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Centauri Dreams… August 27, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

iO9 was quick off the mark in relation to stories set in the Alpha Centauri system with this list of ten.

I’d forgotten the Songs of Distant Earth was set there – perhaps Clarke’s last good novel. John Barnes and Buzz Aldrin’s Encounter at Tiber was pretty good. I’d forgotten the aliens in Footfall by Larry Niveln and Jerry Pournelle were from those parts.

This wiki page has a much longer list which is fascinating to see.

I can’t help but feel that the discovery this week will be a shot in the arm to new fiction set in that system, though, as will be noted here today, views are mixed as to what is practical and feasible in the near to middle future.

Speaking of stories of interstellar probes this was linked to on Stross in comments… a sad short little story from Alastair Reynolds.

Travelling to Alpha Centauri August 27, 2016

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As seen on the Charles Stross blog, there’s some scepticism as regards the likelihood of interstellar travel anytime soon by probe. That said here’s a bunch of optimists – the Breakthrough Starshot project…

…a proof-of-concept fleet of light sail spacecraft, named StarChip,[1] capable of making the journey to the Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light-years away, at speeds between 20%[2][3][4] and 15% of the speed of light,[5] taking between 20 and 30 years to get there, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival. The journey may include a flyby of Proxima Centauri b, an Earth-sized exoplanet that is in the habitable zone of its host star in the Alpha Centauri system.[6] The conceptual principles to enable this interstellar travel project were described in “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight”, by Philip Lubin of UC Santa Barbara.[7][8]

And the idea is that there would be a ‘swarm’ of these… devices… sent out.

The fleet would have about 1000 spacecraft, and each one (dubbed a StarChip), would be a very small centimeter-sized vehicle weighing a few grams.[1] They would be propelled by several ground-based lasers of up to 100 gigawatts.[13] Each spacecraft would transmit data back to Earth using a compact on-board laser communications system using its lightsail as an antenna.[13] A swarm of about 1000 units would compensate for the losses caused by interstellar dust collisions en route to the target.[13][14]

There’s a heap of technical problems (wiki calls them challenges) to be overcome. And yet it seems to me that this is a good direction to be moving in if only because it is rooted in present day technologies.

The Damned – 40th Anniversary Tour August 27, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


Saw them last night on the Dublin leg of a two date tour of Ireland, Limerick it was on Thursday. Part of their 40th anniversary tour too. They were at the Academy and excellent. I first saw them in 1985 in the SFX (the point was made to me that was both 31 years ago and their 9th anniversary tour!) and a couple of times since but I’m thinking this most recent one was the best. There’s something endearing about their willingness to spin from punk to psychedelia, garage, and so on. Actually someone suggested to me there was a bit of show band DNA in them, hard to disagree when one hears Eloise. Dave Vanian was, to my ears, unusually chatty, Captain Sensible neatly caustic about various targets, one B. James, another M. McLaren and so forth. The rhythm section was just about perfect and the keyboardist, as ever, looks as if he’d wondered in from 1970s children’s BBC daytime television programming. And if the biggest cheers of the evening were for the 1976-1982 period songs, well, it was the anniversary. After all New Rose was the first punk single released in the UK, and rightly they won’t let us forget it. The interview below suggests that they’re hugely underrated. I think that’s true. In fact of all that first wave of punk groups I’d rate them well ahead of the Sex Pistols and on a par, at the least, with the Clash – in fact personally I prefer them to the latter (the Ramones being a slightly different animal) – and of course, arguably they’ve had the greatest longevity. Here’s a This Weekend on them from a year or so back.

BTW, nice to see at least one CLR commenter there!

And from the current tour:

Two interesting divergent views on the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b August 27, 2016

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So, astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting the closest star to the Sun. Proxima Centauri b is thought to be a little larger than the Earth, to orbit one hell of a lot closer to its star than the Earth does to the Sun and yet due to the nature of that star to receive about two-thirds of the light and heat that we do from our Sun. All in all that means as Phil Plait says:

…it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone: It’s possible (more or less) that liquid water could exist on its surface.

And Phil Plait considers this to be a genuinely important moment.

…this is terribly, terribly exciting. We’ve only known for sure about the existence of exoplanets—worlds orbiting alien suns—since 1992. The first found were orbiting a dead star, a pulsar. The first planet orbiting a Sun-like star wasn’t found until 1995, and in the next two decades we built telescopes dedicated to looking for them, and as of today we know of over 3,000 such strange, new worlds.
Quite a few are Earth-size, and fewer possibly Earth-like. Still, we can make estimates that there are billions of Earth-size planets in the galaxy.
And now we know that it’s possible that the nearest one is, on a cosmic scale, right next door.

