When a crew of pirates decides to rob a ring station, the last thing they’re expecting is a pair of rivals who’ll band together to save everyone . . . if they don’t kill each other first. All hope lies with . . . “The Unlikely Heroines of Calisto Station,” from Marie Vibbert. (That blurb works best if you read it in your best “Trailer Guy” voice.)
Our fact article for the issue is a look at Venus as it may have existed in the distant past (and the not-so-distant past of science fiction) in “Return to the Golden Age: Why Venus Might Actually Once Have Been Habitable,” by Richard A. Lovett, and we’ll have a special feature from Edward M. Wysocki, as well as an interview with theoretical cosmologist and author of The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), Katie Mack.
And of course there will be plenty of fantastic fiction, including a Space Age alternate history, in “The Next Frontier” by Rosemary Claire Smith; orbital derring-do that takes on personal significance in C. Stuart Hardwick’s “Sample Return”; a check-in with a much older version of a familiar character, now retired and living in a dome when disaster strikes, in “Long Day Lake.”
Get your copy now!
by Marie Vibbert
Lottie wanted to break something. Because she hadn’t! She’d shaped the cafeteria tray perfectly, with an ergonomic curve to support her elbow. She hadn’t had access to screws or nails, so she cut tabs into the workbench and slots into the tray, but the creators of workbenches had clearly not thought ahead to the eventual need for a series of slots to be cut, so when she’d inserted the expansion tray—with minimal force!—the entire surface had broken. How was that her fault?
“We’re in this together,” Saravit said. Which was a lie. He was in with them, with those who cared more about toeing imaginary lines than creating a better work environment. How stifling it was to live in a closed structure, surrounded by the same hundred people day in and day out. Everyone knew everyone’s reputation and didn’t care to learn more.
Saravit waited for her to look at him before he continued speaking. “Tell me what happened. Start at the beginning.” He was saying all the things he would say in a regular session. This was not a regular session. Their regular sessions were in a semi-private cubicle inside the station infirmary. There was a wall of translucent pink that curved around Sara-vit’s little area. It was meant to be informal, to put the patient at ease. It reminded her of a nail salon waiting room, especially with the comingled scents of astringents and the sounds of nurses and doctors going about their business. Maybe it did set her at ease.
Today they were not in the nail-salon waiting room cubicle. They were in Saravit’s private bedroom, with the door closed. A gently tapered cube of a room, like her own, only with a built-in desk where the roommate bunk should be. It smelled vaguely spicy, like an expensive male perfume. Saravit sat on his bed: military corners, the blanket turned flocked-side-up for a softer look. A battered teddy bear sat near the foam pillow. Lottie sat in the room’s only chair, which swung out from under the mounted desk so she felt balanced on the edge of scissors.
by Rosemary Claire Smith
On this fine November day in 1967, Natalya Orlova took the oath to become a citizen of the United States, thereby clearing her last hurdle for acceptance into the astronaut training program. After nearly three years of giving her all to NASA, today should have been one of the happiest days of her life. If only Tomas, and their little Pasha, could have celebrated with her. Instead, Natalya returned to Merritt Island alone.
Striding toward her hard-earned place atop the roof of the Launch Operations Center, she caught sight of the sorrow and yearning on Pete Conrad, Wally Schirra, and Alan Bean’s faces. She’d begun working with these three aviators soon after her own desperate race down dark cobblestoned streets of Paris. Today, their eyes, like hers, were fixed upon Launch Complex 39 where the mighty Saturn V perched, with Apollo 4’s command module sitting empty.
