July 2013

Brown Dwarf Planets: Catching Up with Recent Work

July 31, 2013

Red dwarf stars of the sort we discussed yesterday are all over the galaxy, comprising perhaps as much as 80 percent of the stellar population. Brown dwarfs are different. Data from the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer mission (WISE) indicate that these ‘failed’ stars — brown dwarfs are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion — exist […]

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Climate Models for Red Dwarf Planets

July 30, 2013

Although it’s hard for me to believe it, there was a time nine years ago, not long after I began writing these posts, when a daily scramble for topics was fairly common. How the world has changed. These days, between the huge increase in online discussion of interstellar flight and the burgeoning exoplanet scene, the […]

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Remembering The Listeners

July 29, 2013

Back in the 1970s I ran across an essay by James Gunn called “Where Do They Get Those Crazy Ideas,” which was all about how science fiction worked and where its writers sought inspiration. I had long admired Gunn, a college professor who was developing a body of critical work on science fiction even as […]

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The Milky Way’s Library

July 26, 2013

This is as strange a maze as e’er men trod, And there is in this business more than nature Was ever conduct of. That’s Alonso in Shakespeare’s late masterpiece The Tempest, a king of Naples who finds himself on a remote island where Prospero weaves his magical powers. It’s an apt passage for Timothy Ferris […]

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Finding the Galactic Internet

July 25, 2013

Greg Egan, a jewel in Australia’s science fiction crown, writes in his 1997 novel Diaspora about a mind-bending far future scenario for interstellar travel. The human race has split into those still in biological bodies, those embedded in humanoid robots, and those who choose to live as software running on central computers. I won’t get […]

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While He’s Away…

July 17, 2013

Although I’m taking a break from posting, a recent note from Marc Millis suggests something productive that can happen while I’m gone. The founding architect of the Tau Zero Foundation and former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project, Marc deals with the issues he asks about below on a daily basis, and so do […]

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Summer Break for Centauri Dreams

July 15, 2013

The charged air of mid-July in the northern hemisphere creates states of mind that can be both nostalgic and surreal. Ray Bradbury always knew how to catch these. Listen: Somewhere, a book said once, all the talk ever talked, all the songs ever sung, still lived, had vibrated way out in space and if you […]

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A Blue Planet Nothing Like Our Own

July 12, 2013

Rayleigh scattering is what happens when light is scattered by particles considerably smaller than the light’s wavelength. Although it can happen in solids and liquids, it’s most obvious when it occurs in our sky, causing its blue color. We’re seeing the short blue wavelengths of sunlight scattered by oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, […]

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Perspectives on Pluto and Charon

July 11, 2013

We’re just past the 35th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto’s moon Charon. Or more precisely, we just passed the July 7 date when the announcement of that discovery, which had actually happened in June of 1978, was made. That turned my thoughts back to Larry Niven’s story “Wait It Out,” which tells the tale […]

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Prophecy, Prediction and Starflight

July 10, 2013

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Starship Congress hosted by Icarus Interstellar, which will take place in Dallas from August 15th to the 18th at the Hilton Anatole. With an audience of physicists, engineers and researchers of all kinds, this is a chance to catch up with old friends and firm up relationships that have […]

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