Why Sci-Fi?

March 30, 2017

Today, my first official post as a contributor for Universe of Possibilities is up. Universe of Possibilities is a new Sci-Fi hub started by Simon Farnell. My post is about how I got into science fiction in the first place.

This ended up being a more personal kind of post than I originally intended, but that’s okay. Science fiction lies at the heart of who I am as a person. A post like this was bound to touch on some personal stuff.

universe-of-possibilities

First off, I want to thank Simon Farnell for allowing me to be a contributor here on Universe of Possibilities. If you’re interested in learning more about this awesome new Sci-Fi hub, and perhaps finding out how to become a contributor yourself, click here.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my first post on this site, but I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about why I got into science fiction in the first place. After all, there are certain stereotypes about Sci-Fi nerds like me. Some people call science fiction “escapism,” or they call it “childish.” And I don’t know… maybe they’re right.

When I was growing up, if I behaved, I’d get to stay up past my bedtime to watch Star Trek with my Dad. My bedtime was 9. Star Trek: The Next Generation came on at 10, which…

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I’m Back!

February 15, 2017

Today is Galileo Galilei’s 453rd birthday. With that in mind, here’s a throwback to the world of 453 years ago.

fb15-center-of-the-universe

Today is also my official return to regular blogging! You might notice that I’ve made a few small changes around here. First off, no more ads! Because nobody likes ads, and it actually didn’t cost me much to get rid of them.

Also, the web address has changed from planetpailly.wordpress.com to simply planetpailly.com. It’s a small thing, I know, but I’m pretty excited about it. Makes me feel more legit somehow.

I’ve made a few other small, cosmetic changes, and I might continue fiddling with a few details over the next few months.

As for the Tomorrow News Network website… umm… I’ll get back to you about that.

Meanwhile, I have some fun stuff lined up for this website, starting with a visit to KIC 8462852. What the heck is that? Tune in for Friday’s edition of Sciency Words to find out! Or you could just google it. The Internet’s been buzzing about KIC 8462852 for a while now.


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January 9, 2017

Regular readers may have noticed I missed Friday’s Sciency Words post. You may have also noticed I skipped Molecular Monday on the first Monday of the month. And I can tell you right now that I’ll be skipping a lot more of my regularly scheduled blogging days in the near future.

I did post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group last Wednesday, and in my IWSG post I mentioned that I have a top-secret master plan for 2017. And that secret plan requires me to [TEXT REDACTED] and also [TEXT REDACTED].

Okay, it’s a secret plan. I guess I can’t say much, but you can probably guess that I’m doing something with the Tomorrow News Network series. You may also see some changes coming to Planet Pailly, such as [TEXT REDACTED].

Dang it, text redactor! They’re going to see those changes soon anyway. Can’t I tell them anything? [TELL THEM YOU’LL BE BACK ON FEBRUARY 15TH.]

Regularly scheduled blogging will resume on February 15, 2017, for both Planet Pailly and Tomorrow News Network. Until then, I’ll do my best to keep you appraised of my progress, without violating the terms of my top-secret master plan.

P.S.: By some weird cosmic coincidence, February 15 happens to be Galileo Galilei’s birthday. Seems like an appropriate day for a new space adventure to begin.


Time: A Year in Space, A Book Review

December 14, 2016

I was thoroughly unimpressed by Time Magazine’s “Mission to Mars” special issue, which I previously reviewed here. But I wanted to give Time another chance, so I ordered their “A Year in Space” special edition from earlier in the year.

Mr11 Year in Space

I’m pretty sure this is how the Year in Space mission began.

Quick Review

Not perfect, but much better than the Mars thing.

Longer Review

The writers provide a fairly decent overview of Scott Kelly’s year in space mission. They go into some detail about a few key science objectives… but you can find that sort of information basically anywhere. In that respect, this magazine is no better or worse than reading Space.com.

What’s far more interesting are all the little anecdotes about daily life aboard the International Space Station. There were plenty of little details I’d never heard about before. In a few cases, I got answers to questions I’d never thought to ask.

My personal favorite was a photograph of the space station’s kitchen counter (page 34). It has magnets attached to it, because how else are you going to keep your silverware from floating away? And for everything that’s not metal, the kitchen counter also has Velcro. Again, this is a very small detail, but it’s something I never knew and never even thought about before.

We also get a little insight into the psychology of an astronaut, with little quotes and stories from Scott Kelly, his twin brother Mark Kelly, and a few others who’ve either been to the ISS or served in other space missions.

It’s not much. It’s nothing super deep or profound. But it does help humanize space exploration just a bit. You don’t get them from most books or articles about space, or at least I don’t. For that reason alone, I’d say this magazine is worth a read.


Stronger Together

November 15, 2016

Last Wednesday, the day after the election, my muse may or may not have wanted to write. I’m not really sure.

nv15-day-after-the-election

A few years back, I saw Jonathan Maberry at a writing conference, and he gave out some advice to new writers, particularly writers new to blogging and social media. One of the things he said was don’t talk about politics.

