99c Holiday Book Sale!

HOLIDAY SALE! All my books are only 99c/each until December 31. If you or someone you know likes science, this science fiction is just for them! As one reviewer stated, “Seamless integration of real science with an eye toward plausibility reminds me of Asimov.” The Terra Debacle, the story of a sentient plant stuck on Earth, will undoubtedly put a smile on the face of any botanists out there.

More information about the individual stories, including reviews and videos, can be found on the series website here, or you can find all of them on my Amazon page here. Happy reading!

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Describing a Sci-Fi story as “Unbelievable” is NOT a Good Thing

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** Review of “Return of the Sagan” by Neil Patrick O’Donnell

I don’t enjoy giving a book a bad review. As an author myself, I know it hurts, unless someone has such an iron-clad ego that they don’t believe it and thus fail to heed what it’s saying. Thus, when I do so, I try to stick to the facts of what a book’s deficiencies are so the author knows what to fix. Of course any review will always have a high level of subjectivity, but I try to judge a book as fairly as possible, based on its merits.

This story got off to a good start and has tremendous potential to become an epic saga of a starship gone for 300 years and now returning to Earth, only to find the human population extinct. That’s a big story. The main character, anthropologist, Francis Burns (no relation to Frank Burns of M*A*S*H fame), is believable and endearing with his OCD and quirky obsession with Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was a nice affirmation for gender equality that men and women shared high military rank in the story. The names of the vessels were well-chosen and credible. Authors are always advised to “write what you know” and O’Donnell did a great job with OCD and the geography of the Niagara region as well as military jargon and protocol. Generally, I believe that the world of “fandom” would particularly enjoy this story and would make a good target audience.

However, there are numerous things that need to be fixed before this story can be taken seriously by true science fiction fans. It’s important to note that “fandom” comprises individuals who are very well-versed on details and to earn their loyalty and respect you’d better get the particulars right. Unfortunately, I would give an “F-“ to some elements in this story, which I’ll explain farther down.

I must say that I truly hope the author can take my comments as constructive criticism as opposed to bashing, which is not my intent. I believe this story deserves serious editing at the line, copy and content levels so it can become the great saga for which it holds promise. If I were its editor, here are some of the things I would suggest to bring it to its potential glory.

1. It’s best to open a story with the main character, not someone who will largely disappear or be absorbed. Furthermore, there were too many characters, especially in the beginning. They weren’t all faceless, but most didn’t have a distinct personality. Due to the scope of the story, several characters are justified, but they need to be humanized and developed to hold the reader’s interest.

2. The author’s writing style is reasonably good, almost to the point of what I would call “strong.” However, there are few relatively easy to fix stylistic issues that would result in considerable improvement. Probably the most noticeable would be to eliminate the repeated use of the POV character’s name. Interestingly enough, this didn’t occur until later in the story. It’s distracting for a name to be repeated a half-dozen times or more in a single paragraph, especially in places where the person in question is the only one involved. That’s why we have pronouns. If there are two people of the same gender involved in a scene, a reminder of who’s talking or doing what from time to time is useful, but effective pronoun use is essential to readability. You don’t want the reader thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know it’s him already!” or, conversely, having to stop and reread a section to figure out who’s speaking or prevailing in a fight scene.

3. Typos are almost inevitable in any novel, my personal favorite in this tome being “zero-gravy” which would probably slip past a spell-checker, but some were grating such as the consistent use of the wrong homonym. One or two I can handle, but this was excessive. I’ve never seen so many. I suspect a good grammar checker would catch these since in most cases they represent an entirely different part of speech. For example:

solar flares, not flairs

waver in the limited light, not waiver

reigned in magnificence, not reined

soul was allowed to leave his care, not sole

waved Francis to take his seat, not waived

pour out of the satchel, not poor

higher branches, not hire branches

fell from the satchel right past Francis, not passed

4. The military jargon and procedures were convincing and came across with an air of authenticity. Good job there. However, the technical aspects were so far beyond feasible that it detracted from the rest of the story. One minor example is the use of paper onboard a starcruiser, which is beyond doubtful.

