Beyond #writephoto

Everything alive here, now and before, is the favour of the sun; its light and warmth. In the cold of late winter, before the spring, before the earth has warmed and, in its turn, warmed the air which remains chill to our senses, our sun can give its warmth directly: the wonderful experience of feeling its heat on your body as you walk outdoors, or through a sunlit window as you sit.

To think of all the sentient creatures of the world which have sensed this too. From the time of insects energising their gossamer wings for flight, and upon the scales of giant lizards, the dinosaurs, and the feathers and down of early birds, then the mammals and us.

It is believed, with the irreversible stresses we have placed on the Earth, that the next life forms will not be organic but cybernetic, in order to survive the heat and extremes of the environment. What will a cognitive machine make of the sun’s radiant energy, if it analyses it through an electronic sensor chip, with artificial intelligence; or even senses it at all? What meaning will such an experience have for the soulless beyond?

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto challenge – “Beyond”.


Everything I know about black holes and a lot more that I don’t and made up anyway

a writing prompt challenge

When is a hole not a hole? When it is a Black Hole.

It’s a misnomer but what ought it to be called? A Black Attraction. A black hole, hypothetically, is where everything that’s lost in the Universe might end up: A rogue planet; the Death Star; Voyager I; the boy with the face on the milk carton; Lord Lucan; last Tuesday; and your car keys, but don’t go thinking that’s the last place to look for your lost car keys because black holes are so literally massive, not only will your insignificant keys remain lost, even if you luckily found them, you would find it impossible to return to where you left your car. You would, in essence, be lost too.

The Black Nowhere? They say that even light cannot escape a black hole but what do they say about time? Time will not escape a black hole. You can lose your watch in a black hole and what would it matter?

The Black Nowhen? I have no idea whether these things move through space or whether they’re so big they stay put, not at all influenced by anything around them. What if two black holes came close to each other, would they battle it out? Maybe all the lost stuff in the lesser would get sucked out by the greater. Freedom! Maybe not. I wouldn’t want to risk it.

(231 words)

written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge prompt #82 – “Black Holes”

image: black hole at the centre of galaxy, “M87”, 55 million light years from Earth, taken from data amassed by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – not a telescope exactly but an array of many radio telescopes covering the whole Earth.

A Little Right Entertainment

It’s a minor bug for me how sci-fi spaceships, when arriving at an alien world, go into orbit sideways on to the planet’s surface. This presumes planets have an up and a down and by extension all of the cosmos has a right way up; an intergalactic orderly convention rather like which side of the road is the right side to drive on (but of course, this varies too).

Nearly all futuristic spaceships clearly have a right way up, a design which seems to ignore gravity, or the benefits of not having gravity (I haven’t worked that one out yet). If we take, say, Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, there’s definitely a right way up there. Although it might not be clear where the “portholes” are, I wonder whether or not passengers and crew would get a better view of the planet if the ship orbited with its top side facing the surface. Okay, this probably would alarm the audience intensely and vex them into composing vitriolic emails to the producers, but it may get us thinking: what is right and what is wrong about orbiting planets?

You might say, look, it’s all right as it is and it’s not a problem. And I’d have to agree. When the Enterprise is in orbit around the planet, the right way up on the telly, and it possibly might come across a potentially hostile craft approaching from around the far side, that craft is always the right way up too, despite a 50-50 chance that it could appear to be upside down, assuming that end on is the right way to orbit planets. This never happens. The producers don’t want more irate emails from the armchair critics. You simply have to understand that somewhere in the universe of television and film, there is a sign; a big arrow under the words, THIS WAY UP.

I wonder what the aliens think. I knew a central heating installer once who had an understanding of where a pump should go in the system. It was a fact he’d followed this all his working life. When it was explained to him using thermodynamics, hydraulics and mathematics, that there was a better position to put a pump, he was having none of it. In response to the science was his own adamant law: “it goes there because that’s where it goes”. It’s a human thing, and so, how can it be wrong?

