May 2016 Science and Fiction @AlinaMeridon

Two giveaways, a guest post, poetry, music, reviews and cosmological musings… but first a big ‘Thank You’ to Freya Pickard for featuring two of my haiku (5-26 and 5-30) in her series on cancer.

Cover of Yanty's Butterfly, an international anthology of haiku in its many forms.Yanty’s Butterfly – Goodreads Giveaway May 24 – Jun 19, 2016

This one’s an actual paperback and there’s only one copy being given away

Yanty’s Butterfly consists of over 600 poems, spanning the variety of haiku forms: three-line haiku, two-line haiku, one-line haiku, four-line haiku, traditional haiku (5-7-5), concrete haiku, tanka, and haibun.

Cover of I Like It Hard by Francis James FranklinI Like It Hard – Publisher Giveaway May 18 – June 20, 2016

My new novelette, I Like It Hard, has an official release date (8th June) – I received the final publication-ready versions a few days ago – and the publisher Less Than Three Press is running a giveaway on goodreads.

The reviews so far are mixed, but I’d like to share part of this review:

You may expect it to come across as crass or cheap. Maybe even dirty. But it doesn’t. The writing was flawless; the setting, the story and the main character – it was refreshing, different and an excellent portrayal of an independent, sexual woman who isn’t ashamed of how she feels or what she wants.

And also part of this review:

Sure, this story is about sex, but it’s about so much more than that. The shameless slut shaming that we, as a world, do, just because a person freely and wholly enjoys uncomplicated, no strings sex. The lack of acceptance of bisexuality and the prejudice linked to both. The story also offered a really great and accurate exposure of an aromantic.

Guest Post by Aidee Ladnier

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier

Aidee Ladnier has a guest post over on Alina Meridon this month: Why I Love Science Fiction Romance.

Unlike our present day where the daily news is still inundated with stories about LGBTQ people being denied basic rights such as to love and marry a person of the gender of their choice, science fiction often occurs in a world where these restrictions have already been overcome.

Elusive Radiance is due out on 7th June.

Physics from the Edge

The 20th Century brought us two major advances in our understanding of reality. Quantum Physics revealed that the universe is built out of waves of probability, and that there are strict limits to what can be measured. The Uncertainty Principle tells us, for example, that we can measure a particle’s position precisely, but we can’t tell if or how it’s moving. Alternatively, if we know how it is moving, or not moving, then we can’t be sure where it is. Particles are amazing things. If you lock one in a box, sooner or later it will escape. If you demand that it makes an either-or choice while you aren’t looking, it will quite happily choose both.

Relativity was the other huge advance in physics. Einstein gave us two theories: Special Relativity (in 1905), and General Relativity (in 1915), and it was Special Relativity that fundamentally changed our understanding of time and space. How amazing it is that how fast you are going can affect how fast your pocket watch is ticking. The internal clocks in the GPS satellites that guide our movements about the planet need to take into account the effect of relativity. The speed of light is an absolute, the one thing everyone must agree on, no matter how they are moving about.

General Relativity is something of a problem. It is a brilliant theory that tells us how gravity bends time and space, and makes some specific predictions that have been verified subsequently, but it doesn’t play well with Quantum Mechanics, and not all its predictions have been verified, and it certainly doesn’t explain why galaxies rotate the way they do. For years, physicists have been studying the stars at the edges of galaxies and wondering why, given their speed, they don’t go whizzing off into intergalactic space.

physics in the dark
galaxy rotation curves
defy all logic

Clearly, they say, galaxies must be a lot heavier than they look. There must be matter that we can’t actually see, matter that has significant mass but which doesn’t seem to interact with electromagnetic radiation in any significant way. Vast amounts have been spent in the search for this mysterious ‘dark matter’, and in the absence of any solid data, hundreds of wild hypotheses have been spun and published in reputable research journals.

