Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Story of Climate Change, Part 1: Energy, Inefficiency, and Thermodynamic Systems

Climate change is a natural cycle, but it is being exacerbated by human activity. This is an in-depth look into what climate change really is, and how the current inefficiency of human industry is catalyzing the process at a dangerous rate.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Climate Change is like a Batch of Pancakes

The chaos in the kitchen: how ecosystems are like pancakes. (Yum?)

To put this not-so-eloquently, Earth’s ecosystems are like grandma’s famous pancakes: her recipe, when followed correctly, produces the fluffiest, tastiest, most golden-brown pancakes of anyone in town. That’s where Earth’s ecosystems have been for millions of years. Before her recipe—that is, before Earth had stable ecosystems—too little or not all of the ingredients existed to make that perfect batter. No matter how hard you tried, it couldn’t be done.

Now imagine grandma’s recipe was so good that your family opened a restaurant. For years, it was the talk of the town. Now you’ve taken over, but other breakfast restaurants have opened in recent years, and some of them serve breakfast food 24/7.

To stay in business, you’ve adopted a new (badly-thought-out) strategy: you turn off your water supply and every day, customers bring their own water to help you save money for better advertising. Today, you have all the ingredients to serve 1,000 people. All your customers come in, and one by one, you add their water to the mixture—the mixture that everyone is eating from, mind you. At first, as you’re adding water to the mixture, it all seems to be going fine. It’s almost to the right consistency when you get a phone call, so you step away. While you’re gone, everyone in line pays your assistant, who is lazy and just lets whoever brought water dump it in the batter…without filtering it. Worse yet, some people didn’t measure how much water they actually had; they just filled glasses of different sizes and dumped them in.

When you get back from your phone call, you look inside the vat and see that the batter is soupy, watered-down, and has dust and dirt from people’s unfiltered water. But it’s too late now. Most people are sitting at tables, eagerly waiting for their stack of grandma’s famous pancakes. There are a few people left in line waiting to pay, and a few of them brought glasses of water. In anger, you take their money, but tell them to dump their water in a flower pot and go sit down.

To compensate for the soupy batter, you cook the pancakes longer than grandma’s recipe says to, hoping the excess water will cook out and save the pancakes. But no: they spread out until they’re thin as paper. So you turn up the heat—and the pancakes start to burn.

Outside, people are getting restless. They paid good money for grandma’s famous pancakes, and they all have places to be and things to do. Several of them come back to the kitchen to ask what’s taking so long, only to see you scrambling around and yelling at your assistant for being so negligent. When the small band of customers asks what’s going on, you angrily tell them the pancakes will be out soon.

Unconvinced, the customers go back to the dining room and explain what they saw. Some of the first-time customers leave; they like the other restaurants anyway. The long-time customers—those who have been loyal for years—refuse to believe that the pancakes could be ruined, and tell other customers how grandma’s pancakes are the best they’ve ever had, and how, if people leave, they will never find better pancakes anywhere in the world, ever. The customers who witnessed the chaos in the kitchen argue with the long-time customers, but are called out as liars who are trying to promote competing restaurants. In the confusion, some undecided customers peek inside the kitchen, see the chaos, and sneak out of the restaurant. One stays behind and manages to convince a few loyalists to go see the chaos in the kitchen for themselves. Those who refuse, say, “We’ve never gone back to see it before, and the pancakes always come out fine. Why should this be any different?”

By this time, you have managed to produce a couple good-looking pancakes and threw them on top of the pile to cover them up the terrible ones. Still, a majority are coming out ruined, and there’s no way you’re going to feed everyone in the restaurant. Then the door opens, and a few of your most loyal customers see the good-looking pancakes you threw on top. You just smile and assure them their pancakes will be out soon. Some, however, notice you covering up the burnt and watered-down pancakes, and leave the restaurant. Some switch sides and say the restaurant is clearly failing and needs to be shut down, while others say that nothing like this will ever happen again.

