January 19th, 2007


The Great Pluto Debate -- February 4, 2007

A year ago today, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto. Therefore, this is a good time to remind folks about The Great Pluto Debate coming up on February 4.

I know that sometimes this journal might seem like all Pluto, all the time, even though we have the savepluto LiveJournal for Pluto news. But I want to mention the Debate here, because the event will be of interest to anyone fascinated by astronomy and our solar system. It's not just for Pluto supporters, but for anyone interested in the question of how we should classify Pluto.

The flyer for the event is posted at http://savepluto.livejournal.com/10943.html. I have to say that I am very impressed by what the Clay Center Observatory managed to do. Panelists for the debate include Owen Gingerich, the chair of the IAU Planet Definition Committee, and Brian Marsden, the Director of the Minor Planets Center. Both of these gentleman have agreed to come over from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to participate, which boggles my mind as much as it delights me.

I'm asking for your help in publicizing it, especially if you're local to Boston. If you're a teacher or a parent, please bring this event to the attention of your school. The Debate is appropriate for ages 8 and up, and schools may find it valuable to send their students.

And if you're interested in attending, please go to http://www.claycenter.org/astro and make sure to register for the event. Seating is limited, so register as early as you can.

Len Wein on One of My Favorite Stories

Writer Len Wein is blogging now, and recently he asked folks if they had questions they wanted to pose to him.

I had one. In 1981, I read a story of his that I have never forgotten, and I asked him for any details he was willing to share about the creation of that story.

The story was "Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?" and it was a backup story in DC Comics Presents #38 (October 1981). I had never heard of the Crimson Avenger before, but the story pulled me right in. In the story, the aging hero is suffering from a terminal disease. He has one last chance to be a hero, by piloting a ship full of explosives away from people, and he does so, knowing that he will die in the ensuing explosion. Sadly, he forgets to give his name, so it looks like no one will remember him.

But...on the way to the ship, almost as a side note, he rescues a boy who has fallen out of an apartment window and returns the boy to his mother. As he swings away, he tells the mother his name. The story ended with the mother saying to her son that once he is old enough to remember, she will tell him of the hero who saved his life -- the Crimson Avenger.

Anyone who knows me well can understand why this story has stuck with me all my life. I must have read it dozens of times. So back in 1996, when I had a chance to meet Len, I told him how the story had stuck with me for fifteen years, and I thanked him for writing it.

And now, in his post Freefall in Crimson, Len has regaled us with the story behind the story. He doesn't explain where the theme of the story came from, but he does discuss how he worked together with Julie Schwartz to create that tale. Go read; you'll be glad you did.