October 24, 2017

Review: Seeing Further Edited by Bill Bryson.

Few realize in this relatively enlightened age that our outlook on the world around us has been shaped by a pioneering few who often went against the grain. This week, we look at Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, & the Genius of the Royal Society. This collection of essays traces the 350 year history of the British Royal Society, first established in 1660. Over the years, the Society has hosted such luminaries as Isaac Newton, Joseph Banks, and Francis Crick, to name a very brief few.

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16.05.10- Gliese 710: A Future Stellar Threat?


Gliese 710 inbound…(Credit: The Sloan Digital Sky Survey).

   Our quiet corner of the local galaxy may be in for a future interloper. A possible solar system side-swipe comes in the form of Gliese 710, an unassuming +10 magnitude orange dwarf star currently 63 light years distant in the constellation Serpens. As we swirl around the center of our galaxy, stellar neighbors come and go like in-laws during your favorite respective obligatory familial holiday season. The low proper motion of this star hid its true nature until about a decade ago; generally, the lower the apparent motion, the more distant the star. Gliese 710, however, fits into a different class; a star that shows a low apparent motion because it’s moving towards us. Closest approach has been calculated by astronomer Joan Garcia-Sanchez of JPL as about 1.3 light years in 1.5 million years time. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, this skirts the edge of our Oort Cloud, that vast reservoir of comets that extends out to about 1.6 light years distant…Gliese 710 stands an 86% chance of breaking this threshold. In addition, a 2007 review of Hipparcos data by Vadim V. Bobylev shows that this star may pass as close as 0.02 of a light year, about 50 times farther than the (sometimes) planet Pluto. This could make things really interesting, as Gliese 710 could really stir things up in our Oort cloud. And of course, there is the question of whether or not Gliese 710 has an Oort Cloud of its own. More than likely, this pulse of comets will last for about a several million year span of time. Could our inner solar system have sustained such shocks before? One only has to look at the crater-scarred surface of our Moon to realize the inner solar system has served as a shooting gallery over the eons. The statistical probability of a really (i.e. 1,000 AU) approach is about 1 in 10,000, so don’t max out those credit cards just yet… this uncertainly stems from incomplete knowledge of all the gravitational factors at work. As more sensitive astrometrical platforms, such as ESA’s Gaia spacecraft come online, the nature of the threat from Gliese 710 will be more precisely known. At its closest approach, this inbound star will be about as bright as the red giant star Antares… here’s to the neighbors!

Review: Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley.

Out in March from Pyr Books!
Out in March from Pyr Books!
    It was with great anticipation and excitement that we finally got to dig into our advanced reading copy of Gardens of the Sun  by Paul McAuley, out March 23, 2010 courtesy of Pyr BooksGardens picks up where last years’ first opus, The Quiet War, left off, and fans of the series will not be disappointed. The near-future battle for the ultimate direction of humanity spans the solar system as the Three Powers Alliance of Earth struggles to consolidate its hold on the Jovian and Saturnian systems, while the decimated Outers flee into the depths of the exterior solar system. [Read more...]

Review: Moon, Directed by Duncan Jones.

Independent movies are a rare breed, and independent sci-fi flicks are rarer still. Perhaps, because of the meager budgets they garner and the special effects they require, there is a lower asymptotic limit to how shoe string a scifi flick can be. True, the Dr. Who look works for things like the BBC adaptation of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, but that’s a big exception. Its just plain tough to make a sleek looking low budget scifi flick! Recently, however, I’m happy to report that we indeed found one that delivers!

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Themes in Science Fiction.



Zombies. Ray-guns. Spacecraft that defy physics. Sure, sci-fi is rife with, well, bad plot devices that you could fly an Imperial Star Destroyer through. But if you subsist on a steady diet of the fantastic, a set of themes emerge. Here is an Astroguyz tongue-and-cheek original, a quick baker’s dozen of the themes that we’ve identified and tagged in the wild. Feel free to submit your own! [Read more...]

Son of Man by Robert Silverberg.



(Editors’ Note: Thanks to all of you that braved the cold to report the Quadrantid meteor shower rates this past weekend; here at Astroguyz HQ in Hudson, Florida we saw maybe a couple dozen under semi hazy skies the morning of the 3rd, amounting to a very unofficial zenithal hourly rate of maybe 90-100. Not a bad final shower to wrap up the season.  Of course, unlike the rest of the country, we had the privilege to observe in shorts and t-shirts in January! Now, at long last, back to the classic Scifi reviews…):

Looking for a “trippy” novel? Son of Man, by Robert Silverberg, may be it. Set in the far (and we do mean far!) future, this classic novel is now back in print courtesy of Pyr books. In it, an average mortal of modern times is flung into a universe in which Man has evolved into a multitude of distinct species.

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