Monday, February 29, 2016

Soap Bubble Solar

Scientists at MIT have made solar cells so small and light you can float them on a soap bubble. If they can scale the process up, then it might fuel the next generation of wearables.

The cells actually aren't technically made. They're grown - using an organic technique which might extend to other applications.

I just want a phone I never have to charge ;).

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mars in 30 minutes?

Would be nice, right. A guy named Philip Lubin has been working on directed energy/photonic propulsion - which is a fancy way of saying you put a big sail on your spaceship and fire a laser at it.

The challenge is slowing down the other end. That's the part we don't have worked out yet. Of course, we might be able to send robots to Mars the slow way and have them construct a slow down laser in Martian orbit.

But for further afield, we need to work this one out, especially as lightsail propulsion might be how we get to the stars.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sperm In A Lab

Scientists have grown functional mouse sperm from embryonic stem cells in a lab and used it to make healthy mice. The team in China are now hoping to be able to repeat it with stem cells from an adult donor.

This would allow men who don't produce sperm or who's sperm is extremely low quality to father biological children. Oh, and there's no reason it wouldn't work for trans men - or even women who want to have biological offspring with a same sex partner.

Eggs, of course, are a lot more tricky to cook up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pacific Rim 2?

Looks like it's on again. I've got mixed feelings about a sequel to the movie - I loved it, but I liked the ending enough that I don't know that I want a second film.

It's moved from Universal to Legendary - which is now owned by a Chinese company, and the film was, perhaps not surprisingly, more popular in Asia than the U.S. And it has a director - Steven DeKnight, Daredevil showrunner and an experienced TV guy - but this will be his first movie.

I know +Nobilis Reed will be happy about this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Would you... to meet an armadillo the size of a car? I thought not.

Fortunately, glyptodonts are extinct, but yup, size of a small car and wearing armor. Now I'm envisioning a world where the inhabitants use something like that as a beast of burden...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Art on an asteroid?

If you want your work parked on an asteroid where it might be picked up later by aliens (or not)...NASA is taking submissions for art to be left on Bennu, on a chip. The deadline is March 20.

If you're interested? The submission details are here:

Friday, February 19, 2016

SpaceShip Two Replacement Unveiled

The replacement for the craft, lost in a test flight accident in 2014, will be unveiled today. A number of improvements have been made - including a better interlock to prevent the accidental premature activation of the feathering system.

Virgin has not announced when flight testing will begin - they're still in the ground testing phase - so ticket holders will have to be patient a good while longer.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Want to be a space archaeologist?

A lady named Sarah Parcak won the $1 million TED prize - and plans to use it to set up a site where anyone can comb through satellite imagery to look for signs of man-made structures...and looters at existing sites.

It will be in a game format and with the possibility of winning a prize - a tour of an archaeological dig somewhere cool.

I approve.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Diamond planets and hobbits

Spectral analysis of the so-called diamond planet, 55 Cancri e, backs up the fact that there may be a lot of carbon on the planet. It isn't habitable, though - the atmosphere contains toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Unless, of course, that's a required trace element for whatever lives there...

And continuing analysis of the "hobbit" humans - Homo floresiensis indicates that they are not a diseased or dwarfed race of Homo sapiens, but should be considered either a new species or a dwarf form of H. erectus. We don't know which yet.

(Incidentally, people, please stop. We do not say wolves are not canines - stop saying other species of genus Homo are not humans...)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Farpoint Rocked

Special shoutouts to:

Prometheus Radio Theater - you guys are as awesome as ever.
Don Sakers - for moderating two awesome panels on "The Isms in Science Fiction and Fantasy" and "Writing Inclusively."
The barkeeps - Melanie and...I forget the guy's name - for keeping up with us and giving me a much better drinking experience than last year. Even if we did drink them through their entire supply of Angry Orchard. Again.
And, of course, the committee, for everything they do to put together a great con.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Okay, I'll be leaving tomorrow and may not have time to post, so here's a reminder.

I'll be there for the full length of the con. I will have a limited number of paperback copies of both Transpecial and The Silent Years Compendium for sale if you approach me during a signing or during the Farpoint Book Fair (10pm on Friday night). I may also have some books in the dealer room.

Depending on interest, I may read from the book I'm currently editing, Shadowwalkers (urban fantasy/paranormal romance, guaranteed no sparkly vampires).

If you are an ebook only person and still want a signature, I will be signing cover flats on request. There is no charge for autographs unless you're purchasing a book.

Both books will be at a convention special price of $10 plus tax.

And if you just want to chat with me, I'll be there, although I'd ask that people don't try to corner me after my 6pm signing session on Friday so I can get my stuff back to my room and change quickly for the cocktail party.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Pretty... of Mars.

Looks more Earthlike with the color filter they used, doesn't it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Woof IQ

British scientists have devised an IQ test for dogs. At the serious level they're hoping it might help us better understand intelligence (as dogs don't have as many non-genetic variables affecting their intelligence).

But now everyone's going to want to run their pooch through it. (I had one once that I'm pretty sure would have somehow managed a negative score).

Friday, February 5, 2016

Work Continues on James Webb Space Telescope

A major milestone for the Hubble's successor was completed today - the telescope's mirror array. There's still a good bit of work to be done before the space telescope's scheduled launch in 2018, using the reliable Ariane system. (We don't want this one blowing up at launch...)

The telescope will be considerably more powerful than the aging Hubble and should teach us a lot more about the universe.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

More Fusion Progress...

...maybe. Developing fusion power is tricky. After all, nature needs an entire star to do it.

 The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Griefswald (A mouthful in English, let alone German) managed to successfully operate a stellarator and produce plasma for a fraction of a section. Doesn't sound like much, but it is.

A stellarator is similar to a tokamak, but where a tokamak uses electric current to contain the plasma, a stellarator uses a complex arrangement of magnets. It's argued that while harder to build, a stellarator will be easier to operate once built - important if you want to think long term.

Baby steps.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Conspiracy of Ravens

Ravens and crows are probably the most intelligent birds. A new study shows that ravens are, indeed, capable of abstract thought.

Apparently, if you train a raven to watch you bury food through a peephole, then give them excess food on the other side of the peephole...they'll assume somebody's watching through the peephole and hide the excess food particularly carefully. Even though they can't see if anyone's on the other side.

Always knew they were rascals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Get Up Early...

...and see all five of the "naked eye" planets at once. The best viewing time will be 60 to 30 minutes before sunrise for the next five days or so. (The conjunction lasts until February 20, but it's at its peak now).

Monday, February 1, 2016


As you can see, I now have a newsletter signup. If you want to hear about new releases, what I'm up to, appearances, etc, in a more convenient form - please go ahead and sign up.

I'll be sending out a monthly newsletter with everything I have planned for the next month (and last month's releases) and occasionally release notifications (because publishers don't always tell me when something's coming out).

No spam, and I promise not to give your email address to the NRA or anyone else. (Long cosplay-related story there...)