Whereas Charles Stross is a lot cooler on the issue, albeit he pivots the argument to consider actually sending a probe to this planet. In part because he notes the reality of distance in space. Right next door is nothing of the sort.

I don’t want to minimize the significance of the discovery; it’s certainly a good addition to the list of potentially habitable exoplanets here, but you will note that 4.25 light years isn’t an order-of-magnitude improvement over the previous winners for Earthlike proximity, such as Wolf 1061c (13.8 light years away) or Kapteyn B* (12.76 light years away). We’re talking about the difference between 40 arbitrarily-huge-units and 100 arbitrarily-huge-units. So how should we contextualize these arbitrarily-huge-units?
Currently, the most distant visited body in the solar system is Pluto, at 7.5 billion kilometers. The New Horizons probe flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015. It was launched on January 19th 2006 by a booster and upper stage combination that blasted it straight up to solar escape velocity, with a speed of 16.26 km/sec (58,536 km/h), making it the fastest human-made vehicle ever: it then executed a Jupiter gravity-assist flyby to slingshot it out past Pluto, where it arrived nine and a half years after departure.
This veritable speed racer of an interplanetary probe would thus require a mere 31,600 years to reach Proxima Centauri (if indeed it was pointed in the right direction, which it isn’t).

Space is vast. Unbelievably incredibly vast. The distances between stars that are close to one another in stellar terms is, on a human scale, so daunting as to defy our ability at this point to bridge that gap in any satisfactory timescale.

That’s not to say never, but as Stross notes, we’re not even close to having technologies that would allow us to send probes to Proxima Centauri b. Perhaps won’t have that ability for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

Interesting discussion btl on Stross. And one slightly more optimistic contributor does make some good points in the following:

The importance of a possible Proxima Centauri Planet (PCP) are the following:
a. It is another “close” planet orbiting a red dwarf star. Currently, what we know about planets orbiting red dwarf stars is inferred from computer models. PCP is close enough that we can get very low-resolution measurements against which we can test our models. Testing and refining these models is very important
b. It is a close target against which we can test new technologies. We can already photographed whole planets. I don’t know how much this proximity would increase resolution. The same holds true for studying a potential atmosphere
c. There was talk of using the same method previously used to confirm Europa’s ocean being used to study planetary geology. Assuming it is a rock world, this planet is close enough and the star is small enough that we might begin using it to study geology? I wonder if present methods can infer the presence of plate tectonics?
d. Its existence is really cool and might confirm a cliche

Alpha Centauri! August 27, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The week where a planet is discovered in that remarkably complex system is a good one to look at it a bit more closely. Here’s wiki’s overview on it.

When I say complex I mean it. There’s three stars in the state, A, B and Proxima Centauri where the planet has been discovered. Isn’t it strange that we cannot actually see Proxima Centuari although it is, of the three the closest of the stars. But as a red dwarf its light and heat output is vastly lesser than our own Sun.

And now a planet. More on that shortly…

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Bands with 2 versions on the go August 27, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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There was a piece in The Guardian about bands that split in half SLF, Yes and UB40 are mentioned there but of course there are others. Boney M at one stage had more than 2 versions going. There were two versions of the Wolfetones touring, Queensryche are another band that had two versions going. Black Flag had two versions going for a period. There were numerous versions of Hawkwind, Faust, Barclay James Harvest, The Beach Boys. Naturally there were all sorts of court cases over which version of the various bands had the right to use the Original name….. and it cost many of them a fortune too.

Empty populists association August 26, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s something entertainingly hypocritical about Nigel Farage campaigning for Donald Trump in the US Presidential Election. Where now all the complaints about Obama commenting on the Brexit referendum, where now the complaints about interfering in the sovereign affairs of a foreign state. And even were he to say, well, they started it, it does – at the least suggests that there’s no matter of any great principle here.

Sure… he says:

“I am being careful,” he added when asked if he supported Trump. “It’s not for me as a foreign politician to say who you should vote for … All I will say is that if you vote for Hillary Clinton, then nothing will change. She represents the very politics that we’ve just broken through the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.”

