Category Archives: science news

Squishy Robots and Book Ad Promotions

Are we Indie writers shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak?

Today I’m running a promotion on Book Barbarian for Caught in Time. This is my first in series and I’m offering it free. Often the first of a series is the one that ad sites want. I did this to reach out to a pool of readers of science fiction who may be interested in my books. Discoverability is difficult for most Indie authors, and promotions are one easy way, but they cost. I chose Book Barbarian because it targets science fiction and fantasy and is at a reasonable cost. The top site is Bookbub where I recently ran into an article that was really a promotion piece, which raised some questions I wanted to ask.

Below is the last section from the piece I discovered on Flipboard that extols their site. Bookbub is considered the top ad site for books, difficult to qualify for, and very expensive. However, authors swear it’s effective. It’s the last sentence of the “article” that is causing me concern.

Book lovers are Obsessed with this Site. (Flipboard May 9)
By Bookbub.com

…”Book lovers have now become practically obsessed with this concept. In many cases, they’ve downloaded hundreds of books and saved hundreds of dollars using the service.

“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, WA. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free ebooks using the service.”

As a reader, I use the service, and like Suzie Miller, (a real person?) I have downloaded more books than I will be able to read this year.

But is this a good thing for authors?

Your book gets downloaded, but may sit in a reader’s library for ages.
Or, maybe they read it and buy out the series.
I’ve had both things happen.
But I’m afraid authors are devaluing their hard work, and readers are not as eager to download the offerings as much as they used to, or buy books at retail. Why pay full price when you can get a similar book free or heavily discounted? Are we harming future revenue?

Am I right or wrong, or somewhere in between?

Do I, as an author, have a viable alternative?

No answer here. Just putting it out there.

NASA Develops Soft Robots for Future Space Missions

What do you think of when you hear the word robot?
Probably something made of metal with hard edges.

Maybe not. Often I throw in interesting science pieces and this article on building soft robots, with space in mind, caught my eye. I wanted to pass it along.

https://www.space.com/soft-robots-could-crawl-on-the-moon.html?utm_source=sdc-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190509-sdc

…”The advantage of a soft robot is that it’s flexible and, in some ways, better able to adapt to new environments. Soft robots move in ways similar to living organisms, which expands their range of motion, perhaps making it easier to squeeze into a tight spot, for example.”

Also, probably easier to transport when weight is so much a factor.

…”By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them,” NASA said in the statement. “Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.

In particular, the interns are investigating four key properties of the actuators — mobility, joining, leveling and shaping — and how to use them in space exploration. Mobility refers to how the soft robot moves in its environment, while joining concerns how robots can link together (for example, to make a large temporary shelter). Leveling refers to how actuators can create a surface, such as filling in space underneath a lunar habitat, while shaping examines ways of adding strength to materials like dust shields.”

Once you hear the idea, it makes so much sense. Of course, I’m wondering about the computer components and how they operate the robot and the toughness of a material that can stand up against a space environment.

But NASA is working on it. Thinking outside the hard metal box.

This week I’m talking about Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill. Mainly because I mentioned robots in the blog, and this story is all about robots.

The story begins thirty years after the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human at the hands of robots.

We’re extinct, and the world is dominated by an OWI or One World Intelligence that shares consciousness and is trying to upload all the remaining robots into its mainframe.

Enter Brittle, an independent robot trying to survive a wasteland that once was our Midwest. But its mind is deteriorating and body parts are losing function. The only way to replace them is by scavenging other parts from similar robots

So it’s a bit gruesome to start.

There are other solo machines wandering the wilderness, and they form a pack with Brittle, trying to escape assimilation.

If you can handle the grimness (think Madd Max), then the story is interesting from the robot’s point of view, and the interaction, almost human, of the robots that struggled to survive and evade assimilation makes for a worthwhile story.

And finally,

I want to give a shout out to Tabby’s fantastic book club. They were a warm and amazing bunch. I don’t think they expected someone who could talk as much as I did. Enthusiasm does that to me. So, thanks for your hospitality.

