Earth Impact Database

Speaking of Earth impacts — see my previous blog entry — The Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) in Canada has a nice website on the subject of Earth impacts sorted by diameter.  If you have an interest in the subject, or you just enjoy seeing geologic features while on vacation, it’s handy to study the impact locations before your trip.

Many large impacts are now covered by lakes, rivers, grass, etc., and cannot easily be discerned when visiting the site.  However, if you’ve already explored the PASSC website and gotten an idea of what the impact was really like millions of years ago, it is easier to visualize in person what happened back then.  In my experience, it makes the view more impressive!

Impacts are mentioned often in science fiction, and I’ve written a couple of short stories that mentioned an impact of some kind.  “Myron’s Debarkation” is one of them.  Another of my stories, “A Comic on Phobos”, is about an effort by a team of robots to avert an impact.

Meteor clip art

UTM and Geographic Coordinates

Whether you are encountering UTM mapping coordinates because of genealogy or some other kind of research, it helps to know how to convert between UTM and geographic coordinates.  I recently ran into this issue when attempting to locate the exact spot where a meteor impact-related image was taken.  Although the photographer and researcher listed the UTM coordinates for the spot, I wanted to know the geographic coordinates so I could visit the location during vacation.

I’m sure there are many conversion tools on the internet, but here are a couple I encountered.  I used a site at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay to convert from UTM coordinates to longitude and latitude.  I was then able to use the lat-long data to map it in Google maps.  To verify I got the right place, I used Google street maps and was able to see that the spot matched the photo location very nicely.

There are also tools for doing the conversion to Google Earth that you can find on the web with just a search on “UTM coordinates and Google Earth”.

Globe clip art


The Planetary Society’s Lightsail-A test launched successfully today from Cape Canaveral.  As of this afternoon, it appears that they have heard back from the craft.  If all continues to go well, the sails will eventually deploy.  This first launch is to test the capabilities of the craft, hoping to find and solve any issues before the launch of Lightsail-1 in 2016.

This was the stuff of science fiction, especially since the project was citizen-funded.  Now, along with the other solar sails that have been deployed in the recent past, it may be the beginning of a new generation of spacecraft that sail on sunlight.

Self-driving 18-Wheelers still need drivers

The Huffington Post blogs about the new self-driving 18 Wheeler trucks being tested by German manufacturer Daimler in Nevada.  But they will still require a driver, especially for lane changes, small roads, and emergencies.

A commenter adds that security is another issue.  If the trucks were to eventually go with no human driver, who would handle the security of the shipped goods?  As a science fiction writer and thinker, I immediately pictured a robot accompanying the self-driving truck.  But even then, are we ever really going to legally allow robots or other artificial intelligence to provide security on a truck with the possibility of injuring other humans?

So, at least for years to come, human truck drivers will continue to operate and/or sit in part-time self-driving 18-Wheelers.  If you like the idea of sitting in a big truck, either old-style or self-driving, you might enjoy my class video game “Truckin'” for Intellivision — pretty nice comments on that YouTube page!  Or if you like the smaller variety of vans and trucks, you might also like my short story “Time Enough for Sarah” in my time travel anthology, about a time travel shuttle driver and his daughter.

Time Travel E-book Cover



How much is a Myr?

If you ever run across the term Myr, it may be because you are reading an article about astronomy.  One Myr is one million years.

Michael Rampino of NYU proposes that there may be cycles of extraterrestrial impacts on Earth, with each cycle averaging around 30 Myr.  He goes further, suggesting that it’s possible that dark matter in the Galaxy may be responsible for comets hitting Earth.  The paper does say, however, that “…It should be noted, however, that a number of other researchers find no evidence of significant periods of ∼30 Myr in either extinctions..or large body impacts…”

The full text of the article can be found in html format here.

Though this may just turn out to be speculative science, it is at the least the stuff of science fiction.  It kind of reminds me of Asimov’s “Nightfall” or the movie “Pitch Black”.  Unknown astronomic cycles are part of the plot of both stories.

Spiral Galaxy clip art