Historic moment in space technology

Haven’t been this excited since I was a little kid in the late Apollo era. SpaceX is recapturing the excitement of space like no one else has managed in decades!

Congratulations SpaceX 🙂

First on Mars: the contenders compared

Insurance companies and betting agents have a lot in common. Their advice is based on maths. As a business they only survive if they get the odds right. They don’t pretty things up just because it’s politically correct, or aligns to someone’s personal view.

So when a betting house lays odds on who will be first on Mars I think it carries some weight.

Popular Mechanics have asked the question to and we have the results.

Space-X: 5:1 (they have the will and the money)
Mars Direct: 9:1 (they may have the best plan, but who’s paying?)
Mars One: 15:1 (on the off-chance it’s not a scam and they deliver what they say)
Inspiration Mars: The Dennis Tito flyby (I don’t think a mere flyby should qualify…)
Russia: 60:1 (Don’t underestimate Putin)
NASA: 80:1 (Docsports cites budget problems; I say the problem is Bolden)
China: 100:1 (late to the party, but catching up fast)
ESA: 300:1 (As usual Europeans are too busy navel-gazing)

What Bolden really said about SpaceX and the mission to Mars

What Bolden really said about SpaceX and the mission to Mars

Charles Bolden has recently had a Mars makeover. He likes to claim that everything that NASA now does is part of the “ultimate mission”, which is to Mars. The problem is that his priorities within NASA don’t support that claim. He’s cut $400 million from the SLS-Orion program and increased funding to earth sciences by almost the same amount. He denies that a year’s delay in the Orion program is even a delay at all. He even denies originally saying that the EM1 flight would be in 2017. He is fighting to keep $2 billion in earth sciences and away from planetary science.

Bolden rarely gives a straight answer, he rejects expert advice, ignores the NASA advisory council, and is utterly dismissive of SpaceX in regards to Mars – even going so far as to ask others in government “not to buy into” commercial efforts and interest in Mars. read more…

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The Gods Themselves: nudists and boring aliens

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0553288105″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”frontimultim-20″ width=”96″]In the “Olden Days” (which is where my youth now seems to reside) there was Clarke and Asimov. The closest modern parallel seems to be Star Wars vs Star Trek: the sweeping space opera versus the (slightly) more realistic space science. I was always more of a Clarke fan. Which is my disclaimer for talking about Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves”.

I was browsing through a Reddit topic on “The best standalone science fiction book of the past 25 years” and this was rated as perhaps Asimov’s best. Well then what better way to give him another run? (“Wait!” you shout this was written in 1972 – more than 40 years ago. Yes, but like most Reddit threads people don’t really stay on topic). read more…

The moons of Jupiter

The moons of Jupiter

The old phrase of “I remember when…” can readily be applied to the solar system. For example, “I remember when Pluto was a planet”. This T-shirt make bring back memories of “I remember when Jupiter had 13 moons” (which was as late as 1979 btw). Now the count is 67 as celebrated in this T-shirt.

The full list of moons as appearing on the shirt is: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Amalthea, Himalia, Elara, Pasiphae, Sinope, Lysithea, Carme, Ananke, Leda, Themisto, Metis, Adrastea, Thebe, Callirrhoe, S/2000 J 11, Iocaste, Praxidike, Harpalyke, Taygete, Chaldene, Erinome, Kalyke, Isonoe, Megaclite, Euporie, Euanthe, Orthosie, Hermippe, Thyone, Aitne, Kale, Eurydome, Pasithee, Arche, Sponde, Autonoe, Carpo, S/2003 J 12, S/2003 J 3, S/2003 J 18, Thelxinoe, Helike, S/2003 J 16, Mneme, Herse, S/2003 J 19, S/2003 J 15, S/2003 J 10, Aoede, Kallichore, Kore, Cyllene, Eukelade, S/2003 J 4, Hegemone, S/2003 J 9, S/2003 J 5, S/2003 J 2, S/2003 J 23, S/2010 J 2, S/2010 J 1, S/2011 J 1, S/2011 J 2