When you finally manage to cook a few dozen good pancakes and several hundred bad-but-edible ones, you roll them out to the dining room—only to see that, of the 1,000 people who were in your restaurant this morning, a mere 300 remain. You force yourself to smile and start serving them. Only the first ten customers get the best pancakes of the batch, and don’t notice the ruined ones underneath, and promise to bring even more water the next day to compensate for the idiots who walked out. They go on eating breakfast happily, their consciences clear. But then the best pancakes are gone, and other customers pick at their pancakes in disgust, or throw them in the trash, refusing to accept the pancakes at all. And when all the pancakes are gone, there are still 100 people who haven’t been served at all, and demand refunds, or storm out and vow never to eat at your restaurant again.

The point of the story is this: fossil fuels were once the best-of-the-best. Yes, they provided the foundation society needed to get its feet off the ground, but then they got too big, and started doing long-term damages. Some people turned to more sustainable energies and grew their own niche markets that provided energies around-the-clock, which was attractive to an even larger market. Now that fossil fuels are being proven to have adverse effects on Earth’s ecosystems, people are switching to the sustainable resources, which are becoming cheaper and more abundant every day. Only the loyalists, the people who have been in the business their entire lives, refuse to see what’s going on behind the scenes and keep supplying the necessary economic resources. Only by educating the general public, showing them the damages for themselves, and converting them to cleaner, ever-cheapening, and near-infinite energy sources can we begin to heal Earth’s damaged ecosystems.

“But it’s tradition” is no longer a valid excuse. There will always be a better recipe.

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Did you enjoy this read? Consider visiting Experience Daliona, a futuristic website that will take you on a journey across the galaxy.

Please support my mission of spreading science concepts. Purchase a t-shirt! 50% of all profits are donated to WildAid to support environmental, wildlife, and climate programs.

Alex Martin is the author of six futuristic science-fiction novels. His next book will be published on October 17, 2017. He's a science communicator, having given assemblies at schools, colleges, bookstores, and libraries. He also manages the Experience Daliona website, an extension of his books, where he also publishes factual content about real concepts in science.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Opinion: My thoughts on the first-ever Tesla Autopilot fatality

Today I received the following question on my Tumblr account:


Yep, I heard about it all right – and the media backlash is, as per usual – negative. And now you have the inevitable “see it’s safer to drive the car yourself” people coming out, or the “ha! Look how dangerous it is” people, or the “self-driving cars are the devil” people. Just go on Facebook and you’ll see it.

But the fact of the matter is, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME SOMEONE HAS EVER DIED DRIVING A TESLA ON AUTOPILOT.

In the two years since autopilot was introduced, Tesla Autopilot has helped avoid DOZENS of crashes that would have been caused due to sheer human negligence. Ironically enough, THIS VIDEO of Autopilot avoiding an accident was taken by the same man who was killed.

This other video is of Autopilot coming to a screeching halt when a driver decides to make a U-Turn right in front of it.

Like I said, Autopilot was introduced in 2014. In that time, exactly ZERO accidents have been deemed Autopilot’s fault. In all cases, it was the fault of the other driver OR the fault of the person using the car and *claiming* it was on Autopilot. Thing is, Tesla can easily check your car’s data logs and see if Autopilot was on.

Prior to this incident, the only other known instance of a Tesla not stopping while in “Autopilot” was a few weeks ago, when one rolled into a raised trailer. The car wasn’t in Autopilot, per se, but in “Summon Mode,” which drives at 1 mph usually just to park itself or pull into your driveway. The raised section of the trailer was above the car’s sensors, so would have only been in view of the front-facing camera, which is used for detecting speed limit signs.

Let’s look at the picture of the incident:


As you can see, the sensors of the car have no way of detecting the trailer bed. The car more-than-likely instead detected the wheels/lower bed of the truck, and had the trailer not been hanging over, the car WOULD HAVE STOPPED exactly 12 inches from the back of the truck.

To add more suspicion to the story, the car can only be in Summon Mode if you are standing nearby. The man at the center of this particular story claims he only stuck around his car for 20 seconds or so because a passerby asked him about the car, but that he didn’t activate the Summon. Tesla’s data logs show that he did, in fact, activate the Summon. And what would you do if someone curious about your Tesla came up to you? You’d do a quick demo, right? This is most likely what happened, but of course he’s denying it because he doesn’t want the repercussions and embarrassment.

Anyway, what this expressly shows is that Tesla clearly needs to add more sensors capable of detecting higher objects like this trailer bed.

