Summer reading

The fact of the matter is that I have too many books I haven’t either read or never finished. I love to buy books and I cannot keep up with the pace I buy them. I do have the intention of finishing them off as soon as I’ve bought them, but then some other book grabs my attention and I move on.

So, to actually get myself around to actually reading what I’ve got here, I decided to make a list. One summer won’t certainly be enough to finish it off, seeing as I’ve got some other stuff beside reading to do as well.

Fiction:

Fantasy/Sci-fi:

  • Shadowmarch -quartet, Tad Williams
    • I’ve read the first three years ago, but it took me so long getting my hands on 4, that I’ve forgotten too much to keep reading.
  • Gormenghast trilogy, Mervyn Peake
    • Started a couple summers ago, got sidetracked and never finished.
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
    • And one sequel, though I seem to have misplaced it. Started over a year ago, but was in a mood for a bit easier reading at the time so didn’t finish then. 

Classics:

  • 1984,George Orwell
    • Shame on me, but at least I’ve got it.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
    • Bought for a bargain price. Part of the “read more classics”-initiative.
  • Alastalon salissa, Volter Kilpi
    • A Finnish literary classic. 800 pages or so spent to describe one day – about 70 pages are spent on a man trying to choose a pipe. Notorious for being difficult to finish.
  • The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • Haven’t much delved into Russian literature past Anna Karenina and Master and Margarita, but let’s fix that?
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • Seen a play of this once, but I guess I was too young then for anything past the stealing and guilty conscience to leave a trace in my memory.  
  • Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
    • I’ve got a lovely edition with both the Old English and Modern versions. Read parts one Christmas. Should really get back to it.

Other:

  • 1Q84 The complete collection, Haruki Murakami
    • Impulse buy from when I got my tattoo. Started it on the way home, but haven’t finished.
  • Dangerous Women 1-3, G.R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, ed.
    • Almost done with 1, took only one sunny day at the summer cottage pier. Easy reading thus far, although not every story’s been to my personal taste thus far.
  • The Hand of Fatima, Idelfonso Falcones
    • I love history fiction, but somehow this book failed to grasp me. Maybe it might have, but I gave up twice under 100 pages in. Third time’s the charm, I hope.
  • Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
    • I have absolutely no preconceptions of this book. None. Maybe only one thus far listed I have never ever even opened, though it’s been on the shelf for some six months. Very odd, but somehow very refreshing.

I’ll add to this after I give my bookshelf a more thorough comb. For now rather manageable…

Non-fiction:

History:

  • Catherine the Great and Potemkin, Simon Sebag Montefiore
    • I started this one on the train and it starts great, but as usual I haven’t read further. One I’ll certainly like as Romanovs have been a favorite history subject since my early teens.
  • The Romanov Sisters – The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, Helen Rappaport
    • What’s with the names, seriously? In “Romanov”-category.
  • Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
    • I’ve loved this sort of books since I was a kid. High expectations.
  • The Popes – A History, John Julius Norwich
    • Yet another interest I’ve had for years. For the history aspect, mostly; religion isn’t my thing.
  • My Heart is My Own, John Guy
    • History of Mary Queen of Scots. I bought this from London 2006 and to my immense shame have never gotten past the halfway point.
  • The Good Wife’s Guide – Le Ménagier de Paris, trans. Greco & Rose
    • General interest in medieval life. I’ve read parts of it and it’s very interesting, but to my taste excessive mentions of God and lecturing on the virtues a wife should have while being reminded that men can do whatever. As one should expect, but it gets old after a while.
  • Victoria, A.N.Wilson
    • Of the life and times of Queen Victoria. Read first ten pages or so in the train, should get back to it, seems well researched and thorough yet easy to read.
  • The Inheritance of Rome, Chris Wickham
    • About how Rome had an effect on its former territories even after collapsing. I got around to the collapse of Byzantium the first time around but had to take a break at that point for some reason and never got back to it.
  • Malleus Maleficarum, Heinrich Kramer
  • Geoponika, trans. Andrew Dalby
    • An ancient Greek essay on agriculture, I believe. 

