Pages: The Age of Miracles
I just finished reading Karen Thompson Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES, a lovely, pensive book about what happens when the Earth's rotation begins to slow. Yep, that's right, another book I love about the end of life on Earth as we know it! One day I'll figure out why I'm addicted to stories about the worst possible versions of our future...
As far as this particular gem goes, Walker draws readers into the devastating scenario through her 11 year-old narrator Julia. Smart, quiet, yearning for acceptance, Julia chronicles "the slowing" (the name given to the situation) against the backdrop of 6th grade - a time when it doesn't take a natural disaster for one's world to turn upside down. The days and nights may be getting longer and longer, but eternity has a different meaning entirely when your best friend deserts you at the lunch table for other, more popular girls. Or when you're trying to think of just the right thing to say to the boy you like who has finally realized you exist.
In an NPR interview, Walker says that she did scientific research to help make the story feel realistic.
"I would lift details from newspaper stories," she says. Reports on strange weather, climate change, extinctions and industrial farming all became fodder for the story.
When it was done, Walker worked up the nerve to show her manuscript to an astrophysicist. "I was relieved at how many of the consequences [of the slowing] he felt were based in real science," she says. "And then he helped me make a few of them a little more realistic."
This got me curious about scientists' answers to the "what if" scenario Walker presents, which includes all of the things she mentions in the interview, as well as changes to gravitational force and the Earth's magnetic field. If you're curious as well, here' are some topical tidbits for ya':
- Over at "Ask the Astronomer," Dr. Sten Odenwald answers the question: "What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?"
- Joelle Renstrom's post on Slate.com: "Could the Earth's Rotation Really Slow Down Like It Does in the New Novel THE AGE OF MIRACLES?", in which she mainly focuses on tidal friction. [FYI, she has a blog called COULD THIS HAPPEN?, where she explores the relationship between science and science fiction. Lots of yummy reading there, and possibilities for S'lush postings...have a feeling I'm going to lose a lot of time to this one...].
Neal DeGrasse Tyson's ComicCon Spaceship Smackdown
Sadly, I was not able to attend ComicCon this year. The only consolation is that because I didn't go, I didn't have to make the difficult decision of which events to actually attend! But apparently one session I would not have wanted to miss was this year's Starship Smackdown panel. As described in the ComicCon program guide:
The must-see panel of Comic-Con, brought to you by the new Geek Magazine, as featured on National Public Radio, returns for another action-packed year as the greatest spaceships in the history of the universe converge in the ultimate cosmic conflagration for the highly-coveted Smackdown title in Comic-Con's most scholarly and erudite panel. Will the Enterprise once again defeat an Imperial Star Destroyer? Can the Serenity make mincemeat out of the Battlestar Galactica? In space, can anyone hear you scream on the Prometheus and can you actually get cell reception in the TARDIS? And what exactly is the "Captain's Courageous" lightning round anyway?
A group of experts debating the merits of competing (fictional) spacecraft? Sign me up!! But what made this year's Smackdown particularly notable was the spontaneous address from audience member Neal deGrasse Tyson. Yep, that's right...when the panelists couldn't make a final decision about which ship was going to take the 2012 title, they turned to the audience for help. And luckily for them, there just happened to be a famous astrophysicist in attendance. Here's what he had to say:
RIP Sally Ride
I don't remember a time when there weren't female astronauts.
I have Sally Ride to thank for that.
- NASA Tribute: An overview of Ride's accomplishments
- SallyRideScience.com: The science education company she founded dedicated to supporting children's - especially girs' - interests in science, math and technology.
- Space.com has a number of tributes to Ride. My favorite is a personal memory from X-Prize Chairman/CEO Peter H. Diamandis: "I remember clearly the signs at the Cape during STS-7..."RIDE SALLY RIDE AND ALL YOU GUYS CAN GO ALONG TOO"... All of us rode with Sally on that flight. Her passion and dedication to education and to inspiring women to become scientists and engineers will be sorely missed."
- Related Reading: THE MERCURY 13: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 13 AMERICAN WOMEN AND THE DREAM OF SPACEFLIGHT: Martha Ackmann's book about the women who pre-dated Ride, training in secret in 1961 for the Mercury missions, with the hopes of becoming America's first female astronauts.
ABCNews coverage of Ride's passing, which includes several clips of Ride
Ride talks about her historic flight on NASA's 50th anniversary