So what does this have to do with the death?

Everything…and nothing.

Obviously, the man who died had owned his car for a long time, and he’s proven that it can avoid accidents…under normal conditions. The conditions of this accident were similar to those of the scenario I just described: the trailer was too high for the sensors to detect is as a tractor trailer crossing the highway. Instead, it gave Autopilot’s radar the impression that it was nothing more than, and I’m quoting Elon Musk, “an overhead road sign.” Had the impact been near the front or rear of the truck, Autopilot would have noticed the large obstruction and come to a halt. One popular reaction to this situation is the fact that Elon Musk once denounced the use of LIDAR on Tesla vehicles, a detection system similar to radar that instead uses lasers and more-than-likely would have detected the tractor trailer. Maybe after this incident, LIDAR will considered as a new detection system.

The fact of the matter is this accident happened in broad daylight and there are dozens of factors that come into play. Lighting, speed, when the driver of the trailer decided to cross the highway, and of course, the attentiveness of the man driving the Tesla. CLEARLY he was not paying attention. The brakes were never applied, either manually or autonomously. I, for one, would slam on the brakes no matter what in that situation – so clearly he was preoccupied.

And this is what Tesla keeps warning about. DO NOT LET AUTOPILOT DO ALL OF THE DRIVING. You NEED to pay attention no matter what you’re doing. It’s still in its early years, and what is happening right now is that Autopilot and Tesla are both LEARNING. There are some situations you simply cannot prepare for until they happen. Then you know, okay, we need to have something that will prevent that in the future. It’s impossible to think of every situation. You can think of a thousand different ways to avoid crashes, and there will ALWAYS be one you miss. And until every car on the road is autonomous, Autopilot will only ever be a driving assistant – NOT a driver.

In the US alone, there are 32,000 driving-related deaths every year. EVERY YEAR. (For perspective, only gun-related deaths kill more people in the US: 35,000 people/year). That’s nearly 100 people who die in a car accident every single day. Tesla’s Autopilot has been around for two years, and it’s the first time someone has EVER died while using it. In fact, only 5 people have been known to have died while at the wheel of a Tesla: 2 people drove off cliffs, 1 person was killed when a dump truck slammed into him, and 1 person who STOLE the car was killed after hitting a pole at 100 mph. Please note that Autopilot was not active in ANY of these situations. They were ALL human error.

So yes, I think because of Tesla’s rising status in the tech and automotive industries, there is going to be a huge backlash of nay-sayers and conspiracy theorists and people who just don’t trust new tech anyway. But it’s unqualified backlash. Elon and Tesla were investigating the crash before the NHTSA began investigating it, and Tesla is already working to fix the problem so that Autopilot becomes more reliable and understands more situations like this.

Tesla updates its software and hardware through continuous data collection. They improve, improve, improve. Autopilot and Tesla vehicles will only become safer because of this crash, despite its unfortunate result.

Some important numbers:

  • 1.2 billion miles: the total distance owners have driven in Tesla vehicles.
  • 130 million miles: the total distance Tesla owners have driven using Autopilot, with only 1 death.
  • 94 million miles: the average distance traveled by all car owners in the US between fatal car accidents.
  • 60 million miles: the average distance traveled by all car owners in the world between fatal car accidents.
  • 88: how many people die in car accidents in the US every day
  • 3,200: how many people die in car accidents in the world every day
  • 5: the number of deaths recorded in Tesla vehicles in the ten years since the first Tesla vehicle arrived on the road
  • 1: the number of deaths recorded while a Tesla vehicle was in Autopilot since its introduction two years ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Driving a Tesla will make you hate your car

Let's cut to the chase: reading this article will NOT be enough to describe what it's like to drive a Tesla. You won't come to the end of this page and truly know the experience. As a science-fiction author, it's my job to reel people into fantastic, futuristic worlds and make them believe in a new reality. But Tesla isn't science-fiction. Tesla is real. Tesla is what science-fiction wishes it could be.

I have never felt more powerful than I did yesterday, when I was driving Model X. Maybe it's because I was driving the most technologically-advanced car in the world. Maybe it's because of the utter silence that surrounded us, even in heavy traffic. Or maybe it's because the Model X pulls from 0-to-60 in a matter of seconds and blows away every other car on the road--no exceptions.

