Friday, April 29, 2016

Another sale!

My fantasy story "The Witch of Elrica" has been purchased by Cirsova for their fourth issue, to be published some time next winter.

(Still working on internet).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Space X planning Mars mission

Space X intends to send the first commercial probe to Mars in 2018. The craft, imaginatively called "Red Dragon" will fly with NASA assistance. Eventually, a variant may carry astronauts. Space X claims their design can land "anywhere in the solar system." Let's see if they can pull this one off. After all, they did land a rocket on a ship.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Author Interview!

Still without usable internet (I am having flash backs to dial-up), but here's an interview I did with blogger Geetanjali Mukherjee:

Monday, April 25, 2016


No internet until at least Saturday. I will try to keep posting, but please forgive me if I skip a day. (I have only crappy wi-fi available.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


...this weekend. Don't be surprised if posting is only sporadic for a bit (I may or may not have access in the new place, might be stuck trying to do stuff on crappy public internet for a bit, etc).

I should hopefully be back in full swing soon enough.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Growing Up In Zero G

One of the big concerns about living in microgravity is whether children can develop properly without gravity.

Chinese scientists successfully grew mouse embryos in space, indicating it may not be as much of a problem as we thought. They reached the blastocyst stage (a good point of cellular division). But that's a long way from kids in sp[ace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sky watching?

This week is a good time to do it - the Lyrid meteor shower will peak on Friday. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere without a lot of light pollution.

Unfortunately, the show will not be as spectacular as usual due to the full moon - but you can always get in some good moon viewing while you are at it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Have you...

...ever written a note to yourself on the back of your hand?

A Japanese company has come up with an electronic display that can be laminated to the back of your hand. It only lasts a few days and the likely near-future application is for health monitoring. But how about putting a screen on your hand for a con?

Or temporary animated tattoos?

There's all sorts of interesting ideas here. One question, though? Will you still be able to shower while "wearing" it...

Friday, April 15, 2016

A couple of updates

First of all, I sold Sika Unmasked to Timeless Tales for their Cupid and Psyche issue. (Timeless Tales collects retellings of classic myths and fairy tales).

Second, I also sold Old Country Wolf to the Mad Scientist Journal for their Fitting In: Stories of Paranormal Subcultures stories. It's about a Slovakian immigrant who comes to join his family in America. Who happens to be a werewolf.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

RIP Blake

Everyone knows about Doctor Who. Not so many Americans know about the other classic British TV show.

Blake's 7 ran for four 13 episode seasons between 1978 and 1981, created by Terry Nation (inventor of the Daleks). It was very similar to Firefly - a rag tag group of rebels dealing with a totalitarian government.

They were led by Roj Blake...for the first season and part of the second, then the actor left the show and Blake's 7 carried on...without Blake. The show is good in the cult classic way - the special effects are awful by today's standards, the writing has its ups and downs. And the show has never been released in US format - if you want to watch it, you'll have to import region 2 DVDs and use a region-free DVD player.

Blake was played by Welshman Gareth Thomas who had one of those TV careers where he was in various things, not always for long, and guest starred in a long list of things - including showing up in Torchwood. He also worked for Big Finish, who did a Blake's 7 series in 2012. (He was also in one of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas).

Thomas died this week at the age of 71. (I always thought he was older, somehow. Must have been the hair).

He was one of those actors who showed up everywhere, sometimes doing small roles, sometimes larger ones. He was in everything from Coronation Street to The Avengers (the TV show), Shakespearean plays, cop shows, firefighter shows...the man did everything. As well as his television work, he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Even if you don't know who he was, you probably saw him at some point.

Now if I could just get hold of some Blake's 7...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mars Goes Retrograde

The red planet will go retrograde on Saturday, for the next couple of months.

Of course, planets don't actually change direction. What happens is that the Earth is going past Mars (we move a bit faster, being in a closer orbit), making it appear that Mars switches direction. An astronaut on Mars would see the same illusion with regard to the Earth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

3D Printing On Mars

I'm intrigued by the ideas of a company called RedWorks (Source:

Their idea is to use software to identify existing geo...sorry, areographic features that could be used to create a habitat, then a large, specialist 3D printer would turn Martian rock into concrete to build the rest. Oh, it will also make the first Martian roads.

