The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David." The Museum and the Music Box March 18, 2015 The Museum and the Music Box Noah Keller History is rotting away, just like the museum.
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Showing posts by: Dr. Kirtland C Peterson click to see Dr. Kirtland C Peterson's profile
Jun 16 2010 6:12pm

The Ghosts’ High Noon!

I plop my just-delivered CD in, hit “play,” and get back to work, nose to the grindstone. A few songs go by and then:

“The ghosts’ high noon”? What a great phrase! What great fantasy lyrics!

I immediately drop my pressing work to track down this howling of wind, moonlit bats, funeral shrouds, black dogs, and spectres on holiday!

(I wonder, could Neil Gaiman have turned his marvelous turn-of-phrases genius to lyric writing?)

[In search of the ghosts’ high noon...]

Jun 14 2010 6:00pm

War God Feeling Blue

Gorgeous New Images from Mars Orbiter

Newly released observations from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) astonish, especially those presented in false color, which aids in distinguishing among surface materials and textures. Blue is the new red!

The HiRISE aboard the MRO investigates deposits and landforms. By combining very high resolution and signal-to-noise ratio with a large swath width allows imaging on a variety of scales down to 1 meter. Below the fold: a sampling of images. To see many, many more, head over to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab: go to Multimedia, select Images.

[Blue Moon Mars]

Jun 8 2010 6:18pm

A Farewell to Atlantis: Spacewalks & Touchdown

“Three spacewalks were conducted while Atlantis was docked to the orbiting laboratory...” STS-132 Mission Information.

“After seven days of docked operations, Atlantis undocked... With the final inspection of Atlantis’ heatshield complete, STS-132 was cleared for landing in Florida on May 26, 2010 at 8:48 a.m. EDT. This was the 34th space shuttle mission to the International Space Station.”

Farewell Atlantis: Part 2 (of 2).

[ More great NASA pix. Spectacular... and sad... ]

Jun 4 2010 6:09pm

A Farewell to Atlantis: From Earth to Heaven

To commemorate well the passing of an era, pictures speak louder than words.

Farewell Atlantis: Part 1.

[ Great NASA pix. Shuttle fan? Bring a Kleenex ]

May 21 2010 6:22pm

The Sorceress Armida!

Of Diabolic Forests, Orgiastic Palaces, Ecstatic Gardens, Transformations & Bewilderments

Ah! To be seduced by Armida, to be transported to her magical, fantastic realms, to her diabolic forests, orgiastic palaces, ecstatic gardens!

May the sorceress be forever vengeful! May she forever blot out mortal lovers who dare betray her! May she forever conjure fearful storms and rip tsunami from the sea! Long live Armida!

I met her, this Armida, just the other night, as summoned by Rossini and channeled unfiltered through Renee Fleming. I inhaled her, the powerful, seductive sorceress. She is—fantastic. She is—fantasy.

More, she feeds the fires of fantasy—she keeps fantasy alive!

Yes, I’m in love.

But you may wondering, Who is this Armida?

[ Beyond here there be fabulous photos ]

May 12 2010 11:06am

His Dark Materials & The Assault on Sociopathic Organizations

We know SF can “predict” the future. Star Trek TOS’s sliding doors, originally powered by stagehands left and right, now guard the entrance to every supermarket in America. My Motorola Droid doubles as a ST “communicator” and then some: mine includes a star chart, earthquake detector, and detailed map of the planet.

But what about fantasy?

I believe fantasy can predict the future.

[Beyond here there be daemons]

May 7 2010 6:16pm

The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

A Story About Stories & Story Telling, Storytellers & More

Before looking at Philip Pullman’s just-published novel, a little back story…

Confession: At a tender age I was tossed out of Bible Reading. No more evening tea and biscuits. No more getting out of supervised evening “prep” (i.e., homework) on a Wednesday evening.

It was the work of a scoundrel.

True, I was complicit, but it took a scoundrel.

[ Beyond here there be scoundrels ]

May 3 2010 3:56pm

Reincarnated as a Space Yacht: IKAROS Flies/Sails Again

Ikaros (the Latin form of Icarus), newly fitted with wings of feathers and wax by his father Daedulus, flew too close to the sun and plunged into the sea, the sea that now bears his name. Ikaros: the poster child for hubris.

Yet even in Hellenistic times, some writers doubted Daedulus invented wings for the escape from Crete; they believed he invented sails and his poor son Ikaros never winked at Apollo, but merely fell overboard and drowned. It seems the Japanese tilt strongly towards the “sails not wings” hypothesis.

At JAXA—the Japanese Aeospace Exploration Agengy—IKAROS may be an inelegant acronym, but it represents an exciting step in extra-terrestrial propulsion. IKAROS stands for “Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun.” IKAROS is a kite, or a sail, or a “space yacht.” (DS9 fans will likely go for “space yacht.”)

On May 18th Japanese IKAROS leaps skyward from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan never—JAXA hopes—to fall to earth again.