It was a fun way to meet new people… and show off my books.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Dystopia Earth, hard science, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, Robots in science fiction, science news

Glad Tidings for Self Publishers

photo

I write about human clones, so I keep an eye out for news on cloning advancements. Here is a startling article I found on news.yahoo.com.

Boyalife in China is setting up an extensive animal cloning factory in partnership with Sooam from South Korea to be located in Tiajin, China where it will to clone cows, dogs, racehorses and other animals.

Okay…is this step one? How soon will human cloning follow, and what will be the guidelines? Scientist there have already indicated that they can clone humans but are holding back because of politics and public sentiment.clones

I just published on Amazon my eighth book, Time’s Equation in ebook and I’m waiting for the proof of the paperback. Now I’m staring marketing in the eye and can’t hide out with the excuse that I’m under a publishing deadline. Marketing my favorite exercise…not.bk8_cover_print

To inspire myself and confirm that I’m on the right path, I am reproducing (with additional comments) an article I saw on wiseinkblog.com.

Read and rejoice all indie authors.

Self-published books accounted for 31% of all e-book sales in the Kindle Store in 2014. Indie books account for 31% of e-books.

However,
40% of all e-book revenue is going to indie authors. In other words, indies are raking in more money, which means that their sales figures are higher than many of their traditional counterparts. Comment: We can receive 70% of retail revenues for eBooks over $2.99. And self publishers can set their price for both ebook and paperback, balancing marketability and margin profit.

Which brings us to …
Indie books represent 25% of books on Amazon’s e-book bestseller list. Readers aren’t nearly as prejudiced against indie books as they were even a few years ago, and their buying practices suggest it! Comment: Looks like self publishing is becoming more and more “acceptable.” Maybe the story is more important than who publishes it. Maybe Indie authors are being more careful about how it is written.

And in addition…
You can safely dismiss the 50 Shades effect. Only 1.2% of self-published books sales are for erotica titles, which proves that you can indie publish successfully without writing a sex book. Comment: Thank goodness as porn is not in my writing comfort zone.

But best yet…
In Smashwords’ 2014 survey, they found that pricing your e-book at $.99 won’t make you rich. In fact, $2.99-3.99 is the sweet spot for a bestseller, and earn more in sales than books priced higher. Comment: I read Mark Coker’s excellent article on self publishing and have priced all my eBooks at $3.99. However, I see a movement by traditional publishing to raise the bar, and in fact a large number of popular authors published traditionally are ebook pricing at $10 and up.

Think you can only release shorts and novellas on e-book? Think again. The bestselling books in e-book are usually over 100,000 words. Maybe because they’re easier to hold? Comment: I usually shoot for 100,000 words, although read my previous blog that discusses a trend towards shorter novels that get bundled later on.

And increasingly…
According to Bowker, 458,000 books were indie pubbed in 2013 in the US. That’s up 437% from 2008! The self-publishing ranks are growing, and with increasing number comes more exciting and innovative strategies to publish your perfect book. Comment: I own my own ISBN and list on Bowker.

Best news yet…
It’s a good time to be a woman. Indie bestsellers are twice as likely to be written by a woman than traditionally published bestsellers (67% versus 39%). Comment: Yeah! Since I am one, this was good to hear. Science fiction used to be male dominated, but new female authors are getting noticed.

(See me jumping up and down)

This week I’m reading two polar opposite books. Golden Son by Pierce Brown and Solar Express by L. E. Modesitte, Jr.

Golden SonGolden Son is part of a trilogy consisting of Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star.
A universe where color dictates the social hierarchy of humans. Darrow is a red, his father a low class miner under the thumb of the golds. After Darrow’s beloved wife is hanged by Golds, he vows vengeance and using high tech and body carvers is transformed into a gold where he hopes to infiltrate and destroy them from within. Then, he gets to know Golds from the inside; their conflicts, their deceptions and their humanity. Darrow becomes “Reaper” a feared battle warrior who kills thousands, but not without remorse or guilt as he tries to change a society spread out among worlds.Red Rising

While the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I personally found the story a bit overly dramatic. Darrow is on a mission to disrupt a rigid and inequitable social structure and provides some exciting battle sequences, but the angst and internal drama was a bit much for me.

