A big ‘scope gets a power-boost, turns mirror-gaze to Alpha/Proxima Centauri system

The big-ass Very Large Telescope down in Chile gets a new pair of exo-goggles. Then, as part of the $100 million Breakthrough initiative searching for off-world life, it’ll zoom in on the could-be rocky-earth-like planet we think is orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. Will this give us our first look at actual extraterrestrial life? Could happen. If we luck out on a cosmic scale. Stay tuned….

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Passengers in this film get their wake-up call just a tad early…

The groggy, suspiciously attractive Passengers of this SFX extravaganza take us on a sort-of-world-ship, half-light-speed journey to a nearby stapassenger-shipr system with a habitable planet. Stasis for the travelers is the key, but things go pear-shaped when two of the ticket-holders wake up  prematurely. Like 90 years too early. Complications and void-luv ensue. But we’re all encouraged to note that the film takes its physics seriously. For the most part… Like tears. They don’t just float off from your face in zero-g. Liquid surface tension keeps ’em stuck on your skin, and this principle is adhered to in the film (see what I did there?) Then there’s “tether physics.” The infamous scene in Gravity got this badly wrong and took some serious verbal abuse for it from SF geekdom and actual physics-knowing types worldwide.  In Passengers, two floaters pulling on a shared line act the way they’re ‘sposed to, and that means we’ll all feel better about Newtonian law being strictly obeyed. At least where space-crying and tugging are concerned. But all science aside, the ship itself is gorgeous. The technical term is swoopy, I believe. Very swoopy.  Can’t vouch for the quality of the human performances. It IS an off-world kinda movie we have here, however, and it pays attention to the more pedestrian science-y bits. (Which is more than we could say for Gravity or Interstellar). So, there’s that. Here’s the arty at space.com that goes into more deets on it all:   http://www.space.com/35104-passengers-scifi-movie-nails-space-physics.html

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All aboard.

Next stop: the Valles Marineris. Mind the gap.

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Even once it gets started, exo-life has a tough row to hoe….

chartToo hot. Too cold. Or juuuuust right? Young planets aren’t so comfy for young life forms. But hey, there’s the Earth. So, score one for biology…. Turns out young planets go through all kinds of spasms and hiccups on their way to stability. So, even if say bacterial level life manages to get itself established, things can go seriously sideways at any point after that. On Earth, bacteria ruled as sole monarchs of the place for two billion years, and only then managed to gear up into complex cells and then animal-caliber creatures. So, while we may find delightful slimey bio-film-inhabited planets aplenty, it may be hard to locate anyone able to play chess with, etc. More from the pessimists here.

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Nearest exoplanet (possibly) ID’d. Yay! Do I pack my exo-bags pronto? Sci Am sez chill out ’cause: insufficient data; may not be life-friendly; red dwarf stars throw more hissy-fit tantrums than Donald Trump; and finally, P-b may not really like… exist.

Still, Proxima b COULD be all kinds of exciting, providing a comfy habitable-zone home for all your fave off-world evo-devo fantasies. But we won’t know for a goodly while, so no need to send off your order for celebratory Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters quite yet. Cold-shower arty here.


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The ESO announces today what they’ve found orbiting Proxima Centauri. A new Earth right next door? Maybe could be…

Rumors say: the new guy is rocky, in the Goldilocks zone, & a mere 39.9 trillion miles away.  So, yeah, basically in our back yard.  Exo-deets to come….


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We ALL want to meet advanced, hyper-wise alien space-dolphins wearing walksuits, right? I do! But some people, not so much….

jules color w nameHope we find extraterrestrial life? Are you SURE you wanna go there? Personally, I’ve always looked forward to the day that SETI announces the BIG SIGNAL or whatever sort of answer we get from Great Out-There. But some thinkers think it would be a really bad thing for humanity’s future if we find so much as a non-Earthly bacteria buried under Martian sands or in Europa’s under-ice oceans. And much worse if we find intelligent life somewhere. Nick Bostrom is one of those very smart people who say we better be pretty freakin’ careful what we wish for. And this has zero to do w/ aggressive aliens wielding superweapons and a lust for Earth’s resources, etc. Nope. Has to do with a concept known as the Great Filter; i.e, something that occurs in our long-term past or is likely to occur up ahead of us that’s capable of weeding us, or any evolving species, right out of the universe.  Click thru to see where Nick makes his case: http://www.nickbostrom.com/extraterrestrial.pdf

And it’s a damn good case, but I still want to find off-world life. Humanity’s future will just have to take care of itself…. because: dolphins! In walksuits!

