Friday, December 30, 2016

Drowned In Moonlight, Strangled By Her Own Bra

I realize this is late - between me being away, me arranging my thoughts on the matter, and the ARE/OmniLit fiasco...

...but this one hit me hard. I am not entirely sure why. (Maybe it's the dog).

But what I wanted to say about Carrie Fisher, other than the above "joke" cause of death, which is posted at her own request, is this:

She was not just a princess.

To most of us, she was Princess Leia, but here's the thing. She first took the role of Leia when she was 19 years old. She did five movies as Leia - A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return Of The Jedi (1983), The Force Awakens (2015) and Episode VII - which has no announced title (2017).

So, that's...let's do the math. 32 years in which she was not Princess Leia. That's longer than some of the people reading this have lived.

So, what I really wanted to do was point out all the other things she was:

Carrie Fisher's IMDB page lists 90 total acting credits, although one of them is marked as "Announced" and presumably will not happen now.

Of those credits, she was Princess Leia in 8 of them - the five movies, the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1988, the Robot Chicken Star Wars episode (in which she was also Mon Mothma), and the Lego Star Wars video game.

So, that's 81 credits in which she was, you know, not Princess Leia.

And that's just as an actor.

Carrie also has 11 writer credits, two of which are documentaries she did on her own experiences in Hollywood.

She has 11 soundtrack credits as a performer. Yes, she could sing - not surprising giving her mother, Debbie Reynolds (Also RIP - very sad) was a musical performer.

She has one producer credit, for a TV movie called "These Old Broads."

And...that's just what's publicly credited. See, Fisher was also something called a "script doctor" - which is movie-speak for a script editor. Somebody who takes a script and improves it. Script doctors are generally uncredited, but they salvage broken movies all the time. She actually rewrote some of her own dialogue in ESB, which got her a gig writing an episode of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

In fact, Carrie Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood in the 1990s. She may actually have been a better script doctor than actor.

Some movies she worked on included the prequel trilogy (would they have been even, uh, worse without her), Hook, Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, The River Wild, Made IN America, Outbreak, The Wedding Singer, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Intolerable Cruelty, Scream 3, Coyote Ugly, Kate & Leopold, Mr. And Mrs. Smith. She stopped doing it in the 2000s because she didn't like how the process had changed. But look at that list of movies.

And she also wrote books - five novels - Wishful Drinking, Surrender The Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful and Postcards from the Edge.

And then there were the non-fiction books based on her own life, her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction.

But far too many people remember her in that dang metal bikini.

So, I wanted to give a shout out to Carrie Fisher

Script doctor
Non-fiction writer

...and yes, princess. In so many ways.

(By the way, if anyone's worried about the dog, Billie Lourdes took him in).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

All Romance Ebooks

(Putting off the Carrie Fisher obit another day because this is important).

I found out yesterday that on December 27 major e-book vendor All Romance Ebooks (which also owned OmniLit) abruptly announced they were shuttering as of December 31.

The basic facts:

1. The site will go dark on December 31. If you own books that you purchased from either site and left in the online library, you need to download them by then. If you can't, likely because the site crashed from everyone trying to do the same thing, then some authors/publishers are honoring ARE/OmniLit purchases - check their site or contact them. (I believe the Musa Publishing version of Transpecial was on OmniLit at one point, but I am not sure that I sold any copies. None of my other books are on the site).

2. Some readers have reported that ARE site credits are no longer usable.

3. ARE is not offering refunds for pre-orders. Some authors/publishers may honor pre-orders especially if you can find a screenshot.

4. ARE has offered authors and publishers a "negotiated settlement" of 10 percent of the money they owe them. Note that this is a distributor not a publisher. This is akin to a store telling a company they won't pay for the stock they already sold. Because of how ebooks work, authors and publishers are not paid for "stock" ahead of time but a percentage of sales. ARE apparently spent the money on something else and are claiming they cannot pay authors.

5. Authors and publishers are not receiving anything for books sold on ARE or OmniLit until the site goes dark. Do not buy any more books from this site.

6. Authors published through ARE's publishing arm are reportedly having their rights held hostage until they sign an agreement promising not to ask ARE for any money. I am not able to confirm this but it's been reported from multiple sources.

If you are an author affected by this, contact Writer Beware at Victoria Strauss wants to hear from as many affected authors as possible. Probably from publishers as well.

Incidentally, the best place to buy/order small press and self published books is always from the publisher or author's own website if they have one. Also, back up your ebooks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue One - Falling Short Of Feminism

What? Did I just say a film with a female lead fell short? Yes, I did.

I enjoyed Rogue One a lot. It was the darkest of the Star Wars movies - but that was a good creative choice for a movie that segued straight into one called, after all, "A New Hope." For the kind of movie it was - an action-packed heist, it was good. Great visuals, as one expects from Star Wars and ILM.

There were a couple of pacing issues - the prologue was a little bit long. And it was very much battle after battle - but it was still enjoyable. The ending was inevitable, necessary, and yes, dark. But necessary.

So, what's the problem?

The problem was two fold.

1. Jyn Erso was not that interesting a character. She was actually less interesting than Leia.

2. The biggie:

Jyn Erso was the only member of the core team who was female.

Yes, we did see plenty of other women. Genevieve O'Reilly was great as Mon Mothma, and I liked Sharon Duncan-Brewster's Senator Palmo. We saw female pilots, and heard female voices during the battle scenes. (And Palmo was also black, which was nice to see). And, of course, we got nice racial diversity with Diego Luna (Mexican) as Cassian Andor, Donnie Yeng (Hong Kong Chinese) as Chirrut Imwe, Wen Jiang (Chinese) as Baze Malbus and Riz Ahmed (British Pakistani) as Bodhi Rook. In fact, Felicity Jones is the only white member of the "core team." For Jedha, where Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus was from, the casting director hired only Asian extras for the street teams, implying that Jedhan people look Chinese. Which I liked.

Which was awesome.

But she was still the only female member, and as my husband pointed out "They've just turned the token woman into the lead."

Now - I am not sure what I would have done. Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were too awesome, and you will not tell me, even if you work for Disney, that those two were "just friends". I am fairly sure they are the first on screen same sex couple in Star Wars. I wouldn't want to mess with that.

And Cassian Andor's character would not have felt right to me as a woman as a woman.

So, where could they go? Bodhi Rook. The Imperial pilot. This would have shown women more in the Imperial hierarchy (which we do see in TFA). And having another woman on the team would have moved away from "Well, we have the woman, look, there she is. Happy, right?"

The same thing happened in TFA, so I'm wondering if this is going to be the new trend. By making the one woman the lead, they deflect criticism - but how about moving more towards gender parity in general?

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to see a more diverse Star Wars. Very happy indeed. But they could still improve a bit.

And on a sad note: R.I.P. Carrie Fisher. (I'm actually still a tiny bit too upset to write a good obit. Not even sure why this one is hitting me so hard...)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy Holidays

Out of here as of tomorrow until the following Tuesday. Please take some time to spend with friends and family this season.

And buy each other books!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Klingon Newts?

I'm not sure how much this guy really looks like a Klingon:

But it's still adorable. As are a bunch of other brightly colored reptiles and amphibians found by scientists in the Mekong delta of Thailand.

Friday, December 16, 2016

So, Why Do Male Seahorses Get Pregnant?

One could argue that they don't - that we should be defining sex differently (Biologists define the "female" of a species as the one which produces the larger sex cells, the eggs).

But seahorses have the unusual quality of the males being "pregnant." In reality, they carry their eggs around in a pouch.

Male egg nurturing is not uncommon in oviparous species, but only seahorses, pipefish and seadragons (and not all of them) incubate eggs in a specially designed pouch. Some species have started to provide food for the developing offspring through "attachment sites." And some species can actually absorb the eggs/embryos.

So, it's pretty dang close to pregnancy. But even a full sequence of the genome of the Tiger Tail Seahorse has not revealed how the switch from the females incubating to the males doing so took place.

I suspect that there was probably an intermediate stage. In many species of fish the male does the tending or builds the nest. It also could be that at some point they were paternal mouthbrooders - the male cared for the egg in the mouth - and then evolved a special pouch. Or...maybe it started by sticking the eggs to daddy.

What we can't do is trace the genes that cause it. So, seahorses keep their secrets, for now.

(Paternal mouthbrooders include the arowana, mouthbrooding betta, black-chin tilapia and sea catfish).

Thursday, December 15, 2016


It could be...well, just around the corner. Researchers have been able to use techniques to "rejuvenate" cells to reduce age-related changes in middle-aged mice and extend the lifespan of a mouse suffering from progeria.

The technique is a bit too difficult to handle to try on humans right now, could be the first actual lifespan extension technique we invent.

Now, to prevent it from increasing the growing divide between rich and struggling...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looking For... excuse to get outside in the middle of winter. The Audobon Society is looking for volunteers to count birds.

Find out how to join in in your area here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Great Smog

London smog/fog was legendary until the 1950s. In 1952 a cloud of yellow fog settled on London for five days. By the time it was clear, more than 12,000 people were dead and 150,000 hospitalized.