So I don’t talk about politics, at least not on this blog, not unless there’s some direct relevance to the kind of science or science fiction I write about. But after doing some soul searching this past week, I’ve decided that I do need to say something about the election, because it is relevant to my writing.

For me, this election was about the future. What sort of future do we want? What sort of future do we believe in? I happen to be white and male. Over the last year, certain other white males looked at me and seemed to presume that I was “one of them” and that I’d be receptive to the vision of the future they wanted.

But I do not believe in a future where everyone looks like me, nor do I believe in a future where people who are different than me are safely cordoned off. I believe in a future where people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and genders or gender identities are united in our common humanity. I do not see our diversity as a problem. I do not think our differences make us threats to each other.

Now I’m given to understand that not everyone saw this election the way I did. For some, economic anxieties or national security or corruption in Washington took priority. That’s okay. I’ve made my peace with that, and I hope that over the next four years those issues are addressed in a productive manner.

It will probably be awhile before I blog about politics again because I agree with Jonathan Maberry. Political posts just alienate readers. Besides, when was the last time the major issues of the day were resolved in a comment thread?

But as my muse and I get back to work, I have to acknowledge to myself and others that this election has changed me. Whether I intend it or not, those changes with affect my writing. Right now, the only thing I can say for certain is this: as a science fiction writer, I have a renewed commitment to depict a future that is not populated by white men only and to tell stories in which humanity is stronger together.


Taking Things Easy

September 21, 2016

Typically, I like to write three blog posts per week, but I think I’m going to be taking things easy for a while. I’m not stopping or taking a break or anything. It’s just that I’m not doing much serious research at the moment, so I don’t have a whole lot of material to blog about.

There are a few topics I’m interested in covering in the near future, such as:

  • A Trip to Pluto: Maybe something in a similar vein to my recent trip to Titan.
  • The Alien Mega-structure: I’ve been reading up on this “discovery.” If you can get past the hype, there seems to be some genuine science going on.
  • A Tour of the Exoplanets: Not all of them; that would be crazy. I just want to visit a select few.

But that stuff will have to wait, because right now I’m diving into some heavy revisions for Tomorrow News Network. I’m basically rebuilding the T.N.N. universe from the ground up: reinventing physics, religion, and the whole future of human civilization. You know, the kind of stuff every humble science fiction writer does.

I’m also making Talie a little more Talie-like, and her cyborg cameraman a smidge less cyborg-y. These revisions are taking me in some unanticipated directions. I feel like it’s the best writing of my life, and I’m excited for the day when I can put it out there for people to read.

Okay, so that’s what I’m up to right now. That’s what I mean when I say I’m “taking things easy for a while.”


Enjoy Juno While You Can

July 26, 2016

In case you haven’t guessed, I am super excited about the Juno Mission. I’m looking forward to writing (and drawing) about it a lot over the coming years.

Jy26 Jupiter and Juno 1

But for the moment, we’re sort of stuck in a holding pattern.

Juno successfully entered orbit of Jupiter on July 4, 2016; however, it will have to complete a second engine burn, scheduled for October 19, before the science mission really begins.

In the meantime, I thought I’d run through some of Juno’s equipment and some of the mission objectives I’m most excited about.

  • Juno Cam: It’s a camera. It takes pretty pictures. Nothing to get too excited about, except Juno’s orbit takes it extremely close to Jupiter. We should be getting some stunning close-ups.
  • JEDI and JADE: Juno has two instruments, named JEDI and JADE, which will detect ionized particles in Jupiter’s magnetosphere. JADE will focus on low-energy particles; JEDI will cover the high-energy stuff. As a science fiction writer, I’m looking forward to knowing precisely what sort of radiation dangers my characters will face near Jupiter specifically and gas giant planets in general.
  • UVS and JIRAM: Juno can see in ultraviolet (using its UVS instrument) and infrared (using JIRAM). So yes, Juno can “see right through” Jupiter, or at least it can see through some of the topmost layers of clouds. Also, observations in UV and IR will help us identify the chemical composition of the clouds. Maybe we’ll finally find out what makes the Great Red Spot red.
  • Gravity Science: By monitoring subtle variations in Jupiter’s gravity, Juno can determine how matter is distributed in the planet’s interior. There are a lot of hypothetical new states of matter that might exist in the interiors of gas giants (like metallic hydrogen); Juno’s gravity experiments could tell us if our hypotheses are correct.

Juno is scheduled to make a suicide dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere on February 20, 2018.

Jy26 Jupiter and Juno 2

I’d hoped there might be a possibility for a mission extension. The Cassini mission got an extra nine years to study Saturn. But NASA doesn’t want to risk contaminating any of Jupiter’s moons (especially Europa).

So over the next two years, we better make the most of Juno while we still have her.

P.S.: JEDI stands for Jovian Energetic particle Detection Instrument. The Star Wars reference is surely a coincidence; it’s not like there are any nerds working at NASA.