More Yuva Artwork!

gliese-581.jpgMore news on the collaborative writing front! A few weeks back, I found myself tinkering with some of the ideas for the upcoming anthology known as Yuva – the one that deals with space exploration and colonization in the not-too-distant future. As a result of this tinkering, I began to look at some of our concept art and began to ponder making some changes…

Basically, in the anthology me and my writer’s group are crafting, there would be multiple waves of settlers arriving at the planet known as Gliese 581 g (aka. Yuva). Whereas the First Wave would be arriving in ships that relied on relativistic engines (slower than the speed of light), subsequent “waves” would be using something a little more advanced.

Second WaveHence the design you see above. Here, the ship is one of three that would be bringing the Second Wave to Yuva. Note the torus ring that encloses the ship. This indicates that the vessel comes equipped with an Alcubierre Drive, a proposed FTL system that is currently being investigated by NASA’s Engineering Directorate.

Based on the field equations of theoretical physicist Miquel Alcubierre, the drive does not  exceeding the speed of light within its local frame of reference, but allows a spacecraft to contract space in front of it and expand space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel.

ixs-enterpriseThe design was inspired in large part by the IXS Enterprise designs by Mark Rademaker, an artist who sought to visualize what a spaceship that relied on the Alcubierre Drive might look like. As you can see, he too pictured a ship that would have a ring-shaped torus, but is more suited to our near-future aspirations of exploration.

For the sake of Yuva, the Second Wave ships need to be especially exotic. Which would mean that the vessels have hulls composed of nanofabricated materials that are completely seamless. And whereas the First Wave ships would rely on antimatter engines that would spew energy out the back, the new ships would have no thruster nozzles to speak of.

space-colony-art-670It’s all in keeping with the idea of rapidly advancing technology, and how the effects of space travel exacerbate the gap between new and obsolete. Whereas the First Wave of colonists would take 100+ plus years to get to a star within our stellar neighborhood, subsequent waves would only need a few years.

This would mean that those who came next would be at least a century ahead in terms of development. And by the 22nd/23rd centuries, when the story is taking place, the leaps and bounds taking place in that amount of time would be immense. New waves of settlers would overwhelm the old with a sense of future shock…

space_elevator2But I’m venturing into spoiler territory here! Rest assured, when the anthology is complete, there’s going to be plenty of these kinds of technological, social and predictive issues being explored. And throughout all that, a sense of high adventure as well. After all, we started this project wanting to capture the awe and wonder that comes from space exploration.

Come hell or high water, that is what we intend to do! Stay tuned for more on this book as it develops…

News from Space: Full Model of Exoplanet Created

gliese_581gEver since the Kepler space probe began finding hard evidence of the existence of exoplanets – i.e. planets orbiting suns outside of our Solar System – scientists have been working hard to determine what conditions on these worlds must be like. For instance, it is known that planets that orbit closely to their red dwarf parent suns are tidally locked – meaning they do not rotate on their axis.

This, in turn, has led to the proposal that any watery worlds in the vicinity could form what’s called an “Eyeball Earth.” Being directly under the local star, with one side perpetually facing towards it, the light would be intense enough to melt a circular patch of water, while the rest of the planet would remain locked in a deep freeze. In short, not an ideal situation for supporting life.

eyeball_earthHowever, a new three-dimensional model has been created, thanks to the efforts of two researchers at Peking University. In their research paper, they suggest that ice and oceans on these planets would be dynamic, which is both good and bad. Basically, it means an Eyeball Earth has a narrower habitable zone, but that more of the surface has the potential to support life. It also means that the “eyeball” looks more like a lobster!

This paper represents the next step in scientific analysis of exoplanets. Initially, estimates of habitability – i.e. temperatures that could allow liquid water on the planet surface – were based on a single analysis of the planet’s atmosphere to see how much light reaches the surface. But, in the real world, atmospheres form clouds, distribute heat through winds and convection, and exhibit other sorts of complex behavior.

eyeball_earthThese are the sorts of things that are handled in the full, three-dimensional climate models built to study the Earth. Hence, the Peking research team adapted these same models to handle exoplanets that differed significantly from Earth. But these models didn’t capture a critical part of the distribution of heat on the Earth: the ocean circulation. Instead, it treated the entire ocean as a two-dimensional slab.

The new study corrects for that by using a coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model, the Community Climate System Model version 3. For their study, they used Gliese 581 g, a potentially Earth-like planet orbiting in the habitable zone of an red dwarf star 20 light years away. This planet, coincidentally, is ranked by NASA as being the most Earth-like exoplanet yet seen in the known universe.

Gliese_581_-_2010Critically for the model, it’s close enough to its host star to receive 866 Watts/square meter at the top of its atmosphere (whereas the Earth receives 1,366). Since it is not yet known what Gliese 581 g’s atmosphere looks like, the authors assumed an Earth-like composition, but varied the amount of CO2 to change the intensity of the greenhouse effect. From all this, the planet was assumed to be covered in a deep ocean.

After giving the model 1,100 years to come to equilibrium, the authors sampled a century of its climate. With carbon dioxide concentrations similar to the Earth’s (330 parts per million in the model), the “eyeball” vanished. That’s because ocean currents formed along the equator and brought in ice from the west that split the eyeball into two lobes that flanked the equator – which resemble the claws of the lobster.

eyeball_earth1The currents then transferred heat to the eastern portion of the planet, which melted the ice to form the lobster’s tail. In addition to the ocean current that altered ice distribution, an underwater circulation (similar to the one on Earth) formed, which sent warmer water toward the poles. In the atmosphere, a jet stream also formed over the equator, which also distributed some heat to the unlit side of the planet.

Ultimately, the new model suggests the habitable zone of watery planets near red dwarfs is a bit more narrow than previous studies had suggested. The good news is that, in this model, the ice never got more than 3m thick on the dayside of the planet. That’s thin enough to allow light to reach the water underneath, meaning photosynthesis is a possibility over the entire dayside of the planet.

