Aliens, hamsters in tutus, and the nightmare scenario for particle physics

Could aliens be blocking the progress of human science? Well, that's a science fiction plot, but it has some truth behind it...
Film poster for The Three-Body Problem
Front cover art for the book Three Body Problem written by Liu Cixin. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, Chongqing Press, or the cover artist (source: Wikipedia)

In science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem, the alien Trisolarans send advanced AIs to block the progress of human science until their invasion fleet arrives. The AIs tamper with scientific experiments, such as using particle accelerators to search for the basic building blocks of matter, space and time. Physicists get random results. Believing that the laws of physics vary from place-to-place, they are driven to insanity and suicide.

The Three-Body Problem is fiction, but the plot is truer than it may seem. In 2010, the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, ran its first experiments. Nearly seven years later, scientists are still awaiting clues to a 'new physics' that promises to unlock mysteries of how the universe began and what it is made of.
Searching for nature's secrets
 The Large Hadron Collider is the world's biggest and most complex scientific experiment. It's a 27km ring-shaped structure located 100m beneath the French-Swiss border. Inside the accelerator, beams of protons and ions are hurled towards each other at a velocity approaching the speed of light.
When particles smash together and break apart, they allow scientists to test their theories for how the tiniest particles that make up the universe behave. This allowed scientists to, among other things, discover a new particle called the Higgs Boson in 2012.
A grand unified theory of almost everything
The Higgs Boson was predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. This simple theory, finalised in the mid-1970s, explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact with a handful of fundamental particles. It explains much of what the universe is made of and what holds it together.
Unfortunately, the Standard Model leaves many mysteries unexplained. For example, it doesn't explain dark matter, the invisible unidentified material that makes up about 26% of the mass and energy of the universe. For this reason, it's been described as a 'grand unified theory of ALMOST everything'.
The jargon-quantum physics bit
One big thing the Standard Model doesn't explain is the difference in strength between gravity and the so-called weak nuclear force, which is responsible for radioactive decay (radioactivity, in other words. Like in a nuke).
Now here's the geeky bit...
In the Standard Model, the weak nuclear force is carried by particles called W and Z bosons. These get their mass from an invisible Higgs field that spreads through the whole of space. The question is why the Higgs field - and weak nuclear force - isn't stronger. During events called 'quantum fluctuations', energy should spill into the Higgs field, increasing its strength, the mass of the W and Z bosons, and the weak nuclear force.
An elegant symmetry
Supersymmetry is an elegant theory that explains dark matter and the disparity between gravity and the weak nuclear force. The idea is that every basic particle has a ‘superpartner’ of an opposite type. Fermions, the particles that make up matter, have boson superpartners that carry forces, and vice versa. As these have opposite signs of energy, one type dials down the energy contributed to the Higgs field, and the other dials it up. As an added benefit, the superpartners could make up dark matter.
To date, the Large Hadron Collider hasn't found superpartners.  To evade detection, and fit the theory, the superpartners must have higher energies than the LHC can produce. Higher energies mean the superpartners must be much heavier than their partners. This makes it harder to cancel their contributions to the Higgs field. Supersymmetry theory has become less elegant as a result.
The 'end of particle physics'
The Large Hadron Collider is now operating close to its highest energy levels. Some physicists want to build an even bigger, more powerful accelerator to look for super partners. Others have called for the development of new alternative theories. But, without experimental results to suggest another theory, they lack a clear direction to take their ideas forward.
But what if the Large Hadron Collider - and a potential new supercollider - fails to find any new particles? I asked Dr David Clements, a senior lecturer in astrophysics at Imperial College London.
"The first thing, which would worry a lot of my colleagues in particle physics, would be the end of particle physics," he says. "If the Large Hadron Collider doesn't find anything interesting then any future collider would already be in doubt."
More broadly, physicists would need to reexamine some of their assumptions. For example, they might need to find new candidates for the particles making up dark matter. Or even alternative theories to dark matter itself.  Some explanations, such as modified gravity, could get science fictional, he says.
Getting science fictional
According to Clements, reexamining supersymmetry could change our understanding of the early universe - with implications for science fiction writers. The leading candidate for dark matter has long been 'cold' dark matter (CDM).
CDM is a type of dark matter that moves slower than the speed of light and only weakly interacts with other matter. Scientists believe CDM is some kind of exotic particle yet to be detected. It was probably around near the beginning of the universe and affected how galaxies grew.
"If dark matter isn't CDM then the early evolution of the universe could be different and we must have been fooling ourselves into thinking we have it as right as we do," he says, although he thinks this is unlikely. If that is the case, hard sci-fi writers might have a scientific loophole to include Faster Than Light travel.
Another possibility is an Alcubierre drive, where a spacecraft moves at light speed by contracting space ahead of it, and expanding space behind it. This needs exotic particles, but might be plausible if new theories are up for grabs.
 The REAL Three-Body Problem
I asked Clements whether scientists might discover the laws of physics change over space and time - as happens in The Three-Body Problem.
"Variations in basic laws with time is something some people have looked at," he says. The Euclid mission, currently under development by the European Space Agency, aims to see if the density of dark energy has changed over time.
"Link this in with the problems with dark matter and the Standard Model and it might be that time-varying physical laws might have to be invoked," he says.
A more radical possibility is the simulation hypothesis. This argues that what we think is reality is actually a giant computer simulation created by a greater intelligence. According to Clements, "If we're in a simulation the laws of physics don't have to be consistent or coherent."
A darker possibility
There are other possibilities for why the Large Hadron Collider hasn't found anything yet, of course. In Three Worlds Collide by Elizer Yudokwsky, physicists hide important laws of physics after discovering a terrible secret:

