Saturday, October 17, 2009

Random Linkage 17/10/09

New view reveals how DNA fits into cell
'Cells are tidy packers, cramming DNA into nuclei to create a tangle-free, dense ball with pieces that are still accessible, researchers report October 9 in Science. The findings, based on a new three-dimensional view of the whole human genome, solve a long-standing biological mystery and may lead to a deeper understanding of how genes operate.'
(A beautiful and painstaking piece of research - my favourite biology story of the year, so far).

New Type Of Flying Reptile: Darwin's Pterodactyl Preyed On Flying Dinosaurs
'An international group of researchers from the University of Leicester (UK), and the Geological Institute, Beijing (China) has identified a new type of flying reptile, providing the first clear evidence of an unusual and controversial type of evolution.'

Sniffer bees

Asteroid Is Actually A Protoplanet, Study Of First High-resolution Images Of Pallas Confirms

'Britney E. Schmidt, a UCLA doctoral student in the department of Earth and space sciences, wasn't sure what she'd glean from images of the asteroid Pallas taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. But she hoped to settle at least one burning question: Was Pallas, the second-largest asteroid, actually in that gray area between an asteroid and a small planet?'

First black hole for light created on Earth
'An electromagnetic "black hole Movie Camera" that sucks in surrounding light has been built for the first time.
'The device, which works at microwave frequencies, may soon be extended to trap visible light, leading to an entirely new way of harvesting solar energy to generate electricity.'

Physicists Calculate Number of Universes in the Multiverse
'If we live in a multiverse, it's reasonable to ask how many other distinguishable universes we may share it with. Now physicists have an answer.'
(And it isn't 42.)

The Chemistry of Information Addictions
(Go on. Click. You know you want to.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Earth And Moon As Seen From Mars

Snapped by HiRise. Howdy, neighbour!

Xposted to Pyr-o-mania

The Prehistory Of The Quiet War

The Quiet War has just been the subject of io9's first book club feature. Someone asked me to provide a list of the short stories that preceded the novels, and I thought it might be useful to post it here, too. Originally, I just wanted to make use of various exotic settings in the outer reaches of the Solar System; later the stories became a trial run for the novels, which modify a background history that was rather unevenly developed in the stories (moral: always have a plan, rather than making it up as you go along). Also, gosh, I've been thinking about this stuff, on and off, for more than a dozen years.

'Second Skin' first appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 1997
'Sea Change, With Monsters' first appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines,1998
'The Gardens of Saturn' first appeared in Interzone, 1998
'Reef' first appeared in Sky Life, edited by Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski, Harcourt Brace, 2000
'Making History', PS Publishing, 2000
'The Passenger' first appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2002
'The Assassination of Faustino Malarte' first appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2002
‘Dead Men Walking’first appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2006
‘Incomers’ first appeared in The Starry Rift, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Viking, 2008

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nostalgia For The First Space Age

Life has a very cool gallery of photographs of the packaging of space-age toys from the 1960s, from a flying saucer with 'real space noise' to a 'smoking space man' (how times have changed). There's also a friction-powered atomic rocket, possibly a solution to the problem of how to get to other planets quickly. You'd need a really big strip of carpet to charge it up, though.

Picture above is a scan of the box of one of my collection of reproduction toys - can't afford the real thing, alas...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interplanetary Travel

National Geographic has posted a great zoomable map detailing the first fifty years of the conquest, sorry, exploration, of the Solar System by robots. If you want to expand your mind, check out the graphic at the bottom, which shows where long-range probes are right now. New Horizons, on its way to Pluto, has recently crossed the orbit of Saturn. Much further out, past the orbit of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, are Pioneers 10 and 11 and the two Voyagers. Voyager 1 is 10 billion miles from the Sun, 10 times more distant than New Horizons's present position: it's the most distant man-made object, and it's still, just, inside the Solar System. Space is big.

(Link via Universe Today.)

Commercial Break

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich and Sci-Fi London are presenting the premiere of a new SF-based planetarium show on October 23rd. Buying a ticket gets you into the observatories galleries, too, and access to all kinds of supporting events, including a panel featuring Jaine Fenn, Tom Hunter, Paul Graham Raven, Alastair Reynolds, and me. We'll be discussing 'whether science fiction authors are wasting their time writing about interplanetary travel, space colonisation and the spread of mankind across the universe given everything science has taught us about the realities, possibilities and costs of doing so.' Gosh, are we?

And next year, in May, I'll be teaching a course on writing SF and Fantasy (you at the back, boy, stop sniggering) at Kingston University. Short, intensive, and hopefully as much fun as this year.
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