OceanPlanetAlthough this model is a major improvement, it still lacks a key feature that’s likely to exist on planets – namely continents, or at least features on the seafloor that differ greatly in height. These will radically alter the currents on the planet, and thus radically alter the distribution of heat within the ocean. Unfortunately, this information is even harder to come by at present than atmospheric conditions.

So for the time being, all we really know about Gliese 581 g and other similar exoplanets is that their surfaces are icy, but habitable – not unlike the Jovian moon Europa. However, that is not to say that we won’t have more information in the near future. With Kepler still in operation and the Gaia space observatory now in space, we might be able to construct more detailed models of nearby exoplanets in the near future.

Also a coincidence, Gliese 581 g just happens to be the setting of my writers group’s upcoming anthology, known as Yuva. And with this latest bit of info under our belts (basically, that the entire planet is a big, watery ball), I imagine we’ll have to adjust our stories somewhat!

Source: arstechnica.com

Timeline of the Future…

hyperspace4I love to study this thing we call “the future”, and began to do so as a hobby the day I made the decision to become a sci-fi writer. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, its that the future is an intangible thing, a slippery beast we try to catch by the tail at any given moment that is constantly receding before us. And when predict it, we are saying more about the time in which we are living than anything that has yet to occur.

As William Gibson famously said: “…science fiction was always about the period in which it was written.” At every juncture in our history, what we perceive as being the future changes based on what’s going on at the time. And always, people love to bring up what has been predicted in the past and either fault or reward the authors for either “getting it right” or missing the mark.

BrightFutureThis would probably leave many people wondering what the point of it all is. Why not just wait and let the future tend to itself? Because it’s fun, that’s why! And as a science fiction writer, its an indispensable exercise. Hell, I’d argue its absolutely essential to society as a whole. As a friend of one once said, “science fiction is more of a vehicle than a genre.” The point is to make observations about society, life, history, and the rest.

And sometimes, just sometimes, predictive writers get it right. And lately, I’ve been inspired by sources like Future Timeline to take a look at the kinds of predictions I began making when I started writing and revising them. Not only have times changed and forced me to revise my own predictions, but my research into what makes humanity tick and what we’re up to has come a long way.

So here’s my own prediction tree, looking at the next few centuries and whats likely to happen…

21st Century:

2013-2050:

  • Ongoing recession in world economy, the United States ceases to be the greatest economic power
  • China, India, Russia and Brazil boast highest rates of growth despite continued rates of poverty
  • Oil prices spike due to disappearance of peak oil and costs of extracting tar sands
  • Solar power, wind, tidal power growing in use, slowly replacing fossil fuel and coal
  • First arcologies finished in China, Japan, Russia, India and the United States

arcology_lillypad

  • Humanity begins colonizing the Moon and mounts manned mission to Mars
  • Settlements constructed using native soil and 3D printing/sintering technology
  • NASA tows asteroid to near Earth and begins studies, leading to plans for asteroid mining
  • Population grows to 9 billion, with over 6 living in major cities across the all five continents
  • Climate Change leading to extensive drought and famine, as well as coastal storms, flooding and fires
  • Cybernetics, nanotech and biotech leading to the elimination of disabilities
  • 3D Construction and Computer-Assisted Design create inexpensive housing in developing world

europa_report

  • First exploratory mission to Europa mounted, discovers proof of basic life forms under the surface ice
  • Rome ordains first openly homosexual priests, an extremely controversial move that splits the church
  • First semi-sentient, Turing compatible AI’s are produced and put into service
  • Thin, transparent, flexible medical patches leading to age of “digital medicine”
  • Religious orders formed opposed to “augmentation”, “transhumanism” and androids
  • First true quantum computers roll off the assembly line

quantum-teleportation-star-trails-canary-islands-1-640x353

  • Creation of the worldwide quantum internet underway
  • Quantum cryptography leads to increased security, spamming and hacking begins to drop
  • Flexible, transparent smartphones, PDAs and tablets become the norm
  • Fully immersive VR environments now available for recreational, commercial and educational use
  • Carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere passes 600 ppm, efforts to curb emissions are redoubled
  • ISS is retired, replaced by multiple space stations servicing space shuttles and commercial firms
  • World’s first orbital colony created with a population of 400 people

2050-2100:

  • Global economy enters “Second Renaissance” as AI, nanomachinery, quantum computing, and clean energy lead to explosion in construction and development
  • Commercial space travel become a major growth industry with regular trips to the Moon
  • Implant technology removes the need for digital devices, technology now embeddable
  • Medical implants leading to elimination of neurological disorders and injuries
  • Synthetic food becoming the rage, 3D printers offering balanced nutrition with sustainability

3dfood2

  • Canada, Russia, Argentina, and Brazil become leading exporters of foodstuffs, fresh water and natural gas
  • Colonies on the Moon and Mars expand, new settlement missions plotted to Ganymede, Europa, Oberon and Titan
  • Quantum internet expanding into space with quantum satellites, allowing off-world connectivity to worldwide web
  • Self-sufficient buildings with water recycling, carbon capture and clean energy becomes the norm in all major cities
  • Second and third generation “Martians” and “Loonies” are born, giving rise to colonial identity

asteroid_foundry

  • Asteroid Belt becomes greatest source of minerals, robotic foundries use sintering to create manufactured products
  • Europe experiences record number of cold winters due to disruption of the Gulf Stream
  • Missions mounted to extra-Solar systems using telexploration probes and space penetrators
  • Average life expectancy now exceeds 100, healthy children expected to live to 120 years of age
  • NASA, ESA, CNSA, RFSA, and ISRO begin mounting missions to exoplanets using robot ships and antimatter engines
  • Private missions to exoplanets with cryogenically frozen volunteers and crowdfunded spaceships

daedalus_starship_630px

  • Severe refugee crises take place in South America, Southern Europe and South-East Asia
  • Militarized borders and sea lanes trigger multiple humanitarian crises
  • India and Pakistan go to war over Indus River as food shortages mount
  • China clamps down on separatists in western provinces of Xinjian and Tibet to protect source of the Yangtze and Yellow River
  • Biotechnology begins to grow, firms using bacteria to assemble structural materials