5. And speaking of a starcruiser, no matter how much of a conspiracy buff you might be with regard to UFOs, it would be more credible for the ET’s from Zeta-Reticuli to provide Earth with a ship with interstellar capability with the volume of three aircraft carriers than for us to suddenly acquire one, much less populate it with F-15E Strike Eagles. I would think that most people, particularly sci-fi fans, would know that these aircraft could not possibly fly in space. Just out of curiosity and as a detail-oriented person myself, I asked a friend who’s a former pilot about that. Here is what he said:

“The F-15 could not be controlled outside the atmosphere as the airplane’s control surfaces depend on air flow to cause changes in roll, pitch, and yaw.  Thrusters are required to maneuver in space.  If it had thrusters, I suspect that the structure would overheat and breakup during reentry.  Initial reentry mach is far higher and would generate far more heat than the F-15 materials could withstand.  The engines are air breathers and can’t burn the kerosene without oxygen.  Then there’s the little issue of gravity.  The fuel tanks, lubricating oil tanks, and hydraulic reservoirs depend on gravity to operate.  The pickup points are in the bottom of the tanks.  The fuel tanks have baffles to keep a small amount of fuel available for negative-G use.  The engines are okay with the oil on them for a short time and there is pressurized hydraulic fluid in the system. 

“The fighters and trainers that I flew were limited to 30 seconds negative-G or inverted flight.  Zero-G is not negative-G, I’m not sure if there would be any difference.  The F-15 cabin is pressurized to 5 psi above ambient at altitude.  (It is unpressurized to 8,000 feet, maintains 8,000 feet until it requires 5 psi, then maintains 5 psid.)  There should not be any issues with DCS if the pressurization were functioning but it won’t be because it uses bleed air off the jets and the jets won’t work in a vacuum.  Therefore, the crew is exposed to vacuum with probable deleterious results. Another issue: the generators are driven by the engines and if the engines aren’t turning you are down to battery power which will only power essential systems for a short duration.  The longer I think about this the more reasons I come with as to why the F-15 isn’t a spacecraft.”

 

Yes, there are readers who are acutely aware of such facts and inaccuracies of this magnitude detract from the story as a whole. It would be more credible to make up an entirely new craft (think X-wing or Tie fighters) than use one inappropriately. Even a mention of the aircraft being retrofitted would have helped, even though that would be extremely unlikely due to what it would entail.

6. Some plot angles, such as the potential for a conspiracy on the part of political figures, were dropped. If this will be developed in a sequel then that should be implied more clearly.

If I were to deduct one star for each of the above points, the book book have a negative rating. Of course all the work the author put into it is worth something and it did have some redeeming value, even though reading much of this book was downright painful. Nonetheless, I persisted to see how it would end, which was handled reasonably well and provided fertile ground for a sequel.

As noted earlier, the premise is interesting and has tremendous potential, but the execution left far too many shortcomings if you’re picky about the science being accurate and expect proper grammar and style that doesn’t keep tossing you out of the story, shaking your head. These issues require attention to pass muster with the ranks of true science fiction fans. Besides some good editing, a cadre of good beta readers are a valuable asset that I highly recommend.

If you’re so inclined, you can pick up a copy on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Return-Sagan-Neil-Patrick-ODonnell-ebook/dp/B00SP4BOZS/

Spend the Summer on Another Planet

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In case you missed it earlier, here’s another reminder that the entire Star Trails Tetralogy, over 1500 pages of classic hard science fiction, is still on sale as a box set for only 99c from July 1 – 4. The price has NEVER been this low and won’t be again for a long time, so grab a copy now. Why? I’m celebrating the first anniversary of when the box set was released on July 3, 2015.

Each of the four novels are included as well as the Star Trails Compendium, which includes background information on Cyraria, a glossary of terms, and a section for parents and educators who want to use the series to stimulate discussions and learning of the various scientific principles. Remember, I’m a physicist and take great pains to assure the science is accurate, sci-fi excursions notwithstanding. You can learn more about the individual books at the series’ website.

Examples of what reviewers are saying:

“A magnificent space opera of epic proportions.”

“Master storyteller of the highest caliber.”

“In the vein of old #scifi literature this story could end up as another classic.”

“Drops us off in an imaginative world similar to Star Wars or Star Trek.”

Anyone who loves hard science will lap this book up.”

“Sci-fi at its best. This space opera is fast paced and action packed and will leave you breathless.”

“Imaginative hard scifi with real-life characters.”

“Everything a good sci-fi book needs including an author who knows her stuff.”

If you love hard sci-fi, what do you have to lose for 99c?

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

Teleportation: Science Fiction or Science Fact (Take Two)

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My first blog on this subject focused primarily on the similarities between Lawrence Krauss’ description of teleportation found in his book, The Physics of Star Trek, to that contained in the Teleportation Physics Study done for the Air Force Research Laboratory by Eric W. Davis at Warp Drive Metrics.  I found that particularly amusing since the steps involved in the latter were nearly verbatim to Krauss’ speculations.  The show stoppers to this method, however, were, if nothing else, the computing requirements to track every subatomic particle, convert it to energy, transport it at the speed of light and then get everything put back together again.  Formidable, indeed.