It triggered a lot of changes - but scientists were never sure quite why it was so bad. Until now. It turns out that London's fog was key to the situation.

The Thames valley makes fog, and morning mist is common in London (although even more common in the Trent valley where I grew up, where not being able to see one's own feet happened several times a year). The fog combined with the pollutants from everyone burning coal to make...sulphuric acid. Ow.

Which is why burning coal is, you know, a bad idea. Hello, China...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ever Hear A Gibbon Sing?

Gibbons are a kind of ape - and they sing. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Twycross Zoo, in the English midlands, and stay until closing you will get serenaded by quite the chorus - once one species starts up the rest have to try and drown them out!

Now scientists have discovered that macaques, a kind of money, have a complex enough vocal mechanism to be able to pronounce language in much the same way we can (not the same sounds, but...). Something in their brain gets in the way.

I'd like to point them to gibbons for their next help work out where spoken language actually came from and how we do it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

So, what about beefalo?

Beefalo are a hybrid of bisons and domestic cattle - and unlike mules, they are fertile. In fact, they've caused problems in parts of the American west because they drink a lot, eat a lot, and go right through fences.

New thing, right?

Apparently not - because European bison and aurochs hybridized a long time ago, creating a new species which we know about from cave art.

This "isn't supposed to happen in mammals" according to some...but we have those beefalo. And the eastern coyote, which is as much wolf and dog as coyote.

(We really need to remember that "species" is pretty arbitrary).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

End of an Era - R.I.P. John Glenn

The last of our first astronauts is gone - John Glenn, last survivor of NASA's first astronaut class in 1959 died on Thursday (Perhaps surprisingly, he was also the oldest in the class)

He flew as a marine during World War II. In 1957 he became the first pilot to fly a supersonic plane across the United States. He was also a U.S. Senator for many years.

In 1998 he returned to space - at the age of 77. So far he is the oldest human being in space - and a true pioneer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fusion Hope?

We need clean energy. Fusion energy has remained a pipe dream for years - but a German team may have got us a step closer. The W7-X reactor is a test of concept of something called a "stellerator" - which takes the tokamak design being worked on to contain a fusion reactor and twists it. This improves stability.

Of course, it still uses more energy to run than it produces, which has been the case with every fusion reactor designed so far, but it might well be a step closer to a feasible design.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sisterhood of the Blade

Like swashes being buckled and buckles being swashed?

Like it even more when it's ladies doing these things?

How about a re-imagining of the Three Musketeers - a new anthology from Battlefield Press edited by Hal Greenburg and featuring stories by Ed Greenwood, Rachel Venture and, of course, myself. (I can't reveal details. Yet).

If you want this to happen we have a kickstarter active right now.

For $25 you will get the anthology in both paperback and electronic formats. And you can also order some add-ons - for even more cool fiction from Battlefield Press.

And if you really want to splash out we're offering a limited number of Tuckerizations for $150 each (names may be tweaked to sound like they belong in the 17th century ;)).

(Note this is not a fantasy anthology - it's pure alternate history and pulp fun).

Monday, December 5, 2016

New Coolness From Google.

It's called Timelapse - and it's a new time waster. It lets you see how a part of the Earth has changed in the last 30 years.

Because if I have to get distracted, so do you.

Friday, December 2, 2016

In space, no one can hear...

...well, maybe. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei heard a "knocking" sound while alone in orbit - and a similar sound has also been reported by subsequent missions.

He's not alone. NASA astronauts heard this sound when on the far side of the moon, explained as some kind of radio interference. And this video is the song of Jupiter, which produces a lot of radio interference. The bit at the end sounds rather like the TARDIS.

The knocking, however, has not been explained, with the most likely theory being micro meteorite strikes - and something about the Chinese ship causing it to "ring" like a bell when struck.

Space, not quite as silent as we thought. (Although still no whoosh from passing ships ;)).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lunar Hoax - Really?

The Lunar X-Prize goes to the first commercial endeavor to put a rover on the moon. But one German group's goal has made me raise my eyebrow.

They plan on dropping one near the Apollo 11 site to "Prove the moon landings are not a hoax."

The thing is?

We already have that proof, unless you want to go seriously conspiracy theory.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - who's data the German team will almost certainly be using, has taken clear pictures of all of the moon landing sites. They even determined that the flags are still standing.

Here you are - from That's the Apollo 11 site. There are even better pictures of the other sites. The line you see going from the marked site to the crater is Neil Armstrong's footprints.

So, uh, find another target, guys, because people who don't believe this aren't going to believe you either.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Doctor Strange and Asian Representation

Got distracted from posting this due to the holidays.

There was a lot of controversy over Marvel's choice to cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. (In meta they said she's supposed to be "Celtic" but nothing is said in the movie to explain why a character that has always been Asian is suddenly white).

The director said he wanted to "avoid stereotypes" - but making the character female, alone, would have fixed that. (And then there are the people who think Disney/Marvel should have thrown away the entire lucrative Chinese market by sticking to comics accuracy and setting it in Tibet. Which is another issue).

But then there's the thing they did right.


Wong was ably played by uh, Benedict Wong (Sorry, I can't help but be amused at casting a Wong to play a Wong even if it's close to casting a Smith to play a Smith). The actor is a Brit of Chinese descent who also showed up in The Martian and played Kublai Khan in a Marco Polo TV series. He's not hugely famous - and I'd argue that's because of the lack of opportunities for Asian actors not any lack of talent.

In the comics, Wong is Stephen's manservant. He's mostly seen opening the door, making tea and occasionally fetching some requested book or item. He's two-dimensional and frankly a stereotypical Chinaman (he's supposed to be Tibetan, but...) And, of course he knows martial arts, because everyone in China knows martial arts.

Movie Wong? Movie Wong was something quite different.

We first see him taking over as the Ancient One's librarian after the previous librarian is murdered by the bad guys.

He is a master sorcerer in his own right, but not shown as being particularly powerful compared to some of the others. Instead, he is portrayed as a brilliant magical theoretician. If he doesn't know it, he knows which book you can find it in. Although reserved and, yes, a little bit inscrutable, he has a definite personality. And while he is not a martial artist, when the push comes to shove he's pretty handy to have in a fight. (He uses the Wand of Watomb, by the way, in the final fight).

In other words, the movie whitewashed one character - but also fixed another, which goes a long way towards making up for it.

(It was also quite fun but had some pacing issues. They overdid the training sequences. Ah well).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lost MST3K Episodes Found

Three episodes of the cult classic were literally lost. Two - Invaders From The Deep and Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars have now been found.

The master tapes have been located, and the episodes are available to backers of the kickstarter they launched to, well, find them. No word on when they'll be released widely, but with the rise in interest I'm sure they will be.

Monday, November 28, 2016


First of all, sold a flash piece, "Letting Go," to the new Canadian audio magazine Centropic Oracle.

I also have my contributor's copy of Cirsova #4, which has some absolutely gorgeous cover art. I haven't read the other stories yet, though. (I have read the article which has some interesting thoughts I'm not sure I agree with about the history of "strong" female characters in science fiction).

Friday, November 25, 2016


We still haven't found everything in Egypt - archaeologists just discovered an entire city! Furthermore, it's only 400 meters from the temple of Seti I, near Luxur.

Which just goes to show that we don't know everything about the past and that our ability to explore keeps improving.


Don't forget to get your copy of Falling Dusk for just 99 cents here, with coupon code BK72B.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To my American readers. To everyone else - enjoy Fall (or Spring) and appreciate the change in seasons.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Black Friday Sale!

From now until Tuesday, get Falling Dusk for just 99 cents!

Simply go to this link and use coupon code BK72B.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Impossible Drive Passes First Peer Review

The laws-of-physics breaking EmDrive has passed peer review. (This does not mean it works - just that nobody who looked at the experiments can find anything wrong with them).

It performed as well in a vacuum chamber as in air, which indicates it's not heat producing the thrust effect. So, what is it? Probably a false positive, but who knows.

Either way, it's worth continuing the work.

Monday, November 21, 2016


It was awesome to briefly meet C.J. Cherryh - and also attend her panel on worldbuilding and economics. She seems to be as cool in person as her work.

And it was good to meet the cool people I already knew and a few New York types I didn't.

Even if the elevators were possessed...

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Uh...apparently I'm going to PhilCon (to help a vendor - this is all very last minute but if you're there I'll probably be around somewhere, and if in doubt look for Joab Steiglitz in the dealer room. And buy his book).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return of supersonic passenger travel?


Concorde was something of a boondoggle - an expensive luxury that used a lot of fuel and ultimately ran at a loss.

Virgin Galactic unveiled the XB-1, prototype of the Boom airliner which will seat 55 and cross the Atlantic in three hours and fifteen minutes (about half the time taken by a typical jetliner). If they can knock out the details, then the ticket price is likely to be about $5,000 - so this still won't be available to "the rest of us."

Unless they can bring down the cost a lot more. On the other hand? Supersonic jets are cool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hope For "Locked-In" Patients

"Locked-in" - the body is completely paralyzed and the mind intact. It's a nightmare - but the first success using a brain implant to allow such a patient to communicate has been announced.

