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The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, gravity well, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, supercomputer in your pocket, the scientific method
The beautiful mathematical construct that Einstein presented to the world in 1915 is also still our current best theory on the nature of space and time, and it is extremely accurate. It also correctly predicts that a gravitational field will slow down the passage of time: the stronger the field, the slower time runs. This effect has the strange consequence that time ticks by ever so slightly slower in the Earth’s core (deep within its gravitational well) than it does on the surface. This difference in age that has accumulated over the four and half billion years of our planet’s existence means that the core is in fact two and a half years younger than the crust. Put another way, for every sixty years of Earth’s history, its core has aged one second less than its crust. This figure has been calculated using the formula from general relativity, and it is not at all obvious how we might go about checking it experimentally, but such is our trust in the formula that no physicist is in any real doubt about its veracity.
Just as two people moving relative to each other will, according to special relativity, measure each other’s clock ticking at a slower rate, a similar situation arises between the two observers if they are a fixed distance apart, but one of them is feeling a stronger gravitational pull—say, on the surface of the Earth, while the other is hovering far out in space. Again, the two of them will disagree on the time interval between events. As before, their clocks will tick at different rates: being deeper within the Earth’s gravitational well, where there is more spacetime curvature, the Earth observer’s clock will tick more slowly. However, unlike in special relativity, the situation here is no longer symmetrical, as she would see the clock out in space ticking more quickly. In a very real sense, gravity slows the flow of time. We can say that the reason that a body ‘falls’ to Earth is because it always moves to where time runs the slowest—it is trying to age more slowly.
These initial conditions, down at the quantum level, seeded spacetime with irregularities, which became writ large on the fabric of the cosmos as the universe expanded, so that a certain amount of lumpiness was automatically built into the distribution of matter. As the universe continued to ‘unwind’, matter that was close enough together to feel the pull of gravity eventually clumped together to form stars and galaxies. The molecules of hydrogen and helium gas in space fell together into the gravitational wells of the stars, causing an increase in entropy as they did so. But, crucially, this entropy did not reach a maximum—stars are not systems in thermal equilibrium, but remain reservoirs of low entropy, with the thermonuclear fusion reactions within them releasing excess energy in the form of light and heat. It is this low-entropy energy from our own star, the Sun, that makes life on Earth possible.
Collider by Paul Halpern
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking
The image of such an astronomical object stealthily entering a theater, absorbing all of the patrons, enlarging itself, and moving on to another venue might not be all that far from the popular stereotype. Several black hole properties bring blobs to mind. If a black hole is near an active star, for instance as a binary system, it can gradually acquire matter from the star, due to its mutual gravitational attraction, and become more massive over time. Nothing is mysterious or unusual about this process except that black holes form particularly steep gravitational wells. Astronomers observe this accumulation of material through images of the radiation emitted as it falls inward toward the black hole. The physics of black holes derives from Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In 1915, with the ink on Einstein’s gravitational theory barely dry, German physicist Karl Schwarzschild, while serving on the Russian front in the First World War, discovered an exact solution.
If the LHC represented a danger, perhaps, as in the case of Gregory Benford’s novel Timescape (1980), scientists from the future would relay messages back in time to warn us. Or maybe, as in John Cramer’s novel Einstein’s Bridge (1997), they would try to change history and prevent the LHC from being completed. A traversable wormhole is a solution of Einstein’s equations of general relativity that connects two different parts of space-time. Like black holes, wormholes are formed when matter distorts the fabric of the universe enough to create a deep gravitational well. However, because of a hypothetical extra ingredient called phantom matter (or exotic matter) with negative mass and negative energy, wormholes respond differently to intruders. While matter dropping into a black hole would be crushed, the phantom matter in a traversable wormhole would prop it open and allow passage through a kind of a space-time “throat” to another cosmic region. The difference would be a bit like attempting passage through a garbage disposal versus through an open pipe.
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
augmented reality, British Empire, business process, gravity well, indoor plumbing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, loose coupling, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, plutocrats, Plutocrats, theory of mind
Mercury to Mars was boring in the extreme (except when punctuated by moments of mortal terror), but at least I had the creature comforts of an aristo-class berth and a pair of surly servants. But now I am embarking on a voyage into the outer system aboard the Indefatigable, and it makes all that has gone before seem like the lap of luxury. Our archipelagic economy obeys certain fixed rules, according to Jeeves. The inner system is rich in energy and heavy elements, with short travel time but middling-deep gravity wells. The moons of the outer-system gas giants are replete with light elements and shallower gravity wells, but their primaries are far apart. Finally, the Forbidden Cities scattered through the Kuiper Belt’s dwarf planets are loosely bound—and very far apart. Consequently, Mercury exports solar energy via microwave beam, hundreds and thousands of terawatts of the stuff, and uranium and processed metals via slow-moving cycler ship and magsail. Venus exports rare earth metals—albeit in smaller quantities, at greater cost—while Mars contributes iron, carbon dioxide, and other materials.
“Ungood,” he says mildly. “Do you have the money to pay for off-world passage?” I take another mouthful. “Now that’s the problem. Living here has been more expensive than I expected. I don’t want to hit on my sisters unless . . . well. Emergencies only. And while I’ve been saving, at this rate It’ll take me another six years to raise steerage back to Luna.” Two hundred Reals, minimum—the Venusian gravity well is expensive to escape. “I was hoping you might know someone?” “I might.” He plays a brief chord progression. “Can you make yourself scarce for a few hours?” I drain the pitcher and feel the weight in my digestive tract. “How many do you need?” “Make it three: I have to make inquiries.” He takes my empty pitcher and lobs it across the bar, straight into Milton’s third hand. “I’m going to miss you, girl.”
I can repair a handful of faults myself, but right now I’m down about 4 percent below normal—which will take time to fix—and if I let it slide below 10 percent I’ll have to look for medical help. (And won’t that be fun, with my depleted savings?) So. A hotel it is. I don’t ask for much—privacy, a door I can lock, molten water on tap, pressure, and oxygen. But swift-footed Mercury is at the bottom of a very deep gravity well, eleven kilometers per second below even rosy-cheeked Venus, and not many people come to visit. Those who do are evidently rich, or they’re indentured miners, and there’s barely anything between the swank and swag of the Cinnabar Paris and an unpressurized bag hanging from the underside of a conveyor feedline. In the end I check my schedule and discover that the gap between my arrival and the departure time Ichiban mentioned is only about six days (Earth, not local), so I bite the numb patch that’s appeared on my lower lip and go wheedle my way into the cheapest the Paris has to offer.
Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
One of the lumbering monsters emerges from the earth, its grinding mouthparts breaching in a shower of dust and rock shards that tumble and fall silently back through the vacuum to the surface. It seems to stare out into the blackness of the sky, past the curved wall of the gas giant itself, and then tucks its head in, claws digging into the substrate beneath it. Its whole body contracts, shortening by almost a third, and then by half again in recoil as it spits a huge bolus of rock towards some distant point, enough to clear the planet’s gravity well, flashing away at such a ludicrous velocity that Helena reckons some kind of magnetic acceleration must be involved. Its siblings are doing the same, tunnelling, devouring more of the moon’s structure and then launching what they have mined at their far-off foes, whoever they are. From the state of the moon’s surface, this has been going on for some time. ‘The targets are locations within the asteroid belt that lies between this planet and the inner worlds of the system, especially the world from which the bulk of detected signals originate-t-t-te.’
The brief walk from the sleep pods to the crew room had been long enough for him to absorb just what extended treachery had been going on while he had been out of it, but Lante had obviously done all the convincing in person rather than conveniently producing a manifesto. If he had time he could trawl the internal sensor suite and maybe find recordings of some of the conversations, but he’d just have to hear it from Lante herself and deal with it on the fly. But first things first, and so he was urbane mildness personified as they talked over what had been reinstalled in the orbital module, whether they needed to do anything to stop it falling into Nod’s gravity well, whether they were going to set up shop there or not. Lante subsided and Rani took over with the technical details. Baltiel rubber-stamped all the various proposals, command decisions barely worthy of the name. ‘Now,’ he said, that disposed of. ‘You’ve been busy.’ For a moment the tension in the room was almost overtly mutinous. He wondered how far they would go. ‘Nobody’s come,’ Lante told him.
Twelve days later, with Lortisse now ambulatory in a medical exoskeleton, cracking weak jokes with Rani and eating solids, Lante sent Baltiel a priority request to speak, all the urgent flags up, requires immediate Overall Command action. And that’s it, then. The thought of someone remaking him into a decisive commander was only slightly abhorrent, but it was still a gradient he had to overcome, a gravity well to escape, even momentarily. He was only surprised she hadn’t just acted, and asked forgiveness of the new man of purpose her altered prescription had created. Perhaps she, too, felt something of his lethargy. The Lante that greeted him had no lethargy in her, though. Instead she looked terrified. That sight sent a shock through Baltiel, enough ersatz purpose to cast off the weight and spread his wings a little.
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
And let Ceres know we’re going to be late. Holden, where does the Knight stand?” “No flying in atmosphere until we get some parts, but she’ll do fine for fifty thousand klicks in vacuum.” “You’re sure of that?” “Naomi said it. That makes it true.” McDowell rose, unfolding to almost two and a quarter meters and thinner than a teenager back on Earth. Between his age and never having lived in a gravity well, the coming burn was likely to be hell on the old man. Holden felt a pang of sympathy that he would never embarrass McDowell by expressing. “Here’s the thing, Jim,” McDowell said, his voice quiet enough that only Holden could hear him. “We’re required to stop and make an attempt, but we don’t have to go out of our way, if you see what I mean.” “We’ll already have stopped,” Holden said, and McDowell patted at the air with his wide, spidery hands.
An advance by the Outer Planets Alliance was the constant bogeyman of Ceres security. Living in the tradition of Al Capone and Hamas, the IRA and the Red Martials, the OPA was beloved by the people it helped and feared by the ones who got in its way. Part social movement, part wannabe nation, and part terrorist network, it totally lacked an institutional conscience. Captain Shaddid might not like Havelock because he was from down a gravity well, but she’d work with him. The OPA would have put him in an airlock. People like Miller would only rate getting a bullet in the skull, and a nice plastic one at that. Nothing that might get shrapnel in the ductwork. “I don’t think so,” he said. “It doesn’t smell like a war. It’s… Honestly, sir, I don’t know what the hell it is. The numbers are great. Protection’s down, unlicensed gambling’s down.
If the crowd was watching them face each other down, they weren’t breaking things. It wasn’t spreading. Not yet. “So. Friend. You only kick helpless people to death, or can anybody join in?” Miller asked, his voice conversational but echoing out of the dock speakers like a pronouncement from God. “The fuck you barking, Earth dog?” Shirtless said. “Earth?” Miller said, chuckling. “I look like I grew up in a gravity well to you? I was born on this rock.” “Inners kibble you, bitch,” Shirtless said. “You they dog.” “You think?” “Fuckin’ dui,” Shirtless said. Fucking true. He flexed his pectorals. Miller suppressed the urge to laugh. “So killing that poor bastard was for the good of the station?” Miller said. “The good of the Belt? Don’t be a chump, kid. They’re playing you. They want you to act like a bunch of stupid riotboys so they have a reason to shut this place down.”
Accelerando by Stross, Charles
business cycle, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, MITM: man-in-the-middle, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K, zero-sum game
It's happened before, for seconds to minutes at a time, on six occasions during the voyage so far. She's not sure what causes the beam downtime (Pierre has a theory about Oort cloud objects occulting the laser, but she figures it's more likely to be power cuts back at the Ring), but the consequences of losing power while maneuvering deep in a quasi-stellar gravity well are much more serious than a transient loss of thrust during free interstellar flight. "Let's just play it safe," she says. "We'll go for a straight orbital insertion and steady cranking after that. We've got enough gravity wells to play pinball with. I don't want us on a free-flight trajectory that entails lithobraking if we lose power and can't get the sail back." "Very prudent," Boris agrees. "Marta, work on it." A buzzing presence of not-insects indicates that the heteromorphic helmswoman is on the job.
Ivan the extreme concrete geek has an arm round her shoulders, and she leans against him; he raises his glass, too. "Lots more launchpads to rubberize!" "To NASA," Bob echoes. They drink. "Hey, Manfred. To NASA?" "NASA are idiots. They want to send canned primates to Mars!" Manfred swallows a mouthful of beer, aggressively plonks his glass on the table: "Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn't even a biosphere there. They should be working on uploading and solving the nanoassembly conformational problem instead. Then we could turn all the available dumb matter into computronium and use it for processing our thoughts. Long-term, it's the only way to go. The solar system is a dead loss right now – dumb all over! Just measure the MIPS per milligram. If it isn't thinking, it isn't working.
Greenpeace has sent squatters to occupy Eros and Juno, but the average asteroid is now surrounded by a reef of specialized nanomachinery and debris, victims of a cosmic land grab unmatched since the days of the wild west. The best brains flourish in free fall, minds surrounded by a sapient aether of extensions that out-think their meaty cortices by many orders of magnitude – minds like Amber, Queen of the Inner Ring Imperium, the first self-extending power center in Jupiter orbit. Down at the bottom of the terrestrial gravity well, there has been a major economic catastrophe. Cheap immortagens, out-of-control personality adjuvants, and a new formal theory of uncertainty have knocked the bottom out of the insurance and underwriting industries. Gambling on a continuation of the worst aspects of the human condition – disease, senescence, and death – looks like a good way to lose money, and a deflationary spiral lasting almost fifty hours has taken down huge swaths of the global stock market.
Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg
Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test
Such devices, sometimes called von Neumann probes after the mathematician John von Neumann who worked on the concept, do also have a practical problem that to make an easily replicable device mechanically would require it to be simple—and yet the task it has to perform, refining ores, producing complex machinery and electronics, is very complex. We simply couldn’t build a device that could replicate itself from raw materials like this at all, let alone one that then had the ability to power itself out of the Earth’s gravity well and navigate between the stars. It may well never be possible. The final option for consideration is that aliens know that we’re here, but don’t want us to be aware of their existence. Perhaps they have cloaking technology (see here) to be able to move among us unseen. Perhaps they have some kind of noninterference directive as in Star Trek (though that never seemed to stop Captain Kirk getting involved) or they might simply regard us as too unpleasant or inferior to bother to mix with.
Unlike a rocket, which continues to be powered until its fuel runs out or it is switched off, a cannon can only impart momentum to the payload while that projectile is within the barrel. As soon as the shell emerges, the only forces acting on it are the Earth’s gravity and air resistance, both of them slowing the projectile down. So the shell has to be moving sufficiently quickly to get away from the Earth’s gravity well, requiring a speed of around 11.2 kilometers per second (7 miles per second). This need for speed means that the vessel has to endure a huge amount of acceleration in the brief time it is in the barrel and is being pushed forward by the expanding gases of the propellant. The shorter the barrel, the faster the required acceleration. Even if Columbiad had been 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long—40 times bigger than Verne’s actual creation—the acceleration that the astronauts would suffer would be around 600 g—600 times the force of gravity on the Earth.
They’re clearly more confident in their life-support systems in the movie as well, as these astronauts wear boiler suits instead of the space suits with helmets used for the real mission. It’s surprising, given the experts involved, that there are a couple of major technical issues with the spaceship in Destination Moon. Most obvious is that stylized 1950s shape, so familiar from the covers of science fiction magazines of the period. There are no stages, something that is essential in a rocket leaving the Earth, as the sheer amount of fuel needed to get out of the Earth’s gravity well requires huge tanks, which are themselves very heavy—dropping stages was known to be an important essential for constructing a true space rocket from the 1920s, and it’s surprising Oberth didn’t pick up on this as he had in the earlier movie. Presumably he was overridden by the art department. The whole ship also lands on its tail on the Moon—both a difficult task and requiring a wastefully large amount of fuel.
Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey
It was no more a martial art than a crocodile taking down a water buffalo was; just speed, strength, and a couple billion years of survival instinct unleashed. Her tai chi instructor would have looked away in embarrassment. The bodybuilder sloped down to the floor, blood pouring from his mouth. The insect-eyed man pulled away from her, which was the wrong thing to do. She hugged his locked joints close to her body and swung from her hips. He was bigger than she was, had lived in the gravity well all his life. He buffed up with steroids and his own cheap augmentations. She didn’t need to be stronger than him, though. Just stronger than the little bones in his wrist and elbow. He broke, dropping to his knee. Melba—not Clarissa—swung around him, sliding her right arm around his neck, then locking it with the left, protecting her own head from the thrashing that was about to come. She didn’t need to be stronger than him, just stronger than the soft arteries that carried blood to his brain.
Holden cleared his throat. “Welcome aboard,” he said. Chapter Seven: Melba I f the Earth-Mars alliance hadn’t collapsed, if there hadn’t been a war—or two wars depending on how the line between battles was marked—civilian ships like the Cerisier would have had no place in the great convoy. The ships lost at Ganymede and in the Belt, the skirmishes to control those asteroids best placed to push down a gravity well. Hundreds of ships had been lost, from massive engines of war like the Donnager, the Agatha King, and the Hyperion to countless small three- and four-person support ships. Nor, Melba knew, were those the only scars. Phobos with its listening station had become a thin, nearly invisible ring around Mars. Eros was gone. Phoebe had been subjected to a sustained nuclear hell and pushed into Saturn.
When she was done, everything Holden had touched would be tainted by association, including the destruction of her family. Her father. Somewhere deep in the structure of the Cerisier, one of the navigators started a minor correction burn and gravity shifted a half a degree. The couch moved under her, and she tried not to notice it. She preferred the times when she could pretend that she was in a gravity well to the little reminders that she was the puppet of acceleration and inertia. Her hand terminal chimed once, announcing the arrival of a message. To anyone who didn’t look carefully, it would seem like just another advertisement. An investment opportunity she would be a fool to ignore with a video presentation attached that would seem like corrupted data to anyone who didn’t have the decryption key.
Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy by John Lewis
This requires an average delta V of about 1.8 km/s, depending in detail on which moon is involved, and where Mars is on its eccentric orbit around the Sun at the time of departure. The mass of rocket propellant needed for a given delta V is proportional to the mass of material to be returned and exponentially dependent on the delta V. For this reason, NEAs can provide excellent mass returns to Earth or to Earth orbit. By comparison, a return mission from the surface of the Moon requires a delta V of about 3.2 km/s, comprising escape from the lunar gravity well and transfer to an Earth-return trajectory. Thus exporting materials from the Moon to Earth is far harder than exporting the same mass of materials from Phobos or Deimos to Earth. The Martian moons in turn are far inferior to the best NEAs for return of asteroid materials to LEO or Earth. Remote Spacecraft Observations of NEAs The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), launched into polar orbit in 1983, was a joint US/Dutch/British survey of the sky at thermal infrared wavelengths of 12, 25, 60, and 100 micrometers.
In a 100%-recycling regime, the required inventory could easily be 10 times smaller. 3 Carbon inventories assume 100 g of plant carbon per gram of human carbon 4 Nitrogen inventories include1000 m3 of habitat volume per person plus organic nitrogen. Although hydroponic culture of food plants has obvious appeal, the reasons for dirt-less agriculture are derived from the perceived necessity of lifting all materials out of Earth’s deep gravity well, with associated high launch costs. Thus hydroponics makes sense when used in the context of Earth-launched, Earth-orbiting space stations or colonies. The launch-cost problem does not arise when deriving raw materials from micro-g or milli-g asteroids. There, the silicates are essentially “free” and have no other major uses besides shielding. In addition, hydroponics make sense for feeding short-stay astronauts on near Earth habitats because these visitors arrive already well-nourished.