The experience started as we were walking in the mall toward the showroom. As we approached, a red wall appeared among the whites and grays and browns of the other shops, followed by the Tesla logo and the clean white storefront with TESLA hanging overhead.

The Ross Park Mall Tesla storefront!

I was surprised at how small the showroom actually was. It's probably due to the fact that it right in the middle of a mall, so there weren't many space options to choose from. That, and there's a Model S near the front, and a stripped-down base at the back, which take up a lot of room. There was also a tall desk at the center and entire murals detailing Tesla's mission covering the walls, one of which even had all of the options available on the S and X so that you could design your own car right there in the store and purchase it on the spot.

The Ross Park Mall Tesla showroom

After checking in early for our test drive, the Tesla Rep -- who was only 26 years old, and therefore bonded well with us four 20-to-23 year olds -- took us out to the parking lot, where there was a charging station loaded up with four Teslas (three Model S and one Model X). I should note that this charging station is free and open for public use, a definite convenience for an expanding customer base in the Pittsburgh area.

Anyone who knows me know that I follow Tesla and SpaceX and virtually everything that Elon Musk has his name tied to. I read every article, watch every video, even teach all my other friends and coworkers and followers about Tesla and SpaceX. But nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty and power and endless features that these cars have to offer as our Rep showed us everything from top-to-bottom, back-to-front. Seeing the Model X up close and personal was a surreal experience.

And here I thought I was excited just sitting in the Model S a few weeks ago.

The Model S interior

With the push of a button, the rear-most seats fold down so you can load up the trunk (and the trunk compartment itself is a little deeper than the average minivan's). Each seat in the middle row slides forward independently, again with just a tap on the massive touchscreen. If you have the subzero weather package, all the seats are heated, not just the front two. The steering wheel is heated, too. There's also the massive windshield that extends past the driver's head, giving you the most open view of the sky you've ever had in a car. No more craning your neck trying to see the stars, or airplanes, or UFOs.

With this windshield, Tesla solved another problem: the burning hot leather seat problem. Normally when your car sits out in the sun all day, the seats get burning hot. Not in the Tesla. The windshield has a special coating that repels not only UV, but most infrared heat, too (anybody who knows about sunlight knows that UV converts to infrared through glass, and that's why cars heat up so quickly). So when we sat down, the seats were mostly cool to the touch, despite the car sitting right where the sun was beating down on it.

The Falcon Wing doors are another debated feature of the Model X that caused the car's 18-month production delay. But now that we're past that, I can say these doors are just plain cool. With a 12-inch opening width, you can open these doors in the tightest of parking spaces (and if someone feels like a particular jerk that day and parks way too close to you, you can always use the car's summon feature to pull out of the parking spot before you get into the car, another convenience we wish we all had).

video


When you approach the car (with your keyless sensor on-person, that is), the driver's door automatically opens. So cool. And if you're standing in its way, the door won't fully open until you move.

The interior layout was different from any other car on the road, too. The gear shifts are a handle on the steering wheel: push down to go into drive, push up for neutral, and up again for reverse. To park, just tap a button at the end of the handle. Simple. Easy. Quick. The only other handles were the Autopilot and windshield wipers/turn signal.



Driving.

Wow. DRIVING.

Tesla has single-handedly redefined what it means to drive a car. Remember at the beginning how I said I wouldn't be able to accurately describe what it's like to drive this car? Yeah. We've reached that point. I can give a few basics, but they won't do it justice. Here goes.

Let's start with the obvious: starting the car. You approach the car and it just turns on before you're even to the door. Then the door opens for you, you sit down, hold the brake, tap the drive handle, and go. That's literally all there is to it. No chug of the ignition. No awkward fumbling with the gear shift.

When you press the accelerator (not the GAS pedal, due to the obvious fact that this is an electric car), you don't hear a sound. You just start moving. And when you let go, the car automatically begins braking (and simultaneously recharges the battery using kinetic energy, just like in the Toyota Prius and other hybrids). This feature takes some time getting used to, because in most cars, when you let go of the pedal, you coast. Not in a Tesla. Every time you let go of the pedal, you feel the brakes kick on, whether you're on the highway or in the parking lot. Maybe you'll like that, maybe not. I'm more neutral about it, to be honest, but remember that this is just my impression after a 20 minute drive.