The "brain chip" lets Hanneke de Bruijne type at about two words per minute on a special computer - which sounds awful, but it's better than nothing. They are now hoping to provide the device to others.

Maybe one day we'll have "lock ins" able to chat on the internet with the rest of us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Really Interesting Article

...about investigating crimes in space.

Specifically about how micro-gravity makes crime scene investigation different.

Friday, November 11, 2016

R.I.P. Robert Vaughn

If you're asking who? then you have never watched reruns of certain of the classic spy shows from the 1960s.

Robert Vaughn was Napoleon Solo, the original (Cavill did a bang up job in the movie, but he's still not the original).

He was also General Hunt Stockwell in the A-Team (another of my guilty pleasures, despite my ardent dislike of Dirk Benedict), played a small role in Superman III, was in a single episode of any number of shows and apparently once played Hitler (Which I can't imagine).

But I'll remember him the most as the suave spy intended to be "TV's answer to James Bond."

He was 83 years old.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hope for the paralyzed

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have designed a brain implant that transmits information past a spinal injury...wirelessly. This is better than previous attempts and is working in Rhesus monkeys. Humans may be more challenging, given our complicated bipedal stance, but I'm betting there are plenty of paraplegics willing to give it a try.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pretty Pictures...

...because that's what I'm in the mood for.

Thank you Hubble for this wonderful view of NGC 362

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Out of the way, Hubble...

...NASA has completed the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the Hubble's replacement.

The instrument is now going to be tested - as the JWST will be over a million miles from Earth we can't just fly up and fix it the way we did Hubble - thoroughly ahead of the scheduled launch in October, 2018.

The planned "parking space" for the JWST is L2 - the second Lagrange Point. From which, we're told, it would "be able to detect a bumblebee on the moon."

IOW, this is a much more powerful telescope with greater range...although Hubble and the beautiful images it has sent over the years will definitely be missed.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Don't Forget... vote tomorrow. I normally leave politics off of this blog, but please, get out and vote. It's your responsibility and privilege as a citizen.

(Apologies to non-US people).

Friday, November 4, 2016

Look What Curiosity Found

(From USA Today).

Does that look like it belongs on Mars? Nope. It's actually a hunk of nickel-iron meteorite. Not all that surprising a find, but it might tell us how the Martian environment affects meteorites.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Check out...

...this new world map - the most accurate yet.

It looks pretty deformed, doesn't it. That's because we're mostly used to the Mercator projection (which is horribly inaccurate).

This one still isn't quite there and really, the only accurate world map is a globe, but...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SpaceX Fueling Issues

The cause of the SpaceX explosion appears to have been loading liquid helium (used as a buffer in liquid fuel rockets) at the wrong pressure. Whether this was a technical error or a human one is still not clear.

NASA is now questioning SpaceX's plan to fuel rockets with the astronauts on board and may insist that they stick to the older pattern of boarding after fueling, even though SpaceX claims the crew abort system would have worked.

I'm a bit inclined towards NASA's point of view at this point. We should not try and eliminate risk from spaceflight, but how about doing it that way until we haven't had this happen again for a couple of years?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Farpoint Convention!

I can now officially confirm that I will be participating in Farpoint 24, which takes place in the Baltimore suburbs from February 17 to 19, 2017.

Special guests include Sam Witwer (Mr. Hyde from "Once Upon A Time"), Enver Gjokaj (Agent Daniel Sousa from "Agent Carter").

I will have copies of all of my solo books available for sale. If anyone is interested in "Fitting In" please let me know in advance so I can acquire copies of the anthology. I will be selling and signing books on Friday evening during the Farpoint Book Fair - if you are only there on Saturday and/or Sunday let me know and I will make sure you can get a copy.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween - Now For Some Shameless Promotion

DefCon One Publishing's "Fitting In" anthology is now available in paperback and multiple e-book formats.

It contains 28 stories of urban and/or historical fantasy that focus on characters who are both supernatural beings and in some way marginalized.

The anthology is edited by Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman.

It includes my story "Old Country Wolf" about a Slovak immigrant who happens to be a werewolf.

Get it through the links below:

Barnes & Noble

And have some virtual candy as well.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dark Hold Goblin Stuff

The book isn't quite available yet, but there are some really cool minis for sale to go with the setting - check them out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shrinking When Heated

Most things expand when heated (the one notable exception is cold water).

A team at MIT led by Nicholas Fang has created a 3D printed material (made using copper and certain polymers) that shrinks.

The primary use is actually heat proofing in certain applications. It can be tuned to certain temperatures, and may be used in building bridges, in making microchips that lose less performance as they heat and even in dental fillings.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Black Sea Wrecks

...over 40 ancient shipwrecks have, so far, been found by scientists mapping the submerged landscape. The Black Sea used to be a lot smaller, and it's theorized that the area was inundated by a "break through" from the Mediterranean about 7,500 years ago, which event may be the origin of the legend of Noah's flood. Oh, and it was fresh water too, and is now salt.

They were looking for evidence of the speed of the inundation to test this theory, but the shipwrecks are a nice bonus - perfectly preserved and dating from the Ottoman and Byzantine periods.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Schiaparelli Crash

Looks like it ejected its heat shield and parachute too early - and the mission team thinks a software glitch was the cause.

They now have to correct the glitch before they send their next probe - which will have more actual science on it than Schiaparelli, which was intended as a test bed.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dark Energy Yes? No?

So, the original hypothesis behind dark energy was that an analysis of Type Ia supernovae showed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating - before that it was thought to be constant - in 1998. Scientists had to invent dark energy to explain why.

And now it's widely accepted and everyone is looking for dark energy.

Not so fast.

A much larger study of Type Ia supernovae has now shown that...oops. The accelerating expansion may have been a sampling error and the universe might be accelerating at a constant rate after all. (And the accelerating expansion theory won a Nobel - that's how good the science looks).


Which is it? There's going to be a lot more studies done before we work this one out. Oh, and apparently the universe is expanding faster than expected anyway.

So, what does it mean if the universe is expanding faster but not accelerating?

If expansion is constant, then the lifespan of the universe is longer than we thought. If expansion is faster, then we may have the age of the universe off a little (we're talking 5 to 9 percent here).

Oh, and if there is no dark energy then the chance that the universe will actually end in a big crunch (possibly followed by another big bang) is more likely.

Or they could be wrong. Either way? There is little more exciting than scientists being wrong.

Friday, October 21, 2016


It is looking pretty conclusive that Europe's Schiaparelli probe crashed into the surface of Mars at high speed and was destroyed.

Fortunately, this is not the bad news it might be - the probe's primary mission was to test descent technology for a larger planned spacecraft - and they got a lot of good data before it mysteriously broke radio contact and plummeted. The probe was not carrying a lot of instrumentation.

In other words, engineering continues as normal with the destruction of prototypes.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not Unique...

...humans, that is. Turns out capuchin monkeys make very basic stone tools, called stone flakes, using the same techniques as early hominids.

Or maybe they're catching us up, although I'd be more worried if we caught the crows doing it...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

CO2 to ethanol?

It could be cold fusion and I'm going to be skeptical until somebody duplicates it - but researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee appear to have found a way to turn straight up carbon dioxide into ethanol. It involves nanospikes of carbon and copper on a silicon surface. And it supposedly works at room temperature.

See why I'm worried it's cold fusion? It's awesome if it is actually true, but the skeptic in me has doubts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Artificial eggs

Scientists have managed to turn adult stem cells from mice into egg cells - which if it can be translated into humans might create a new fertility treatment for women who produce low quality eggs.

It might also allow for children created from two male parents without the need of a female donor to provide an egg.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Robot Sweat?

Turns out one of the most efficient ways to cool a robot is - to have it sweat.

It is more effective than air cooling and much, much lighter than fans and the other devices we use to cool our computers. Robots overheating is a very real concern.

Of course, a robot that sweats is also a robot that drinks...

Friday, October 14, 2016


I just got my electronic contributors' copy of "Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures," an anthology being produced by Mad Scientist Journal.

The anthology, which contains my story "Old Country Wolf," will be released on October 31 in paperback and multiple e-book versions.

Edited by Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman, it also contains tales by Laura Duerr, Amelia Fisher and J.C. Stearns. And a bunch of others. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the stories myself.

I'll post buy links, etc, once they're up ;).

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Expanding the definition of Literature

In a radical - and somewhat polarizing choice - the Nobel prize committee announced this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bob Dylan.

Yes, you heard that right. The songwriter, known for his powerful lyrics and for being the definitive singer of the 60's protest movement. (In The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey has a character practice "Dylanizing" - which is the art of using music and lyrics to alter people's moods and actions) is now a Nobel laureate.

The official grounds for the award: "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

This is the first time the prize has been given to a songwriter - expanding the definition of literature for sure.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Dwarf Planet Discovered

It's way out in the Kuiper Belt, and was discovered by Thurnau and Gerdes' team at the University of Michigan.

