Monday, November 23, 2009

Milky Way Galaxy: "You are Here"

Like yesterday's post ("Humanity Is Not the Eldest" (November 22, 2009)), This one isn't much more than a link and a few comments.

First, the link: "A Map of the Milky Way>," Atlas of the Universe.

The eye-popping feature on that page is a pretty good map/diagram of our Milky Way galaxy, showing our position, and the location of six of the arms. There's also a map of known areas of neutral and ionized hydrogen, and quite a bit of information about our home region.
Update (November 26, 2009)

Another link: "The Structure of the Milky Way"
Gene Smith's Astronomy Tutorial
Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences, University of California, San Diego

Of interest: the Cassiopeia OB2 complex; NGC 7538 (possibly 9,100 light years away); emission nebula (H II region) Bubble Nebula/NGC 7635/Sharpless 162, (possibly 11,000 light years away).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Humanity Is Not the Eldest

There isn't much to this post, apart from the following link: That page actually doesn't have all that much to do with television science fiction and fantasy: a great many examples are from written literature.

Still: interesting material, including
  • "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"
    (Douglas Adams)
  • The "Marvel Universe"
  • The "Known Space" stories
    (Larry Niven)
  • "Gateway"
    (Frederik Pohl)
And, of course, H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu and that merry band of "Old Ones" in the Cthulhu Mythos.

Which reminds me of what I wrote, toward the end of "A Sense of Scale and Science Fiction Writers" (August 17, 2009) (Getting Imaginative): Maybe H. P. Lovecraft was an optimist.

A Thought for the Day: On the Size of Space

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
(The Quotations Page)

Related posts, on scale:

The Rings of Earth

These days, we can occasionally see satellites - including the ISS - as they pass overhead, providing they're still in sunlight and the sun has set where we are. And seeing conditions are right.

It's occurred to me that it won't be too long before sightings like that become more frequent. Not from the "space junk" that's been in the news lately, but by more and larger structures in orbit. Given time, I don't see why there wouldn't be so many that they form visually-continuous sheets around Earth - sort of like the rings of Saturn, except made of habitats and automated satellites.

With structures like that, the Roche limits wouldn't apply - unless they were extremely large - but I think that habitats, at least, would be placed below, or between, the radiation belts. (See "The Van Allen Belt," Ask an Astrophysicist, Imagine, NASA; "The Radiation Belts," "The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere," NASA; "Radiation Belts" and "The Earth's Magnetosphere," Windows to the Universe, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

And, since the function of some satellites require that that they be in non-equatorial orbits, there would probably be gaps maintained in the equitorial 'rings' of satellites, to allow other satellites to pass through.

Eventually, my guess is that someone will get the idea of physically linking most or all satellites at some altitudes, to make moving between them easier - and possibly making it easier to keep them from drifting out of position. I'm not sure what orbital mechanics would say about that.

So, given time, Earth may have rings: artificial ones.

Now that would be a tourist attraction.

"THE RINGS OF THE EARTH , 3DS Max Animation"

Roy Prol, via T0R0YD, YouTube (October 8, 2009)
video, 3:33

"How would the Earth look like if it had a ring system like Saturn? --- 3ds Max animation."


"What If Earth Had Rings?"
Universe Today (November 20, 2009)

"While we're on the subject of Saturn…. I came across this video, and it poses — and answers — the interesting question, what would Earth look like if it had rings like Saturn? This animation was done by Roy Prol, and it shows not only how the rings would look from space, but also the view Earthlings would have of the rings...."
A tip of the hat to IDreamHappily, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this video (IDreamHappily linked to another appearance of it, on

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Procyon and Names

One of the appeals of stories in the fantasy and science fiction genres are the cool names. Although it's possible to make new sequences of sounds, and define the gibberish as the name of some person, place, or thing in a story - I think there's something to be said for taking existing, but relatively unfamiliar names.

Like Tataouine (which can be pronounced "Tatooine"). That's a word that's fairly well-known as the name of Luke Skywalker's home in the Star Wars movies. It's also the name of a city and a region in northern Tunisia.

