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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

           
     

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Branson in Space

As I mentioned in the previous newsletter, Sir Richard Branson is someone who I'd always assumed I'd met (but apparently hadn't). However that doesn't stop me supporting his amazing achievements much as one might applaud those of one's wayward cousin. He started the wonderful Virgin Records, then the Virgin Atlantic airline at a time when it was though no new airline could have any chance of success. Then in 2004 he started Virgin Galactic.. It took a lot longer than expected but Sir Richard and Burt Rutan's approach has proved successful and Sir Richard has finally ridden a space into space.

And here's Richard talking about how exhilarating it was, and a doing a little sales promotion.

Here he is during the flight itself.

And he's seventy years old.

I'm just so impressed with the guy!

Jolly well done, Richard!

A photon checks into a hotel. The bellhop asks, "Can I help you with your luggage?" It replies, "I don't have any. I'm traveling light."

NASA's Martian helicopter

Helicopter model of Mars helicopter

Old news but I think it's still exciting. I'm continually stunned at the quality of engineering – both hardware and software – that allows na object designed and built on Earth to travel to another world and work right out of the box.

Here's the NASA Mars helicopter blog. It's had nine successful flights. There was a bit of a software timing issue that has now been worked around- every now and again the 'copter would fail to lift off. That was fixed by modifying and re-installing the helicopter software. They can do that – NASA plan for almost every eventuality – but a re-installation is finger-biting time. As surely every IT engineer knows, you really don't want to do it on a live system, especially one that you can't just pop over to and kick, specifically when it's on Mars.

A linguistics professor says during a lecture that, "In English, a double negative forms a positive. But in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, in no language in the world can a double positive form a negative." But then a voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Best of the reviews

Connie Willis' "Blackout" and "All Clear" are amazing. She shows us people in wartime bearing up under awful strain, putting on a brave face whilst panicking inside. The novels masterly evoke the atmosphere of the Blitz, that gruelling period of World War II. They aren't only great novels but they teach a strong lesson about the consequences of war.

St. Paul's during WWII bombing raid.

To show the destruction and desolation on the ground, here's another.

children sitting outside bombed house

And remember. It's always like that. In whatever country the bombing takes place, homes, schools and hospitals are destroyed, member of your family are killed and others are left disabled and/or homeless.

I really wish we could educate and communicate better

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.
-Jack Handey

Speed of quantum entanglement

I've been wondering about this for some time. It seems some people assumed it happened at the speed of light, but I (with zero knowledge of quantum physics) didn't see any reason for that. In fact I thought it was meant to be instantaneous (if that has meaning in this context).

However, breaking news: Chinese scientists have now measured the speed of entanglement effects. It seems to be at least 10,000 faster than the speed of light! Now if we can only pass information through entanglement, then we'll have a whole new area of exciting science. https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/150207-chinese-physicists-measure-speed-of-einsteins-spooky-action-at-a-distance-at-least-10000-times-faster-than-light

Heisenberg was speeding down the highway. A cop pulls him over and says, "Do you have any idea how fast you were going back there?" Heisenberg says, "No, but I knew where I was."

Worst of the reviews

Okay, Silvain Neuval's "Themis Files" trilogy isn't awful, in fact it may pretty good and must be loved by many people. However, although I liked the concept (who wouldn't like giant buried robots?) I wasn't a fan as I've explained in my reviews.

Two sociologists are sitting by the pool. One turns to the other and asks, "Have you read Marx?" to which he replies, "Yes, it's these damn wicker chairs."

Making like the Green Goblin

Watch this video of a man flying on large drone in Times Square.

Man on drone

Well, I for one think this is pretty darn cool and I really want one for myself, although I'd be content if it hovered just a few centimetres above the ground and had safety wheels.

What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

The reviews

How is it possible that I still just love reading Science Fiction? I've read so many SF novels and short stories that there I really shouldn't expect anything fresh or new. Yet there are always new authors, now writing styles, new concepts and new plots. Gosh, I'm a very lucky boy. I may have a Tequila to celebrate.

I could agree with you but then we'd both be wrong

Bats

So are bats born knowing the speed of sound or is it something they learn? How on earth would you find out which is correct? The scientists had a brilliant solution: they changed the speed of sound to see if the bats could adapt to it!

The speed of sound changes depending on the medium so the experimenters used a oxygen and helium atmospheric mix. When the speed of sound was changed the baby bats bowled and bounced around unable to judge distances. This proved that they were born with a hard-wired expectation of the speed of sound (or I suppose that the oxygen/helium mix was making them drunk).

A biologist, a physicist, and a mathematician are standing in front of an empty house. They all observe two people walk in, and three people walk out. The biologist tries to explain the phenomenon by stating, "Well, they must have reproduced." The physicist offers a different explanation; "There must have been an error in measurement." Then, the mathematician says, "If one more person walks in, then the house will be empty again."

Fingertips

Plus in the same issue of New Scientist: the surprising sensitivity of human fingertips.

Human fingertip can distinguish between materials that have minuscule chemical differences, indeed your finger can feel the change of a single atom in a material.

Two hydrogen atoms are walking down the street together, when suddenly one shouts, "Damnit! I lost my electron!" The other atom asks, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm positive!" (tis one's for Paul)

Next Month's Reviews

That's all for now. As always, tell me what you think about the books, the reviews and the site. Do let me know if there are books you think I should review.

What's the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don't know and I don't care.

Thanks to The Independent Newspaper and others for the jokes.

Take care

Max

(max@sfreviews.com)

 


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