Where iron and nickel are present as native metals, the consumption of great masses of reducing agents to extract them from their oxides (the universal practice on Earth) is not needed. A word is needed here on the absence of non-ferrous metals from this list. Where are aluminum, magnesium, and titanium? The problem is that these elements all form very stable oxides that require vast amounts of energy to extract, purify, and fabricate. Aerospace engineers accustomed to launching payloads from Earth’s deep gravity well are rightly concerned about minimizing launch mass, which leads them to require light-weight, strong non-ferrous metals. They therefore accept the high energy cost of manufacture of these metals because it saves them even more energy and expense in launch costs: both ores and reducing agents such as coke and coal are abundant and cheap on Earth. But in space, a given amount of energy would process vastly larger amounts of native ferrous metals than, for example, aluminum.
The New Gold Rush: The Riches of Space Beckon! by Joseph N. Pelton
3D printing, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, global pandemic, Google Earth, gravity well, Iridium satellite, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, life extension, low earth orbit, Lyft, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, megastructure, new economy, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post-industrial society, private space industry, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Thomas Malthus, Tim Cook: Apple, Tunguska event, uber lyft, urban planning, urban sprawl, wikimedia commons, X Prize
Disruptive technologies is one of the constant themes that you will find in this book. Most people today equate space with rocket boosters. The roar of a rocket blast and vibrating force of a Saturn V launch as part of the Apollo Moon mission is something that is thrilling and impossible to forget if you were ever there. However, the future is about change, and innovation still has far to go. In 20–50 years, the idea that the best way out of Earth’s gravity well is to strap people on top of a controlled bomb explosion may grow to be seen as quaint or even primitive. It may 1 day be possible to use the Earth’s electromagnetic field and its rotational or centripetal force to lift people and cargo at least to Clarke (geosynchronous) orbit. The use of tethers to lift mass into space, the construction of a space elevator or funicular to Clarke orbit , or even a lunar-Earth connector might 1 day make space travel three things it is not today: (1) much, much safer; (2) significantly lower in cost; and (3) a global utility that is available to all people and organizations that would aspire or have a purpose to go into space.
When you get all the way out to the Clarke orbit, for instance, the pull of gravity is 1/50th of that which applies at sea level, and from there it is possible to go almost anywhere in the Solar System without using huge amounts of energy. You might use similar amounts of energy regardless of whether you are going to the Moon, Mars or somewhere else. The time to travel there, of course, can be greatly different, but the power or energy levels that are needed to be spent to get there are not greatly different. Also one can use the gravity wells represented by the planets and the Sun to speed up or slow down spacecraft, and this process, called “gravity assist ,” can allow enormous speeds to be attained by spacecraft. In short, once humans find a way to efficiently get as far away from Earth as geo orbit (at 35,780 km, or 22,270 miles) the rest of the Solar System becomes accessible. If you can get to a Lagrangian point, the entire Solar System can become our oyster.
If this is the situation on Earth, where the rule of law within a twenty-first century world is supposed to be in place, one must be fearful of the future for outer space. One can only imagine the possible conflicts that can evolve in the “Wild West” territories represented by the expanding zones of human influence in all three areas—within inner space, i.e., the protozone, within various Earth orbits, and above Earth orbit in true outer space above the world’s gravity well. Outer Space Security in a Twenty-First Century World Thus, many concerns exist today with regard to the protozone. These include the exploitation of space natural resources and national security activities in outer space and even about new systems to be deployed in Earth orbit, especially since there are new proposals to deploy hundreds if not many thousands of satellites in gigantic constellations for new applications such as broadband communications.
Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration by Buzz Aldrin, Leonard David
Buckminster Fuller, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, gravity well, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Ronald Reagan, telepresence, telerobotics, transcontinental railway, Tunguska event, X Prize
We ought to redirect our efforts to becoming both more ambitious and more efficient at the same time, testing a reusable model for long-term space exploration. We can then redirect the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle toward becoming a workable and really sustainable deep space ferry. The cost-effectiveness of going from our moon to one of the moons around Mars is far greater than falling back to Earth each time and then clawing ourselves out of the gravity well with another throwaway spacecraft. For example, a beefed-up Block 2 version of Orion can be a crew test vehicle for aerocapture at Earth as well as at Mars. Aerocapture is “putting on the brakes” proficiency, using the drag of a planetary object’s atmosphere to decelerate. This fuel-saving advance requires the spacecraft to have sufficient thermal protection and the ability to precisely guide itself during the maneuver.
Lagrangian points are locations in space where gravitational forces and the orbital motion of a body balance each other. A spacecraft positioned there has to use modest rocket firings or other means to stay put. Orbits around these points are called “halo orbits.” Webber advocates that spot as the next step beyond suborbital flight and low Earth orbit, calling it “Spaceport Earth”—a combined hotel/space station at the rim of Earth’s gravity well. Webber argues that NASA can use Spaceport Earth as the starting and finishing point for journeys to and from Mars and beyond. Tourists going up and down between low Earth orbit and Spaceport Earth in its earliest form effectively open up—and pay for—this new part of the orbital infrastructure. But first things first. Pay-per-view Seats I am an admirer of my fellow adventurer Sir Richard Branson, who is backing and bankrolling his spaceliner operation, Virgin Galactic.
“Telepresence” makes use of low-latency communication links that can put human cognition on other worlds. Low-latency yields the appearance of “being there” in a way that is near real-time believable. The ability to extend human cognition to the moon, Mars, near-Earth objects, and other accessible bodies helps limit the challenges, cost, and risk of placing humans on perilous surfaces or within deep gravity wells. Let me point out the advances in telerobotics here on Earth. Human cognition and dexterity are already reaching the deepest oceans, pulling out resources from dangerous mines, performing high-precision surgery from a distance—all this as aerial drones, piloted by humans in far-off command centers, fly overhead. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover takes a self-portrait. (Illustration Credit 6.3) My close friends Robert Ballard and James Cameron can attest to telepresence-enabled undersea exploration, operating vehicles outfitted with high-definition video cameras, sensors, and manipulator arms—run from a mission control.
Voyage by Stephen Baxter
Propellant dribbled from one of the severed feed pipes, a stream of crystals which glittered against the skin of Earth. The dribble made it look as if the ET had been wounded, like a great harpooned whale. The tank rapidly receded from Ares, falling away and tumbling slowly. Both tanks were moving quickly enough to have escaped Earth’s gravity well with Ares. The tanks would become independent satellites of the sun, lasting maybe for billions of years before falling into a planet’s gravity well. She waved the tank good-bye, with a little flourish of her gloved fingers. Good luck, baby. The engines finally died. She felt it as an easing away of acceleration — a gentle reduction of the subliminal noise and vibration from the remote engines. “That’s it,” Stone said. “Shutdown. Everything looks nominal.” Crippen called up: “You have a whole room of people down here who say you are looking good, Ares.”
It looked like confetti, floating away from the vehicle, turning and sparkling in the sun. Young said: “Press for engine cutoff.” “Rog,” Stone said. “Press to ECO.” Whatever else happened, Ares was to continue on, up to cutoff of the MS-II’s main engines. On to orbit. “Ares, you are go at five plus thirty, with ECO at eight plus thirty-four.” Ares had reached Mach 15, at an altitude of eighty miles. And still the engines burned; still they climbed upward. Earth’s gravity well was deep. “Eight minutes. Ares, Houston, you are go at eight.” “Looking good,” Stone said. The residual engine noise and vibration died, suddenly. The recoil was powerful. York was thrown forward again, and bounced back in her canvas restraints. “ECO!” Stone called. Engine cutoff; the MS-II stage was spent. …And this time, the weight didn’t come back. It was like taking a fast car over a bump in the road, and never coming back down again.
This was further elaborated by Sohn, and by Deerwester, who presented exhaustive results graphically in a format compatible with the direct flight curves in the NASA Planetary Flight Handbook…” It was a little like a game of interplanetary pool, he said. A spacecraft would dive in so close to a planet that its path would be altered by that world’s gravitational field. In the swing-by — the bounce off the planet — the spacecraft would extract energy from the planet’s revolution around the sun, and so speed up; in exchange, the planet’s year would be minutely changed. In practical terms, bouncing off a planet’s gravity well was like enjoying the benefit of an additional rocket stage at no extra cost, if your navigation was good enough. “We have already studied the Mariner Mercury mission, which would have swung by Venus en route to Mercury. A direct journey would have been possible, using, for example, a Titan IIIC booster; but the gravity assist would have allowed the use of the cheaper Atlas-Centaur launch system…” “Yeah,” a voice called from the audience, “but Mariner Mercury got canned.
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Coriolis effect of the ship’s rotation would be uninflected again. This was probably irrelevant to Freya’s feelings of weightedness. They had to prepare several ferries in their landing fleet, and move them from storage to the launch bays. They were going to descend to their new home in little landers they called ferries, small enough that they would be able to accelerate them back up out of the moon’s gravity well, to return to the ship when they needed to. The idea was that first they would send down the designated suite of robot landers, full of useful equipment; then the first ferries containing humans would go down and land by the robotic landers. These were now targeted for Aurora’s biggest island. They would check to see that the robotic facilities had properly begun to gather the oxygen, nitrogen, and other volatiles that would, among other things, allow the ferries to refuel and blast off the surface back to the ship.
Food also was a factor; if too many people came down, they could neither grow enough food on Aurora, nor keep growing it on the ship to send down to Aurora, having to an extent abandoned the farms on the ship. Without a careful transition they could inadvertently create food shortages in both places. And they didn’t have the means to get people back up to the ship very quickly. Return was not easy; Aurora’s gravity well and atmosphere meant their spiral launch tube assembly, now built and working well, could only launch so many ferries, as they had to split water and distill the fuels, and also smelt and print the ablation plates for them to deal with the rapid launch up through the atmosphere. Return to the ship was a choke point in the process of settlement, there was no doubt of that. It had not been planned for.
It was tidally locked to F, and rotated around F in almost exactly twenty days, so it was not much different from Aurora and E in that regard. It was a rocky moon, and completely dry except for a little comet-impact water ice. Up until now it had been presumed to be lifeless, being almost free of water. But the experience on Aurora had made them more uncertain in judging this matter. Some people pointed out that meteorites had to have been ejected from Aurora by asteroid impacts, and some of them cast up the gravity well to land on F’s Moon 2. That such rocks could have successfully transferred the Auroran life-forms, given the lack of water and air on F’s moon, seemed unlikely, but it could not be entirely ruled out. Life was tenacious, and the pathogen on Aurora was still not understood. Even naming it was a problem, as some called it the cryptoendolith, others the fast prion, others the pathogen, and others simply the bugs, or the thing, or the stuff, or the alien, or the whatever.
Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling
His face was oiled against the blue-white glare, and he wore dark sunshades. He crossed the room to join Constantine. A hush fell, but Constantine gestured urbanely, and his fellow genetics picked up the tag-ends of their conversations. “Hello, cousin,” Constantine said. Lindsay nodded. “A fine group of congenetics, Philip. Congratulations on your siblings.” “Good sound stock,” Constantine agreed. “They handle the gravity well.” He looked pointedly at Lindsay’s wife, who had shuffled tactfully toward another group, visibly troubled by pain in her knees. “I spent a lot of time on gene politics,” Lindsay said. “In retrospect it seems like an aristocratic fetish.” Constantine’s lids narrowed over the black adhesive lenses. “A little more work on the Mavrides production run might have been in order.” Lindsay felt a surge of cold fury.
“You think so?” “Well,” the Warden mused, “maybe not. You start trifling with ecology and it’s hard to find a place to stop. I’ve had a slip of this cat’s skin shipped off to the Ring Council. Have to clone off a whole gene-line of them. Because of the mice, you know. Little vermin are overrunning everything.” “A planet might be better,” Lindsay said. “More space.” “I don’t hold with messing with gravity wells,” Pongpianskul said. “It’s just more room for error. Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for that, Mavrides.” “The world needs dreams,” Lindsay said. “You’re not going to start on about levels of complexity, I hope.” Lindsay smiled. “No.” “Good. When you came in here unwashed and with no shoes on, I concluded the worst.” “They say the hogs and I had a lot in common,” Lindsay said. Pongpianskul stared, then laughed.
The dead astronaut’s former orifices had been stripped of tissue and outfitted with cameras and scanning systems. The specimen hold had a hatchway installed, but there was no room for an airlock in the crew’s compartment. The three of them had been welded in. Pilot hadn’t liked it. Pilot could be trusted, though. He cared nothing for Europa or their plans, but he relished the chance to count coup on the ancestral gravity well. He had been everywhere, from the turbulent fringes of the solar corona to the cometary Oort Cloud at the edge of circumsolar space. He was not human, but for the time being he was one of them. The scanners began to clear. Deceleration faded into the heavy tug of Earth gravity. Lindsay slumped in his seat, wheezing as the cuirass pumped his lungs. “Look what this muck is doing to the stars,” Pilot complained melodiously.
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Though neutron stars were far too small to be observed directly about twenty kilometers wide, at most-they packed the magnetic and gravitational fields of a full-sized star into that tiny volume, and the effects on any surrounding matter could be spectacular. Most were discovered as pulsars, their spinning magnetic fields creating a rotating beam of radio waves by dragging charged particles around in circles at close to lightspeed, or as X-ray sources, siphoning material from a gas cloud or a normal companion star and heating it millions of degrees by compression and shock waves on its way down their tight, steep gravity well. Lac G-1 was billions of years old, though; any local reservoir of gas or dust which might have been used to make X-rays was long gone, and any radio emissions had either grown too weak to detect, or were being beamed in unfavorable directions. So the system was quiet across the electromagnetic spectrum, and it was only the gravitational radiation from the dead stars' slowly decaying orbit that betrayed their existence.
Although Orlando was determined to be part of the expedition, he seemed daunted by the prospect of confronting the exotic reality that the new C-Z clone would inhabit. Paolo surveyed the hall. Less than a hundred citizens had decided to be cloned, but half the polis had been through the Exhibition. It was almost deserted now, though, and the angle of the light, cued to the number of visitors, gave an impression of late afternoon. They approached the first exhibit, a comparison of gravity wells in three and five dimensions. The gridded surfaces of two circular tables had been made magically 300 DIASPORA 301 elastic in such a way that placing small spherical weights on them produced funnel-shaped indentations, with the effects of the gradient in each case mimicking the gravitational force around a star or planet in the different universes. The force diminished with distance as if it was being spread out over, respectively, an ever larger two-dimensional surface, producing an inverse-square law, or a four-dimensional hypersurface, yielding a visibly steeper inverse-fourth-power effect.
It rolled hack and forth in the trench, cradled and confined by this hollow in the energy surface, the extremes of its elliptical orbit now revealed as nothing more than the farthest points it could reach as it tried to climb either the central spike or the gentler slope of the outer wall. When the ride stopped, the exhibit offered them three chances to flick a particle into orbit around the second gravity well. Orlando accepted. The first two particles he launched spiraled down to a collision, and the third went skidding off the rim of the table. He muttered something about wishing he was deaf, dumb, and blind. The exhibit transformed the surface to show the effect of centrifugal force. The inverse-fourth-power attraction of gravity was stronger than inverse-cube repulsion near the center, so even when the reference frame began to spin, the well remained a well.
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
He found it at last, disguised as part of the left forearm casing, a small plasma hand gun. He felt like shooting it at something, but there was nothing to aim at. He put it back. He folded his arms across his bulky chest and looked around. Stars were everywhere. He had no idea which one was Sorpen’s. So the Culture ships could hide in the photospheres of stars, could they? And a Mind—even if it was desperate and on the run—could jump through the bottom of a gravity well, could it? Maybe the Idirans would have a tougher job than they expected. They were the natural warriors, they had the experience and the guts, and their whole society was geared for continual conflict. But the Culture, that seemingly disunited, anarchic, hedonistic, decadent mélange of more or less human species, forever hiving off or absorbing different groups of people, had fought for almost four years without showing any sign of giving up or even coming to a compromise.
Just before the Clear Air Turbulence went back into warp and its crew sat down at table, the ship expelled the limp corpse of Zallin. Where it had found a live man in a suit, it left a dead youth in shorts and a tattered shirt, tumbling and freezing while a thin shell of air molecules expanded around the body, like an image of departing life. 4 Temple of Light The Clear Air Turbulence swung through the shadow of a moon, past a barren, cratered surface—its track dimpling as it skirted the top edge of a gravity well—and then down toward a cloudy, bluegreen planet. Almost as soon as it passed the moon its course started to curve, gradually pointing the craft’s nose away from the planet and back into space. Halfway through that curve the CAT released its shuttle, slinging it toward one hazy horizon of the globe, at the trailing edge of the darkness which swept over the planet surface like a black cloak. Horza sat in the shuttle with most of the rest of the CAT ’s motley crew.
The ship was about a hundred meters long, twenty across the beam and fifteen high, plus—on top of the rear hull—a ten-meter-high tail. On either side of the hull the warp units bulged, like small versions of the hull itself, and connected to it by stubby wings in the middle and thin flying pylons swept back from just behind the craft’s nose. The CAT was streamlined, and fitted with sprinter fusion motors in the tail, as well as a small lift engine in the nose, for working in atmospheres and gravity wells. Horza thought its accommodation left a lot to be desired. He had been given Zallin’s old bunk, sharing a two-meter cube—euphemistically termed a cabin—with Wubslin, who was the mechanic on the ship. He called himself the engineer; but after a few minutes’ talk trying to pump him for technical stuff on the CAT, Horza realized that the thickset white-skinned man knew little about the craft’s more complex systems.
Effective Programming: More Than Writing Code by Jeff Atwood
AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, barriers to entry, cloud computing, endowment effect, Firefox, future of work, game design, Google Chrome, gravity well, job satisfaction, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, loss aversion, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Merlin Mann, Minecraft, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, price anchoring, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, science of happiness, Skype, social software, Steve Jobs, web application, Y Combinator, zero-sum game
Naturally, those hires didn’t work out. So while we care about the skills of a potential employees, whether or not they “get” us is a major part too. I realize that not every business has a community around what they do, but if you do have a community, you should try like hell to hire from your community whenever possible. These are the folks who were naturally drawn to what you do, that were pulled into the gravitational well of your company completely of their own accord. The odds of these candidates being a good cultural fit are abnormally high. That’s what you want! Did a few of your users build an amazing mod for your game? Did they find an obscure security vulnerability and try to tell you about it? Hire these people immediately! 4. Do a detailed, structured phone screen. Once you’ve worked through the above, it’s time to give the candidate a call.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
He is in the engine core because his death will be instant and total and therefore probably painless, Kern surmised. She was already moving, to the surprise of the others. She was heading up, climbing into the access shaft that led to the slender central pylon of the station, heading away from the outer floor that remained ‘down’ only so long as she was close to it; climbing up out of that spurious gravity well towards the long needle they all revolved around. There was a flurry of increasingly concerned messages. Voices called out at her heels. Some of them would follow her, she knew. Sering was continuing blithely: ‘This is not even the beginning, Doctor Kern.’ His tone was relentlessly deferential even in rebellion. ‘Back home it will have already started. Back home it is probably already over.
We’re heading straight towards it.’ ‘Right!’ Guyen clapped his hands, perhaps annoyed that he had not been listening to his own voice for two minutes at a stretch. ‘You each have your tasks, so go and make ready. Vitas, run checks on our instrumentation, as you proposed. I want us to conduct a full inspection of the planet and satellite as we close. Lain, keep a close eye on ship’s systems as we approach the star’s gravity well – the Gil’s not done anything but go in a straight line for a long time. Karst, get your people reacquainted with their kit, just in case we need you. Mason, you’re working with my people on monitoring that signal. If there’s anything active there to respond to us, I want to know about it.’ Hours later, and Holsten was almost the last person left in the Communications suite, his dogged academic patience having outlasted most of Guyen’s people.