A Form of Psychokinesis

This time I’m going to look at one of the other possible means that has enjoyed positive experimental results, i.e. P-Teleportation, which is a form of psychokinesis (or PK) similar to telekinesis.  Telekinesis is the moving or bending of stationary objects without using any known physical force other than mental energy.  Often considered no more than a cheap parlor or magician’s trick, this phenomena has been investigated scientifically for years with numerous demonstrations provided for high ranking military officials and trained observers.  I swear I’m not making this up.

This teleportation method is particularly fascinating to me as an science fiction author since two of the novels in my Star Trails Tetralogy employ mentally induced teleportation augmented/ amplified by a mysterious (fictitious) crystal I named cristobalite.  Needless to say, real-life experimentation in this regard blurs the lines between science fiction and science fact.

Robert Jahn (Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering at Princeton) conducted scientifically controlled PK experiments at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory and reported consistent results in mentally affecting material substances.  In the 1980s, Jahn noted at a meeting on the topic at the Naval Research Laboratory that such methods could be used by foreign adversaries to compromise aircraft.  It’s certainly no surprise that the military has a keen interest in such a phenomena, regardless of what “conventional wisdom” has to say about it.  If it works, it works, regardless of whether we understand why.

To quote a conversation from my sci-fi novel, Refractions of Frozen Time:

“My first thought is that they’re either more pure or maybe a different isotope than Tank crystals,” Creena stated.  “I’ll have Aggie run some tests and see if we can figure out what makes them work.”

“Who cares how they work?” Deven commented.  “Why does it matter? Can’t you just see what they can do instead?”

Creena paused, mouth agape, dumbfounded by his simple, yet profound logic.  He’s right, she thought.  It doesn’t matter.  Just because they didn’t know how the Think Tank connected thoughts with a specific location, much less got them there, didn’t make it any less effective.”

Documented Experimental Evidence

So, meanwhile, back to the teleportation report, psychic Uri Geller “was able to cause a part of a vanadium carbide crystal to vanish.  The crystal was encapsulated so it could not be touched, and it was placed in such a way that it could not be switched with another crystal by sleight of hand.”

Similar experiments were conducted in the Peoples Republic of China, the results of which were published clear back in 1981.  Gifted children were able to cause the apparent teleportation of small objects to another location meters away.  More research was conducted by the Aerospace Medicine Engineering Institute in Beijing which was reported in the Chinese Journal of Somatic Science in 1990 and translated into English by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  All objects teleported were “completely unaltered or unchanged from their initial state, even the insects were unaffected by being teleported.”

The collective results from several Chinese experiments corroborated similar conclusions.  Different research groups, experimental protocols and psychics were used as well as a variety of test specimens ranging from insects to radio micro-transmitters sealed within sealed containers comprised of a variety of different materials.  Time required for teleportation varied, ranging from a fraction of a second to several minutes, which didn’t depend upon the item, containment barrier, protocol or psychic involved.

Recording methods included high-speed photography and videotaping, which showed that, in some cases, the specimens would physically “meld” or blend with the walls of the sealed container, while others simply disappeared and reappeared elsewhere.  There was no indication that the object disintegrated/reintegrated.  The report noted that “The average person’s sensory organs were unable to perceive the specimen’s (ambiguous) existence during the teleportation process.”

I find the implications of the insects particularly interesting since they represent a living entity.  The micro-transmitter was also notable in that it showed “large fluctuations in the intensity (in both amplitude and frequency) of the monitored signal to the effect that it would either completely disappear or become extremely weak”, indicating the object was “nonexistent” or in an altered physical state during teleportation.

There was no change to either the specimen or the container’s wall/barrier with both complete, solid objects.  Best of all, these results were repeatable, and thus not a fluke, plus any possibility for fraud or sleight of hand were eliminated by the experiment protocols with several highly credible witnesses present.

During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pack allies conducted numerous experiments on parapsychology and paraphysics, a field they referred to as psychotronics research.  The U.S. Army conducted similar experiments, now unclassified, that related primarily to remote viewing.

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4Some researchers indicated a new physics, which combined human consciousness with quantum and spacetime physics, was required to fully explain PK phenomena, a concept with which I heartily agree.  After all, early quantum physics experiments such as the double slit experiment indicated the affect of an observer from the git-go, but of course “rational” scientists have made every possible effort to explain this away.

Discouraging the belief in such things continues in varying degrees, from Dr. Venkman’s bogus telepathy experiments in the movie Ghostbusters to stories found in tabloids like The National Enquirer.  Is it possible that discouraging the belief in such things via mockery is an effort to prevent individuals from uncovering abilities that could endanger the powers that be?