(400 words)

written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #71 – “Getting It Right”

The Upright Creator

Sue Vincent’s comment on The Name of the Cloud That Ate The Sun has me thinking about a creator and its motives.

The idea of God, the creator, of the Abrahamic faiths has Him creating us in his image. This is understandable as we readily create imaginary beings in our own image, or partly so. Intelligent alien life is usually bipedal, with limbs and a head on top with eyes and ears and a multi-functioning mouth – and many of them speak fluent English in an American accent. The popular idea of a robot is also a bipedal machine.

Given that bipeds came last in line, whether it’s creationism or evolution, what gives with all the other stuff which came before? Well, robots might be the clue. Getting the things to stand upright and walk. It’s not easy and with a lot of robotics, this is an unnecessary fancy but it doesn’t stop a lot of technicians struggling with the concept. They will succeed but more because of god than being good designers, I think.

But why would a creator be bipedal, being, as it were, out there in space and existent throughout all time? Why would it need to stand up when there is no up in which to stand?

image from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam

Steampunk no.1

The Backwards-in-time-and-awfully-long-distance machine, referred to affectionally as Bitaald by my worthy companion, Sir Clifford Edge, had been playing up lately and I know not what the cause is, and if I, Professor Barthélémy Bartolomie, doesn’t know, I’d like to meet the one who does!

Take yesterday. I’d set the dials for a brief sojourn on the South coast in last Summer’s heatwave, on the request of Sir Cliff who’s been feeling the cold. Off we went but almost immediately the air-conditioning started playing up, much to the disgruntlement of my friend. Then, bang!, we appeared to have arrived.

Eager to see the sea, Sir Cliff wiped away some of the condensation brought on by the air-conditioning. To his utter dismay, he found we had barely managed to get beyond the end of the driveway. Worse still, the calendar gauges indicated it was only last Thursday afternoon and, worst of all, the barometers predicted rain.

(163 words)

Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, Challenge #182.

It’s called Steampunk no.1 for want of a title. I had the inspiration straightaway but no idea where the Victorian angle sprang from.

This week’s photo prompt provided by Wildverbs. Thank you Wildverbs.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE and please click on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

Three Things

Little Wheelie Carry-On Suitcases

I think everyone who flies these days makes do with a hand luggage sized suitcase. I mean, who wants to waste an hour watching other people’s luggage go around a carousel? Not me. Not you either by the look of the way things have gone.

One thing about it that baffles me a bit is why the wheels? I see many fit and strapping blokes pulling an incy-wincy case behind them when it could easily be carried. The way I see it is, if it didn’t have the retractable handle to pull it with, it’d have more capacity inside for clothes and toiletries.

For a week, or even two weeks, away, there’s an art to packing these little blighters and though I may flatter myself at my proficiency, the guy at Gentleman’s Gazette, over on Youtube, is the absolute master by comparison. Since discovering the sartorial Sven Raphael Schneider some months back, and blogging on his excellent style tips, his videos often pop up as Youtube suggestions. I’m fascinated and though I have little fashion consciousness myself, it amazes me how often I agree with him.

Anyway, Mr. Schneider advises that it is preferable to roll up some items, as opposed to folding them which I would do without thinking, so as to prevent creases. Well I’m going to be rolling my packing as well in future, just to see. Brilliant!

Iron Rain

This is not going to be about some European Heavy Metal band; know me, I wouldn’t do that to you.

I am still fascinated by astronomers who have discovered a planet which they believe to be the hottest known planet. It is that close to its parent sun that temperatures on its surface are capable of vaporising the iron and titanium present.

It has been imagined that other exoplanets exist orbiting close to their star that their weather systems might comprise clouds of aluminium, iron and other metals, and these systems could suggests it literally rains down molten iron rods. I just wonder what they make their umbrellas out of.

