Blatant Plug!

If you are a reader of ebooks, you might be interested in knowing that my Cresperian Saga ebooks are on sale. This from my publisher:

ebook sale for book lovers

We appreciate our readers for making Tremolo: cry of the loon a breakout novel for Aaron Paul Lazar. Mazurka by Aaron along with several popular titles are currently available for 99 cents via Amazon Kindle.

Doggie Biscuit!, humor by Darrell Bain
Learning to Write the Easy Way for Fun, Posterity and Money, writing advice by Dorothy Ann Skarles
Mazurka, mystery by Aaron Paul Lazar
onora Wind, historical fiction by Florence Byham Weinberg
The Solomon Scandals, suspense by David Rothman
The Y Factor, SF by Darrell Bain and Stephanie Osborn.
Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281, SF mystery by Stephanie Osborn.

Additional ebooks are available at discount prices from $2.75 to $4.40 via Amazon Kindle.

  Lida E. Quillen, Publisher

  Twilight Times Books

Novelist signing out – for now.

Comet Elenin is not a brown dwarf

Hi there! I’m Hawk’s friend Stephanie Osborn, and I suppose which one of us is cuter depends upon your, ahem, preferences! I appreciate Hawk’s invitation to blog here about things that I find that are interesting, and thought I’d start off with this one.

Elenin is not a brown dwarf

Recently it has come to my attention that there is a significant stir regarding Comet Elenin; to wit, at least one gentleman claiming amateur astronomer status says it isn’t really a comet, it’s a brown dwarf “star.” It’s what’s causing all the flare activity on the Sun. And when it aligns with the Sun and Earth, the recent major earthquakes – Japan, New Zealand, Chile, and Haiti come to mind – occur, so it must not be a comet, but something larger. In other words, it must be the long rumored Planet X aka Nibiru coming in for its cycle of wreaking havoc on the inner solar system. His rationales can be found here:

Here are some points to be remembered when considering the arguments that Comet Elenin is Planet X, a brown dwarf.

  • A brown dwarf is not a star, it’s a failed star – it does not have enough mass to initiate fusion. It does, however, emit in infrared more energy than it absorbs, because of gravitational contraction – it’s big enough that it’s still trying to collapse tight enough to become a star. Some do say that Jupiter is a brown dwarf for the reason that it does indeed emit slightly more energy than it gets from the Sun; but it is considered at the lower limit for possible brown dwarf classification. It’s a naked-eye object, magnitude >6 (6 or 6.5 is generally considered the limit of naked-eye viewing); remember that. (Also remember that, in astronomical brightness observations, the SMALLER the number, the BRIGHTER the object. E.g., the Sun’s apparent magnitude is -26.74.)

  • Tectonic plates are not related to planetary movement, but are related to convection currents in the mantle – gravitational forces go as 1/r2 and planets are much too far away to affect tectonic movements. Believe me, I studied that in detail a couple of decades back, during the “Grand Alignment” of the planets, where all of the known planets were supposedly in roughly a straight line. The cat in your lap probably exerts more gravitational influence – or about as much, at least. In fact, at its approximate distance on Mar 15, by my calculations the Moon exerts ~30x the gravitational influence of our noted “brown dwarf,” if we assume it IS a brown dwarf, and it’s demonstrable that the Moon is not the cause of major quakes.

  • Stars have to be extremely close, as in nearly contact binaries, to affect each others’ photospheres – stars in passing will not cause flares unless it is a near-collision. Besides, the Sun is actually in a very VERY low period of activity, and all indications are that this IS the peak of this solar cycle, and it isn’t going to get anywhere close to peaks of recent cycles. [More about that in another post.]

  • Leonid Elenin is the discoverer, nomenclature is standard [C/2010 X1 (Elenin)] – there is nothing to not having this referred to as “Comet Elenin” in the technical literature. Harvard astronomy states, “While it is assumed by many that all comets are named for their discoverers, this is not strictly true. Some comets discovered long ago (1P/Halley, 2P/Encke, 27P/Crommelin) were named for astronomers who actually worked arduosly on their orbits to show that observations at different “apparitions” were one and the same comet.” Per IAU guidelines, “C/”=comet; “2010”=year of discovery; “X”=month of discovery in Roman numerals; “1”=1st discovery of the month; “(Elenin)”=surname of discoverer.