Turning corners and going around turns. WOW. Tesla's have a low center of gravity thanks to the battery pack being on the bottom of the car. A low center of gravity means you take turns going WAY faster than you would in any other car. In fact, I'll go so far as to say if I had been in my normal car, a Kia Soul, it probably would have flipped over. But in the Model X, you could feel the tires gripping the road and holding you rock steady. It was like a constant roller coaster. Once I took a few turns like that, I settled down and just felt so safe.

Driving on the highway was one of the cooler parts of the test drive. Our Rep told me to back off the car in front of us when we got on the ramp, and then as we merged onto the highway, told me to just gun it.

Pedal. To The. Metal.

WOW.

The Model X we were driving didn't have the Ludricrous Mode that the Model S is so famous for. But it literally didn't matter. You put your foot down, and suddenly you're blowing by every car on the highway left and right. Your body presses into the seat. Your arms and legs feel like jelly. Adrenaline pulses through your veins and you're left breathless, laughing at the sheer power you just experienced. It's a drug. You want to do it again. And again. And again.

I was looking forward to autopilot, and it didn't disappoint. Tap the lower left-hand handle twice, and then you hear a soft "ding-ding." It's that easy. Let go of the steering wheel, tuck in your legs, and the car is in control. The steering wheel tilts a tiiiiiny bit this way....and a tiiiiiny bit that way, keeping you right in the center of the lane. The digital dashboard shows all the cars around you. Trucks look like trucks, motorcycles look like motorcycles, "normal" cars look like Model Ss. When the car in front of you brakes, the Model X brakes. If a car turns, the Model X slows down, lets it go, and then speeds back up when it's out of the way. Changing lanes is pretty cool, too. You hit the blinker, and it just slides over. If there's a car in the way, or within an unsafe distance, guess what? The Model X won't change lanes until the obstacle is clear. No more blind spots (although I think Tesla needs to have this feature activated at all times, with or without autopilot. Some people might forget to look at the dash to see if there's a car near them as they change lanes. A warning beep would be enough to let you know about obstacles).

video


When you're in standstill traffic, the Model X sits and waits, then pulls forward when the other cars pull forward. It reads the lines on the road (and if there are no immediate lines, it shows a blurry road around your car). As you pass speed limit signs, cameras on the car read them and show you what the speed limit is (and if it's in autopilot, the car will automatically speed up or slow down to reach that, unless there's a traffic pattern that prevents it from doing so).

The largest pitfall of autopilot is that it won't stop at traffic lights or stop signs, or, really, any sign that suggests you yield or stop in some way. If you're behind a car at a stop light, this isn't an issue, because autopilot will come to a stop by itself. But I assume that it would roll through a stop sign once the car in front of it goes--which is why you shouldn't use autopilot in housing developments and such. The highway or any major stretch of road is the safest option until the infrastructure of roads changes to compensate for the rapidly-growing EV and Self-Driving market. And a larger market will drive more innovation!

video


Getting back onto the highway was a thrill. We were the first car on the exit ramp, so it was a clear road ahead (and, thankfully, a clear highway). I turned onto the ramp--and just GUNNED it. There was one sound (aside from the excited gasps and laughter of my sister and friends in the backseat): a all-but-silent "whhhhhhhrrrrrrrr" that sounded like the hum of the Batpod from Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. It was sooooo futuristic sounding. No rumble of an engine, no kick or sputter. Just all-out acceleration like your own personal roller coaster.

video


When we got back to the charging station, I used the massive rear-view camera with 720p resolution to back into the parking space. Then I just hit a button to park, another to open the Falcon Wing doors and mine and the Tesla Rep's. The Model X turned itself off as we walked away.

Back in the showroom, our Rep let me design my own Model X for a future purchase (yeeeaaars in the future, unfortunately, unless my sci-fi books hit it big soon). The car is totally customized to your preferences. That's how Tesla sells them: it's unlikely that two customers truly have the exact same car because of all the options and features you can choose). Mine came out at $111,750....or $96,000 after incentives. Although I'm obviously in no shape to purchase my own Model X (that's why I'm going to grad school for Space Studies and rocket science), without a doubt, one of Tesla's cars WILL be the next car I buy.