2014 UZ224 - no name yet - has a year of 1,100 years. It's pretty tiny - at 330 miles across - but it's big enough to fall in the same category of objects as Pluto. There are probably more of them out there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Project Blue to Try and Take Snap Shots of Alpha Centauri

A new planet imaging telescope, Project Blue, aims to take the first picture of an earth-like exoplanet. The plan is to launch the telescope and point it at Alpha Centauri for an intensive search. A rocky planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, Proxima b, is considered likely to be the closest potentially habitable world outside our solar system.

(If it does turn out to be earthlike, we really should come up with a better name).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Capclave Was Awesome!

Highlights - the presentation on aircraft carriers in space (And unfortunately, I've already forgotten the presenter's name and can't find it).

The panels on Buildings of Power, Who's The Bad Guy (which turned into "How to write better villains") and Clothing...all awesome.

As usual, the dodos rocked.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Heading out to Capclave later today. If I don't post on Monday it's because I spent the entire day sleeping ;).

Looking forward to hanging out with the dodos.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Blue Origin Successfully Tests Crew Abort

Blue Origin has successfully tested a launch abort system that allows the crew capsule to be thrown clear of the rocket and make a descent. Although their rockets don't yet have orbital capability, their slow and steady approach might well make them major competition for SpaceX, Boeing, and Orbital Sciences.

And the more competition to get to space the better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tabby's Star...

...and it's back. Tabby's Star, for those of us who can't remember, is KIC 8462852 - the star that was found to be mysteriously dimming.

Now, not only have we still not worked out what's going on, but the star is actually dimming at an accelerated pace.

It doesn't make any sense for any natural stellar phenomenon we know of. We might be right back to aliens building a Dyson sphere - the acceleration would make sense if it was a large structure being built around the star.

Or maybe it's a star eating monster. Nom nom...

(It may be more likely it's a natural phenomenon we simply haven't observed before, but dang it, I'm a science fiction writer, I have to like aliens)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Robot Fenders?

That's one use for new smart materials designed by researchers at MIT - they're using 3D printing to create materials that have different levels of stiffness and softness in different areas. Landing gear shock absorbers for drones is a major possibility.

They also think the new materials might be useful for sports helmets, smartphone cases, even custom running shoes.

Monday, October 3, 2016

So... about those Roman coins?

The ones found in the foundations of a Japanese castle.

Yes, in Japan.

Archaeologists are not sure how the coins, dated back to at least 400AD, got to be buried under the ruins of Katsuren Castle on Okinawa Island - but they aren't a hoax. That's been thoroughly, well, debunked.

Presumably along the Silk Road - finding them in China makes sense, given the Romans liked Chinese silk. But how they got to Japan is less clear - the castle traded with the Chinese but has no other connections to Europe. Heck, maybe somebody was collecting foreign coins...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Possibilities for Extra-Terrestrial Life In Our Solar System (Part 1)

I once asked a NASA scientist if he thought there was life on Mars. He said "Yes, but we put it there." (He was referring to the fact that we did not realize when we sent the first probes that some microbes can withstand hard vacuum for quite some time, so we didn't bother to decontaminate them and may well have introduced hardy microbes to the Martian environment).

Realistically, though, where are we most likely to find life? Or rather, life as we know it.

Venus - Venus could have supported life during the first 2 billion years or so of its life. Modern Venus, though? It's a hellworld. 870F surface temperature, 92 bars of atmospheric pressure, no seems highly unlikely that any of that early life survived. However, there are spots in Venus' atmosphere that are almost homelike, and there is a not completely infeasible possible colonization plan involving airships (Alastair Reynolds includes this in On The Steel Breeze). It's possible there may be our kind of life drifting in the atmosphere - likely nothing complex, but...

Mars - We've been looking for life on Mars for a long time. It's an easy place to look. But if there is life, it's likely to be microbes clinging on underground or in clefts. Some researchers are looking at life in a salt mine in North Yorkshire, which might closely resemble the Martian underground. Is there anything there? Nothing that could build canals. But maybe microbes. (And maybe that scientist was right and we already contaminated the place).

Mercury - The general consensus is nope, there's nothing on Mercury. It's just too inhospitable, especially with daily temperature swings from -280 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. (Which makes exploring it a challenge).

So, that's the three terrestrial planets other than Earth out of the way. Maybe we need to be looking a little bit further out?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Most murderous critter

When I was in school, a zoologist promised to show us the most dangerous animal on the planet and produced a mirror. (How many of you had this one as a kid? I'm sure I'm not alone).

Well, a case could be made, but how about the animal most likely to murder its own kind? It's not man after all.

Nor is it any of the candidates you might think of. Lions? Nope. Leopards? Nope. Any primate? Nope, although several species of monkey are near the top.

Nope, the critter most likely to die at the hands, uh, paws of its own kind is:

The meerkat.

...they're still cute, but dang.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

First Three Parent Baby Thrives

The first baby born using a technique that implants the nucleus of an egg from the mother into an egg cell from a donor is now five months old - and healthy.

The technique is not some kind of weird vanity thing - it's designed to allow women who have mitochondrial faults (in this case Leigh syndrome) to have children. Leigh syndrome is fatal - the mother involved had already lost two children.

I can't be opposed to something that allows somebody to have healthy children that do not suffer - although I agree that we should be cautious and make sure that the technique doesn't produce unhealthy children.

But hopefully there will be lots more families taking advantage of this. (Again, it's not a vanity thing - the only alternative for women with these problems until now was to use donor eggs).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's Talk Proofreading

Okay, so I'm going to talk about proofreading - because it's something that a lot of independent authors and small publishers neglect.

There are two myths:

1. You don't need proofreaders any more because spellcheck catches everything. I can always tell when somebody thought spellcheck catches everything. The thing is - spellcheck will catch some things. It will catch typos, it will catch reversed letters, and it will catch doubled up words. It won't catch when you typed "there" instead of "they're". Oh, and grammar check tends to produce results that read awkwardly in fiction. I'm not saying spell checkers aren't useful - they are. But they should not be the only thing.

2. You can proofread your own work. I actually saw a job ad for writers where they said "Proofreading is 50 percent of a writer's job" - so clients often think this too. Fact is? You can't. Why? Because you know what you meant. With the best will in the world, you will never produce a hundred percent clean copy without somebody else proofreading it. (And to be honest, even multiple proofreaders don't always get things to a hundred percent).

So, what should you do?

You could hire a proofreader (Hi! I'm available). If you do, this person should be the last person who looks over your book other than you before it goes to print. I even recommend doing layout first. (And I also recommend, strongly, because it caught me out last time ordering print proofs and reviewing them before you post the ebook version). Any more substantive edits will introduce new errors. Trust me, they will.

Or if you can't find room in the budget, then find a writing buddy willing to trade with you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Forgotten Gardens of Petra found

Petra is the world's oldest known town - and now we know a little bit more about it. It's best known for the sandstone canyon, but 2,000 years ago it was known as a famous water stop. Now they have found it had gorgeous irrigated gardens...and apparently a near (modern) Olympic size swimming pool. It was conspicuous consumption at its finest: We have so much water we can actually jump in it. This in a place which gets 10 to 15 centimeters of rain a year...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Gravitational Lensing Growing Up

Gravitational lensing can be used to detect planets by studying how the gravitational force of one object bends the light of an object behind it. Hubble has confirmed that one "unsure" system is, in fact, a gas giant orbiting a tight pair of red dwarf stars - considerably further out than previous planets found in binary systems by Kepler.

(There may, of course, be something else in the system. We don't know yet.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Most Stable Culture In The World

People are saying "Oldest" but that makes no sense.

The "longest running" culture in the world? It's the Australian Aborigines. Nope, not something in Africa - Africa apparently changes too much to count for this.

Oh, and apparently they aren't pure homo sapiens either, but interbred they migrated through Asia.

We don't know what. (Maybe some relatives of the hobbits?)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thoughts on "Passengers"

Hrm. Passengers is relatively unusual - a true science fiction film that is not based on anything.

It stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two passengers on a colony ship who are woken prematurely from cryogenic suspension by a malfunction - ninety years from their destination and with no way to go back into stasis.

Of course, they have to save the ship...and of course there's romance. (Possibly too much for my personal taste - but original science fiction movies are so rare I will probably give it a chance anyway).

The trailer hints at a character-focused feel, but also gives some spectacular visuals. I'm not sure about the design of the colony ship: Also, if everyone is asleep, why is there gravity? (And the plot might hint at why you wouldn't want everyone to be asleep...or at least if you did you might just want a really good AI to run the ship in your absence).

But it's definitely intriguing. It's described as "romantic" so I trust in a happy ending. But it also seems to have some drama to it.

Release date: December 21.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quantum Teleportation...

...over the actual internet.

Two teams have independently (one in China and one in Canada) sent quantum entangled information over commercial fiber optic networks. This is an important step to being able to use quantum teleportation to transmit real information.

