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Space Archaeology » Miscellaneous

The Dark Side of the Sun

In Terry Pratchett’s science fiction novel The Dark Side of the Sun a search for the enigmatic galactic forerunner race the Jokers hinges on the meaning of that phrase. In the end (and this isn’t a spoiler – the novel was published 35 years ago) the “dark side of the sun” is revealed to refer to the Jokers’ return to a non-sapient state to await the evolution of other, different, minds with new perspectives. I was recently reading the science fiction encyclopedia entry on Devolution. It’s one of those words (like deceleration) which a pedant might chide you for using – it implies an inherent direction in evolution. There’s a strong subset of science fiction concerned with more highly advanced or highly evolved species than our own, or our own transcendence. But … Read entire article »

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Day of the Amoeba: Mass Hysteria in Charlotte, NC, 1965

4 August, 1965. Panic sweeps the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, when local radio station WIST broadcasts a news flash: ”An amoeba is loose somewhere on the outskirts of the city!” Terrified children tried to get home to their parents, who were jamming phone lines to the police in desperate attempts to find their children. The panic was described as “one of the worst disturbances in the city’s history”. A city of 80,000 in an uproar over an amoeba – a creature smaller than a millimeter across. A year later the Federal Communications Commission officially censured the radio station for alarming the scientifically illiterate population of Charlotte. Police phone lines were tied up for three hours, and “three times” the number of telephonists were put on duty to handle the calls. I came across this story … Read entire article »

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Minus Ten and Counting: Songs of the Space Age

I was putting together a blog post about space songs when I discovered this amazing collection of filk from 1983. Minus Ten and Counting: Songs of the Space Age was apparently immensely popular in science fiction circles. After the 2500 original cassette tapes quickly sold out, the album was widely bootlegged, but has never been re-released because of copyright and personality conflicts among its contributors. Enjoy! Surprise! (Sputnik) — written by Leslie Fish, performed by Leslie Fish, Roy Torley, Julia Ecklar … Read entire article »

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Martian Christmas

Someone on Twitter said “Merry Martian Christmas”, and I immediately thought, “Wait a moment – Mars has a longer year than Earth, so it’s highly unlikely that an anniversary would coincide on both planets.” So I did some back of the napkin math to calculate the true date of Christmas on Mars. I began with the assumption that Jesus Christ was born on the putative date of 25 December 1 B.C. There’s lots of debate about what year or time of year Christ might really have been born, but no one is rescheduling their Christmas parties over it. To calculate the length of time since the birth of Christ seemed like a tricky proposition, what with all the leap years, and the change from Julian to Gregorian calendar. Fortunately, astronomers have given every day … Read entire article »

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