Monthly Archives: July 2015

New cover for The Time Bridge at Orion

The Time Bridge at Orion now has a new cover. I had a bad case of the flu last March when the story was first released, and always planned to replace the cover with a better one.

It’s basically the same 3D model as the first cover, but from a different angle, with different lighting effects, and a better background.

For those interested, the ship is a 3D model created with POV-Ray. The background and captions were added in later. It was all put together using GIMP.

Pluto now in the rear-view mirror

We’re only now, after almost sixty years of the space age, finally getting an up-close view of Pluto. It’s not quite as dramatic as seeing the first images of Mars that the Mariner missions gave us, which redrew the maps we thought we had of Mars. But it’s the last major stop within the solar system. Everything from here on is either a whistle stop, or too far away for mere rockets.

Rand Simberg gives his general rundown here. I thought this was interesting:

It’s several light-hours away from earth, so the initial data won’t arrive until later today. The data won’t even start its journey back to earth until the spacecraft has departed the system because, while it can point at Pluto to take pictures, or point at earth to transmit the data, it can’t do both at once. Also, because of the distance from the sun, the only way to power the system was with a nuclear “battery,” and its transmitter has only a few watts of power. So even with the giant dishes of the Deep Space Network at Goldstone in California, and other locations, the data rate will be very slow, and we won’t have all of it for months to come.

So, it’s not merely the speed-of-light lag we’re waiting for. The engineers needed to account for every watt of power when they planned the mission. If you’ve seen the movie, or read the book, Apollo 13, you may remember how much thought had to go into measuring the amount of power they had to work with.

Update Sept-10-2015: The First Pluto Photos From New Horizons’ Massive Data Dump. “The probe is so far away that it can only send data at a rate of around 1 to 4 kilobits per second.” Fortunately, computers can be patient.

Solar power ahead

FuturePundit Randall Parker reports a company predicting “by 2017, we’ll be under $1.00 per watt fully installed.” He reminds us that, “solar cost $4 per watt about a dozen years ago.” Let’s hope this pans out.

We may very well get to Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of getting 100% of our power from solar by the end of the 2020s.

July 16th note: This doesn’t mean we’re at, or near, the electric vehicle tipping point.

I didn’t think we were, but Geoff Ralston says we are, and Alex Tabarrok of MR disagrees. But Tabarrok mostly disagrees that a lack of gas stations would rapidly become a factor. It’s food for thought anyway.