Quantum teleportation does not allow the passage of information faster than light because decoding the entanglement requires a key, which must be sent independently by conventional means. It does, however, allow for the transmission of information by extremely secure methods, as you need both the information and the key to get the message. It may also be possible to do it wirelessly using laser communication techniques - and that, my friends, is how spaceships will send truly secure messages...

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Gaia Map Released

I talked about Gaia some - well, they just released their first detailed map, giving the "vital statistics" of no less than two million stars (think about that number for a moment. Then think about how this is a tiny preview).

Follow the link for gorgeous pictures and an explanation of just what ESA is up to with this particular telescope.

Friday, September 16, 2016


...people like to say that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were primitive.

Well, apparently they were dyeing cloth before...well, as far as we can tell, anyone. The indigo-dyed fragments, 6,200 years old, were found in Peru. They predate anything found in Egypt by at least 1500 years.

This is, so far, the oldest dyed cloth we have found.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dino Colors

So, apparently, if a dinosaur fossil is particularly well preserved preservation can include the melanocytes - the cells which produce pigmentation.

Scientists have now reproduced the color of this little guy:

He's about the size of a turkey and that shading is forest camouflage. (So, no, not a bright colored dinosaur, but definitely not quite the grey they tend to be shown as).

Also, he's cute.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Want to... with some science?

The scientists operating the Gaia space telescope are asking for observation help from the general public - anyone with a decent small telescope.

It's UK focused, but the "Gaia alerts" page shows the phenomenon they want observation and measurement of. If you, unlike me, live somewhere where you can actually see the stars and have the right equipment, go join in and do some science.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dolphin Conversations

We now know that dolphins sentences. Oh, and they don't interrupt each other, so they're more polite than I am.

Just how smart are they? And do they have anything to say to us other than "Thanks for all the fish."

Monday, September 12, 2016

Just sharing...

...some awesome pictures of Mars.

Getting ready to attend Small Press Expo this coming weekend. Always a great place for creative recharging.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Space X refueling accident - what happened?

...we don't know.

In fact, Space X are so stumped they're asking not only NASA and other organizations for help but the general public - they're asking anyone with video or audio recordings of the incident to send them copies.

The rocket was being fueled at the time and the company has said there was no heat source that could possibly have started the fire.

What they do know was that there was a bang and then the "explosion" happened a few seconds later.

Most likely there was some structural failure - but nobody can rule out something hitting the rocket.

It probably wasn't aliens, but it's not impossible that it was a UFO.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hello, Nessie?

A fossil found 50 years ago has now been unveiled - and they're calling it the Storr Lochs Monster. It's a 165 million year old ichthyosaur - a kind of dolphin-like dinosaur.

Of course the classic image of Nessie is either a serpent or a long-necked dinosaur, not a dolphin-like anything...but there definitely were monsters in the lochs once. Long before man, of course.

...of course.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Doctor Who fan squee!

Specifically, they've done an animation patch up of "The Power of the Daleks" - which happens to be Troughton's first outing as the Doctor, and the test of the experiment of regeneration - a concept that was not in the original plan for the show. (In fact, the Doctor was originally written as a highly eccentric mad scientist from the future).

It will air on BBC America on Saturday, November 12 - I don't have a time yet.

I have not seen this one at all, so looking forward to it, even in a rather awkward form.

Give it a few years and it may well be possible to use the same techniques now being used to re-animate dead actors from stock footage to restore every lost episode that has a surviving sound track and script to something resembling the original...imagine that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I can now confirm that I will be a guest at RavenCon next year in Williamsburg. (I had to skip this con last year for various reasons, mostly moving, and am quite looking forward to being back and checking out the new hotel).

Monday, September 5, 2016


They have definitively confirmed that the "alien signal" supposedly detected (which I didn't talk about because I was sure it wasn't real) originated close to home. The likely culprit - a Russian military satellite - specifically a Soviet era satellite that never got entered into the database. (They're not saying it was a spy sat, but...)

Ah well.

It was too good to be true.

Friday, September 2, 2016


Call To Arms: Horses And Mules is in final layout.

I will be hanging out at Baltimore Comic Con tomorrow (not in costume, sadly, but I'll be properly labeled with a shirt with my name on it this time). Maybe I'll get some cool writing tips again (the panel on writing better characters last year was a lot of fun).

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Space X had another rocket accident today. A Falcon 9 being refueled for a test burn exploded on the pad, damaging the pad and destroying a communications satellite destined for use over an underserved part of Africa.

Nobody was injured.

The cause is still unknown, but the explosion appeared to happen near the oxygen tank for the upper stage and during refueling - so a fuel leak would seem the likely culprit.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

So... much of what you say to Rover does he understand?

More than we thought. A study done in Hungary indicates that the left part of the brain lights up for familiar words...and the right part for the "good boy" tone.

They probably don't understand exactly what you're saying to them - but they do develop sound associations.

Next step: Test cats...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RIP Gene Wilder

Not perhaps directly speculative fiction, but he was the one true Willy Wonka.

The comic actor who also played roles in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles died due to complications from Alzheimer's disease - an illness he asked not be disclosed.

His career was almost entirely in comedy, and he was apparently great to work with. And he will always be Willy Wonka (Sorry Johnny Depp, but it didn't work).

Monday, August 29, 2016

4D Printing?

Objects that remember their shape at a specific temperature - useful for space travel, medicine (imagine a drug capsule that opens when the patient starts to develop a fever), and all kinds of things.

MIT has now developed such "memory-shape" objects with a response time measured in seconds - much faster than earlier experiments. I can think of a few uses. Can you?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Saturday Planet-Gazing

If you happen to have an uninterrupted view to the west on Saturday at dusk, look out for a close passage of Venus and Jupiter - they're going to look almost like they're touching.

Also, if you haven't backed it yet, go here: We're heading rapidly for our Mystery Stretch Goal and I already know it's something awesome.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday...Parks

Although Yellowstone, the archetype, is older, the US National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday today. The modern Park Service was created by legislation signed in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.

May the Park Service continue to protect our national treasures.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Studying Proxima b.

It's about 1.3 times the size of Earth, it's smack in the middle of it's stars habitable zone, and it's only four light years away.

All of which makes Proxima b the best target to study terrestrial planets. Does it have life? We don't know yet...but it might be possible for new propulsion technology to get a probe there to take a peek in only 20 years (we've had probes out that long to reach the outer system).

Meanwhile, large telescopes under construction might be able to directly observe this world and at least establish if it has an atmosphere. It's likely tidally locked, but...we know that isn't a dealkiller for life.

So...let's take a peek.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

David Attenborough...

...recently got a ship. Now he's also got...a cat.

Scientists have named a newly discovered extinct species of marsupial lion Microleo attenboroughi after the British naturalist and broadcaster (who in addition to being absolutely fantastic at explaining biology to non-scientists also commissioned a certain comedy show when he was in charge at BBC2 - yes, we can thank Attenborough for the Flying Circus).

Microleo? Yup. The kitty - an example of parallel evolution - was about the size of a ringtail possum. It probably thought it was very fierce indeed...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Potential research black hole...

...NASA is releasing all of the research they've funded to the public. Somebody restrain me so I don't spend a month exploring?

Seriously, this is absolutely awesome, especially as a lot of science research is hidden behind pretty high paywalls.

Friday, August 19, 2016

More on 3D printed prosthetics...

...because they're for the birds.

There's now a group called Animal Avengers who make 3D printed prosthetics for animals. Including replacement beaks. They've even been able to release birds into the wild with their prosthetics, made of biodegradable plastic.

3-D printing has also now been used to make custom horseshoes for injured/foundered horses, tortoise shells, replacement joints for dogs and cats and, of course, straight up prosthetics. Because 3D printing is so much cheaper, it's worth doing it for critters.

The racing industry is now looking into 3D printing horseshoes as a routine thing, at least at the higher end, as the 3D printed titanium shoes are even lighter than aluminum racing plates.

But a goose with a new beak getting to fly free? That's awesome.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Prehistoric fashion

DNA analysis has traced the origins of the Iceman's wardrobe - and they're pretty varied. His hat was bearskin, his quiver was roe deer leather. His pants, however, were goatskin - from goats not dissimilar to modern breeds found in that area.

Because, yes, even people back then knew to use the right material for the right purpose.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fifth Force of Nature?

Maybe. Or at least another "god" particle that might explain something about that crazy non-reacting stuff we call dark matter.

If there are five fundamental forces (the four we know are gravitation, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) then it could solve the dark matter/missing mass problem.

In other words, we may know even less about the universe than we thought - and that's always cool.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Self-Healing Clothing one of those tropes of certain kinds of science fiction that come out of cyberpunk.

Except it might be with us soon. It's a coating, based off of squid DNA (biotech, again), that you dip natural fiber in. It can be programmed to self-heal when put in water at a particular temperature. You know, like, a washing machine.

Of course, the fashion industry won't embrace it, because, well, our current society is based off of making people buy things they don't actually need.

But in the future, who knows?

Monday, August 15, 2016

R.I.P. Kenny Baker

R2-D2 was not a puppet. He was operated from the inside by Kenny Baker - a highly talented actor who stood all of 3 feet, 8 inches tall.

