Russia to launch new heavy-lift booster

November 25th, 2014

Russia is close to launching a new heavy-lift booster to replace the aging and failure-prone Proton. The Angara 5 is a completely new booster that uses new engines that are an upgraded version of those used on the Zenit and Atlas 5 launchers. Lets hope the engines are more reliable than the ones that the Antares booster used.

Weighing 773 metric tons (852 tons) when filled with kerosene, liquid oxygen and hypergolic propellants, the Angara 5 is the biggest Russian launcher to debut since the Energia rocket for the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle flew in the late 1980s.

The booster is formed of five rocket cores each fitted with an RD-191 engine built by NPO Energomash of Khimki, Russia. Engineers derived the single-chamber RD-191 engine from the four-nozzle RD-171 and dual-chamber RD-180 engines flying on the Zenit and Atlas 5 launchers.

When it is cleared for liftoff, the Angara 5 rocket’s five kerosene-fueled RD-191 engines will generate nearly 2.2 million pounds of thrust to power the massive booster off the launch pad at Plesetsk, a military-run space base about 500 miles north of Moscow.

Global warming may make our winters worse

November 24th, 2014

It seems counter-intuitive but global warming may be making our winters worse. The reason – the melting of Arctic sea ice is changing the path of the jet stream  – remember last winter’s polar vortex? It may become a permanent fixture.

Back in 2012, two researchers with a particular interest in the Arctic, Rutgers’ Jennifer Francis and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Stephen Vavrus, published a paper called “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes.” In it, they suggested that the fact that the Arctic is warming so rapidly is leading to an unexpected but profound effect on the weather where the vast majority of us live — a change that, if their theory is correct, may have something to do with the extreme winter weather the U.S. has seen lately.

In their paper, Francis and Vavrus suggested that a rapidly warming Arctic should interfere with the jet stream, the river of air high above us that flows eastward around the northern hemisphere and brings with it our weather. Sometimes, the jet stream flows relatively directly from west to east; but other times, it takes long, wavy loops, as in the image above. And according to Francis and Vavrus, Arctic warming should make the jet stream more wavy and loopy on average – some have called it “drunk” — with dramatic weather consequences.

Note that the article is from the Washington Post, hardly a source of left wing propaganda.

Old Time Radio Shows

November 23rd, 2014

Here’s a vast collection of old radio shows from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The collection includes X Minus One, which featured much classic science fiction with stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Murray Leinster, Isaac Asimov, and many others. I remember listening to some of these when I was a child.

Unfortunately you can’t download the shows for offline listening, but they offer three players so you should be able to stream the episodes on most devices. Or you can download them from the Internet Archive site (the link is for X Minus One).

New online SF magazine

November 20th, 2014

There’s a new online science fiction magazine, Terraform, part of Vice’s Motherboard online site. They plan on publishing new short stories each week starting with stories by veterans Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.  It’s a good start.

William Gibson at NYPL

November 18th, 2014

William Gibson was in town for the Toronto Book Fair this weekend. We didn’t go – instead we went to a couple of readings (Robert J. Sawyer and Peter Watts) at SFContario – the small fan-run convention being much more to our taste. Gibson has been on a tour touting his new novel, The Peripheral, and earlier last week he was at the New York Public Library where he was interviewed by James Gleick. The talk was recorded and is now up on the NYPL web site (in both video and audio formats) for your enjoyment.

When William Gibson visited LIVE last year, he offered an early glimpse of his work-in-progress The Peripheral. Now, the master of science fiction returns to celebrate the novel’s publication, and discuss visions of the future with author and science historian James Gleick, whose works include Chaos: Making a New Science, and The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.

WILLIAM GIBSON is the is the author of Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Burning Chrome, Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History, and Distrust That Particular Flavor. Neuromancer was the first novel to win the three top science fiction prizes—the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award. Gibson is credited with coining the term “cyberspace,” and popularizing the concept of the Internet while it was still largely unknown. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife. His most recent novel, The Peripheral, will be published in October 2014.

JAMES GLEICK is the author of The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. His first book, Chaos, was a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, and a national bestseller. He collaborated with the photographer Eliot Porter on Nature’s Chaos and with developers at Autodesk on Chaos: The Software. His other books include the best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, both shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Faster and What Just Happened. His books have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Clearing conditionals out of a SmartDocs document

November 17th, 2014

SmartDocs is a powerful Word add-in from ThirtySix Software that gives Word users many of the capabilities of FrameMaker (variables, conditional text, reusable snippets) with an interface that is much easier to use. I’ve been using it for about three years and the more I use it the more I like it. I’ve been using it to produce two different versions of our FIX protocol specification, a 300-page document full of complex tables, and SmartDocs has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb.

In SmartDocs, deleting a conditional tag removes the tag and its associated content control but leaves the unconditionalized text in the document (this works the same way as FrameMaker). However, there may be times when you want to delete both the conditional tag and everything conditioinalized with that tag from your document, as was the case in revising our FIX protocol specification, when the conditional used for FIX 4.2-specific information was no longer required.

Note that this procedure requires some manual cleanup at the end. It will remove text in a conditional tag and the content control used to conditionalize that text as well as figures that have been conditionalized. It will not remove table rows or tables that are conditionalilzed. You must remove empty table rows or tables after deleting the condition.

Important: This procedure is irreversible and removes structure and content. Work on a copy of your file.

  1. In SmartDocs, turn on the display of only the conditionals you want to keep. All the others should have a visibility of Hidden.
  2. If any of the conditionals you want to delete are synchronized with the repository, disconnect them.
  3. In Word, turn on the display of hidden text. Verify that you can now see text in the conditionals you want to delete.
  4. Run the macro RemoveHiddenText. (Get it here). Note that you will see “Click here to enter text” wherever there is a now empty content control. The next step will remove these.
  5. In SmartDocs, delete any conditionals you no longer want. This will remove their content controls.
  6. Review your document. Remove any blank table rows or tables that were in deleted conditionals.
  7. Update all of the fields in the document, then update the table of contents and lists of figures and tables, if any.