Pros of the Model X:
  • No oil changes
  • No engine tune ups
  • No being charged hundreds of dollars for stuff you didn't even know was wrong with your car
  • No more being scammed by the occasional shady mechanic
  • Never pay a cent for gas
  • Free charging for life at charging stations/superchargers
  • Can charge at your house and will amount to less than a year's worth of gas
  • Can charge on solar energy
  • Charges while driving downhill and while braking
  • Virtually silent, including tire noise
  • Acceleration the likes of which you didn't even know was possible for a car
  • Free software upgrades
  • More than enough space for 7 adults
  • Ultra-clear sound system
  • Autopilot and accident avoidance
  • The best handling and traction you will ever experience
  • Massive windshield
  • As much storage space as a Ford Explorer, and then some
  • Keyless entry, and automatic startup and shutdown
  • Driver's side door opens as you approach the car
  • People staring at you and taking pictures as you go by
  • It's just. Freaking. Fun. And I cannot emphasize that enough.
Cons of the Model X:
  • Letting go of the gas automatically begins braking in order to recharge the battery through kinetic energy, and you can definitely feel it, so it will take time getting used to. But I think I prefer the feeling of coasting--or, at least, not such an immediate braking sensation.
  • Autopilot can't be used around stop signs/lights/new traffic patterns. Not the car's fault, we just need new infrastructure to account for this new technology.
  • When you accelerate, you don't realize how fast you truly are moving partially because there's next-to-no-sound, and partially because it's just. That. Quick. Getting back onto the highway, I hit 82 miles/hour in under 5 seconds -- that is, before I even merged over. A few seconds later, after merging all the way to the left lane, we blasted off to more than 100 mph (and that's the reason why I'm glad the northbound lanes were mostly empty. I'm usually a very safe, stick-to-the-law driver and have only hit 100 mph once in my life....this being it).
  • Mentally, you feel...different. Just the act of driving a Tesla makes you feel powerful, and you feel like you're filthy rich. Whether that's good or bad is up to you, but I felt dazed for a while after driving it. Like I said above, I just wanted to drive it again. And again. And again. It was like a drug.
This article is the best I can do to describe the feeling of driving a Tesla. There's driving a normal car, and then there's driving THIS car. It's a new experience, a new way to drive, and a new way to think about driving. You simply cannot say: "Oh, it's just like any other car, except electric." No. That's not true. Driving this was the most unique driving experience of any car I've ever driven, and you can't truly understand what that means unless you experience it for yourself. It is, plain and simple, a revolution in the driving experience.


The Model X that I designed

When I returned to my own car, I was, admittedly, underwhelmed and kind of upset with how behind Tesla's technology all these other cars are. My mind kept going back to the whir of the acceleration, the massive windshield, the absolute silence. Once you've driven a Tesla, you kind of hate your own car. The experience solidified my decision: yes, my next car will be a Tesla; yes, Teslas are 100% better than gasoline/diesel cars in every single way; and yes, once the Model 3 enters production and EVs become mainstream, the world is absolutely going to change.

SET UP YOUR OWN TEST DRIVE HERE

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Alex Martin is a futuristic science-fiction author who explores the future of humanity as a multiplanetary species. Whether he's test driving Teslas, cheering on a SpaceX landing, or exploring virtual reality, he's always focused on educating the general public about important advancements in technology and science.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Physics of the Embassy Universe, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a blog series dedicated to the scientific concepts I use within my science-fiction novels Embassy and Resonance, Books 1 and 2 of the Recovery Series

Read Part 1 Here

TPEU #2: The Kairos Supernova



One of my favorite recurring events in Embassy and Resonance is the Kairos supernova (in Resonance, it’s later explained to have actually formed a magnetar, but the main characters just call it a supernova). The light from Kairos reaches Undil on June 12, 4319, so Kairos itself collapsed in the year 4262. The light reached Narviid in 4311, and Rygin in late 4317. It has yet to reach any other planets; however, Arman and our trusty cast get to see Kairos explode three times, and unexplode (literally) three times.