He was not sure what they would get back, and he was ready to shut down the comms if it was just that anguished mad babbling, because there could be no dialogue with that – no possibility of negotiating with that internalized storm of insanity. ‘We’re being told to stand by,’ he reported, when the instruction came. After that there was nothing else for a long time; the Gilgamesh continued to fall inexorably towards the green planet’s gravity well. The satellite was still silent when Lain and her team began their anxious watch over ship’s systems, as the ancient ark ship began to creak and strain at the unnatural imposition of an external source of mass, large and close enough to claw at the vessel’s structure. Everyone there felt a subtle shifting: for the whole waking portion of the journey, their perception of gravity had come from the ship’s gradual deceleration.
Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours (And What to Do About It) by Salim Ismail, Yuri van Geest
23andMe, 3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Ben Horowitz, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, Burning Man, business intelligence, business process, call centre, chief data officer, Chris Wanstrath, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, cross-subsidies, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, dark matter, Dean Kamen, dematerialisation, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, game design, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hiring and firing, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Innovator's Dilemma, intangible asset, Internet of things, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joi Ito, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, lifelogging, loose coupling, loss aversion, low earth orbit, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market design, means of production, minimum viable product, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, NetJets, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, offshore financial centre, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, prediction markets, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, social software, software is eating the world, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, subscription business, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tony Hsieh, transaction costs, Travis Kalanick, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, uber lyft, urban planning, WikiLeaks, winner-take-all economy, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game
Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter puts it best: “When dealing with a rapidly changing environment and the fluid boundaries of business units that come and go, more work will be done by crosscutting project teams, and there will be more bottom-up self-organizing.” Why Important? Dependencies or Prerequisites • Increased agility • More accountability at customer face • Faster reaction and learning times • Better morale • MTP (as a gravity well) • Self-starting employees • Dashboards Social Technologies Social technology is an overused industry buzz phrase that has been giving CIOs heartburn for the last decade. Regardless, however, it has had the effect of pushing old analog business environments to become more digital, low-latency environments. Social technologies—whose analog counterpart, of course, is the so-called water cooler effect—create horizontal interactions in vertically organized companies.
A final word on managing fast-tracked growth comes again from Chip Conley, who created the Joie de Vivre chain of specialty hotels and is now part of Airbnb’s senior management team. Conley found that the more information-based we become, the greater the need to rely on rituals and meaning to stabilize companies and keep teams motivated. Thus, as ExOs take on larger numbers of employees, individual tasks and functions increasingly need the gravity well of an MTP to provide purpose. Although that would seem to add to the burden of bigger companies trying to become ExOs, the fact that established companies are better at those rituals, stories and legends—the glue that holds organizations together—works to their advantage, especially when they are accelerating exponentially. In the next chapters, we’ll take on the toughest nut of all and look at what large organizations need to do to retrofit ExO thinking into their world.
Our recommendation, however, is to follow its lead: Big companies need to move away from the old-school, predictable mission-and-vision statements currently sported by most Fortune 500 companies. Instead, they should migrate towards a Massive Transformative Purpose. As we mentioned earlier, we predict brands will find and merge with aspirational MTPs that will steer them towards providing real value to society—in other words, to a triple bottom line. In order to inspire their teams, attract new top talent and create gravity wells for their communities, big companies should do the same and formulate their own, unique MTPs. This will not only establish the right image—based on reality—for the company’s stakeholders, especially among younger workers within the organization, but it will also serve as a guiding principle when key decisions need to be made. Allstate, for example, could have put together a perfectly serviceable mission statement along the lines of, “Deliver products and services that protect the financial future of our customers with a superior distribution network of agents and affiliates.”
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
back-to-the-land, clean water, Colonization of Mars, cryptocurrency, dark matter, friendly fire, gravity well, hive mind, low earth orbit, mandelbrot fractal, megastructure, random walk, risk tolerance, Vernor Vinge
There were four circular windows dotted around its circumference and one near the prow of the ship, which was surrounded by a large ring of lenses, ports, and what appeared to be various sensors. The engine looked no different from any of the rockets she was familiar with (Newton’s third law didn’t care whether you were human or xeno). However, unless the aliens had launched from somewhere extremely close, they had to have a Markov Drive as well. She wondered how they could have snuck up on the Extenuating Circumstances. Could they jump right into a gravity well? Not even the League’s most powerful ships could manage that particular trick. The strange, aching pull Kira still felt seemed to originate from the alien vessel. Part of her wished she could follow it and see what happened, but that was the crazy part of her, and she ignored it. She could also feel the orphaned piece of the xeno, distant and fading as it receded into space. Would it again become dust?
She kept moving too quickly for the increase in g-forces and hurting herself as a result. Her joints ached, and her arms and legs throbbed from a dozen bumps and bruises. The xeno protected her from worse, but it seemed to ignore small, chronic discomforts. Kira didn’t know how the people on Shin-Zar or other high-g planets bore it. They were gene-hacked to help them survive and even thrive within a deep gravity well, but still, she had a hard time imagining how they could ever really be comfortable. “Warning,” said Ando. “Zero-g in T-minus five minutes.” Kira disposed of the drink pouch and then gathered a half-dozen thermal blankets from the shuttle’s lockers and brought them with her back to the cockpit. There, she wrapped the blankets around the pilot’s chair, creating a golden cocoon for herself. Next to the chair, she taped the rifle, a week’s worth of ration packs, wet wipes, and a few other essentials she thought she might need.
It was big enough, and it had too many tentacles.” “Those are not the only kind,” said Vishal. “Oh?” “No one knows if they are the same species, a close relation, or something else entirely, but the Jellies come in different flavors.” Speaking past the food in his mouth, Trig said, “Some have tentacles. Some have arms. Some crawl. Some slither. Some only seem to function in zero-g. Others only get deployed in gravity wells. Some appear in both. A half-dozen different kinds have been spotted so far, but there could be lots more. I’ve collected all the reports from the League. If you’re interested, I could—” “Alright, Trig,” said Falconi. “That can wait.” The kid nodded and fell quiet, although he seemed slightly disappointed. Falconi scratched his chin with his free hand, his eyes uncomfortably sharp. “You must have been one of the first ones the Jellies attacked.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Phobos: people at the dining table next to him talked of shoving it up into a braided orbit with Deimos. It was out of the loop now, a new Azores, nothing but an inconvenience to the cable. And Phyllis had argued all along that Mars itself would have suffered the same fate in the solar system at large, unless the elevator were built to climb its gravity well; they would have been bypassed by miners going to the metal-rich asteroids, which had no gravity wells to contend with. And then there were the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, the outer planets. . . . But there was no danger of that now. • • • On the fifth day they approached Clarke and slowed down. It had been an asteroid about two kilometers across, a carbonaceous hunk now shaped to a cube, with every centimeter of its Mars-facing surface graded and covered with concrete, steel, or glass.
Everything is moving already. But to get something from the (moving) surface of the Earth into orbit around it, requires a minimum v of ten kilometers per second; to leave Earth’s orbit and fly to Mars requires a minimum v of 3.6 kilometers per second; and to orbit Mars and land on it requires a v of about one kilometer per second. The hardest part is leaving Earth behind, for that is by far the deepest gravity well involved. Climbing up that steep curve of spacetime takes tremendous force, shifting the direction of an enormous inertia.History too has an inertia. In the four dimensions of spacetime, particles (or events) have directionality; mathematicians, trying to show this, draw what they call “world lines” on graphs. In human affairs, individual world lines form a thick tangle, curling out of the darkness of prehistory and stretching through time: a cable the size of Earth itself, spiraling round the sun on a long curved course.
Security was supposed to be entirely their purview, and they gave out approval for private security pretty routinely; but a hundred people? John instructed Pauline to look into the UNOMA dispatches on the subject, and left for dinner with the Afrikaaners. Again the space elevator was declared a necessity. “They’ll just pass us by if we don’t have it, go straight out to the asteroids and not have any gravity well to worry about, eh?” Despite the five hundred micrograms of omegendorph in his system, John was not in a happy mood. “Tell me,” he said at one point, “do any women work here?” They stared at him like fish. They were even worse than Moslems, really. He left the next day and drove up to Pavonis, intent on looking into the space elevator notion. • • • Up the long slope of Tharsis. He never saw the steep, blood-colored cone of Ascraeus Mons; it was lost in the dust along with everything else.
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
"Quite obviously, to get where you're going once you're in your new universe," Alan said. "No, no," Ed said. "I mean, if you can just pop from one universe to another, why not just do it planet to planet, instead of using spaceships at all? Just skip people directly to a planet surface. It'd save us from getting shot up in space, that's for sure." "The universe prefers to have skipping done away from large gravity wells, like planets and stars," Alan said. "Particularly when skipping to another universe. You can skip very close to a gravity well, which is why we enter new universes near our destinations, but skipping out is much easier the farther away you are from one, which is why we always travel a bit before we skip. There's actually an exponential relationship that I could show you, but—" "Yeah, yeah, I know, I don't have the math," Ed said. Alan was about to provide a placating response when all of our BrainPals flicked on.
The troopship was not equipped for space rescue and was in any event gravely damaged and limping, under fire, toward the closest CDF ship to discharge its surviving passengers. A message to the Dayton itself was likewise fruitless; the Dayton was exchanging fire with several Ohu ships and could not dispatch rescue. Nor could any other ship. In nonbattle situations she was already too small a target, too far down Temperance's gravity well and too close to Temperance's atmosphere for anything but the most heroic retrieval attempts. In a pitched battle situation, she was already dead. And so Maggie, whose SmartBlood was by now reaching its oxygen-carrying limit and whose body was undoubtedly beginning to scream for oxygen, took her Empee, aimed it at the nearest Ohu ship, computed a trajectory, and unloaded rocket after rocket.
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Why shouldn’t it take two males and a nonsentient female to produce a baby?) Then the presumed Ringworlders could see at a glance that many kinds of sentient life could deal amicably with each other. Yet too many of these items—the flashlight-lasers, the dueling stunners—could be used as weapons. They took off on reactionless thrusters, to avoid damaging the island. Half an hour later they had left the feeble gravity wells of the puppeteer rosette. It occurred to Louis then that aside from Nessus, whom they had brought with them, and aside from the projected image of the puppeteer Chiron, they had seen not a single puppeteer on the puppeteer world. After they had entered hyperdrive, Lotus spent an hour-and-a-half inspecting every item in the lockers. Better safe than surprised, he told himself. But the weaponry and the other equipment left a bitter aftertaste, a foreboding.
“I know that.” It was too obvious. They had to get off the Ringworld; and they weren’t going to move the Liar by themselves. True barbarians would not be help enough, no matter how numerous or how friendly. “There is one bright aspect to all this,” said Louis Wu. “We don’t have to repair the ship. If we can just get the Liar off the ring, the ring’s rotation will fling it, and us, out of the star’s gravity well. Out to where we can use the hyperdrive.” “But first we must find help.” “Or force help,” said Speaker. “But why do you all just stand here talking?” Teela burst out. She had been waiting silent in the circle, letting the others thrash it out. “We’ve got to get out of here, don’t we? Why not get the flycycles out of the ship? Lets get moving! Then talk!” “I am reluctant to leave the ship,” the puppeteer stated.
“How could I lead my species away from the honorable path of war? The Kzinti gods would revile me.” “I warned you about playing god. It hurts.” “Fortunately the difficulty does not arise. You have said that I would destroy the Long Shot if I tried to take it. The risk is too great. We will need the puppeteer hyperdrive to escape the wave front from the Core explosion.” “True enough,” said Louis. The kzin would back into the nearest gravity well if he tried to take the Long Shot into hyperdrive. Knowing that, Louis asked, “But suppose I were lying?” “I could not hope to outwit a being of your intelligence.” Sunfire flashed again in Fist-of-God crater. “Think how short a way we came,” said Louis. One hundred and fifty thousand miles in five days, the same distance back in two months. A seventh of the short way across the Ringworld.
Scratch Monkey by Stross, Charles
Nothing there but some robot relay stations. Next out is Wirth, the terraforming project. It's a Venusiform environment. Anubis is meant to be building aerominers to blow holes in the cloud layer and shut down the greenhouse, but it's gone to pieces and the whole operation is running on automatic. There are some ships connected with it, drones running out into the near cometary belt and tipping ice cubes down the gravity well. But it's more or less going on all by itself. He won't even let us near the ships." "Yes, but where are we?" "I'm getting to that." Boris didn't like being interrupted. He moved his finger through the dirt, drawing a concentric circle far outside the orbit of Wirth. "There's a gas giant called Turing. Saturn-sized, medium-scale. It's got a couple of large moons, including Pascal. We're in L5 relative to Pascal, leading it by sixty degrees in its orbit.
The eye of the storm is a small black hole: a spark of evil light in the abyss. It burns with a cold heat, blasting a sleet of hard gamma radiation out into the darkness of space. The hole itself is smaller than a protein molecule, a tiny knot of tortured spacetime that weighs as much as a mountain range. A halo of decaying matter swirls around it, dragged ever inwards by a force of gravity turned in on itself. As it closes in on the sump at the bottom of the gravity well the accretion disk heats up, until atoms split in the incandescent glare of an on-going explosion. A hot spray of high-energy radiation floods off it, hosing across the plane of the gas giant's system of moons. The hole is being used as a synchrotron source, an energy weapon bright enough to shine across interplanetary distances. A dark shape hides behind it, indistinct but almost as large as the colony: the physical body of the Ultrabright attack drone.
She hung before it, suspended on monofilament cables from the docking hub and the side wall like a spider webbing the bell of an enormous flower. The Bronstein was a true space ship; not some hyped-up atmospheric shockwave rider, but a freighter capable of going anywhere in the system. It could operate with or without a human crew, having been designed for maintaining the cloud of drone platforms dispersed throughout the Ridgegap system. Decades ago, those platforms had pumped a steady stream of raw materials down into the gravity well of Turing. Some had been assembled into this colony. Others had been diverted in-system to the venusiform world Wirth, their impact showering the clouds of that planet with tailored algae. Days ago Oshi had given the order to have the Bronstein and its sister ships powered up and readied for flight. Where to go was an interesting question; the Ultrabright attack craft was driftings towards a parking orbit around Turing, its monster engine powered down.
Mastering Blockchain, Second Edition by Imran Bashir
3D printing, altcoin, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, blockchain, business process, carbon footprint, centralized clearinghouse, cloud computing, connected car, cryptocurrency, data acquisition, Debian, disintermediation, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, domain-specific language, en.wikipedia.org, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, fault tolerance, fiat currency, Firefox, full stack developer, general-purpose programming language, gravity well, interest rate swap, Internet of things, litecoin, loose coupling, MITM: man-in-the-middle, MVC pattern, Network effects, new economy, node package manager, Oculus Rift, peer-to-peer, platform as a service, prediction markets, QR code, RAND corporation, Real Time Gross Settlement, reversible computing, RFC: Request For Comment, RFID, ride hailing / ride sharing, Satoshi Nakamoto, single page application, smart cities, smart contracts, smart grid, smart meter, supply-chain management, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing machine, web application, x509 certificate
In the following section, readers will be introduced to the few difficulty algorithms being used in and proposed for various altcoins. Kimoto Gravity Well This algorithm is used in various altcoins to regulate difficulty. This method was first introduced in Megacoin and used to adjust the difficulty of the network every block adaptively. The logic of the algorithm is shown as follows: KGW = 1 + (0.7084 * pow((double(PastBlocksMass)/double(144)), -1.228)) The algorithm runs in a loop that goes through a set of predetermined blocks (PastBlockMass) and calculates a new readjustment value. The core idea behind this algorithm is to develop an adaptive difficulty regulation mechanism that can readjust the difficulty in response to rapid spikes in hash rates. Kimoto Gravity Well (KGW) ensures that the time between blocks remains approximately the same. In Bitcoin, the difficulty is adjusted every 2016 blocks, but in KGW the difficulty is adjusted at every block.
In Bitcoin, the difficulty is adjusted every 2016 blocks, but in KGW the difficulty is adjusted at every block. This algorithm is vulnerable to time warp attacks, which, allow an attacker to enjoy less difficulty in creating new blocks temporarily. This attack allows a time window where the difficulty becomes low, and the attacker can quickly generate many coins at a fast rate. More information can be found at the link https://cryptofrenzy.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/multipools-vs-gravity-well/. Dark Gravity Wave Dark Gravity Wave (DGW) is a new algorithm designed to address certain flaws such as the time warp attack in the KGW algorithm. This concept was first introduced in Dash, previously known as Darkcoin. It makes use of multiple exponential moving averages and simple move averages to achieve a smoother readjustment mechanism. The formula is shown as follows: 2222222/ (((Difficulty+2600)/9)^2) This formula is implemented in Dash coin, Bitcoin SegWit2X and various other altcoins as a mechanism to readjust difficulty.
Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey
No one backs a player who’s going to be powerless next year. We play for the long term, and that means looking strong for the duration. Errinwright knows that. It’s why he played it this way.” Outside, another shuttle was lifting off. Avasarala could already hear the roar of the burn, feel the press of thrust and false gravity pushing her back. It had been thirty years since she’d been out of Earth’s gravity well. This wasn’t going to be pleasant. “If you get on that ship, they’ll kill you,” Bobbie said, making each word its own sentence. “That’s not how this game gets played,” Avasarala said. “What they—” The door opened again. Soren had a tray in his hands. The teapot on it was cast iron, with a single handleless enamel cup. He opened his mouth to speak, then saw Bobbie. It was easy to forget how much larger she was until a man Soren’s height visibly cowered before her.
He was looking for Strickland. Or the mysterious woman in the video. Or whoever had built the secret lab. In that sense, he was much better off than he had been before. On the other hand, he had been searching Ganymede. Now the field had expanded to include everywhere. The lag time to Earth—or Luna, actually, since Persis-Strokes Security Consultants was based in orbit rather than down the planet’s gravity well—was a little over twenty minutes. It made actual conversation essentially impossible, so in practice, the hatchet-faced woman on his screen was making a series of promotional videos more and more specifically targeted to what Prax wanted to hear. “We have an intelligence-sharing relationship with Pinkwater, which is presently the security company with the largest physical and operational presence in the outer planets,” she said.
There weren’t any, and repeating herself in simple storybook rhyme would probably come off as condescending. She stopped the recording, cut off the last few seconds of her looking into the camera in despair, and sent it off with every high-priority flag there was and diplomatic encryption. So this was what it came to. All of human civilization, everything it had managed, from the first cave painting to crawling up the gravity well and pressing out into the antechamber of the stars, came down to whether a man whose greatest claim to fame was that he’d been thrown in prison for writing bad poetry had the balls to back down Errinwright. The ship corrected under her, shifting like an elevator suddenly slipping its tracks. She tried to sit up, but the gimbaled couch moved. God, but she hated space travel. “Is it going to work?”
The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell
Albert Einstein, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, polynesian navigation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking
The first half, or inbound, part of Voyager 2’s flyby past Saturn was as routine as flying a tight trajectory past a gas giant planet can ever be, and made it possible to capture more of Andy Ingersoll’s giant planet atmosphere movies (covering Saturn’s northern hemisphere), and distant flybys of Titan and the icy moons Mimas, Dione, and Rhea—all of which had been photographed at higher resolution by Voyager 1. It was then that things got . . . interesting. As the spacecraft fell deeper into Saturn’s gravity well and started to speed up (Voyager 2 was eventually accelerated from 36,000 miles per hour to nearly 54,000 miles per hour by flying a gravity-assist trajectory behind Saturn) and get closer to the planet and the rings, the kinds of maneuvers that the sequencing team had to build into the instrument observations became more and more complex. Specifically, the cameras and other instruments on the spacecraft’s scan platform had to be pointed around more rapidly, and over a wider range, than they had been pointed in a very long time.