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Yo, writerly types: Here’s your chance to polish your editing & revision chops till they gleam – w/ Harvard’s Mary Rakow – in Iowa City, April 22 & 23

The ever-awesome IOWA WRITERS’ HOUSE gang presents a world-class workshop in editing & revision with a true Jedi Master of the art. Clickety HERE for all the details.

Mastering Editing & Revision: A Writing Workshopediting workshop

WHEN: Friday, April 22, 6-8 pm
Saturday, April 23rd, 9:30 am- 3:30 pm
Sunday, April 24th, 9:30 am- 3:30 pm
+ Participants can book a free 30-minute individual editing session during specific slots, Thursday-Saturday
WHERE: The Iowa Writers’ House,  332 E Davenport St
FEE: $265

Every writer knows, there is writing and then there is revising. The editing and revision phase requires putting on a separate hat than the one you wore for the first draft. Often the difference between a good piece and a great piece lies in the writer’s ability to both to ruthlessly reduce and delicately refine their work. This workshop is designed to help writers develop and hone their editor’s eye through review of their own work and participating in peer critique through the traditional ‘workshop’ method.

Posted in Authors & Their Books, Authors Aspiring to Have Books, Books, Publishing, Writing stuff with words.... | Leave a comment

1 Book 2 Book Literary Festival hits Iowa City on 2/27. The words are waiting for ya. C’mon in!

All manner of books-and-comics-and-artists-and-authors stuff is slated to rear up and word-out in Iowa City on Feb. 27th as the One Book Two Book Lit Fest & Jr. High Writing Jam storm into town and touch down at the Hotel Vetro, the Mill and other lucky venues. Get the deets here…and mark yer calendars! See you there.writing jam images

From the festival HQ:

2016 festival set for Feb. 26-28

ceThe 2016 One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival will be held Feb. 26-28 in downtown Iowa City.

The festival, which celebrates writing for and by children, will feature three days of events designed to encourage young writers, share stories, and foster a love of reading.

The weekend begins with the Once Upon A Time banquet at the Hotel Vetro. This event celebrates writing by students at Iowa City-area elementary schools. One student from each of 22 schools will be recognized and will read his or her work. In addition, thanks to a sponsorship from Terry, Lockridge & Dunn/WorldTrend Financial, each participating school will receive a table of 10 for students, parents and educators.

The keynote presentation at that event will be presented by children’s book author Candace Fleming and author/illustrator Eric Rohmann.

The pair, who have many books between them, including the collaborative Oh, No! and Bulldozer’s Big Day, also will present as part of the second day of the Festival. Events will be held from 1o a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Hotel Vetro. This includes presentations by Fleming and Rohmann, a visit from IPTV’s Dan Wardell, costumed book characters, toy trains, a book fair and much more.

In addition, the annual Jr. High Writing Jam with the Iowa Youth Writing Project, and the Comic Book Confidential workshop, this year with artist Jonathan Sims, will be held. Check the website for signup details.

The festival ends on Sunday, Feb. 28, with the Write Out Loud award ceremony, 1-3 p.m. at Macbride Auditorium on the University of Iowa Campus. Students in grades 1-8 from throughout the Corridor submitted a page of original writing to be judged by our partners at Pearson. Two grade level winners will be chosen in each grade, one in each of the following categories:

  • “The Write Stuff”: For language, clarity, structure, and emotional impact.
  • “From the Heart”: For creativity, passion, and expressiveness.

Other students will be recognized with honorable mention awards.

All events on Saturday and Sunday are free and open to the public. A limited number of public tickets are available for the Friday banquet at $25. contact rachael@iowacityofliterature.org for details.

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Look what WE got for ChristmaKwanzaYulishPaganDay…

Just in time for the solstice holidays: here’s a quick vid of the six horses that IERAL recently rescued enjoying their new home in our south pasture. Thanks to Karla S. for capturing their excitement at having room to run and grass to munch. Gift idea prompt: all of these beauts (thoroughbreds & paints) will up be for adoption to qualified humans once ownership is officially transferred, which should be soon.

UPDATE: 1/13/17 – four of these six horses have now been adopted out to horse-savvy new owners. What an excellent kick off to the new year!


screen shot of jessup horses

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