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Looking Back, and Ahead

Centauri Dreams was launched as a website in 2004 for a specific reason. I was wrapping up my book of the same name and wanted to build a simple database of news stories related to the angles on interstellar flight I had covered in the book. I intended the site to be used for no other purpose, and didn’t turn on the comments function until a year after the site went live. My plans were for a second edition of the book, but I began to realize as the website grew that to avoid instant obsolescence, the Web was my best friend. This site, then, began serving as a de facto second edition and I’ve kept it running now for 15 years.

Sometimes I’m asked how long I plan to keep the site going, and the answer is simply that I plan to be here for years to come. I have no thoughts about closing down Centauri Dreams. But as my work in the space community has grown, I’ve also become involved in various other aerospace efforts to which I’ve contributed, and right now I’m in the midst of a report on a particular kind of interstellar mission that demands a lot of transcription of talks, extensive note-taking along the way, and drawing together a lot of different viewpoints and research.

In practical terms, while Centauri Dreams isn’t going away, this also means that my posts are occasionally going to become sporadic, as they will be in the next few weeks. I’ll post when I can, but I have to devote the bulk of my attention to this particular project, which leaves little time for anything else in my workday. So bear with me, please. The comments are still live and I’ll do moderation on them at least twice a day. Feel free to comment when you have the urge. Once I get the current effort wrapped up, things should return to something like normalcy.

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{ 59 comments… add one }
  • Etienne M September 26, 2019, 14:21

    Thank you for this information. No matter how sporadic the posts, I shall definitely bear with you. Bon courage et bonne continuation !

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 14:58

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, Etienne! Thank you for the kind words.

  • Coacervate September 26, 2019, 14:55

    You’ve set a high standard for this sort of blog. I would be honored to help. I can (I think) transcribe audio into text. I’d be happy to give you my best effort for evaluation.

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 14:58

      I certainly appreciate the offer, but the way I work, I need to do the transcriptions myself, as this is part of how I absorb the material. But thank you for the offer!

  • Sanford Z Meschkow September 26, 2019, 15:13

    Do whatever you need to do to make all these dreams reality! Take care

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 15:28

      Thanks! These are long-haul goals and they’re worth working for, so I’m glad to be in the midst of all this.

  • Adam Byrne September 26, 2019, 15:41

    Brilliant work Paul and I, for one, can’t wait to see the results of the project you mentioned, as well as you continuing with your other excellent posts.

    I always get a tingle of excitement when I see an email notification to say that you have put up a new article!

    Best Regards,

    Adam.

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 16:47

      Why thank you, Adam. I hope to be back to a normal pace in articles here before too long.

  • Charley September 26, 2019, 16:00

    “But as my work in the space community has grown, I’ve also become involved in various other aerospace efforts to which I’ve contributed, and right now I’m in the midst of a report on a particular kind of interstellar mission that demands a lot of transcription of talks, extensive note-taking along the way, and drawing together a lot of different viewpoints and research.”

    Out of interest, would you be able to say what this ” report on a particular kind of interstellar mission…” is about ?
    Just call me intensely curious, as a sideline. Is there something afoot that suggests that the government/industry is now ready to begin considering/planning and is starting to gel for some particular interstellar endeavor ?

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 17:30

      More on all this at a later date, I promise.

    • ljk September 27, 2019, 11:17

      *cough* Warp Drive *cough*

      • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 11:26

        If Larry is right, wait until you see where you hear from me next!

  • Charley September 26, 2019, 16:06

    As a slight aside-do you anticipate that you will branch out into shall we say, the more practical problems associated with interstellar flight? Ecology, psychological problems associated with crews, cryogenic suspended animation, particles specifically devoted to artificial intelligence ? And I’m sure many others that don’t have to do with identifying which stellar systems are necessarily conducive for continued evaluation as possible targets (something which is not of a particular interest to me, but seems to be covered here a lot) ?
    I’m more of a person who is interested in the technological aspects behind star flight.

    • Paul Gilster September 26, 2019, 16:45

      I don’t plan major changes in the coverage I do here, but the report I’m doing for an external organization is very much oriented around hardware, science instruments, communications, etc. I should be able to talk about many of these issues in a different form here on the site once I get that work wrapped up.

  • Gary Wilson September 26, 2019, 20:53

    Hi Paul. Good luck with the effort, whatever it is. I’m very relieved to hear the website will remain active for years to come. Can you give us any idea of how long you think you will be busy on the report?

