad series of apertures or windows provided an actual view of the exterior that gave them a 180 degree view.  As always, during the daylight period, the sky was clear and the water was a milky turquoise on a calm sea.  The Stingray’s magnetic attachment to the moorings released and the craft eased out into the bay.

The cabin of the Stingray was roomy for four, but had seating for eight.  A small head occupied a corner less than four steps behind the captain’s chair.  A door was centered on the back wall.  Debbie assumed it was for storage, as the cabin occupied the front third of the craft.  The seats were comfortable, and oversized, but she detected that the front seats were beginning to show some wear.  The low purr of the engine was beginning to make her sleepy.

“I’m not sure how this is going to help train me to be a better pilot,” Debbie complained.  “Unless I’m piloting slow freighters across the universe.

“We’re still in the harbor”, Captain White stated flatly.  “It is important to pay attention to landings and takeoffs in all environments.  In a harbor you must use extreme caution.”

“Why?” Debbie moaned.

Captain White swiveled around, keeping one eye ahead, while managing to stare at Debbie with the other, “You tell me.”

“I suppose you could run into another craft entering or leaving,” Debbie replied, trying to escape the staring eye of Captain White.

“Yes, much like you have to beware of other craft entering and leaving the tarmac at Europe or any other landing pad.  That’s why we make flight plans, and follow them.”

Debbie blushed sheepishly.

“What else?” he turned to Becky.

Becky jumped at her name.  “Something about waves?  My uncle took us on his boat once and I remember him talking about that as we passed the buoys to the entrance of the harbor.”

“Exactly,” Captain White nodded.  “When we are in a confined space, such as a harbor, the wake we create causes waves that continue on to the shore and back again.  I once tried to watch the waves on a pond when I threw in a rock.  The waves don’t stop.  Once they hit the shore or another object they continue back out, back and forth.  Your wake might tip over a row boat you don’t even see.”

Debbie was sitting back in her chair with her arms folded, but Becky noticed that she was listening.

“Demeter itself is a sort of harbor.  Your actions are like waves.  The bigger the action, the bigger the wave.  And, you never know what that wave might topple.  In Demeter, creating a landslide creates a shift, ever so small to the ecosystem.  That means individuals and teams have to work to resolve the problem it has created.  Who knows what ripples that causes to their lives beyond work.  When you bait the Slick admiralty, the ripples may affect negotiations on something totally unrelated.”

“Then what you’re saying is we shouldn’t do anything, or have any fun,” Debbie snapped.

Captain White turned to her fully, as they had exited the harbor.  “No, but little waves in a harbor are better than big ones.  Meanwhile, once you get into open waters, the rules can change,” he pushed a lever forward slowly, and the pitch of the engine rose to a roar.  The craft jerked forward pushing everyone back in their seats.

The Sting Ray flew through the water like a jet ski, but faster.  It plowed a giant furrow across the mirror calm Sea of Demeter.  The white foam spraying on either side of the boat brought laughs and giggles from Captain White’s two passengers.  For the next hour he demonstrated the controls and computer screens, and how they worked.

“They’re almost like the one’s on the Pegasus,” Debbie beamed.

Captain White pulled up the charts on the two main screens on the far wall.  “And if you can read these, learning to read star charts will become second nature.”

Becky was scratching her head as she looked at the charts, “There’s something odd about these charts, they seem to project three dimensions rather than two.”

“Oh did I forget to mention,” Captain White smirked, as the front panel opened, and a wheel emerged.  “This is not just a surface craft,” and as he pushed forward on the control wheel, the Sting Ray dove into the Sea of Demeter.

It was late in the afternoon when the trio returned to the harbor.  Both Becky and Debbie and captained the craft both on the surface and in the depths of the Sea of Demeter.  Captain White indicated that at its greatest depth the Sea of Demeter bottomed out at 1200 fathoms.  The he had to explain what a fathom was.  Even Becky got confused.

“So it might be five feet, or five and a half feet or six feet, but its really 6.08 feet?  But that sort of depends on whether you’re a fisherman, or a freighter, or in the British navy?  Where in the world did you come up with 6.08 feet?” Becky looked puzzled.  “This is screwy.”

Captain White looked apologetic.  “I probably shouldn’t have gotten into the history of the term.  If the depth is under 30 feet, we still say feet.  But on Demeter a fathom is exactly six feet.  Simple as that.”

Debbie laughed, “Yeah sure, how many hand lengths, how many arm lengths from the elbow to the tip of the fingers.  It’s a weird concept, and you’ve convinced me it’s a kooky way to measure things after you explained it.  Why don’t we just use metrics?”

Captain White laughed, “I asked the same thing of the Director-General a few years ago.  Remember the waves?”

“What has waves got to do with it?” Debbie looked like she was about to lose interest.

“The ripples of everything we do,” Jonas smiled darkly.  “We were first invited to come to Demeter over 600 years ago.  Units of measure were derived from that period.  The Cryellians have their own units of measure.  The Slicks have their own units of measure, much like metrics I might add.  So if we change from feet to meters, it will mess up all the translation of the relationship to their measures that has evolved over centuries.  So it’s not even just what we want to do.”  He then laughed, “Besides, I don’t want to learn a new way to calculate things after this many decades.”

Debbie captained the Sting Ray into the harbor, at harbor speed.

As Captain White, Debbie and Becky hiked back up to the train station Jonas asked, “So can you see how piloting the Sting Ray can help you become better pilots for hoppers, flyers, and yes,” he paused, “even fighters?”

“Yes,” the girls chimed in unison.

While waiting for the next train he turned to Debbie, “I’m going to do something I pray I will never regret,” he looked like he was about to shoot his own dog.  “I’m giving you and Becky full access to the Sting Ray.  You can pilot and study the charts for the next two cycles, which is twenty days on Demeter.  Can you take care of my baby without wrecking her?”

“You bet I can!” Debbie responded enthusiastically.

Turning to Becky, “Can you promise me that you’ll keep her under control?” Jonas added.

“I’ll try,” Becky replied hesitantly, then more forcefully, “I will do my best.”

“Open your channels and I’ll pass you the codes.  Twenty days should be enough time to get the powers that be to settle down, and we’ll get you back in the air.  Meanwhile, good sailing.”

“Sailing?” Becky queried.

“Figure of speech,” the old man smiled.