April 11th, 2005

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This Day In History, 1970: Apollo 13 Launched to Moon

APOLLO 13 LAUNCHED TO MOON:
April 11, 1970

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The spacecraft's destination was the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon, where the astronauts were to explore the Imbrium Basin and conduct geological experiments. After an oxygen tank exploded on the evening of April 13, however, the new mission objective became to get the Apollo 13 crew home alive.

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Personal stuff:
The Apollo 13 mission happened in April 1970, and I was born in February 1970. Therefore, I have no personal memory of the event. However, my Mom has told me about watching the mission unfold on the television news with me sitting on her lap. So perhaps that was one of the first, early influences on my life, getting me interested in science and science fiction. Who knows?

In 1995, the movie Apollo 13 was released, a dramatization of the events of the mission. (I think they're releasing a tenth-anniversary special edition DVD.) I loved the film, especially how it made engineers out to be heroes. But I was astonished by a few moviegoers interviewed on the news, who dismissed the movie as "science fiction" and apparently had no idea that the film was about history.

I was also surprised when the film was nominated for a Hugo in 1996. I'm one of the people who rejected the idea that the film was science fiction; after all, it was a historical drama, and no one considered the films about Columbus released circa 1992 to be science fiction despite Columbus's own dependence on the technology of the time. (Just to give an example.) And yet, the Hugos tend to go by "Vox Populi, Vox Dei," which makes sense -- the Hugo Administrators aren't about to take the position that some work isn't SF if enough Worldcon members felt it was. So the movie got nominated for the Hugo, but lost to an episode of Babylon 5.

For more information:

Reference: This Day in History at http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/tdih.jsp?category=leadstory

Wikipedia entry can be found here
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Free Stories Available

For those who are interested, both of my Hugo nominees for this year are now available on the web.

Although Analog has yet to put "Decisions" up on their webpage, it's now available as a free ebook from Fictionwise. So:

Click here to download "Decisions" (Analog, January/February 2004)

Click here to download "Time Ablaze" (Analog, June 2004)

And if you want to find out what other Hugo nominated works are available on line, Interaction has an entire webpage devoted to Hugo Nominee Links.
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Cafe Scientifique Tomorrow Evening

I suppose I really ought to create a "local events" filter one of these days...

Tomorrow night, New Scientist magazine is sponsoring another Cafe Scientifique at the Red Line Bar in Cambridge, MA. What makes this particular one of interest to me is that the speaker is Max Tegmark, a physicist who has recently moved to MIT. His research is focused on precision cosmology, and he's giving a talk titled "Cosmology and the Meaning of Life."

Why am I so interested? Because Tegmark proposed a concept now known as the Tegmark Hypothesis, which basically states that the only realities that you can possibly perceive are the ones in which you continue to live. It's a little complicated for me to get into detail about here, but you can read more about it in the excellent book "The Universe Next Door: The Making of Tomorrow's Science" by Marcus Chown.

Or...you can read the few paragraphs near the end of "Paying It Forward" in which I explain how the Tegmark hypothesis ties into the story. For the Tegmark hypothesis was the piece of speculative science upon which that story of mine was based.

gnomi and I plan to attend, and if anyone else wants to join us, you're welcome to meet us and farwing there.

For more information:
http://www.newscientist.com/info.ns?id=in49
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The Tegmark Hypothesis Explained

After reading over my last post, I realized that I ought to have given more information about the Tegmark Hypothesis. So for those of you who are interested:

(The following selection is from "Paying It Forward," copyright 2003 by Michael A. Burstein, first published in Analog, September 2003.)

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Again, as I noted here, Max Tegmark will be speaking at the Red Line Bar in Cambridge, MA tomorrow night.