  • A brown dwarf would be ~10x Jupiter’s mass, with a corresponding (but not necessarily perfectly linear) increase in size. It is also past halfway from Jupiter’s orbit to Mars’ –  it’s CLOSER THAN Jupiter! If the albedo is comparable to Jupiter, it would long since be visible to the naked eye already! Remember, Jupiter is smaller than the average brown dwarf, and farther away – but IT’S A NAKED-EYE OBJECT!

  • Pictures of Elenin by reputable and outside sources depict a faint comet (~14th mag – big number, so dim) with a tail. If it were a brown dwarf, when it was at Jupiter’s distance, it would be much brighter than Jupiter (>>6th mag) and would not have a tail. This object is following the standard light curve for an incoming comet, not the light curve that would be expected of a massive gas giant planet. Absolute magnitude runs as the log of the object’s diameter, and 2x the log of its geometric albedo, so brightness is affected about as much by size as by reflectivity.

                 H= -5(logD + 2logA – 3.124) where H=absolute mag, D=diameter, A=albedo

  • With all due respect, the proponent of this theory is looking at the alignments in two dimensions, not 3D, and there is a considerable MISalignment when it is looked at in 3D because Comet Elenin’s orbit is NOT in the ecliptic plane. Furthermore virtually all views in his video are relative to the ecliptic, and the comet is not in the ecliptic – this therefore cannot tell you anything about true alignments.
  • The farther out you back the animation view (as is done in the video), the less accurate your “alignments” become because of the resolution of the imagery (“jammed together” is the operative phrase – it APPEARS jammed together when it is not). At 6AU radius, the resolution of the imagery is far too poor to be able to tell accurately if there are any true alignments.
  • In a radio appearance, he also presupposed his premise to prove his premise – the “dwarf star” causes the quakes and the quakes prove it’s a brown dwarf. This is completely circular logic.
  • 0.381AU is so close that if it WERE a brown dwarf, the Earth (AND Venus, Mars, etc.) would be tidally pulled out of orbit – no mere quakes or axis flipping – and axial flips are magnetic, not rotational anyway.
  • Planets don’t leave debris along their orbits – only comets, because of the dirty ice composition. The ice sublimates and leaves behind the dirt. Now, if it really were a large brown dwarf, it would in turn pull in a barrage of comets from the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud, neither of which we are seeing.
  • You cannot tell if the Earth’s orbit truly intersects Elenin’s orbit by only looking at it from above – you must look at it from all angles. My viewpoints indicate that Elenin, since it is not in the plane of the ecliptic, may not intersect Earth’s orbit at all.
  • NASA/JPL is not telling us anything about “these events” because there is nothing to tell. Comet Elenin has no bearing upon the earthquakes or the Sun’s activity.

Okay, if it were a brown dwarf, it would look like a mighty bright planet – but it doesn’t. What DOES it look like?

From Sky and Telescope, Dec 24, 2010: “It doesn’t look like much now — just a tiny, 19th-magnitude smudge tucked away in southwestern Virgo — but a newly discovered comet could become something special 10 months from now.

“Aleksei Sergeyev / Artyom Novichonok Comet Elenin (C/2010 X1) made its debut on December 10th when Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, remotely acquired four 4-minute-long images using an 18-inch (45-cm) telescope at the ISON-NM observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. Follow-up images by Aleksei Sergeyev and Artyom Novichonok at Maidanak Observatory in Uzbekistan revealed more about the new find: it had a teardrop-shaped, very diffuse coma just 6 arcseconds across and a tiny tail.”

From blog, Mar 12, 2011: “Many of the readers of this blog have already seen the latest images of comet C/2010 X1. On them, the tail of the comet extends all of 1 minute of arc. Is the comet’s tail actually small or is it simply an optical illusion? For my calculations I used Gustavo Muler’s picture which he obtained March 7. Unfortunately before opposition of the comet, we were not able to get an image with any large telescopes – the camera on the two-meter Faulkes Telescope North (FTN), went off-line.

“As such, we’ll return to the image we have. On approach to opposition, when the comet, Earth, and Sun are lined up (that is, the C-S-E angle is close to 180°), the comet’s tail is practically hidden from view for the Earthly observer, as the tails of the comet are pointed away from the Sun. At the time the image was taken, we saw the tail at an angle of 2.75°! [NOTE: The full Moon is only 0.50° across.] Taking the length of the projection of the tail as one minute of arc, and solving the triangle, we see the actual length of the tail has already exceeded 900,000 km! Although, in fact, the tail has to be still bigger, as Gustavo used a 30-cm telescope, knowing that if he had photographed the comet with a two-meter telescope, we would have seen fainter fragments of the comet’s tail.

