M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

That’s what I want: A tall building with frickin’ laser beams on top!

January 17, 2023
MThomas

The feat, which involved firing powerful laser pulses at thunderclouds over several months last year, paves the way for laser-based lightning protection systems at airports, launchpads and tall buildings.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jan/16/scientists-steer-lightning-bolts-with-lasers-for-the-first-time

Probably a little cost-prohibitive for most of us, but potentially useful for others!

From nothing to Mars in 6 years

December 20, 2022
MThomas

In 2020, the UAE’s space agency launched its first Mars mission, less than a decade after it was created. How did they manage it?

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20221206-how-the-uae-got-a-spacecraft-to-mars-on-the-first-try

This is a great story about how true international cooperation rather than competition can result in scientific progress.

Thanks to their efforts, despite nearly being derailed thanks to the pandemic, we will soon have a complete picture of an entire year of Mars weather.

Not bad for a country whose space agency is so small “you could probably lose it in the car park of Nasa’s giant Johnson Space Centre in Houston.”

(Of course, the project’s findings may mean I have to rewrite some of my novel in progress, but why not? All in the name of science fiction…)

Volcanos, Venus, and Earth 🌋 Hellscape unveiled

November 25, 2022
MThomas

A new study shows that massive volcanic eruptions over an extended period of time may be responsible for changing the planet into what it is today. If there was simple life on ancient Venus, volcanism was its doom. The study also shows how powerful volcanic activity has played a role in shaping Earth’s habitability and how Earth only narrowly avoided the same fate as Venus.

https://www.universetoday.com/158696/volcanoes-are-the-worst-theyve-caused-extinctions-on-earth-and-probably-killed-venus/#more-158696

Venus is hot enough to melt lead, which is why no spaceship has ever survived to land on the surface.

And, no, there is nothing alive floating around in its toxic atmosphere.

But this is a neat article. Three future missions are planned for Venus (two by NASA – VERITAS and DAVINCI – and one by ESA – EnVision, which sounds more like a song and dance competition than a scientific probe).

Venus or bust!

Let’s make rocket fuel with E. Coli!

April 12, 2022
MThomas

In short, the algae will use sunlight to transform CO2 into sugars that are then enhanced by bio-engineered E.coli into 2,3-butanediol. Interestingly, 2,3-BDO is not entirely conceptual as it currently exists and is mainly used to produce rubber components. It has just never been thought of as fuel before.

https://www.universal-sci.com/article/producing-rocket-fuel-on-mars-using-microbes?utm_campaign=Universal-Sci%20Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

Neat. So all the astronauts have to do is bring, uh, how much algae we talking here?

The article doesn’t say, but it does mention a by-product of the process: Oxygen!

That would seem rather helpful. Mars or bust?

Starting the New Year Right

January 1, 2021
MThomas

What better way to start 2021 then by watching a 6-hour kabuki interpretation of the classic post-apocalyptic fantasy-scifi Nausicäa of the Valley of Wind (風の谷のナウシカ)?

Courtesy of BS-NHK (which split the broadcast into two 3-hour parts).

If you think you know the story based on the Studio Ghibli anime, guess again. Go read the manga. One of the greatest SF stories of all time. Even 6 hours doesn’t even come close to capturing its complex intensity.

Sea Levels Are Rising. Time to Build … Floating Cities?

April 6, 2019
MThomas

At the core of Oceanix City is a 4.5-acre hexagonal floating platform that is meant to host up to 300 people. 

Hmm, where have I seen this before….

And just think, to accommodate all of Manhattan, we only need to make…uh…

another 5,549 of them!

Compared to convincing the powers that be that climate change is real and we’re all screwed…piece of cake!

— Read on www.wired.com/story/sea-levels-are-rising-time-to-build-floating-cities/amp

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