Hello Again

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any real posting on here. Been pretty busy with work and school; although, the cool thing is that I’m in my last semester now, and I’m only taking 1 class. I’ll be done in early December.

It’s cool to be so close to graduation. I never thought I’d go back to school, but it really hasn’t been that bad. I’ve learned some cool stuff. It was in March of last year that I really started thinking about going back. I posted about it at the time, but it was still sort of just a “what if” then. In some ways, I’m still kind of surprised that I actually did it.

But anyway, things have been going well. The kids are getting older, my hair’s getting grayer (and yes, those things are directly linked), and Star Wars is kicking off a long TV series this Friday! Things just keep rolling along…

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.

— JRR Tolkien

The Final Trilogy – Episodes 7, 8, 9?

Year ago, I took my first excursion into the Star Wars Expanded Universe with Timothy Zahn’s novels, commonly referred to as the Thrawn Trilogy. They take place about 5 years after Return of the Jedi and deal with the New Republic’s battle against the remnant of the Empire. The series was very good and is highly praised by most Star Wars fans. It also introduced some of the most popular Expanded Universe characters, including Mara Jade.

Apparently, there’s a movement going on to turn these books into movie form. The intention is to rally together enough fan support to make 3 feature length films (all digitally animated — like Shrek or Toy Story) for everyone to enjoy. It’s a non-profit project; it’s simply being done for the love of the series.

If you’re interested in checking it out (including a trailer) or trying to help in some way, go to www.CreateStarWars.org.

May the Force be with you…
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Sci-Fi Caskets?

ShowMeSciFi has posted an article about Star Trek caskets. That’s right, just like the one Spock got launched into space with in Star Trek II.

But the funny thing is that this reminds me of a conversation I had with my brother, Josh, last week. We were talking about different kinds of coffins, and he said he had thought about a Star Wars coffin, specifically, one that would have him frozen in carbonite, like Han Solo.

I mean, if that’s not dignified, what is?
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Exploring Our Own Backyard

I’ve grown up with Sci-Fi. I loved Star Wars as a child, and I even have vague memories of being 5 years old and watching Return of the Jedi on the big screen. I wanted to climb into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon with Han and Chewie and shoot through hyperspace. I loved exploring everything from Mars to alternate dimmensions with Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, and Larry Niven. Some of the earliest Sci-Fi I’ve read is by H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote around the turn of the last century. And even he was predated by people like Jules Verne.

Space has called to us throughout our history, as evidenced by Stonehenge and other ancient relics. So what are we doing about it today?

Over the last century, man has learned to fly and even break through the stratosphere. We’ve launched satellites, telescopes, and landed on the moon. But since then, it doesn’t seem like we’ve really done anything huge. Ok, sure, we’re about to send Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber into space, but I’m talking about something productive. Let’s just hope they’re bringing the lightsaber back. I mean, it’s bad enough we can’t keep people from throwing junk on the highways, we don’t need NASA throwing more of it in space. It won’t seem so cute when it rips through the international space station…

But anyway, I’m ready to start seeing some lunar bases get set up, or some manned space flights to Mars. Some of those things might happen in my lifetime, but I’m afraid interstellar flight probably won’t. There’s a lot to explore in our own solar system (right in our own backyard, so to speak). But the big dream is in finding a way to travel to other solar systems.

And really, any kind of space exploration, whether it’s in this solar system or any other, hinges on one thing: speed. As it stands, the rocket propulsion engines that we’re used to seeing simply won’t do the trick. Maybe there’s an answer in nuclear technology. Or maybe it will be something else entirely.

Currently, there are some scientists working on an obscure branch of physics that could really make a difference. Much of the research is based on some theories postulated by Burkhard Heim in the 1950’s. In layman’s terms, the theory revolves around manipulating gravity fields. Heim’s theories are complex, and they have been further progressed by Walter Droscher and Jochem Hauser. Their ideas are pretty wild, but they have a certain logic to them, nonetheless. They’ve suggested an experiment that might help prove their claims:

This will require a huge rotating ring placed above a superconducting coil to create an intense magnetic field. With a large enough current in the coil, and a large enough magnetic field, Dröscher claims the electromagnetic force can reduce the gravitational pull on the ring to the point where it floats free. Dröscher and Häuser say that to completely counter Earth’s pull on a 150-tonne spacecraft a magnetic field of around 25 tesla would be needed. While that’s 500,000 times the strength of Earth’s magnetic field, pulsed magnets briefly reach field strengths up to 80 tesla. And Dröscher and Häuser go further. With a faster-spinning ring and an even stronger magnetic field, gravitophotons would interact with conventional gravity to produce a repulsive anti-gravity force, they suggest.

Dröscher is hazy about the details, but he suggests that a spacecraft fitted with a coil and ring could be propelled into a multidimensional hyperspace. Here the constants of nature could be different, and even the speed of light could be several times faster than we experience. If this happens, it would be possible to reach Mars in less than 3 hours and a star 11 light years away in only 80 days, Dröscher and Häuser say.

Mars in less than 3 hours, and another star in less than 3 months?! Maybe this stuff does sound like Sci-Fi, but I’d say it’s worth checking out! I recommend reading the entire article this came from, it’s pretty interesting stuff.

Along those lines, some scientists in Europe are going to be running some crazy experiments on a massive particle accelerator sometime around November this year. A lot of what they’ll be playing with is in trying to answer questions like “why do things weigh what they weigh?” and “what is dark matter?” Answering questions like these could relate directly to understanding gravitational and magnetic fields.

