25 August 2016

New Earth-Like Exoplanet Could Be Discovery of the Century

From Gizmodo

In what’s being hailed as one of the biggest astronomical discoveries of the century, scientists with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) today confirmed the discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri—our nearest neighboring star. Details of the team’s discovery were just published in Nature.
Rumors of a possible Earth-like exoplanet first surfaced on August 12 in the German weekly Der Spiegel. Citing an anonymous source with the La Silla Observatory research team, the magazine claimed the rumored planet “is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface—an important requirement for the emergence of life.”
Now we know those rumors were true: There is clear evidence for a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a small red dwarf star located just 4.25 light years away, slightly closer to Earth than the famous binary pair of Alpha Centauri A and B. It’s been dubbed Proxima b, and the ESO team pegs its mass as being roughly 1.3 times that of Earth.

Read more HERE.

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19 August 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Story of Your LifeStory of Your Life by Ted Chiang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Louise Banks is enlisted by the military to communicate with a race of radially symmetrical aliens who initiated first contact with humanity. Woven through the story are remembrances of her daughter.

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Upon realizing that the upcoming movie Arrival is an adaptation of this story, I thought that I'd have a peek. This is a good hard sci-fi story, albeit a rather mind-bending one (for me anyway) that follows linguist Dr. Louise Banks who has been brought in by the military to attempt communication with a race of seven-limbed symmetrical aliens who have arrived on Earth at various points around the globe. What follows is certainly an interesting tale as Banks and others endeavor to learn about the aliens and their intentions. She eventually becomes quite familiar with their language forms, one of which is totally non-verbal and communicated via complex 'symbols', and from this she ends up receiving understanding of a whole new level of communication which is described by the numerous 'flashbacks' (or 'flashforwards') throughout the story. It took me some time to cotton onto what was happening and the fullness of what she was really learning from the aliens, and the whole thing makes much more sense once I did. Not a particularly exciting or tense story (as depicted in the Arrival movie trailer) but interesting nonetheless, and quite typical of Chiang's rather intellectual style. Not really my flavour but very, very well written and the author shows here what a class act he really is.

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10 August 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Starship Coda (Starship Seasons #5) by Eric Brown

Starship Coda (Starship Seasons, #5)Starship Coda (Starship Seasons #5) by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ten years after events depicted in Starship Spring, David Conway is enjoying life on the idyllic world of Chalcedony, Delta Pavonis V. Then he receives a communique from his ex-wife who reveals that she is undergoing a remarkable medical process. Not only that, but she is coming to Chalcedony and wishes to meet him. What follows will force Conway to look back at the tragic events of his past and face the mendacity of those seeking to gain from his fame as an Opener of the Way. Starship Coda is the moving epilogue to the successful Starship series.

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This short story is exactly as the name suggests, a concluding event, a summation of the Starship Seasons series of novellas. While probably not vital or essential to the series, it nonetheless provides fitting closure to the main background story of the main character David Conway. If you've read the Starship Seasons stories then you'll love this and it'll provide you with an additional measure of satisfaction for what is an excellent series. I have to say it, Eric Brown fails to disappoint me again.

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08 August 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Starship Spring (Starship Seasons #4) by Eric Brown

Starship Spring (Starship Seasons, #4)Starship Spring (Starship Seasons #4) by Eric Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“That year, a little over six years since meeting Hannah van Harben, life for me was just about as good as it could get.”
David Conway is happily married with a young daughter, and wants for nothing. He has an idyllic life on the colony world of Chalcedony, with friends Matt and Maddie, Hawk and Kee – but things are about to get interesting when the friends holiday at Tamara Falls on the planet’s equatorial plateau. Buried far beneath the Falls is a dormant alien army – the Skeath, ancient enemies of the Yall: an army which is threatening to come to life, if the evil Dr Petronious gets his way… Starship Spring is the triumphant conclusion to the Starship Quartet.

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This is the fourth adventure in the excellent Starship Seasons series of novellas from one of my all-time favorite authors. This one is another typical example of Eric Brown's work, and epitomizes what is (to me) some of the most fun and relaxing sci-fi to read. Like the other stories in the series, as well as much of his other work, this novella is written in Brown's great easy and sort of pulp style that I love so much, and this lends itself to the delivery of a fun read that I find myself quickly absorbed into.

In Starship Spring, we again join David Conway and his likeable band of friends on the planet Chalcedony for another adventurous journey of intrigue and discovery. The story skips briskly along as you'd expect from the previous stories and has a fine conclusion, with plenty of alien wonder and intrigue. Character depth is fine for the type of stories that these are, and the world building is excellent once again.

Each of the novellas could be read as a standalone story without any real problem, but the events do follow a timeline and loose thread that would be best picked up from Starship Summer which is the first story of the series. This has been a fabulous little series of stories and takes Brown yet another step up the ladder in my author rankings. I see that recently there has been a coda for the series released and I have just purchased said story that will no doubt top off one of the best group of easy sci-fi stories that I've read to date.

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