Best known for bring R2-D2 to amazing life, Kenny was also one of the Ewoks. He was Dufflepud in the Prince Caspian TV series, was one of the little people in Willow (like, I suspect, every size challenged actor in Hollywood), and appeared in a lot of places. He was supposed to play R2-D2 in The Force Awakens, but the 81 year old actor was credited only as a consultant - perhaps because of his failing health. (R2-D2 appeared only briefly in The Force Awakens and will be played in Episode VIII by Jimmy Vee, who Baker trained to take over from him). Oh, and he did, surprise surprise, briefly run away to join the circus and also appeared in ice shows - which might explain some of the ways R2-D2 moved.

He had a good life and he did some amazing work. (I don't envy Vee having to replace him).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Habitable Venus?

Once, probably. A long time ago, Venus apparently was...colder than Earth. Not by a lot. By a few degrees.

With days and nights of two months each it would have been a very different world from ours. It would have had shallow oceans...but it would likely have had life.

At this time the sun was about 30 percent dimmer than it is today. About 715 million years ago, the brightening sun would have sent too much energy to Venus, causing the runaway greenhouse effect that produced the hellish planet we know today. It was simply too close to the sun to last. (And one day, in a few billion years, as the sun expands, the same thing will happen to Earth, unless we learn planetary engineering and move the entire planet. Most likely by then we'll be extinct or have evolved into something else).

Thursday, August 11, 2016


At 3pm I will be featured in the Broad Universe Facebook party. Head over to ask questions and for a chance to win a free copy of Falling Dusk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Nuclear Near Miss

We all think about the Cuban Missile Crisis as the time we came the closest to nuclear war during the cold war.

On May 23rd, 1967, the US radar system designed to detect incoming Soviet missiles went dark. They thought they were being jammed - and prepared to launch a nuclear strike.

They were told to stand down just in time.

The cause? A massive solar flare. Thankfully it happened just after our first space weather monitoring systems were put in place.

And while this was kept quiet - no doubt to avert panic - it resulted in an increased investment in monitoring the sun, which has helped protect communications satellites and the like from more recent solar flares.

But we came a lot closer than I like to think about.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Facebook Party

I'm going to be a guest author at the Broad Universe Facebook party on Thursday - I'll be available live between 3:00 and 3:30pm with a chance to win a free ebook copy of Falling Dusk.

There will be a bunch more great woman authors and I'll stay available until some time between 5:30 and 6 (with the post staying up as long as the event does).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Finally saw it.

No offense, Mr. J.J. Abrams, but you can keep your paws off my Star Trek in future.

Beyond watched like a long TOS episode with a more significant bad guy (ably played by Idris Elba). The easter eggs were awesome.

And nothing was twenty minutes away at maximum warp. (Sorry, Abrams, you're not living that down).


They defeated the bad guys with the power of...

...okay, it wasn't technically rock and roll, but...dang. (I'm assuming most people who intend to have seen it by now. But they defeated the bad guys with the power of rock and roll. And technobabbled it into making sense. I loved it).

Friday, August 5, 2016

Oh, hey, Olympics

The Rio Olympics start tonight. The modern games are quite different from their ancient counterpart - although I wonder if we would avoid having already had an athlete disqualified for doping if the penalty for cheating was still flogging.

(No, I'm not supporting flogging, just making a wry comment about cheating).

But the ancient games were much closer to their military roots (if you think about it, we have Olympic events that involve hitting each other, shooting guns, throwing spears. Even the equestrian three day event started as a way cavalry officers tested their horses) than ours. I mean, one of their events involved sprinting in full armor.

And while I wouldn't bring back flogging, I do rather love the idea of making the athletes walk past the inscribed names of past cheaters to remind them that it's a bad thing.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Oh, hey...

...quantum computing at the University of Maryland. I was just there. (And we talked about stuff related to this).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I wish...

...people would stop saying the evidence indicates we're alone in the universe.

It quite simply doesn't.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Our exoplanet hunting techniques are only now starting to see planets small enough to support our kind of life. They are biased towards large planets and ones that are too close to their primary to be habitable.

Our chances of picking up radio signals from another star are slim. SETI is based off of assumptions and one of them is that a signal will be produced that's strong enough. Based off of our own technology, most of our radio signals are not strong enough to be heard over the noise made by the Earth, the Sun, Jupiter, etc. There's evidence that radio is not actually the best way to communicate with a spaceship - light may be better, and a laser communication would, again, likely be drowned out by the local primary.

It's possible that the answer to Fermi's Paradox is "It's just dang hard to find each other in all of this space."

Now, it's intriguing to explore the idea that we may actually be one of the first intelligent civilizations to arise, and there's some evidence that supports it.

But we need to stop saying we're alone. We just don't have enough evidence to say that yet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mars gullies not river valleys...

...but Mars was still wet before. Okay, how? It looks like the gullies were formed by freeze-thaw cycles of carbon dioxide.

As they form, they reveal rocks that had water in them from earlier strata of Mars' surface.

Straightforward, right? Mars keeps proving to be a more complex world than we thought.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Shroedinger II

I'd like to post a public thank you to everyone involved with the Schroedinger II Sessions.

Especially to Chad Orzel for having the idea in the first place, Emily Edwards for organizing. And the American Physics Society for paying for stuff.

And everyone who spoke as well as fellow participants. It was a blast. My brain is broken, but it was a blast.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Out of here.

Leaving tomorrow for the Schroedinger II workshop at JQI. I won't be posting until Monday - I might sneak something in before I leave, but I don't want to have to worry about it, so putting this up now.

My website is up, but please do not leave comments right now as they might not save.

Monday, July 25, 2016

For DC People

Did some museum time over the weekend.

The Air & Space Museum has "A New Moon Rises" - it's temporary, but there's no formal closing date. It has some amazing pictures of the Moon taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Yes, you can see them online, but...) Capitol end of the museum, upper floor on the right.

The American History has "Fantastic Worlds" through February 26, 2017. It's an exhibit of the intersection of science and science fiction in the Victorian era that features very little from America - but it's worth checking out, especially if you're interested in steampunk.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Sometimes we're wrong in science.

Sometimes we're very wrong.

Scientists trying to sequence two species of lichen discovered they were genetically identical. Both the photosynthetic algae and its fungal symbiote were identical.


One of them was toxic. The other wasn't. So, something else had to be going on - and the something turned out to be a second fungal symbiote specialized for defense.

Scientists are now trying to find out whether all lichens are, in fact, threesomes...or only some.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Changes Episode 50

If you weren't able to see this live, you can watch it here:

Also, my website and Making Fate will go down on Sunday for server upgrades (I'm with a small provider). It will be down for a few days - please be patient. I should be able to upgrade WordPress and my themes afterwards - and hopefully this will allow me to make the site properly mobile friendly. This will also fix the random unavailability issues that have been going on for the last couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

X Marks The... of the galaxy?

Apparently, yes. There really is a giant X made out of stars at the center of the Milky Way. It probably has to do with how gravity propagates, but...we humans like our patterns.

(The treasure at the middle is, of course, unreachable - a supermassive black hole that acts as the anchor that holds the galaxy together).

Monday, July 18, 2016


NASA's latest cool virtual reality video - a simulated landing on Pluto.

Friday, July 15, 2016

An Open Letter To Hugo Nominees And Their Publishers

I'm not quite done with this year's Hugo packet yet, but I'm already seeing some of the stuff I saw last year.

The Hugo voting packet does matter. Even if your name is Neal Stephenson, it's not reasonable to assume every WorldCon member has read your work, or has read the specific work up for nomination. So, please:

1. Actually provide something. If I haven't read the work for nomination and you don't provide a sample, then voters have to go hunt you down. A lot of us are more likely to just give you a null vote.

2. Test your files. For the love of the Aesir, test your files. In this year's package I've found: One .pdf that would not register as existing on my Nook. One .pdf that crashed my Nook when I tried to open it. One .epub file that I could not open on any device using any software. One file, from a major publisher, that had repeated lines everywhere and a watermark that took up three pages on my Nook every time I hit it (every five pages) - it was almost unreadable. And one fancast where all the provided links on the pdf were broken. Please, test your files. There's no excuse for major publishers not to provide .epub and .mobi versions and not to test them on actual ereaders. In fact, anyone can make a usable .epub and .mobi using Calibre, which is free. You can at least test it on the Kindle and Nook apps on a computer, also free. And it doesn't take five minutes to test your links. Well unless there's a lot of them, which brings me to:

3. If you are being judged on your entire body of work for the year (editor, fancast, magazine, fan writer, etc) then provide what you think is the best. I am not...and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here...going to listen to 50 2 hour podcasts. I'm going to pick one at random. And I may pick your weakest episode. So, make sure people see your best work by narrowing it down to your favorites. Or the ones that got the best feedback from readers.

4. ...which brings me to: Don't provide a political rant as your sample. Or a religious one. Regardless of your beliefs. You will lose votes if your sample insults Democrats, Republicans, Christians, whoever - and some of those votes will be from people who agree with you but just don't think political rants are appropriate material to win major awards.

