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Worlds Without End Blog

Life Imitates Art Posted at 8:16 AM by Rico Simpkins

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Presented without comment:

Hat tip: Tom Gauld (for Friday’s Guardian Review).

Flight Proven Posted at 3:38 PM by Rico Simpkins

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One of the reasons we read science fiction is to find out what happens next. My favorite science fiction sub-genre is near future, precisely because I want someone to tell me what to expect a decade from now, a year from now, a month from now.  Half the fun is discovering the future through speculative fiction. The other half is watching it come true. That is why I started writing this series of blog posts about near future developments, starting with last year’s Greetings Carbon Based Gases.  Today’s topic:  the gravity well.

Tonight, sometime between 2227-0030 GMT (6:27-8:30 p.m. EDT), SpaceX will launch a “flight proven” rocket for the first time.  “Flight proven” is Elon Musk’s euphemism for “used.”  It was only last April when the rocket in tomorrow’s launch performed its last mission, The CRS-8:

If and when that rocket launches successfully, today, Musk will have accomplished something thought impossible not too long ago, even quite recently.  As we reported in 2012, it costs $10,000 per pound to launch something into orbit.  At least, it did back then.  Today, Musk says he charges $2,500/lb and aims to have that down to $1000/lb this year, when the Falcon Heavy comes online.  Knocking one zero off of NASA’s flight costs is a remarkable achievement, but Musk has predicted he’ll do it again ($100/lb), and some have even speculated a fantastical cost of $10/lb in about 8 years.

Even if that last prediction doesn’t pan out, the consensus seems to be that $100/lb is the point at which many of our sci fi fantasies could come true.  That’s good news for science fiction writers, who Neal Stephenson has said have been too pessimistic, as of late.  So, what can budding new sci-fi writers reasonably predict in the wake of tonight’s launch?

Ryan Faith over at Vice had one idea of how it would go (bolded emphasis added by mois):

“SpaceX wants to get prices down far enough to encourage new users because that’s how they can really start incorporating space in the economic mainstream. Such a change could allow for economies of scale, getting a meaningful slice of global capital flow, industrial synergies, and more.

Once you get to that point, you can start talking much more seriously about building big space stations — the kind of thing dreamed up by 2001: A Space Odyssey. It wouldn’t be like the International Space Station, but more like a big Hilton with a fancy cocktail bar. Granted, drinks at that interstellar cocktail bar could be twice as expensive as normal because of shipping costs — but hey, the views of Earth would totally make up for it.”

In the spirit of Mr. Musk’s iterative approach, I will add more ideas as the evening wears on.  Please feel free to add more in the comments section.

As I type this, it is T-minus 2 hours to the launch window, so I’m going to hit “publish,” for now.  Check this post for post-launch updates.

UPDATE: In case you missed it, watch the day’s coverage of the launch here:

UPDATE: Success!

Iron Fist Trailer Posted at 10:21 AM by Rico Simpkins

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The last Defender arrives March 17:

Where No Streaming Service Has Gone Before Posted at 10:34 PM by Rico Simpkins

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CBS will be going all Netflixy with the Star Trek universe:

That Wonder Woman Comic-Con Trailer Posted at 4:06 PM by Rico Simpkins

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When it comes to gender balanced science fiction, small and international market producers have been killing mainstream networks and studios. At least, in my view, Netflix hit it out of the ballpark with Jessica Jones as Canada’s Bell Media did with Orphan Black. On the other side of the spectrum, we have major network and studio productions, like Supergirl and Ghostbusters.  Which will Wonder Woman be?  I’ve been a bit nervous about it, but this looks like it could be the real deal:

Sticky: Greetings, Carbon Based Gases (updated) Posted at 3:34 AM by Rico Simpkins

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One of the reasons we read science fiction is to find out what happens next. My favorite science fiction sub-genre is near future, precisely because I want someone to tell me what to expect a decade from now, a year from now, a month from now.  Half the fun is discovering the future through speculative fiction. The other half is watching it come true.

We may not have our bubble cities or flying cars, but one science fiction milestone, the decline of coal from the winner’s circle, may have finally arrived.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, 2016 is the year coal stopped being America’s leading energy source. King Coal’s replacement: Natural gas, which (as steampunk fans know) burns more cleanly and has long been predicted to be the “transition fuel” that will eventually give way to totally clean energy, like wind and solar.  As of this year, that milestone has been reached. And it didn’t take long for coal to lag far behind. April saw natural gas producing 39% more energy than coal.  No doubt that gap will fluctuate in the coming months, but coal is unlikely to regain the lead.

The next energy generation method to surpass coal?  Nuclear. But, despite how it looks on the chart, that’s probably not going to happen this summer.  Nuclear power hasn’t grown in over a decade and coal always recovers during the summer months (all that air conditioning creates demand). But at its current rate, coal could plummet into third place as soon as this fall, certainly by spring (2017).

