Tag Archives: technology

Hangin’ with Obama

It’s been a long time since I posted something, I know. You can expect some changes coming to this site in the near future, not the least of which is the return of regular updates, and not just updates on writing. Updates on, just, you know. All sorts of stuff.

In that spirit of other-stuff-ness, I was watching the very first Presidential Google+ Hangout (must be capitalized!) today while I was working, and it was a surprisingly awesome moment for me. Not because I’m a huge fan of Obama, although I think he’s a decent president at least, and not because what he had to say was groundbreaking, but because of how personal it was.

That deserves some clarification too. Obviously there’s no way that I had privileged access to any sort of executive communication, so if I could watch this hangout, so could millions of others. And when millions of people are watching, the president is never, ever personal, or intimate, or familiar. He pretends to be those things, just like every president since TV was invented, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.

What I mean is this: there were eight other people in that hangout (seven, if you don’t include the event coordinator). They were carefully selected for their demographics, but they were real people. One of them cut Obama off while he was talking. One of them disagreed strongly with his position on foreign aid. That could’ve been me, or you, or anyone.* Maybe I’m just naively enthusiastic, but that seems incredible to me. Technology is changing our government, and it’s changing it for the better.

*Full disclosure: it never could’ve been me. I don’t have the stones to argue with the president while millions of people are watching, and I’m at least man enough to admit it.

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An Historic Day

As a longtime cheerleader of private spaceflight company SpaceX, I’m absolutely thrilled to announce this morning that the second launch of their Falcon 9 rocket was completely successful. Its payload was the new Dragon spacecraft, also developed by SpaceX; the Dragon made several complete orbits of the Earth and successfully re-entered the atmosphere a few hours after launch.

To quote SpaceX’s press release,

This marks the first time a commercial company has successfully recovered a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit. It is a feat performed by only six nations or government agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.

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Mars Gets All the Love

Mars gets all the love. When you hear somebody, whether a scientist or a civilian, talking about another planet in the Solar System, invariably they’re talking about Mars. Mars used to have water. Mars might have life. Mars Mars Mars. Enough, I say!

That probably needs some qualification. Obviously Mars is nearby, it has a 24-hour day, and it’s thoroughly habitable by the standards of, say, Mercury. It should hardly come as a surprise, then, that there have been a lot of scientific missions to Mars, and additional ones are being planned. It’ll be the first planet in the Solar System other than Earth to have a human presence.

However, that doesn’t excuse the favoritism that it gets in fiction. In fact, Mars has a lot of disadvantages for certain activities: it’s farther from the Earth than Venus (on average), it gets about a fifth of the solar energy that Venus does, and it would very likely require more energy to terraform, since it has no atmosphere or active geology. So really, where’ the love for Venus?

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Avoiding Cliches

I’m not sure if science fiction has the most cliches of any literary genre, but it’s sure got a pile of them.* Go ahead and think for a second, I bet you’ll come up with a few even if you’re not really into science fiction.

As a noob science fiction writer, my goal is to stand out by trying to avoid or invert as many cliches as possible without becoming contrary for the sake of contrariety. I’ve put a little bit of thought into this today and I figured I’d list a few ways that I’m trying to be a little different, while at the same time revealing some worldbuilding details that you might be interested in. I decided to go for the first cliches that popped into my head: warp drive (or FTL, whatever), the world government, and (blah) space as an ocean.

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Getting Around in Space

Obviously, it’s not easy to get around in space. There’s no air and everything’s a long ways away. This is why, for instance, we’re not living on Mars right now.*

One hopes that in the future we’ll find ways around these problems. And really, that future is closer than you might think. It’ll be awhile before we can travel to alien homeworlds at warp speed, but that’s most certainly not required to have relatively quick and most certainly interesting trips through space.

My novel will take place about 150 years in the future. I think this is the perfect time for near-future spaceflight, because it means that the technologies that you read about us having “someday” are thoroughly plausible. Gene therapy, mind-machine interface, and space colonies are all realities in the world of the early 2160s, but the most interesting to me right now is the propulsion technology they’ll have.

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