And, possibly, roads on Earth, especially in remote areas - the idea of turning whatever dirt you have on hand into a paved road surface is also rather attractive. So is the idea of repairing damaged historic artifacts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Good News In Space

Good news #1: Space X finally did it. They successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage on a drone ship. The recovered rocket will now be put in a test bed to see if it really can be reused. If it passes the test, then it might fly again in June - which would mark the first commercial flight of a reused rocket stage.

Good news #2: The Kepler space telescope went spontaneously into "Emergency mode" some time between April 4 and April 7. They've apparently regained control of the craft (which has been in trouble before) and hope to resume operations soon.

Friday, April 8, 2016

RNA in space

Scientists managed to synthesize ribose - a basic chemical used in the creation of RNA - in an environment designed to simulate cometary ice.

This puts us one step closer to definitively saying that comets can indeed move the substances required for life around...and also that ribose may be a very common substance in the universe.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The promise of CMFS

CMFs - Composite Metal Foams - can stop armor piercing bullets. As in, they turn the bullet into dust on impact. Oh, and you only need an inch of it.

Fun for the military? Right. Except that this stuff is twice as resistant to fire and heat as regular metal and shields well from X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation.

So, we have a substance that shields from radiation, resists temperature changes and can take hits.

And is light.

I wonder if it's also airtight...but even if it isn't, we have the outer layer of a long distance spaceship hull right there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Moby Dick - how fictional?

In the famous novel, a sperm whale rams a ship. It's presumably fiction.

Except that studies now show the sperm whale's unusual, large head is actually perfectly designed for, well, ramming things. Things up to twice its size. (So, while a sperm whale couldn't sink a big ship, they could certainly take out a small one.

The fact that male sperm whales have much bigger heads than females gives a hint as to why - sperm whales appear to be distantly related to sheep and goats, who compete for mates by butting heads. While nobody's seen male sperm whales do it, maybe they do it way down in the depths somewhere...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How Many Suns?

Four different exoplanets have been found in systems with three suns. We've learned that a planet in a binary system (e.g. Tatooine) could actually have a stable enough orbit to be habitable. What about three suns?

Just like with binaries, it probably depends on how close the stars are together, how stable their orbits are, etc. Some systems can't form planets because the tidal forces prevent the dust in the system from coalescing into planets or even dwarf planets before it just gets pulled into a sun or two.

So far, likely because of detection bias, we've only found gas giants in trinary systems - not habitable by anything like us. We have found planets in the habitable zone of binary systems.

I think it's theoretically possible to have a stable enough orbit for life in a trinary system, but finding such a planet is going to continue to be hard - our current detection methods work much better for single stars.

One intriguing possibility for multiple star systems is habitable moons of gas giants, which depending on the orbital dynamics, may be more likely in multiples than around single stars. Imagine living on a world where you have one sun for part of the year and a different one for a different part...possibly resulting in some very interesting seasons indeed.


I should do something with that.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Gotta Love That GPS

So, I was out and about earlier today and tried to use my phone to determine my location. I discovered it could not get an accurate fix.


So, I changed it to "Device sensors only" and couldn't get a fix at all.

I couldn't get a GPS signal. We rely on GPS a lot these days.

GPS - Global Positioning - is dependent on a GNSS network - a whole bunch of small satellites in orbit. It broadcasts on two frequencies - L1 and L2. Your phone uses L1. L2 is reserved for the military.

So, why couldn't I get a signal?

One reason is the so-called urban canyon - tall buildings can block the satellite. There weren't any tall buildings around, so, move on. I also wasn't underwater.

Could be another signal? Nope, I moved far enough that anything local wasn't interfering.

Most likely? It was the sun's fault. Space weather. According to, a solar stream hit us on April 2nd and another one is due tomorrow. While the sun is relatively quiet - I suspect there was some upper atmosphere magnetic activity my poor phone didn't like. Ah well. Fortunately, I can navigate perfectly well without it. (Although I couldn't play Ingress, drat it).

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools...

...don't worry, I'm not going to prank you, but I am going to share a couple of pranks even I actually liked.

The Canadian National Library and Archives announced their acquisition of James Howlett's declassified war record - (For the Marvel clueless, that's Wolverine's real name).

George R.R. Martin also told reporters he wasn't going to finish A Song Of Ice and Fire and was considering becoming a wedding planner...