“If, on March 7, we had been able to see the comet’s tail in profile, its length on the image would have been in excess of 10 arc minutes. Right now, the comet is approaching opposition, and we have a good chance of getting images of the comet’s coma. Maybe we can also do that on large telescopes.”

I do hope this provides convincing evidence that we may have a very pretty comet to look at around the turn of the year – but we do NOT have impending disaster.

Novelist signing out – for now.




Next Week & Friday Funnies

Next week I’ll be attending a conference in Orlando Florida. (Yeah, Fields of Green has a location for em…. stuff I can’t talk about here.) Damn shame, really, as conferences are where I get all my best material. I have TONS of material from HEART conferences…but I can’t share it on the internet. Heck, the FBI speech last year would have been a week of posts. Hilarious.

Ok, so my highlights this year are … wearing a kilt to the Mickey Mouse club, and buying hats with ears. I’m looking for a million dollars, so if you see it laying around, just give me a hint. I’ll also visit some Trimaran friends and drink too much.

I have invited Stephanie Osborn to blog here. She wrote “Burnout” and other novels. Of the two of us, I’m the cute one, she’s the famous one. *heh* Ok, she probably wins both categories.

Call me if you are in Mouse Land, or email me, or whatever. I’ll try to post occasionally.

Something for fun: Read XKCD

Fairy Tales


Hans Rosling’s TED brief on Distribution of Wealth/Health

I may even have posted this before, but I love the numbers sooo much.

If you haven’t seen this, watch it. If you have, watch it again. Basically, it says that countries advance. The rates may be different, but any measurment technique is swamped by CHANGE more than the differences. China goes from 10 person households with crushing poverty, to standard households and decent levels of wealth. Yeah, the US is wealthy by most standards, even our poor are wealthy, (Come on, $10 a day? I’ve heard some illegal immigrants are getting $5 an hour at part time jobs, which is just about $20 a day. Most people can do better on Welfare checks.)

It just amazes me how fast everything changes. In 30 years, many of these charts will have little value, as the numbers of peoples on one side or the other will be statistical outliers. 

Still, amazing work by Dr. Rosling.

What is Up?

Hey Folks, Just want to clue in why my posting is worse than usual.

1) Just finished with Gulf Wars. Gulf Wars is a huge SCA event, lots of fighting, lots of playing around in armor, medieval clothing, etc. I am spending my evenings doing laundry and healing.

2) I have a huge presentation in Orlando next week for the HEART conference. This is a weapons-level radiation effects conference, so lots of stuff to work on. Very important to my budget that I don’t screw this up. (So I have stayed busy at work.)

3) I just got a writing request from a guy doing a Gamma World setting. He wants an SCA society in the South East, people, places, etc. Its running 30 – 40 years in the future, so few of us are in on it, but who would be, what kind of world would it be? very interesting future-fiction writing. I may think some out loud on here sometimes. (If you want to give me some ideas, feel free to post them here or email me.)

I good friend of mine, Edward Foust, took a million pictures. He has them on facebook, but they are his and I don’t want to steal his *heh* fire. I could get into the armor, the fighting, the pagentry. But hanging out at night, with a beer, around the campfire. This was one of my favorite parts. Carlos, Vlad, and Edward (the photographer) don’t show up in this photo. But basically this is our nightly firepit. Very nice. I don’t think you can actually recognize anyone from this photo… unless you already know what we are wearing and who smokes cigars. I wish I could invite everyone who reads this out to Gulf Wars (ok, Pepper, you were there.) I’ll invite you back to the firepit when your knee is a bit less swolen. I’ll try to remember to post a picture of my own someday.

Anti-Nuke Hysteria

I just got back from vacation and am trying to catch up on the hysteria. This is crazy. There is no “giant nuclear problem.” We have a couple reactors in Japan, that in a situation nearly an order of magnitude worse than was ever envisioned, are doing fine.

Is there danger? yes

So, California loses more people to wildfires each year than Japan will lose to this nuclear problem. Should they ban  trees?