geminoid

  • Fully sentient AIs created and integrated into all aspects of life
  • Traditionalist communities form, people seeking to disconnect from modern world and eschew enhancement
  • Digital constructs become available, making neurological downloads available
  • Nanotech research leading to machinery and materials assembled at the atomic level
  • Traditional classrooms giving way to “virtual classrooms”, on-demand education by AI instructors
  • Medical science, augmentation, pharmaceuticals and uploads lead to the first generation of human “Immortals”

space_debris

  • Orbital colonies gives way to Orbital Nexus, with hundreds of habitats being established
  • Global population surpasses 12 billion despite widespread famine and displacement
  • Solar, wind, tidal, and fusion power replace oil and coal as the dominant power source worldwide
  • Census data shows half of world residents now have implants or augmentation of some kind
  • Research into the Alcubierre Drive begins to bear experimental results

alcubierre-warp-drive-overview22nd Century:

2100-2150:

  • Climate Change and global population begin to level off
  • First “Neural Collective” created, volunteers upload their thought patterns into matrix with others
  • Transhumanism becomes established religion, espousing the concept of transcendence
  • Widespread use of implants and augmentation leads to creation of new underclass called “organics”
  • Solar power industry in the Middle East and North Africa leading to growth in local economies
  • Biotech leads to growth of “glucose economy”, South American and Sub-Saharan economies leading in manufacture of biomaterials
  • Population in Solar Colonies and Orbital Nexus reaches 100,000 and continues to grow

asteroid_belt1

  • Off-world industry continues to grow as Asteroid Belt and colonies provide the majority of Earth’s mineral needs
  • Famine now widespread on all five continents, internalized food production in urban spaces continues
  • UN gives way to UNE, United Nations of Earth, which has near-universal representation
  • First test of Alcubierre FTL Drive successful, missions to neighboring systems planned
  • Tensions begin to mount in Solar Colonies as pressure mounts to produce more agricultural goods
  • Extinction rate of wild animals begins to drop off, efforts at ecological restoration continue
  • First attempts to creating world religion are mounted, met with limited success

networked_minds

  • Governments in most developed countries transitioning to “democratic anarchy”
  • Political process and involvement becoming digitized as representation becomes obsolete
  • “Super-sentience” emerges as people merge their neural patterns with each other or AIs
  • Law reformed to recognize neural constructs and AIs as individuals, entitled to legal rights
  • Biotech research merges with AI and nanotech to create first organic buildings with integrated intelligence

2150-2200:

  • Majority of the world’s population live in arcologies and self-sufficient environments
  • Census reveals over three quarters of world lives with implants or augmentation of some kind
  • Population of Orbital Nexus, off-world settlements surpasses 1 million
  • First traditionalist mission goes into space, seeking world insulated from rapid change and development
  • Labor tensions and off-world riots lead to creation of Solar policing force with mandate to “keep the peace”

Vladivostok-class_Frigate

  • First mission to extra=Solar planets arrive, robots begin surveying surface of Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Gliese 163 c, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Deep space missions planned and executed with Alcubierre Drive to distant worlds
  • 1st Wave using relativistic engines and 2nd Wave using Alcubierre Drives meet up and begin colonizing exoplanets
  • Neighboring star systems within 25 light years begin to be explored
  • Terraforming begins on Mars, Venus and Europa using programmed strains of bacteria, nanobots, robots and satellites
  • Space Elevator and Slingatron built on the Moon, used to transport people to space and send goods to the surface

space_elevator_lunar1

  • Earth’s ecology begins to recover
  • Natural species are reintroduced through cloning and habitat recovery
  • Last reported famine on record, food production begins to move beyond urban farms
  • Colonies within 50 light years are established on Gliese 163 c, Gliese 581 g, Gliese 667C c, HD 85512 b, HD 40307 g, Tau Ceti e, Tau Ceti f
  • Off-world population reaches 5 million and continues to grow
  • Tensions between Earth and Solar Colonies continue, lead to demands for interplanetary governing body
  • Living, breathing cities become the norm on all settled worlds, entire communities build of integrated organic materials run by AIs and maintained by programmed DNA and machinery

self-aware-colony

23rd Century and Beyond:

Who the hell knows?

*Note: Predictions and dates are subject to revision based on ongoing developments and the author’s imagination. Not to be taken literally, and definitely open to input and suggestions.

New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverGood morning ladies and gentlemen, or evening depending on your time zone. As it stands, my cold endures, even after a whole week! I tell you, we need to learn how to weaponize little kids and use them in bio-warfare. No one will ever fire a bullet again because entire countries will be too busy nursing colds and flus to fight…

But I digress. One upside to this down time is that it has allowed me to catch up on some projects which have been sorely neglected of late. And one such project is my the anthology collection that my writing group and I are working on. After many months of recruiting and beating the bushes for more members, the authors and I decided to double up and take on some additional stories.

And I picked the story idea named “Arrivals”. Taking place in Part III of the anthology, Arrivals deals with the coming of the Second Wave of colonists, people who are at least a century more advanced than their First Wave brethren who left Earth some two hundred years beforehand. Naturally, there are some difficulties merging the new people in with the world, given that a great deal of time and space separates the two.

And what’s more, the new wave arrive telling stories of Earth, stories that aren’t exactly encouraging. It seems that amidst the Climate Change-fueled crises that was rocking the Solar System when the First Wave left, a new group of neo-fascists have taken power on Earth. A war was imminent between Earth and its Solar Colonies when they left, which is now believed to be underway.

Knowing that war is happening at home does not bode well for the colonists of Yuva, especially if the neo-fascists win and begin looking in Yuva’s direction. Anyhoo, here is the first sample of the story, an introduction for the story I intend to write. Enjoy!