(Prefer video to text? Great IKAROS Mission Overview on YouTube—visuals are great but it is in Japanese. Video also at AKATSUKI Special Site.)

[ Will IKAROS fly to close too the sun? ]

Mar 30 2010 11:36am

Dark Matter Update (March 2010)

If there was no dark matter, we wouldn’t be here.
— Professor Wolfgang Rau (Kingston, Canada)

Re-reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy never fails to drive me to my “Tor/Dark matter” e-folder.

And there’s a lot up with dark matter these days…

The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search

Sounds like the title of a creepy SF novel: we just know the search for dark matter will end badly for our likable protagonist, so diligent and courageous.

A little background to recent dark-matter reports is always useful:

The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) is a series of experiments designed to directly detect particle dark matter in the form of WIMPs [weakly interacting massive particles].

Using an array of semiconductor detectors at millikelvin temperatures, CDMS has set the most sensitive limits to date on the interactions of WIMP dark matter with terrestrial materials.

The first experiment, CDMSI, was run in a tunnel under the Stanford University campus. The current experiment, CDMSII, is located deep underground in the Soudan Mine in Minnesota.

I grew up only a few miles from the Sand Hill entrance to the Stanford Linear Accelerator. I thrill to know the SLAC, among other projects, plays host to the dark-matter, early-universe probing GLAST project.

[ Into the dark... ]

Mar 22 2010 10:47am

He’s Back! Dr. Who Returns

Great news for Dr. Who fans everywhere: he’s back! I grew up with Dr. Who so am an addict from early on... can’t wait to get my Dalek fix!

For the latest, links galore below the fold.

[ Dr. Who returns ]

Mar 19 2010 11:25am

“It’s Like Pandora—Only Better”

You’ve heard of PW—Pandora Withdrawalthe syndrome that gripped significant numbers of Avatar fans, a syndrome marked by the blues, obsession, outright depression, even suicidal thoughts and feelings.

You may also have heard Joe Letteri’s Oscar’s acceptance speech following Avatar’s Visual Effects win in which he said:

“…just remember the world we live in is just as amazing as the one we created for you.”

For those who would miss Pandora, the good news is that Joe Letteri is 100% correct.

Even better news: you can walk on Pandora. If you’re a U.S. citizen you don’t even need a passport to get there. (We got there in a Boeing 737 and a crimson Toyota Yaris.)

The best news of all? Pandora can be bested—sights, sounds, blindness and night terrors, sheer awe. You can even go back, again and again.

[ Pandora—only better ]

Mar 5 2010 11:43am

Putting It On The Line, Putting Her Money Where Her Mouth Is—and Speaking Up/Out

I have a theory about why Margaret Atwood wrote Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood, and may—if certain rumors be true—be at work on a third novel in the series.

But first, let me address the hisses and catcalls from the back. Yes you, over there.

Many of my hardcore SF friends dismissed Oryx & Crake, and never read The Year of the Flood, on principle. Their objections were along the lines of, “That’s all been done before by real SF writers. Oh—and it’s been done better. Much better.” Some have been blunt: “She’s a rip-off artist.”

To my hardcore SF friends and those who agree wholeheartedly with them let me say, You may be right. And—here—in this post—I’d like to explore another issue and present a theory that transcends Margaret the author and these two novels. I’m hoping you’ll stick around to hear it.

[ I agree to give M.A. a break, for a just a few minutes ]

Mar 3 2010 3:06pm

Around the Solar System in 39 Days (Well, at least to Mars)

Earth to Mars in a little over a month. Yes, you heard that right. Not the one-and-a-half-years there, one-and-a-half-years back, but around the Earth-Mars block in less than 80 days. (Credit: NASA/AdAstra)

How? By using a propulsion system orders-of-magnitude greater than current systems.

Meet VASIMR, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket.

[ Meet the future ]

Feb 25 2010 2:49pm

A Cupola with a Tranquil View

If you have not tracked the installation of the Cupola—an observatory module attached to the Tranquility module (Node 3) of the International Space Station—earlier this month, more and better pix are popping up almost daily, courtesy of NASA.

And ain’t it great? As taxpayers these pix are yours and mine!

[ Feast Your Eyes ]

Feb 23 2010 12:34pm

A “Fantasy Matters” Follow-Up: How “Real” is Hogwarts?

In Fantasy Matters, I noted Ursula K. Le Guin’s admonition—to fantasy/SF readers and writers alike— to “Know Thy Fantasy Literature.” To understand where, say, the Harry Potter stories “fit” into the sweep of fantasy literature, it is important to know the “school” corpus. J.K. Rowling did not create Hogwarts out of thin air, nor did she hang Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s school experiences on hooks entirely of her own invention.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, a number of readers were interested in this thought strand. I received several e-mails—all from the lower forty-eight, all interested in my parenthetical comment that I’d attended British boarding schools—wondering how “real” Hogwarts was, that is, how like a bona fide British boarding school Hogwarts might be.