The link to Redbubble: Moons of Jupiter T-shirt

Gattaca review: A classic sci-fi masterpiece

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B000I8G5B2″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″] I believe there are three kinds of movies that pass as sci-fi: 1) Standard stories merely transferred into a futuristic setting; 2) Special effects showcase reels (often teamed with a cartoon-style superhero theme); and 3); Stories which explore the implications of advanced science. It’s a shame so few sci-fi movies fall into the third category. Gattaca is one of the those few. read more…

Permutation City: musings on reality and immortality

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0752816497″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”96″] What thoughts and experiences define you? Are there things you’d like to forget, yet if you did perhaps you’d also be deleting part of the core of your own character. How much could you choose to forget or rewire and still be the same person? This is just one of the issues explored in fascinating detail by master storyteller Greg Egan in his 1994 novel Permutation City. read more…

Pitch Black: Great start, then a lesson in cliche

The obnoxious anti-hero poser in a classic poser pose. Sadly, he lives

The obnoxious anti-hero poser in a classic poser pose. Sadly, he lives

Do you know that point in a movie where your hope that it will prove to be a great movie dissolves and instead you start to wonder just how stupid it will get? That’s often followed by the creation of a mental list of “characters I hate” which can easily morph into “characters I hope will die”. It’s a sad progression and it’s often best to get this sequence over with as fast as possible. If you can go from hope to resignation in the first minute you can easily switch off. It’s worse if the hope phase lasts a good 20 or 30 minutes because you’re liable to keep watching in the expectation that the initial promise of a good movie might reappear after a few flat scenes. So it is with Pitch Black. read more…

Humans on Mars in 1965 and the moons of Saturn by 1970: What might have been

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B000FUTQFU” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]Explode something behind your spaceship and in league with Newton’s laws, your ship moves, it’s fundamental and there are hundreds of variations on the theme. One of the most fascinating was the Project Orion ship which used atomic bombs as fuel. It was a brilliant concept with a couple of crucial weaknesses (as I’ll explain). The magnificent Orion ship of the 1960s would have cruised the solar system with a crew of hundreds of scientists living and working in large and luxurious rooms. On the first tour there would be a two-year stop at Mars before reaching Saturn in 1970. It was all so close. read more…

Coming of Age in the Milky Way

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B003H4VZ0U” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”105″]Did you know that Tycho had a metal nose, Newton died a virgin, Galileo lied to Venetian masters that he had invented the telescope, and Kepler’s mother was notorious for spiking peoples drinks with psychedelic drugs and was in danger of being burned as a witch? These are just a few of the little gems sprinkled throughout this wonderful astronomical science history. It’s not a new book, it was first published in 2005, but I just added a Kindle copy to my hardcopy version and so am reading it again. It certainly bears rereading for it’s packed with anecdotes and insights. I was going to say “If only science history was taught like this at school”, but a quick search of Amazon shows there’s study plans for the book so perhaps science history *is* taught like this now? read more…

Buzz Aldrin and the case for Mars

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1426210175″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]Who remembers who came second? Just about everyone in the case of the second person to walk on the Moon, (Edwin Eugene) “Buzz” Aldrin. He memorably described the Moon as “magnificent desolation” during his first Moonwalk.There’s been many ups and downs since then, battles with alcohol and depression; voiceovers and cameos in various TV shows and movies. And I have to mention his admirable reaction when ambushed by Apollo conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel: the then 72-year-old landed a punch on Sibrel’s jaw. Now 83, Buzz is pushing the case for Mars in a new book.
read more…

The Time Travellers: Thoughtful 60s sci-fi (with cheese)

the time travellers
Wonderful 1964 movie which really gave me the creeps as a child. Sure it has some cheesy moments, the special effects are generally poor and there are some loooong sequences of running, laying about, fighting, more running, and factory tours that could really do with an edit. But to quibble would be churlish. This is far more a sci-fi movie than many modern efforts that claim the genre. And how about the spooky soundtrack at the start – perfect! read more…

Binary, the ultimate answer? True/false

Binary, the ultimate answer? True/false

It’s uncommon good fortune to find yourself alive on a “mostly harmless” world in an enlightened age where so many big questions are answered. The meaning of life, the universe and everything is, of course, said to be 42. Deep Thought took a mere 7.5 million years to come up with the answer, gently forewarning us we wouldn’t like the answer and to truly appreciate it we need to ask the right question. Which is where this T-shirt comes in.
read more…

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