*                    *                    *

Andrewartha Monitoring Station
New Darwin, Bonfils

He walked the length of the catwalk, his every step clanging loudly against the grating. Each one made the headache he was nursing that much worse, and every breath yielded the same taste of oxidized metals and machine lubricant. But it was better than the taste of grain alcohol that still lingered on his tongue.

All in all, it was a typical day for Strauss, tending to the machinery that kept an ear open on this half of the planet’s ecology after a night of hard drinking.

Rounding the corner and scraping his elbow against a pile of crates, he removed the Tab from his chest and checked the readout on it again. It took a second for the screen to power up, him having run down the cells last night listening to music and interfacing with his favorite virtual environments. After a few cups of hootch, he had been known to get a little too engaged in sensory simulations involving cowgirls and a little rolling in the hay.

And of course, he had been thoughtless, leaving it rather than sticking it in a window to draw some meager power from the sun, or attaching to the bulkhead to let it get a charge from an embedded circuit.

Luckily, the cells were in a forgiving mood and powered up. With the display now bright enough for him to read, he selected the message from PR central and gave it another read.

Anomalous readings reported on the following dates.

A series of numerics followed, indicating to the very second when the readings were recorded at Andrewartha based on Vogt Standard Time. The message continued thereafter:

Check comm array for possible malfunction. If specs green, consult relay nodule in 7-B for possible false readings.

Touching the screen with his finger, he drew a line through the first part of the message. The comm array was working just fine, according to his earlier diagnostic. Not that it mattered much, there was very little to report from this station at any given time. The most exciting readings they ever got where when the Bonfils Cluster emitted the high-pitched frequencies that seemed to accord to their mating cycle, right before they blew their stacks and sent embers every which way across the continent.

It was like clockwork too, given that the diurnal cycle had very little in the way of an effect this far south. In addition to being land-locked on this ball of rock, they were also tilt-locked, ensuring that the long nights and dim days barely ever got longer or brighter.

Which brought him to the second part of the message. Possible false readings… The implication being that the fault in the readings he’d sent was on his end. Assuming that the transmission hadn’t somehow garbled the data due to some solar interference or jamming, the techs back home could only assume that a glitch had to be the result of a defective scanner. Not until they ruled out all that would they be prepared to admit that maybe something was going on in the Bonfils plant community that they couldn’t account for. The arrogance of established minds!

Then again, he wasn’t too crazy about the idea of that being the case himself right now. Activity outside that was out of the ordinary could only mean something was up. Eerily, strangely, possibly dangerously up. There was so much they didn’t know about the Deveroza at this point, other than the fact that they could be most lethal when studied without the proper care. Any changes in their behavior could not be considered a good thing.

And until his year was complete at this outpost, he didn’t want anything to happen that would disrupt his schedule. Monotony by day, sound sleep at night, the occasional drunken release, and it would be over before he knew it. No, anything that altered his humdrum lifestyle and threatened to prolog his stay was surely less preferable than a mere technical glitch right now.

Strauss folded up his Tab up and placed it around the wrist of his uniform, knowing that he’d need at least one hand free for what he was about to do. And reaching the terminus of the hallway, he set his eyes on the pressure sealed door before him and took a deep breath. In order to keep the higher ups satisfied, he would once again need to conduct a little hazardous duty and do what he both hated and loved, which was to go outside.

Such was the nature of being confined inside a husk of metal like this one, forbidden to go outside for anything other than the most necessary of missions. He was sure someone back home ought to write a dissertation on it, how it conditioned a certain bipolar fixation among its attendants, making them both simultaneously claustrophobic and agoraphobic. Getting out was the only way to stave off insanity, but doing so required a level of daring and bravado that seemed borderline insane itself.

He would be sure to talk it over with some people in the Social Psych department when he returned home.

Detaching the mask from his belt and placing it on, he pulled the uniform’s hood segment over his head and waited for the seal to form. The goggles powered up next and indicated that he had a prefect pressure seal. Sighing happily, he spoke into his suit’s uplink.

“Andie, are you online?”

A moot question, as the station’s beta-level custodian was always online. Never farther away than a simple voice command.

“Of course, Marcellin. How may I assist you?”

“Need to go outside to reconnoiter,” he replied. “Can you open door 7-B for me?”

“Of course. One moment please.”

He heard a loud hiss coming from the door as inside, the pressure equalized with the station’s interior environment. On the status panel located next to the doorway, a light turned green, followed shortly thereafter by Andie’s chipper voice.

“You may step in when ready.” The door let out a loud thud, the seals opening only with serious force. “Be advised, the pressure change will be noticeable and is considered unfit for human exposure. Advise you have you suit done up in advance.”

“Already done,” he said with mild annoyance, and stepped inside. The door slid shut behind him, the hissing noise returning as the room changed its pressure once again. He got the strange feeling of wind blowing around him, the feeling of sudden cold as outside air filled the room and prepared him for what was to come. When it stopped abruptly, Strauss took another deep breath.

“Pressure equalized with external atmosphere. Have a nice day.”

The outer door opened. He set his boot onto the outer surface and stepped out…

It was like walking into some kind of surreal or psychedelic work of art. At this altitude, the sky was in a perennial state of twilight, never quite day or night, just different shades of dawn or dusk. And the embers against that sky, they made it look as though the entire horizon had been set ablaze. Strauss would get the oddest feeling sometimes, looking out at this sky. It was as if it were speaking to something deep inside him, a memory buried deep within his cellular memory.

His boots became magnetized the moment he began moving across the external surface, a precaution against getting blown away by the high winds that were so prevalent at this altitude. Each step was labored and slow as the magnets kept pace with his movements, anchoring his each step but releasing when he commanded his leg to move. All the while, he could feel the outside wind tugging on his getup and the tiny sparks flying by.

His goggles beeped at him, feeding climatological data directly into his sensory cortex. He could tell without needing to check any instruments that the ambient temperature was well below human comfort levels, that the air pressure was slightly lower than what the average human body was accustomed to, and that the concentrations of ember pollen were normal given recent activity. Everything seemed in the green, an appraisal which didn’t change when he finally reached the array.

