How long to travel to Alpha Centauri?

In April 2016, Russian high-tech billionaire Yuri Milner announced a new and ambitious initiative called Breakthrough Starshot, which intends to pour $100 million into proof-of-concept studies for an entirely new technology for star travel, aimed at unmanned space flight at 20% of light speed, with the goal of reaching the Alpha Centauri system – and, presumably, its newly discovered planet Proxima b – within 20 years. Is it possible?

I doubt it, but it’s an interesting read.  –cathypl

Click here to see designs of possible FTL space ships.

The Hugo ceremony at World Con 75

WC 75 : We are happy to report that we have 3319 final ballot voters for the 2017 Hugo Awards! The third highest ever!
Can’t make it to Helsinki? Watch the Hugo ceremony on Youtube.

Just remember, it will be on Friday in Helsinki, not the usual Saturday. Watch for it around noonish.

Worldcon 75 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte says: “We do plan to livestream, but won’t be able to share the link until the day of the ceremony.”

At the Hugo Awards Web Site, Kevin Standlee has compiled the available information about 2017 Hugo Ceremony coverage:

WHEN: The 2017 Hugo Awards Ceremony begins Friday, August 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern European Summer Time (UTC+3)

WHERE: Messukeskus (Convention Center) Hall 1 in Helsinki, Finland.

VIDEO: Worldcon 75 Helsinki plans to offer live video streaming of the Hugo Awards ceremony via their YouTube channel.

TEXT: The Hugo Awards web site will offer text-based coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony via CoverItLive. The hosts will be Kevin Standlee, Cheryl Morgan, and Susan de Guardiola. You can sign up at the CoverItLive event site for an e-mail notification before the event starts.

Into the Unknown at the London Barbican

Into the Unknown at the London Barbican

Twiki, menaced by Robbie in the background

By Mark Hepworth: The events that London’s premier arts venue The Barbican is currently hosting include a production of The Tempest, a viewing of a David Lynch biopic, a display of paintings on the subject of Sufism and music…and an exhibition on the history of Science Fiction. There is often a feeling of tension between SF and the artistic mainstream, be it a sense of resentment when someone like Margaret Atwood seems to try to manoeuvre away from the genre label, or slightly dismissive reviews in the ‘serious’ press. While genre barriers do seem to be falling, it’s still unusual to see SF getting such deep attention, and so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to fit in a visit to “Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction” to see how it treated its subject.

Billed as a festival-style exhibition with more than 800 works, it is scattered across several floors and areas of the Barbican. The curator is Swiss historian and writer Patrick Gyger, whose bio gives impressive credentials – he was director of the Swiss SF collection “Maison d’Ailleurs” where he opened a wing dedicated to Jules Verne, has worked with the European Space Agency, run Utopiales, and been GoH at Eurocon.

‘The Extraordinary Voyage’ itself

His exhibition begins with a walk through four loosely-themed sections, and in the first his love of Jules Verne comes through very clearly as you enter: Extraordinary Voyages begins with the early years of wonder and speculation, filling the space with models, displays, films, and books either from the early years of SF or inspired by it. It has a story to tell but doesn’t press its conclusions on you; rather it allows you to wander through and let the theme assemble itself. For example, here you can trace a line from the prehistoric creatures at the Centre Of The Earth through the modelwork of Harryhausen to portrayals of Godzilla. Finding these mini-themes among the artifacts is a voyage of discovery.


Obits for Robert Hardy and Hywel Bennett

Robert Hardy (1925-2017): British actor, died August 3, aged 91, best known to fans as Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies. He was best known to me as Siegfried in All Creatures Great and Small.

Something I didn’t know, although I read a lot about the Mary Rose at the time:  Robert Hardy was a keen military historian who loved the longbow and played a large role in raising the Tudor warship, The Mary Rose.

Hywel Bennett (1944-2017): British actor, died July 25, aged 73. One of his earliest television appearances was as Rynian, the Aridian in The Death of Time, the second episode of the William Hartnell story The Chase.  He is best remembered as James Shelley in the Thames Television series Shelley.


80% chance of polar geomagnetic storms Friday

Space Weather News for August 3, 2017

GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Aug. 4th when a solar wind stream is expected to buffet Earth’s magnetic field. The wind is flowing from a canyon-shaped hole in the sun’s atmosphere, so wide that it is almost bisecting the solar disk. Storm levels could reach G2-category (moderately strong) during the late hours of Aug. 4th, subsiding to G1-category (minor) on Aug. 5th. Visit for more information and updates.

