Cosmic Search for a Missing Limb

This new Picture of the Week, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf galaxy NGC 4625, located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). The image, acquired with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), reveals the single spiral arm of the galaxy, which gives it an asymmetric appearance. But why is there only one spiral arm, when spiral galaxies normally have at least two?

Read the full article at spacetelescope.com (Hubble’s official website).

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The Hopeful Side of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

By Megan Hunter

I can chart the progress of my life through the types of apocalypse I have feared. As a child, the endings I imagined were natural, even cosmic: the land swallowed by the sea, the sun swallowing the earth. When I was an adolescent the man-made came to the fore, as I searched for mushroom shapes in clouds and imagined the exact moment of an explosion: would I know it was happening, I wondered, or would there only be after; dimness, blood, confusion.

As a young adult, I would visualize the carcasses of the planes I traveled on, post-crash, the way their bellies would be lifted from the sea with a winch, spun around like part of a whale. This was a smaller-scale disaster, but I could also imagine all the planes falling from the sky at once, dropping in a synchronized movement to the land below.

When I had my first child, my visions took on a new realism: the key dates of climate change no longer had a vague, post-death strangeness to them. They were the likely years of my son’s life. Now, I imagined him walking through a world too hot to exist in, or living in a city that had become a new Atlantis, its underwater streets swum through by fishes, its buildings draped in seaweed.

Read the full article at Literary Hub.

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Jupiter’s Colourful Clouds

By Calla Cofield

Jupiter’s southern hemisphere is a swirling, curling sea of colorful clouds in a new image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft and two citizen scientists.

The new image comes from data collected by the JunoCam instrument on Oct. 24, 2017, as Juno performed its ninth close flyby of Jupiter (its eighth science flyby), according to a statement from NASA. The raw data from the instrument were uploaded to the JunoCam website, and citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran took that data and processed it to create the image above. [Amazing Jupiter Photos by Juno and Citizen Scientists]

Read the full article at Space.com.

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How Vintage Rocket Tech Could Be NASA’s Ticket to Mars

I thought I would share that for me, this was one of those happy moments in the life of a sci-fi writer where I said, “I thought about that!”  Of course, I am by no means the first sci-fi writer to think of the use of nuclear rockets, especially when the tech was new.  But as a solution for the immediate problem of getting deeper into the solar system, and Mars in particular, I considered using vintage nuclear rocket tech as the logical solution for the extended time in space problem; and also for minimizing space radiation exposure.  This is part of the backstory to The Cloud.  So I was very excited to see this article.

Now I’ll go one step further, and I will point out that if this technology is successful, it could finally be the solution to nuclear waste disposal.  The reason why we do not just put all the nuclear waste on Earth in a rocket and blast it off into the sun (which is a natural high-test fusion reactor, in case you are not a science nerd type and you are reading this) is because we tried that and it blew up in high atmosphere, providing quite a light show in the magnetosphere for a few days, I understand.  But if we can stabilize this technology enough to make it safe for human transport (well, as safe as astronauting gets, anyway) then I imagine it could be stabilized enough to provide a safe(ish) container to transport nuclear waste in.  Just sayin’.

By Charlie Wood

Dangerous radiation. Overstuffed pantries. Cabin fever. NASA could sidestep many of the impediments to a Mars mission if they could just get there faster. But sluggish chemical rockets aren’t cutting it — and to find what comes next, one group of engineers is rebooting research into an engine last fired in 1972.

The energy liberated by burning chemical fuel brought astronauts to the moon, but that rocket science makes for a long trip to Mars. And although search for a fission-based shortcut dates back to the 1950s, such engines have never flown. In August, NASA boosted those efforts when the agency announced an $18.8-million-dollar contract with nuclear company BWXT to design fuel and a reactor suitable for nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), a rocket technology that could jumpstart a new era of space exploration.

Read the full article at Space.com.

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We Are All Allies

By Dan Koboldt

IKoboldtn some ways, publishing is a zero-sum game. There are only so many slots in the schedule of traditional publishers. Only ten books can occupy the top ten list, and only one can win the Hugo. Yet the most dangerous and pervasive threat to the aspiring author is not another author, nor is it a big bad publisher. Nor is it a certain online store. No, the biggest threat is the ever-shrinking reading time the average person has in our modern world.

Books once enjoyed very little competition in this arena. Now, time that was once given over to reading is spent on the internet, on social media, on Netflix. The geek who used to read forty hours a week now spends them playing Dragon Age. That’s why authors need to band together: to remind the world of the importance of books. To get them to choose reading over skimming and streaming. Mark my words, fellow authors, we will live or die by our ability to do so.

Read the full article at SFWA.org.

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The Soldiers’ Pocket Books

Nicholas C. Rossis

Even though pamphlets and softcover books have been available in Europe since the 16th century, US readers looked down on them until well into the 20th century. As a recent Atlas Obscura post by Cara Giaimo explains, without a mass-market distribution model in place, it was difficult to make money selling inexpensive books.

Although certain brands succeeded by partnering with department stores, individual booksellers preferred to stock their shops with sturdier, better-looking hardbacks, for which they could charge higher prices. Even those who were trying to change the public’s mind bought into this prejudice: one paperback series, Modern Age Books, disguised its offerings as hardcovers, adding dust jackets and protective cardboard sleeves. They, too, couldn’t hack it in the market, and the company folded in the 1940s.

Wartime Reading

Armed Services Editions | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Soldiers in Virginia wrangle with hardcover books donated through the VBC. Image via Atlas Obscura.

Then, war came. In September of…

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Putting Archaeology to Work in Fantasy Fiction

By Alter S. Reiss

“Getting the archaeology right” doesn’t actually matter that much when it comes to fantasy. The fact is, when it comes to secondary worlds, a lot of the absolutely basic assumptions don’t make any sense. Why are there people in this world, whose history—whose natural history—is so different from ours? If dragons and elder gods and all that were around for hundreds of thousands of years, why are the horses and carrots and stews and pie in that world exactly the same as ours?

Once you’re willing to swallow that horses are the same despite gryphon-related predation pressures, why strain at faceted diamonds a few centuries too early?

Even if something is set in an actual time and place, the sort of mistakes that archaeologists notice don’t matter that much. Writing about anything—mainly horses and guns, but really, anything—will upset people who know the subject well, but there are very few works that fail artistically because they annoyed experts.

Read the full article at Tor.com.

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