So far, 1 dead. That is a tragedy. BUT, 1 dead. The earthquake killed thousands, the tsunami was nearly as bad. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been lost, and we are talking about shutting down a couple of reactors due to cooling problems?

News agencies in the US have no sense at all. Their anti-nuclear bias is obvious. When this is over, in a few months, they will work on covering their tracks. LOOK NOW. Before they say “well, that was the best information we had at the time.” Their hysterical tone isn’t based on any information they have now, it is based on nothing. They have invented a problem and are playing it for all its worth.


1) A huge earthquake happened, so they shut down the reactors. (What they are supposed to do.) Shutting down a reactor takes about 7 days, so they have back up diesel power for those days, to run the water cooling.

2) A tsunami hit their diesel plants and knocked them out. They started running on battery back up.

3) the roads were destroyed, so they couldn’t get new diesel plants there in time.

4) the workers were forced to “kill” some of the reactors with boron and sea water, to make sure they didn’t melt down.

5) At least one of the fuel rods broke during this, releasing hydrogen gas. The gas exploded, and a worker was killed. Amount of radioactive material released was minimal. This was a minor issue.

6) The plant is operating without water coolant, so more radiation is being released than usual, but not enough to worry about except for people within a few hundred yards of the reactor itself.

The real issue is that Japan has lost a lot of its basic power supply, it will need more. Japan will be building new reactors as soon as possible.

The Meteor Question

Fairly simply, some meteors of a specific type end up with what appears to be fibers in them. One guy says that these fibers are evidence of extra-planetary life. One guy says that these are the effects of water on the material.The meteors are basic … ok, lets just say dirt pasted together with salt, k? Read the articles for the details, but the reason the meteors are so rare, is that they disintegrate in water, rain, wet ground. Both articles are persuasive and worth reading.

Which is the right answer?

Ok, that isn’t really the question.


Yes, really.

The real questions are: How will alien life look? How do we look for alien life signs?

Do we really care if some rock had worms in it? Yes no maybe. I mean, it has some interesting implications on early evolution, it has some interesting implications on the diversity of life in the solar system and the universe as a whole.

Ian Banks wrote that the universe makes life. “Alcohol is in the dust clouds…. Loads of [other] stuff, but much of it alcohol. Humanoids are the galaxy’s way of trying to get rid of all that alcohol.”

So there is tons of biological material between the stars, and tons on the planetary bodies. How can it fit together to build “life.” Does it look like bacteria found on Earth? Seems reasonable that it should. Maybe by the end of the game, whatever the game looks like to God, you end up with a humanoid. (Or maybe we will find the universe populated with intelligent insects, who see us as a (tasty) once in a billion year occurrence.

It is interesting to me that there is a scientific consensus and the poor schmuck at NASA Marshal is sneaking out a paper (probably for publicity) without holding to the consensus. Still, I think he has a point. I don’t know why the “Scientific Community” has a tree up it’s butt because of this paper. In My Humble Opinion, it is well written, has a well developed thesis, and appears to address many potential concerns. It may be wrong, but hey, if papers were required to be correct, nobody would publish.

Frankly, I think the fibers would have to be biological. I am not an expert on all things geological, but this looks biological to me. He seems to have addressed the contamination issues. Ok, so now lets go forward. These aren’t pictures of water damage. Did he poorly address the contamination issue?

Look Below: Thats a bacteria.

It was found in a meteor. The one below is its near cousin. I can see that they are different. But generally speaking, this is what a bacteria looks like. Either we have contamination of the sample (probable) or we have an alien bug..which looks to me right now to be nearly equally probable.

Nonetheless, we have to do a lot more experiments. There aren’t 5 lbs of meteorite with bugs in them, so we can’t really do decent cross testing. Remember, these bugs (from near identical meteorites) aren’t likely from the same comet, so they were born farther apart than … well … the width of our solar system. Weird to think about. Maybe Titan has a big bug collection – though I am still praying for Giant Mud Worms…maybe Saturn has life among the ammonia clouds.

Of course, we have no space program, so I hope the Chinese are interested.

If anyone has a spare 20 million and wants a nuclear rocket, I have a team assembled to build one. We are crying over NASA’s “study” which apparently is paying that much money to study all the nuclear rockets which have come before.  (I took that class once.) If … What else can I say, but IF or IF ONLY.  Like computer programs, until the USA can master the IF (there was a political will) and IF ONLY they were willing to pay for real deliverables not studies.