Humanist Sciences:

  • Kuoleman voimat, Kaarina Koski
    • A Master’s thesis (or even a doctorate? I forget). It’s about pre-christian beliefs on spirit-creatures that lasted through to the early years of the 20th century. Finnish mythology is a very interesting field. Should write a post about this.
  • Suomen kansan muinaisia loitsurunoja, Elias Lönnrot
    • Ancient Spell-Poems of the Finnish People would be the title in English. Unfortunately, many of the spell-poems in this book have been christianized – Virgin Mary or Jesus is mentioned in several in place of relevant Finnish deities. I’ve read some poems but haven’t touched some segments at all. Still very interesting.
  • On the Map, Simon Garfield
    • Started, haven’t finished. I love old maps and Garfield writes well, but somehow just got sidetracked.
  • Worse than War, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
    • I have started this I know I have, but I can’t recall anything about it right now. I remember I thought it very interesting but for some reasons abandoned.
  • Poetics and Rhetorics, Aristotle
    • Took this for reading while in Greece. Didn’t read past the first chapter because was too busy doing other stuff while there.
  • Merchant, Soldier, Sage, David Priestland
    • Might be more a history book. On the universal roles of Warrior, Trader and Shaman throughout history in different cultures. Tried to use this as bed reading, was too effective at that time.

This will be a very long list. So I will probably edit more in as I comb through the shelves. Let’s start with these, OK? Great.

I will be taking a veritable library with me to Northern Karelia when we finally get to go there in a few weeks. Nothing else to do but read if the weather is bad and some reading by the lake if the weather is good, so win/win.

I’ll go rearrange the shelves. I think read/not-read this time. Updates incoming eventually.

Update #1:

I added about a dozen entries to the list and divided it in sections. There are still some books I need to add (!?! I know), but at the moment I need sleep more. I’ll get back to you on that later.

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Possible Targets Pt.2

I just realized I never actually followed up with this. Let’s fix that right now, shall we?

Gliese 581

  • 20 light years away
  • has 3 confirmed planet
    • possibly 3 more
    • at least one of the planets is too hot to sustain life
    • one confirmed to be in the habitable zone
  • red dwarf star
  • has a comet belt surrounding the system at ˜25-60 astronomical units

Gliese 667

  • 23,6 light years away
  • 3-star system
    • A and B orbit each other in 42,15 years, C orbits the pair at a distance of 230 astronomical units
    • A has 73% of the Sun’s mass, 76% radius and 12-13% luminosity
    • B has 69% mass and 5% luminosity
    • C is a red dwarf with 31% mass, 42% radius and 1,4% luminosity
  • C has at least 2 planets
    • one of these may have liquid water and is warmer than Earth

Vega

  • 25 light years away
  • blue-tinged
  • 455 million years old
  • 400% of the Sun’s luminosity, twice the mass
  • fast rotation makes the star wider in the middle
  • surrounded by a debris disk spanning 70-100 to 330 astronomical units (may reach as far as 815 AU)
  • may have a planet or planets larger than Jupiter on orbit
    • may also have a planet the size of Neptune and smaller planets closer to the star

Small fun fact: can be seen during the summer in the Northern hemisphere, where it will shine brighter than the last star of Ursa Minor’s tail, roughly opposite to said star.