Mostly it's #2 that annoys me, though. Especially when publishers do it - it's not the writer's fault and really, Penguin can't test a sample on a Nook before sending it out completely broken. (Yes, I am going to name and shame - Penguin sending out a file that had every fl missing, repeated lines including lines interlaced with each other, and obnoxious watermarking is just...really...)

If you're nominated for a Hugo, do what it takes to win it - and that means providing clean, tested files, working links, and appropriate samples.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


No, I'm not changing the format of my blog or what I write.

I'm appearing on the next episode of CHANGES Conversations Between Writers, hosted by Sally Sue Ember.

The show will be broadcast as a HOA on Wednesday, July 20 at 10am EST, and will then be archived on both Google plus and Youtube. It isn't an interview - it's a talk show, which is a little different from anything I've done before. I'm quite excited about it.

Check the event out here:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Drones Shoot M&Ms To Save Ferrets

...yes, for real. It's not April 1, after all.

The endangered black footed ferret's favorite meal is ground hog.

Ground hogs often carry sylvatic plague - brought here, of course, by Europeans.

Part of the answer: An oral vaccine concealed in peanut butter smeared around M&Ms - a combination ground hogs can't resist.

Fired from drones.

Because drones. (Or rather because drones cover more ground).

I don't think any science fiction writer predicted this one.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Let's go...

...alien hunting.

On Titan.

Recent experiments have shown that in Titan-like conditions, hydrogen cyanide (which we know is present on Titan) can form long polymer chains that happen to absorb sunlight very, very well.

If life is an emergent property of chemistry, then there is a good chance that Titan has life. Life not as we know it, which helps us find life not as we know it somewhere else.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

R.I.P. Steve D. Russell

For the first time I have to write about an industry professional who was also a personal friend. I doubt it will be the last.

Steve D. Russell was the CEO of Rite Publishing. He was an ENnie award winning designer and developer. His most recent project was Lords of Gossamer and Shadow - the Amber system with the Zelazny serial numbers beautifully filed off (and the things I hated about Amber removed).

I was one of his playtesters for LoGaS, and spent many hours at the table with him and other friends.

Steve died after a car accident shortly after moving to Dayton, Ohio. His wife, Miranda, is pregnant with their first child.

I mourn a good storyteller, a great GM and a good friend.

A Gofundme has been set up for Steve's family to help defray the financial expenses and make this difficult time easier for them:

Rite Publishing's schedule has been suspended - it was a micropress and I do not know if anyone else will be taking over or getting the rights to their products. I hope that it will live on in some form. I believe Steve would want that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Juno Insertion Successful

The Juno probe has been confirmed to be in orbit of Jupiter. Instruments have yet to be reactivated after the maneuver. The spaceship will stay in orbit for 20 months if all goes well, and will then be crashed into the planet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bards And Sages Quarterly July!

This is now out and contains my story "Voyage." It's a pretty dark one, so you know.

Get your own copy now:

Amazon Kindle:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Offline Again

I will not be posting next week due to unplugging and stuff.

And no, I am not going to talk about UK politics. Too depressing. (Which tells you which side I'm on).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pollinator Week!

I was just reminded it's pollinator week. So, here's a reminder on ways you can help bees and other pollinators:

1. Plant pollinator-friendly native plants in a corner of your garden. Plants that attract hummingbirds are better than a feeder and require less maintenance.
2. Do not use neonicotinoid pesticides in your yard. Also do not purchase plants that have been raised with the use of these pesticides, as residue can stay in the plants for years. Be especially careful if buying milkweed - make sure it's raised without pesticides.
3. Consider putting out a bee waterer.
4. Buy raw, local honey rather than supermarket crap - it's better for you and can even reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
5. If it's not a hazard and you have a dead tree or limb, leave them undisturbed to provide nesting habit for certain kinds of bee.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Goldilocks - not just temperature

...but there's something else which also has to be "just right" - a planet's electric field.

Earth has a natural electric field - it's caused by a potential gradient in the atmosphere - the earth is negative and the ionosphere is positive. This is, of course, what causes thunderstorms. Lightning actually triggers complex molecules, so a lifebearing planet needs thunderstorms. Lightning plays a role in nitrogen fixation.

Mars - may have. Dust storms produce static, which produces lightning - but Martian lightning tends to stay in the dust storms and not produce thunderbolts, keeping that energy in the atmosphere. It's likely that Mars does not have enough electric generation to help support life - but we don't really know until we get a rover down there with the right instruments on it.

Venus? Venus has way, way too much electricity. Earth has a tiny amount of charge in the ionosphere. Venus has so much that it's stripped the water from the planet. It actually has a true electric wind, akin to the solar wind.

If Mars has a very high electric charge too, then it may explain what happened to the atmosphere. But what if it turns out to be very low and that is the problem?

Do we have to look, in addition to the right temperature, for the right amount of electricity?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RIP Anton Yelchin

I was at a convention all weekend, so I wasn't able to talk about this.

Until now.

Anton Yelchin, the second man to play Pavel Chekov, was killed in a tragic accident when his jeep, which was apparently not in park, rolled backwards over him. There are indications the accident was caused by a faulty gearbox (similar models had been recalled).

The rebooted movies had their flaws - but Yelchin's performance was not one of them (And to be honest, the flaws were pretty much all at the writing and directing level, not the acting). He was only 27 years old - and everyone in the Star Trek community mourns.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stop Calling...

...stupid things "bird brained."

Certain birds have demonstrated that they are quite intelligent. I've had conversations with parrots - simple ones, but enough to show that the bird knew what it was saying. And I've talked before about the fact that many crows and relatives show abstract intelligence at least equal to the great apes.

Now scientists have studied the brains of two dozen bird species in an attempt to discover why - to be more precise, how a macaw with a brain the size of a walnut can show better cognitive abilities than a macaque with a brain the size of a lemon.

Turns out, birds have something interesting going on in their forebrains - their equivalent to our cerebral cortex. A higher density of neurons.

This is probably part of adaptation to flight. You have to be light to fly. A heavy brain is a problem - so you need a light brain that's more efficient. Exactly what birds have evolved. They have more, shorter neurons, and that allows them to reach the same cognitive capacity as primates.

...and possibly as humans.

The significance of this is that there's more than one way to design a complicated brain, and that we have to rethink what we "know" about brain size and even brain size to body size ratio.

Another significance is that the best bird brains are found in songbirds and parrots (crows and their relatives are, yes, songbirds) - the birds with the most complicated vocalizations. This might teach us more about the relationship between language and intelligence, and how the two might feed into and develop each other. Did intelligence come first or did complicated language actually come before intelligence? (Or was it one way in mammals and a different way in birds). Songbirds often have complicated songs, but not always the kind of complex behavior we see in crows. Who...don't have complicated songs, but do have at least a basic language.

Next time somebody calls you "bird brained" - thank them for the compliment.

(I leave for Origins Game Expo tomorrow and will likely not have time to post again until Tuesday. Don't burn anything down without me).

Monday, June 13, 2016


Not what I wanted to write today - and I'll forgive anyone who leaves immediately and comes back tomorrow.

At about 2am Sunday morning the worst terrorist attack in U.S. soil since 9/11 occurred when a single gunman opened fire in the "Pulse" nightclub in Orlando, Florida. For those who don't know, Pulse is the most prominent and largest gay club in Orlando. At 5am, SWAT stormed the club, liberating remaining hostages and killing the gunman.

Muddying the waters is the fact that the shooter had connections to daesh. (Note, I am not using his name. I will not use his name. After his crimes, he does not deserve that dignity).

But his own family, those who knew him best, came forward to say that he simply hated gay people.

50 people were killed in the attack and over 50 more injured (If you question how one man took out so many people, you've never been in a large night club on Saturday night). The LGBT community in Orlando is devastated.

And since the attack I have heard innocent Muslims vilified and blamed.

I stand with the victims and their families. I am a bisexual woman - I'm not the type to either hide in the closet or wrap myself in a pride flag. Our community has faced hate before. People try to argue we are no longer oppressed. But we are - and we are hated and feared. The target was chosen solely because the gunman hated gay people. Whatever connections he might have had, we don't need to look further for a motivation. It was an act of terror, because now people will think twice before going to a club to enjoy themselves, people who intended to come out may not. (And some people will come out because of this, to show they are not afraid).

But I also stand against the rabid Islamophobia that is spreading through the western world, in patterns that sadly remind me, as a student of that history, of 1930s Germany. At Balticon, we shared the hotel with Muslims. Lots of Muslims - there was a religious conference going on. I suppose I could say they got me with a biological weapon (I am fairly sure the source of the nasty bug I picked up at the con was one of their kids - they brought all of their kids, or seemed to) ;). I was not afraid of them. Nor did I think those women, most of whom were hijabi, seemed particularly oppressed.

Islam is not the problem.

Fanaticism is.

Homophobia is.

And we need to remember in this aftermath that:

1. Some people still just hate gay people. Maybe some people always will and the best we can hope for is that we'll all be civilized enough not to act on it.

