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Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop

Air travel presents us with challenges we seldom anticipate. Flying into Charlotte on Sunday I had developed a ferocious headache. I was headed to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Huntsville and had a long enough layover in Charlotte to seek out a pain reliever with decongestant properties. The ridiculous thing was that I couldn’t get the plastic mini-pack open. The little symbol showed me tearing off the corner of the packet, but it wouldn’t tear for me, and it wouldn’t tear for the guy who happened to be sitting next to me at the USAir gate.

It became clear that I needed something sharp to get into this packet, but it was also clear that I was in an airport, the very definition of which these days is to prevent passengers from having anything sharp. I finally took the packet back to the kiosk I bought it from and demanded redress. The lady looked askance at me, looked at the packet, and opened it effortlessly. Further comment seems superfluous.


By the time I got off the plane in Huntsville the headache was much better, and I was surprised to find my shoulder tapped by Andreas Hein, who heads Icarus Interstellar’s worldship project, called Hyperion. We shared a taxi to the hotel, where the lobby was stuffed with interstellar folk like Rob Swinney, now project head for Project Icarus, Claudio Maccone (who will give a keynote on Tuesday), Kelvin Long (head of the Institute for Interstellar Studies) and my buddy Al Jackson, just in from Houston. Al was kind enough later to drive me over to the venue for the evening reception, pictures of which you see here. Al and I owe much to his Garmin GPS.

Image: Andreas Hein (left) and Rob Swinney, of Icarus Interstellar.


The conference — or in this case ‘workshop’ — dilemma is again facing me. There was a day when I thought ‘live blogging’ would make sense for Centauri Dreams, but the more examples of live blogging I read, the less I like the idea. At both 100 Year Starship conferences I mainly sent out tweets, finding Twitter an interesting platform for conference coverage, but one that nonetheless distracted me from making the kind of detailed notes I needed to be working with, just as live blogging did. So this time around, although I may do the occasional tweet (@centauri_dreams), I’ll mostly be paying attention to the speakers and making notes that will turn into more coverage after the workshop is over.

Image: A cordial host, MSFC’s Les Johnson, co-editor of Going Interstellar (Baen, 2012).

So bear with me if Centauri Dreams is off its regular schedule for a few days, though I’ll slip things in wherever possible, and next week we’ll take a close look at the papers here. Meanwhile, there should be no interruption in comment moderation, which I’ll get to as time allows. I will tell you this for now. Robert Kennedy (The Ultimax Group) makes a drink called the Alpha Centauri Sunrise, and I have not only had one, but have also snapped a surreptitious photo of the recipe. Robert later said it would be OK for me to share it, so at some point during the week, I’ll explain how to make this estimable drink. Hint: Three berries are involved. And moonshine.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike February 4, 2013, 14:16

    Paul, please don’t keep us in suspense too long. I’ve got the moonshine (AKA rocket fuel) ready, I need to know more about those mysterious berries.
    Perhaps the drink should be renamed the Alpha Centauri Double Sunrise or Double Sunset, depending on the fiendishness of the imbiber and when in that 79 year binary orbit the first imbibers…….. errr I mean astronauts arrive.

  • James Jason Wentworth February 5, 2013, 4:30

    In the photo, it looks like Les Johnson is drinking Tranya–doe he have a connection with the Fesarius’ Commander Balok of the First Federation? :-) Also, being unimpressed with (and under-whelmed by) Twitter, which is just a new “play-pretty” (as we Southerners say), I’d rather wait to read some full-length, fact-filled reports from you instead of the electronic equivalent of telegrams!

  • Marc Millis February 5, 2013, 14:03

    I concur with having more thoughtful reports later, than superficial reat-time snippets.
    Take care.

  • GaryChurch February 6, 2013, 16:43

    Anyone talking about my favorite scenario; Lunar Solar Powered beam propulsion to senda starship on its way and H-bombs to slow down upon arrival?

    Anything on Cryopreservation?
    Asparagus is supposed to be good for a hangover.

  • ljk February 7, 2013, 10:58

    Will Dr. Maccone be giving a version of this upcoming lecture at The SETI Institute HQ:


    A new book on Mathematical SETI

    Video for upcoming talks will be available on this page 3-4 weeks after the talk.

    Lecture Date

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013 – 12:00 pm


    Claudio Maccone, IAA and Stephane Dumas, SETI League, Eastern Canada Coordinator


    Claudio Maccone and Stephane Dumas have developed new techniques that could be used in the task of analyzing possible SETI signals in a mathematical fashion. Claudio and Stephane will talk about the new ideas in the book ‘Mathematical SETI’ published in 2012.

    This book is intended for University-level courses on SETI and related fields for graduates, post-graduates and researchers, and so a preliminary background isassumed in college mathematics (like basic calculus, probability and stochastic processes), and also a basic background in astronomy and astronautics.

    Claudio and Stephane will give an introduction to the topics covered in the book, including:

    1) the Statistical Drake Equation and its extension to the Evolution of Life, Human History and “Entropy Progress”,

    2) the FOCAL spacecraft mission to the Sun’s radio gravitational lensing location, and

    3) the use of the Karhunen-Loeve Transform (KLT) which can be used to analyze radio signals and extract potential SETI communications.


  • xcalibur February 10, 2013, 15:55

    Indeed. In the current atmosphere of social networking, it’s tempting to give live updates for everything. But it can also be distracting. Notes and post-game reports are best for something like this. Likewise, I stay focused and take notes in my classes, while keeping digital distractions turned off.