He brushed at the main panel when he arrived, removing half an inch of dust and caked embers from the surface. Accessing it from the Tab now wrapped around his wrist, he punched in the command to open it. The panel made a loud clunk as the door slid free, revealing a large compartment filled with various electronics. Peering inside, he found the port he wanted and detached a small strand from his Tab, waiting for it to form into a coupling cable that could be patched in.

Activating his comm, he called on Andie again to assist.

“Andie, pal, you still with me?”

With the exception of a few clicks, his voice came through his sensory link, loud and clear:

“I am here, Marcellin. How may I assist you?”

“Prepare transmission for Planetary Research, care of Doctor Gordian.”

He connected the Tab’s cable into the port inside and waited for it to finish interfacing. It was also a second more before Andie was finished moving the transmission dish into position and connecting to the PR band at Zarmina. He chimed back when all was set.

“Transmission link established.”

“Good, now link up to my Tab. All data provided here is to be attached with the diagnostic performed on the main dish earlier. Merge both into an attachment and include it in the transmission. Ready?”

“Ready, Marcellin. Recording now and preparing all data. Do you wish to add a personal message?”

Turning to his cuff, he took a gander at the diagnostic readings coming through. He tapped at it a few times to enter in some parameters, selecting the readings that fell within the dates specified. Even unrefined, the diagnostic search seemed to be reporting nothing out of the ordinary. Day after day, week after week, month after month since he’d been here, the array reported a solid line of green functionality.

It was more than a little depressing to see the time which he had spent here summed up so succinctly. Had it really been that long?

“Gladly, Andie. Begin recording, audio only, please.” He cleared his throat and began speaking slowly and deliberately. “Doctor Gordian, this is Marcellin Strauss. Further to your transmission regarding anomalous readings, I have performed the requisite diagnostic checks and am pleased to announce that there are no technical glitches on this end. Both the signal dish and the scanning arrays are functioning well within established parameters. Whatever you noticed, it must be at your end, or due to something else entirely.”

He waited for a second for Andie to sense his intent and stop recording.

“Are you finished, Marcellin?” he asked.

“Yes, Andie. Send it now.”

“Right away.”

Detaching the cable from the inside, Strauss retracted it into his cuff and closed the panel shut. Within seconds, a new layer of sparkling dust was forming and he was already well on his way inside.

On his way back, his headache let up long enough for him to have a single lucid thought. What if the signals they were reading weren’t coming from the fields and field of Deverosa located inland? What if it were coming from somewhere else entirely, a transmitter or a beacon somewhere outside Bonfils? That would certainly explain the duration and intensity of the signals the scanners had picked up. Short and focused, like nothing the flora ever put out.

He paused at the airlock and considered it a second longer. As much as he hated the prospect of making any additional work for himself, he couldn’t deny that the thought was proving quite intriguing. Already it was burning through his hangover and threatening to bring something akin to clarity to his mind.

“Andie, are you there?”

“I am,” the computerized voice said. “Are you wanting to come back in?”

“Uh, yes, Andie. Please open the door. But while you’re doing that, can you access those readings specified in the original message from Gordian? I want to run some tests on those.”

“Certainly. What would you like me to look for?”

He thought that one over for a second as the door opened to admit him and he stepped inside. As Andie cycled the air and conducted decontamination procedures, he did his best to remember all the elementary lessons he had received back in primary. At some point in his youth, he had heard how the Flotilla had used a free-space optical communication system when they first made to the trip from Sol. Such methods were not used since planetfall, but if it someone were out there trying to make contact…

It was a long shot. But if correct, it would certainly payoff, maybe even get him a transfer sooner than expected.

“Structure,” he said finally. “Isolate the readings and assume they represent an optical transmission. I think someone out there might be trying to talk to us down here.”

New Anthology Sample!

gliese 581Boy, its been awhile since I posted anything from my group’s anthology. But, since it is something I am committed to do doing on my site, I always feel the need to post sample updates whenever they become available. And here is the latest from one of my own contributions to the anthology (titled “Yuva”), the fourth installment to be exact. I imagine there will be two more like it before the story has reached fruition and “The Torch”, as it is called, will be complete.

Hope you all enjoy it, and I really hope people will come on out to support Yuva once it too is completed and available for purchase/download. I’m hoping to make it available in both paperbacks and ebook format, and of course, there will be promotional discounts. But that’s another day and we still need more contributors before it can happen. If you’re an indie, there are still a few spots open…

*               *               *

The door slid open, admitting the faint light of the room’s nighttime bioluminescent units. Muktari stumbled in, his eyes set on the desk at the far side of the room, where his satchel and compad rested It was a bit of an effort to make it there without knocking anything over, and yet he found his way to his chair within a few minutes.

Muktari had been drunk exactly three times in his life. The first two occurred in university while studying abroad. Being in the company of some many young men who were either not members of the faith, or who had turned their backs on its more rigorous elements long ago, had sufficed to get him to indulge then. But after discovering there was little in inebriation, he had quickly put a stop to that.

The third time was tonight. After the first drink with Mazzini, he had quickly found his way back to the front where the company shuttle was awaiting him. After hopping in the back and ordering the automated driver to take him home, he had indulged heavily in the private stock that was kept in the back. There was no trace of the whiskey Mazzini had coaxed him into drinking, but he found plenty of another generic variety to sip on. No soda water was needed, as he wanted the full, punishing effect of it.

It was somewhere between the old opera house and his hotel he realized the true purpose of such poison. The use was to be found in its abuse. The infliction of pain and torture upon oneself, not to alleviate pain or worry, but to punctuate and drive it home. He had to admit, it was genius, in a bleak and sardonic sort of way.

But were human beings if not lovers of irony and masochism?

Setting his eyes on his satchel, he pulled out his compad and flexed it a few times to activate its bio cell. The light came on and the image of its welcome screen was projected into his visual field.