During Voyager 2’s Uranus approach, however, there were no such moments. Rather, the reality of these new worlds came into view slowly, over many weeks, with a grace and air of anticipation that more accurately reflected the gentle gravity assist that we were all actually going through, riding along with the spacecraft. During those last ten hours, though, as Voyager plunged deeper into the gravity well of the seventh planet, we all experienced plenty of breathtaking moments. One by one the five large icy moons were revealed to us from Voyager’s high-resolution images, and a total of ten new, smaller moons would eventually be discovered lurking in the images. All the large moons are heavily cratered, attesting to their generally ancient ages. Oberon and Umbriel are the most cratered, suggesting that they have changed little during their more than 4-billion-year histories.
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
‘Whatever it was that you did,’ Perhonen says, ‘looks like they want you back.’ 2 THE THIEF AND THE ARCHONS What did I do? Mieli’s heart pounds as the pilot’s crèche embraces her. Something went wrong in the Prison. But it was just like the sims. Why are they after us? She summons the combat autism the pellegrini built into her. It enfolds her like a cool blanket, turns the world into vectors and gravity wells. Her mind enmeshes with Perhonen’s, thinking fast thoughts. Objects: Perhonen. Scattered Trojan asteroids, clustered around 2006RJ103, a two-hundred k nugget of rock, inhabited by slow-brained synthlife. The Prison, a diamond doughnut thirty lightseconds behind them, the origin of Perhonen’s current vector, dense, dark and cold. The Archon bladeships, coming in fast at a .5g, much more delta-v than the gentle tug of Perhonen’s lightsail.
Calmly, she ejects it, watches it drift away, still mutating and shifting in slow motion like a malignant tumour, forming strange organs that fire molecule-sized spores at Perhonen’s firewall until she burns it with the anti-meteorite lasers. ‘That hurt,’ Perhonen says. ‘I’m afraid that this will hurt a lot more.’ She burns all the delta-v in their emergency antimatter in one burst, swinging the ship into the shallow gravity well of 2006RJ103. Perhonen’s flesh groans as the antiprotons from the magnetic storage ring turn into hot jets of plasma. She diverts some of the power to pumping up the binding energies of the programmable matter rods in the hull. The Archons follow without effort, approaching, firing again. Perhonen screams around Mieli, but the autism keeps her mind on the task at hand. She thinks a q-dot torpedo around the strangelet in Perhonen’s tiny weapons bay and fires it at the asteroid.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier
It was, I came back in from going on vacation for a week and everything I had worked on for a year was deleted. Unrecoverably, literally deleted. If I hadn’t had a copy on my laptop, it would’ve been gone forever. With no warning, no discussion, no nothing.” Heightening the stress for Griesemer was the fact that with every reboot, Destiny seemed to get closer and closer to Halo, as if Bungie’s iconic series was a gravity well that the studio just couldn’t escape. Once Halo 3: ODST shipped, that team moved to Destiny. Once Halo: Reach shipped, that team moved to Destiny. Soon they had hundreds of people working on their next big game, which forced Bungie into making quick decisions just so they’d all have stuff to do (they, like Naughty Dog once Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann took over Uncharted 4, had to “feed the beast”).
As part of the deal, Bungie would get to own the Destiny franchise, and Activision would give the studio creative freedom to develop Destiny games in whatever way it saw fit, so long as every milestone was met. Bungie’s schedule would have a very strict cadence. Activision expected the studio to release Destiny 1 in the fall of 2013, with an expansion called Comet following a year later. The next year would be Destiny 2, then Comet 2, and so on. Jaime Griesemer began to realize that, as hard as he had tried to resist the Halo gravity well, they’d all been sucked in. Worse, he realized that most of the studio was just fine with that. “When I joined Bungie, there were eight guys working on Halo,” Griesemer said. “When we shipped Halo 1 [in 2001] it was maybe fifty guys. By the time Reach and ODST had joined the Destiny team, we were probably three hundred people. And the huge majority of them had been hired after Halo 3 shipped.
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois
augmented reality, clean water, computer age, cosmological constant, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, financial independence, game design, gravity well, jitney, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Paul Graham, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Skype, stem cell, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, urban renewal, Wall-E
He could hope that the hunting ship would not survive the passage, but the Enemy, however voracious, was surely never so stupid as to run a scoop ship through a neutron’s star terrifying magnetic terrain with the drive field up. That was not his strategy anyway. Jedden was playing the angles. Whipping tight around the intense gravity well, even a few seconds of slowness would amplify into light-years of distance, decades of lost time. Destruction would have felt like a cheat. Jedden wanted to win by geometry. By calculation, we live. He allowed himself one tiny flicker of a communication laser. Yes. The Enemy was coming. Coming hard, coming fast, coming wrong. Tides tore at Jedden, every molecule of his smart-ice body croaked and moaned, but his own cry rang louder and he sling-shotted around the neutron. Yes! Before him was empty space. The splinter ship would never fall of its own accord into another gravity well. He lacked sufficient reaction mass to enter any Clade system. Perhaps the Enemy had calculated this in the moments before he too entered the neutron star’s transit.
But it was probably that—and the fact that Black Alice couldn’t hit the broad side of a space freighter with a ray gun—that had gotten her assigned to Engineering, where ethics were less of a problem. It wasn’t, after all, as if she was going anywhere. Black Alice was on duty when the Lavinia Whateley spotted prey; she felt the shiver of anticipation that ran through the decks of the ship. It was an odd sensation, a tic Vinnie only exhibited in pursuit. And then they were underway, zooming down the slope of the gravity well toward Sol, and the screens all around Engineering—which Captain Song kept dark, most of the time, on the theory that swabs and deckhands and coalshovelers didn’t need to know where they were, or what they were doing—flickered bright and live. Everybody looked up, and Demijack shouted, “There! There!” He was right: the blot that might only have been a smudge of oil on the screen moved as Vinnie banked, revealing itself to be a freighter, big and ungainly and hopelessly outclassed.
And if you are, and if you see something on the ground, do you pick it up? James Alan Gardner has made many fiction sales to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Amazing, Tesseracts, On Spec, Northern Stars, and other markets. His books include the SF novels Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant, Hunted, Ascending, and Trapped. His most recent novel is Radiant. His short fiction has been collected in Gravity Wells: Speculative Fiction Stories. This is a story about a ray-gun. The ray-gun will not be explained except to say, “It shoots rays.” They are dangerous rays. If they hit you in the arm, it withers. If they hit you in the face, you go blind. If they hit you in the heart, you die. These things must be true, or else it would not be a ray-gun. But it is. Ray-guns come from space. This one came from the captain of an alien starship passing through our solar system.
The Ringworld engineers by Larry Niven
They stood eight feet tall, and though they scrupulously avoided bumping human tourists, carefully tended claws slid out above black fingertips if a human passed too close. Reflex. Maybe. Sometimes Louis wondered what impulse brought them back to a world once theirs. Some might have ancestors here, alive in frozen time in the domes buried beneath this lava island. One day they’d have to be dug up ... There were so many things he hadn’t done on Canyon, because the wire was always calling. Men and kzinti had climbed those sheer cliffs for sport, in the low gravity. Well, he would have one last chance to try that. It was one of his three routes out. The second was the elevators; the third, a transfer booth to the Lichen Gardens. He’d never seen them. Then overland in a pressure suit light enough to fold into a large briefcase. On the surface of Canyon there were mines, and there was a large, indifferently tended preserve for the surviving varieties of Canyon lichen.
It was far too small to pass Ringworld repair equipment. This was a mere escape hatch, but it was roomy enough for Needle. “Fire,” Louis said. The Hindmost had last used this beam as a spotlight. At close range it was devastating. The floating building became a streamer of incandescence with a cometlike head of boiling concrete. Then it was only dust cloud. Louis said, “Dive.” “Louis?” “We’re a target here. We don’t have time. Dive. Twenty gravities. We’ll make our own door.” The ocher landscape was a roof over their heads. Deep-radar showed a hole in the scrith, dropping to engulf them. But every other sense showed the solid lava crater in Mons Olympus descending at terrible speed to smash them. Kawaresksenjajok’s nails in Louis’s arm were drawing blood. Harkabeeparolyn seemed frozen. Louis braced for the impact. Darkness. There was formless, milky light from the deep-radar screen.
The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross
3D printing, Ayatollah Khomeini, butterfly effect, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, Credit Default Swap, dematerialisation, Drosophila, epigenetics, Extropian, gravity well, greed is good, haute couture, hive mind, margin call, negative equity, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, telepresence, Turing machine, Turing test, union organizing
Today is Huw’s big day. He’s been looking forward to this day for months. Soon, he’ll get to say what he thinks about some item of new technology—and they’ll have to listen to him. * * * Welcome to the fractured future, the first century following the singularity. Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun. Except for the solitary lighthouse beam that perpetually tracks the Earth in its orbit, the system from outside resembles a spherical fogbank radiating in the infrared spectrum; a matryoshka brain, nested Dyson spheres built from the dismantled bones of moons and planets.
Oh, how they’d fiddled, pestering him with questions about what he wanted his new body to be like, which upgrades and mods it should have, trying to tempt him with talented penises and none-too-subtle surrogates, such as retractable unobtanium claws and bones infused with miracle fiber and carbon nanotubes. He’d waved them off, refusing even to take in all the wonders on offer: no, no, no, just give me back my actual, physical body, the body I would have had if none of this had taken place, if I had been a man who was born to a woman, grown to maturity in the gravity well of my ancestors. Once he’d gotten through to them, they’d complied with a vengeance, and now Huw heaved himself out of bed every morning with the aches and pains of baseline humanity on throbbing, glorious display. He showered himself, noting the soap’s slither over every ingrowing hair, every wrinkle, every flabby nonessential extruding from his person. He squinted at the small writing on cereal packaging and held it up to the watery Welsh light that oozed through the kitchen window, moving it closer and farther in the hopes of finding the right focus-length for his corneas, which had been carefully antiqued with decades’ worth of waste products, applied with all the care of a forger re-creating a pair of exquisitely aged Levi’s.
Engineering Infinity by Jonathan Strahan
augmented reality, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, gravity well, low earth orbit, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, post scarcity, Schrödinger's Cat, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski
They're not flare stars, and while normally this is a good thing, it makes it distinctly difficult to make observations of the atmosphere and surface features of 1061 Able through Mike by reflected light; the primaries are so dim that even though our long baseline interferometer can resolve hundred-kilometre features on the inner planets back in Sol system, we can barely make out the continents on Echo One and Echo Two. Now, those continents are interesting things, even though we're not going to visit down the gravity well any time soon. We know they're there, thanks to the fast flyby report, but we won't be able to start an actual survey with our own eyes until well into the deceleration stage, when I'll be unpacking the -" I feel a sudden jolt through the floor of the tank. Lorus's voice breaks up in a stuttering hash of dropouts. And the lights and the polisher stop working. The Lansford Hastings is a starship, one of the fastest mecha ever constructed by the bastard children of posthumanity.
Outreach has millennia of experience to draw on, and back in the Community a population of hundreds of billions to produce its volunteer missionaries, its dedicated programmers, its hobbyist generals. Many of the Babylonian weapons are stopped; many of the Babylonian ships are destroyed. Others, already close to Babylon's escape velocity and by the neutron star's orbital motion close to escaping from it as well, are shunted aside, forced into hyperbolic orbits that banish them from the battlefield as surely as death. But the ring's defenders are fighting from the bottom of a deep gravity well, with limited resources, nearly all the mass they've assembled here incorporated into the ring itself; and the Babylonians have their own store of ancient cunning to draw on, their aggregate population a hundred times larger than the Community's, more closely knit and more warlike. And they have Ninurta. Ninurta, the hunter of the Annunaki, the god who slew the seven-headed serpent, who slew the bull-man in the sea and the six-headed wild ram in the mountain, who defeated the demon Ansu and retrieved the Tablet of Destinies.
How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr
Albert Einstein, book scanning, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, citizen journalism, City Beautiful movement, clean water, colonial rule, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, desegregation, Donald Trump, drone strike, European colonialism, friendly fire, gravity well, Haber-Bosch Process, Howard Zinn, immigration reform, land reform, Mercator projection, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, urban planning, wikimedia commons
Today, with new technologies enabling the exploitation of Canadian tar sands and the partial substitution of natural gas for oil, that danger seems as remote as ever. * * * In 1969 the United States achieved what was probably its most technically difficult goal since the Second World War: the moon landing. The most powerful rocket engines in history had to blast the spacecraft into the sky, where the whole thing would progressively dismantle itself mid-flight, shooting a smaller module safely into the lunar gravity well. There is a reason that “rocket science” became the proverbial way to refer to the hardest intellectual challenges out there. Yet it wasn’t all jets and orbits. The moon landing was a triumph of chemical engineering, too. NASA needed light materials that could endure extreme temperatures and micrometeoroid strikes, yet keep pressurized air in. This meant synthetics. The moon suits that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wore had twenty-one layers, and twenty either contained or were made entirely of materials manufactured by DuPont.
At its wartime peak in 1944, the budget of the National Bureau of Standards was 7.5 times larger than it had been a decade earlier. All this turned the United States into the undisputed standard-setter for the Allies. The war had united their economies, but Washington set the terms of the union. You could see this in Australia. As a British dominion, Australia had adhered to British standards before the war, with some local variations. Yet it didn’t take long for it to tip into the gravity well of the United States’ war economy. The key period was from 1942 to 1944, after Douglas MacArthur abandoned the Philippines but before the United States could fully provision his troops via the mainland. MacArthur still relied on the United States for ships and weapons, but for high-volume, low-value items such as food and clothing, Australia became the source. At peak, some 15 percent of Australia’s national income came from meeting MacArthur’s procurement orders.
But resistance to the language was strong enough that he earnestly considered the possibility that the artificial language of Esperanto, which was easier to learn and had little of English’s cultural baggage, might prevail. Betamax, in other words, was still an option. Yet the period of choice lasted only so long, and 1969 was pretty near to the end. The following decades saw country after country succumbing to English. Even as they tried to escape from it, they fell into its growing gravity well. India had, at its independence, temporarily allowed English to remain a “subsidiary official” language, with the understanding that the government would switch entirely to Hindi in 1965. But not only did English persist, it grew. Today, advertisements are in English, higher education is in English, and Bollywood movies feature generous helpings of English. The language remains in official use and is heard in parliamentary debates at roughly the same frequency as Hindi.
Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Apollo Moon Landings by Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Neil Armstrong
From here, as they eased toward the moon, the earth was perfectly round, machined by heavenly forces to a stunning sphere. Apollo rolled, and the home of man slid eerily, silently, out of sight. Tomorrow would be Christmas Eve. That Borman and his crew were here seemed impossible. They had left earth atop America’s largest rocket. The mightiest energy machine ever built to lift straight up and away from the deep gravitational well of the planet. A monster of steel and ice and fire atop which no man had ever before flown—and they were risking everything to fly to the moon. It was a gamble like few others known in history. The mighty rocket, the Saturn V, had flown only twice before. Unmanned. First successfully, second with some failures. The three astronauts within the cone-shaped, tiny world of Apollo 8 had the largest audience in television history.
Wireless by Charles Stross
anthropic principle, back-to-the-land, Benoit Mandelbrot, Buckminster Fuller, Cepheid variable, cognitive dissonance, colonial exploitation, cosmic microwave background, epigenetics, finite state, Georg Cantor, gravity well, hive mind, jitney, Khyber Pass, lifelogging, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, peak oil, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, security theater, sensible shoes, Turing machine, undersea cable
One out of three is good going, especially for a student.” ELITE A Brief Alternate History of the Solar System: Part One What has already happened: SLIDE 1. Our solar system, as an embryo. A vast disk of gas and infalling dust surrounds and obscures a newborn star, little more than a thickening knot of rapidly spinning matter that is rapidly sucking more mass down into its ever-steepening gravity well. The sun is glowing red-hot already with the heat liberated by its gravitational collapse, until . . . SLIDE 2. Ignition! The pressure and temperature at the core of the embryo star has risen so high that hydrogen nuclei floating in a degenerate soup of electrons are bumping close to one another. A complex reaction ensues, rapidly liberating gamma radiation and neutrinos, and the core begins to heat up.
A million years pass as the sun brightens, and the rotating cloud of gas and dust begins to partition. Out beyond the dew line, where ice particles can grow, a roiling knot of dirty ice is forming, and like the sun before it, it greedily sucks down dirt and gas and grows. As it plows through the cloud, it sprays dust outward. Meanwhile, at the balancing point between the star and the embryonic Jovian gravity well, other knots of dust are forming . . . SLIDE 4. A billion years have passed since the sun ignited, and the stellar nursery of gas and dust has been swept clean by a fleet of new-formed planets. There has been some bickering—in the late heavy bombardment triggered by the outward migration of Neptune, entire planetary surfaces were re-formed—but now the system has settled into long-term stability.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
He dwelt on the old stars that gave birth to us all, spitting silicates and magnesium carbonate into space to form our planets, hydrocarbons to form ourselves. He talked about the neutron stars that bent the gravity well around them; we knew about them, because two launches had killed themselves, sheared into rubble, by entering normal space too close to one of those hyper-dense dwarfs. He told us about the black holes that were the places where a dense star had been, now detectable only by the observable fact that they swallowed everything nearby, even light; they had not merely bent the gravity well, they had wrapped it around themselves like a blanket. He described stars as thin as air, immense clouds of glowing gas; told us about the prestars of the Orion Nebula, just now blossoming into loose knots of warm gas that might in a million years be suns.
The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler
Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, blood diamonds, Burning Man, call centre, cashless society, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, digital twin, disruptive innovation, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, experimental economics, food miles, game design, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hive mind, housing crisis, Hyperloop, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, late fees, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, loss aversion, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mary Lou Jepsen, mass immigration, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mobile money, multiplanetary species, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, out of africa, packet switching, peer-to-peer lending, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, QR code, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart contracts, smart grid, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supercomputer in your pocket, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize
So yeah, get ready player one—there are federal judges diving your way. 3-D Printing The most expensive supply chain in the universe extends only 241 miles. It’s the resupply network running from Mission Control down here on Earth straight up to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (or ISS). The expense comes from weight. It costs $10,000 per pound to get an object out of the Earth’s gravity well. And because it can take months to actually reach the Space Station, a significant portion of ISS’s precious real estate is taken up by the storage of replacement parts. In other words, the most expensive supply chain in history leads to the most exotic junkyard in the cosmos. In BOLD, we told the story of Made In Space, the first company trying to solve these problems. The company’s goal was to build a 3-D printer that works in space.
Learn more about the Hololens here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens. 3-D Printing The most expensive supply chain in the universe extends only 241 miles: Remy Melina, “International Space Station: By the Numbers,” Space.com, August 4, 2017. See: https://www.space.com/8876-international-space-station-numbers.html. It costs $10,000 per pound to get an object out of the Earth’s gravity well: “Advanced Space Transportation Program: Paving the Highway to Space,” National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), April 12, 2018. See: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/background/facts/astp.html. See also: Robert Dempsey, “The International Space Station Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier,” National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), April 13, 2018, https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/iss-operating_an_outpost-tagged.pdf.