Evidence of a 4th Dimension?

The author of this paper suggested a hypothesis based on mathematical geometry, i.e., the existence of a 4th dimension which introduces an extra degree of freedom.  He states, “It has been proposed that our space actually possesses a slight four-dimensional hyperthickness, so that the ultimate components of our nervous system are actually higher dimensional, thus enabling the human mind/brain to imagine four-dimensional space.”

This implies we can see into a 4th dimension and have four-dimensional thoughts.  This reminds me of the “thoughts become things” belief prominent among various motivational proponents such as Mike Dooley and others plus explained in the movie “The Secret”.  My thoughts also turn to all those items that I’ve carefully deposited in the proverbial “safe place” only never to find again.  Did I perhaps inadvertently send them to a 4th dimension where they are forever safe, albeit lost?

Physical or Metaphysical Phenomena?

I’m a physicist who spent over two decades working in the very corporeal aerospace industry.  In spite of my training as a physicist, however, I turned to the “dark side” to embrace astrology, so much so that upon my retirement in 2009 I came “out of the closet” as the professional astrologer who’s behind the website, ValkyrieAstrology.com.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I walk that nebulous line between physics and metaphysics with ease.  Astrology, as you probably know, is enthusiastically debunked by scientists in spite of the fact that it’s been around for millennia and works quite nicely in spite of their disbelief.

bookofneptunecoverLooking at things from the astrological side, weird, woo-woo phenomena like P-Teleportation resides largely within the domain of the planet, Neptune.  Steven Forrest is renowned worldwide as astrologer who has recently released a book entitled, “The Book of Neptune.”  Forrest explains that currently Neptune is in the sign of its astrological dignity, i.e. Pisces, in which Neptune’s energy is not only particularly strong but has historically delivered a huge shift in spiritual paradigms.  Forrest explains:

“Aquarius is a Fixed sign of the Air family.  Fixity, expressed negatively, is simply rigid–think of rigor mortis.  And Air is mental energy; it is about ideas.  Add Neptune to the mix, and you see spiritual ideas that have lost their elasticity and their ability to excite and enliven anyone.  The scholars and the bureaucrats have eclipsed the mystics.  This morbid condition is eternally the natural prelude to Neptune’s entry into Pisces and the spiritual awakening it implies.  Before the spiritual renaissance can happen, there is a period of spiritual deadness, in which dull, unchanging ideas and interpretations of the divine have replaced genuine magic.” (The Book of Neptune, p. 297)

“I would add yet another piece to the puzzle: the convergence of physics and mysticism.  Religion and science have often had an uneasy relationship. They still do, in many ways. And of course science itself is a religion to many people…And yet, I believe that the division between science and spirituality is healing–that science, at its best, is simply human reason struggling toward the truth of things…” (Ibid, pp. 304-305)

Forrest further suggests that the time between now and 2026 will see quantum leaps in this area.  I, for one, can hardly wait.

heisenbergquoteThis brings to mind forward thinkers like Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, published initially clear back in 1976.  This book definitely served as a prelude to a melding of science and mysticism.  He begins this fascinating work with one of my all-time favorite quotes from Werner Heisenberg, which states, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

deanw-bookPerhaps Neptune’s subtle influences will facilitate the removal of the stigma associated with metaphysical phenomena sufficiently to allow such collaboration.  I suspect researchers such as Dean Radin, whose specialty is psi phenomena, and popular physicist Michio Kaku, a proponent of a multi-dimensional universe, could come up with some incredibly interesting insights.

The coming decade indeed promises to be an interesting one.  My fondest hope is that I’ll figure out how to recover all those items I secured in that safe place, somewhere in the 4th dimension.

 

Challenges of Space Exploration: Weightlessness

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In my recent interview with Book Nerd Paradise I read an excerpt from Beyond the Hidden Sky which illustrated what Creena experienced when the escape pod finally landed on Verdaris. While she’d been instructed by the onboard v-troid, DORAI, to exercise as a regular part of her zones, Creena got frustrated with the equipment malfunctioning and stopped doing so as part of her general rebellion. Exercising was a bore, especially when the marching machine kept jamming or not keeping an accurate record of how much she’d done. Moving about the pod in a weightless environment was effortless and fun! Yet she was initially informed that life in zero-g meant exercise zones. The conversation went like this:

“If I don’t I’ll get what?” Creena asked.

“Orthostatic intolerance,” DORAI replied.

“What’s that?”

“Side effects of zero gravity. It affects your heart, skeletal muscles, bones and balance. Without countermeasures you’ll be dizzy, have trouble standing up, and won’t be strong enough to walk when you return to a gravity field.”