The constructed world, however, with Roman names and culture that contrasted with high tech weaponry and biology was very interesting.

Solar ExpressDue to the holidays, I have not completed Solar Express, but L. E. Modesitte is one of my favorite authors. So far, it is dry and a bit slow, but that is Modesitte at the beginning of many of his stories. The idea of discovering what at first appears to be a comet, but turns into an alien artifact that changes the sun, is fascinating. So I’m sticking with it for now. Stay tuned.

While husband and in-laws have recently chopped and brought home the living room tree (I’m in Oregon where there are tree farms ten minutes away from me), decorated the house, enjoyed a large Thanksgiving dinner with new relations (daughter’s newly engaged), published my eighth book, Time’s Equation, I haven’t finished reading Solar Express and will report on it next week.

As people immerse themselves in the holidays, reading may taper off, but hopefully buying picks up, although November was a good month for my sales. How about you?

After all, a good book makes an excellent gift at a good price for anyone to enjoy. And the sheer variety of great titles makes it easy to personalize for that special person.

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Clones in Science Fiction

photoIf you’re a writer and you haven’t seen this link yet, you should. It takes a look at the current trend for author dollars, showing with hard data that traditional publisher ebook sales are declining while self-publishing and small publishers are increasing. Even more interesting is where the data comes from and how sometimes the media gets it wrong.

If you like colorful graphs, lots of numbers, and care about the money flow for authors, check it out.

http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/

Another link I want to mention is to an article on nano advances at the molecular level. This is current hard science, that I consider back up data, which says nanobots in the bloodstream that can target viruses or cancers is a total possibility for the future.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/dna-based-nanodevices-for-molecular-medicine-an-overview

And since I’m currently writing about this as a medical approach, I wanted to mention it. Sometimes while I’m writing, real life jumps out and highlights what I’m writing. It happened with the meteor striking Russia practically to the day I wrote the beginning of Touching Crystal.

A bit scary.

No one has created a time gate, but as I pointed out in a previous blog, I have had dinner next to a physicist who is working on time reversal at the sub atomic level.

And…recently, Kurzweil’s newsletter came out with an article on creating wormholes. I think I’ll suggest a wormhole that lets my lost fleet jump several light years across the universe. However, I’m not the only science fiction writer to do this. It’s been used often enough in fiction that it seems it should be a forgone conclusion by now.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/first-known-magnetic-wormhole-created?

women-clonesI’m also writing about clones. Or will be again. The main character in my very first book, Caught in Time, Rowyna, is a clone. Did you notice the name Rowyna is a rearrangement of Arwoyn? Then, my novel Someone’s Clone also tells the story from a clone’s perspective.

I found there aren’t many books that use this viewpoint. The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe comes to mind as a favorite, and recently on a must read list was Pamela Sergeant’s Cloned Lives. I attempted to read two others books on clones, but because of various flaws in the books, I abandoned them.Fifth Head of Cerberus

I am reviewing Sargent’s book because it follows the lives of the main character’s five clones in an effort to show how environment affects personality and how different aspects of Paul Swenson’s personality emerge differently in each clone. Sargent also addresses the prejudice that society might harbor towards such an act, asking the question of how far should government let science progress when it could threaten society.

While all this was interesting, the part I enjoyed most was Sargent’s portrayal of the world of 2000 to 2037 because I could compare reality with her fiction. Published in 1976, Sargent sees the world of 2000 with automatic highways. The book drags, however as she goes into too much detail about why things are the way they are, almost delighting in her predictions.

She has high speed trains, which the government subsidizes, competing with airlines While airplane travel supposedly is more economical and efficient, Paul and his traveling companion wait an hour due to a mechanical breakdown in the airline’s luggage conveyor. Then the train from the airport is halted because of a riot by a group who claims the end of the world is near and clogs the track.