Across Realtime by Vernor Vinge
They smelled a winner, and old Tellman was going to lose a little of the money he had been winning off them earlier in the day. Rosas and Naismith and Tellman just watched and held their breaths. With virtually no fuel left, it would be a matter of luck whether contact finally occurred. The reddish disk of the destination planet swam placidly along while the mock spacecraft arced higher and higher, slower and slower, their paths becoming almost tangent. The craft was accelerating now, falling into the gravity well of the destination, giving the tantalizing impression of success that always comes with a close shot. Closer and closer. And the two lights became one on the board. "Intercept," the display announced, and the stats streamed across the lower part of the screen. Rosas and Nais-mith looked at each other. The kid had done it. Tellman was very pale now. He looked at the bills the boy had wagered.
"See here, Paul, you heard what Mike said. The kid practically killed him this afternoon. I know how people your, uh, age feel about children, but-" The old man shook his head, caught Mike with a quick glance that was neither abstracted nor feeble. "You know they've been after me to take on an apprentice for years, Sy. Well, I've decided. Besides trying to kill Mike, he played Celest like a master. The gravity-well maneuver is one I've never seen discovered unaided." "Mike told me. It's slick, but I see a lot of players do it. We almost all use it. Is it really that clever?" "Depending on your background, it's more than clever. Isaac Newton didn't do a lot more when he deduced elliptical orbits from the inverse square law." "Look, Paul... I'm truly sorry, but even with Bill and Irma, it's just too dangerous."
"Intelligent life is a rare development. "I spent nine thousand years on this, spread across fifty million years of realtime. I averaged less than a twentieth light speed. But that was fast enough. I had time to visit the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Fornax System, besides our own galaxy. I had time to stop at tens of thousands of places, at astrophysical freaks and normal stars. I saw some strange things, mostly near deep gravity wells. Maybe it was engineering, but I couldn't prove it, even to myself. "I found that most slow-spinning stars have planets. About ten percent of these have an Earth-type planet. And almost all such planets have life. "If Monica Raines loves the purity of life without intelligence, she loves one of the most common things in the universe.... In all my nine thousand years, I found two intelligent races."
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
clean water, Colonization of Mars, Danny Hillis, digital map, double helix, epigenetics, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, kremlinology, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, phenotype, Potemkin village, pre–internet, random walk, remote working, selection bias, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, the scientific method, Tunguska event, zero day, éminence grise
And that was a primitive beast, but it had a basically infinite supply of energy in the nuclear reactor, and a vast stock of propellant in the form of ice. The “steampunk” propulsion system had much lower efficiency, however, than a properly engineered rocket motor. Consequently, the mass ratio that would be needed to slow Ymir down from the high-speed elliptical orbit with which it was falling into Earth’s gravity well, to match the much slower, circular orbit of Izzy, was about thirty-four, which meant that 97 percent of the ice currently attached to Ymir was going to be melted, turned into steam, and jetted out its makeshift nozzle just to slow it down. The remaining 3 percent, however, would still weigh as much as Izzy and Amalthea put together. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, it would supply the rocket fuel needed to power the Big Ride, all the way up to Cleft.
To compensate for the losses, they had jury-rigged all the other engines they could get: the big one from the Caboose, all the propulsion units that had once been part of the Shipyard, and a few spare motors from straggler arklets that had become separated from the Swarm and found a way to rejoin them. Despite the reduction in engine power, Endurance was at least as maneuverable now as she had been at the beginning, when she had wallowed at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well, burdened with years’ worth of propellant. She weighed half as much now as she had in those days. The burn went on for a while. It concluded with a change in attitude and a burn in another direction. Doob didn’t have to read the numbers on the screen to know what they were doing. They’d been planning it for three years. They were in a highly eccentric orbit now, a pair of hairpin turns welded together by straightaways a third of a million kilometers long.
Small changes in velocity out here led to enormous transformations in their orbit down there. Endurance, by dint of enduring for three years and persevering in her plan, had reached Cleft’s distance from Earth. But she’d always been in the wrong plane: the same plane that Izzy had started out in, the plane that had been chosen, seemingly a million years ago, because it was easily reached from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Down there, deep in the gravity well, changing that plane would have been catastrophically expensive. If they’d had an Earth to go back to, it would have been cheaper to start from scratch and build a new space station than to move Izzy to the plane where the moon had once orbited. Up here, though, by burning the engines at apogee, they could nudge it closer and closer to the desired plane at much lower cost. So they’d been doing little plane change maneuvers at each apogee.
Ender's shadow by Orson Scott Card
Now she had hundreds of hands and feet, or perhaps thousands of them, all wiggling at once. That's why she wasn't responding intelligently. Her forces were too numerous. That's why she wasn't making the obvious moves, setting traps, blocking Ender from taking his cylinder ever closer to the planet with every swing and dodge and shift that he made. In fact, the maneuvers the Buggers were making were ludicrously wrong. For as Ender penetrated deeper and deeper into the planet's gravity well, the Buggers were building up a thick wall of forces _behind_ Ender's formation. They're blocking our retreat! At once Bean understood a third and most important reason for what was happening. The Buggers had learned the wrong lessons from the previous battles. Up to now, Ender's strategy had always been to ensure the survival of as many human ships as possible. He had always left himself a line of retreat.
We are, when the cause is sufficient, insane. They don't believe we'll use Dr. Device because the only way to use it is to destroy our own ships in the process. From the moment Ender started giving orders, it was obvious to everyone that this was a suicide run. These ships were not made to enter an atmosphere. And yet to get close enough to the planet to set off Dr. Device, they had to do exactly that. Get down into the gravity well and launch the weapon just before the ship burns up. And if it works, if the planet is torn apart by whatever force it is in that terrible weapon, the chain reaction will reach out into space and take out any ships that might happen to survive. Win or lose, there'd be no human survivors from this battle. They've never seen us make a move like that. They don't understand that, yes, humans will always act to preserve their own lives--except for the times when they don't.
Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe by Marcus Chown
Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, Carrington event, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Edmond Halley, gravity well, horn antenna, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, microbiome, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine
1 The slowing of time by gravity is an extremely tiny effect, and detecting it requires a super-sensitive atomic clock. Incredibly, in 2010, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States were able to show that, if you stand on one step of a staircase, you age faster than a person standing one step below you. They did this by using two super-accurate atomic clocks, one on each step.2 So why do you age more slowly in strong gravity? Well, it was Einstein’s genius in 1915 to realize that the force of gravity doesn’t actually exist. That’s right, it is an illusion! This takes a bit of getting your head around. But imagine you wake up in a rocket in empty space, which is accelerating at 1g. You find that your feet are glued to the floor, and you are able to walk around exactly as if you are on the surface of the earth. In fact, if the windows are blacked out and you do not know you are in a rocket, you may actually conclude you are in a cabin on the surface of the earth.
Moon Rush: The New Space Race by Leonard David
agricultural Revolution, Colonization of Mars, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, multiplanetary species, out of africa, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telepresence, telerobotics
More recently, orbiters and on-the-spot looks by landers have revealed the lunar countryside to be rich in abundant resources. Some space aficionados optimistically suggest that quadrillions of dollars worth of valuable minerals may exist on the Moon in the form of water, helium-3, and rare-earth minerals. The Moon, in a sense, is an oversize Earth-orbiting space station, a natural satellite outside of Earth’s gravity well, rife with raw materials that can be put to practical use. Speckling its hostile surface and flying above the world are robotic spacecraft, readying the welcome mats for the next round of human adventurers. Some envision putting up arrays of science gear to probe the surrounding universe while others want to use the barren surface as backdrop for collecting solar energy to empower our own planet.
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland
I'm just jealous of how unafraid Tyler's friends are of the future. Scared and envious. "Okay. Sorry. What were the signs that Dee might be coming home? You were saying—" The traffic is light on Sandy Boulevard as we head toward the steel bridges downtown, bridges the color of clouds, and bridges so large and complex that they remind me of Claire's New York City. I wonder if their mass will contaminate the laws of gravity. "Well, the moment one of you kids phones up and gets nostaligic for the past or starts talking about how poorly a job is going, I know it's time to put out the fresh linen. Or if things are going too well. Three months ago Dee called and said Luke was buying her her own frozen yogurt franchise. She'd never been more excited. Right away I told your father, 'Frank, I give her till spring before she's back up in her bedroom boo-hooing over her high-school annuals.'
Broken Angels by Richard Morgan
Each of those bites is nearly a kilometre deep.” “Why don’t I just sell seats in here,” snapped Vongsavath. “Mistress Wardani, will you please return to the cabin and sit down.” “Sorry,” murmured the archaeologue. “I was just—” Sirens. A spaced scream, slashing at the air in the cockpit. “Incoming,” yelled Vongsavath, and kicked the Nagini on end. It was a manoeuvre that would have hurt in a gravity well, but with only the ship’s own grav field exerting force, it felt more like an experia special effect, an Angel wharf-conjuror’s trick with holoshift. Vacuum combat fragments: I saw the missile coming, falling end over end towards the right side viewports. I heard the battle systems reporting for duty in their cosily enthusiastic machine voices. Shouts from the cabin behind me. I started to tense.
Elsewhere the curving walls simply broke their sweep as they met an intersecting circumference. At no point in the first space we entered was the ceiling less than twenty metres overhead. “The floor’s flat though,” murmured Sun Liping, kneeling to brush at the sheened surface underfoot. “And they had—have—grav generators.” “Origin of species.” Tanya Wardani’s voice boomed slightly in the cathedric emptiness. “They evolved in a gravity well, just like us. Zero g isn’t healthy long-term, no matter how much fun it is. And if you have gravity, you need flat surfaces to put things down on. Practicality at work. Same as the docking bay back there. All very well wanting to stretch your wings, but you need straight lines to land a spaceship.” We all glanced back at the gap we’d come through. Compared to where we stood now, the alien curvatures of the docking station had been practically demure.
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
anthropic principle, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, different worldview, epigenetics, gravity well, James Watt: steam engine, land tenure, new economy, phenotype, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
“So you’ll do it anyway,” she said at last. They continued to watch her. She saw all of a sudden that they would no more do what she told them to do than would boys ordered about by a senile grandmother. They were humoring her. Figuring out how they could best put her to use. “We have to,” Kasei said. “It’s in the best interest of Mars. Not just for Reds, but all of us. We need some distance between us and Terra, and the gravity well reestablishes that distance. Without it we’ll be sucked down into the maelstrom.” It was Ann’s argument, it was just what she had been saying in the meetings in east Pavonis. “But what if they try to stop you?” “I don’t think they can,” Kasei said. “But if they try?” The two men glanced at each other. Dao shrugged. So, Ann thought, watching them. They were willing to start a civil war. • • • People were still coming up the slopes of Pavonis to the summit, filling up Sheffield, east Pavonis, Lastflow and the other rim tents.
It was deeply contradictory, Ann thought; because they were weak, Nadia was saying, they could not afford to offend, and therefore they must change all Terran social reality. “But how!” Ann cried. “When you have no fulcrum you can’t move a world! No fulcrum, no lever, no force—” “It isn’t just Earth,” Nadia replied. “There are going to be other settlements in the solar system. Mercury, Luna, the big outer moons, the asteroids. We’ve got to be part of all that. As the original settlement, we’re the natural leader. An unbridged gravity well is just an obstruction to all that— a reduction in our ability to act, a reduction in our power.” “Getting in the way of progress,” Ann said bitterly. “Think what Arkady would have said to that. No, look. We had a chance here to make something different. That was the whole point. We still have that chance. Everything that increases the space within which we can create a new society is a good thing.
But these were precisely the kind of people least interested in hearing about Jackie’s plans for a systemwide alliance. And already there had been local disagreements strong enough to have caused trouble; among the people sitting around the table were some serious enemies, Zo could tell. She watched their faces closely as the head of their delegation, Marie, laid out the Martian proposal in the most general terms: an alliance designed to deal with the massive historical-economic-numerical gravity well of Earth, which was huge, teeming, flooded, mired in its past like a pig in a sty, and still the dominant force in the diaspora. It was in the best interests of all the other settlements to band with Mars and present a united front, in control of their own immigration, trade, growth— in control of their destinies. Except none of the Uranians, despite their arguments with each other, looked at all convinced.
Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving With the Self-Absorbed by Wendy T. Behary
A particularly common type of female narcissist is the victim or martyr: She might capture you with her exasperated “I’m everything to everyone” discourse on how much she does, has to do, and has done and won’t be appreciated for. This virtuoso victim is seldom more than half a breath away from her next emotive purge. Should you mention that you aren’t feeling well or that you’re running late for an appointment, she won’t miss a beat; your needs will vanish within the gravity well of her vast self-importance. Mired in her martyrdom, she will keenly sense it if you dare to disagree with or ignore her, and she’ll make you pay by pouting, sobbing, or maybe even threatening to abandon you or hurt herself. It can sometimes feel like you’ve been granted the supporting actor role in a low-budget movie: She might drop to the couch, clutching her chest and complaining of a sharp pain.
Year's Best SF 15 by David G. Hartwell; Kathryn Cramer
For a moment, the sun fills the Tank again, paints the whole bridge crimson. Then it dwindles as if devoured from within. I notice some fuzz in the display. “Can you clear that noise?” “It’s not noise,” the chimp reports. “It’s dust and molecular gas.” I blink. “What’s the density?” “Estimated hundred thousand atoms per cubic meter.” Two orders of magnitude too high, even for a nebula. “Why so heavy?” Surely we’d have detected any gravity well strong enough to keep that much material in the neighborhood. “I don’t know,” the chimp says. I get the queasy feeling that I might. “Set field-of-view to five hundred lightsecs. Peak false-color at near-infrared.” Space grows ominously murky in the Tank. The tiny sun at its center, thumbnail-sized now, glows with increased brilliance: an incandescent pearl in muddy water. “A thousand lightsecs,” I command.
Most of space is tranquil: no diel or seasonal cycles, no ice ages or global tropics, no wild pendulum swings between hot and cold, calm and tempestuous. Life’s precursors abound: on comets, clinging to asteroids, suffusing nebulae a hundred lightyears across. Molecular clouds glow with organic chemistry and life-giving radiation. Their vast, dusty wings grow warm with infrared, filter out the hard stuff, give rise to stellar nurseries that only some stunted refugee from the bottom of a gravity well could ever call lethal. Darwin’s an abstraction here, an irrelevant curiosity. This Island puts the lie to everything we were ever told about the machinery of life. Sun-powered, perfectly adapted, immortal, it won no struggle for survival: where are the predators, the competitors, the parasites? All of life around 428 is one vast continuum, one grand act of symbiosis. Nature here is not red in tooth and claw.
The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, false memory syndrome, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, phenotype, Richard Feynman, the scientific method
Mainstream stars mostly consist of hydrogen, the simplest of all the elements. The ‘slow-acting hydrogen bomb’ in the interior of a star converts hydrogen to helium, the second simplest element (something else named after the Greek sun god Helios), releasing a massive amount of energy in the form of heat, light and other kinds of radiation. You remember we said that the size of a star is a balance between the outward push of heat and the inward pull of gravity? Well, this balance stays roughly the same, keeping the star simmering away for several billions of years, until it starts to run out of fuel. What usually happens then is that the star collapses into itself under the unrestrained influence of gravity – at which point all hell breaks loose (if it’s possible to imagine anything more hellish than the interior of a star already is). The life story of a star is too long for astronomers to see more than a tiny snapshot of it.
The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine by Peter Lunenfeld
Albert Einstein, Andrew Keen, anti-globalists, Apple II, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, business cycle, butterfly effect, computer age, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, East Village, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, Grace Hopper, gravity well, Guggenheim Bilbao, Honoré de Balzac, Howard Rheingold, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mercator projection, Metcalfe’s law, Mother of all demos, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-materialism, Potemkin village, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Robert X Cringely, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, social software, spaced repetition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, Thomas L Friedman, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, walkable city, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William Shockley: the traitorous eight
To get a feel for what matters in gaming it is worth revisiting their earliest history, before gaming’s visuals came to rival the realism of cinema and television. Although there was a tic-tac-toe game and a tennis simulator in the 1950s, it was really Spacewar!—developed by students at MIT in 1962 for their own amusement—that stands as the urtext of gaming. With two armed ships shooting at each other while spiraling down a gravity well, Spacewar! established a few conventions of gaming that remain powerful today. These include conﬂict, time limits, and graphic interaction. The game itself was a useful way to gauge the speed and accuracy of the Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP minicomputers, and the company began to ship later units with the game in the core memory. This ensured an ever-growing group of users, who would go on to create later pioneering games for arcades and the growing home market, including Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man.
Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
When she had travelled a hundred metres, Jimmy stopped pedalling; it was strange to see an obviously aerodynamic vehicle hanging motionless in mid-air. This must be the first time such a thing had ever happened, except possibly on a very limited scale inside one of the larger space-stations. 'How does she handle?' Norton called. 'Response good, stability poor. But I know what the trouble is - no gravity. We'll be better off a kilometre lower down.’ 'Now wait a minute- is that safe?’ By losing altitude, Jimmy would be sacrificing his main advantage. As long as he stayed precisely on the axis, he - and Dragonfly - would be completely weightless. He could hover effortlessly, or even go to sleep if he wished. But as soon as he moved away from the central line around which Rama spun, the pseudo-weight of centrifugal force would reappear.
Humankind: Solidarity With Nonhuman People by Timothy Morton
a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, David Brooks, Georg Cantor, gravity well, invisible hand, means of production, megacity, microbiome, phenotype, planetary scale, Richard Feynman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Slavoj Žižek, Turing test, wage slave, zero-sum game
Speciesism depends on the dehumanization of some humans, with anti-Semitism as its template.7 Freud argues that the uncanny is keyed to realizing that we are embodied beings.8 And what is more embodied than being a part of the symbiotic real? Doesn’t the uncanniness of beings caught in the Uncanny Valley have to do with how they remind us of the non-manipulable, embodied, “less than human” aspect of ourselves, our very species-being? The struggle to have solidarity with life-forms is the struggle to include specters and spectrality. Without this, ecological philosophy falls into a gravity well where it becomes part of the autoimmunity machination just described. Let’s reverse engineer a concept from the Uncanny Valley. There’s a phylogenetic part (the caste system is derived from agrilogistics), and there’s an ontogenetic part (humanoids, hominids, hominins, primates and so on). The human body is a historical record of nonhuman evolution. Racism has to do with thinking one can point to certain physical features as indicators of the proper: it has to do with a metaphysics of presence and a substance ontology whereby one color is non-marked (it’s not treated as a color but as the default quality of the substance, totally bland, “white”).
Matter by Iain M. Banks
He had always imagined that even though it claimed he was in complete control it was secretly still keeping an eye on him and making sure he wasn’t doing anything too crazy, anything that might end up killing them both, but now – right now, as the Primarian craft thatshould not have been there suddenly filled the star-specked darkness of the sky ahead, spreading entirely across his field of vision – he realised the old ship had been true to its word. It had left him alone. He really had been in full hands-on charge of it the whole time. He really had been risking his life, and he was about to lose it now. Twenty-two ships. There had been twenty-two ships; they’d agreed. Arranged in a pair of sort of staggered lines, slightly curved in tune with the planet’s gravity well. Quitrilis had gone up to have a look at them all but they were boring, just hanging there, only the one that had been there from the start even showed any sign of traffic with a few smaller craft buzzing about. The Oct Movement Monitoring and Control people had sort of shouted at him, he’d got the impression, but an Oct shouting was still a pretty involved, incomprehensible experience and he hadn’t taken much notice.