"Aren't we lucky that physics didn't happen to turn out that way, my lord? That in our own time, the laws of physics don't permit cheap, irresistable superweapons?"

Akon furrowed his brow -

"But my lord," said the Ship's Confessor, "do we really know what we think we know? What different evidence would we see, if things were otherwise? After all - if you happened to be a physicist, and you happened to notice an easy way to wreak enormous destruction using off-the-shelf hardware - would you run out and tell you?"

"No," Akon said. A sinking feeling was dawning in the pit of his stomach. "You would try to conceal the discovery, and create a cover story that discouraged anyone else from looking there."

 While in another story by Yudkowsky, a hamster in a tutu shuts down the LHC because nature abhors a sufficiently powerful particle collider...
Okay, that's a guinea pig.

Building a Web Presence for SF&F

Madgeniusclub has an interesting article for SF&F writers on building web presence:

1- Be you.  Don’t try to sound educated, or professorial or anything of the kind, unless that is who you are, naturally.  Just be you.  I swear readers can smell “Phony” a mile off.  Don’t be phony.

2- Part of one: talk about things that genuinely interest you, but not things that are so obscure they will only interest physicists or left handed seamstresses, or something.

3- talk of something other than writing.  Yeah, writing too, it’s who you are, but give value to people who aren’t writers.  MGC, I think, trails behind all our personal blogs in hits, because it’s a writers’ blog.  Like left handed seamstresses, that’s a specialized niche.

4- if you can, particularly in the beginning, get promo from people who have bigger platforms. [...]

There are ten points in total. Well worth a read.

I've been blogging since about 2002 in various places. I started out with a pseudonymous political blog, which provided my first freelance writing commission (celebrity obituaries). I moved onto a personal blog and, later, started blogging about environmental science to promote my freelance career. The latter was extremely successful but, as I was doing reported journalism, my posts took hours to write. When my business took off, I no longer had the time.

A few months ago, Ed Yong, probably the best science communicator in the English-speaking world, shut down his blog Not Exactly Rocket Science. I loved that blog, especially his famous post on ground squirrel masturbation. He had the same problem as me, it seems. As he became a science journalist, he spent more time interviewing scientists, and it became hard to write daily - as Sarah Hoyt recommends in her MGC post.

Coming back to blogging now, I asked Ed on Twitter whether blogging was dead. He said he'd do the same thing over again if he was starting now. I'm not sure what blogging adds in today's world of clickbait and cat pictures though. Most of the science blogs I remember have disappeared. Discussion increasingly happens on Facebook instead of blog comment sections.

Another question, of course, is audience. Journalists like Carl Zimmer, who blogs at The Loom, have an obvious specialism. I once asked an agent visiting a creative writing event how I dealt with being a science communicator and interested in sci-fi. She recommended keeping two separate blogs and websites. Trouble is, it's hard enough to keep one blog updated. And, moreover, my interest in science fiction isn't divorced from my passion for science.