Meşale, he typed on the virtual keyboard, and was rewarded with a desktop. He called up all his files on his presentation and eyed them despondently. The images of the five planets arrayed from left to right suddenly seemed like a terribly lost cause, a fool’s hope that he made the unfortunate mistake of sharing with others. Running his hand over the screen, he took the entire file in hand and began drifting it towards the icon of the trash in the lower right corner. It hovered directly above the icon, darkening it… and there it waited.

He wanted so badly to destroy it all, to remove all traces of the proposal and all the difficulty such ideas was bringing him. He wanted to forget about everything that had happened in the last week, to start fresh and stop feeling like a fool who was shouting at the rain. He was so tired of staking everything – his life, his job, his reputation, his future – on gambits that got him nowhere.

Really, what made him think that Zimmerman, or anyone for that matter, would have taken it seriously? Could it have been the fact that after years of doing the same thing, over and over, that he was beginning to suspect there was no future to be had here at home? Was it that deep down inside, all empirical evidence pointed towards the same outcome and all attempts to defer or delay it seemed futile? Was it really so absurd, with all he saw happening around him on daily basis, to plan for the worst? And who could fault him for looking further, given the audacious but still limited plans for Solar Colonies?

In business school, they still taught young academics that ambition and initiative were the keys to the success. Was it so wrong to think that that still applied? Would he be calling them tomorrow and demanding that they revise the curriculum to teach conformity and affability instead?

His nerve faltered and he pulled the file away from the trash. Taking a deep breath, he did his best to get his head together and proceeded to the lavatory. Some cold water on his face, and some mineral water in his belly, and he was sure to feel better. He also needed to get out his night clothes, as they were ruffled and beginning to stink of self-pity.

The door chimed. His head snapped around in a hurry and he felt his heart leap. Between the fatigue and alcohol, he was in no shape to be startled. Sighing, he proceeded to the room’s common area and approached the front door. It chimed again…

“Who’s there?” he asked irately.

“An interested party,” came a female voice through the comm. Muktari frowned. What could possibly the meaning of this, he wondered.

When he reached the door, several possible answers came to mind. It slid open to reveal the woman from earlier, the one he had left Mazzini with at the afterparty. At the time, he had suspected her of being an industrial spy, or possibly a professional. He now suspected the former, as there was little chance she had passed on Mazzini in order to seek him out. Mazzini was not known to turn his nose up at a fine lady who would deign to ask for money before performing an act he held so dear.

“Magid Muktari?” she said.

“Yes,” he replied, putting his arm to door frame, blocking her entry. “How may I help you?”

“Actually, I was thinking it was I who could help you.”

“I’m not sure what you’re selling, but I can tell you I’m not interested.”

She smiled at that, exposing to perfectly ordered rows of white teeth. Another very impressive and pretty feature she boasted. It was little wonder she was sent out to deliver messages.

“I can assure you, I’m not here to solicit anything. I’m just here to relay a proposal.” She looked past him into the common area. “May I come in?”

Muktari looked behind him to the couch and considered his options. He could slide the door shut, leaving the lovely lady out in the corridor. Or he could invite her in, hear her out. Aside from being rude, the former option seemed downright needless seeing as how he had nothing else planned. And an offer might be just what he needed, given his prospects.

Stepping out of her way, he ushered her in and made his way over to the dispenser in the far corner of the room. “Can I offer you something? Coffee? Tea? Mineral Water? Perhaps some poison?”

“You look like you’ve had your fair share yourself,” she said, sitting on the couch and getting comfortable. Muktari shook his head, began filling two glasses with mineral water and some ice cubes.

“So… what’s so important that you chose to bother me at this late hour? Was my friend not entertaining enough for you?”

That made her smile again. He had to admit, she had a very pretty smile, and the way she was seated right now showed just enough leg to intrigue him. Perhaps it was the alcohol thinking for him. He offered her a glass and sipped from his own.

“Oh, Mazzini is quite charming. But I didn’t come to this city to enlist him. It was your presentation that I wanted to hear.”

“You mean the lecture on Oceanic Enhancement?” he said, shrugging and taking a sip from his glass. “Not my work, specifically. I merely presented the relevant findings, based on the company’s ongoing efforts.”

“Not that one,” she said. “I was referring to the one you presented to your boss, Mr. Zimmerman, less than a week ago.”

Muktari stopped in the midst of sip. He was worried he might choke. He stared over the edge of his glass for a few seconds and carefully lowered it. The lady smiled again and placed her glass down on the table in front of her.

“Ah, I see you I have your attention now. I can imagine you’re also wondering how I knew about it?”

 Muktari cleared his throat. “The thought crossed my mind.”

“Our sources are very good. And company gossip has always been a prime source of intel. One scarcely needs sources at all when people speak so freely.”

Muktari wasn’t sure how to respond. He shuffled awkwardly and cleared his throat.

“What was not being spoken of so freely was the fact that you are also scheduled to be transferred to Oslo. That information came at a price, but it was a good investment, in my employer’s opinion.”

Muktari saw where this was going now and saw an opportunity to respond.

“And who is this employer, pray tell?”

She reached into a small fold in her dress, invisible to the naked eye, and pulled out a card. She laid it down on the table carefully and slid it in his direction. Muktari snatched it up in his left hand and held it up, depressing one corner to activate the display chip within.

A small presentation video began, colorful graphics dancing around and showing a name.

Harding International, it said. Muktari’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open a few centimeters. When he looked back at the lady before him, he glared intently at her, a frown forming on his face.

“Who are you?”

Again, that smile. “Seriously, you don’t recognize me? Don’t you read the trade pages?”

He frowned harder. It was a rhetorical question largely, just about everyone was familiar with the Harding family and their holdings. And aside from the slight tan she had picked up, it was not hard to see the resemblance to her father.

“Not that ones that deal exclusively in global capital and investment,” he said firmly. “Why would your father be interested in exoplanet colonization?”