Syaung-un was not average; it was half a million years old, the greatest world in the Morthanveld Commonwealth and, amongst the metre-scale species of the Involveds, one of the most populous settlements in the entire galaxy. It was three hundred million kilometres in diameter, nowhere less than a million klicks thick, contained over forty trillion souls and the whole assemblage rotated round a small star at its centre. Its final, open braid of cylinders altogether easily constituted sufficient matter to produce a gravity well within which a thin but significant opportunistic atmosphere had built up over the decieons of its existence, filling the open bracelet of twisted habitat-strands with a hazy fuzz of waste gas and debris-scatter. The Morthanveld could have cleaned all this up, of course, but chose not to; the consensus was that it led to agreeable lighting effects. TheHence the Fortress dropped them into a Nariscene-run satellite facility the size of a small moon – a sand grain next to a globe-encircling sea – and a little shuttle vessel zipped them across to the openwork braid of the vast corded world itself, slipstream whispering against its hull, the star at the world’s centre glinting mistily through Syaung-un’s filigree of cables, each stout enough, it seemed, to anchor a planet.
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
She imagined the outer hull incandescent now with stress as it plummeted toward the black hole's horizon, a part of the flaming distress call endlessly broadcasting as the damned were gathered in to then: final reckoning. The ship was constructed of the strongest, most resilient materials known to man, and equipped with counter fields to protect and stabilize its descent into the maelstrom. It was as small in size as possible, and shaped like a coin; the stabilizers kept its flat broad face always aligned with the gravitational gradients as it fell. Because the walls of the black hole's gravity well in space were so steep, if the ship ever lost its stability and began to tumble it would be ripped apart in seconds by tidal stresses. Death would come to them all in an instant's blazing agony, and their death scream would echo in that well forever. Passage through the Black Gate taxed human and mechanical endurance, and the limits of Kharemough's technology. Only the symbiosis of a computer and the astrogator's human brain could hold them together and guide them down to the precise point of entry at the horizon.
But the Black Gate was not the face of Death--only an astronomical phenomenon, a hole in space punctured at the beginning of time, falling in and in on itself. The singularity at its heart lay now somewhere in another reality, in the endless day she imagined must be heaven for the dark angels of this night's dying suns. But around that unknowable heart, the fabric of space turned inside out in the maelstrom of the black hole's gravity well. Between the outer reality of the universe she knew and the inner one of the singularity lay a zone where infinity was attainable, where space and time changed polarity and it was possible to move between them unfettered by Page 127 the laws of normal space-time. This strange limbo was riddled by wormholes, by the primordial shrapnel wounds of the universe's explosive birth and countless separate corpses of dying stars.
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
“I’m not sure we have any idea what’s really happening,” Nell says. “There’s so much contradictory information.” The girl looks unhappy. “Destination Guidance might not have cut the shields after all,” Nell says. “When we started to combine the hulls, the drives shut down. They’re still off. We seem to be executing a turning maneuver. We’re shifting into a long-curve orbit.” “What’s that mean?” I ask. “Ship may be approaching the gravity well of a greater stellar grouping,” Tsinoy says. “We can’t see it. It’s behind an arm of the nebula. During such a maneuver, the shields temporarily switch off to reconfigure for the new angle of interstellar wind. They turn on again when the proper angle is reached.” Nell adds, “The hulls need to be separated again to restart the drives. But given our present circumstances, if the drives resume, we’ll begin not just a course correction but also deceleration.”
99%: Mass Impoverishment and How We Can End It by Mark Thomas
"Robert Solow", 2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, additive manufacturing, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, autonomous vehicles, bank run, banks create money, bitcoin, business cycle, call centre, central bank independence, complexity theory, conceptual framework, creative destruction, credit crunch, declining real wages, distributed ledger, Donald Trump, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, fiat currency, Filter Bubble, full employment, future of work, Gini coefficient, gravity well, income inequality, inflation targeting, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Kickstarter, labour market flexibility, laissez-faire capitalism, light touch regulation, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Nelson Mandela, North Sea oil, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Own Your Own Home, Peter Thiel, Piper Alpha, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit maximization, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Steve Jobs, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, wealth creators, working-age population
Many commentators take the line that government debt is already so high that we are in imminent danger of collapse. They claim that no business could survive if it ran its finances in the same way as the government. For example, UK Debt Bombshell, which claims to provide ‘no-nonsense economics’, says: We’ve been maxing out a new credit card almost every year, even in the good times. If a company were run like this, it would have long been declared bankrupt. So how much longer can we defy financial gravity? Well, we’re about to find out.7 As we saw in Chapter Eleven, however, claims that government debt is at dangerous levels are nothing more than highly effective rhetoric. The fact is that on average the UK, for example, has sustained a higher ratio of debt to GDP for the last 300 years than it has today. An imminent disaster that takes more than 300 years to manifest is perhaps not so imminent. The claim that businesses cannot run with an ever-expanding debt is equally nonsensical.
The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge by Vernor Vinge
anthropic principle, Asilomar, back-to-the-land, dematerialisation, gravity well, invisible hand, low earth orbit, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, MITM: man-in-the-middle, source of truth, technological singularity, unbiased observer, Vernor Vinge
This is not to say that Ilse’s makers were without contrition for their mistake, or without praise for Ilse. In fact, several men lost what little there remained to confiscate for jeopardizing this mission, and Man’s last hope. It was simply that Ilse’s makers did not believe that she could appreciate apologies or praise. Now Ilse fled up out of the solar gravity well. It had taken her eleven weeks to fall from Earth to Sol, but in less than two weeks she had regained this altitude, and still she plunged outwards at more than one hundred kilometers per second. That velocity remained her inheritance from the sun. Without the gravity-well maneuver, her booster would have had to be five hundred times as large, or her voyage three times as long. It had been the very best that men could do for her, considering the time remaining to them. So began the voyage of one hundred centuries. Ilse parted with the empty booster and floated on alone: a squat cylinder, twelve meters wide, five meters long, with a large telescope sticking from one end.
Toast by Stross, Charles
anthropic principle, Buckminster Fuller, cosmological principle, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Extropian, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, glass ceiling, gravity well, Khyber Pass, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, NP-complete, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, performance metric, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, slashdot, speech recognition, strong AI, traveling salesman, Turing test, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, Y2K
Annette grins broadly for her own reasons, raises a glass in toast. Ivan the extreme concrete geek has an arm round her shoulders; he raises his glass, too. “Lots of launch pads to rubberise!” “To NASA,” Bob echoes. They drink. “Hey, Manfred. To NASA?” “NASA are idiots. They want to send canned primates to Mars!” Manfred swallows a mouthful of beer, agressively plonks his glass on the table: “Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn't even a biosphere there. They should be working on uploading and solving the nanoassembly conformational problem instead. Then we could turn all the available dumb matter into computronium and use it for processing our thoughts. Long term, it's the only way to go. The solar system is a dead loss right now -- dumb all over! Just measure the mips per milligram. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use.
Tomorrowland: Our Journey From Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler
Albert Einstein, Alexander Shulgin, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Burning Man, carbon footprint, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, Dean Kamen, epigenetics, gravity well, haute couture, interchangeable parts, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, North Sea oil, Oculus Rift, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, private space industry, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, theory of mind, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks
Space flight is extremely punishing, both physically and mentally, so no one has any idea how humans would fare over that duration. But an asteroid, one that’s passing close to the Earth, is a few month’s voyage, which makes them a very good place to learn to crawl. Even more important to our off-world plans is water. “Most aerospace engineers feel,” continues Sears, “that water is the real key to off-world colonies. Carrying water out of a gravity well is extremely expensive. But there is a whole class of asteroids that are 25 percent water. We call them mudballs. So a rocket ship could stop off at an asteroid on the way to a space colony and tank up on water. There’s no cost. Just warm up a chunk and off you go.” Nor is this where possibilities end. As far out as asteroid mining or Mars’s colonies might still seem, there’s much more in the works.
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Hardly surprising: Palsy had set up physical breaks in the command network, chasms that no amount of software intervention could possibly bridge. To get the shuttles online, Volyova would have to physically reset all those breaks — and to do that, she would have to find the map she had made, four decades earlier, of the installations. That would entail, conservatively, several days' work. Instead, she had minutes in which to act. She was sucked into — not so much a pit of despondency, as a bottomless, endlessly plummeting gravitational well. But, when she had dropped deep into its maw — and several of those precious minutes had elapsed — she remembered something; something so obvious she should have thought of it long before. Volyova began running. Khouri crashed back into the gunnery. A quick check on the status-clocks confirmed what Fazil had promised her, which was that no real time had passed. That was some trick; she really felt as if she had spent the best part of an hour in the bubbletent, when in fact the whole experience had just been laid down a fraction of a second earlier.
"Live From Cape Canaveral": Covering the Space Race, From Sputnik to Today by Jay Barbree
He carefully attached it to the long aluminum handle of the collector he’d used to pick up rock samples. I was co-anchoring the NBC Radio Network’s coverage in our broadcast trailer outside Mission Control, and I laughed loudly. I knew what was about to happen. Shepard had let me in on his secret. I turned to my stunned co-anchor. “Russ, have you ever wondered how far an average golfer could hit a ball in lunar gravity? Well, Mr. Ward, you’re about to find out.” “Houston,” Shepard paused for effect, “you might recognize what I have in my hand…the handle for the contingency sample. It just so happens to have a genuine six-iron on the bottom.” Those in Mission Control were now laughing. Shepard reached into a pouch of his suit and held up a golf ball. “In my left hand I have a little white pellet that’s familiar to millions of Americans.”
Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Now the cable below the areosynchronous point was being pulled down by Mars’s gravity; the part above the areosynchronous point was trying to follow New Clarke in centrifugal flight away from the planet; and the carbon filaments of the cable held the tension, and the whole apparatus rotated at the same speed as the planet, standing above Pavonis Mons in an oscillating vibration that allowed it to dodge Deimos; all of it controlled still by the computer on New Clarke, and the long battery of rockets deployed on the carbon strand. The elevator was back. Cars were lifted up one side of the cable from Pavonis, and other cars were let down from New Clarke, providing a counterweight so that the energy needed for both operations was greatly lessened. Spaceships made their approach to the New Clarke spaceport, and when they left they were given a slingshot departure. Mars’s gravity well was therefore substantially mitigated, and all its human intercourse with Earth and the rest of the solar system made less expensive. It was as if an umbilical cord had been retied. He was in the middle of a perfectly ordinary life when they drafted him and sent him to Mars.The summons came in the form of a fax that appeared out of his phone, in the apartment Art Randolph had rented just the month before, after he and his wife had decided on a trial separation.
This was probably the most divisive issue facing them, Nadia judged, and attendance at the workshop reflected it; the room on the border of Lato’s park was packed, and before the meeting began the moderator moved it out into the park, on the grass overlooking the canal. The Reds in attendance insisted that terraforming itself was an obstruction to their hopes. If the Martian surface became human-viable, they argued, then it would represent an entire Earth’s worth of land, and given the acute population and environmental problems on Earth, and the space elevator currently being constructed there to match the one already on Mars, the gravity wells could be surmounted and mass emigration would certainly follow, and with it the disappearance of any possibility of Martian independence. People in favor of terraforming, called greens, or just green, as they were not a party as such— argued that with a human-viable surface it would be possible to live anywhere, and at that point the underground would be on the surface, and infinitely less vulnerable to control or attack, and thus in a much better position to take over.
Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi
“It doesn’t mean we don’t have a relationship.” I put my PDA away and greeted Enzo as he came up, still holding his face. “So you got that,” he said to me. I turned and smiled at Gretchen and Savitri, as if to say, See. They both rolled their eyes. * * * * * In all, there was about a week between when the Magellan left Phoenix Station and when the Magellan was far enough away from any major gravity well that it could skip to Roanoke. Much of that time was spent watching dodgeball, listening to music, chatting with my new friends, and recording Enzo getting hit with balls. But in between all of that, I actually did spend a little bit of time learning about the world on which we would live the rest of our lives. Some of it I already knew: Roanoke was a Class Six planet, which meant (and here I’m double-checking with the Colonial Union Department of Colonization Protocol Document, get it wherever PDAs have access to a network) that the planet was within fifteen percent of Earth standard gravity, atmosphere, temperature and rotation, but that the biosphere was not compatible with human biology—which is to say if you ate something there, it’d probably make you vomit your guts out if it didn’t kill you outright.
Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
So the Quietener was ringed with countersources, their orbits timed to stretch space at the center of the device when the bodies they mimicked squeezed it, and vice versa. As Cass passed within a few kilometers of one of the counter-sources, she could see the aggregate rocky surface that betrayed its origins in Mimosa's rubble of asteroids. Every scrap of material here had been dragged out of that system's gravity well over a period of almost a thousand years, a process initiated by a package of micron-sized spores sent from Viro, the nearest inhabited world, at ninety percent of lightspeed. The Mimosans themselves had come from all over, traveling here just as Cass had once the station was assembled. The scooter's smooth deceleration brought her to a halt beside a docking bay, and she was weightless again.
Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson
I bumped into file freaks and learned new codes, and learning them took me into data banks that taught me even more. Trying to visualize it, I could see myself as a tiny component in a single communications network, a multibank computer complex that spanned the solar system — a dish-shaped, invisible, seemingly telepathic web, a wave pattern that added one more complication to the quark dance swirling in the sun’s gravity well. So I was not in a maze, I was above it, and I could see all of it at once — and its walls formed a pattern, had a meaning, if I could learn how to read it…” I stopped and looked around. Blank faces, neutral, tolerant nods. “You know what I mean?” I asked. No answers. “Sort of,” said Elaine. “But our time’s up.” “Okay,” I said. “More next time.” One night after a party in the restaurant’s kitchen I wandered the streets, my mind in a ferment.
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler
3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Charles Lindbergh, cloud computing, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, fear of failure, Firefox, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, gravity well, ImageNet competition, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, Jono Bacon, Just-in-time delivery, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lean Startup, life extension, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, Narrative Science, Netflix Prize, Network effects, Oculus Rift, optical character recognition, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, rolodex, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart grid, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, superconnector, technoutopianism, telepresence, telepresence robot, Turing test, urban renewal, web application, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game
Eventually, they decided to figure out how useful. “It’s a supply chain problem,” explains Dunn. “The ISS is at the back end of the longest, most complicated, and most expensive supply chain in existence. Launch costs are roughly ten thousand dollars a pound. And any object sent into space has to be durable enough to survive the eight minutes of high g-forces it takes to get out of the Earth’s gravity well—which means building heavier objects. But any additional weight imposes a double penalty: Not only does every extra pound cost extra money, but it requires extra fuel to get off the planet, which means even more money.” Plus, when parts aboard the station break, resupply can take months and months. This is why there are over a billion manifest parts (meaning they’ve been paid for but have not necessarily flown yet) aboard the ISS.
The Moon: A History for the Future by Oliver Morton
Charles Lindbergh, commoditize, Dava Sobel, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, facts on the ground, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, multiplanetary species, Norman Mailer, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, UNCLOS, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize
Prof seems to agree with her, speaking of “the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace”. In fact, he deeply disagrees. Economics must take second place to ecology because the Moon faces Malthusian doom. Shipping food to the Earth and getting nothing back—no replacement for the carbon, nitrogen, endless spacey cake and endless Earthly eating phosphorus and so on that the grain shipped down the gravity well contains—means that the Moon’s otherwise-closed ecology has a gaping hole in it, as frightening as an air-sucking meteorite puncture in a hab. The stuff of life is leaking away. “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” is thus an environmental novel. Indeed it is an Anthropocene one, as long as one remembers that the Moon’s branch of the Anthropocene is an inversion of the Earth’s, as well as an extension of it.
A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by Richard Dawkins
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Desert Island Discs, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, Necker cube, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, random walk, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method
Assuming there was a simple one and looking around the Internet, I was astonished at how diverse the definitions were and how very, very detailed each one had to be in order to include ‘this’ but not include ‘that’. If you think about it, a collection that includes a fruit fly and Richard Dawkins and the Great Barrier Reef is an awkward set of objects to try and compare. Douglas laughed at himself, and at his own jokes. It was one of many ingredients of his charm. There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions. This next paragraph is one of Douglas’s set-pieces which will be familiar to some people here.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell
carbon footprint, clean water, Google Earth, gravity well, liberation theology, nuclear paranoia, oil rush, oil shale / tar sands, place-making, ride hailing / ride sharing, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, the scientific method, young professional
Then the reclaimer would come in, turning its bucket wheel through the sand in the windrow, lifting it onto a conveyor belt on its back, which fed another conveyor belt, and another, transporting the sand great distances out of the pit. There were once thirty kilometers’ worth of conveyor belts operating in Syncrude’s mine, and if you’ve ever tried to keep a conveyor belt running during a harsh northern winter—who hasn’t?—you’ve got an idea of why they finally opted for the shovel-and-truck method. To approach the bucket-wheel reclaimer was to slide into a gravity well of disbelief. It was difficult even to understand its shape. It was longer than a football field, battleship gray, its conveyor belt spine running aft on a bridge large enough to carry traffic. The machine’s shoulders were an irregular metal building several stories tall, overgrown with struts and gangways and ductwork, hunched over a colossal set of tank treads. A vast, counterweighted trunk soared over it all, thrusting forward a fat tunnel of trusses that finally blossomed into the great steel sun of the bucket wheel.
The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair
barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, butterfly effect, Dmitri Mendeleev, Elon Musk, Francisco Pizarro, gender pay gap, ghettoisation, gravity well, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, out of africa, Rana Plaza, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, spinning jenny, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, Works Progress Administration
First the communications antenna stopped working so that all information had to be entered into the aircraft’s computer’s manually, then he began to experience difficulties with his suit. His request to loosen the laces inside was denied by Mission Control, and then when he put his helmet on, he discovered a leak. ‘Hey, Jim, on those drink bags,’ he told his commander at NASA four days and one hour into the mission, ‘I tell you, it’s pretty hard to see things when you’ve got a helmet full of orange juice in zero gravity.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to drink fast,’ came the reply. Five hours later, however, the technicians on the ground began fretting about whether so much orange juice floating around in the body of the suit might cause damage. ‘Most of it, for some reason, floated up under my helmet – I mean my Snoopy hat, and I’m pretty sticky around the temples,’ Duke said, by way of reassuring them.40 By all accounts, these problems persisted.
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
He sat in the front section of the converted module theLimiting Factor had picked up from the GSV. He and Flere-Imsaho had boarded the little craft and said their au revoirs to the old warship, which was to stand off the Empire, waiting to be recalled. The hangar blister had rotated and the module, escorted by a couple of frigates, had fallen towards the planet while theLimiting Factor made a show of moving very slowly and hesitantly away from the gravity well with the two battlecruisers. 'What's what?' Flere-Imsaho said, floating beside him, disguise discarded and lying on the floor. 'That,' Gurgeh said, pointing at the screen, which displayed the view looking straight down. The module was flying overland towards Groasnachek, Eä's capital city; the Empire didn't like vessels entering the atmosphere directly above its cities, so they'd come in over the ocean.
Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks
It nodded at the GSV, which was close and bright enough now to be casting its own light over the surrounding landscape, like a strangely rectangular golden moon floating over the world. 'Thatis the sort of thing Hub Minds can't help get worried about,' the avatar said, hoisting one silvery eyebrow. 'A trillion tonnes of ship capable of accelerating like an arrow out of a bow coming close enough to the surface for me to feel the curve of the fucker's gravity well if it wasn't fielded out.' It shook its head. 'GSVs,' it said, tutting as though over a mischievous but cute child. 'Do you think they take advantage of you because you used to be one?' Kabe asked. The giant craft seemed to have come to a halt at last, filling about a quarter of the sky. Some wispy clouds had formed underneath its lower surface. Concentric shells of field showed up as barely visible lines around it, like a set of cavernous nested bubbles floating in the sky.