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 6:10

      Gary, it’s hard to say, but things should start getting back to normal here in a couple of weeks, with another slowdown in November possible. I have to play it by ear, so can’t be more definite at the moment.

  • Robin Datta September 27, 2019, 1:38

    Thanks for keeping this fine site going! If you are drafted to contribute from the skill sets acquired and refined here, to an undertaking that seeks to bring to realization some concepts described here, you have the support of all those who find inspiration here.

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 6:08

      Thanks, Robin. I get inspired working with the scientists I talk to and the many readers who weigh in with ideas and suggestions. Many more years of writing ahead.

  • Antonio September 27, 2019, 3:02

    Thanks for all the hard work and good luck with the project! This is one of the blogs I consult daily for years now.

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 6:07

      Glad to have you here, Antonio, and thank you for all the comments over the years.

  • rik September 27, 2019, 5:30

    Glad to hear you’re not going anywhere with Centauri Dreams!
    Always a pleasure reading the articles (most often via newsletter, though…)

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 6:06

      Whatever way you read it, thanks for being here!

  • Ronald September 27, 2019, 8:52

    From my vacation address in southern Spain: as I mentioned before, your website has been an astronomical pied-à-terre for me for many years, and I will definitely bear with you, through hectic and quieter times (on both sides).
    Lots of succes to you, Paul.

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 10:43

      Thank you, my friend. You’ve been there since the beginning!

  • Michael T September 27, 2019, 10:48

    Hi Paul,

    Centauri-dreams is one of my favourite sites, and I’m pleased this excellent site will continue. But it’s great to hear you’re apparently working on some practical project, so it’s worth being patient!

    Michael

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 11:08

      Yes, patience is a virtue, and the site will be sticking around. Thanks for your understanding.

  • Infinite123Lifer September 27, 2019, 10:50

    Like the comments already here I too am happy the site is continuing … had a little scare there for a moment ;)

    I find myself over the years reading Centauri Dreams in one of three ways as it became an enjoyable feature on my daily to-do list. The first way is in the morning, usually weekends but sometimes weekdays, the second is waiting at the Drs office or some other sort of public wait, you will most likely see Centauri Dreams if you peek over my shoulder at my phone and the third is when I feel sad or depressed. I really cannot tell you how many times I have struggled to get through a day be it body, mind or spirit and I feel a yearning to center myself back to a way of living and what makes sense to me and I will make time to find somewhere quiet and just read an entry and so I have found some healthy therapy in your writing. You have helped me tremendously in this regard and I very much appreciate you.

    Also want you to know that I am okay with whatever the future holds, with 15 years of posts and comments I don’t think I have read them all and I have read many more than once. If and when the day comes that you must relinquish the mantle, I support you fully and I will retire your jersey in my home. If there were a Hall of Fame for humanity, you would certainly have my vote.

    In a universe where nothing seems to last forever, its a very simple and natural step to being grateful for all that you have given me.

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 11:08

      What generous thoughts! I can only say thanks, and I’m delighted to know the site has had such an effect on you. A number of people have inspired me to work on this material, and it’s a humbling thought that Centauri Dreams may be inspiring others in turn. A good feeling indeed.

  • Wojciech J September 27, 2019, 11:34

    Dear Paul,
    I have been wondering from quite some time: would it be possible to have some backup site for Centauri Dreams(both for emergency and for future generations) which could store the site in downloadable form along with comments? The wealth of the knowledge in your posts and in comments should be preserved in some form, just in case. Perhaps more IT capable users could recommend some solutions?

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 21:33

      I do keep regular backups of everything, so there should be a way to recover from any emergency. But access to the backups in the form of readily downloadable files might be tricky. I’ll keep my eyes open for possibilities.

  • ljk September 27, 2019, 13:08
  • Neil Stahl September 27, 2019, 14:25

    I echo most of the previous comments. I look forward to hearing about what you are involved in. And I hope you report to us from at least a light year away. But not by radio waves.

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 21:32

      Gravitational waves would be a more exciting way to report, though challenging…

      • Ron S. September 28, 2019, 8:32

        No, it’s very easy. All you need is moving mass. Wave your arms or use sign language and that’ll generate gravitational waves. That the rest of us will need better gravitational wave detectors to receive your messages is our problem.

        • Paul Gilster September 28, 2019, 9:40

          Yes, the detector for gravitational waves at that level would be a bit beyond current engineering!

        • Michael October 2, 2019, 10:47

          Only accelerating masses create gravity waves, simply moving can’t do it.

