IN 12 HOURS, NEMESIS WILL BE HERE!

I just hit PUBLISH on the latest installment of Far From Home – Nemesis. It should be available for sale within the next 12 hours. Usually a little sooner than that.

There’s a few clues as to what’s in store in the Afterword to Nemesis. Be sure to read it, if you’re a follower of the series. You won’t believe what I have planned for Vengeance onwards.

If anyone would like a free copy, please leave a comment below, or email me with the subject header NEMESIS and I will send you one. Apologies to those who have already requested them – your emails are lost in the flood I’m afraid. Just give me a gentle reminder, or hit me over the head with something heavy, and I’ll be sure to get Nemesis to you.

Talk to you all later. My best, Tony.

TODAY IS FAR FROM HOME DAY!

Today I have made available the last three installments of Far From Home AND The Complete Series! For the first week of release, The Complete Series (all 12 episodes of Far From Home and Sun Hammer – Part One) will be only $3.99. After that it will be $4.99.

Click the image below to purchase. Far From Home 10: Emissary, Far From Home 11: Salvation and Far From Home 12: Endgame are all available at the regular price of £0.99, too.

FFH Complete Kindle

CLARKE’S FUTURE

This is a piece of flash non-fiction that I have submitted to the ‘Spring Break’ competition at brightoncow. It is free to enter, and I urge you to submit something. Head on over to http://www.brightoncow.com to find out more about the competition.

CLARKE’S FUTURE

I admire the works of Arthur C Clarke because I have hope for the future. If you put aside the fantastic concepts that are inherent in his works; the fantastical plots, what you are left with is a palpable belief on his part that the future of mankind will be a positive one. Clarke did not envision tomorrow as a distopia, but as a technologically advanced paradise.

In ‘2001’ he envisions the next stage of mankind’s evolution as taking us to a state of pure energy, free of the limitations of our physical bodies, and even our human moral ethics. In ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’ the last seeds of mankind have left the Earth behind to settle on new planets, free of the guilt and destruction that taints our history. In ‘The Fountains of Paradise’ we follow the main character as he struggles to see his project completed; to build a tower to the stars – a space elevator – to enable man’s ascension to the status of a truly space-bound species.

This is not to say that his works were without intrigue or terror – take ‘A Fall of Moondust’ where the passengers of a lunar vehicle are trapped below metres of crushing moondust, slowly running out of air.par
This is what made him the master of science fiction, in my book. He captured my imagination in the way that he could spin a yarn with a high concept, but tell it in ways that were visceral and realistic.

Clarke died in 2008, at the age of 90. He had hoped to live even longer than that. I do not doubt he just wanted to see what would happen over the years to come; will we really ‘make it’ in space? Will we stop fighting each other in an endless succession of wars and finally unite as a species? Will technology advance to the level where we truly see social change?par

I think all of those things are possible. Clarke envisioned mankind, a thousand years from now, living away from the Earth due to the environmental damage we’d wreaked upon it. This is where I hope Clarke’s vision is wrong. I hope that our own story doesn’t head in that direction. But then perhaps he thought it might be a warning; carry on and you won’t be able to live here anymore.
As a seasoned diver and philanthropist, Clarke loved the planet Earth and the natural wonders of Earth’s habitats.

Perhaps he envisioned the future with not only hope for mankinds development and evolution, both biological and psychological… but with a hope that we wouldn’t do what is inherent in our natures and ruin a good thing.

And here is a video of Arthur diving

BUCKMINSTERFULLERENE

Like many people, the only place I’ve ever heard mention of buckminsterfullerene is in an Arthur C Clarke novel, where he posited that it could be used in the construction of vast towers reaching up from the surface of the Earth, stretching out into space.

Buckminsterfullerene, or C60, discovered about 25 years ago, has some exciting potential uses, as a conductor, a medical aid, and as a construction material.

The total absence of electrical resistance in C60 molecules means that they should be the perfect method of conducting electricity without massive power loss. However, until a way of refining buckminsterfullerene is found that will enable it to handle larger currents, and conduct electricity at warmer temperatures, it remains an infeasible means of power transfer, hence why it has not yet been adopted.

The most promising use of C60, perhaps in realistic terms for present day uses, is in the treatment of cancers. Tests have shown that where C60 is present in a patient’s blood around a tumour, and light is shone on that tumour, the C60 causes toxic O2 to be formed, which attacks the cancer without harming other parts of the body. This method is currently under heavy research, but obviously a treatment for such a tragic disease that does not require drugs would be what it appears to be: a miracle. In effect you’d be using carbon molecules and light to ‘cure cancer’ – surely a dream for modern medicine, along with an effective response to HIV.

