Practical Telepathy: the Science & Engineering of Mind-Reading

From van Vogt’s Slan to Willis’s Crosstalk, telepathy has been a staple of science fiction. But what are the real world chances of reading another person’s mind? With MRI & PET scans we can see what images a person is thinking of, with brain implants we can help the blind to see, and—the way the science is going—we are only a half-step away from direct mind-to-mind communication. Nothing to worry about here!

I’ll be speaking at 4pm Saturday November 11th, this coming Saturday, in Crystal Ballroom Two at Philcon.  Hope to see you there!

A Star Gate to Washington DC opens tomorrow

A fourth gravitational wave has been detected. Three solar masses worth of gravitational energy released, leaving a 53 solar mass black hole behind.

As I do my now more than highly polished presentation on StarGates:  the Theory & Practice.

New developments, just in the last week:

  1. A fourth gravitational wave was detected last week, 9/27/2017.  This was far more finely localized than the previous; 25 observatories are looking for signs of the event in the electromagnetic spectrum.
  2. And Kip Thorne — inventor of scientifically plausible StarGates — was awarded the Nobel Prize this week for his work on developing feasible gravitational wave detectors.   Perhaps someday he will be even more famous as the inventor of StarGates!

So I’ve folded these in my talk & look forward to giving it tomorrow at 3pm at Capclave, the Washington DC Science Fiction Convention. If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

PS.  I will also be on a panel on Engineering in Fantasy & Science Fiction:  I love it when we discuss the thermodynamics of magic & the magic of engineering!

And a followup:

Followed Tom Holtz at Capclave:  this is always good & bad:  good because it guarantees a nice crowd, bad because he is a hard act to follow.  The assembled multitude was enthusiastic, always nice.

And the panel on engineering in F & SF also went well:  Fran Wilde did a great job moderating, had a good supply of questions & made sure everything had a whack at each, so not the usual domination by 2 or 3 of the more talky types. Audience lively (in a good way, not in the hurled rutabagas way.)

StarGates Jump to FossCon — The Free & Open StarS Convention!

9/3/2017: I have just posted the slides from Fosscon on slideshare.  Comments, questions, problems, & buildable blueprints, all very welcome!


This coming Saturday I’ll be doing the latest revision of my StarGates talk at FossCon, the Free & Open StarS Convention!

(Pay no attention to those who assert this is the Free & Open Source Convention, that is a mere cover story.)

The convention is at International House in Philadelphia, starting at 9am, and is free.  As to my talk:

“Call them Stargates, Jumpgates, Fargates, Hypergates or just an invitation to every pest from the far reaches of the Galaxy to visit, they would be invaluable in helping mankind break free of this solar system.

Are StarGates only a convenient plot device — or could they actually be built? Accordingly to Einstein’s Theory of General Relavity, they are possible — at least in principle.

We will discuss how to glue black holes together to build a wormhole, how to avoid the dangers of spaghettification, radiation poisoning and paradox noise, and just what would it take to build one in practice.”

My talk’s at 1pm.  Hope to see you there!


And there I have you seen!  There was a nice turnout (in the South America room at International House) with a lot of questions.  We finished with a few minutes for additional questions, including my favorites:

What happens if you drag a wormhole through a wormhole?

I congratulated the questioner on the question & he just pointed at his young son sitting next, a lad clearly with a bright future as a scientist!

I had to admit I wasn’t sure, but I suspect it would be bad news for all concerned:  both wormholes, and any spaceships, space stations, or space-persons nearby!

How do you think this might actually be done?

I focused on wormholes because that is far & away the most popular of the approaches.  But if some sort of stargate were ever actually to come to fruition, I suspect a combination of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky (EPR) effect and the ideas behind the Krasnikov tube would be at work.  The EPR effect is the spooky-action-at-a-distance Einstein objected to; the Krasnikov tube is an idea of — curiously enough — Krasnikov for laying out a tube of warped spacetime behind your slower-than-light spacecraft.  You’d have to go slower-than-light while laying out the tube, but could use it for faster-than-light thereafter. And as I said in the talk, negative energy & vortices are pretty sure to be involved.

 

 

Tales from the Miskatonic University Library Has Escaped into the Real World

Only by purchasing mass quantities can you ensure that its deletorious effects are not too widely felt.

You may order from my co-editor Darrell Schweitzer ($24.99 + $4.00 shipping) or from me directly ($25.00 but I don’t ship) or from PSPublishing (£20.00).

My first book but Darrell’s N-th (see his wikipedia page!).

I’m rather pleased (& a bit relieved) to see it came out pretty well.  All thirteen stories are good, each in their own way.  And Darrell & I each did introductions.  His is light-hearted & not to be taken seriously while mine is in deadly earnest.

So if you want to find out why not to use a spell-checker on the Necronomicon, or wonder what the gastronomic possibilities of Cthulhu are, look no further.

And remember, every copy you purchase saves another hapless human from an otherwise dire & unavoidable fate!

PS.  And if you would like to see snippets of Darrell & myself opining on matters Lovecraftian, we were on PBS recently, in a segment from Articulate TV.