So she’d been warned but conveniently forgot. The results were not pretty.

Why were these exercise routines known as countermeasures necessary? This excerpt from p. 62 of The Star Trails Compendium briefly explains it:

Gravity forces your body to continually compensate for it by building additional strength. Without it muscles weaken, including the heart, also a muscle, which needs to pump blood against it. Orthostatic intolerance is the technical term for not being able to stand up without holding onto something. Astronauts in space exercise to maintain their strength so that when they return to Earth they are not too weak to walk. Some astronauts who have returned from long-duration space flight have not been able to walk without assistance.

Gravity is something we take for granted. For example, pouring a glass of water requires gravity to deliver the liquid to the container. In space the liquid would spill out into the air and float around in a glob. Think about things you do that you can’t do upside down and you will discover various “gravity assisted functions.” Astronauts often suffer from space sickness, similar to motion sickness, because gravity is not helping keep food and liquids in their stomach.

My first job at NASA was in their Life Sciences Division at Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. Among other things, they studied the effects of zero gravity on the human body. They conducted various experiments and developed exercise equipment for the astronauts to maintain their fitness level. One of the physical problems related to losing calcium from their bones, which obviously would weaken them. They found that resistance exercises were most effective, even though aerobic exercises such as running on a treadmill were still important as well.

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To prepare for long-term space flight such as that required to go to Mars, NASA is currently conducting a year-long study about the effects of micro-gravity in an interesting way. It just so happens that two astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly, are identical twins. Mark is retired but on March 27, 2015 Scott and Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko, blasted off for the International Space Station where Mark will spend a year participating in the study. Mark, who will remain on Earth, will serve as a control during which they will study molecular changes between the two. The study, which comprises numerous separate experiments, will also address how an astronaut’s mental state is affected by these changes.

You can learn more about the study here.

Space travel is not a simple matter. While we have the technology to build an interplanetary spacecraft we still don’t fully understand how it will affect humans at the physical level. This study will provide a few answers.

[NOTE: You can download a free copy of The Star Trails Compendium which contains lesson and discussion ideas of the science in The Star Trails Tetralogy from Smashwords here.]

Image licenses and copyrights via 123rf.com

Guilty as Charged: I Had an Ulterior Motive

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Okay, I admit it. I had an ulterior motive when I wrote the Star Trails Tetralogy. I don’t think it was a bad one, but it was there nonetheless. As I’ve mentioned before, perhaps ad nauseam, I was inspired to pursue a career in a technical field by the science fiction I read as a kid. And that is what I wanted to do with my stories, make science intriguing and interesting enough that my readers would love it as much as I do and want to know more. I mean, seriously. Why else would an otherwise normal person get a degree in physics? At least I thought I was normal. Then again, maybe not.

At any rate, my books have apparently succeeded to some degree. But don’t listen to me, I’m clearly biased and perhaps not to be trusted. Here’s what some of my reviewers have to say:

Marcha Fox has a gift for explaining the science in an interesting and original way. Sci-fi fans who love properly developed cultures backed up by hard and well understood science will devour these stories.

Science theory is a large part of this story and the writer uses many scenes and situations to explore warp drive, time bumps, worm holes, and warp gullies to name a few. When explanation is needed in a book, it usually slows progression of the plot, but the author uses the science as a “key” to unlock the puzzle of the many developing situations in which Creena finds herself. It’s a great book for anyone that wants to learn more about scientific concepts while being thoroughly entertained.

Anyone who loves hard science will lap this book up.

Having taught junior high science for a number of years I think this read would be a fabulous addition to classroom libraries as well as “the hungry for sci-fi lovers” personal bookshelf.

A great book for anyone that wants to learn more about scientific concepts while being thoroughly entertained.

The scientific details added greatly to the story without sounding like something out of a textbook.

I am in awe of the world author Marcha Fox has created. She has populated our galaxy with human colonies and aliens, enriching the story with intricate detail covering solar systems, seasons, geology, politics, anthropological, fauna, eco-commerce, technological, and spiritual beliefs that are unveiled layer upon layer as the story progresses.

[The author] integrates actual science into science fiction, creating worlds, customs, and life forms outside the world we live.

Needless to say I was deeply gratified and appreciative that these wonderful readers picked up on my ulterior motive and didn’t give me a one or two star review because it was too technical and therefore boring. Of course, nerds like myself LOVE the technical side, but that’s besides the point.

