"No less a critic than C. S. Lewis has described the ravenous addiction that these magazines inspired; the same phenomenon has led me to call science fiction the only genuine consciousness-expanding drug." Arthur C. Clarke

Ideas

Interplanetary Terror

Bin Laden is dead, we all know.  I’m not going to dwell on the specifics.

But I will say that a science-fiction terrorist is an interesting idea.  How about an interplanetary terrorist as opposed to an international one?  Would it be like the United States going to Afghanistan to find him, just having to go to another planet entirely?

I believe it would actually be much easier to be an interplanetary terrorist than an international one.  The dangers of space, which are well-documented, would make it much less difficult to kill people and wreak havoc on certain space stations and inter-planetary public transportation shuttles.

Lets have a man who is one of the first people to go out and colonize in Space, say on the Moon or Mars, and is one of the foremost astrophysicists in the world. Then an advancement is made (by his own hand, perhaps?) that makes it much easier for regular people to get to space, a sort of space tourism.  He does not like this, and becomes a terrorist to keep this from happening.  This is good motivation, a Heinlein-like villain that has had a dramatic evolution but is very intelligent and cunning.

A terrorist like this is much different than one such as Osama bin Laden.  My terrorist has good motivation, as opposed to simple extreme religious orthodoxy, and can justify anything he does.  It is a person like this which can create debates within a society.  No one disagrees that bin Laden should have been killed or at least captured; my terrorist would have supporters, at least outside the space industry, and would be a boon for space travel. Controversies will be brought up, debates begun, and one more election issue will be created.

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The Pioneer Anomaly

CREDIT: Space.com/NASA

A recent find by researchers at the Higher Technical Institute in Lisbon appears to be changing what we know about gravity and it’s effect on the solar system.  The find is derived from the discovery in the eighties of the Pioneer Anomaly, a force pushing against both of the Pioneer spacecraft as they move away from Earth.

According to what we know about gravity, both should have a normal acceleration as they move farther away from the Sun, but both are about 240,000 miles closer to us than they should have been according to these calculations.  It is really a miniscule distance, but notable merely because it exists.

What causes this deceleration?  Some scientists say it is proof that dark matter exists, which would slow the Pioneer craft as they left the solar system.  Others say that the light pushing against it have a greater effect than previously thought, which would partially validate a short story I wrote recently.  Still others believe that some of the probes’ own nuclear power sources could have caused this anomaly.

There is a wealth of science fiction ideas here: What if dark matter does exist and fills in all the spaces in between the solar systems?  What effect would that have on the light passing through or even the spacecraft?

What if sails could be made that would be pushed by the light as it moves away from the Sun, as I wrote about in my aforementioned short story?  Could interstellar travel be possible if this could push us to near the speed of light?


One More Reason Why The End is Near

A new study came out recently that reveals that the Yellowstone supervolcano may be bigger than we had thought.

The caldera, which was featured in Roland Emmerich’s (fictional) 2012, has been a fear in recent years due to recent discoveries about the nature of the Yellowstone area.  It was revealed to be a supervolcano that had erupted as recently as 70,000 years ago and could erupt again, possibly soon.

The issue with Emmerich’s interpretation is that a Yellowstone eruption wouldn’t be that dramatic: hotspot volcanoes are usually very passive, just spewing out lava from vents, slowly covering the earth around the volcano.  A familiar example of a hotspot volcano is Kilauea in Hawaii.  It has erupted nearly constantly since 1983, slowly expanding the big island of Hawaii as the Pacific plate moves over the hotspot.

Yellowstone, I believe, would erupt much like this, but on a much larger scale.  This, however, is not very good fare for an Emmerich movie (or any action movie for that matter), but may work for an Asimovian short story.  What if the Yellowstone caldera erupted and began to cover the entirety of North America, or for that matter, the whole Earth?  How would humanity cope, or try to cope?