M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Magnetic reconnection plasma thruster: Not too fast, not too slow, juuuust right

February 4, 2021
MThomas

A crewed mission to Mars may be more practical thanks to a new rocket concept developed by Fatima Ebrahimi, a physicist at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), that uses magnetic fields to generate thrust.

https://newatlas.com/space/magnetic-reconnection-rocket-thruster-concept-spaceflight-mars/

Looks good so far…

…although it’s just a computer simulation right now and the magnetic thruster model hasn’t even been built yet.

Ah, well, just repurpose an existing ion thruster, right?

Hmm. I’m not a rocket scientist, but.. 🚀

Children of Pella — to post or not to post?

September 14, 2020
MThomas

OK, so I admit it — I’m way behind in finishing my SF novel, Bringer of Light (you can read the prologue here).

I had hoped to get the draft done by January, then work on edits in the spring and publish it in summer.

But a little COVID happened to the world, and believe it or not I got a little sidetracked by, uh, life. And a family history project about a love triangle (kind of).

(During our two-month quasi-lockdown-not-sure-what-this-is-stuck-home-with-two-kids thing, I did get pretty good at the Mars terraforming game. Highly recommended.)

So now I’m thinking, to kickstart my writing life back into action, why not post the chapters I have so far? There are about 35 of them, tend to be short, and since I’ve been struggling with the ending, might help generate some ideas for getting to the expected final scene.

Sound like a good weekly post?

Tech visionaries are needed. Scientists are more important.

September 1, 2020
MThomas

I get the attraction of people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. They have big ideas. They’re enthusiastic, ecstatic, even. They’re great at simplifying difficult concepts and promoting tech to the lay person.

But they’re not creators. They’re “visionaries.”

I.e., salespersons.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not. I was in computer sales once. It was hard. Only the charismatic are good at it. But I didn’t have the knowledge and ability to make the products I was selling, let alone the power to innovate.

Sticking a chip in a person’s brain and sending thousands to the Moon or Mars sound cool. Possible, even.

But science isn’t sales. Someone might die.

Small difference.

We need visionaries, but scientists are more important. Maybe if they talked to each other…

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53987919

Where are your nuclear wessels?

August 11, 2020
MThomas

nuclearrockets

Astronauts on a trip to Mars would be exposed to very high levels of radiation which can cause serious long-term health problems such as cancer and sterility. Radiation shielding can help, but it is extremely heavy, and the longer the mission, the more shielding is needed. A better way to reduce radiation exposure is to simply get where you are going quicker.

Hmm. So putting them in a ship with a giant nuclear fission reactor is safer?

I think somebody may want to come up with a backup plan…

BZsV.gif

https://www.space.com/nuclear-powered-rockets-to-explore-solar-system.html

Jules Verne – most translated science fantasy writer ever?

February 15, 2020
MThomas

When I was a kid, I devoured books by Jules Verne, in the Classics Illustrated series vocabulary- and grammar-controlled for younger readers.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Voyage to the Center of the Earth

From the Earth to the Moon

Around the World in Eighty Days

Until I was in college, I didn’t even know that he wrote them in French.

Until a few days ago, I didn’t know they were part of a 54-volume set, complete with 4,000 hand-drawn illustrations that are now available online for free.

How’s that for enduring literary influence?

Check out the link below for more details…

http://www.openculture.com/2020/02/jules-vernes-voyages-extraordinaires.html

Have Gravity Link Spaceship, Will Travel?

October 16, 2019
MThomas

Youtuber smallstars has proposed a concept that he calls the Gravity Link Starship (GLS), a variation of SpaceX’s Starshipthat will be able to provide its own artificial gravity.

Hm, I guess we’re at the point where YouTubers have better ideas than NASA…

But who pays for this? is the several billion dollar question. Not just the construction of the “hub and truss” system, but the expense of getting it into space in the first place.

Seems like science fiction at this point. But still worth a read/look:

www.universetoday.com/143368/real-artificial-gravity-for-spacexs-starship/

A brief rant about Netflix: No, that’s NOT what “original” means

August 6, 2019
MThomas

IMG_7075

This is not a complaint about Netflix in general (well, not necessarily, but anyway). Without Netflix, I might have gone, shall we say, a little…

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…this past winter. I’ve been working temporarily in Montréal, several thousands miles of miles apart from my family, and being able to watch movies and older TV shows has been a great escape from the depressing monotony of single life.

But I feel the need to tell Netflix that I do not appreciate their use of the word “original.” Continue Reading

The limits of genre

November 18, 2018
MThomas

IMG_1264

Hi, everyone. I know it’s been a while since I blogged here. But I have been writing.

And editing. And then writing again. And, yes, in multiple genres. That’s my philosophy. That’s what you get if you read my writing.

I think I’ve probably written about this before, but I find myself increasingly disliking current writing styles. Short paragraphs. Bad grammar. No internal monologue. Things blowing up. Continue Reading

Old-fashioned letters: Wow, what a fossil

October 16, 2018
MThomas

stationerySince I don’t have access to a printer for a while (on a research stay in Montréal for a while), I decided to write a letter.

You know, on paper. With lines. That stuff made from trees that you can still find everywhere although nobody under the age of 25 ever uses it any more.

I hadn’t written an actual handwritten letter since probably before 1995. It felt…oddly satisfying.

Of course, I rambled on for 12 pages before I realized it. But imagine that; imagine no email, no tweets and posts and shares, and actually writing a letter that *only one other person will ever see.* (My mother in the hospital, in case you’re wondering.)

Can kids these days even conceive of such a thing, let alone actually write one?

Just think: You who are born into the digital age, you will never know the frustration of constantly confusing “stationary” with “stationery.”

‘Cause, what’s “stationery” again?

Oh, yeah. That stuff made from trees.

Old fossil. Jeez, get back to writing about SF already. (Getting there, getting there. Family comes first. Gimme a break.)

Brand me? Brand *this*

April 22, 2018
MThomas

On a lark, I signed up for a “BrandYourself” account a few weeks ago.

I’d read about it via a Quartz link and was curious. I’ve been living outside the US Culture Bubble for about two decades now, so I’ve largely missed the “OMG my employer is checking my SNS posts” terror that (apparently) has been sweeping the nation.

My first BrandYourself warning: You have 738 Risk Factors!

OMG. What were they? Was I really putting myself at risk? Continue Reading

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