Thursday, March 12, 2009

Science Fiction with Accurate Astronomy

Another installment of Palomar in Science Fiction will be coming before too long. In the meantime you might want to take advantage of some free SF that features a wide "range of astronomical facts and mind-blowing concepts." Just visit Diamonds in the Sky. There you can read the short stories while you are online or download them to your hand-held device and read 'em while you are on the go.

The effort was supported by the National Science Foundation. Your tax dollars at work.


Anonymous said...

Scientists Sometimes Need to Think Like Science Fiction Writers

By Mike Brotherton

March 14, 2009

Not every scientist has an interest in science fiction or anything resembling the ability to think like a science fiction writer.

I was reminded of this again today in regard to this story about how to focus SETI searches.

Basically, the idea is that it is easier in principle to find and characterize Earth-like planets when you can see them eclipsing their system’s star. Therefore if we want to talk with ETIs, we should be targeting our searches in the plane of the ecliptic. “Plane of the ecliptic” is just a technical term for the directions in space that would see us eclipsing the Sun. The aliens living in star systems in the plane of the ecliptic, so the reasoning goes, would then be the ones most likely to have spotted us and be trying to communicate with us.

Maybe a teeny-tiny bit more likely, but overall a dumb reason to restrict searches in my opinion. (Somehow the article I linked to talks about using the idea to “broaden” searches, but that’s just bad reasoning or writing, in my opinion. The only way to use the idea is to restrict searches.) Let me explain why I think the idea isn’t very good or logical, setting aside my scientist cap for my science fiction writer cap.

Full article here:

Scott Kardel said...

Thanks Mike!

I had read about this over at Centauri Dreams.

In response to "So, the only way I think this makes any sense as a strategy is if the aliens are essentially at the same technology level we are, and not a century or more advanced."

The way the exoplanet searches are advancing I would drop that down to perhaps a decade or two tops. The new large telescopes coming in the next decade or so should be able to bag Earth-like planets without having to resort to transits.

It will be an exciting time and I am sure the SETI folks will have something to look outside of the ecliptic.