With seven years of British boarding schools under my belt—ages 10-12 at one school, 12-17 at another—Hogwarts had always struck me as familiar, but I’d never thought much about the parallels: how many, how deep, how meaningful, how instructive?

Now I have.

Without writing a dissertation on The Reality of Hogwarts, a few thoughts about magical trains, inspiring architecture and secret passageways, Headmasters, quirky teachers (“masters”), quidditch, exams, and great friends.

These reflections also led to a startling realization: Hogwarts misses a thing or two. In the end, I wondered if J.K. Rowling had attended boarding school, or whether she just knew about it, as all Brits do—it’s part of the culture. Regardless, she certainly knew the “school” stories that preceded hers.

[ Magical Trains, Secret Passageways, & More ]

Feb 18 2010 6:08pm

Fantasy Matters

Not long ago I devoured Ursula K. Le Guin’s Cheek By Jowl: Talks & Essays on How & Why Fantasy Matters. In keeping with The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy & Science Fiction and Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, it is a treasure trove of insight about fantasy, fiction, the craft of writing, and those neglected, spurned, interior worlds of the right brain.

As I was putting fingers to keyboard, a thought became a voice became an inner figure who demanded she be heard. While inclined to ignore this inner figure—a small frog, a juvenile Rhacophorus nigropalmatus I believe—her words carried weight and could not so easily be sloughed off. She asked:

“What about the left brain? Does fantasy matter to the human analytical biocomputer?”

As this small frog was both pilot and plane—her species is more commonly known as the Wallace’s Flying Frogs tribe—I figured she had raised questions of mental navigation and flight worth pondering.

So: left brain first, then right, then a knitting together with a thick, humming-avec-neural-chatter corpus callosum, that fabulous bundle of left-right-unification circuitry that makes us whole.

[ Steven Pinker for the “left,” Ursula K. Le Guin for the “right”—and “whole”]

Feb 17 2010 12:54pm

(Air) Robot Makes “Arrest”

I was about to write a Robots: Recent Developments post when news of an aerial-drone “arrest” flitted across my radar screen. “A first” the headlines screams—at least in the U.K. The poor fellow nabbed? A British car thief, cringing in the bushes. Poor chap: the thick fog didn’t help him. The Air Robot’s thermal-imaging cameras pick up body heat. The drone directed the Merseyside bobbies to the cringing thief’s location; the bobbies directed the would-be thief to a paddy wagon.

Now it seems the Merseyside police used their £40,000 Air Robot illegally. All Aerial Surveillance Systems operations are now on hold.

But you and I know Air Robots (and their brethren are aloft), and not just on the battlefield or in the U.K. So—what is an AirRobot? And what can it do?

[Big Brother watching you? ]

Feb 8 2010 3:26pm

Attention All Time Travelers!

Caltech researcher, author, and Cosmic Variance blogger Sean Carroll will be publishing “The Real Rules for Time Travelers” in the March issue of Discover. To glimpse the future (and watch fascinating videos of exploding clocks), click your mouse (or tap your finger) three times.

If however, as for me, time is in short supply and you just want the rules in your wallet or on your phone right now, here they are. (Truth in advertising, these rules are from the recent past and not in the online “real rules” article.)

Rules for Time Travelers

0. There are no paradoxes.

1. Traveling into the future is easy.

2. Traveling into the past is hard—but maybe not impossible.

3. Traveling through time is like traveling through space.

4. Things that travel together, age together.

[ rules 5-10 & more ]

Feb 3 2010 6:12pm

Of Unprecedented One Megajoule Laser Shots & Star Power on Earth

The successes streaming out of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have generated headlines and pithy quotes: “the most powerful laser on earth,” “the megajoule barrier has been broken,” we are battling one of the “largest scientific and engineering challenges of our time.” Historic stuff is up.

Yet many of the articles beneath the headlines left me scratching my head. What are they doing, exactly? What have they achieved? It was time to dig a little deeper.

Skip the news releases out of Lawrence Livermore. Go straight to “Bringing Star Power to Earth,” an exciting flash video with a rhythmic Lord of the Rings soundtrack evocative of battle scenes and triumph. Check out the five-stars-at-YouTube BBC story featuring the National Ignition Facility, where scientists are creating a “stream of exploding stars.” The BBC story asks, “Can we make a star on earth?” The answer—in the not too distant future—will be yes.

Satisfy your need for vid, then the news releases make sense. The latest announces the requirements for fusion ignition were met only a few days ago. Historic stuff.

Dr. Kirtland C. Peterson—“Cat” to his friends and colleagues—feeds his left brain with science and his right brain with the rich feast of fiction, including SF and fantasy. Among his life’s highlights are sitting in the pilot’s seat of a shuttle prepping for launch at the Kennedy Space Center and responding to an invitation from Brannon Braga to pitch Star Trek stories at Paramount in LA. Currently reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Cheek by Jowl: Talks & Essays on How & Why Fantasy Matters.