I was looking up names for Procyon (Alpha Canis Minor) this evening, and came up with this:

R. H. Allen said that "Euphratean scholars" called Procyon "...Kakkab Paldara, Pallika, or Palura...." ("The Brightest Stars: Discovering the Universe Through the Sky's Most Brilliant Stars," Fred Schaaf, p. 167) Allen's "Euphratean scholars" might have been referring to Babylonian names of Procyon. Or, the Kakkab Paldara/Pallika/Palura might be one of those loose connections in late-19th and early-20th century scholarship that's been corrected since.

In any event, "Pallika" and "Palura" - and "Kakkab Paldera" are fairly cool-sounding names.

Palura is also the name that somebody named Walker gave to a genus of moth in 1861. (The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stories on this Blog

Most posts on this blog are about stories or story-telling. These are, or contain, stories:

"The Village, the Fence and the Sign"

"Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."
G. K. Chesterton, The Quotations Page

This story originally appeared in "Brian's Attic" on my Brendan's Island website.

The Village, the Fence and the Sign

Brian H. Gill

Once upon a time there was a village. South of the houses was the top of a very tall cliff. North of the houses were high, grassy hills.

It was a beautiful village. The people there were happy and safe, as long as they did not go near the cliff.

There was a sign near the cliff, and a fence. The sign said:





The fence was between the sign and the houses. The sign and the fence had been put up long ago, to keep people from falling off the cliff. Because no one wanted to fall off the cliff, no one built houses near the fence.

One day, Tom, Sharon, Bert and Courtney were playing in the open space between the houses and the fence. As they ran, Tom (who wasn't looking were he was going) ran into the fence.

Tom's head hurt, and so all four went to the village for help. Sam, who lived in the house nearest the hills, put a cloth on Tom's head, and gave him cool water. Soon Tom's head was better.

Many people in the village were worried because Tom ran into the fence, and hurt his head. Everyone knows that it's not good to hurt your head.

Sharon said, "The fence is to blame!" Tom said, "Yes! if the fence were not there, I would not have hurt my head!"

"The fence kept you away from the cliff," said Sam. But only a few people listened to Sam.

Many people in the village thought that Tom was wise. Nobody in the village had fallen off the cliff, but many had run into the fence.

They said, "If the fence had not been there, Tom could not have bumped his head on the fence."

Soon almost everyone in the village agreed. They said, "The fence is to blame!" Then they tore down the fence.

Now everyone in the village could see the cliff. They could also see the sign in front of the cliff.

Bert thought the cliff was beautiful. He said "Look how far you can see, from the edge of the cliff!" Bert could see even farther from the hills behind the village, but the cliff was closer.

Courtney was afraid when she thought about the cliff. She was afraid when she saw the cliff. She was even more afraid when she saw the sign near the cliff.

The sign looked bigger than it had when it was behind the fence.

Courtney decided she didn't like the sign. She said, "The sign keeps me from having fun!"

Bert said, "The sign is to blame!" Courtney said, "Yes! if the sign were not there, I would not be afraid, and Bert could have fun!"

"The sign reminds us to stay away from the cliff," said Sam. But only a few people listened to Sam.

Bert and Courtney told Sam to keep quiet. "When you talk about the sign, you make people feel bad," they said.

Many people from the village thought that Bert and Courtney were wise. They said "If the sign was not there, nobody would be afraid, and everyone could have fun."

Soon almost everyone in the village agreed. They said, "The sign makes us afraid! The sign keeps us from having fun!" Then they tore down the sign.

Bert said, "This feels good! Now there is no sign to make us afraid, or to keep us from having fun." Almost everyone in the village agreed.

One day, Tom, Sharon, Bert and Courtney were playing in the open space between the houses and the cliff. As they ran, Tom (who wasn't looking where he was going) ran near the edge of the cliff.

He lost his balance, and fell off. Nobody ever saw Tom again.

Sharon, Bert and Courtney were very sad. They all said, "The cliff is to blame!"

Soon almost everyone in the village agreed. They said, "If the cliff was not there, people would not fall off!" Then they tried to tear down the cliff.

They dug, and hammered, and pulled at the edge of the cliff. Soon a huge piece of rock, soil, and grass tore away from the edge of the cliff.

Sharon had been standing on that piece of grass. Now the cliff had a new edge, and Sharon was gone. The new edge of the cliff was closer to the village.