In general, communicating online seems to have become angry and fraught, with people afraid of saying the wrong thing. I wrote an article a few years ago about the risks and benefits of science blogging for working scientists. This included a recommendation to avoid talking about religion, politics, and other controversial topics.

One of the problems of writing about science and science fiction is the latter is a literature of ideas. Even if you want to write about Mars exploration, your choice of who funds the mission is a political statement. Maybe not a strong one, but it's there. Sarah Hoyt thinks politics has mixed benefits as some people will agree with you and buy your books. Certainly, taking a strong political position on their blog hasn't harmed SF authors like John Scalzi.

Finally, Sarah discusses the importance of being authentic - not a phony. That's probably the most important lesson I've learned from blogging. If you daren't say anything, you don't have anything to write. If you hide who you are, no one knows if they like you. If you fake your passions, you can't keep up the writing. One of the take-home messages from my blogging article was that hiring managers like scientists who want to write about science. They're not just showing up. They're not faking it. They love what they do.

Was there life on Venus...?

In Edgar Rice Burroughs science-fantasy novel Pirates of Venus, the hero crash lands on Venus (Amtor) when his rocket ship is thrown off course. He discovers a verdant world of  giant vegetation and unmapped oceans, wreathed in thick clouds and - of course - populated by monsters and princesses in peril.

Image from the ERBzine Illustrated Pulp Bibliography (
Image from the ERBzine Illustrated Pulp Bibliography (

In reality, Venus is anything but hospitable to life. Our closest neighbour is a hellworld: hot enough to melt lead, with crushing pressures and toxic clouds. The search for life has largely focused on Mars with its low gravity, clear skies and tantalising prospect of alien bacteria.

Yet one or two billion years ago, Venus might have looked a lot more like Burroughs' Amtor.

Amtor it was wet once

Computer simulations published last month suggest early Venus might have enjoyed moderate temperatures and even light snowfall. There could have been shallow oceans and, with them, the possibility of life.

 More details 1934 map of Amtor drawn by Edgar Rice Burroughs for the end-papers of his Venus books (via Wikipedia)

More details
1934 map of Amtor drawn by Edgar Rice Burroughs for the end-papers of his Venus books (via Wikipedia)

"There's a lot of 'mights'", writes Michael Way at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "But that's because we don't know how life got started on Earth!" If life started in our planet's oceans - a question that remains open - the same might have been true on a watery Venus.

The search for life

So could Venus have evidence of ancient life? "To detect extinct life, we'd first need to figure out which parts of the modern Venus surface might be ancient enough to date back to the time when Venus had water. We'll have to learn more about the surface geology first to do that," writes scientist and sci-fi author Geoffrey Landis from the NASA John Glenn Research Centre.

One problem is much of Venus is covered with smooth lava plains, probably from volcanic eruptions around 750 million years ago - around the time Way's team think the planet stopped being habitable. These would have wiped out any evidence of life.  "Finding life on Venus is a much tougher prospect compared to Mars," says Way. "The area of Venus that remains unresurfaced is much smaller than the entirety of Mars."

The best place to look might be highland areas, called tesserae and similar to Earth's continents. "They are apparently the oldest terrains on Venus - so they're a good place to understand the past," writes Colin Wilson, a researcher on Venus' atmosphere at Oxford University.

Interpretive outline of tessera terrain (white outline) imposed on "GIS Map of Venus" (GIS Map of Venus source: USGS Astrogeology Science Centre, via Wikipedia)
Interpretive outline of tessera terrain (white outline) imposed on "GIS Map of Venus" (GIS Map of Venus source: USGS Astrogeology Science Centre, via Wikipedia)

Our maps of Venus come from the Magellan orbiter, which used radar to penetrate the thick clouds. Proposed future orbiters, such as the European Space Agency's EnVision or the NASA VERITAS mission, could provide more detailed images. "This could help us examine these tesserae regions and, more generally, to try to figure out the geological history," writes Wilson.

Rovin'... rovin'... rovin'

Future landing craft could analyse rocks to look for fossilised bacteria or other signs of ancient life. But designing a lander to survive Venus is tougher than it looks. Pressures at the surface are equivalent to diving a kilometre (~3,000 feet) beneath Earth's oceans, and temperatures far hotter than a kitchen oven.