Gliese 876

  • red dwarf star
  • 32% mass and 1,24% luminosity of the Sun
  • at least 4 planets in orbit
    • two of those may be about the size of Jupiter
    • two are in the habitable zone, 0,116-0,227 AU
  • depending upon theory thought to be either 6,5-6,9 billion years or 0,1-5 billion years old

 

Possible targets pt. 1

I’ve yet a few more promising star systems to research, but let’s split the post in two. So, without further ado…

Alpha Centauri

  • 4,37 light years away
  • three star system, Alpha Centauri A and B and Proxima Centauri
    • Alpha Centauri A has 110% mass and 151,9% luminosity of the Sun, yellow in color
    • B has 90,7% mass and 44,5% luminosity, orange in color
    • Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf
  • Slightly older than the Sun, 4,5-7 billion years
  • planets:
    • Alpha Centauri B has one planet, 20,4 day orbit time; too close for life. Possibility of other planets in the habitable zone (0,5-0,9 AU)

Barnard’s Star

  • 6 light years away
  • low-mass red dwarf
  • 7-12 billion years old
  • 0,14 solar mass, 15-20% of the Sun’s radius
  • planets in the habitable zone would be very close to the star and suffer from solar flares etc.

Sirius

  • 6 light years away
  • consists of Sirius A and B
    • A is about twice the size of the Sun
    • B is a white dwarf
  • 2-300 million years old
  • orbit each other in 50,1 years
  • no confirmed planets

Epsilon Eridani

  • 10,5 light years away
  • at least one giant planet in orbit, 2 asteroid belts. May have another planet within a dust belt
  • 82% of the Sun’s mass, 74% of the Sun’s radius, 34% luminosity
  • presence of a large planet at a close proximity to the star makes finding a planet in the habitable zone (0,5-1,4 AU) unlikely

Tau Ceti

  • 78% of the Sun’s mass, 79,5% radius, 55% luminosity
  • planets:
    • possibly five in orbit, all larger than Earth
    • orbit periods 14-640 days
    • two of those in the habitable zone
    • debris risk about ten times greater than in our solar system, makes life unlikely in the system

Propulsion

So, a few words on my propulsion research.

I don’t really think this is everything possible said on the subject, likely I’m only glancing at the tip of the iceberg. However, I really doubt I should ever go into too much detail on mechanics and mathematics behind the actual function of whatever propulsion method I choose to use (the really nitpicky technical details are something I quite often just glace through when reading Sci-Fi) ’cause not that many people would understand them or appreciate them.

You know, all that stuff is just a bit heavy on the brain. And I’m sure not just my brain. Boring people to death with technical details is not really what I’m after with this story, although I think I should drop the occasional line about the matter that would actually be true and/or plausible.

So, on to the possible means of moving through space!

Nuclear fission

Ion engine

With this engine, electric power is used to create charged particles of the fuel. The fuel used would usually be Xenon. The charged particles are then accelerated to extremely high velocities.

It’s a rather low force solution, but possible speed is only limited by the power available. What would be used to supply that power is bit of a mystery to me at this point.

The down-side of this solution is that it’s only suitable for interplanetary travel. Perhaps it is suitable for use in some of the smaller spacecraft used after human race has conquered far away systems. Not to be used in my interstellar (intergalactic?) ship.

Fission-electric

This is a very long-lasting engine type at low thrust.

However, it is limited to deep-space operations as it would not be able to leave atmosphere. It would stay in-orbit and landing to planetary surface should be done with smaller, higher-thrust vessels.

Also, it’s not suitable for interstellar travel.

Fission-fragment

Creates high-speed jets of nuclear fragment ejected at about 12000 km/s. In order to reach maximum velocity the reaction mass should consist of fission products.

This type uses a lot of fuel and therefore isn’t all that cost-effective for any long journey (the fuel I assume would take quite some room).

Nuclear pulse

Driven forward by series of nuclear explosions.With fusion-antimatter catalyst this one could reach 10% of the speed of light. If instead a pure matter-antimatter annihilation rockets were used, this could theoretically achieve 50-80% of the speed of light.

The problem with this system would be slowing down: either about 50% of the fuel would need to be saved for slowing down or alternate solutions need to be used. For this purpose, a magnetic sail has been proposed.

Project Daedalus from 1970s took the idea a bit further. The plan was to use externally triggered inertial confinement fusion. What this means is that fusion explosions are produces via compressing fusion fuel pellets with electron beams. Also laser, ion beams, neutral particle beams and hyperkinetic projectiles have been suggested in place of electron beams.

