My science picks of the week

We live in a world where science is all around us, so it’s sometimes easy to forget how far we’ve come in such a short time. Here is a list of scientific achievements for this week:

jupiter1630 – Italian astronomer and physicist Niccolo Zucchi (1586 –  1670))  saw the belts of Jupiter’s surface for the first time. He later went on to see details of the Martian surface and experiment with the first reflecting telescopes. The Moon crater Zucchius is named in honor of his work.
lunar module1969 – A lunar module of Apollo 10 flew within nine miles of the moon’s surface. The mission was a rehearsal for the first lunar landing  a few months later and tested all the equipment , systems and techniques used in the actual landing. The mission was flown by Thomas P. Stafford (Commander), John W. Young (Command Module Pilot) and Eugene A. Cernan (Lunar Module Pilot). It set the record for the highest speed attained by a manned vehicle at 39,897 km/h (11.08 km/s or 24,791 mph).
hubble1990 – The Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first photographs. Named in memory of Edwin Hubble who discovered the universe was expanding, the HST has played a vital part in astronomy since it’s launch and the data it provides has been used in over nine thousand scientific papers.
einstein2003 – The Digital Einstein project made hundreds of Albert Einstein’s scientific papers, personal letters and humanist essays available over the Internet. Einstein originally gave the papers to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in his will. Einstein’s theories have been the mainstay of modern thoughts in physics for over a century.
synthetic life2010 – A research group led by prominent genome researcher, Craig Venter, assembled the entire genome of a small bacterium in a yeast cell, starting with mail-order DNA. The team has since gone on to create a fully functional bacterial cell.

From Newton To SpaceX

This week we saw another SpaceX launch, this time delivering the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. As we’ve become accustomed to, it was another flawless launch and awe-inspiring to see. Whenever I watch these events I find myself holding my breath as the rocket soars up into the sky, the thunder of the engines seems to hit me  right in the chest like the roar of a primal monster escaping its gravitational cage.

Each time I think to myself, one step closer to more routine, affordable space access, one step closer to a real space tourism industry, space hotels, Mars and beyond. I hope it will happen in my lifetime. I hope I’ll one day be one of the people who is able to leave this tiny planet and look back at the cradle of life we call Earth. This is something I’ve dreamed of ever since watching Neil Armstrong, walk on the Moon back when I was six years old.

That this launch takes place just a few days after Earth Day seems to make it somehow more symbiotic, more important, more significant. Down here on Earth we still face countless problems; war, terrorism, mal-distribution of water, food and wealth, disenfranchisement and bigotry, to name just a few… but space offers humanity the chance to start afresh, to leave all of that behind and create a future where everyone is truly equal.

The first space-tourist was Denis Tito, a businessman from California who flew aboard a Russian Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft. He spent several days aboard the International Space Station before returning. This week marks the fourteenth anniversary of that event.

Before that, in 1997, this week saw the first joint U.S. – Russian space walk. When Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the Mir space station and Jerry Linenger and Vasily Tsibliyev carrying out a five hour EVA operation to attach a scientific instrument to the outside of Mir. All this showed how people from all sides are capable of working together successfully – if they really want to.

Finally, this week is also the anniversary of Isaac Newton’s  “Principia Mathamatic”. Three hundred and twenty nine years ago, Newton laid down all the fundamental mathematical principles including gravity, orbital and celestial mechanics – all the fundamentals necessary to allow us to send vehicles into space and start the process that led us to the point we are today.

Three hundred years might seem a long time from a human perspective. At the time Newton was working on the “Principea,” the United States was still a hundred years from being born. Yet from a historical perspective three-hundred years is the blink of an eye.

Technological progress is moving ever faster, but we need social progress to keep up with the pace of change. If it doesn’t we will lose not only the dream of space, but the Earth itself.

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far.

— Michael Jackson

 

WordPress update fail

I updated my website to the latest version of WordPress this morning. That’s usually a fairly straightforward process. But not today.

After updating WordPress itself I did the same with the plugins and everything else that reported new versions. I checked the site afterwards as I routinely do and…. BLANK.

An entirely white screen (Firefox) and an entirely black screen (IE).  Neither very useful.

I did what basic checking I could. I tried changing the template and the problem seemed to be related to my custom theme. I built the theme myself and it’s been through a lot of tweaking to get it just how I want, so I wasn’t happy about that. Also, even with one of the base themes installed, not everything was working  correctly.

Luckily my host provider (bluehost.com) has excellent support. With their help the problem was isolated to an incompatible plug-in: the “Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget.”

It’s difficult finding the cause of these kinds of problems when all you’re faced with is a blank screen, without even an error message to provide a clue!

It also shows how important it is to use a good hosting company and how critical good support is. Sure there are cheaper hosting companies around, but Bluehost’s rates are very competitive and well worth the extra couple of bucks it costs.

Sometimes though… I really hate technology…

Giveaway for Convention Ready

I just put the final touches on my “giveaway” for the Good Reads Writers’ Convention this weekend. All of my currently published books in one special volume with a super secret special bonus never been seen before! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity available only to visitors the conference!

All you have to do is answer a few simple questions about me (clue – the answers are on my website) and you can win a copy of this ultra-rare compilation!

As a teaser, here’s the cover I designed especially for the compilation:

Be there or be somewhere else far less exciting!

IVCover-FullRes2-web

Good Reads Writers’ Conference This Weekend

Author Cyber Convention - Profile ImageThis weekend is the Good Reads Writers Conference 2015 and I’m one of over thirty writers that will be taking part. It’s my first conference of any kind and I’m a little nervous and excited to  participate in the events.

Over thirty authors will be attending, many of them independent writers and offering a variety of genres from romance to YA and, of course, science fiction.

I’ll be giving away a special conference only volume of all of my currently published stories (along with a little bonus). There will also be other freebies available throughout the conference period.

Hopefully everyone will get some great insight into all the writers and enjoy what’s on offer.