2. Daesh is not Islam. Hate is not Islam.

Friday, June 10, 2016


...seriously checked the date when I read this story.

The BBC Broadcasting House in London has a few things in its lobby. One of them is a Dalek. Because, ya know. Daleks.

The host of a BBC Radio 4 show called Inside Science, one Dr. Adam Rutherford, decided to take part in a "Swab and Send" project where people were asked to take samples of their everyday environments. And, presumably because he was doing this for the show, he couldn't resist sampling the Dalek. Specifically, its eye stalk.

The sample did not provide a potential antibiotic.

It provided four potential new antibiotics.

Something or somebody out there has a sense of humor.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


...just when we thought the periodic table might be full, four new elements have been added.

The four new elements complete the seventh row, were officially recognized in January, and have now been named Nihonium (after Japan), Moscovian (After Moscow), Tenessine (After Tennesse) and Oganesson. There's still one stage of review, but...we keep finding out more and more about the world, and that's always awesome.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Rocket Science

Space X plans on relaunching a rocket this fall. They plan on reusing the one which successfully landed on their drone ship on April 8.

If successful, this would be the first launch to orbit using a rocket flying for the second time. (The shuttle doesn't count - only the crew capsule was reusable and the actual rockets were disposable). They already have customers lined up willing to risk their payload for a chance to be part of history.

Reusable rockets would drop current payload to orbit costs by a factor of about 10.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lisa Pathfinder a resounding success

The big thing in physics right now is gravity waves. Ripples in space-time. We've had some success detecting them - but as with so much in astronomy, we can get better detection if we launch our telescope into outer space.

Which is expensive, so ESA decided to do a test run first with a small satellite called Lisa Pathfinder, using test objects (with known mass).

The satellite is tracking the test objects 300 times better than the mission requirements. The current plan is to launch the actual telescope, which will consist of three satellites in linked orbit, in 2034 - but the success of this project might mean it's brought forward.

Let's hope so.

Monday, June 6, 2016


...some very cool time at AwesomeCon DC hanging out with some wonderful people from the Goddard Spaceflight Center.

Thanks for reminding me how cool the moon is, amongst other things.

Friday, June 3, 2016


Didn't get a post out before leaving for Awesomecon DC.

Did get to spend some fun time hanging out with wonderful people from NASA - they're always so much fun when they come out of their labs to say hi ;).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Care about bees?

They've done more studies about what pollen domestic honeybees pick up - and yes, they forage in your back yard a lot.

The common wisdom says you should plant things bees like - but you should also be careful what insecticides you use, especially if you do have a "pollinator garden." You don't want to attract the ladies just to poison them, after all.

Don't use neonicotinoids and buy plants from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoids/neonics (which can stay IN the plant you bought - this also goes if you're buying milkweed for monarchs). This is a 2013 list of products that contain neonicotinoids -

(And that may not be comprehensive. It's probably better to avoid commercial insecticides altogether and go for traditional remedies such as soap or diatomaceous earth).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Early Writing

The Museum of London Archaeology has deciphered some tablets from AD 40-50 - the first decade of Roman rule.

One of them is a letter from one businessman suggesting another doesn't appear "too shabby" after all the money he's loaned.

The other is some kid's alphabet practice.

And from AD57 they found financial records that have the actual date on. They found a lot. London is basically one big ongoing dig.

(Sorry, had to let my archaeology geek out for once).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Balticon Recap

Okay, I know I should have sent this yesterday, but I plead exhaustion.

Balticon was awesome. There was an expected level of disorganization (higher attendance, new hotel with different meeting space, etc), but everyone rose to the occasion and put together a gorgeous convention.

Here were some highlights:

- Drawing the "In the Game of _____, you Win or You Lose" black card in CAH in the bar with Martin at the next table... (And he signed one of August Grappin's cards for the deck of writers ;)). Killed the game for several minutes.
- Discussing the Future of Government in a packed panel room at 9am. I was expecting to outnumber the audience, but apparently the Balticon crowd was quite interested ;).
- An "informal" discussion on Lovable Rogues with the always-awesome Gail Z. Martin.
- Next 50 years of Science Fiction went very well.
- It was a great honor to read with Kim Stanley Robinson - the man is a gentleman as well as a brilliant writer, and breaks the rules with flair. It took me until now to realize the entire chapter he read was the dreaded infodump...but when you're Kim Stanley Robinson you can get away with it. Us mere mortals...
- The Best Of Luck on the ground floor of the Power Plant sells malts that almost reach Midwestern standards.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tentative Balticon Schedule

Still trying to straighten out a couple of double books, but here is my schedule:

Saturday 9am - The Future Of Government (Ugh, a 9am, but a great topic).
Saturday 2am - Signing

Sunday 1pm - Breaking Into Writing For RPG Gaming
Sunday 6pm - Reading
Sunday 8pm - Science Fiction: The Next 50 Years
Sunday 9pm - Loveable Rogues in Media Fiction
Sunday 10pm - Authorian Jargon: A Readers' Handbook

So, yes, I'm practically doing everything on Sunday, but I don't really care ;). This may be subject to some change/tweaking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All These Worlds Are Yours...

...except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

Arthur C. Clarke predicted that life could evolve on Europa's moon if Jupiter was suddenly turned into a small sun. While that part is a little ridiculous (IMO), Europa remains one of the most likely candidates for a life harboring world in this system other than the one we're standing on. The latest study indicates that Europa may have the same ratio of hydrogen and oxygen as Earth.

And here's the thing?

Earth didn't have an oxygen atmosphere until after certain forms of life evolved. oxygen may be a major signifier of our kind of life.

Which makes me wary of the idea of landing there.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Florida brewery...

...has invented edible six pack rings. The point is that they'll feed wildlife instead of being a pollutant, many frat boys are going to sample them?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet Victor Prince...

The male lead of Falling Dusk is ready to answer all of your questions if you go to (I'll be keeping it up as long as it seems people are amused by it ;)).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Not Quite There For Dragon

Although the latest Dragon landing was successful, the booster is apparently not in a usable state to be re-flown. The damage was apparently done during re-entry.

Instead, it will be used in testing to help make the next booster more able to take high speed and heat. We're still making progress.

And don't forget - Falling Dusk hits the electronic shelves this Friday! (The print version is still in the works, but I had an issue with a lost proof that's set me back slightly).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

RIP Andre Brahic

French astronomer Andre Brahic died on Sunday. He was William Hubbard's partner - the two discovered Neptune's rings. He worked on NASA Voyager and the US-Europe Cassini missions.

Brahic was also a teacher and writer, a professor at the University of Paris. His last book - Worlds Elsewhere; Are We Alone - was published only last year. He came from a coal-mining village, Petit-Brahic, in southern France. (The similarity between the last name and the place name, for the curious, probably indicates that his family had been there a very long time).

He did good work.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Analysis: Captain America: Civil War (spoilerrific)

So, I finally (I only say that because I've been dodging often untagged spoilers all week) saw Civil War.

The movie was touted as being about accountability - but others said it was all about Bucky Barnes.

Well, it was in no small part about Bucky Barnes, but...

The MCU has touched on issues that we face in reality before. Mass surveillance and machines in law enforcement, for example, in Age of Ultron. The bogeymen match what we're afraid of today.

So I'm going to stick my neck out here.

Civil War was not about accountability at all.

Yes, on the surface, that's what the Sokovia Accords were supposed to be - making the heroes accountable to somebody.

But the conflict between Steve and Tony ran deeper.

The theme of the movie is "Are they people or weapons?"

We don't have people who can throw cars with their mind in reality. But we do have a world in which it often seems that, more and more, employees are interchangeable numbers. We have a world in which slavery still exists.

The relatable theme is "Are we people or property?"

And Tony is a one percenter. How does he feel about the thousands of people who work for Stark Industries? He probably doesn't. He can't afford to - he's running a business. And thus, the attitude that people are there for what value they can give?

Spills over.

He's the one who says "They don't give passports to weapons of mass destruction" when talking about a teenaged girl. (Yes, Ross is far worse, but Tony's following his line).

Tony doesn't see the team as his equals. He sees them as his employees.

Except Steve.

Steve is the one person Tony Stark sees as an equal. Because, well, you can't face down Captain America and not see something better than you.

And Steve sees the team as his squadmates. He sees them as the people he trusts the most to watch his back. He sees signing over control over them to the UN as a risk - a risk that they will become "showgirls" as he was forced to be during the war.

And above all, he sees them as people. His anger about Bucky being framed is almost equally matched by his anger at the way Tony treats and talks about Wanda.

She's a kid.

And, tellingly, when Rhodes augurs in, Tony doesn't shout "Rhodey!" he shouts "My Rhodey!"

That speaks of a certain possessiveness. (Or perhaps it's just that RDJ can convincingly be many things, "Straight" is not one of them. Ahem). Possibly even a trace of unconscious racism. Rhodes is his friend, but not his equal.

Which is how Steve and Tony could hurt each other so badly. But it also shows that you can't treat people like weapons. It shows that attitude is wrong.

I can think of a few real life CEOs who need to learn that lesson.