So what is the point? The point is that I didn’t stop there. I also put together “The Star Trails Compendium” which includes a glossary of terms, both fictitious and otherwise, as a companion volume to the stories. I include more details about the star system, Cyraria’s weird, lemniscate (figure-8 shaped) orbit, its effects on their horrific, extreme weather, political structure, and a bit more about the bnolar, the planet’s indigenous species. I hope no one is too disappointed that I refrained from including all the calculations I did while developing the star system, mostly because math is so tedious to express via the keyboard.

And here’s the best part: The ebook versions of the Compendium are FREE!  (At least everywhere but Amazon, who’s a bit uncooperative, but might come around eventually given enough complaints. Hint, hint..)

If you’re an educator or perhaps a homeschooler, there’s an even better bonus especially for you. I’ve included suggestions for lesson plans and discussion topics based on the chapters of each book. Thus, any science teachers who have students who need a little bit more could assign my books as extra credit backed up by assignments which are all but laid out for you in the Compendium. Science clubs could likewise utilize them. Knowing how overloaded today’s teachers are, this could provide the needed stimulation for the Advanced Placement students without a lot of extra work on their part.

If you’re wondering how this works, here’s an example using an excerpt from Chapter 3 of “Beyond the Hidden Sky.”

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The Escape Pod

Shortly after jettison the acceleration shell loosened its grip and shrunk back into the side of the seat but Creena remained in place, gripping the armrests with white-knuckled hands. She’d always been frustrated with the rapid heartbeat and breathing provoked by anger but that was nothing compared to what she was feeling now. She’d experienced a variety of emotions on Mira III, more than most that went through their ordered lives in a state of unquestioning, unreactive calm.

What she felt now, however, was stronger still, a deep, primal reaction from the core of her being. Seared by adrenaline every cell cried out with an unspeakable fear far deeper than any provoked merely by thought, terror firing her blood like a burning fuse.

Never in her entire life had she been so scared.

Her breathing rasped in her ears, mouth dry with her hands shaking and clammy against the armrests. Gradually her racing mind slowed and her heart stopped pounding though her breathing remained heavier than normal as she concentrated on her surroundings.

Funny, it didn’t even feel like she was moving anymore. But it hadn’t felt like the Aquarius was moving, either. She thought back to her Academy physics class and remembered that was the case when something was moving in a straight line at constant speed. The starfield on the holoscreen likewise seemed still but instinct told her that was simply a matter of scale.

She released the straps, their recoil sloppy and slow. The breathless, airy feeling swelled upward, the sensation similar to a soaring dive in an air cruiser. She gasped clutching her chest and the next thing she knew she was floating haplessly above the shell, like a sphere under electro-magnetic levitation.

She gasped in renewed horror.

Was she dead?

She pinched herself, hard, relieved only slightly when it hurt.

Across the pod lights blinked and flashed while the metal floor offered a dizzying design of concentric rings that still seemed to spring upward in pulsating waves. The illusion aggravated the growing nausea even as the facts fell into place.

The Aquarius hadn’t felt that much different from being confined in an ugly building. Certain areas like the galarium where wall-embedded holoscreens gave every impression that a real world lay beyond epoxy shields even added to the deception. But the pod was designed for survival and lacked the power hungry comforts of a starship.

And a mass generator’s gravity simulation was one of them.

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And here are two of the Compendium Discussion and Lesson Plan Suggestions for Chapter 3:

  1. It doesn’t feel as if the pod is moving. Why?

When something is moving in a straight line at constant speed you can’t tell it’s moving. This relates to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion or the principle of inertia which states than an object will remain in a state of rest or constant velocity unless acted upon by unbalanced forces. Newton’s 2nd Law is best described by the equation Force = mass x acceleration or F=ma.

In other words, the force exerted on an object depends on its mass and how fast it is changing speed or accelerating. Newton’s 3rd Law relates to opposing forces, that whenever a force is applied to something, an equal and opposite force is generated, such as the kickback on a rifle or pushing off the side of a swimming pool.

  1. Why is Creena weightless in the pod?

It doesn’t have a “gravity simulator.” Mass such as that of a planet creates gravity which is proportional to how big it is. Scientists will don’t understand exactly how or why gravity works, but they can predict its strength based on the mass of an object or planet.

* * *

So this should give you some idea of the possibilities. Did I have an ulterior motive for this blog? Of course I did. I want my books to reach the audience for which they were intended! But here’s the good news. You can get “Beyond the Hidden Sky” as an ebook for only $0.99 and the Compendium for FREE! Why don’t you check it out? If you’re a teacher or parent trying to encourage your child to not only enjoy science but perhaps actually pursue it, what do you have to lose? Oh, yeah, there’s one more thing. If your library has ebook lending capability, it can obtain all four volumes of the Star Trails Tetralogy for free through Smashwords.