Such are her pointed comments on the far future, now our present.

Cloned LivesIn Cloned Lives, a moratorium on genetic research, legislated in 1980, has recently expired. Paul’s best friend, Hidey Takamura, is a genetic scientist who moves swiftly to make his mark at the university where both men work by convincing Paul he should be cloned. When a nosy reporter discovers the clones, all hell breaks loose and Paul and the new clones are hounded by the media. Government quickly slaps on another moratorium, and Paul hires a couple to raise the five kids.

The book leaps to 2016 and Paul is offered a research position on the moon where scientists have established a presence. Also mentioned are microfiche readers taking over physical books. That part she was close to the mark; the colonization of the moon, not at all.

The clones are sixteen years old now and painfully teenage. Unexpectedly, Paul is involved in a crash on the moon and the clones are informed that he has died. For the next five sections of the book, Sargent takes a point of view of each clone, analyzing similarities and differences of personality as their lives progress. Here is where the book breaks down into too much internal dialogue of teenage and young adult angst. Each clone has difficulty making social connections, and after a while, I got tired of the whining.

As the book winds up to a surprising ending, the clones eventually get married, find new relationships, and embark on their separate tortured lives.

I struggled to finish, but Pamela Sargent is a well-respected author and the subject matter was interesting. The storyline is strong, but Sargent bogs down in too much internal emotion and characters who should have been so much more than they were portrayed.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, gene modification, genetic manipulation, hard science, Medical science fiction, modifying humans, Predictive Science Fiction, science fiction, science news, The moon in science fiction

Comets and Book Clubs

IMG_9503We are landing on a comet tonight! This is a momentous event. After ten years of chasing, using gravity assist, the Philae Lander, a robotic spacecraft, will catch up to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P, and anchor itself there for hopefully a year long ride.

The Rosetta project, led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA and others, will be studying this comet in order to better understand the composition of comets, thought to bring water to primitive Earth, and possibly life itself. Eventually it will be within 180 million km of the sun and expelling water and gases because of intense heat.New Image of Comet ISON

Find more at: CNN.com: Rosetta Landing or www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

This is the ESA’s official website, where you can find the latest news, images and animations on the spacecraft and its lander .

touching-crystal-thumb-1Why does this intrigue me? My sixth novel, Touching Crystal deals with the impact of a comet against Alysia’s moon, Thanos, and the resulting consequences to my world of Alysia.

Science will now explain what was once mystical, a harbinger or omen for humans. Although it took ten years to get close enough to land, the idea that we can interface with a moving comet offers hope that we may be able to divert any future threats to Earth from this type of cosmic threat.

Although, we certainly didn’t see the meteor that crashed into Russia last year and took us by surprise. We were too busy staring at a passing asteroid.

NeuromancerI am currently reading Snow Crash, as it is a selection of my Powell’s Book Club and we meet tonight. It is a Hugo winner classic from 1992 and is very different. Think William Gibson and his Hugo winning book, Neuromancer, which created the sub genre of Cyber-punk in the early 1990s and you have an idea of the story.Snow Crash

The Powell’s book club is a rowdy group of fifteen to twenty-five or so science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who have been meeting for over ten years at the world famous bookstore of Powell’s in Beaverton. They are awesomely intelligent about science fiction and not shy about offering opinions.

Makes for lively discussions, so I need to be prepared.

Abyss Beyond DreamsI also plan on reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton, and will report on that new offering in the next week or two.

someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalBut first, I have my proof for Someone’s Clone in my hot hands and expect a November 20 publication date. Until then, I’ll be working feverishly to put the final touches on it and conquer the format and download monster.

Check out Amazon for this exciting new adventure, one of my best to date. A murder, a mystery, time travel, romance, aliens…this one has it all…so stay tuned.

 

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Asimov’s World Fair Predictions 1964

IMG_0174After reading Timebound by Rysa Walker where the main character time travels back to the World’s Fair in Chicago of 1899, I stumbled into an article that talked about the fifty year ago predictions of science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, for the future at the 1964 World’s Fair. I thought it was interesting to learn some of his predictions and whether they came true or not. Can science fiction authors predict the future or are they just writing good stories?