Sam ran up. "Stop!" he shouted. "You are bringing the cliff closer to your houses!"

Bert and Courtney shouted, "The cliff is to blame!" Almost everyone in the village agreed. Then they tore another piece off the edge of the cliff.

This time Bert fell off the edge.

Courtney and everyone else in the village were very sad. They were very mad, too. They said, "The cliff is to blame!"

They the tore another piece off the edge of the cliff. The edge of the cliff was next to Courtney's house now. Courtney kicked at a piece of dirt near the edge of the cliff. She lost her balance and fell off the cliff.

Now almost everyone in the village was very, very mad. They missed Courtney, and Bert, and Sharon, and Tom. "The cliff is to blame!" they shouted.

Then they tore another piece off the edge of the cliff. A huge piece of cliff fell off. Courtney's house fell off, too.

Sam tried to stop his neighbors, but he couldn't. Most of the people in the village were too mad to listen.

Sam's neighbor's tore at the cliff. Every so often, one of them fell off. Each time this happened, the rest got even more mad. They tore at the cliff even harder.

More people and houses fell off the cliff.

Soon the only house left was Sam's. The cliff had been torn back to the edge of the hills.

Sam's house rocked back and forth on the edge of the cliff. Then it fell off.

All the houses in the village were gone.

Most of the people in the village were gone.

Sam walked away. A few of his neighbors went with him. They had not been near the cliff.

They built another village. This village was high up in the hills. It was a beautiful village. South of the new village, where the old village had been, was the top of a very tall cliff.

There was a fence near the cliff. A sign was on the fence. The sign said:





copyright © Brian H. Gill 1996


"Belvedere Union Grand's Room 313" - a Short-Short Story

This story originally appeared on the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette blog, Halloween, 2009.

"Belvedere Union Grand's Room 313"

Bran H. Gill

Most nights, the key to the Belvedere Union Grand hotel's room 313 is the last to leave its hook. Not that many guests sleeping there have complained: but as the owner, T. J. Baum, told me, it's the room that's the farthest from the stairs on the top floor.

And there's that girl standing outside the window.

The Belvedere Union Grand hotel is a landmark in Loonfoot Falls, the tallest building downtown. Its foundation was laid at the corner of Broadway and Center Street in1899, overlooking Railroad Park.

And, like many buildings a century or more old, it's got its share of ghost stories.

There's the sound of a ball bouncing down the stairs between the second and third floor, usually heard late in the evening.

Several employees have refused to enter the 'back room' in the basement: a storeroom with a small window opening onto an air shaft. Others heard voices outside that window.

Several guests in room 313 woke up in the small hours of the morning, thinking someone had called their name. Each reported seeing a young woman, with "poofed up" dark hair, as one said, standing quietly outside the window, looking in.

It's disturbing, waking up to see someone looking at you through the window. What troubled the guests even more was what they saw the next morning. The young woman had apparently been standing with nothing but about ten yards of open air between her feet and the cement floor of the basement's air shaft.

copyright © Brian H. Gill 2009


Sunday, November 1, 2009

"...It is Stranger than We Can Imagine"

"Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine."
Sir Arthur Eddington English astronomer (1882 - 1944)

Privacy Policy

Nothing spooky here.

These days it's important to have a "privacy policy" available: so here's mine.

I do not collect information on individuals visiting this blog. If you leave a comment, I'll read what you wrote: but I don't keep a record of comments, apart from what Blogger displays. (In other words, the only record of what you write or who you are will be what people see at the bottom of the post.)

I do collect information about how many hits this blog gets, where they come from, and some technical information. I use the WebSTAT service for this purpose - and all that shows is which ISP you use, and where it's located.

You can stop most of Webstat's data gathering by disabling cookies in your browser. I don't know why you would, but some folks do.

I'm also an AdSense affiliate, so Google collects information on what I've written in each post: but that's mostly my problem.

I'm also considering starting an affiliate relationship with DAZ Productions. You should be able to keep DAZ and Commission Junction, their provider of affiliate services, from collecting information by - again - disabling cookies in your browser.

And you can keep DAZ Productions from finding out anything about you, by not buying any of their products.

Again, I don't know why you would: but some folks do.

Or, rather, don't.