“Beyond the Hidden Sky” Buy Links

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615658865/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0615658865&linkCode=as2&tag=valkyrastrol-20&linkId=DKGQSU3GYWZM6WH7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/509500

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beyond-the-hidden-sky-marcha-a-fox/1112260474

Kobo Link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/beyond-the-hidden-sky

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/beyond-the-hidden-sky/id957915250

Create Space (Print copy): https://www.createspace.com/3911767

“Star Trails Compendium” Links

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/537630

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-compendium

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-compendium-marcha-fox/1121807004

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-compendium/id989027687

What’s Behind the Science in Science Fiction? Part Two – Atomic Theory

bohratom

I know you’re anxious to get to the good stuff like other dimensions and time travel, but you need to be patient just a little longer. After all, this blog is about what’s behind the science in science fiction, not the final result. Think of it as similar to those documentaries you see on TV which explain how they do the special effects in your favorite movies. I don’t know about you, but knowing how they do that makes me appreciate the movie even more. If you couldn’t care less, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog and need to just go back to reading sci-fi novels. Those who are left need to just bear with me a little longer as I explain the basics of atomic theory which is more relevant than you may think. Ready? Okay, here we go.

As far back as 400 BC or so early Greek philosophers pondered what constituted matter and decided that it could only be divided down so far, from which atomic theory was born. The term “atom” even originated with their adjective atomos, which means indivisible. Back then the elements were believed to be water, air, earth and fire. Clearly they are all important, particularly to life, but not a one of them is an actual element in the chemical sense.

However, proving it was another story and it wasn’t until the 18th – 19th century that scientists gradually discovered that water was comprised of hydrogen and oxygen; air is mostly nitrogen with hydrogen, oxygen and various others in the mix; earth is made up of too many elements to count; and fire is a process that involves oxygen and thus called oxidation but isn’t an element in and of itself. As they confirmed that certain chemicals could only be broken down so far the Periodic Table of the Elements was born. Periodically more are added (pun intended) though in most cases they are manmade.

periodic_table

By the early 20th century experiments involving electromagnetism and radioactivity revealed that, would the truth be known, the atom was not indivisible after all, but consisted of other particles which were identified as protons, neutrons and electrons. These were suitably dubbed subatomic or elementary particles and scientists conveniently ignored the fact that the etymology of the word “atom” no longer applied, figuring most people didn’t know Greek, anyway.

How these subatomic particles were arranged was a matter of debate that went through numerous speculations. J. J. Thomson’s idea was sometimes referred to the “plum pudding” model where protons and electrons were lumped together in a glob of positively charged fluid. After that, Ernest Rutherford decided that the positive charge as well as most of the mass were concentrated in the center with the electrons surrounding it in some unknown way.

In 1913 Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, proposed his version of the hydrogen atom which remains the mental image many retain today, i.e., a nucleus in the center with electrons revolving around it much as the planets orbit the Sun as shown at the beginning of this blog. Bohr still believed that electrons orbited the nucleus but he placed restrictions on them to certain discrete distances or allowed orbits so that it would agree with what experiments thus far had revealed. At this point they considered the electrons to be itty-bitty particles that orbited the nucleus according to the laws of classical mechanics, in other words like the planets orbit the Sun.

The electrons would change orbits based on either emitting or absorbing a photon, as shown in the animation. This was getting closer, but still had problems.

Nonetheless, the idea of specific orbits was a definite step toward quantum theory and the fact that only specific energy states were allowed. The real problem was thinking of electrons as tiny specks of matter which behaved according to Newton’s Laws pertaining to gravitation. WRONG!

Bohr_atom_animation_2

In 1924 a scientist named Louis de Broglie (pronounced de-broy) proposed that all moving particles could exhibit wave-like behavior. Erwin Schrodinger liked this idea and developed it further, into a probability wave. This theory helped explain behaviors that previous ones couldn’t but still didn’t cover everything. This was ultimately solved by Max Born (no relation to Jason Bourne) who theorized that Schrodinger’s equation represented all possible positions where the electron might possibly be. This conveniently reconciled the two ideas and the wave/particle duality of electrons was born (pun intended).

However, trying to figure out the atom was not taking place in the proverbial vacuum (though admittedly some experiments were). During this same time numerous other scientists were hard at work investigating what interested them most and ultimately led to so many different scientific disciplines. Things were getting too complicated for any one person to have a firm grip on everything anymore.