The harsh conditions mean Venusian landers historically had a short life expectancy. The Soviet Venera probes - launched in the 1980s - lasted a maximum two hours before ceasing transmissions.

Surface of Venus as imaged by Venera 14 (credit: NASA National Space Science Data Centre, via Wikipedia)
Surface of Venus as imaged by Venera 14, a Soviet probe that survived 57 minutes on Venus in 1982  (credit: NASA National Space Science Data Centre, via Wikipedia)

How easy would it be to collect rock samples? "With present-day technology, I would say extremely difficult," writes Way. A future lander would probably work similarly to Martian missions, and would collect nearby rocks for analysis with a mass spectrometer.

The problem is managing the process of bringing hot rocks inside the lander. "The spacecraft is already using tremendous energy to keep its electronics from melting," writes Way. Under such harsh conditions, "it would be difficult for the spacecraft to maintain its desired operating temperature and pressure."

One solution might be breaking the rocks into very small pieces. But, "having a sophisticated enough robot arm," writes Way, "is again a technology that has not been developed."

All that said, some information about Venus geology should be obtainable with today's technology. Soviet landers of the 1970s and 80s collected soil samples and NASA has funded the development of high-temperature drills.

Sailing the surface

There are proposals afoot to develop technology capable of withstanding the harsh conditions on Venus. The Venus Landsailing Rover, or Zephyr, is a new type of lander proposed by Geoffrey Landis.

Zephyr rover (credit: NASA)
Zephyr rover (credit: NASA)

"The original plan for Zephyr was to do a mission similar to the Mars Exploration Rovers, to look at the geology and mineralogy of rocks on Venus to learn more about the surface," writes Landis.

Zephyr is designed to work at low power to avoid overheating. Instead of a powered engine to drive it along, the craft is carried by the light winds of Venus. It has a sail with two moving parts. One to set the sail and the other to set the steering position. The rover also uses sensors that work inside jet engines. These can function even at surface temperatures of 450 degrees Celsius (840 degrees Fahrenheit).

Zephyr is a design study, not a mission, and doesn't have a launch date. "A possible plan would be to fly a technology demonstration to Venus to show that the electronics work around 2020 or so, and then fly the Zephyr mission a few years after that," writes Landis.

Flying high

Future missions to Venus might look specifically for ancient life. "Note though that the surface might not be the best place to look," says Wilson. The high temperatures not only make it difficult to explore,  but also limit the preservation of biological materials.

The most "habitable" environment for life on Venus today is 50 - 60 km above the surface, amid the clouds, where temperatures are cooler and liquid water could exist. Although not a great place for life today as there are few nutrients ("although it has been suggested!" writes Wilson), the atmospheric chemistry could give clues to whether life flourished in the past.

Planes or balloons could explore the Venusian atmosphere. "And this is totally achievable today," Wilson writes. He's submitted a balloon mission proposal, called European Venus Explorer (EVE), to look at cloud chemistry and possibly to detect particles. There's also been an American balloon proposal, called VALOR.

Both proposals follow in the footsteps of successful Soviet missions. The helium balloons launched by the Vega 1 and Vega 2 spacecraft floated in the clouds for 46 hours before their batteries ran out. "If the Soviet Union could achieve this in 1984, we have confidence it's achievable with today's technology," Wilson writes.

An inflatable wing

Artist's concept of the Venus Atmospheric Manoeuvrable Platform (VAMP). Credit: Northrop Grumman
Venus Atmospheric Manoeuvrable Platform (VAMP). Credit: Northrop Grumman artist's concept

The most exciting idea for exploring Venus' atmosphere is probably the Venus Atmospheric Manoeuvrable Platform (VAMP), being developed by Northrop Grumman. "We're excited by this mission because it could carry ten times more scientific payload [equipment] than a conventional balloon," Wilson writes.

The VAMP is an inflatable flying wing powered by solar cells. During the day, this revolutionary plane would be powered by solar energy. During the night, it would float near the base of the cloud layer and wait until the winds brought it around to the dayside of the planet.

Earlier this year, however, the VAMP was still fairly early in development. "More development work, including demonstration flights on Earth, would be needed before this can be a credible proposal to NASA," Wilson writes.