Singularity Sky by Stross, Charles
anthropic principle, cellular automata, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, Doomsday Clock, Extropian, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, life extension, means of production, new economy, phenotype, prisoner's dilemma, skinny streets, technological singularity, uranium enrichment
The former set up a wave of expansion and contraction in the space behind and in front of the ship: it was peerlessly elegant, and more than somewhat dangerous—a spacecraft trying to navigate through the dense manifold of space-time ran the risk of being blown apart by a stray dust grain. The jump drive was, to say the least, more reliable, barring a few quirks. A spaceship equipped with it would accelerate out from the nearest star's gravity well. Identifying a point of equipotential flat spacetime near the target star, the ship would light up the drive field generator, and the entire spaceship could then tunnel between the two points without ever actually being between them. (Assuming, of course, that the target star was more or less in the same place and the same state that it appeared to be when the starship lit off its drive field—if it wasn't, nobody would ever see that ship again.)
Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the Battle for the Internet by Charles Arthur
activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, AltaVista, Build a better mousetrap, Burning Man, cloud computing, commoditize, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, disintermediation, don't be evil, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, John Gruber, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Network effects, PageRank, pre–internet, Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, slashdot, Snapchat, software patent, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, the new new thing, the scientific method, Tim Cook: Apple, turn-by-turn navigation, upwardly mobile
Elop’s decision to announce Symbian’s forthcoming death in January 2011, yet not have any Windows Phone handsets to sell, had a dramatic effect on the company’s primary customers – the carriers. Six months after that announcement, and three months before it had any Windows Phone handsets to sell, Nokia too made an operating loss on its handset business. The next two quarters were profitable; then the money began bleeding out again. By the end of 2012, both Nokia and RIM were trapped in a financial gravity well. According to Dediu’s rule of thumb – which was quickly taking on the force of a law of nature – it was only a matter of time before each would succumb, either to a takeover, merger, or breakup. Nokia’s response, as it tried to pull itself out of the dive, was to differentiate itself through phone features such as wireless charging and high-quality cameras. At the launch of one handset, I asked Jo Harlow, its head of Windows Phone, why people should buy a Lumia device (its Windows Phone brand) rather than any other brand.
Glasshouse by Charles Stross
The Linebarger Cats mostly go back to their prewar activities, a troupe of historic re-enactment artists in the pay of a retiring metahuman power who has spent the past gigasecs sleeping through the chaos. But not all of us can let go and forget . . . ONCE upon a time, when I was young and immortal, I jumped off a two-kilometer-high cliff on a partially terraformed moon orbiting a hot Jupiter. There was a fad for self-sustaining biospheres and deep gravity wells and it was selling itself as a resort—that's my excuse. I did it without a parachute. Gravity was low, about three meters per second squared, but it was still a two-kilometer drop toward a waterfall that obscured the jungle canopy far below with a haze of rainbow fog. I was trying on a mythopoeic body, and as I dropped I spread my wings for the first time, feeling the tension in the enormous thin webs between the fingers of my middle-hands.
Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
Consider, in the past century, the gaudy excesses of the roaring twenties and the antiestablishment contempt of the sixties. Consider, in our own century, the unprecedented prosperity brought about by Y-energy—and then consider that Kenzo Yagai, except to his followers, was seen as a greedy and bloodless logician, while our national adulation goes to neo-nihilist writer Stephen Castelli, to “feelie” actress Brenda Foss, and to daredevil gravity-well diver Jim Morse Luter. But most of all, as you ponder this phenomenon in your Y-energy houses, consider the current outpouring of irrational feeling directed at the “Sleepless” since the publication of the joint findings of the Biotech Institute and the Chicago Medical School concerning Sleepless tissue regeneration. Most of the Sleepless are intelligent. Most of them are calm, if you define that much-maligned word to mean directing one’s energies into solving problems rather than to emoting about them.
Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin
Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kevin Kelly, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, planetary scale, skunkworks, spice trade, telerobotics, uranium enrichment
Rather, in leaving the Earth, the spacecraft is leaping off a very fast moving platform, and since it is moving in the same direction, picks up an extra 30 km/s of velocity from the Earth as it races its way around the Sun. The spacecraft voyages across the solar system with an initial velocity not of 3 km/s, but 33 km/s, more than twenty times the speed of an Apollo command module. (You can’t use this “moving platform” effect to help you reach the Moon, because the Moon is moving about the Sun in company with the Earth.) As it climbs out of the Sun’s gravity well to move outward from the orbit of Earth to that of Mars, it trades some of the kinetic energy associated with this velocity into potential energy, and so slows down a bit, but it’s still moving very fast. Fortunately, Mars will be cruising along its orbit with a velocity of 24 km/s in roughly the same direction as the spacecraft. When the spacecraft reaches Mars’ orbit, its velocity relative to Mars will be only 3 km/s (since it’s traveling along at about 21 km/s), and that’s slow enough to allow orbit capture.
The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin
Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, battle of ideas, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, gravity well, if you build it, they will come, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, more computing power than Apollo, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, off grid, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, private space industry, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telerobotics, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, uranium enrichment
That's an initial speed for your spacecraft of nearly 5 AU per year, sufficient to get you out to Saturn or back to Earth in less than one year, or to Uranus in three years, with nothing but chemical propulsion. Advanced propulsion systems on board, such as nuclear electric propulsion or fusion, could then be used to accelerate the system even more subsequent to departure. Thus, once there is helium-3 commerce to be supported in the outer solar system, Jupiter, using the resources of its outer moons and its gravity well, could develop as an important solar system transportation node. Nineteenth-century New Englanders thought they had an unmatchable racket going selling ice. Imagine the envy of those sharp-minded old-time Yankees if they could awake from their graves and look into the future to see Callisto colonists selling…gravity! THE KUIPER BELT AND OORT CLOUD It is generally considered that beyond the Sun's family of planets there is absolute emptiness extending for light-years until you come to another star.
Building Habitats on the Moon: Engineering Approaches to Lunar Settlements by Haym Benaroya
3D printing, biofilm, Black Swan, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, carbon-based life, centre right, clean water, Colonization of Mars, Computer Numeric Control, conceptual framework, data acquisition, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, gravity well, inventory management, Johannes Kepler, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, performance metric, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, stochastic process, telepresence, telerobotics, the scientific method, urban planning, X Prize, zero-sum game
Initially promising with a dense atmosphere, liquid water and perhaps the possibility of primitive life, it is now a frigid (average surface temperature of minus 82 degrees Fahrenheit), poisonous (remnant atmosphere of mostly CO 2 and perchlorate-infused regolith approximately one percent concentration planet-wide), radiation-soaked, sterile (as far as we know), dead-end-destination ghost of a planet with only 50 percent the ambient sunlight of Earth. It exists at the bottom of a large gravity well that’s too big for rockets and (very likely) too small for people, plants and animals. Mars should be pitied, not coveted. There is absolutely nothing of any value except for the singular exception of raw materials to synthesize propellant to get off Mars! Mars colonization is a ‘zombie’ idea; that is, one that died previously (when Mariner 4 sent back the first close up pictures in 1965) but like ‘real’ zombies, ‘Mars colonization’ still lifelessly roams the intellectual landscape wreaking havoc among the living.
Startide rising by David Brin
Startide Rising Uplift Book 2 By David Brin Prologue FROM THE JOURNAL OF GILLIAN BASKIN Streaker is limping like a dog on three legs. We took a chancy jump through overdrive yesterday, a step ahead of the Galactics who are chasing us. The one probability coil that had survived the Morgran battle groaned and complained, but finally delivered us here, to the shallow gravity well of a small population-II dwarf star named Kthsemenee. The Library lists one habitable world in orbit, the planet Kithrup. When I say “habitable,” it’s with charity. Tom, Hikahi, and I spent hours with the captain, looking for alternatives. In the end, Creideiki decided to bring us here. As a physician, I dread landing on a planet as insidiously dangerous as this one, but Kithrup is a water world, and our mostly-dolphin crew needs water to be able to move about and repair the ship.
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
'What...' the Ethnarch Kerian gulped, drawing his legs up under the covers. 'Whatare you here for?' The intruder looked mildly surprised. 'Oh, I'm here to take you out, Ethnarch. You are going to be removed. Now...' he laid the gun on the broad top of the bed footboard. The Ethnarch stared at it. It was too far away for him to grab, but... 'The story,' the intruder said, settling back in the chair. 'Once upon a time, over the gravity well and far away, there was a magical land where they had no kings, no laws, no money and no property, but where everybody lived like a prince, was very well-behaved and lacked for nothing. And these people lived in peace, but they were bored, because para-dise can get that way after a time, and so they started to carry out missions of good works; charitable visits upon the less well-off, you might say; and they always tried to bring with them the thing that they saw as the most precious gift of all; know-ledge; information; and as wide a spread of that information as possible, because these people were strange, in that they despised rank, and hated kings... and all things hierarchic... even Ethnarchs.'
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly
Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, c2.com, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer vision, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, George Gilder, gravity well, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, John Conway, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, life extension, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, off grid, out of africa, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, Picturephone, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, refrigerator car, Richard Florida, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, Skype, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Kaczynski, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K
According to Damien Broderick, the author of The Spike, the Air Forcecharted the curves and metacurves of speed. It told them something preposterous. They could not believe their eyes. Speed Trend Curve. The U.S. Air Force’s plot of historical speed records up to the 1950s and their expectations of the fastest speeds in the near future. The curve said they could have machines that attained orbital speed . . . within four years. And they could get their payload right out of Earth’s immediate gravity well just a little later. They could have satellites almost at once, the curve insinuated, and if they wished—if they wanted to spend the money, and do the research and the engineering—they could go to the Moon quite soon after that. It is important to remember that in 1953 none of the technology for these futuristic journeys existed. No one knew how to go that fast and survive. Even the most optimistic, die-hard visionaries did not expect a lunar landing any sooner than the proverbial “year 2000.”
Iron Sunrise by Stross, Charles
blood diamonds, dumpster diving, gravity well, hiring and firing, industrial robot, life extension, loose coupling, mass immigration, mutually assured destruction, phenotype, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, RFID, side project, speech recognition, technological singularity, trade route, urban sprawl, zero-sum game
Iron doesn’t fuse easily: the process is endothermic, absorbing energy. When the guts were scooped out of the star and replaced with a tiny cannonball of cold degenerate matter, the outer layers of the star, held away from the core by radiation pressure, began to collapse inward across a gap of roughly a quarter million kilometers of cold vacuum. The outer shell rushed in fast, accelerating in the grip of a stellar gravity well. Minutes passed, and from the outside the photosphere of the star appeared to contract slightly as huge vortices of hot turbulent gas swirled and fulminated across it. Then the hammerblow of the implosion front reached the core … There was scant warning for the inhabitants of the planet that had been targeted for murder. For a few minutes, star-watching satellites reported an imminent solar flare, irregularities leading to atmospheric effects, aurorae, and storm warnings for orbital workers and miners in the asteroid belt.
Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
BLISS REACTED TO THE SWOOP DOWN TO GAIA with a naïve excitement. She said, “There’s no feeling of acceleration.” “It’s a gravitic drive,” said Pelorat. “Everything accelerates together, ourselves included, so we don’t feel anything.” “But how does it work, Pel?” Pelorat shrugged. “I think Trev knows,” he said, “but I don’t think he’s really in a mood to talk about it.” Trevize had dropped down Gaia’s gravity-well almost recklessly. The ship responded to his direction, as Bliss had warned him, in a partial manner. An attempt to cross the lines of gravitic force obliquely was accepted—but only with a certain hesitation. An attempt to rise upward was utterly ignored. The ship was still not his. Pelorat said mildly, “Aren’t you going downward rather rapidly, Golan?” Trevize, with a kind of flatness to his voice, attempting to avoid anger (more for Pelorat’s sake, than anything else) said, “The young lady says that Gaia will take care of us.”
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer
The difference doesn’t really matter for present purposes, except that the second interpretation already takes care of Haldane’s ‘any’ philosophy. The dedicatee of this book made a living from the strangeness of science, pushing it to the point of comedy. The following is taken from the same extempore speech in Cambridge in 1998 that I quoted in Chapter 1: ‘The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball ninety million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.’ Where other science-fiction writers played on the oddness of science to arouse our sense of the mysterious, Douglas Adams used it to make us laugh (those who have read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might think of the ‘infinite improbability drive’, for instance).
Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet by Steven Squyres
Weiler is chewing gum furiously. 20:26: Three minutes to entry. Out at Mars it’s all over, one way or another. One minute to entry. Altitude 121 miles. This is it. Projected on the screen at the far end of the room are two displays. One is the crucial Doppler curve: an evolving green line against a bright white background, beginning to bend perceptibly now as our spacecraft starts to fall down the martian gravity well. Spirit is traveling more than 12,000 miles an hour. The other display shows the acceleration tones, the signals from the spacecraft that indicate that it’s beginning to feel the friction with the martian atmosphere. We’ve been on accel tone one for a while, but now they begin to tick upward: accel tone two, then accel tone three. We’re in the atmosphere. Things start to happen quickly, and I press my headset to my ear, straining to hear every callout: accel tone four, then five, then six.
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
I feel it with my fingers—someone has stuck gum or candy there and the cleaning compound hasn’t taken it all.Once I notice it, I can’t not notice it. I slide my brochure between me and the rough spot. Page 42 Finally the program moves out of history and into the present. The latest space-probe photographs of the outer planets are spectacular; the simulated flybys almost make me feel that I could fall out of my seat into the gravity well of one planet after another. I wish I could be there myself. When I was little and first saw newscasts of people in space I wanted to be an astronaut, but I know that’s impossible. Even if I had the new LifeTime treatment so I would live long enough, I would still be autistic. What you can’t change don’t grieve over, my mothersaid. I don’t learn anything I don’t already know, but I enjoy the show anyway.
Excession by Iain M. Banks
Pittance was a huge irregular lump of matter, two hundred kilometres across at its narrowest point and ninety-eight per cent iron by volume. It was the remnant of a catastrophe which had occurred over four billion years earlier, when the planet of whose core it had been part had been struck by another large body. Expelled from its own solar system by that cataclysm, it had wandered between the stars for a quarter of the life of the universe, uncaptured by any other gravity well but subtly affected by all it passed anywhere near. It had been discovered drifting in deep space a millennium ago by a GCU taking an eccentrically trajectorial course between two stellar systems, it had been given the brief examination its simple and homogeneous composition deserved and then had been left to glide, noted, effectively tagged, untouched, but given the name Pittance. When the time came, five hundred years later, to dismantle the colossal war machine the Culture had created in order to destroy that of the Idirans, Pittance had suddenly been found a role.
Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear
“Just ourselves.” Martin considered this, saw nations arising, people disagreeing, history raising its ugly head, the inevitable round of Eden’s end and reality’s beginning. But he did not tell Theresa what she already knew. Fantasies were almost as important as fuel at this point. “Do you think they’ll know when they die?” Theresa asked. Martin understood whom she meant. Down at the bottom of the gravity well, on the planets. The Killers. “If they’re still alive…” Martin said, raising his eyebrows. “If there’s anybody still there, still conscious…not a machine.” “Do you think they can be conscious if they’ve become machines?” “The moms don’t tell us about such things,” Martin said. “Can they be guilty if they’re just machines now?” “I don’t know,” Martin said. “They can be dangerous.” “If there are a few still in bodies, still living as we do, do you think they are…leaders, prophets…or just slaves?”
The Origins of the British by Stephen Oppenheimer
Cluster I1a-4 also characterizes southern Scandinavia. But like I1a-3 – and unlike I1a-2 – it favours Oslo (9%) and Bergen (8%) rather more than Denmark and Frisia (4% each). Like I1a-2, I1a-4 has a scattered distribution in eastern England and around the British coast, and an age suggesting a Neolithic or Late Mesolithic entry (Figure 5.7).79 I1a-7 is the most southerly of the Ian clusters, having a centre of gravity well below Norway. However, it lacks a clear Danish identity, being found equally in Denmark, north-west Germany and, particularly, Frisia, with isolated instances in northern Scandinavia, Switzerland and France. In frequency and diversity,80 I1a-7 is more British than Continental. It has a Bronze Age date in Britain accounting for 9% of British Ian types.81 As we shall see in Chapter 11, there are a number of reasons for rejecting the notion that the presence of Ian in England and eastern Britain is simply a reflection of the much later Anglo-Saxon or Viking invasion.
I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards
Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, barriers to entry, book scanning, Build a better mousetrap, Burning Man, business intelligence, call centre, commoditize, crowdsourcing, don't be evil, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, Googley, gravity well, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job-hopping, John Markoff, Kickstarter, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, microcredit, music of the spheres, Network effects, PageRank, performance metric, pets.com, Ralph Nader, risk tolerance, second-price auction, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, slashdot, stem cell, Superbowl ad, Y2K
It was the middle of March. Time to put away the space heater and break out the cargo shorts and sandals. April was right around the corner. My first April at Google. My first April first. My first opportunity to undertake the torqued brain aerobics and flop-sweat composition that I came to know as the Google April Fools' joke. April Fools' Day would become a perennial black hole in my calendar, a gravity well into which my attention would be sucked from increasingly great distances in time. Sergey, on the other hand, loved April Fools'. His sense of humor didn't stop at the boundaries of good taste, and when it came to April Fools', he dynamited decorum and put moderation to the torch. The cruelest month, indeed. I was headed into Charlie's Café when I ran into Sergey. The day was warm and my mood was full of springtime.
How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by Julian Guthrie
Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Frank Gehry, gravity well, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Oculus Rift, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, pets.com, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, urban planning
Gregg also pushed his friend to go ahead with the flight. He wanted it for Erik, and for the XPRIZE. Erik didn’t know about being anybody’s hero, but he did know that he wanted to help the XPRIZE raise much-needed operating income. The XPRIZE had lit him up when everything else in his life was dark. It made him think about how to solve problems in a different way, whether it was something grand like getting out of Earth’s gravity well into space, or running when he should probably be walking. Once reduced to a life of sitting, of barely walking, he now wanted to soar. But first, he had to live through his survival training. — The fuselage of the airplane began to fill with water, first to Erik’s feet, then to his thighs, next to his waist. He would soon be submerged, strapped into his seat in the cockpit. As the water rose to his chin, he told himself: deep breaths, prepare to close your eyes.
The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker
There was no more trading that night: Nick and Rosalia had found their partners. They finished with “Brigas Nunca Mais,” a slow, languid, romantic tune that’s great to listen to but nearly impossible to dance to. The tempo’s just wrong, not quite a fast song, not quite a slow dance. But they did it, turning it into a sensual mix of pulling away but not quite out of reach, drawing swiftly together as if tugged by a gravity well, and then spinning slowly around, locked in each other’s arms. When the music finally stopped, the onlookers applauded. Smitty tells me that Nick never made it back to his hotel room that night, the first time that had ever happened. But it became a pretty regular occurrence after that. Though the reporting game continued, the tone changed, at least for Rosalia. It became more about giving Nick points that he could work off on the dance floor.
Come Fly With Us: NASA's Payload Specialist Program by Melvin Croft, John Youskauskas, Don Thomas
active measures, active transport: walking or cycling, Berlin Wall, Elon Musk, gravity well, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Ronald Reagan, X Prize, Yom Kippur War
Only the sixth flight in the space shuttle program, the four-man crew’s primary mission was to deploy NASA’s first TDRS, which would be the first of several boosted to geosynchronous orbit by the air force’s interim upper stage (IUS). This two-stage, solid-propellant rocket motor was designed by the Boeing Company to serve as an upper booster stage for both the Titan 34D generation of rockets and the space shuttle. It could loft a five-thousand-pound payload into geosynchronous orbit or even propel NASA’s interplanetary probes out of the gravity well of Earth. The booster delivering the TDRS to its high perch above Earth would be the same type to be used by the top secret satellite Payton was preparing to fly into orbit with. The satellite was deployed flawlessly from Challenger’s payload bay while orbiting in the darkness of Earth’s shadow half a world away from Houston. It was not long afterward, though, when the IUS began rocketing the satellite away from the shuttle, that telemetry showed something going very wrong.