On the other side of the spectrum, we have our newest forms of energy, wind and solar. It may not look it, but wind as been growing by leaps and bounds.  Deselect the heavy-hitters on the above chart (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) and you’ll notice that wind is close to surpassing hydroelectric power on its way to the top.  I expect that to happen by 2017 or 2018 at the latest.

And don’t be fooled by the modest squiggle representing solar energy.  Ray Kurzweil says it will be the dominant form of energy generation within a dozen years.  Make sure to work that into your short stories, budding sci-fi writers.

UPDATE: The 2016 data is in, and that means we can take a peek at the annualized data. As you can see, below, natural gas has surpassed coal as the #1 source of energy in America, on balance, year round:

It is unclear whether the Trump administration will be successful in reversing this trend, but I’m guessing not, for one very important reason: the EPA is likely to relax regulations on fracking. Even with the recent gift the administration has given to coal, the industry will have a hard time competing with even cheaper and more abundant gas reserves.

An Authentic Space Oddity Posted at 6:15 PM by Rico Simpkins

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Some of our more popular posts included videos of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explaining how water behaves when being wrung out from a washcloth in space, or demonstrating how to drink coffee in a microgravity environment. This, by far, surpasses even those kick-ass productions. Mr. Hadfield, you are our hero.

EDIT: This post originally appeared on May 13, 2013. It seems a fitting tribute to repost this, today.

A Water Planet in Our Solar System? Posted at 9:33 PM by Rico Simpkins

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Ceres 2:4

Okay, Ceres isn’t actually a planet, but a dwarf planet.  Still, that’s nothing to sneeze at.  Pluto is a dwarf planet, and we still know about it.  So why did we not learn about Ceres?  Oh, sure, you may argue that Pluto is 14 times more massive than Ceres (and you’d be right), but there is one reason to believe the solar system’s smallest dwarf planet might be the most exciting one:

It’s a water planet.

Last year, the Herschel Space Observatory announced that it had detected water vapor on Ceres.  In case that isn’t impressive enough, I should add that it’s a whole LOT of water:

Scientists believe Ceres contains rock in its interior with a thick mantle of ice that, if melted, would amount to more fresh water than is present on all of Earth. The materials making up Ceres likely date from the first few million years of our solar system’s existence and accumulated before the planets formed.

More fresh water than is present on all of Earth?  No wonder Ceres becomes the “Seat of the Empire” in Frank Herbert‘s Dune series.  Take that, Arrakis.

Not only that, but geysers on Ceres appear to be erupting water into space, where the liquid sublimates into ice, possibly resulting in snow (which explains the white spots in the above image).  Yes, that’s right, we may have our own mini-Hoth in the sol system.  All we need now is to genetically engineer some tauntauns, and we’re ready for colonization.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pretender: Saving Luke Giveaway Winners! Posted at 7:03 AM by Rico Simpkins

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Time to give out some more books!  For our Pretender contest we had 81 re-tweets and 25 blog comments.  Here are our 5 lucky winners:

David Miller
(@bhawks8881)
Montana Phantom
(@montanaphantom)
Jessi-Skye
(@Shamrocklady_8 )
Kindu
(@Its_Kindu)
Leandra Martin
(blog comment)

 

 

Congrats to our winners! If you are one of our prize winners please send us your full name and snail-mail address to info@worldswithoutend.com so we can send your prize right away. Be sure to mention Pretender: Saving Luke in your email so we know which prize you’re claiming.

Our thanks to Steven and Craig and everyone at The Centre Universe for the great contest and prizes and to everyone who participated! We’ll be back with another giveaway soon come on back!

Introducing the David Gemmell Awards Posted at 6:55 PM by Rico Simpkins

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Morningstar AwardLegend AwardToday we’re happy to announce the addition of the David Gemmell Awards to the Worlds Without End database! The two awards, established in memory of fantasy author David Gemmell, consist of the Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel in the traditional, heroic, epic or high fantasy genres, and the Morningstar Award for best such first novel by a new author.

This is one of our first attempts at adding lesser known awards that nevertheless highlight very good talent.  The Gemmell Awards are only eight years old, but have already added novel material to our database.  As one perusal of the lists will show you, their list includes novels that have not received recognition from the major awards, and may take you down a path you never knew existed.

It’s been a while since we added some new awards to our database.  To be honest, we had a few that were higher up on our list (and they are still coming!), but, when we realized that many of our members had already added the novels that this list requires, we realized we had a quick win on our hands.  Let us know what you think of this new addition and don’t forget to check your reading stats page to see how you fare for this award.  We just got the last dozen or so books for the award added to the site so you may have some tagging to do.  Get to reading!