Light was also under scrutiny since it was apparent that atoms and electromagnetic radiation (a.k.a. light) were related. If you’re scratching your head on where that came from, it derived from having established that atoms emit a photon when they change states, like that cute little animation shows. And in case you’re wondering, yes, even the Sun, our greatest source of energy and light, is no more than a giant glob comprised mostly of hydrogen atoms which bond with each other under pressure to become helium at which time a photon is emitted. Lots of them, true, but that’s the process. Simple.

Most people think of light as what we can see which is conveniently broken down into its various colors by a prism or in some cases a rainstorm that occurs when the Sun is out and thus produces a rainbow. Visible light, however, is but one small portion of what is known as the “Electromagnetic Spectrum.” It also includes various other wavelengths that span a vast variety of wavelengths and energies ranging from radio waves and infrared (heat) on one side to ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma radiation on the other. In the picture you can see the rather small portion of visible light in the middle where it looks like a rainbow.

emspectrum

Albert Einstein theorized that similar to matter, light could also only be broken down so far, the smallest unit of which was ultimately called a photon. He even proved it and received the Nobel Prize for his paper on the photoelectric effect, which stated that a photon could change an atom’s energy state and that principle is used widely today with all those automatic doors you encounter everywhere from the grocery store to Wal*Mart.

Physicists conducted numerous experiments with light which revealed that it, too, had both wave and particle characteristics. Since photons originate with atoms the fact that they share some of the same characteristics shouldn’t be any more surprising than the fact your have your father’s nose or your mother’s smile. True, photons are massless, but electrons aren’t. Nonetheless, they also show wave and particle traits.

This is a good place to ponder Einstein’s famous equation, E=MC2, which states energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light. If you rearrange it algebraically you have energy divided by the square of the speed of light is equal to mass, which essentially declares that mass and energy are the same thing.

Now we’re getting into the good stuff. So give that some thought until next time when I introduce you to the true beginnings of weird science which originated with something called the double-slit experiment.

See you then.

© Copyright 2014 by Marcha Fox

All Rights Reserved

What’s Behind the “Science” in Science Fiction? (Part 1)

You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy science fiction. If you’re lucky, you may learn a few scientific facts painlessly while enjoying a good read, or at least that’s my goal as a science fiction author. But what exactly lies behind stories categorized as science fiction?

Science, of course, but it goes beyond that because it often addresses the impact of technology on society. Science alone is a real snoozer if you don’t combine it with how it affects your life. Unless you happen to be a rocket scientist, however, much of the actual science in science fiction stories often gets lost in the plot. But guess what? Then you’re missing a lot of the fun, too. If you’re someone who thinks that science is really cool stuff, you may want to know more about the actual science behind such things as time travel, teleportation, other dimensions and telepathy. But here’s the bad news. You needed to learn to crawl before you could walk or run and know the alphabet before you could read, so before you can get to the good stuff you need to know the basics.

In the Beginning there was Classical Physics

Originally physics only dealt with, big surprise, physical phenomena. It related to mass, motion and time, things which were apparent in the world around us. Math was used to create formulae to calculate their relationship to one another. Using algebra, if you knew two of the quantities you could figure out the third. A common example is D=vt (Distance equals velocity times elapsed time) which when rearranged become v = D/t. If that sounds vaguely familiar maybe it’s because in a more familiar form, velocity = miles/hour or miles per hour.

Classical physics derived from D=vt. To do so gets into higher math called calculus which is an interesting subject in and of itself. It was invented simultaneously way back in the 17th century by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz in order to solve more complicated problems such as orbital dynamics. More on that some other time. For now just file away the notion that the world of classical physics mostly involves the movement of objects in your everyday world such as how long it takes to get to work or school, how much momentum a baseball has when hit by a star player or how much energy there is in a garbage truck moving at 65 mph.

For a long time scientists thought that these basic formulae could explain everything in the universe. After all, they do a pretty good job of dealing with everyday life. They also thought that if you took everything down to the most fundamental level you could predict anything that might happen in the future. This was called determinism and in many ways reinforced the concept of fate and denied the idea of free will. This was the philosophy of the day, as noted in the movie “A Knight’s Tale,” where it was pointed out that it was extremely difficult if not impossible to “change your stars.”  You were dealt a certain hand in life that you had to play.  Period.

As is often the case, however, when an individual or group of like-minded people think they know everything there is to know, they eventually find out otherwise. Indeed, life isn’t that simple and toward the end of the 1800s and early 1900s new discoveries showed that indeed they were flat-out wrong. Not just a little wrong, but really wrong. For starters, the elements definitely did not consist of air, water, earth and fire.

More on that next time when we get into atomic theory. Stay tuned.

© Copyright 2014 by Marcha Fox  All Rights Reserved