The cloud cities of Venus

Artists rendering of a NASA Cloud City on Venus (credit: NASA via Wikipedia)
Artists rendering of a NASA Cloud City on Venus (credit: NASA via Wikipedia)

Humankind could take our first steps on Mars by the 2030s, but some scientists believe a crewed mission to Venus' atmosphere would be easier than exploring the red planet. NASA's High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), for example, has crew staying up to a year in an airship drifting 50km above the planet's surface.

The ultimate aim could be floating cities, with a permanent human colony,  in the clouds high above Venus' baking surface.

Cloud city of Bespin, from Stars Wars. Credit and copyright: Ralph McQuarrie
Cloud city of Bespin, from Stars Wars. Credit and copyright: Ralph McQuarrie

"The cloud-level atmosphere of Venus is among the most benign in the solar system," writes Wilson. "The crew of a cloud-level balloon mission could walk around outside - on a catwalk, or in the basket of their balloon - without wearing a pressure suit or temperature-controlled clothing."

He explains that they'd need an oxygen mask, as there's no oxygen and the carbon dioxide atmosphere is poisonous. A jumpsuit might also be advisable for long trips outside, to protect the wearer from the thin sulphuric acid clouds, but scientists could make short trips with bare skin provided they showered afterwards. "It's a far cry from the enormous pressure suits you'd require in space or even at the surface of Mars," he writes.

So could a manned mission find life on Venus? Wilson is skeptical. "I don't see how sendings humans would help," he writes. Before launching a manned mission to the atmosphere, you'd need to launch lots of robotic missions - even if just to test the technology. "And we would learn a lot from those missions."

Science apart, a human colony on Venus has a romantic allure. Perhaps one day, in the far future, our descendants will send a lander to the hell world below their home... And finally find evidence of life.

UPDATE 16.09.2016 Slight edits after fact-checking with my interviewees.

Note: The EuroVenus consortium, a collaboration to study Venus of dozens of scientists from across Europe, recently released a 52-minute documentary highlighting some of their work. Hat tip: Colin Wilson.

Belated thoughts on the Hugo Awards 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards for science fiction had their ceremony on 20th August. Last year I closely followed the awards, after reading news stories alleging that US conservatives were trying to keep women authors out of SF.

This year I didn't vote, but posted the video below on my Facebook along with the following comments:

For the sci-fi & fantasy book fans who've been following the Hugo Award controversy in the press in recent years, this is a video interview with Sad Puppy 4 organiser Kate Paulk. You may find it illuminating if you read about the 'sexist Puppies' - Kate is a woman.

Until last year, I believed the Hugo Awards represented the best of SF selected by a popular vote. I now realise that, before the Puppies, < 2,000 people nominated books and stories for the Hugos. Nominating figures are now ~ 3,000 for the most popular categories. 

Moreover, Worldcon itself (the convention that owns the Hugos) is a predominantly middle-aged, white, male American convention - I've seen the photos [NB: the last picture is taken in London, possibly the most ethnically-diverse city on the planet].

Many of the Puppies who were pilloried in the press for their 'racism' last year are more representative of today's America than the average Worldcon voter. Even the white male Sad Puppy authors, being often ex-military, tend to be (IMO) more likely to be married to black or Hispanic women - sometimes from outside the US.

The 'real' controversy over the Hugos, contrary to what's being reported, started as a clash between (often) self-published pulp authors from middle America and the New York literary set. Many of the former group were commercially-minded Republicans/Libertarians, writing for an US market, who have little interest in 'literary' or experimental writing. They felt pushed out of awards by an influx of short story writers with literary backgrounds and a (perceived) intellectual metropolitan outlook, whose work doesn't have the mainstream appeal of - say - Twilight.

Last year, the situation was complicated by Rabid Puppies, a coordinated voting effort by readers of alt-right blogger Vox Day. So few people nominate and vote in the Hugos that a single blogger can sweep entire categories. Vox Day is, as widely claimed online, a racist and white nationalist. He's also a geeky computer game designer with a similar taste in fiction to me whose small press Castalia House is publishing writers rendered mainstream unpublishable by their attitudes/views. Were he alive today, these would include H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos, whose racism was extreme even for the time, but whose imagination and influence are unarguable.

In short, don't believe everything you read in the media. Journalists don't have much time to research these days, US politics is increasingly tribal, and the New York literary set have a good PR operation.