But hold on. If you appear at a rally for a politician and say you won’t vote for their opponent then…

But even that pales by comparison with the absurdities of Farage’s appearance this week. For example, as the Guardian notes:

The crowd seemed slightly puzzled by Farage’s appearance on stage. But Trump welcomed Farage warmly, and stood by him as he spoke.
Farage, on stage alongside one of the wealthiest men in the United States, said that Brexit was “for the little people, for the real people”.

It’s an old trick, isn’t it? The Tories have played it, as have the Republicans and other right wing parties. But rarely have we seen the reality behind the rhetoric so nakedly and unashamedly on display.

Inherited wealth…redux August 26, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Speaking of that a week or two ago, what about this instance, covered by David Mitchell.

In case you missed them, here are those unjust ramifications again.

1) Of the late duke’s [of Westminster] approximately £9bn, approximately £0bn goes to the taxman. I’m sure the Treasury gets some money, but nowhere near a billion quid, let alone the £3.6bn that would be owing if the estate were liable for the standard 40% inheritance tax rate. But it isn’t, obviously, for reasons that are as literally legal as they are figuratively criminal.

2) Of the late duke’s approximately £9bn, approximately £0bn goes to his three daughters.

3) Of the late duke’s approximately £9bn, approximately £9bn, and the titles of Duke of Westminster, Marquess of Westminster and Viscount Belgrave, go to his third child and only son, Hugh (25).

Mitchell continues…

A lot of people don’t like inheritance tax. It feels like stealing from the dead. It isn’t, but it feels like it. The reasoning goes: I worked hard for my money, I paid tax on it when I earned it (not all of the above quite applies to the late duke), so why shouldn’t I be able to leave it all to my children? Why should the taxman get any?

The answer is that, in order to pay for public services, the government should take money out of the economy where it’ll be least missed, where its absence is least likely to plunge people into poverty or reduce consumer spending. The money of the dead is therefore ripe for taxation: the owner no longer needs it, and his or her heirs have been doing OK without it up to now. Inheritance tax doesn’t discourage earning, it discourages dying, which I think we can all get behind.

It’s interesting, isn’t it even if clearly the duke is at the extreme end of the spectrum in relation to this, and Mitchell explains the rationalisations behind the duke’s thinking. One which is hedged in by concepts of family (yes, that again) where, as the former puts it, a scrap of shared DNA that passes down multiple generations is more important than ‘his own daughters,never mind the patients of the NHS’. Yet these are, for some, the ties that bind. It’s a peculiar view of the world.

Political upheaval August 26, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

An interesting point made in Mary Regan’s piece in the SBP this last weekend where she considers the political upheavals in this and other states across the last few years. She notes that despite the ‘civil-war parties’ losing 30% of their share of the vote since the 1980s, dipping from 80% to 50% (entertaining to see the LP excluded from that schema):

But their demise is not as strong or as sudden as the retreat of mainstream traditional parties in other European countries. And so far, there has been no dramatic rise of another party to replace it.

She, of course, is thinking of SYRIZA or Podemos. And that is intriguing. I was thinking something not dissimilar the other day. That while the political structures we have known for many decades have disintegrated they haven’t seen a process of reconsolidation in a new form. So, instead, we are left with many competing voices beyond the ‘civil-war’ parties, albeit perhaps a slim majority of those voice on the Independent side are left of centre while SF is the single largest formation, and by quite some distance, outside of the Independents.

Perhaps because here that process of deconsolidation predated the economic crisis of recent years, that slowly the ‘civil-war’ parties were losing ground and momentum and when that crisis broke it accentuated the process. But… that without a clear incontrovertible alternative that process has now halted and perhaps, perhaps even reversed a little.

And this is a problem because forming a coherent opposition is next to impossible. The SBP has a long piece by Michael Brennan on SF (of which more on one particular point soon) which notes that SF has shifted towards a belief that only in coalition with FF is it likely to gain power. I wonder if that underestimates the antipathy towards it from FF. We’ll see.

But still. Political upheaval hasn’t delivered to us the outcomes almost all of us on this site would hope would occur. Perhaps political upheaval isn’t enough, and hoping for same isn’t enough. But if that’s the case then how will those outcomes be achieved?

This Week At Irish Election Literature August 26, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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“Thatcher’s Extradition Hit-List” a leaflet from The Irish Anti Extradition Committee from around 1989/90.

From 1994 issue 5 of “Maurbere -The Newsletter of East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign”

From The Labour Party in 2009, “Recruitment Made Easy – A Guide to recruiting and retaining members”.


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