Recon is a good thing


As those of you who have been following my blog for a while know, I’m a little bit hung up on the possibility of humans crossing interstellar space and checking out new worlds. My books revolve around the premise of a future interstellar civilization that may have escaped the Earth, but humans can’t escape their natures, for better or for worse.

So I was pretty excited to come across a really cool idea (and accompanying article) on the internet espoused by no less a figure than Stephen Hawking.

It’s pretty cool. What his team wants to do is to create a bunch of micro-probes with solar sails, and dispatch them across interstellar distances to check out nearby star systems. The spacecraft his group is working on would take about 20 years to reach Proxima B (about 4.5 ly). Once the small fleet of spacecraft get there, they would shoot back data via a laser link to earth and scientists could give the data a look over.

I think this is an awesome idea on several different levels. Let me lay out why.

First, such a project would give people actual experience building interstellar capable craft, albeit very small ones. You have to start somewhere, and why begin with manned spacecraft? You have to do a proof of concept sooner or later.

Second, powerful telescopes etc. are great, but nothing beats getting a spaceship up close and personal with stars, systems, and planets. As any old soldier can tell you, nothing beats having “eyes” on the objective.

Third, we can dispatch a lot of these types of probes to several objectives. From each we will learn something different, and these types of missions will not break the bank.

Which brings me to my final point. If we can check out ten different systems, and we learn more about interstellar travel from each mission, then we can choose a final contestant for actual manned travel at the lowest possible cost. It’s a brilliant idea.

And think of the possible reward- if there are worlds out there capable of sustaining human colonization then humanity could gain a new home. Our basket of eggs is looking a little precarious right now, it would be nice to have options.

I am encouraged that some of our best minds are giving this serious thought and effort. It beats people sitting around and watching TV, moaning about how the world is going to hell. Maybe it is going to hell, but not everyone is going down quietly.

Good for you, Mr. Hawking.

Movie night


My daughter and I have a tradition- we go to the movies together and see films that interest us. It’s usually a lot of fun. Sometimes we watch winners, sometimes not. In any case, it’s a good time and it breaks up some of the monotony of day-to-day life.

Well, this summer didn’t seem to have any really good front runners, so I was willing to settle for second best. At some point I want to watch “Dunkirk,” but it’s not out yet. Well, my daughter really wanted to see “Wonder Woman,” which was kind of a mystery because the old TV series was out when I was a child, and it had been out of production for decades when she was born. I had visions of a tawdry remake, and I planned on sleeping through the show.

Boy was I wrong. “Wonder Woman” turned out to be a highly entertaining production, in my opinion it justified the high ratings and stellar sales that it has received. If you don’t have anything better to do, and you have some spare time and loose change, give it a watch. It’s really fun.

But that’s not really why I’m writing. While “Wonder Woman” was great and well worth the price of admission, I was very excited by a movie trailer that played before the film started.

Another movie that I saw long ago (and it helped to form my opinion of what sci-fi should look like) was the original “Blade Runner”, a movie so bad-ass I have no words to describe it. The production was awesome, the plot terrific, and the acting was world-class. If I had to compile a list of my all-time ten best movie favorites, “Blade Runner” would be up towards the top.

So imagine my excitement when I saw that “Blade Runner 2049” would be out this October, with Denis Villeneuve directing and Harrison Ford reprising his original role.

This is going to be flipping’ epic.

In preparation for watching this long-awaited sequel, I am going to re-read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick, and of course, I am going to re-watch “Blade Runner.”

My daughter is excited as well. Awesome to indoctrinate her with a classic.

Movie night in October is going to rock.

Been busy

Late spring is upon us here, and I am swimming against the tide of outside work around the house after a wet May where I couldn’t get much done. It didn’t help, either, that I was recovering from surgery and couldn’t do much.

So no, I haven’t forgotten about my readers. I’ve been crazy busy. A big project has been building a chicken coop over the unsightly concrete remnants of an outhouse (I live in an old house. Funny to think that within living memory we went from structures with no running water to the iPhone 7). In addition, I’ve been catching up on reading- one book I will crack soon is the proof of a friend of mines’ first novel. I’ve read his short stories, and I am looking forward to his book.

One thing I’d like to talk about is a concept John Birmingham turned me onto called the “Wizard Hat” that Elon Musk and a company called Neuralink may be working on. The device reminds me strongly of the “halo” in my books, but the article that describes Musk’s project lays out the concept with elegance and 40,000 odd words. It’s worth the read if you have the time. I burned through it in a couple of hours and will probably re-read it.

I am very excited that people are working on stuff like this. If you read the article (and I suggest that you do) you’ll see why.

Now if only people would start working on FTL. But maybe we need the “Wizard Hat” first. BTW, I think “halo” sounds cooler than “Wizard Hat.” But that’s just me.

Now that the lousy chicken coop is done, I can get back to writing and keeping you all in the loop.

I strongly suggest you all check out the article above, and by all means post back here and we’ll have a conversation about it.

It’s really worth reading.