StarGate to Baltimore Opening in Six Days!

Beware of Unexpected Doors!

Call them Stargates, Jumpgates, Fargates, Hypergates or just an invitation to every unwanted pest from the far reaches of the Galaxy to visit, they are absolutely necessary if we are to have the glorious Science Fiction action we desperately need.  Could they actually be built?  Modern physics may permit, but: how to glue black holes together to build a wormhole, how to avoid the dangers of spaghettification, radiation poisoning and paradox noise, and just what would it take to build one in practice?

I’ve just finished revising my StarGates — the theory & practice — for Balticon. It’s a Good News/Bad News thing: Bad News: we don’t know how to build them, Good News: we can’t prove we can’t, someday!1)(Or is that Good News:  they can’t get to us yet, Bad News:  but they just might anyway.

Slides for talk now up on SlideShare; comments & questions very welcome.

Talk will be this coming Saturday, May 27, 9am at Balticon. If in the neighborhood, drop by. If not in the neighborhood, spin up a stargate & jump in!

References   [ + ]

1. (Or is that Good News:  they can’t get to us yet, Bad News:  but they just might anyway.

Time to the Power of Tim

Three Time Travel Tales by Tim Powers

Three Time Travel Tales by Tim Powers

This year the guest of honor at Capclave was Tim Powers. (Capclave is the Washington DC Science Fiction convention.) Tim is not only the author of many fine science fiction novels, but a very nice guy.

This turned out to be a good thing, as the initial proposal was to have Tim & I appear together and do something physic-y about his novels.  I have never done a talk with a live author before (dead authors are no problem, I have that down cold), so I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.

But it worked out well:  Tim was very helpful & gracious and when the audience asked him if one of my theories about the time travel in his novel The Anubis Gates was correct he said, essentially, “Now it is.” 🙂

I focused on three of his novels, The Anubis Gates — his first big success (with romantic poets & time-traveling Jackel Gods), Three Days to Never — something like the bastard child of John Le Carre & H. P. Lovecraft, and Medusa’s Web — who can resist the Time Spyders?

One of the distinctive features of Tim Powers working method is that he starts with a place and a time, researches it looking for the curious facts, bizarre details, & strange omissions that point to an unknown but dark reality, then gradually teases out the true story of whatreallyhappened!

“I made it an ironclad rule that I could not change or disregard any of the recorded facts, nor rearrange any days of the calendar – and then I tried to figure out what momentous but unrecorded fact could explain them all.”

So Tim builds his novels from the bottom up. As a result, they tend to differ wildly from each other.  Other authors, once they have got a setting that works, tend to reuse it, Tim builds anew each time.  No ten volume trilogies here!

And he also works out the timelines of all of his critical characters.  At each moment, he knows where each of his on and off stage characters are & what they are up to.  His notes on this are a kind of secret history of the secret history!

He has 20 or more novels out, so I focused on just three, all involving time travel.  And in each the theory of time travel was radically different!  I had a lot of fun linking each up to the corresponding physics and going back & forth about all this with my stage-mate Tim. 🙂

The talk, minus alas, the actual talking, is now up on slideshare.  Download if you will & any questions/comments please let me know!  thanks!

 

 

Quantum Dots

Three Quantum Mice

 

Quantum dots (QD) are semiconductors made via several possible routes. John Ashmead and Stephen Granade discuss how they are made, their properties and their applications in research. — from the Balticon 2016 Schedule

This is one of those “I was roped into this, but on the whole, it turned out pretty well” topics.  Miriam Kelly, in charge of science programming at Balticon, asked if Stephen Granade & I would do a panel on quantum dots at the 2016 Balticon.  Stephen had to drop out of the panel at the last minute, so I turned my notes into a full-fledged talk.    Great subject! about which I had known nothing before I got started. 🙂

Quantum dots turn out to be small, useful balls of quantum goodness, much bigger than an atom, but pretty much smaller than just about anything else you can think of which is bigger than an atom.  They are spheres that ring like a bell when hit by light, taking it in briefly, then emitting it again — but at a very specific frequency which depends on the size of the quantum dot and not much else.

It is this that makes them useful. You pepper your sample with quantum dots of different sizes, spray a bit of UltraViolet light over them, & voila! red or green or blue light comes back.  If you have artfully arranged to have the dots of different colors associate with different kinds of interesting chemicals or drugs or cells or whathaveyou, then you can see how things are ambling around down there.  Cute, very cute, there is nothing like a mouse lit up by quantum dots.

They get used a lot in televisions to help out with the colors.  So you can pick up a supply of brightly colored dots at commodity prices.

But the most interesting — at least to the humans who want to live longer & better — are the medical applications.  And the day after my talk, Miriam had scheduled a panel on the very similar topic: Quantum Dots:  Medical Applications.  Turned out perhaps half the audience had been at my talk, survived, recovered, and now were armed with questions which I & the very knowledgeable & capable John Cmar & John Skylar had some quiet & informative fun with.  Yes, there were three Johns on the panel!  And no non-Johns.  Get over it.  After the initial confusion about how to refer to whom, we had a lot of fun with the back & forth, myself from the physics side, Cmar & Skylar from the medical side.

