Launch Pad, Day Three: Kevin R. Grazier on Space Environment

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Note: The schedule had Kevin’s lecture today swapped with his lecture yesterday. Today is really space environment. Yesterday was actually gravity, newton, kepler, orbits.

Mass in space:

There is no mas sin space, outside of planets and stars, etcetera. That’s why it’s called space.

Though strictly speaking, that’s not true [Read more…]

Launch Pad, Day Three: Mike Brotherton on Everything You Wanted to Know About Stars…

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Stars are the bread and butter of astronomers. They’re the building blocks of galaxies. They’re well-understood in the basics these days. You can go into the details, starting with the understanding that they’re burning balls of gas, and we move from there to a detailed understanding of their chemical structure, lifespans, how they’re born, how they die. There are some areas that are still active areas of research, but I’m going to go into a lot of stuff about stars today. I can’t cover everything, but I’ll cover probably as much as you can handle. [Read more…]

Get Your Squid on, Weirdies (And Throw Some Shark on There, Too)

Yes, that’s right, you can win Mieville’s Kraken and my The Third Bear, and all you have to do is what every good upstanding weirdie wants to do anyway: write about squid, octopi, or cuttlefish.

Want some shark with that ceph?

Launch Pad Day Two Catchup-Post, Spectroscopy and Goggles on the Roof

Yesterday, we did two activities that were not conducive to laptop-taking and note-producing. One was a lab with Jim Verley on spectroscopy in which he gave us spectroscopes and had us look at argon, helium, hydrogen, and a few other elements, so that we could see how they broke down into color spectrums. Some were easier to see than others–neon, for instance, looked like a rainbow. Argon was very hard to see; the element itself glowed purple, but the vague hint of a purple line it sent out was hard to spot.

Jim Verley said something in the lab that I thought was fairly profound, and which a few people mentioned this morning at breakfast that they thought was profound, too: “Astronomers have learned everything they know with a single medium–light.”

That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. All we have is light–from the ultraviolet to the radio wave–and yet we’ve been able to learn so much from that simple tool. [Read more…]

Launch Pad, Day Two: Kevin R. Grazier on Space Environment

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If there’s one thing you learn in astronomy that’s fundamental, it’s energy. We’re going to learn about energy and about orbits which are dependent on the energy of what they’re orbiting. When we talk about the science in science fiction, we’ll hearken back to this because energy explains a lot.

An example: on BSG we used bullets in our vipers instead of lasers. People thought it was low tech, but it’s harder to get a lot of energy in a laser than a big hunk of lead. With a laser, today, it’s almost impossible to get as much energy in target with a weaponry as we routinely get with our air-to-air guns since Vietnam. When you understand the concept of energy, you realize that wasn’t a bad choice.

[Read more…]

Launch Pad, Day Two: Mike Brotherton on the Electromagnetic Spectrum, Light, Instruments, Telescopes

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Ian Randal Strock was curious about how far away we’d have to be from the sun before it started to appear to be a point rather than a disk. To answer the question, first we have to look at how humans see distant objects: [Read more…]

Third Bear Carnival: Sensio Sees You

Well, that’s awfully nice, and very flattering, even if most of the entries wind up being “WTF? What is *wrong* with him?!” Matt Cheney has organized a Third Bear Carnival around my new short story collection (which appears to be out this week, a little early), and also contributed the first entry, about my story “The Quickening.”

“The Quickening” is a new story, and features a white rabbit named Sensio in 1950s Central Florida. Sensio may be a talking rabbit. It’s never quite clear, is it? Depends on where you are when you’re receiving the information, and who’s telling you.

I’ve decided to interview Sensio to clear up any ambiguities.

[Read more…]

Launch Pad, Day Two: Origins of the Moon

To check out all the Launch Pad posts so far, visit this link.

In response to a question from Ian Randal Strock, Mike Brotherton sent us this youtube video on the Origins of the Moon:

Last night, when Kevin R. Grazier’s lecture on the solar system and the cassini probe lasted three hours, an extra hour more than scheduled, Carrie Vaughn noted, “Back when I was in second grade, in the astronomy text book I loved so much, that whole lecture could only have lasted fifteen minutes. That’s how much more we know now.”

Which is pretty cool.

The Weird: Comparisons

Ann and I are not quite ready to announce the table of contents for The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Fictions, but it is interesting to compare our almost-final list of stories to two anthologies with a similar scope and overlapping focus.

Just to recap, we’re covering 100 years of weird/the weird, starting in 1908 with an excerpt from Alfred Kubin’s The Other Side, Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”, and F. Marion Crawford’s “The Screaming Skull.” In addition to wanting to cover a century, we felt 1908 worked well because Kubin is such an interesting bridge between old and new, with connections to the Decadents and to Kafka, and because the Blackwood and Crawford stories represent interesting and important approaches to weird fiction in the twentieth century. We are including 114 stories. Although our focus means we are including many UK/US authors, 18 nationalities are represented.

That said, here are some points of comparison/contrast with other anthologies…

[Read more…]

Launch Pad, Day One: Kevin R. Grazier on Solar System/Cassini

How many solar systems are there in the galaxy? One. One star is called sol. There is one solar system. It is a proper noun and should be capitalized. Solar System.

It starts with an exploding star. Stars of very large size live by the credo “live fast, die young, live a good-looking black hole.” A supernova can outshine the sum total of all other stars in its galaxy. [Read more…]