Photo by Roman.
…not really, but it’s fun to pretend.
Photo by Roman.
…not really, but it’s fun to pretend.
I visit Professor David Kipping’s Cool Worlds Lab YouTube channel regularly, despite the clouds of commercials that swarm like mosquitoes or maybe midges. The channel satisfies a slightly geeky fascination with exoplanet research.
This particular video is a retrospective on the data returned by the Kepler space telescope. It’s political in the sense that what Kepler has found, or hasn’t found, has implications for the design of any follow-on missions, one of which is already in the planning stages.
“Twelve years ago, NASA predicted around 50 Earth-like planets would be discovered by the Kepler telescope. And yet, we’re left essentially none. What happened? Why did those predictions not match reality? And what can we learn from these 50 lost dreams…”
Written & presented by Prof David Kipping
The United States Geological Service (USGS) has come out with its latest video of Earth, imaged from space, presented as art. It really is an incredible series of beautiful images. It is, however, just that: a slide show with a music soundtrack. It proceeds too quickly to properly appreciate any of the images or even to finish reading the accompanying text. There are many images, however.
SUGGESTION: watch it the first time straight through, hands off the pause button. Full screen and headphones are highly recommended; altered state is optional. Then watch it the second time with the sound muted and your finger on the pause button.
“The Earth As Art project began in the early 2000s, and its original intent remains the same: to produce images that do not look like satellite images at first glance.
“Earth As Art shows not only what satellites capture in the visible wavelengths of light you and I can see, but also what’s hiding in the invisible wavelengths that Landsat sensors can detect in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Those combinations can bring out much more scientific value, but also can produce imagery of breathtaking beauty.”
Earth as Art 3 can be found HERE.
Earth as Art 2 can be found HERE.
Earth as Art 1 can be found HERE.
Photo / Graphic by Roman.
Note: I haven’t checked to see if there actually is such a thing as the “Hieroglyph Nebula”.
Yip in space!
Photo / Graphic by Roman.
Subtitled “The Astronaut’s Perspective”, this is a lovely half-hour infomercial from NASA about serving aboard the International Space Station and low Earth orbit generally. You like space? This is worth a view:
Graphic by Roman.
How would we know? This from Eoin Duffy:
My position is: What we learn from philosophy is that we learn nothing from philosophy.
a review by Bob Roman
“Trilogy” is not a sales hook for me. My knee-jerk reaction is that I’m likely to be spending a great deal of time with characters who will become tiresome and with stories that grow boring long before closure. It doesn’t matter much that the author of The Wormwood Trilogy also disdains the idea. What counts is that Tade Thompson has produced a work that kept my interest across two sizeable volumes. The third volume is to be published in the Autumn of 2019 and I’m very much looking forward to its release.
First, a thumbnail sketch of the author: Thompson was born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents. The family moved back to Nigeria in 1976. Thompson returned to the United Kingdom in 1998. He studied medicine and social anthropology and finally specialized in psychiatry. He’s also something of a compulsive writer.
While Thompson has written horror and fantasy as well as science fiction, The Wormwood Trilogy belongs firmly in the science fiction corner of the general speculative fiction genre. The main plot device is the old war-of-the-worlds-alien-invasion scenario (hello, H. G. Wells!) but in this instance the invasion is largely non-violent except that the aliens, on occasion, do pretty much whatever they need to do without much effective resistance from humans. But who is fighting? However disruptive it may be, the alien presence has set off a technological revolution and provides almost magical additions to human society around the alien enclaves: healing illness, for example, though the results sometimes resembles comic mistranslations. Rosewater, indeed, is a city that has grown up around an enigmatic alien enclave in rural Nigeria, much like a shanty town around a port. The alien invasion is not by force of arms but by the gradual displacement of Earth’s native biology and ecology, a process at once beneficial and existential, gradually turning Earth into a version of “Home” and ending life, particularly humans, As We Know It. You can indeed take this as a metaphor for colonialism as experienced by the colonized.
There are other familiar plot devices. Thompson borrows heavily from William Gibson’s imagery of the web, though by Thompson’s mid-21st Century the web has been mostly supplanted another info-space (not to mention the info-space brought by the aliens). Thompson also throws in secret societies, secret and somewhat siloed government bureaucracies, zombies, surveillance and hyper-competent individuals. He even comes up with a MacGuffin in the second volume.
One of the hyper-competent is Kaaro. I would describe Kaaro as a Nigerian slacker living in Rosewater. The first volume, Rosewater, is told in first person by Kaaro. First person story telling is always of interest. How will the author handle it? To whom is the narrator speaking? To a chronicler who is or pretends to be the author? To a general audience, breaking the “fourth wall”? To the narrator himself? In this case, it’s probably the last, but I’m not sure. Kaaro may also be a weak spot in the storytelling. If you actively dislike Kaaro then you may have some difficulty finishing the first volume, although it is written with very short chapters around multiple flashback stories, making a long book bite-sized.
Thompson says that he is assiduous plotting the books. Even so, there are plot holes suggesting that his vision of Rosewater and its universe changed in the writing of it.
The second volume, The Rosewater Insurrection, demotes Kaaro to a secondary character. Several secondary characters from the first volume become primary characters, along with a few new characters. It is told almost exclusively in third person, mostly in the present of the year 2066, and it retains the short chapter format, each chapter following a particular character. But if Kaaro was telling the story in the first volume, who is the omniscient narrator in the second?
It was surprise to me that I was okay with the politician, Mayor of Rosewater, Jack Jacques. Politics and politicians are difficult to portray these days because so many readers view politics, if at all, as spectators. Artists can tell their audience anything about politics and the profession of it, the more cynical the more plausible it seems. But in The Rosewater Insurrection, the role of gossip in politics and obsessive grooming and self-presentation were close enough to keep me happy.
In my old age, I complain and complain about genre fiction and how it uses, uses, and reuses so many common plot devices, characters, and clichés. That Thompson does this with some care and thoughtfulness would not exempt him from my whining except that readers here in the States have an additional bonus. The story takes place in Nigeria, a future Nigeria that has to be recognizable even if still foreign to a Nigerian of 2019. To a Nigerian, this might bring into play a whole series of familiar plot elements and characters – not to mention ethnic stereotypes – but to most American readers, this will be fresh air.
I’m reduced to complaining that the final volume won’t be out until October…
More from under the Estes Avenue CTA overpass. Photo by Roman.
Everything about the star Betelgeuse is huge. Big stars have short lives as stars, and Betelgeuse will end (Real Soon Now by cosmic standards) as a Type II supernova, collapsing into a neutron star, possibly a pulsar, or a black hole. The explosion should be brighter than the full moon here on Earth but probably not all that hazardous to life here. The aftermath to the explosion may or may not cause some difficulties. In any case, Betelgeuse is currently fusing helium into carbon and oxygen, a stage that current models indicate lasts for around a million years, so it’s not clear if our species or our descendant species will be around to even be spectators. On the other hand, if you happen to see a news item indicating that it’s fusing carbon, humans might (with some optimism) be around to see it. If the latest news indicates its core is fusing neon then it’s time to start paying attention.
Back in seventh grade, I did a 10 minute science class presentation on supernovas, ripped right out of Fred Hoyle’s Frontiers of Astronomy. It’s an experience that I probably would not remember today but that it really pissed off a few of my classmates.