Those who have toiled in the vineyards of literary studies may recognize the allusion in my title to Notes & Queries, a journal collecting short pieces on a variety of research topics. Back in grad school I was forever looking up odds and ends in its pages related to the Anglo-Saxon alliterative line. A far cry from the Kuiper Belt and extrasolar debris disks!

But I need the occasional short feature here that, like Notes & Queries, collects things I want to highlight, each interesting, I hope, and useful to the interstellar-minded.

  • The indefatigable Brian Wang offers a lengthy piece on External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion and nuclear rockets in general. Have a look to see a NASA study from 2000 and its design principles for EPPP, which uses thrust from plasma waves in ways reminiscent of Project Orion. The post also studies the old NERVA designs and offers numerous links for follow-ups. “We just have to have the courage to become a truly interplanetary civilization,” Brian argues in tones that Centauri Dreams readers will admire. But is nuclear the best way forward? Plenty of food for thought here.
  • John Cramer’s time experiment has occupied us before, and I won’t re-summarize that work other than to say that it focuses on what Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance,’ the strange and seemingly connected behavior of entangled particles that have been separated (for more, see this older Centauri Dreams article). Can Cramer demonstrate an effect that seems to occur before its cause? The latest news, from Alan Boyle’s site, is that Cramer’s research fund has reached $40,000, from foundations and private donors. Just returned from Brookhaven National Laboratory, he aims to conclude the experiment by the end of September. On the other hand, maybe we’ll hear about it earlier if he succeeds?
  • Galaxiki is a virtual galaxy based on the Web 2.0 wiki concept, currently housing over a million stars and solar systems that can be explored. Since each system represents a single page on the wiki, site members can edit the pages to create a fictional galactic history for each. Because beings in different systems meet each other, writers have to work to keep their story-lines consistent (which should become a larger and larger challenge). The free Galaxiki may prove addictive to those who need the occasional break from peer-reviewed papers and have an empire to build.
  • I get less opportunity to read weblogs than I would like, but the various ‘carnivals’ keep me alerted to good postings. The 12th Carnival of Space is now available, this one hosted by Music of the Spheres. Stories range from the remarkable Galaxy Zoo project to a pilgrimage to the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson (this is where Edwin Hubble did so much to explain the nature of galaxies and the expansion of the universe). Similarly, Philosophia Naturalis is now up with its 12th iteration, looking at dark matter candidates, the history of the moon’s orbit and the implications of high-redshift galaxies for the epoch of reionization.

A final weekend thought: You may see some odd changes today and tomorrow as I examine new plugins and consider theme modifications to the site. Consider this a weekend of experimentation at this end, but the tests shouldn’t prove obtrusive and Monday should be business as usual.