Opportunity’s feats

The NASA Mars Rover Opportunity has been traveling across the Martian surface for ten years, covering 40 km and thereby breaking a forty years’ old record for extraterrestrial rovers. Already at the beginning of its sojourn on the Red Planet, it quickly carried out its primary task: finding minerals that indicated the presence of liquid water in the distant past. And it still keeps on rolling.

Read more about Opportunity’s ongoing exploration here — link >>>

The Case for Female Astronauts

The preparations for a human expedition of Mars proceed along many research paths. One long-duration experiment in a Mars-base mock-up indicates that female astronauts would consume considerably less food than male ones. Also, the smaller size of their bodies provides an advantage when working in cramped zero-G accommodations and females appear to be generally more able to cope with long-term isolation. All in all important factors when equipping and crewing a spaceship whose voyage will last for a year or two.

Read more about this research here — link >>>

Scientist Kate Greene outside the Mars-base mock-up on Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Musik till Wolframfästet

I innevarande och några kommande nummer av speltidningen Fenix publiceras artiklar om min barockfuturistiska SF-kampanj Aftonvärlden/Wolframfästet. Av en tillfällighet hittade jag animationer hos Animusic av fantastiska musikinstrument på webben. Ett klipp passade precis ihop med kampanjmiljöns stämning. Tyvärr kan jag inte lägga upp den här direkt, men klicka på den här länken: Resonant Chamber Music >>>

Så här ser det märkliga instrument ut:

Sēo Rǣdels þæs Hringes

Þrēo Hringas for þǣm ælfcyningum under þǣm swegl,
Seofon for þǣm dweorgfrēan in hieran stāne heallum,
Nigon for þǣm motlican menn tō dēaðe gedēmed,
Ān for þǣm deorc hlāford on deorcful stōlum
In þǣm lande Mordor, hwǣr þā sceadwe mīðaþ.

Ān Hring, hīe ealle tō wealdenne, eall tō findenne,
Eall tō gefecgenne and in þǣre deorcnesse tō bindenne,

In þǣm lande Mordor, hwǣr þā sceadwe mīðaþ.

This is Tolkien’s Ring Verse in in Old English, one of the languages he taught at Oxford university.

Show, don’t tell!

I walk through the dry hills
I hold the little girl’s hand
I wrestle the wildfire
I share the pain
Because if not I, who?
If not now, when?

In 2008-09 I served six months as a civilian specialist in a European Union non-military undertaking in Kabul. When I came home, I summarized my experiences in the six lines above. Some years have passed, but the memories of that war-torn country still burn bright.

People have many times asked me why I, a well-established middle-aged professional, chose to accept something as hazardous and arduous as that assignment.

When I look at my kids growing up in our quiet corner of the world, it hurts to know that such childhoods are a privilege enjoyed by far too few. The American writer Chaim Potok spoke of “sacred discontent”, i.e. the emotion that propels the common citizen to stand up against injustices by putting himself on the line: “This just can’t go on.” I want to teach my kids the difference between what is important in life and what is fluff. And I can only do that by walking the walk.