Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mapping the universe

Google Maps has left Earth - using NASA images they've added half the solar system, or so it seems. Including Pluto.

Might be a useful tool if you're writing in-system science fiction. (I know I've written with Google Earth on the other half of my screen before...it's insanely useful).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We live in a golden age...

...of astronomy that is.

Things might not be great here on Earth, but we're doing everything from getting close-ups of Pluto to reading gravitational waves to discovering that exoplanets are more common than, well, not.

We've actually observed dark matter.

We've discovered gold is made when stars collide.

And we still have yet to work out what the is going on with Tabby's Star.

What next? I don't know, but when I get depressed all I have to do is pull up some of these discoveries and remember that no matter how much we might mess up...we all look at the same stars.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

I have to admit - I was offended by the existence of this movie - and the cast list. The last thing we needed was a Blade Runner sequel. Especially one that appeared to answer "Are you a replicant?"

Well, they dealt with that with a very small retcon...

...and created a movie that, well, I've already said. If you liked the original, watch it. If you didn't, don't. Villeneuve (Arrival) was an excellent choice to direct. It had pacing issues - the same pacing issues as the original, so I was okay with it. Ana de Armas was particularly brilliant as Joi.

The thing I liked the most was they didn't try to "fix" it. Instead of trying to say the Blade Runner future is our future, they just went for being consistent with the original and had fun with it - ads for Atari and Pan Am, for example. They went for full retro futurism - and I loved it.

Did it have issues?

Absolutely.

There is no excuse in 2017 for the line "No two humans have identical DNA" - twins, anyone? (An easy fix - the two identical DNA signatures were showing up for a boy and a girl, so they obviously weren't identical twins unless one of them was trans, which...wouldn't be in their birth records).

I personally could have done without the creepy hooker-AI threesome which was apparently supposed to be sexy and just came over as kinda...yeah. Just creepy.

Another thought I had wouldn't have worked with the storyline they were going for, with questions about parenthood and identity (which led, sadly, to my brain screaming "I am your father, Luke" right as two characters had a moment. If it hadn't been Harrison Ford, I would have been fine), the strong undertones of race in the story would have been far more powerful if "K" had been black. John Boyega might have been a good choice, or Michael B. Jordan. They had to match him to Ford and Sean Young, though, so it wasn't workable. But it would have made this not just another "Conventionally attractive white guy deals with pseudo-racism" movie, which I know black fans are somewhat tired of. That said, they did weave in issues of race and issues we might have to deal with.

Which brings us to the question.

Blade Runner asks "Are you a replicant?"

Blade Runner 2049 answers "You are human."

The answer to the question in the end is "It shouldn't matter."

Because we're all human.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Yellowstone

Decided to do a full post because the hysteria is back.

1. We are not "overdue" for an eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.

2. The discovery that magma changes preceding an eruption may be in "less than a human lifespan" is actually a good thing! It doesn't mean it will erupt within our lifespans. It means that when it does we'll get a few decades warning, and we can come up with an action plan now so if it does blow in the next few centuries...

3. Oh, and it's not likely to blow in the next few centuries either. More likely the next few millennia, if we're unlucky.

4. Even if it does erupt, it won't destroy all life on Earth. It would be bad, particularly for parts of the midwest, but it is not a world-ending event, it won't cause a mass extinction (we're doing good on that on our own) and it probably won't even end human civilization. Certainly it won't destroy our species.

So, please, stop.

Even if you secretly want it to, Yellowstone is not destroying the world in the next decade.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Scam Alert

I'm not famous enough to have gotten one of these - yet - but apparently some crooks have taken to impersonating editors from The Atlantic and soliciting articles. They're then sending out fake advances or taking other measures to get bank account details. (And yes, they're using the names of the editors).

This kind of thing isn't uncommon, but they're usually more subtle than this.

If you get an out of the blue offer to write something, verify it. Just in case.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Taking Offshore Wind Further

Turns out our entire civilization could be powered by the winds over the open oceans.

Of course, there's a number of problems with this:

1. We'd need to cover an area the size of Greenland with wind turbines.

2. We don't have the technology to build wind turbines right out in the open ocean.

3. It would cause, yup, more and different climate change.  Harvesting that much power would affect wind speed, temperature, etc.

So we can't actually do it.

Yet.

(Oh, as a side note, if you saw the stuff about how Yellowstone is going to erupt again and we might not get much warning - no, the tabloids are wrong, Yellowstone blowing its top would NOT destroy all life on Earth. It has never triggered a mass extinction before. It would cause economic problems, particularly for the US, and probably a few years of not much in the way of summer, but it wouldn't destroy all life, our species or even our civilization).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Welp, We Found It...

...dark matter!

Hideki Tanimura (Institute of Space Astrophysics) and Anna de Graaff (University of Edinburgh) have found hot filaments of gas linking galaxies. And those filaments amount to...all the missing mass. At least until we discover they were wrong. But they weren't working together - they were working separately - which makes it more likely that they got it right.

Are these filaments the glue which holds the universe together?