Oh well, what’s a nuclear engineer to do? Back to the salt mines! *whip crack*

Fairing Failure at NASA

The satellite in this picture is at the top of the rocket. Inside the cone shaped piece at the end. The rest of the can – with Taurus printed on the side – is the secondary booster. SO, the big candle, with NASA printed on the side, kicks the end can to about 400 miles up. Now, it is pretty much out of the atmosphere before it hits 100 miles. (Heck, it is pretty much out of atmosphere at 10 miles, but when you are moving around 7 kilometers per second, even a wisp of air is about like a brick wall.) So the can on top of the candle keeps the fairing on until it is out of the atmosphere. Then it pops the top and loses a few hundred pounds.
Drawing of Payload Fairing
Now, this picture is a different satellite all together, but the big fairing is about half the total weight at the end of the stick.

SO, instead of pushing 1100 lbs to the top of the hill, it had to push more than a ton.

When you plan out a launch like this, you measure out fuel with a teaspoon, you don’t keep an extra 100 gallons on board in case of a fairing problem. Some kid just didn’t get the memo of when the fairing was supposed to blow. Explosive bolts are just about foolproof. The only other things that usually happen is that somebody forgot to arm them, or somebody programmed in the wrong separation time.
(Oh, they didn’t “forget” to arm them, they just didn;’t go through all 10 steps correctly. It only takes a single screw up to have the fairing fail to detach.) Wrong separation time is the real killer.

If somebody got the timing wrong, then the rocket was just going to wait a few more minutes before it popped the fairing. Unfortunately, by then the big stick was out of gas. Ok, so imagine everything works fine till 100 miles. Then it is supposed to blow the fairing and it has enough fuel to get to 400 miles. Well, it doesn’t blow the fairing, so it needs twice as much energy to reach the same height. Now, technically, if it had a nice circular orbit, it could still be hanging around at 300 miles. Unfortunately, it was highly elliptical, so the orbit was 300 miles high on one look, and  hit the atmosphere somewhere over the South Pacific. Dead satellite.

The US does pretty good launching satellites, but we have a failure every year or so. Nothing to get too alarmed at. I guess if I was going to get alarmed, it would be at a waste of budget piece of global warming hunting satellite. If it worked, it wouldn’t be doing much for science. Oh well, NASA’s priorities are frankly crazy. What can I say?

SOHO pick of the week

Pick of The Week

A rather large flare (M3.6 rating) event blew out two waves of material from the Sun (Feb. 24, 2011). The brighter ejecta emerged first, but it was soon out run by a narrower stream that shot out just above it. It is suspected that these are both related to the same flare event. SOHO captured the action with its C2 coronagraph in which the sun is blocked out (by the circular occulting disk in the center of the image) to reveal the faint structures in the corona. The white circle represents the size of the Sun. These eruptions were not Earth-directed. A gorgeously detailed still and movie of the event taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) can be seen here .
Pick of the Week for Feb. 25, 2011

This week has had considerable flare activity. This is one of several M class flares, and there was even an X class flare. Amazing amount of activity in a short time, at least for this solar cycle. This would appear to me to be the “sharp uptic” in activity common right before the onset of solar max. Again, we have to wait a few months to see how things go with the sun. No instant gratification here…except watching an explosion which dwarfs all human endeavors (added together) by a factor of … ok too much math … something like 10,000. (And, again, this is a small explosion. the big ones throw out more matter than the Earth has. To replicate it, we would have to find an anti-matter planet, and run it into us.) 




Sometimes my friends send me great links. This is from JD.


You have to appreciate it both in and out of context. Eh?

1) In context, find your passion, live it, stop looking for what other people want you to want.


2) Out of context, Ray Bradbury collected Buck Rodgers Comics! Its cool in a geeky way.

Seriously, I don’t know much about Buck Rodgers outside of the (terrible) TV series (which I loved, ’cause kids love such things) but Flash Gordon, Captain Kirk, and all the others have been exploring strange alien chicks…er, planets…. since my boyhood. Every geek since Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe (Yeah, he wrote sci-fi as well) have grown up on such fluff. WONDERFUL FLUFF. And fantasy tales go back at least as far as Gilgamesh, which at 2000 BC is some appreciable part of human history. Free your mind, find your passions … and be a geek!