          • Ron S. October 2, 2019, 19:53

            That’s right. I realized the error a few seconds after pressing submit. Since it was no more than a bit of humor I didn’t bother with a correction. Since his hands and arms would indeed be accelerating the receiver would have to integrate to determine (with ambiguity) the velocity and position information. But that’s the least of the challenges.

  • Brad in Dalllas September 27, 2019, 15:28

    It’s a great time to dive back into the extensive archives of technical reports in Centauri Dreams!

    • Paul Gilster September 27, 2019, 21:31

      Yes, the archives are packed. Good idea!

  • Randy F McDonald September 28, 2019, 7:01

    Thank you for all that you have done, and will do.

    • Paul Gilster September 28, 2019, 9:40

      Thank you, sir! And a very pleasant weekend to you.

  • Laintal September 29, 2019, 16:17

    Hi Paul

    Enjoy your break and good luck with the new project your working on.

    I will miss your posts on topics, must recently the Giant planet around Red Dwarf star GJ3512

    Cheers

    • Paul Gilster September 29, 2019, 20:21

      You won’t have long to wait on that one. I did manage an article over the weekend on this very topic that will be posted tomorrow.

  • ljk September 30, 2019, 10:00

    I find these “taking a break” posts by Paul to be good places to incorporate some relevant news updates for readers, so here goes:

    NASA’s InSight Lander on Mars Discovers Odd Magnetic Pulses and… Water?

    By Paul Scott Anderson, on September 27, 2019

    https://www.americaspace.com/2019/09/27/nasas-insight-lander-on-mars-discovers-odd-magnetic-pulses-and-water/

    Earliest life found in ancient Aussie rocks:

    https://cosmosmagazine.com/geoscience/earliest-life-found-in-ancient-aussie-rocks

    Search For E.T. Snags ‘Extraordinarily Exciting’ Bounty From Qualcomm Cofounder, by Bill Retherford:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/billretherford/2019/09/28/search-for-et-snags-extraordinarily-exciting-bounty-from-qualcomm-co-founder/#71f61d127dab

  • ljk September 30, 2019, 10:06

    The Copernican Revolution – Differently

    September 28, 2019

    by Christopher M. Graney

    https://www.vofoundation.org/blog/the-copernican-revolution-differently/

  • ljk September 30, 2019, 10:57

    Elon Musk calls on the public to “preserve human consciousness” with Starship

    “I think we should become a multi-planet civilization while that window is open.”

    https://www.inverse.com/article/59676-spacex-starship-presentation

    To quote:

    “It appears that consciousness is a very rare and precious thing and we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness. Only now, after 4.5 billion years has that window been open. That’s a long time to wait and it might not stay open for long. I’m pretty optimistic by nature, but there’s some chance that window will not be open for long, and I think we should become a multi-planet civilization while that window is open.”

    The way to make that humanity a multi-planet species, and “extend consciousness beyond Earth,” in the eyes of Musk, was towering behind him.

    Whatever you may think of Musk, at least the man is doing and not just talking or showing yet another collection of pretty PowerPoint slides.

  • ljk September 30, 2019, 12:02

    Faster than the Speed of Light: New Research Looks at Gamma-Ray Bursts

    September 27, 2019

    https://scienceblog.com/510874/faster-than-the-speed-of-light-new-research-looks-at-gamma-ray-bursts/

  • Steven R. Martin September 30, 2019, 18:25

    Paul – thank you so much for this website and the work you do with the interstellar community. I may not be a frequent commenter, but I certainly am a big fan of Centauri Dreams.

    • Paul Gilster September 30, 2019, 20:24

      A pleasure to have you with us, Steven! Thanks for checking in and I hope you’ll continue to find the site rewarding.

  • ljk October 1, 2019, 12:54

    Review: Zwicky: The Outcast Genius Who Unmasked the Universe

    Those who remember the late astronomer Fritz Zwicky today may only know him for his abrasive reputation and, perhaps, early studies of dark matter. Jeff Foust reviews a biography of him that reveals that, while he was difficult to work with, he was also a brilliant man with contributions in astronomy, aerospace, and beyond.

    Monday, September 30, 2019

    http://thespacereview.com/article/3801/1

  • ljk October 1, 2019, 12:54

    Starships are meant to fly

    On Saturday night, Elon Musk gave what has now become his annual update on development of the company’s giant next-generation launch vehicle, now called Starship and Super Heavy. Jeff Foust reports on the event in South Texas, including both SpaceX’s technical achievements and potential looming obstacles.