And every so often, someone dares to suggest that maybe there is no dark matter. Maybe General Relativity is wrong. Maybe Sir Isaac Newton was wrong. Maybe, just maybe, gravitational mass and inertial mass are not the same thing…

Cover of Physics from the Edge: A New Cosmological Model for Inertia, by Michael Edward McCulloch

Not that anyone understands why they’re the same thing, assuming they are. Certainly they seem to be, and physics makes a lot more sense to everyone when they are. But… what if they’re not? In Physics from the Edge, Mike McCulloch presents one such new theory. It’s an elegant theory and fits the data well, and regardless of whether or not you find his arguments convincing, the book is well written and provides a nice introduction to the subject of mass, inertia, and the many anomalies of modern physics.

space travel
emdrive shifting text
without reaction

Ah, yes, the EmDrive. A prototype spaceship drive mechanism that appears to provide significant thrust without the requirement for ejecting matter out of the back of the spaceship. Dismissed as ridiculous by all serious scientists, nevertheless it has aroused much curiosity, and even a team at NASA has been experimenting with it. It’s very exciting, and McCulloch’s theory makes predictions of the amount of thrust that agree roughly with observations.

But the basic problem is that if the drive is truly able to sustain the measured thrust level, the law of conservation of momentum and energy – and there are few laws as absolute and sacrosanct as that – is violated. Incontrovertible proof of this violation will be necessary before physicists abandon this cornerstone of their beliefs.

Julia Fischer – Hindemith Sonata

Julia Fischer plays the violin so beautifully and with flawless technique. I have been in love with her playing ever since she played the Four Seasons at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, but what ensures my affection is her Mendelssohn. I adore Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, but for decades I have felt only disappointment at each new virtuoso’s rendering of it, because not one of them has matched the recording I know and love by Arthur Grumiaux – until Julia Fischer.

Julia Fischer at the BBC Proms, plays Hindemith for an encore.

julia leaves the audience fishing for an encore

Music is such a subjective thing, and perhaps we love most the performances that are familiar to us, or perhaps certain soloists capture something about the music that resonates with us, or perhaps the music has meanings that are not always apparent and it takes a synergy of mentality and technique to draw it out. In my limited experience of playing in orchestras, I’ve certainly seen what a huge difference an inspired conductor can make to a piece you thought you knew. Whatever combinations of these things it is, the way that Julia Fischer and Arthur Grumiaux play the Mendelssohn really speaks to me. And perhaps it’s because they’re both well known for their interpretations of Bach…

Anyway, click on the picture and listen to her playing the Hindemith sonata – my favourite video this past month.

And now for something completely different:

Comedy sketch about the government's position on the European Convention of Human Rights, based on Monty Python's Life of Brian's What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Comedy sketch about the government’s position on the European Convention of Human Rights, based on Monty Python’s Life of Brian’s What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

This is one of the funniest videos I’ve seen in ages, a brilliant satire of Europhobia in the run-up to history’s stupidest referendum.

Cover of Open Skies by Yolande Kleinn

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Aidee Ladnier talks SciFi Romance; and an aromantic giveaway

Two very different topics in one brief blog post:

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier
  1. Aidee Ladnier has a guest post over on Alina Meridon this week: Why I Love Science Fiction Romance.
    “By consensus, most readers agree that the modern genre of science fiction was created by Mary Shelley. She wrote her oeuvre Frankenstein about a scientist creating life in his lab… and the world changed. Writers became dreamers, looking to the future, and inspiring real-life scientists to create it. But what I love most about science fiction is what it says about us, its creators.”
  2. Less Than Three Press is running a giveaway on goodreads for my new novelette, I Like It Hard. As ever with my writing, the reviews are mixed, but I’d like to share part of this review:
    “You may expect it to come across as crass or cheap. Maybe even dirty. But it doesn’t. The writing was flawless; the setting, the story and the main character – it was refreshing, different and an excellent portrayal of an independent, sexual woman who isn’t ashamed of how she feels or what she wants.”