This sort of science cracks me up. There’s all these Sci-fi books and movies being made – The Martian, Mars Mission, Fly Me To Jupiter and back, whatever – and it’s all bollocks. It’s essentially Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction; it belongs with stories about ghosts, hobbits and zombies. Sci-Fa, not Sci-fi. The truth is far more amazing yet the fools seem oblivious to it.

Drink Like An Italian

Yes, apparently, according to statistics and an analysis of my alcohol intake last week, I drink like an average Italian. It makes me want to shout and gesticulate whilst wearing a playfully severe expression at the BBC TV article which suggests it.

Actually, I think it’s the Italians whose lifestyles we are told to emulate – good food, long life, and they certainly wear the best clothes (I’m sure Mr. Schneider would agree).

It’s a bit disappointing to read we have a serious drinking problem in the UK despite having the lowest recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the known universe. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, whose own consumption is the basis for the BBC’s new show about “moderate drinking”, admits to drinking every day though believes he’s not an alcoholic. If he drinks every day, how can he know he isn’t addicted?

Ah, there’s too much of this government guideline business, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to see Mr. Chiles and his tormented liver do a U-turn; I’m happy to carry on being an Italian.


How To Pack A Carry-On Suitcase (Youtube)

KELT-9b – The first exoplanet discovered with an iron atmosphere

Booze Calculator By Nationality (BBC News)

I have just invented the hitherto impossible backwards in time machine

As I approach the final day of work, I’ve noticed a phenomenon where extra weeks seem to be slotting in between now and that day, seemingly from nowhere (or should that be nowhen?) For example, I was looking at the project planner the other day and hadn’t realised August has five weeks, not four, so I’m a week further out in my estimation. What a drag.

It dawned on me how this phenomenon is likely a universal one. I remember now when we were kids, the approach of a birthday, or Christmas morning, seemed to slow the nearer we got to it. It obviously has to do with the intensity of looking forward to a desired event.

So if I can gather in a room enough people approaching the end of a mundane career, we would experience time gradually slowing down. Then, adding more and more such people, we could stop time completely.

It doesn’t take a quantum leap in imagination to see that the addition of just one more similar person would effectively reverse time’s arrow. Those fortunate enough to be in the room closest to the window will see the seasons slowly change from Summer to Spring, and soon enough little children will be wrapping their presents up to give to Santa, turkeys will be resurrected from ovens the world over, and leaves will begin attaching themselves to trees.

So let us forget the impracticality of going to Mars. Let us save our planet by going backwards. If you’re up for it and have an itch for a future date, get in touch. Our time room awaits us.

Refreshments will be provided.

Exactly what is time? – The Arrow of Time

Psychology Today – The way we experience time is no illusion

Strap yourself in, please, you’re the passenger now

This may come across as a bit of a moan – and I’m deeply sorry for that – but actually it’s just vaguely related stuff that pin-balled around the old noggin today. Maybe try reading it while humming Iggy Pop’s The Passenger? Otherwise, just wait a while and they’ll be another post along shortly…

I had half an eye on the telly the other night when a Star Trek movie came on, and I watched it long enough to see how ridiculous it has become compared to the original. What I saw was an over-the-top action movie, set in space, of course, but all the science is superficial. It’s just a fantasy war film.

Given the real trajectory of technological progress in evidence, it seems unlikely that the final frontier will be patrolled by a military class of slightly maverick warriors. If people are in attendance, I think they will more likely be scientists and academics, possibly a few diplomats, but they will be travelling through the cosmos as passengers. Computer technology will be driving the ship and evading potential dangers and hostilities, even though the risk from alien adversaries is slight.

But, no doubt, movies in the future will still show seemingly intelligent beings destroying each other in balls of flame and, lastly and when all else fails, good old fashioned hand to hand combat. No one sits down to watch the grass grow.