She spread her hands before her. “He likes to think he sees things in people, in ideas. It’s what built our family empire after all. And he also liked to enlist people who can do the same, who see potential in things down the road.”

She let that linger in the air for a moment, during which time, Muktari could think of nothing to say. He was hit by a wave of self-satisfaction and found he couldn’t speak. Naturally, he did his best not to show it, but knowing that a corporate headhunter was interested in his work could not help but inspire a certain sense of self-satisfaction. He had to wonder if Zimmerman had sources of his own implanted in Harding, whether or not they would get wind of this and wonder if it was an indication to start taking his proposals more seriously…

But alas, such feelings were tempered by the fact that he knew nothing about what Harding or his people had in mind here. What’s more, he knew enough not to trust any offer at face value. Regardless of how bleak his future looked with Zimmer and Associates, he still needed to proceed as if he were in a position of strength, unwilling to settle too quickly or easily.

“So what does your… father want of me?” he asked firmly. “Is this to be a matter of intellectual property, buying up and patenting an idea so it can be turned into cash once it becomes profitable?”

She didn’t smile this time. Instead, she rose to her feet and extended her hand to him.

“Nothing so crass. But if you’re interested in making your proposal again, to someone who is genuinely interested and willing to listen, then I’ll arrange a meeting?” She looked to her hand, back at Muktari. “Sound fair?”

Muktari looked at her hand as well, cautiously, and then took it in his. “Alright. I will meet with him. But no guarantees. I hear Oslo is very nice this time of year.”

“It is,” she said, smiling very broadly. He was almost dazzled by her two rows of impeccable teeth.

New Super-Earth Discovered

It has been an exciting year for the discovery exoplanets! First, there was the news from Gliese 581 g, then the discovery of an Earth-like planet in Alpha Centauri. And now, scientists working in the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS apparatus have announced the discovery of the latest Super-Earth, which they believe to be the greatest candidate for extra-terrestrial life yet.

The planet is located in the HD 40307 system, an orange dwarf star that is just 42 light years from Earth. Although scientists are still not entirely sure that it’s a rocky planet, there are a number of strong indications that point towards and hospital terrestrial environment. For starters, as the sixth and farthest planet in the system, it lies within the sun’s habitable zone.

Second, the planet has a very reasonable 320 day annual cycle, which means that it receives a similar amount of solar energy compared to Earth – about 62% of what we get year round. This is positive news since most Super-Earths are situated too close to their parent stars to boast life. And last, but not least, the planet is unique amongst its near-Earth exoplanet kin in that it is not tidally locked, meaning it has a night and day cycle. Though this is not absolutely crucial to life, it is a bonus seeing as how it means one side of the planet is  not constantly exposed to radiation while the other is constantly in a state of cold, life denying darkness.

Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, and Guillem Anglada-Escude from Germany’s University of Goettingen are chiefly responsible for this discovery. In the coming weeks, months and years, their team will be doing their best to ascertain the planet’s composition, which they hope to be rocky in nature. If this should prove to be the case, it will move to the top of likely candidates for exoplanet colonization, pushing such planets as Gliese 581 g, the most Earth-like exoplanet discovered to date, out of the top spot.

Source: Discovery News

More News From Gliese 581 g

And here we go again with another news story that comes to us from beyond our world, but curiously (no pun!), not from the Red Planet. It seems that the Earth-like exoplanet known as Gliese 581 g, aka. Zarmina (or Yuva to me and my writer’s group!) has been the subject of some interest as of late. In fact, two stories have emerged about this world, which ranks as number one on NASA’s list of Earth-like worlds beyond our system. And I think you’ll agree, these two stories couldn’t be farther apart.

The first sounds like something out of a novel by Carl Sagan: two years ago, while doing research for SETI, an Australian astrophysicist claimed  he picked up a “suspicious signal” from the vicinity of the Gliese 581 system. Since that time, a number have websites have come forward that claim to have traced the signal back to the Earth-like exoplanet itself. The second story comes from the International Astronomical Union, which chaired a meeting this week and raised doubts about the actual existence of Gliese 581 g.

For those who may not recall, the existence of Gliese 581 g has been featured in the news quite a bit of late, and not just on my site 😉 Discovered in 2010 astronomer Steven Vogt and a team of scientists working out of the Keck I facility in Hawaii. After locating the rocky world, they made two determinations based on their findings which set the astronomical community aflame.

On the one hand, the planet was roughly three time the mass of Earth but was believed to possess the same overall gravity. On the other, it was located within the system’s “habitable zone”, meaning it was warm enough to support life but cool enough to maintain water in a liquid state. Combined with its proximity to Earth, 20 light-years, this made Gliese 581 g the most likely candidate for eventual colonization.

To be clear, the astronomical panel did not dismiss the existence of Gliese 581 g out of hand, but did say that its existence cannot be confirmed as a scientific certainty. According to Francesco Pepe, an astronomer who works on HARPS data at the Geneva Observatory, “The reason for that is that, despite the extreme accuracy of the instrument and the many data points, the signal amplitude of this potential fifth planet is very low and basically at the level of the measurement noise.” So basically, the evidence put forth by Vogt and his team may have been nothing more than echoed signals. Bummer!

So what then are to we make of this news? Either Gliese 581 g does not exist, or it is home to an extra-terrestrial civilization that is sending out signals. In all likelihood, the doubts raised by the IAU are merely a setback, and it will be a few years before we are certain of the exoplanet’s existence. But then again, anything is possible. However unlikely it may be, we might be meeting “Zarminans” in a few generations time. Who knows? Maybe they’ll come find us, flying in tiny saucers and demanding we take them to our leader.

Personally, I hope it happens the way my group and I envisioned it, with colony ships going there within a century’s time and discovering alien life that does not resemble our own by any measure. Any other way is just plain crazy 😉

Yuva in 3D!