While I don’t show every single instance in the books, I do show both stages of Kairos enough to get the point across.


As you can see, Kairos is an incredible distance from the Bubble (the collection of inhabited planets in which Embassy and Resonance take place). The distance between Narviid and Kairos is roughly the same as the distance from one side of the Bubble to the other (Belvun to Artaans).

After Arman and Co. see the supernova on June 12 (their second day in Undil’s Embassy), it stays bright in Undil’s northern skies for a little less than a month. Of course, if you’ve read the books, you know Arman travels to Belvun on June 18, about a week after the supernova appears. Therefore, the light has traveled about one light-week from Undil…in certain directions.

When Arman’s fleet departs for Belvun, they catch up to the light of the supernova on the second day of the expedition, passing it early in the morning of the third (yes, the fleet travels faster than light. Click Hereto Read How). Sticking to basic relativity, because the fleet is traveling 166x faster than light, the passengers would watch the reverse-explosion happen extremely quick. The 8-days’ worth of light recedes in about 1 hour and 24 minutes, give or take.

Here's what the supernova would look like normally:


Here's what the supernova would look like in reverse:


Each time the expeditions leave Undil and travel to Belvun (in Embassy and Resonance) or Daliona (in Resonance), the passengers would see the reverse explosion. But whenever they return to Undil (at the beginning of Resonance, and again about 3/4 of the way through), the would see the normal explosion (happening extremely quickly in both scenarios, of course).






Visually, it’s a very exciting event, and I love detailing it and bringing it back up during the expeditions. I think it helps add to the feeling of this being a real concept (though so far as we know, this wouldn’t work in real life), because the consistency of this tiny detail is just one of those things that I will ALWAYS pay attention to in my books. I try to think of EVERYTHING when I’m world-building, because really, that’s the only way to do it.

I do this for plot, and I do it for world-building: I ask, “What would ACTUALLY happen right now?” I don’t include things for convenience. All the events and all the details are 100% deliberate and realistic to my best assumptions, and the Kairos supernova being an ever-present event, in real-time, is one of those details you are going to continue seeing throughout the series.

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So there you go! The second post about the science and physical concepts in my books, Embassy and Resonance.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this! At some point in the future, I plan to compile all of these into a book/ebook that you can add to your collection!

If you have any questions regarding the Kairos Supernova/Magnetar just ask! I’m open to all questions and will explain whatever you need me to.

If this piqued your interest, please check out my books!

Sincerely,


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Purchase EMBASSY

Purchase RESONANCE



Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Model 3: Tesla's Final Push to Force the Hand of Automakers Everywhere

Elon Musk is a man of change, not of profit. He doesn't exceed expectations: he defies all doubts. Telling him "it can't be done" proves futile. He continues to do more and more with what he has, and today, March 31, 2016, might be the day he irreversibly changes the auto industry.



by S. Alex Martin

*Update: As of April 6, Tesla had 325,000 pre-orders, more than three-times what they expected to have by production time in late-2017. Elon was so surprised, he tweeted, "Definitely going to need to rethink production planning." Prior to this, Tesla didn't expect to produce 500,000 cars/year until 2020. Clearly, that will need to change--and quickly.

Keeping the status quo has never been a strong point for Elon Musk. In fact, he's actively taking steps to destroy it. At first his impression was small, a name people would laugh at. Looking at him, you wouldn't think he'd be the man who would one day fundamentally change the world.

Now he has a name you know will go down in the history books. His two biggest companies, SpaceX and Tesla, have demanded attention not just from the scientific community, but from the general public, too. It's no longer possible to ignore the impact Musk is having on the world, especially in today's politics and economies. Everyone knows Tesla's self-driving cars. Everyone knows about the rocket that landed itself after going to space (and the now-infamous attempts to land rockets at sea). All our lives are being affected by the unstoppable willpower of Elon Musk.

Tesla's Model S debuted in 2012. It spent two years as Consumer Reports' #1-rated vehicle, to the point of literally breaking their scale and being hailed as the "best performing car ever tested." Of course, costing nearly $100k, only the wealthiest people could afford it, but that was all part of Musk's so-called master plan. In his own words:

"Build sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options.

