A friend told me about this story. Immersed in writing my next book I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the news so I had to look this up. Some scientists in Italy failed to give a strong enough warning and as a result were sentenced to six years in prison. If this trend continues no one will want to serve as advisers. I guess the next people to go to jail will be weather forecasters who fail to predict a tornado touching down.
One question I get asked a lot is "why are other planets orbiting so close to their stars?" The simple answer is observation bias. Planets that orbit close to their stars have short periods, making them easier to discover. In order to find a planet it must make several trips around the star before enough data is collected to find the planet. Only in the movies do astronomers take a single picture and discover something. In real life it takes a lot of work. If a planet orbits a star in a hundred days then a couple of years of data would be enough to confirm its existence. If the planet were like Jupiter which takes twelve years to orbit our sun then astronomers would need, at the very least, a couple of decades to confirm its existence. We are a long way away from knowing what a "normal" stellar system would look like because we haven't been searching long enough to find the ones farther out. It doesn't mean you can't check out the ones that have been discovered. Nasa has several interactives that allow you to explore the confirmed planets. The New Worlds Atlas is a little out of date, listing only 564 planets.
My love of astronomy shows up in these blogs a little more often than I would have expected but the video of the space shuttle Endeavour making it final journey is quite cool and a little sad. Only five space shuttles were built and Endeavour was the fifth and last craft manufactured. It was constructed to replace the Challenger which blew up just a few seconds after launch back in 1986. During its years of service, Eneavour flew 25 missions and spent 296 days in space. First launched in May 1992 it has now flown its last mission. After 3 days of careful maneuvering through the streets of Los Angeles it has reached its destination, the California Science Center. The video of its final journey is about 3 minutes long.
I had an interesting, and very literal, reminder of how true that old expression can be. This week I finished two books with very different art covers. "Hush, Hush" has a beautiful image an angel falling while losing his wings. The cover is in shades of grey except for a few red feathers above the angel. The book didn't live up to the cover. At least not to me. The next book I read has an awful cover. I'm not sure I can describe what I didn't like about it but it shows a woman (the heroine of the story) on the cover in a stance that seems a bit... well, raunchy is the only word that springs to mind. If it weren't for the positive reviews, I don't think I would have even picked this book up off the shelf. Don't get me wrong, the book wasn't amazing but it was certainly better than the cover would indicate. It's not often you get hit over the head with such an obvious example of an old adage.
I've worked from home for years and I learned that the problem is not getting outside enough. I stopped making coffee at home so everyday I go for a walk and get a cup of coffee. Maybe that sounds odd but I've found that it can be easy to end up shut up in your house for days. I know a few other people who work from home and they have the same problem. Some authors seem to love the solitude. They brag about it to me. "I locked myself away and just wrote for days!" I don't do that. In fact, when I feel stuck I grab my laptop and write in a cafe. All the activity and randomness makes it easier for me to write. I can't write in a vacuum and, after a couple of days locked away, that's exactly how it feels to me. Clearly, I'm the odd one since I read about authors hiding out in some cabin to finish their latest book. The truth is, I would just run out of ideas. People interest me. People inspire me. And people are needed to populate my stories. Without people you have a story about... what?
I love the colours of fall. Every year I get the urge to paint. This fall was particularly beautiful. With summer weather lasting until Oct, we had the cold nights and clear skies that are required for the leaves to change. The rains have started now so the leaves will be beaten off the trees and clog drains all over the city. The colour is still there but now it is muted by dark skies and misty rain. In some ways it seems even more colourful because of the contrast. Anyway, now that the rain has started it's time to pull out my watercolours and paint. After all the rain is bouncing off the sidewalk which makes me a little less interested in going for a stroll.
This is a Hubble image of a tiny piece of the Veil Nebula. This wisp of heated and ionized gas was created somewhere between 5,000 or 8,000 years ago when a star exploded. It's hard to gauge the distance to this object but recent findings place it about 1,470 light years away. I've always loved pictures of this nebula although the view through a telescope shows only faint and difficult to see pale smudges that are completely devoid of colour. The Veil Nebula is about 70 light years across, assuming the distance mentioned above is correct. To give you an idea of the size, the planet Neptune is only 4.16 light HOURS away from the sun. Imagine our Solar System only 1 meter across then the Veil Nebula would be 83 kilometers across. So what made me think about this. I came across a fantastic website where you can look at the Veil Nebula as a 3D object. The images only rotate slightly but it's enough to see the shape of the objects. If you follow the second link it will take you to the website where you can more.
I want to make it clear that I am a huge fan of the show. I'm not going to complain about little science mistakes. I love the show but sometimes I worry about the way it misrepresents science. In one episode Raj says that discovering a planet will make him rich. I have to wonder - how? How will Raj get rich by discovering a planet orbiting a distant star? Does he plan to sell land on that planet? Do the writers of the show really believe that astrophysicists get rich when they discover a planet? And what do they think is the revenue stream? As far as I know science is not about getting rich but about the discovery itself, the desire to know, and for some people (like Sheldon) to get a Nobel prize.
Really, those Romans were genius. After a day of climbing next to a highly dysfunctional family with sketchy climbing practices, we stopped at the Pub. Yes, if you have ever climbed in Squamish, BC you know there's only one Pub. Well, there's only one Pub to the adventure sports crowd. Sitting at the head of the inlet, the Pub gets incredibly cold in the evening. The sun sets behind the mountains while the wind whips up the sound to steal warmth from your skin as you sit on the patio and watch climbers finishing routes on the Chief. It's the contrast. Less than an hour ago you were hot, too hot, and seeking shade anywhere you could find it but now you're huddled in your down jacket, sipping beer, discussing the day with your fingertips slowing growing cold as sun disappears behind the Tantalus Mountain range. Maybe watching those last two people struggling to reach the top of "the Ultimate Everything" isn't really necessary. And so we move indoors to the wonderful delights of central heating and a cup of coffee before the long drive home in the dark.
I’ve always admired authors who can write comedically. Just like acting and real life, comedy is the hard one. Neil Gaiman, Terry Prachett, and a few others succeed admirably and are so enjoyable to read that I find myself wishing I could be counted among their ranks. However, I’m not a moron so I’m well aware that I can only admire from a distance and never approach the wonderful comedy of books like “Good Omens”. So, today’s blog is just to remind those who have read great comedic authors to enjoy them a little more often and those who have not to try reading them.
By the way, it’s odd to discover that ‘comedically’ is not a word recognized by my Word dictionary or my Wintson Canadian dictionary. Nope, I had to go online to make sure I wasn’t crazy, that it is in fact a word and not something I cooked up in my mind because I saw a Schoolhouse Rock short. You have to watch to the end to see what I mean.
I have no idea how to write blogs so I just write about wacky thoughts that run through my mind and leave a bit of a residue behind.