As (Saint) Clarke theorised, C60 could well be used for engineering purposes, but perhaps for the time being we will be confined to developing it for much smaller uses. In his novel 3001 he envisioned a future, a thousand years ahead where we’d built towers reaching up into Earth orbit, connected to a ring encircling the entire planet. He suggested that the material that might be used for such an epic construction may well be buckminsterfullerene.

With today’s technology they could be used in bicycle frames, fishing rods, and engineered at the nano-tube level for use in microchips.

The two universities for my home-town, Brighton & Hove, are Brighton University and the University of Sussex. In 1985 Harold Kroto from the University of Sussex started working in conjunction with a team from Rice University, Houston, USA, to look into ways that large carbon chains might form in the outer atmospheres of stars. After years of research they managed to crack it, and discovered the element C60.
They; the teams from both Universities, would go on to win a joint nobel prize in chemistry in 1996 for their work. That’s quite a claim to fame, if the potential uses of buckminsterfullerene are fulfilled.

A potential cure for cancer, and perhaps in a few centuries time, a building material for skyscrapers that live up to their namesake and actually touch the very sky itself.

To read more about the discovery of buckminsterfullerene, please click HERE (Please be aware this is a PDF and not a webpage)

Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of C60 HERE

From an article run by the Mirror last year, the following list of 10 things you need to know about the C60 ‘buckyball’:

Here are the top ten things you need to know about everybody’s favourite chemical compound that resembles a geodesic dome.

1) We’re not on entirely familiar terms, so let’s address the buckyball with the formality such a big occasion deserves: as the first fullerene to be discovered, it is formally known as Buckminsterfullerene (C60).

2) The name is an homage to Richard Buckminster Fuller, an architect whose geodesic domes (similar to the Walt Disney resort’s Epcot theme park ‘golf ball’) it looks like.

3) It was first prepared in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James Heath, Sean O’Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Kroto, Curl and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of the buckyball.

4) Containing 60 carbon atoms arranged to form a hollow sphere (a truncated (T = 3) icosahedron), the buckyball’s structure is often compared to a football.

5) The diameter of a C60 molecule is about 1 nanometer (equal to one billionth of a metre) and the nucleus to nucleus diameter of a C60 molecule is about 0.71 nanometer.

6) Fullerenes occur in nature only very rarely – although the C60 is found in soot.

7) Buckyballs have been utilised in research for electronics and nanotechnology.

8 ) In the PC game Civilization: Call to Power, one of the scientific advancements available is a city-encompassing force field of C60 buckyballs.

9) In Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 3001: The Final Odyssey, BuckminsterFullerene is the substance used to build the massive station-ring around earth and the necessary surface supports to maintain it.

10) The buckyball is the state molecule of Texas.

BUILDING A LADDER TO THE STARS

(Please note this is an article I published previously on spacedaily.com as ‘Building A Tower To The Stars’ which you can read by clicking HERE)

In his 1979 novel ‘The Fountains of Paradise’ Science Fiction author Arthur C Clarke imagined a not-too-distant future where technology would have progressed so far as to allow us to engineer a material strong enough to be used as a cable connecting an orbiting satellite with the ground – a concept commonly referred to as ‘The Space Elevator’ or ‘Tether’.

It involves having a satellite in near-Earth orbit, with one tether stretched out into space, attached to a heavy object acting as a counter weight, against a line that is dropped to Earth from the satellite and secured to the ground. The satellite remains fixed in synchronous orbit, and the counter weight would keep the line held taut. A vehicle would be used to go up and down this line, much like an elevator, moving with relative ease to and from Earth orbit. As Clarke notes in his book, perhaps it is easier to think of the Space Elevator as being something stretching not upward toward the stars, but outward… that is, 35,000 kilometers outward.

The idea is not originally Clarke’s however, although he certainly brought it to widespread attention in 1979 with the publication of his novel; the Space Elevator it has its roots more in science fact than science fiction.

The key idea behind it dates back to 1895, when a Soviet Rocket Scientist named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky – inspired by the Eiffel Tower – proposed an idea for building a solid free-standing tower from Earth’s surface, reaching up 35,000 kilometers into space. He proposed that from the top of this tower, objects could be launched into space with relative ease into orbit. However the lack of a material strong enough to support its own weight at such a height proved the concept beyond human capability. Still, the underlying idea of simply connecting ground and sky, as opposed to travelling from ground to sky, stuck.

Later, in 1959, leading Soviet Engineer called Yuri Artsustanov followed on from Tsiolkovsky’s work when he conceived of the Space Elevator as we think of it today. It is worth mentioning that Artsustanov drew on not just one but two concepts of Tsiolkovsky’s – the huge tower reaching up into space, and the geostationary satellite, theorized by Tsiolkovsky in his 1903 work ‘The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices’.