Don't tell anyone." (Source)

The car that broke the rating's back

The Model X debuted (finally) in 2015, costing $130k, even more elite and pricey than the Model S. Some critics have said the Model X was a grandiose dream but, ultimately, a mistake. Even though it's the car of the future we've all been waiting for, even fewer people can afford it. Still, Tesla pushes forward, and now they've reached the moment that will determine the future of the world as we know it.

"Caw-Caw."

Early on, nobody was worried about Tesla. Other automakers laughed them off. Electric vehicles have come and gone, and the closest we've come to seeing on the roads are upper-end hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Going fully electric is something that has never stuck around--until now--and it's no laughing matter.

With Tesla's grand announcements and the release of its patents to promote competition, suddenly giant companies like BMW, GM, and Chevrolet decided they needed to act fast. They seem to think Tesla might actually be a threat.

But there's one inherent problem with that line of thinking: Tesla isn't a threat, nor does it want to be. The goal of Tesla is to end our dependency on fossil fuels, and meet our energy needs with one simple source of unlimited power: sunlight. One hour of sunshine on the Earth is equal to the total amount of energy the entire world uses--IN ONE YEAR (Source: page 10).

With tonight's reveal of the Model 3, and the thousands of pre-orders already being made, Tesla is at the center of attention all around the world. The Model 3, before incentives, will cost $35,000, an affordable price for most consumers (sadly, you can only reserve two per customer). So GM, BMW, and Chevrolet all went and made their own electric cars. Chevy, however, got cocky, and describes its Bolt as the "Tesla Killer," despite not yet having a reputation for quality electric vehicles.

The Tesla Killer itself. Only takes 9 hours to charge...compared to Tesla's 20 minutes.

Although these companies are making their campaigns about the "Tesla threat," really, it's just an illusion. Musk wants them to develop EVs. He wants them to compete with Tesla. Musk is trying to show the world that it's not about making money--Tesla has yet to earn a profit--but rather, it's about fundamentally changing the way the world operates, starting with our energy needs.


So we have to wonder, if Musk hadn't done this...
...who would?

So if you haven't pre-ordered your Model 3, it's only $1,000 and fully-refundable before production begins in 2017. The world is changing. Will you be a part of it?


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Watch this Tesla commercial:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Last Planet

*this post originally appeared on my other site in July 2015*

7:49:50 am

July 14, 2015

NEW HORIZONS FLIES BY PLUTO



Another chapter in human history has ended. Never again will any person living today see the exploration of a planet in our solar system. Never again will we watch with bated breath as a probe brings us closer to one of our neighbors, three billion miles out, a story nine-and-a-half years in the making.


I was in 8th grade when New Horizons launched. I remember being totally in awe. At the time, it was the most advanced rocket we'd ever built, and it sent this probe hurtling at 36,400 mph into the solar system.



To this day, New Horizons reigns as the fastest rocket we've ever launched.



Through the years, you'd hear whispers of New Horizons and Pluto, but for a long time, it was lost to memory. That is, until December 2014, when New Horizons came out of its hibernation and showed us a prick of light in the distance, an unimpressive speck of pixels: Pluto.



The months dragged on, and New Horizons would beam back pictures every few days, each image a bit clearer than the last. But in June 2015, we began to see the planet and its moons dancing around each, their orbits skewed and wobbly, unlike any orbit of the solar system's other planets.



The months turned to weeks.

The weeks turned to days.
The days turned to hours.


At 07:49 am on July 14, two things happened at the same time: New Horizons flew by Pluto, all seven of its scientific instruments grabbing up data as it zoomed past--and NASA released an image taken 16 hours earlier, the clearest, most amazing picture we have ever seen of the planet.



New Horizons will beam back the data and pictures from the flyby tonight, and NASA will release those tomorrow...but this image right here has taken the world by storm. News outlets, social media, magazines, newspapers. Everyone is spreading this image.



This is the last planet. There will never again be a mystery like this for us to solve, or a journey like this for a probe to take. We have met all of our planetary neighbors. This is the dimming of the dawn of space exploration.

The probes have led the way.
Now it's humanity's turn to follow.