I’ve put the talk up as a pdf on slideshare.  Comments welcome! As always.

Stargates: The Theory & Practice

Doors and Portals and Stargates, Oh My!

Call them Stargates, Jumpgates, Fargates, Hypertubes or just an invitation to every unwanted pest from the far reaches of the Galaxy to visit, they are absolutely necessary if we are to have the glorious Science Fiction action we desperately need.  But could they actually be built?  We look at what modern physics has to say:  how to glue black holes together to build a wormhole, how to avoid the dangers of spaghettification, radiation poisoning, and paradox noise, and just what it would take to build one in practice.

This was a talk I did at the last Philcon, went over well.  And I had a lot of fun doing it.  I’ve got it up as a talk on slideshare.  And I may do variations on this at the 2017 Balticon & also Capclave.

It is the kind of subject you can go anywhere with!

 

Tales from the Miskatonic University Library about to escape into the world!

The Tales from the Miskatonic University Library is not only at the publisher (PS Publishing) but on the awful verge of being actually published. Darrell Schweitzer & I have just reviewed the signing sheets: apparently there is to be not only a regular edition but a special, limited, & elder-signed edition as well!

So, the list of the authors & their stories:

  1. Don Webb. “Slowly Ticking Time Bomb”
  2. Adrian Cole. “Third Movement”
  3. Dirk Flinthart. “To be In Ulthar”
  4. Harry Turtledove. “Interlibrary Loan”
  5. P. D. Cacek. “One Small Chance”
  6. Will Murray. “A Trillion Young”
  7. A. C. Wise. “The Paradox Collection”
  8. Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen. “The Way to a Man’s Heart”
  9. Douglas Wynne. “The White Door”
  10. Alex Shvartsman. “Recall Notice”
  11. James Van Pelt. “The Children’s Collection”
  12. Darrell Schweitzer. “Not in the Card Catalogue”
  13. Robert M. Price. “The Bonfire of the Blasphemies”

And — triskaidekaphiliacs rejoice, triskaidekaphobes despair — there are exactly thirteen stories. Quite by coincidence! (& nothing to do with the fact that thirteen is my personal lucky number.)

And you get intros by both Darrell & myself. Quite a range of stories: funny, grim, grimly funny, paradoxical, and terrifyingly straightforward. Our ultimate criteria was that both Darrell & I enjoyed reading them — and hope you will as well!

Deadline Necronomicon: Tales from Miskatonic Library now open till 8/23/2015

Today is the official deadline for unsolicited submissions for the Tales from the Miskatonic Library.

However Darrell & I have decided to push the deadline back to 8/23, the end of Necronomicon, the Providence convention for all things Lovecraftian.  Darrell & I will both be there, and this will give us a chance to meet some of you in person.

And the mss are still flooding in!  So we want to make sure we have a chance to see everything that’s out there before making the final cut.

One question I’ve gotten a lot:  is there a maximum length?

Well we are only paying 3 cents a word, capped at $100, so that’s about 3333 words.  But all that means is if you go over, the payment is capped, we will still look at the story.

Really the best length is determined by the story itself. As Lincoln said once, a man’s legs should reach just far enough to get to the ground, more than that is a waste of leg.  Same for stories:  if they are good, they have a natural length of their own.

If you start when things are just getting interesting and keep going till it is clear what the final shape of the narrative is, wasting no time between, the length will tend to be about right.  After you’ve cut the story first by a half.  And then — and this will hurt — squeezed out another 25% of what is left.

But stick to point of view, in a short story there isn’t much time for anything but what happens & then what our hero or heroine did about that!

You’ve no time for backstory:  if our narrator has had a troubled past (& that is pretty likely in this case) it will show in how he or she responds to events, maybe a bit too fast to leap to conclusion X, a bit over sensitive to casual remark Y.  And if it doesn’t show in his or her responses, why does it matter?  Leave history to the historians!

And you have no time for fore-shadowing, for what is to come, it will be here soon enough, why trouble the already anxious reader?  There is only time to show what is happening now!

And in fact things are happening so quickly in your narrative — there is so much now now! — that you can barely relay a fraction of them to your reader!  You’re like a tour guide where the boat, car, motorized book cart, flying carpet, night gaunt, is going so fast you can only report one or two of the most salient details — the eyes reflected off what had seemed a bit of waste paper, the curious omission in the alphabetized records for Z, the orchid giving a cheerful wave as you pass by — before the next incident commands attention.  Not so quickly that the reader loses the thread of course — and therein lies the art.

So by the grace of ye eds, another two weeks.  Spend the golden seconds wisely!  Write, read, revise, reread, rewrite, & submit!

Be reading you!

John Ashmead

PS.  And as what we are looking for, as earlier, three requirements:

  1. Good story — pulls you in from first sentence.
  2. Gives you something to think about — leaves you going hmm after the last sentence.
  3. Fits into an anthology called Tales from the Miskatonic Library — without taking two pages of explanation by ye eds.

 

 

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