This week, a nice engineer took time to explain to me the procedure for getting an add-on piece of software to calculate some element sizes. Basically, it amounted to putting your faith in the code writer’s unseen algorithm and clicking a “button”. I did ask some questions: whether it took into account this or that, really. In short, how it performed the calculations. After all, it should be ultra-accurate and comprehensive if anything, otherwise what’s the point? The engineer didn’t know. Faith is blind.

Okay, I used to be one of the old school guys who had to work everything out from basic principles. I didn’t do it out of love, there wasn’t a choice. Drawings, calculations, all done long-handed with equations and reference tables. When they came along, I was one of the first in my firm to use a computer; I really took to it. As an undergrad., I could easily have swapped courses and tried computer programming instead had I not been sponsored by my firm specifically to study the course I was on. Computers offered speed and efficiency over hand drawing and calculations, their place is indisputable. But in later years, I’ve begun to miss the old school methods; I think they made you think more, and thinking, as Descartes suggested, is crucial to human identity. Pressing a button, any fool, or even non-human, can do.

It’s coming to the time when we’re thinking about replacement cars. We have one each but, if I quit work, we may only need the one. My wife suggested an “automatic”. Apparently, all her friends are looking into them. Coincidentally, my Dad told me he was thinking about getting one too. Why?

My wife said, with an automatic, you don’t have to think about changing gears. Okay, but with a manual (stick shift), I don’t have to think about changing gears either, I just do it – automatically. She wasn’t impressed. Still, soon we’ll all be getting into driverless cars and you know what that’ll mean: we’ll all be passengers.


Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, (1950 – 67), created by Frank Hampson.

America’s Power Companies’ advert for driverless car, from 1956.

The Passenger by Iggy Pop (youtube)

Are you still trying to get your head around gravity waves?

(It sounds like one of those old style adverts, like I’m about to sell you something.)

You need New CAVORITE!! For those moments when life’s just weighing you down!

No, I mean actual gravity waves. Seems like we’re all on an invisible, tilting cosmic blanket, continuously falling. Don’t ask me but it explains how planets orbit the sun. What would Newton have made of it? All I can say is it’s a long way from the apple.

Cavorite is the invention of Mr. Cavor, the physicist and inventor from The First Men In The Moon, by H.G. Wells. It works by shielding whatever’s on the other side of it from the attraction of gravity. So, if you had a shield made from the stuff, and you sat on it, it would obstruct the gravitational force between the Earth and you and you and the shield would fly heavenwards. Cover a shed with it and it’ll take you to the moon, which is more or less what they did in the book. I don’t know how well this would work on a cosmic blanket though to be honest.

Anti-gravity plays a part in my favourite ever anti-gravity perpetual motion machine. It’s ingenious. It relies on a couple of truths: that a cat, in any position, falling from a given height, will always land on its feet; and buttered bread, or toast, invariably lands butter side down. So, what if a slice of buttered bread was secured to a cat’s back, inverted and then dropped from a reasonable altitude?

Logic would suggest there’d be a consternation of continuous revolving of cat-toast combination whilst failing to hit the ground at anytime. Brilliant!

Gravity Waves (Youtube)

The First Men In The Moon by HG Wells

“I was progressing in leaps and bounds” illustration by Claude Alin Shepperson

Buttered Cat Paradox Thought Experiment (illustration by Greg Williams)

Flash Fiction: Photo Prompt

We don’t know where the yarnspinners came from, nor exactly when they came. It wouldn’t help anyway as they are so adept at camouflage. I don’t mean just their appearance, but even in this we cannot be sure, but the ability to warp truth. Imagine you knew they arrived on a precise date, the fact would be specious because this is exactly what they do; distort things, by infiltrating and undermining our cognition.

And so their appearance is deceiving too. Do you remember the roof fan being there yesterday?

(89 words)

This week’s Flash Fiction story for Flash Fiction For Aspiring Writers was inspired by the picture on the left, and kindly provided by Yarnspinnerr.

Thanks Yarnspinnerr!

As you can see, the story is as much inspired by our photo provider’s name as it was the photo, so thanks twice over.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.