The Best of Best New SF by Gardner R. Dozois
back-to-the-land, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, call centre, Columbine, congestion charging, dark matter, Doomsday Book, double helix, Extropian, gravity well, lateral thinking, Mason jar, offshore financial centre, out of africa, pattern recognition, phenotype, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, Turing machine, Turing test, Winter of Discontent, Y2K, zero-sum game
The most obvious external feature of their modification was that they had an extra pair of “arms” instead of “legs,” and this meant that most of the public places in Moscoviense were designed to accommodate their kind as well as “walkers”; all the corridors were railed and all the ceilings ringed. The sight of fabers swinging around the place like gibbons, getting everywhere at five or six times the pace of walkers, was one that I found strangely fascinating, and one to which I never quite became accustomed. Fabers couldn’t live, save with the utmost difficulty, in the gravity well that was Earth; they almost never descended to the planet’s surface. By the same token, it was very difficult for men from Earth to work in zero-gee environments without extensive modification, surgical if not genetic. For this reason, the only “ordinary” men who went into the true faber environments weren’t ordinary by any customary standard. The Moon, with its one-sixth Earth gravity, was the only place in the inner solar system where fabers and unmodified men frequently met and mingled – there was nowhere else nearer than Ganymede.
Annette grins broadly for her own reasons, raises a glass in toast. Ivan the extreme concrete geek has an arm round her shoulders; he raises his glass, too. “Lots of launch pads to rubberize!” “To NASA,” Bob echoes. They drink. “Hey, Manfred. To NASA?” “NASA are idiots. They want to send canned primates to Mars!” Manfred swallows a mouthful of beer, aggressively plonks his glass on the table: “Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn’t even a biosphere there. They should be working on uploading and solving the nanoassembly conformational problem instead. Then we could turn all the available dumb matter into computronium and use it for processing our thoughts. Long term, it’s the only way to go. The solar system is a dead loss right now – dumb all over! Just measure the mips per milligram. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use.
Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology by James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel
back-to-the-land, Columbine, dark matter, Extropian, Firefox, gravity well, haute couture, Internet Archive, pattern recognition, phenotype, post-industrial society, price stability, Silicon Valley, slashdot, Stephen Hawking, technological singularity, telepresence, the scientific method, Turing test, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, wage slave, Y2K, zero day
Annette grins broadly for her own reasons, raises a glass in toast. Ivan the extreme concrete geek has an arm round her shoulders; he raises his glass, too. “Lots of launch pads to rubberize!” “To NASA,” Bob echoes. They drink. “Hey, Manfred. To NASA?” “NASA are idiots. They want to send canned primates to Mars!” Manfred swallows a mouthful of beer, aggressively plonks his glass on the table: “Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn’t even a biosphere there. They should be working on uploading and solving the nanoassembly conformational problem instead. Then we could turn all the available dumb matter into computronium and use it for processing our thoughts. Long term, it’s the only way to go. The solar system is a dead loss right now—dumb all over! Just measure the mips per milligram. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use.
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
There was little else he could do. The squid reached atmosphere before the three Ouster assault boats reached the squid. The boats undoubtedly were armed and well within range, but someone on the command circuit must have been curious. Or furious. Kassad’s squid was in no way aerodynamic. As with most ship-to-ship craft, the squid could flirt with planetary atmospheres but was doomed if it dove too deeply into the gravity well. Kassad saw the telltale red glow of reentry, heard the ion buildup on the active radio channels, and suddenly wondered if this had been such a good idea. Atmospheric drag stabilized the squid and Kassad felt the first tentative tug of gravity as he searched the console and the command chair arms for the control circuit he prayed would be there. A static-filled video screen showed one of the dropships growing a blue-plasma tail as it decelerated.
WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly
4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Bill Joy: nanobots, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, Brewster Kahle, British Empire, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computer vision, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, deskilling, DevOps, Donald Davies, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, George Akerlof, gig economy, glass ceiling, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, gravity well, greed is good, Guido van Rossum, High speed trading, hiring and firing, Home mortgage interest deduction, Hyperloop, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, information asymmetry, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invisible hand, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Lao Tzu, Larry Wall, Lean Startup, Leonard Kleinrock, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, microbiome, microservices, minimum viable product, mortgage tax deduction, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Oculus Rift, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Buchheit, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Ponzi scheme, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Sam Altman, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, SETI@home, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, social web, software as a service, software patent, spectrum auction, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, TaskRabbit, telepresence, the built environment, The Future of Employment, the map is not the territory, The Nature of the Firm, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, transportation-network company, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, VA Linux, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, yellow journalism, zero-sum game, Zipcar
Distributed solar power generation, electric vehicles, and other signs of the transition from carbon-based energy to renewables seem like they are a bit out of the frame—or are they? After all, rooftop solar shares many of the distributed network characteristics of on-demand companies like Uber and Airbnb. When making sense of the future, think in terms of gravitational cores, not hard boundaries. Just as the sun’s gravity well reaches out beyond the orbit of Pluto and encompasses not just the planets in the ecliptic but comets and planetoids with eccentric orbits, so too the forces shaping the future all have a gravitational core and a gradually attenuating influence. And just as the solar system has multiple gravitational subsystems, where the draw of the local giant keeps its own satellites in tow while all still partake in the larger dance, these interpenetrating trends influence each other and converge.
Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe
“We’re ready, General,” she said. Anford nodded. Callie did not relax her smile, not for a second, even as she knew the screen would flick over to the simulation that played out on the screen inset in her desk, keeping her up on the visuals. Vector images of ships swam into view on a field of black, the moon Dralee a distant curve in the background as the patrol squad approached that liminal space on the cusp of the moon’s gravity well. Scout ships—smaller triangles—took the point position on the three-dimensional, pyramid formation, the heavier gunships holding up the middle and rear. Sergeant Greeve’s ship had been flagged with a yellow dart, tracking her path in the center of the formation. “We’ve been over the footage of the battle multiple times, of course, but this new reconstruction reveals what we missed—the moments before the first impacts occurred.
From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Laplace demon, lone genius, low earth orbit, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons
General relativity doesn’t predict that space and time didn’t exist before the Big Bang; it predicts that the curvature of spacetime in the very early universe became so large that general relativity itself ceases to be reliable. Quantum gravity, which we can happily ignore when we’re talking about the curvature of spacetime in the relatively placid context of the contemporary universe, absolutely must be taken into account. And, sadly, we don’t understand quantum gravity well enough to say for sure what actually happens at very early times. It might very well be true that space and time “come into existence” in that era—or not. Perhaps there is a transition from a phase of an irredeemably quantum wave function to the classical spacetime we know and love. But it is equally conceivable that space and time extend beyond the moment that we identify as “the Big Bang.” Right now, we simply don’t know; researchers are investigating different possibilities, with an open mind about which will eventually turn out to be right.
The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
"We have a full-scale manufactory complex in the trailing endcap," Caillebot said. "We used to make ships. Lovely things, too: single-molecule hulls in ruby and emerald. It hasn't run at anything like full capacity for decades, but smaller habitats occasionally contract us to build components and machines. The big enterprises on Marco's Eye will always out-compete us when it comes to efficiency and economies of scale, but we don't have to lift anything out of a gravity well, or pay Glitter Band import duties. That takes care of some of our finances." "Not all of it, though," Thalia said. "Right?" "We vote," Thory said. "So does everyone," Thalia replied. "Except for Panoply." "Not everyone votes the way we do. That's the big difference. There are eight hundred thousand people in this habitat, and each and every one of us takes our voting rights very seriously indeed."
Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
“You decided on ‘wallfold,’ by analogy with the small pens constructed by shepherds.” “All nineteen of the wallfolds will start with exactly the same combination of genes—except one.” “The one that has you,” said the expendable. “And yet I’m the one that you all claim had some kind of influence over the jump backward in time, and the duplication of the ships.” “We do not ‘claim’ it. It’s a certainty. Your mind, cut off from the gravity well of any planet, destabilized the combination of fields we created in order to make the jump past the light barrier. Theoretically, all nineteen computers on the original ship made a slightly different calculation, but your mind caused all of them to be executed at once, resulting in nineteen equivalent ships making the same bifurcated jump.” “Bifurcated?” “Bifurcated means ‘split in half.’ The theory of the jump is that one vehicle jumps forward through space while an identical vehicle begins to move backward in time, retracing the entire journey.
Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda, Greg Lindsay
3D printing, air freight, airline deregulation, airport security, Akira Okazaki, Asian financial crisis, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, blood diamonds, borderless world, Boris Johnson, British Empire, business cycle, call centre, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, cleantech, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, digital map, disruptive innovation, edge city, Edward Glaeser, failed state, food miles, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frank Gehry, fudge factor, full employment, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, global supply chain, global village, gravity well, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, inflight wifi, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, invention of the telephone, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Joan Didion, Kangaroo Route, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, kremlinology, low cost airline, Marchetti’s constant, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, mass immigration, McMansion, megacity, Menlo Park, microcredit, Network effects, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, Peter Calthorpe, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pink-collar, pre–internet, RFID, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, savings glut, Seaside, Florida, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, starchitect, stem cell, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, sustainable-tourism, telepresence, the built environment, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, thinkpad, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, Tony Hsieh, trade route, transcontinental railway, transit-oriented development, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, walkable city, white flight, white picket fence, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game
It’s incorrect to describe these men and women as the “architects” of the aerotropolis or as planners in any conventional sense, because their particular craft has little to do with any traditional notions of centralized planning. Besides, they’re too hamstrung by zoning laws and the intransigence of developers to do anything other than park their clients where they want to be—next to the nearest on-ramp. This approach has its obvious flaws, the worst of which is the hideous, unsustainable sprawl barely held in check by the hub’s gravity well. All the same, Louisville and Memphis both languished until they deliberately embraced the overnight carriers calling each one home. It’s striking how their past, present, and future so closely mirror each other, just as FedEx and UPS are reflections of their futile attempts to outflank each other. Whereas Memphis had once been the seat of King Cotton, Louisville was a tobacco depot on the south bank of the Ohio, sitting above the rapids that forced steamboat captains to lug their shipments ashore and past them.
Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
On the table between them were plates of small cubes and slices of a vegetable substance unknown to Galileo, the bits flavored with ginger or garlic or various peppery spices he was not familiar with, which made his tongue buzz and his nose run. The water was berry-flavored; he drank deeply, feeling suddenly very thirsty. He surveyed the dim turquoise and cobalt buildings beneath them. Europa was a world of ice, Io was a world of fire. Were Ganymede and Callisto then earth and air? “Have you had more conversation with the thing under us?” he asked Aurora. “You were telling me about it before. It seems to know gravity well, you said?” “Yes.” “What about the compound temporality, the vector of three times?” “That’s been hard to determine.” “Show me the exchanges with it.” Aurora smiled. “It’s been eleven years since the ice was broached and the sentience confirmed. Most of the interactions have come to dead ends. But an abstract of it can be found here.” She indicated their table, and Galileo looked at it and saw long strings of mathematical symbols and graphically organized information.
Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson
Majestically they floated down the Zaneveld, over flat ice next to one of the main rubble lines, shooting over small cracks and rocks that would have eaten a snowmobile; floating down a slight incline, effortless and smooth. Carlos and X were sitting back, feeling quite pleased with themselves as Val peered suspiciously over their shoulders. Then the ice tilted downward just slightly more than it had been before, and suddenly the hovercraft was like a ball in a gravity well demonstration, speeding up distinctly, and what was worse, sliding off to the right. With a brief clatter the craft ran directly over the nearest rubble line, and then it was flying downslope-the true downslope-right toward a gnarly shear zone underlying Wiest Bluff, on the other shore of the Zaneveld. Carlos sat forward and turned the craft to the left, and it responded, swivelling on its axis; but they merely continued sideways in the same direction they had been going before.
House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
Over four and a half days, the energy output of those weapons exceeded even that of the sun the world orbited. And when they were done, nothing remained. That was eight years ago, by my reckoning - still more time will have passed when you intercept this signal. Concentrate your sensors on the target system and you will soon see not a sun and its family of worlds, but a new nebula, a roiling dark cloud of rubble and dust and tortured gas, now bound only by the gravity well of the star itself. It will endure for centuries, thousands of years, significant fractions of a circuit. Planets and moons plough through that cloud, but not the world we hoped to make our temporary home. It’s gone, and so has most of the Line.’ Fescue paused and stroked a finger against a puffiness under one of his slitted eyes. It occurred to me then, as it had not before, that he might very well be blind: at no point had I sensed his attention focused in any particular direction.
The mote in God's eye by Larry Niven; Jerry Pournelle
"I'm curious, Captain. Why didn't you do what Dr. Horvath suggested?" "I-" Blaine sat rigidly for a moment, his thoughts whirling. "Well, sir, we were low on fuel and pretty close to Cal. If I'd kept pace with the probe I'd have ended up out of control and unable to keep station on it at all, assuming that McArthur's Drive didn't burn up the sail anyway. We needed the velocity to get back out of Cal's gravity well . . . and my orders were to intercept." He stopped for a moment to finger his broken nose. Merrill nodded. "One more question, Blaine. What did you think when you were assigned to investigate an alien ship?" "I was excited at the chance of meeting them, sir." "Gentlemen, he doesn't sound like an unreasoning xenophobe to me. But when his ship was attacked, he defended her. Dr. Horvath, had he actually fired on the probe itself-which was surely the easiest way to see that it didn't damage his ship-I would personally see that he was dismissed as unfit to serve His Majesty in any capacity whatsoever.
Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
Albert Einstein, American ideology, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, gravity well, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Schrödinger's Cat, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, uranium enrichment
Bader told Feynman to make two familiar calculations of the ball’s energy: its kinetic energy, the energy of its motion, and its potential energy, the energy it possesses by virtue of its presence high in a gravitational field. Like all high-school physics students Feynman was used to adding those energies together. An airplane, accelerating as it dives, or a roller coaster, sliding down the gravity well, trades its potential energy for kinetic energy: as it loses height it gains speed. On the way back up, friction aside, the airplane or roller coaster makes the same conversion in reverse: kinetic energy becomes potential energy again. Either way, the total of kinetic and potential energy never changes. The total energy is conserved. Bader asked Feynman to consider a less intuitive quantity than the sum of these energies: their difference.
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, Burning Man, choice architecture, clean water, cognitive dissonance, fault tolerance, fear of failure, gravity well, high net worth, impulse control, Isaac Newton, Khartoum Gordon, lifelogging, neurotypical, pattern recognition, place-making, post-industrial society, Potemkin village, Richard Feynman, Scramble for Africa, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, the market place, trade route, urban planning, urban sprawl
The interesting fella asks me if I am familiar with the explanation of gravity in which space–time is a rubber sheet and each object placed on it forms a greater or lesser indentation, deforming the surface of the sheet so that other objects will roll down the incline. I agree that I have heard this description. We, the interesting fella says, meaning the Fifteen Hundred, we possess gravity. Where our gravity well touches another, there may be a collision. A man or an economy may be destroyed. In the event that one person is aware of the imminent arrival of another, the first may take steps to alleviate the danger posed by the second, up to and including seeking to make the threat go away altogether. Although this happens only very rarely, that is not the same as it never happening at all. He asks if I play Go.
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo
Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, gravity well, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Murray Gell-Mann, period drama, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, strikebreaker, University of East Anglia
The journalist Jim Crowther did not, however, stop trying to involve his retiring friend in public affairs: in mid-November 1940, he tried to persuade Dirac to attend a meeting of the Tots and Quots dining club, an informal gathering of academics who were interested in exploring how their expertise might be useful to society (the name of the club is a reference to the Latin quot homines, tot sententiae: ‘so many men, so many opinions’). Its twenty-three members in 1940 – including Bernal, Cockroft and Crowther – were often joined by guests, such as Frederick Lindemann, H. G. Wells, the philosopher A. J. Ayer and the art historian Sir Kenneth Clark.42 The location of the club’s political centre of gravity, well to the left, was reflected in the outcome of their debates, most of them held over a few bottles of wine and an indifferent meal in London’s Soho. The meeting Crowther wanted Dirac to attend, on Saturday, 23 November 1940, was scheduled to discuss Anglo-American scientific cooperation and was to take place in Christ’s College, Cambridge. Crowther knew the best way to encourage Dirac to attend: ‘It would be quite unnecessary for you to join in the discussion if you did not wish to.’43 Crowther succeeded, and Dirac listened to a wide-ranging discussion about ways of promoting scientific cooperation with American scientists, until shortly after midnight.
A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin
Without some other way to turn around, would they simply speed past the moon, condemned to a lonely death when their oxygen supply ran out? Fortunately, the laws of celestial mechanics—whose strictness gave space flight an extraordinary predictability—made it possible to give Borman’s crew a built-in ticket home. The trajectory specialists had taken advantage of this in an elegant creation called the free return. By aiming Apollo 8 at just the right distance from the moon, they could use the lunar “gravity well” like a curve in a toboggan course, to bend its path around the moon and send it back toward earth. In theory, it was possible to fire Apollo 8 out of the starting gate so precisely that it would fly a perfect figure 8 around the moon even if Borman’s crew never touched the controls. There wasn’t a man in Kraft’s trajectory division who wasn’t so confident of this that he would have offered to go in their place.
Frommer's Hawaii 2009 by Jeanette Foster
airport security, California gold rush, Charles Lindbergh, glass ceiling, gravity well, haute couture, haute cuisine, indoor plumbing, Maui Hawaii, place-making, polynesian navigation, South China Sea, sustainable-tourism, urban renewal, urban sprawl, white picket fence, Yogi Berra
The free brochure is available at the Big Island Visitors Bureau, 250 Waikoloa Beach Dr., Waikoloa, HI 96738 (& 808/886-1652; www.bigisland.org). I N & A R O U N D K A I L U A - KO N A Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center Kids This small museum has a real moon rock and memorabilia in honor of Big Island–born astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who died in the 1986 Challenger space-shuttle disaster. Displays include a gravity well, which illustrates orbital motion, and an interactive rocket-propulsion exhibit, where you can launch your own miniature space shuttle. At Kona International Airport, Kailua-Kona. & 808/329-3441. www.hawaiimuseums.org/mc/ishawaii_astronaut.htm. Admission $3 adults, $1 children 18 and under. Daily 8:30am–4:30pm. Parking in airport lot $2/hour. Hulihee Palace This two-story New England–style mansion of lava rock and coral mortar, built in 1838 by the Big Island’s governor, John Adams Kuakini, overlooks the harbor at Kailua-Kona.
Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
‘Looking good,’ Alic told his arrest team. His heart started to beat a lot faster as the carriage squeaked and rolled onward. * Oscar simply couldn’t take his eyes off Tiger Pansy. She’d caught him staring quite a few times, and he’d managed to deflect her questioning gaze with a polite half-smile. He knew it was getting close to rudeness now, but she was so out of place here her attraction was akin to a star’s gravity well. But then, would someone like her care about middle class standards of rudeness? And what does that judgement say about me? Damn, was Adam right about what I’ve become? ‘You’re going to have to stop that,’ Anna said, and moved to stand in front of him. ‘I know,’ he mumbled awkwardly. Her smile became evil. ‘If you’re a big fan, you should get over that shy streak and go ask her for an autograph.’