Putting the life back in science fiction


Vegetation on a Red Dwarf world

I’ve been running a blog post on Antipope while the owner is otherwise occupied.  Part of that posting was a short riff on what it would be like to colonize an earth-like world that orbits a red dwarf star Rather than bore that (largely techie) crowd over there to tears with an extended botanical geek-out, I figured I’d post it for the smaller, more discerning group here.

Here’s the question du jour: what would plants look like on a red dwarf world? Continue reading

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Hot Earth Dreams, 2.5 years on
June 22, 2018, 4:26 pm
Filed under: futurism, Hot Earth Dreams, Uncategorized | Tags:

Sorry for not blog posting.  We’ve been in the middle of a housing blitz, wherein developers, aided and abetted by the County of San Diego, are trying to ram through a bunch of high end, environmentally damaging housing developments.  They realized we’re slow to respond, so they’re trying to inundate us.

Still, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about Hot Earth Dreams, which was published back at the end of 2015.  Before I published it, I seriously considered sending it to a conventional publisher.  Aside from its unconventional format and my lack of a guaranteed audience as a Celebrity Scientist, the problem with conventionally publishing  was that (given the normal one year lag between submission and appearance) it would have been published in December 2016.  While I didn’t think we’d have the politics we currently have, I did think it would disappear in the media noise.

The book’s sold pretty well.  While it didn’t sell well enough to immediately make the jump to commercial success, it’s still selling a few copies every quarter, all over the world.  The reviews on Amazon have been mostly positive, too, surprisingly for a book on climate.  Thanks to all who reviewed it!

Hot Earth Dreams actually changed my life, in good and bad ways.  One good (?) way is that it got me seriously engaged in climate activism.  I’d originally intended the book more as a source-book for writing cli-fi, but once I had some idea of where we’re likely headed, I couldn’t just sit back and profiteer off it.  I had to get involved.  One bad (?) change is that I’ve had to deal with anxiety issues ever since.  You can’t live with even a speculative apocalypse for three years and not be affected by it.  My coping strategy is meditation, and it does help quite a bit.

But I’ll bet you might be wondering what comes next, and the answer is yes, I am planning a substantial rewrite. A lot has changed since I started writing in 2012.  Back then, I was struggling, a chapter at a time, to understand what was going on.  After sitting with all the information for years, I have a better idea of how all my half-formed ideas fit together.  Rather more importantly, there’s been quite a lot of scholarship since the 2012-2015 timeframe I was writing in, and some of it has been quite useful.  And then, of course, I got a bunch of comments.  Most of them were about typos, but a few were substantive, and all were welcome.

So yes, there will be a new version of Hot Earth Dreams coming out sometime.  I hope it will be in 2019, but given politics and life, who knows?  It will be a different book, one aimed a bit more at helping people, as well as a source-book for the distant future.  Perhaps this gives you something to look forward to?



The Doom of California (?)
April 27, 2018, 12:51 am
Filed under: California, climate change, futurism, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Since Weather West’s latest blog post and paper in Nature Climate Change got a lot of media attention, why not feed him even more links?  Anyway, the blog post is cool, the NCC paper is paywalled and I haven’t gotten around to asking him (Daniel Swain, the genius behind Weather West) for a copy yet.  And I figured I’d get back to talking about climate change for a post or two.

Continue reading



The hole-y multiverse theory

Hi, I’m avoiding writing yet another response to yet another badly conceived development.  So I’m wasting time writing a blog post.  This here dubious speculation is something I cooked up over on Antipope a little while ago, and just to make it easier to find the idea and mock it (or whatever), I figured I’d write it up here.  This is my two-bit, I’m-not-even-good-at-physics-let-alone-a-cosmologist take on multiverse formation.  Read it in that spirit.

As background, I’ve come to the conclusion that a rational society, especially an interstellar society, could do worse than to revere black holes.  After all, without SgrA*, the giant black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way wouldn’t exist and neither would we, so that’s our creator, at least in the local sense.  Since it appears that our ruling demon sultan SgrA* may be surrounded by a swarm of lesser black holes, I sometimes wonder if we should rename SgrA* “Azathoth.”  Especially if it turns out that those lesser black holes are emitting either drum-like beats of gravitational waves and/or monotonous, radio-frequency fluting whines.  Unfortunately, calling our creator and ultimate doom “Azathoth” would enshrine a rather nasty bit of islamophobia that Lovecraft emitted.  But none of that’s the point here.

Continue reading



Fun with Panpsychism
February 20, 2018, 12:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a follow-on to a discussion on Charles Stross’ blog, and I’m posting it just to show an interesting case where some version of a God might be more parsimonious than assuming that God doesn’t exist. Continue reading



Too Big To Fail?
December 17, 2017, 5:36 pm
Filed under: American politics, economics, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I saw this last night and decided it was too big, literally, to ignore.

The US Army currently reported that in FY 2015 it had $6,500,000,000,000 (that’s $6.5 trillion) in spending on an annual budget of $122,000,000,000 ($122 billion), or spending 54 times more than its budget.  Worse, between 1998 and 2015, the Army and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) somehow racked up $21,000,000,000,000 in spendings.  Here’s a link to the press release about Michigan State Professor (Mark Skidmore), who broke the news (although it had been mentioned by the government), here’s the article on it in Forbes.  Here’s the documents.  As noted in both articles, when Prof. Skidmore started probing these expenditures, documents on them, which had been publicly posted at the Office of Inspector General at the DoD, for some reason all the links started disappearing.  It’s a good thing Skidmore had already copied the documents and is now posting them online.  Oh, and this might potentially be why the DoD is undergoing its first agency-wide independent financial audit ever (press release).  I haven’t looked at what HUD is doing, if anything.  Continue reading



Beavering away at geoengineering

Two down, now three (four?) EIRs to go.  Oy.  And one of the ones I commented on planned, perhaps, to install a meter-wide water line in the same busy intersection as another group is currently going to install a 240 KW electrical transmission line.  Shocking, possibly explosive.  I can only hope that the engineers already knew of the juxtaposition, even if the environmental consultants did not.

So, I want to talk about something else: peat.  And beavers.  And some really silly ideas about geoengineering.

Continue reading