Remember, is on Facebook!
Above: A canyon-shaped coronal hole (CH) is spewing solar wind toward Earth. This extreme ultraviolet image was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

What the Fur? folds

What the Fur? held its last event last week. This was such a fun con, its members creative and bubbling with joy.  The con will be missed by the local furries and their friends.

A member has started a GoFundMe campaign to help Feli. Apparently, like so many conrunners, he has been putting his own funds into the con.

Message from the chair;

Christopher Pilgrim, August 1 at 10:13pm

Another year has come and gone. Another What The Fur has filled so many of us with joy and laughter, as well as some tears. We closed the doors to the convention and sadly, this would be the final time doing so. After 8 wonderful and amazing years, we say goodbye to the splendor that has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Usually, I use this closing letter as a place to speak of the year’s event. I will do a little of that. But I hope that you will read on as I say a little more this time. It is truly not easy to write any of this, but it all needs to be said.

This year, What The Fur welcomed 509 people to our humble little convention. And to be completely honest, that was a milestone that I didn’t think we would meet. 105 fursuiters participated in the parade, and there were several more wandering the halls and rooms. Too many for us to get a single group photo of this time. We were blown away. As a group, we managed to raise $930.35 for the Ecomuseum. Not as much as we have in years past but it isn’t the size of the donation that counts: it’s the intent and the meaning behind it.

Thank you. Everyone. Now to the part that will make me cry as I write it.

Continue reading What the Fur? folds

Trekkie licence plate sparks Indigenous anger

Pulled from use after Indigenous activists protest

The plate holder says, “WE ARE THE BORG” and “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

Is the word assimilate offensive? At issue is a legal battle that has just been launched that pits the right of a Star Trek fan to have it on his licence plate against Indigenous groups opposed to the word.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Nick Troller, a Winnipeg man whose licence plate — ASIMIL8 — was rescinded by the provincial government for being offensive to Indigenous people.

“It’s another case that pits the Charter freedom of expression against the new, phoney right not to be offended,” said JCCF President John Carpay, a former Alberta Wildrose party candidate. Carpay said he can understand why the plate might offend someone, but the word still shouldn’t be censored. “There’s a difference between words that are inherently offensive regardless of how you use them, such as vulgarities, obscenities, four-letter words, versus words like ‘war’ or ‘assimilate,’ which can have positive or negative connotations,” he said.

Troller said the licence plate is clearly a reference to the Borg, a fictional race from Star Trek that forcibly assimilates other cultures. The plate holder says, “WE ARE THE BORG” and “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“The word ‘assimilate’ is just a word — it is neither good nor bad. We assimilate nutrients into our bodies in order to live,” Troller said in his affidavit.

But Indigenous activists say Canadians should do more to understand why the word could be considered offensive.

Anishinaabe Nation member and University of Manitoba assistant professor Niigaan Sinclair called free speech a “bogus argument” and said that Indigenous people are having “a very understandable reaction.”

“If Indigenous peoples feel triggered by a licence plate or a sports logo, or the name of a historical figure on a building, Canadians would be best served to listen to why Indigenous peoples are triggered, and show some care and sensitivity when they express themselves,” he said.

“You can’t just say whatever you want to say without any worries of consequence or responsibility.”

Troller used the licence plate for two years before the provincial Crown corporation rescinded it in April, following two complaints from Indigenous people.

“The Borg uses these phrases and the word ‘assimilate’ as a core part of their dialogue,” he said in his affidavit. “The meaning of the word … has not changed between the time that I obtained the plate and the time MPI ordered me to surrender it.”

Sinclair said that’s the problem. Many Canadians aren’t aware of the struggles Indigenous people have faced in the past, which protects them from considering others’ feelings, he said.

“Canadians don’t know their own past — or they only know parts of it — and they particularly have not been trained well to understand the complexities that Indigenous peoples have experienced,” he said.

The word “assimilate” is a grim reminder of past pain inflicted on Indigenous communities, said Ry Moran, director of the Winnipeg-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

“For basically the entirety of this country’s history, Indigenous peoples have been forcibly assimilated through really extremely destructive means and ways,” Moran said. “Words like that, meant or not, have an actual impact on many people.”

Sinclair encouraged Canadians to reflect on whether their speech was “responsible.” “We live in a time period where we’re waking up to the violence and genocide of the past, particularly in this country, where Canadians have never had the opportunity to understand that, and Indigenous people are living in the intergenerational effects of that violence,” he said.

“It’s a very privileged position to ignore history …. Those of us in the Indigenous community, we live and breathe history every day.”