Stone of Remembrance

October 31, 2006

Saving the Hubble

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 08:40

The Hubble Telescope, which has captured views of some of the most amazing deep-space objects, is likely getting a new lease on life.

Former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe canceled a Hubble mission in the wake of the Columbia shuttle disaster that killed seven astronauts in 2003. Griffin, who succeeded him, said he would reconsider the decision if the space shuttles could return to flying on a regular schedule without serious problems.

A rehab mission would keep Hubble working until about 2013. It would add two new camera instruments, upgrade aging batteries and stabilizing equipment, add new guidance sensors and repair a light-separating spectrograph. Without a servicing mission, Hubble likely would deteriorate in 2009 or 2010.

The final report, Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope, said in part: “a shuttle astronaut servicing mission is the best option for extending the life of Hubble and preparing the observatory for eventual robotic de-orbit.” Costs and attendant dangers had made the loss of Hubble a real possibility – a terrible waste after all it’s shown us.

According to the main Hubble site, this mission has been a possibility for some time, based on the success of previous missions (including the just-completed one in July).

The JWST is NASA’s project of the future, but given the mercurial nature of public and legislative support, it’s encouraging that there’s a good chance we can keep Hubble aloft until its replacement is launched sometime next decade. Score one for science.

October 12, 2006

Fun and Boardgames

Filed under: Games — admin @ 11:32

Eric Martin, a fellow Unity Gamer, has gone online with his game review site.

Quoth Mr. Martin:

Fun and Boardgames is aimed at a mainstream audience . . . the games reviewed will lean more
towards Ticket to Ride than Age of Steam – although I do plan to add
heavier games every so often to slowly raise the complexity level of the
games that readers might consider playing.

Today’s posting is an in-depth review of Funny Friends, the English-language version of Fiese Freunde Fette Feten, by Friedemann Friese (Power Grid) and Marcel-André Casasola Merkle (Attika). It’s very informative and thorough.

I’ve added the site to my blogroll and look forward to reading about upcoming games. Good luck, Eric!

Cory Lidle Killed

Filed under: Baseball — admin @ 09:35

Cory Lidle, acquired with Bobby Abreu from the Phillies for the Yankee stretch drive, was killed yesterday when his small plane struck a hotel condo on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

More info from ESPN here. Whatever my feeling about the Yankees as a team or an institution, this is beyond a sports story, and his death – like that of anyone perishing in such an accident – is a tragedy.

October 8, 2006

I can watch the ALCS in peace.

Filed under: Baseball — admin @ 19:07

The ignominious defeat of the hated Yankees – and it was, considering all of the expert picks that had them taking out the Tigers in 3 and the A’s in as few as 5 – means that I can watch the Tigers-Athletics AL Championship Series in peace. As in, where the 2006 Yankees are currently resting.

My rooting interest is with the Red Sox, whose year was difficult, to put it mildly. Yeah, the team from New York had its injuries, but we lost, at various points in the season, every regular player, every starting pitcher, and almost every member of the bullpen to injury. Our star pitching prospect has lymphatic cancer. The heart and soul of the team was hospitalized for a heart murmur. And so on. We might have stayed in the race if a deal had been struck on July 31, but I don’t think it would’ve changed the outcome. Too many things went wrong.

But the Yankees. Man. 930 runs, which is 6 runs a game, and they get beat 4-3, shut out, and beat 8-3 (and that only because Bonderman tired a bit – he was perfect against them for five innings, by which time the game was out of sight.)

This might be a time to gloat, but that would be unbecoming. True Yankee fans get to shut up for another winter, knowing that all of the “26 World Championships” chanting won’t make 2006 go away. It didn’t make 2004 go away either, of course. I just hope that Sox management doesn’t still try to run the car on the fumes of the 2004 championship, because its fans expect a lot now.

Good luck, Tigers. Good luck, A’s. May the best team win.


Hey, it’s Mr. Sad Face A-Rod. Again.

October 7, 2006

Buck

Filed under: Baseball — admin @ 00:28

Negro League player, manager and goodwill ambassador Buck O’Neil died today at age 94. Best known for his commentary and contributions to Ken Burns’ baseball documentary, O’Neil was a legendary Negro Leaguer, having his greatest success with the Kansas City Monarchs.

Read this tribute article about him, or check out this bio on NLBPA.com, the official site of the Negro League Baseball Players’ Association. I expect it will be updated to reflect his departure.

Inexplicably, Buck O’Neil has not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Perhaps he will be honored posthumously, rewarding his many contributions over many, many years.

“Just keep loving old Buck,” as the man would say. All your swings will make contact now, Buck. Rest in peace.

Trek Commercial Self-Parody

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 00:15

Check this out: a commercial for DirecTV that mixes in footage from the second Star Trek movie. It’s hilarious.

“With what Starfleet just ponied up for this big screen TV, settling for cable would be . . . illogical.”

Great.

Tip o’ the hat to TrekMovie.com.

October 6, 2006

Metallic Water – Science, not SF

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 13:21


DISORDER, ANYONE? The electrically conducting structure of metallic water occurs at a more accessible part of the water phase diagram than formerly thought. Here, a snapshot from a first-principles computer simulation demonstrates the atomic disorder. Red spheres are hydrogen atoms, white spheres are oxygen atoms, and the electron density from a partially occupied electron state responsible for the conductivity is shown as gold. (Image courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)

I was pointed to this article from a post to a mailing list I regularly read. It was mentioned by the poster that James Blish talked about “metallic water” many years ago in They Shall Have Stars, the first book in Cities In Flight.

Supercomputer simulations by two Sandia researchers have significantly altered the theoretical diagram universally used by scientists to understand the characteristics of water at extreme temperatures and pressures.

The new computational model also expands the known range of water’s electrical conductivity. The Sandia theoretical work showed that phase boundaries for “metallic water” — water with its electrons able to migrate like a metal’s — should be lowered from 7,000 to 4,000 kelvin and from 250 to 100 gigapascals.

(A phase boundary describes conditions at which materials change state — think water changing to steam or ice, or in the present instance, water — in its pure state an electrical insulator — becoming a conductor.)

The lowered boundary is sure to revise astronomers’ calculations of the strength of the magnetic cores of gas-giant planets like Neptune. Because the planet’s temperatures and pressures lie partly in the revised sector, its electrically conducting water probably contributes to its magnetic field, formerly thought to be generated only by the planet’s core.

We science fiction writers face the inevitable drift of the future into the present. It’s pretty cool when one’s forebears come up with ideas that turn out to have some validity. Now, all I have to do is to find some way to use this in a story . . .

October 5, 2006

Sword & Sun: Excerpt 8

Filed under: Sword & Sun, Writing — admin @ 15:42

This is the eighth chapter of the prequel, Sword & Sun, which is the story of how the Solar Empire came into existence. It’s not presently on submission for publication.

This material is Copyright © 2006, Walter H. Hunt.

Chapter 8

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

– Confucius

It took four ship changes and two extended waits – twenty days in all – for Marcus Ford to make his way from Marion System to Churchill System. He had to serve as a medic’s mate for the second leg – one of his most useful skills; on Rousseau he had helped his fellow miners, who had no other alternative thanks to the stinginess of the proprietors. Haig Lechamps had not wanted him to go: things were even tougher since Admiral Nason had come to Marion System and ended the work stoppage, but he agreed that someone had to get word to other chapters of the Société. Maybe someone could do something about it, and after being shot at during Nason’s preemptive attack on the orbital station Lechamps might have felt that he owed the younger man a favor.

Marcus would get word to the headquarters of the Société in Genève eventually; but his journey would take him elsewhere first.

(more…)

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