This concept was further developed by Clarke himself in 1945, as an idea for communication satellites in geostationary orbits. This led to the obvious: the Satellite Television, GPS, etc, that we all take for granted today. The extent of the impact Tsiolkovsky’s work had on the early thinkers of the twentieth century is obvious – the most famous example of his influence might well have been the successful launching of Sputnik into space; showing that a geostationary orbit could be sustained by a man-made object. This allowed Artsustanov to base his concept of a Space Elevator in known truth – making it a more viable idea.

The attraction of the Space Elevator concept is not only how environmentally friendly it would be, but also how cheap it would be compared with current rocket technologies with the cost of sending anything up into space at roughly $20,000 per lb. Using the Space Elevator technology would be many times less than that.
Another factor is the level of public interest. People need something new to get excited about. Since the heydays of the Space Race in the 50’s and 60’s, public interest in leaving our planet has waned severely. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact that we stopped heading to the moon and seemed more content remaining within Earth’s orbit. It could be because of the amount of time it takes to plan, and implement each separate mission; losing public interest in the waiting. And surely the reality of how much each mission into space currently costs is a factor also. With the Space Elevator, we could travel from a point on Earth’s surface into space, without the need for rockets, and at a dramatically lower cost. It would also be safer; removing the danger involved in riding an over-sized firework.

We could ferry supplies to an orbiting Space Station such as the ISS with ease. Even the ability to launch Satellites and Space Probes without the need of a rocket would be money well saved. Indeed the uses of the Space Elevator concept, and the opportunities that it opens to us, are immense. The technology would have a profound effect on not only the way that we reach space, but on what we do next.

Imagine a Space Elevator not only on Earth, but on the Moon as well, helping us to establish and maintain a Moon Base on the lunar surface. Perhaps even ferrying processed lunar ore to awaiting transports to bring back to Earth. And what of Mars? The problem with a manned mission to Mars is the difficulty of establishing a base on Mars, and the logistics of getting back off of the surface. With a Space Elevator on Mars, a single ship could be sent to Mars and left in orbit whilst the surface is explored. The astronauts could then return to the ship via the Elevator, and head back to Earth.

The other proposed use of the Space Elevator concept, is in using the tethers to slingshot objects away from Earth into space. With the counter weight at one end of the tether, and for example a space probe at the other, the tether would transfer momentum to the probe, throwing it away from Earth at great speed. This would not only negate the need for a probe to circle the Earth continuously until it had picked up enough speed to break away from Earth’s gravity, but it might also mean that a probe’s journey into deep space might be that much quicker, given the kick start.

There are several drawbacks to building a Space Elevator, the biggest of which is the production of a material that is suitable to be stretched tight over tens of thousands of kilometers, and endure great weights and strains from various forces. The other is the immense cost of actually getting such a ‘construction’ built. However, there has recently been a resurgence of interest in the concept, and amongst several ongoing projects to build a Space Elevator is a recent announcement by Shuichi Ono, Chairman of the Japan Space Elevator Association, of their intent to build a Space Elevator with a trillion yen price tag.

Only the future will tell if such grand plans come to see fruition.

It is very clear that if we want to go back into space, and send people like you and I there, then we need to make travelling to space as cheap and as easy as possible. We cannot continue to rely on rocket technology, which is hundreds of years old, and far too expensive (the average cost sending the Space Shuttle into space is around about $450 Million).
We need to use technologies that can get Mankind to and from Space cheaply, quickly, and regularly. The development of new, strong materials that will allow us to build things like the Space Elevator will be a major factor in allowing us to do that. Surely the key to getting Mankind back into space is to make space a tourist attraction and allow companies to make money by taking them there.

In much the same way that airlines and jets offer to us the prospect of travelling anywhere on the globe, in the future they must be able to offer trips into space, the moon, and perhaps other planets. And they will not do this by using rockets. A rich elite may be able to afford such trips in rocket-powered craft, but not the everyday men and women who have spent their lives looking up at the night sky and wishing they could reach out and touch it. To open space to the masses, travel to it must be cheap and safe, and we must be able to send one trip after another. Links from the surface to the stars, and the advances in Science and Engineering that will make them possible, will help make going into space a realistic dream that will not be confined to only the super rich.

In the near future, perhaps within our own lifetimes, such trips might be as simple as riding a train… they might even be just as cheap.

This article is dedicated in my own little way as a tribute to the memory of ARTHUR C CLARKE (1917-2008) who was a visionary and a Grand Master of Science Fiction