A Facebook friend asked me the question:

Do you think the Hugo is still a useful indicator of Sci Fi innovation and quality? If not, is there a better indicator? The Hugos have introduced me to some very mediocre writers, but in recent times also the likes of Paolo Bacigalupi who is a bit of a genius

I replied:

I like Paolo Bacialupi too (click for my favourite short story)! I don't think the Hugos are a useful indicator since 'geek culture' is now much wider than the voting/nominating pool of Worldcon. They do pick up innovation, but it's swamped by the groupthink effects of a small community, and swayed by the marketing efforts of big publishers trying to increase sales by scoring an award. The Martian (the book), for example, initially flew over the head of Worldcon fans because it was self-published and became a bestseller via word-of-mouth. The Nebulas strongly echo the Hugos, possibly because the same group of fans use the nominations as a guide on what to read.

Moreover, many younger SF&F fans tend to prioritise TV/film/comics/video games over books. Thus, awards given by pure literary conventions like Worldcon tend to be biased by the advancing age of the participants. The Dragon Awards _may_ be worth watching once they've got going, but were poorly advertised online this year, and dominated by fans of the authors who already knew about them (so the Puppies). I read and enjoyed the winners, but my taste isn't everyone's, as they tend to slant towards pulp thriller and adventure stories.

Finally, the Hugos were established in a period when SF was mostly short fiction. The market for short fiction is arguably abysmal - doesn't pay well, is mostly written by writers for writers, and has a strong slant towards 'literary' fiction by former MFA students. Thus, a high percentage of the award categories are for literature 'no one' reads.

For the moment, it seems that the best way to find enjoyable books is via word-of-mouth from people whose judgement you trust. So blogs, friends, social media, and using Amazon preview to sample books on recommendation lists.

As always, this is my opinion as I see it. Some backup sources are in the archives on this website as I did a fair bit of research into the Hugos last year.

Celebrating the National Dog Days of Summer - Links: 27/08

Big news this week: An Earth-like planet was spotted in our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, raising hopes of glowing aliens. Sci-fi author Stephen Baxter speculated on the prospect on life.

See also: the BBC with five (well, four) reasons to get excited about the find, and a cool graphic from Science.

In unconnected news, a Russian billionaire's plan to send a fleet of iPhone-sized spaceships to the system may be derailed by space dust.

Pioneers and the new space race

Oliver Morton thinks space is getting exciting again, as does the Washington Post with its feature on the billionaires racing to get us into space.

Meanwhile, the first-ever commercial moon landing was approved by the US government, and China unveiled a Mars probe for an ambitious 2020 mission.

When they get there, i09 reports on a study on terraforming Mars by giving it clouds.

Life: Redesigned

Are we on the brink of creating manmade life? Scientists have 'radically rewritten' the genetic code of Ecoli bacteria, paving the way for manmade lifeforms resistant to all known viruses.

Humans may one day regenerate our limbs by taking tips from Mexican salamanders, according to this cool-but-creepy science vid:

Our robot overlords

Awwww. People will lie to robots to avoid hurting their feelings, according to a study on a robochef with a sad face and a habit of breaking eggs. Regretful robots, say the researchers, could become the norm - to lessen human anger at their mistakes.

The Israeli Army has deployed what may be the world's first fully-autonomous military robots.

My fictional 'squidbots' took a step towards reality with the creation of a totally soft wireless robot. Unfortunately, it doesn't do very much...

Pure fiction

Hyper-intelligent spiders (in space) won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award for British science fiction.

#Improvedbytheparticipantsgettingalife: The Hugo Award winners were also announced after the now-annual furore whereby alt-right games designer Vox Day gets ~300 of his blog readers to troll Worldcon, and the <2,000 long-time voters pretend they're important (yep, I'm biased).

Author of gay comic erotica Chuck Tingle, who's been trolling both sides after his spoof Hugo nomination for short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion, celebrated his award defeat with  Pounded in the Butt by my Hugo Award Loss.

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, is launching a short story collection on a new mobile appi09 have an excerpt.

Is Flowers for Algernon a sci-fi touchstone for the ethics of experimental biology? Ananyo Bhattacharya looks back in journal Nature.

Erm, and dogs...

Motherboard Vice has the incredible story of Strelka, one of the doggie duo who became the first Earthlings to orbit the Earth and live to wag the tail. Strelka went on to have a daughter, Pushinka who, after being gifted to US President John F. Kennedy, had pups with one of his dogs.