Nuclear fusion rockets

Can reach up to 10% of the speed of light. With enough fusion stages could reach close to the speed of light.

Antimatter rockets

If energy resources and efficient production methods to make antimatter in quantities needed are found and the antimatter could be stored safely, this propulsion method could theoretically reach speeds of several tens of percents of that of light.

So, the problem really is that 1) we don’t have the energy resources to make enough antimatter, 2) we can’t do it efficiently currently even if we had the energy and 3) we don’t know how to store it.

Then there’s the fact that at the annihilation of antimatter quite a bit of energy is lost to gamma radiation and neutrinos. Just because of the radiation some sort of shielding methods would be needed to protect passengers and cargo.

As far as I gather this would still be a better choice (if we forget the radiation) as about 40% of mc² would be available. With nuclear fusion it’s only 1%. If the loss of fuel to radiation and neutrinos could be prevented the number could be higher.

Speculated methods

Just a list. Might revise to expand on these later.

  • quark matter
  • Hawking radiation rockets
  • faster-than-light travel
  • Alcubierre drive

So, there are quite a few choices. I can’t lie and say I’d understand much of what I’ve read on the matter and therefore decided to focus on the parts I’m actually sure I got (or think I understood, whichever is closer).

Should have paid more attention in my physiscs classes…

 

What is required to travel to outer space?

This is pretty much the first question I’ll need to answer to transfer my human subjects realistically to my own galaxy far far away.

Obviously, the ship will require a power source capable of moving a massive ship for a very long distance at a very high speed. Do I want to have my humans live through several generations during the ship, should I go for stasis solution or wormhole travel?

I know they’d need to have some sort of vegetable garden – or several – within the ship. Should I also take chicken aboard – a source of protein and doesn’t require as much food as larger livestock. The chicken would also provide a natural fertilizer to use in the gardens. In that respect, perhaps a few pigs or goats might be a good investment also, although then you’d need to invest also in room available. And, especially if travel takes many generations, breeding the animals.

Of course, the ship will have to have room for a large number of people. It will need cooking facilities, communal space for rest and recreation, a gym… And one of the most important things, control room. Maybe I should draw myself some maps of what it could be like? I need to have a clear impression on where they’re going, what are they likely to see on the way, etc.

There is also the need for personnel. A captain, control room staff, engineers for maintenance, computer techs, all sort of managerial staff to handle the day-to-day life of the ship (food use, waste management…), doctors, people to work the gardens, with the possible animals, cooking, if I’m going for the generation travel, teachers are of vital importance… A ton of tasks, so no one should really be unemployed.

If we go for the stasis solution, most of the points above would be moot. I doubt I’d go for stasis, because it kind of removes the “journey” part of the journey story. ‘They went to stasis and woke up a week before they found a good planet.’  Stasis would, however, make this last part very interesting.

How do we choose who goes and who stays? The best and brightest of their fields? An even mix of all cultures and beliefs, all chosen for their abilities to colonize new worlds. This should really give a good chance to explore human psyche and behavior in writing. It’ll also pose a great challenge to create so many individuals and trying to act as they would as representatives of different cultures.

That leads to the next question: how soon in the future am I setting their departure date? If they depart a hundred years from now, world might be drastically different.

In any case, I will have to do some research in many cultures should I go for the multicultural approach, just to avoid stereotypes.

Lets see what happens to the preliminary listing I just presented when I put a bit of study time into some of these questions. I fear this will just be the tip of the iceberg: there is a great deal I don’t know in the field of mechanics and technology, and I don’t really want to make huge mistakes. Glossing over in broad terms isn’t always the way to go, it just sometime points ever clearer towards a lack of knowledge in an area.

Next, I think, I need a list on subjects to refresh my knowledge on. I might do a post about useful research material and some pointers I got from that.