He actually nailed some of them and some he missed the mark on. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27069716

He predicted:

We would be able to see and hear any conversations.

With the advent of Skype and Facetime, this is possible. However, I think FaceTime hasn’t reached the popularity Apple or the world thought it might, mainly because I’m not ready to show my face bright and early in the morning before make-up has been applied. The little picture in the window is never as flattering as I wish it could be. Maybe the young kids use it much more often than we more mature (read wrinkled) generation, but I’m surprised at how overlooked it is. Do you FaceTime?

We could direct dial to any spot.

downloadPretty much true.

 

 

Robots would not be common, but would exist.download (1)

A lot of research is going forward developing amazing robots. Recently Cosmos, a new tv show, talked about a four-legged robot that could go over any rough terrain and carry several hundred pounds. It’s a mechanical packhorse. I own a romba (named Robbie)  that cleans my rugs and floors, and this is rather commonplace. IRobot also makes robots that go into dangerous places or war zones to investigate possible bombs. Currently robots can do surgery and, of course, manufacture cars. Manufacturing uses a lot of robotic functions. Amazon is talking about having drones deliver packages.Microrobotics

3D television and wall screens will be common.

While large flat tv screens are in most homes, the acceptance of 3D television has flopped. No one wants to pay the extra money and wear the goofy glasses.

There will be conversations with the moon.

Except if you call, no one will answer.

Robots will make coffee.

My morning coffee is set up at night so all I have to do is push a button and it’s percolating. You can schedule it to go on automatically if you want. Pretty much automated except I put in beans and water. There’s no robot picking beans for me or bustling around the kitchen that early.

We will have algae grown and vat made meat that will taste not so bad.vat meat

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-08/first-lab-grown-hamburger-served

This just happened where a pseudo burger was developed in a lab. However, the not-so- bad taste is still in question.

We will have fusion and solar power and other sources of alternate energy.download (2)

While the fusion power is still a dream of the future, large solar arrays in the desert and house-top solar panels are growing by leaps and bounds. We are making progress, but it still isn’t in every household. Electric cars are gaining traction…buy Tesla stock.

Vehicles will drive with robot brains. Jetpack’s and hovercraft will be common modes of transportation. http://www.google.com/about/careers/lifeatgoogle/self-driving-car-test-steve-mahan.html

While most vehicles use computers and high tech devices for gps, video and audio, self driving cars are still in the developmental stage. (but see the link on this progress) However, they are coming. Jetpack’s and hovercraft displayed at the Fair are still not used extensively, although they exist.

Not all will enjoy the gadgetry in full, but the majority will be better off than present, but many will be further behind.

There is a new class division developing between those that have access to tech and can use it and those that are falling behind. Tech is developing and changing at a breath-taking pace and those that can keep up will forge ahead, leaving many in luddite dust. Some of this is generational. My daughter has integrated high tech more deeply into her life than I have, and understands it far better, but my mother doesn’t even own a computer or understand the basics of our current tech world. She can barely comprehend the complicated world of social media that now exists and the wide array of aps and websites that proliferate.

If you could hop in a time machine and power ahead fifty years from now, what would be one technology now in the developmental stage that you might find integrated into society?

PS: On Mother’s Day through the 15th I have enrolled in the KDP Select program that will offer Caught in Time free. Check out the right panel for synopsis and more details of the book.

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Filed under gene modification, hard science, Medical science fiction, Microbots in science fiction, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction Predictions, science news, time travel

Marketing books through holiday fairs

IMG_0174Jingle Bells! Whew. There’s so much going on this past week that I haven’t had time to read.