    Monday, September 30, 2019

    http://thespacereview.com/article/3804/1

  • ljk October 1, 2019, 14:45
  • ljk October 1, 2019, 17:24

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.11268

    The Random Transiter — EPIC 249706694/HD 139139

    S. Rappaport, A. Vanderburg, M.H. Kristiansen, M.R. Omohundro, H.M. Schwengeler, I.A. Terentev, F. Dai, K. Masuda, T.L. Jacobs, D. LaCourse, D.W. Latham, A. Bieryla, C.L. Hedges, J. Dittmann, G. Barentsen, W. Cochran, M. Endl, J.M. Jenkins, A. Mann

    (Submitted on 26 Jun 2019)

    We have identified a star, EPIC 249706694 (HD 139139), that was observed during K2 Campaign 15 with the Kepler extended mission that appears to exhibit 28 transit-like events over the course of the 87-day observation.

    The unusual aspect of these dips, all but two of which have depths of 200±80 ppm, is that they exhibit no periodicity, and their arrival times could just as well have been produced by a random number generator.

    We show that no more than four of the events can be part of a periodic sequence. We have done a number of data quality tests to ascertain that these dips are of astrophysical origin, and while we cannot be absolutely certain that this is so, they have all the hallmarks of astrophysical variability on one of two possible host stars (a likely bound pair) in the photometric aperture.

    We explore a number of ideas for the origin of these dips, including actual planet transits due to multiple or dust emitting planets, anomalously large TTVs, S- and P-type transits in binary systems, a collection of dust-emitting asteroids, `dipper-star’ activity, and short-lived starspots.

    All transit scenarios that we have been able to conjure up appear to fail, while the intrinsic stellar variability hypothesis would be novel and untested.

    Comments: 12 pages, 6 figures, and 7 tables; Accepted for publication in MNRAS

    Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)

    DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz1772

    Cite as: arXiv:1906.11268 [astro-ph.EP]
    (or arXiv:1906.11268v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Saul Rappaport [view email]

    [v1] Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:00:08 UTC (1,266 KB)

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1906.11268.pdf

  • wdk October 1, 2019, 20:37

    Paul,
    Good luck with your trip. Sounds like it is going well.
    Reading your posts and getting word of developments has just been
    wonderful. An early 21st century bennie. Discussing the impact
    compounds it.

    Out on a run, it occurred to me that an easy new entry would be
    comments on the film Ad Astra. There are a number of ways to
    get that ball rolling, Probably no shortage of remarks pro and con.

    Best regards,

    • Paul Gilster October 2, 2019, 7:20

      Haven’t seen the film yet, but I may have some things to say about it when I do. Thanks for the idea.

  • ljk October 2, 2019, 9:58

    Someone at NASA involved with the Mars 2020 rover doesn’t think humanity is ready for the discovery of alien life:

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2019/10/mars-2020-rover-2.html

    Humanity has never been really ready for much, but that does not stop the Universe from throwing things our way just the same. We should be at least collectively smart enough to comprehend such things as alien life, intelligent or otherwise, and prepare ourselves as best we can for its discovery or arrival. Because I have some doubts that any ETI, and certainly any microbial equivalents, have some form of Prime Directive of Non-Interference with lower life forms, ala Star Trek.

  • ljk October 3, 2019, 15:05

    Neutrino produced in a cosmic collider far away

    Link between IceCube neutrino event and distant radio galaxy resolved

    October 02, 2019

    The neutrino event IceCube 170922A, detected at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole, appears to originate from the distant active galaxy TXS 0506+056, at a light travel distance of 3.8 billion light years. TXS 0506+056 is one of many active galaxies and it remained a mystery, why and how only this particular galaxy generated neutrinos so far.

    An international team of researchers led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, studied high-resolution radio observations of the source between 2009 and 2018, before and after the neutrino event. The team proposes that the enhanced neutrino activity during an earlier neutrino flare and the single neutrino could have been generated by a cosmic collision within TXS 0506+056. The clash of jet material close to a supermassive black hole seems to have produced the neutrinos.

    The results are published in „Astronomy & Astrophysics“, October 02, 2019.

    https://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/pressreleases/2019/9

  • ljk October 3, 2019, 15:07

    Evidence that the Andromeda galaxy (Messier 31) has “consumed” several smaller galaxies over the last ten billion years:

    http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/Galaxy_Pandas/

    And we are next! Cue dramatic music.

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