The experiment they’re working on is the largest and most comlex ever attempted. They’re going to be smashing subatomic particles together at very high speeds, and more or less waiting to see what happens. For all they know they could discover new dimensions of space-time, or even create miniature black holes. Fun!

Anyway, there are two articles about this experiment that I recommend reading. The first one is here, and the second one is here.

Some Cool Comics

Lauren, who has managed to stay married to me for over 6 years now, has finally given up on me ever growing up. As a matter of fact, I think she’s starting to suspect that I might be regressing.

Lately, I’ve really gotten into comic books. I liked them as a kid, but never had the money or means to really collect them consistently. I would typically find one or two consecutive issues, but then would miss out on the conclusion to the story arc. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with comics, that’s how they work. You typically won’t get a full story in one issue. The story arcs are usually spread between 3-6 issues, and so when I was a kid, I liked comics, but couldn’t get them enough to make it worthwhile.

A year or two ago, I heard that Marvel was going to release a series that revolved around Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels, which greatly intrigued me. I had kind of forgotten about it until I was working in Huntsville last April. Since I usually had nothing to do each night when I got off work, I decided to check out this comic book shop I had kept seeing, The Deep.

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They’ve really got a great set up. One wall is dedicated to new releases, and then they have boxes and boxes of back issues spread throughout the store. There’s also the typical smattering of action figures, collectibles, card games, T-shirts, etc, and large area for gaming (just wish the comic shops in Birmingham were this good). While I was perusing the new releases, I happened upon The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #3. I couldn’t help myself. I went ahead and picked it up, and my obsession has been growing ever since.

I now have all 7 issues of the Dark Tower series (more will come out in February), and it was fantastic. The artwork is probably the best I’ve ever seen in a comic, and I’ve actually heard that the series has brought many other Stephen King fans into the world of comics.

But I haven’t stopped there.

legacy1.jpgI’ve also gotten into two different Star Wars titles (and in part, I blame the guys over at ShowMeSciFi for getting me hooked on these). The first one is Star Wars Legacy, which is set about 140 years after Return of the Jedi and tells the story of Cade Skywalker, the last known Skywalker descendant. Though trained as a Jedi, Cade has turned his back on his heritage and taken up the mantle of bounty hunter. Though the comic sometimes seems a little too cliche, such as Cade’s typical “bad boy” persona, the overall story is excellent, and the revelation given in the last issue was flat-out shocking. Even though I’ve had to play catch up, I’ve managed to get all 15 issues (though I’m missing the promotional Issue #0).

The other series I’ve gotten hooked on (and I’m trying not to get into any others) is Star Wars Dark Times, which takes place shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith. The inside front flap of the 1st issue has this quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi: “For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”.

dttwo.jpgBasically, the story follows several different groups of people who are trying to find their place in this new Empire. You see glimpses of the internal struggle that Darth Vader faces as he shrugs off the last clinging remnants of Anakin Skywalker. You see the anxiety of Clone Troopers who wonder what will happen to them now that the war is over. Jedi Master Dass Jennir is forced to choose between survival and following the Jedi code, and his companion undergoes a frantic search for his wife and daughter. And those are only some of the story lines that unfold in this comic. The writing is great, and the art is superb. As much as I like Legacy, Dark Times is my current favorite.

For some reason, the Dark Times series has had several delays in its release. It hasn’t followed the typical one issue per month format, but it’s still been great, and I highly recommend it. I’ve got all 4 issues that have currently been released, and they’ll put the first story arc in trade paperback before long.

8 Random Things…

Well, Guy over at The Short Fat Kid tagged me to list 8 random things about myself as part of the 8 Things Meme.  I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but I haven’t posted anything in over a week, and I really need something to throw on here.

THE RULES
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

The List:
1. I would love to go to space.
2. I like to eat lemons and limes with salt.
3. I can find a redeeming quality to almost any movie or song (“Bang on the Drum” by Todd Rundgren is one of the few exceptions).
4. I have jumped onto a moving train and fallen off of a stationary truck.
5. I wish I owned a real lightsaber.
6. Someone once thought my wife was actually my daughter (and I was only 21 at the time…).
7. As a child I wanted to sleep with my shoes on so that I could fight crime at a moment’s notice. It never occurred to me that someone who couldn’t tie their own shoes might not be too adept at crime-fighting.
8. If given a choice, I still prefer to pee outside.

And instead of tagging anyone else, I’ll give you a 9th random thing about myself:

I will often agree to something with no intention of actually going through with it (just like rule #4).

“How About That R2 Unit Over There?”

I don’t mean to throw so much Star Wars stuff at you here lately, but I’ve run across another cool SW related website.

67285-500-333.jpgThese guys actually build their own R2 units… that’s right, they make brothers and sisters for R2-D2! You can’t buy completed droids from them, but they’re a club for people who want to build their own astromech droids (which is what R2-D2 was). The website has links for actual blueprints and tutorials on getting started. Some people make static droids just for decoration; others actually put in robotics that allow the units to roll around, make noises, light up, etc. By the way, these are all radio-controlled, I believe. I don’t think anyone’s actually built one that functions on its own yet. Although, with Lego’s Mindstorm line of products, creating an independently functional R2 unit is definitely in the realm of possibilities.

For any of you guys with mechanical prowess (Matt), technical prowess (Wes), or a few extra bucks lying around (probably none of us), this might be a cool hobby. Be prepared to kiss your sex life goodbye, though. I’d imagine it’s hard to attract the lady-folk when you spend your free time playing with a robot. In that case, you might want to spend some time trying to create some fembots.