Instead, I want to let you know about a t.v. series hosted by James Wood called Futurescape on Tuesday night at seven o’clock Pacific Time that deals with cutting edge science and future concepts. Immortality, altering the genetic code, and future exploration are only a few topics covered in the last few shows. It’s well done with radical future concepts grounded in current research. For example, powering a spacecraft through plasma gas. Since writing Past the Event Horizon where I had to consider how the starship the Seeker would be powered, I have been interested in any new ideas coming from current research. Using plasma gas to power a ship is a new intriguing idea to me.

touching-crystal-thumb-1 Also, I want to whop and holler since I have just published my sixth book in the Alysian series called, Touching Crystal. This is an exciting novel that starts out with a comet colliding with one of Alysia’s moons and goes from there to one heart stopping adventure after another.

Writing the novel was the fun part. Editing, formatting, marketing and running a business was the tough part.

This past weekend I attended a large craft fair in Portland in freezing temperatures. Record cold. We were in an outside plastic tent and if it hadn’t been for the warm friendships of fellow authors and the large attendance, I would now be a Popsicle.

downloadUndaunted, this Saturday I am one of 79 vendors at the Hip Hop Happening in Sellwood, Oregon. If you’re in the neighborhood, please drop by and say, “Hi.” I’ll let you know how it goes and if I’m still “hopping” afterwards. Luckily, we are supposed to be indoors this time around.

And it should be warmer.

Fingers crossed.

This is a marketing experiment that may or may not be worthwhile. But as I have been saying lately, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  Also, right now a lot of fairs and gift parties are going on. All kinds of marketing avenues are out there, and in this new world of publishing, authors and publishers are still trying to figure out what works.

Hope you can keep warm, and stop now and then to enjoy the excitement of the holiday season.

And if you’re looking for gift ideas, don’t forget books for those that read so they can be taken away to worlds unknown on wonderful adventures.

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Filed under book fairs, Comets, ebook marketing, first contact, Hard science fiction, Medical science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction science, science news

Comet Ison: Not Science Fiction

IMG_0174If the name Ison means nothing to you….then you need to read on.

If it does, then you might want to read on anyway.

Ison is the name of a spectacular comet that has entered our solar system and is headed toward the sun. On November 28, 2013, it will approach perihelion with the sun (closest point: 700,00 miles above the surface) and one of three things will happen:

It will survive and head out towards Earth, it will break up into pieces like the Schumacher-Levy Comet did, and pieces of it will continue towards the sun, or it will disintegrate completely due to the sun’s enormous gravity and heat. It may not survive…

Most Sungrazing comets don’t.

touching-crystal-thumb-1This exciting event happens just around the time of the launch of my sixth book, Touching Crystal, and yes, Chapter One starts with a comet streaking  out from behind the sun and crashing into Thanos, Alysia’s smaller moon. Richard Steele and Trace Walker have to cope with the aftermath of changing weather and disrupted economies. But more than that, there’s alien crystals and invaders involved.

Exciting stuff…and very timely.

I would like to say that I planned Comet Ison coming at this time, but of course, I didn’t.

Serendipity.

Here’s an interesting link on 12 cool facts about Comet Ison.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/11/21/comet_ison_12_cool_facts.html

It’s less than two miles across in the rocky core…1.2 miles (size of Manhattan) and shrinking as it casts off huge amounts of gas and water. The tail is five million miles long and the coma (front part) is 100,000 kilometers in size. The tail has recently split into possibly three tails and the front has sprouted “wings,” which indicates that pieces may have come off.

If it does survive the sun and comes around out of the backside, it could reach a velocity of 225/sec or fast enough to cross the Continental US in twenty-five seconds.

But…

New Image of Comet ISONThe closest it will get to Earth is on December 26 (hmmm…) at forty million miles away. (phew!)

We should be able to see a spectacular show, and even now, it’s brightening up enough to be seen with binoculars and the naked eye at certain times.

Then, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s called a Perihelion Comet and they don’t come back.

So be alert, and check the skies for a once in a lifetime event.

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Filed under alien life forms, blog information, Comets, Cutting Edge Science ideas, environmental issues in science fiction, first contact, hard science, Non fiction Science for science fiction, Post Apocalyptic, science fiction science, science fiction series, science news