The credit goes to Mr. A.G. Claymore and his skills with 3D art. Thanks to him, we have the first glimpses of Gliese 581 g, aka. Yuva, in 3D. Using both the rough mock-up that I made months back using Microsoft Paint and some stock footage from NASA, this is what he produced.In this shot, you get a view of the “Light Side” of the tidally-locked planet, with the continent of Vogt looking up at ya! This is the largest landmass on the planet and the place where the capitol of Zarmina is located.

Below is the flip side of the planet, what would typically be known as the “Dark Side” (until an orbital mirror was put in orbit to reflect sunlight). Here, the principle continent being viewed is Udry, home to the Eastern Bloc and the capitol city of Shangdu.

Much of the geography and settlements are still being developed, and more details are being added with each new story. I tell ya, there’s something inherently satisfying about seeing a world take shape. And that goes for both the literary and visual aspects of creation. Even the creators themselves don’t know what the end result will look like. But thanks to these images, we all have a slightly better idea 😉

Top Five Exoplanets In The Known Universe

Hello again! Boy, I tell ya, it’s good to be back in the swing of things. You know what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder? Well, they also say a few things about being addicted to your devices! But either way, I’m happy to be back in civilization and able to communicate with my friends and colleagues who are, unfortunately, only reachable electronically.

And I’m even happier that people have had a creative outburst while I was away. I miss being able to take part in brainstorming sessions and coming up with new ideas with people. So I was pretty pleased when I came home and found my inbox so crammed full of emails and comments from my writer friends. And, like a plant that’s been deprived of water, their thoughts set my mind aflame with new ideas!

For one, I realized I had yet to discuss NASA’s top 5 Exploplanets in any real detail. Not long ago, it was announced that the planet Gliese 581 g, which is roughly 20 light years from our Solar System, is the most Earth-like planet in this region of the Galaxy, and hence, the most likely candidate for settlement someday. However, this news came as part of a larger story about all the planets, Earth-like or otherwise, that NASA has been confirming the existence of in recent years. Guess I was too busy focusing on how this effecting my writer’s group to expand on how cool these discoveries really are 😉

The table above shows the top five contenders, grouped according to how similar they are to Earth in terms of gravity, atmosphere, distance from their star, and ability to support life. Gliese 581 g, the fourth planet from the Gliese 581 star, ranks as number one with a 92 percent comparison match. Being roughly the same size as Earth, though boasting significantly more mass, it is also thought to have roughly the same gravitational pull. In addition, the astronomer who was intrinsic in it’s discovery, Steven Vogt, indicated that it is a prime candidate for extra-terrestrial life.

The second candidate, at 85%, is Gliese 667C c, a planet which orbits a red dwarf roughly 22 light-years away. It is so named because it’s parent star is part of a triple star system, or a trinary. Since c is estimated to be at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, it has the honor of being designated a “Super-Earth”, and no doubt would have enough gravity to make even a world-class athlete feel overwrought from the simple task of walking.

Third is Kepler-22 b, an exoplanet which was spotted by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope in 2009. An 81% match to Earth, this world is another “Super-Earth” which is speculated to have an atmosphere and climate which could be hospitable to Earth creatures. Unfortunately, this bad boy is over 600 light years away, making it a pretty poor candidate for settlement anytime soon.

Fourth up is HD 85512b, another super-Earth which orbits the orange dwarf Gliese 370, which is roughly 35 light-years away. At a relatively reasonable distance, and a 77% match to Earth, this planet could be a suitable candidate for colonization one day. NASA already estimates that its average surface temperature and presence within the star’s “Habitable Zone” would be within tolerable limits. Hopefully the gravity is the same!

And coming in at fifth place is the second planet to come to us from the Gliese 581 system, the fifth planet known as Gliese 581 d. As the above table shows, g and d are both within the systems Habitable Zone and could be made to support human populations, provided certain requirements (i.e. the existence of water, suitable temperatures and gravity) were met. When it was first discovered in 2007, it was dismissed as being “too cold” to support life. However, subsequent atmospheric modelling studies suggest that it could be habitable provided its atmosphere is capable of generating a Greenhouse Effect, as Earth’s is.

Many question how and why the discovery of exoplanets will benefit humanity. As one of my friends (hi Rami!) asked me recently, what good is it to colonize worlds do us if our problems remain? I argued that it would ensure our survival, but quickly realized that I’d need to make a better case if I was going to prove that point. As a curve-ball, I asked him to consider the possibility that maybe Earth itself, as we’ve made her in the past 15,000 years, could be the problem…

Naturally, that statement requires clarification. But that’s something for another time. Right now, all I am hoping for is that the discovery of habitable planets within humanity’s reach will mean either the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, or the option of planting the seed of humanity in a distant solar system. The implications of either would be mind-blowing, and I for one feel privileged to live in a time when such possibilities might be coming true!

Astronomers Confirms The Existence of Habitable Exoplanets!

Wow! It’s fun and amazing when things line up like this. According to IO9, astronomers have confirmed that there are two exoplanets that may be habitable, which will come in handy when the human race begins looking for new planets to colonize. Officially, these planets are known as Gliese 581 g and c, which orbit a star system located roughly 20 light years from Earth.

Can you say coincidence? By now, just about everyone who reads my blog knows that myself and a group of writers are hard at work producing an anthology about the colonization of a distant world in the not-too-distant future. Well guess where it’s set? Gliese 581-freaking-g! That’s where! Yes, in the course of researching realistic locations for our story, Mr. Goran Zidar suggested we use this star system seeing as how it is known to have a system of planets.

After doing our due diligence, we learned that two planets are deemed habitable by human standards, Gliese 581 g and c. And of the two, g is the prime candidate for settlement, being the closest in mass, surface temperature and gravity to Earth. Yes, with a little terraforming, this planet could be hosting a settled population withing a few generations.

I love it when fiction and real life come together like this! Granted, this “news” isn’t exactly new. In fact, Gliese has been in on astronomers radar for quite some time, and has been dubbed “Zarmina” by scientists. But it’s new to us. And frankly, I like our choice of name better. Yeah, Yuva sounds so much more palatable than Zarmina, doesn’t it? I think so…