Only once had Wally Schirra spoken to Natalya about the launchpad fire. As backup for Apollo 1, Schirra had trained with Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Schirra had been at the Cape that January day watching what should have been routine preflight tests, before catching a T-38 flight back to Houston with his buddies. Instead, he’d witnessed seventeen seconds of tragedy. Then came fifteen minutes of ghastly silence before the confirmation of what everyone already knew. Schirra’s words echoed in Natalya’s mind today: “We always expected to lose at least one mission before we reached the Moon. But we never expected it to be on the ground.”
by Bruce McAllister
When I think of my father, which I do at night,
I think of his uniforms, the ones he has always
worn on the faster-than-light ships that carry him
through classified missions to the stars, clean...
by John J. Vester
Have you ever looked up into a clear night sky and marveled at all those lights up there? Sure you have. We all have, going back to the dawn of humanity. Explaining the motion of those infinitely beautiful, scattered points of light has been a struggle for almost all of that history.
Two thousand years ago a Greek living in Egypt, named Claudius Ptolemy1, had the answer, which, though crazy according to our modern and more informed perspective, was, for its time, good science.
Untouchable, invisible clear crystal spheres—one each for the Sun and the Moon, one for the background stars, and one each for the known planets—carried the heavenly bodies in perfect circular orbits around the Earth. Although their existence was unprovable, these crystal spheres and their epicycles2 reconciled observations with Ptolemy’s preconception that the Earth was the center of the Universe. They explained observed phenomena and provided reliable predictions without challenging the current paradigm. Astrologers loved it.
Two thousand years later, astronomers have found discrepancies between the motions of the largest structures in the Universe and their cherished Newton/Einstein laws of motion and gravity. To explain this they have put forward the twin concepts of dark matter and dark energy. Evidence for either is elusive to the point of complete absence.
Does anyone see a parallel here with Ptolemy and his spheres?
by John G. Cramer
About a decade ago (Analog October 2010 issue) I wrote an AV column describing NANOGrav, a new astrophysics collaboration that proposed to use observation of the precise arrival-time variations of pulsars to detect and measure low-frequency gravitational waves. Now, after many detector technical improvements and years of data collection, NANOGrav has presented their first significant results. In this AV column I want to discuss them, but let’s begin by reviewing the characteristics, detection, and possible astrophysical sources of low-frequency gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves can be viewed as the spreading ripples of distortion in the gravitational field that are created when a massive object is moved and its gravitational field is disturbed. Like light waves, gravitational waves travel at the speed of light and obey the inverse-square law [intensity ~ (distance)-2]. Gravitational waves induce a kind of “kneading” distortion in the space through which they move, making local transverse distances alternately larger and smaller. In one direction—perpendicular to the wave’s direction of travel—space is stretched, while in the other direction space is compressed, with the stretch and compression exchanging places after half a period of the wave. The wave can be visualized as a long sausage with its sides alternately pinched in side-to-side and top-to-bottom, with the pinches along the length of the sausage repeating with each wavelength and the entire sausage moving forward at the speed of light.
by Don Sakers
Analog readers, like others with a taste for hard SF, are accustomed to wrapping our heads around some of the most complex mysteries that modern science has to offer. We cut our teeth on orbital dynamics and nuclear physics; rocket science holds no terrors for us. Dark matter and energy, quantum entanglement, the intricacies of epigenetics, the nature and origin of life . . . old hat.
We routinely speculate on topics as diverse as the Fermi paradox, the meaning and mechanics of consciousness, other universes, the advantages and disadvantages of different political and economic systems, and the ultimate fate of intelligent life. We’re not afraid to tackle the most perplexing or intricate questions of sociology, philosophy, or theology. Free will? Identity? Epistemology? Life after death? The nine billion names of God? No problem.
Given this background, I think it’s right and proper to discuss in these pages one of the greatest inexplicable puzzles of our age: What in the world is going on with the prices of ebooks?!
My current crop of books for review offer a perfect case in point. Hardcovers range from $24.95 to $28.95 or six to eleven cents per page. Trade paperbacks are $14.95 to $34.95 (five to six cents/page). For ebooks the range is bigger, $2.99 to $28.99 (one to nine cents/page).
In School Library Journal’s latest annual survey of nationwide list prices for adult fiction books, published in May 2020, the average hardcover was $27.02 (down from $27.80 the previous year). The average trade paperback was $16.84 (down from $17.71). And the average mass market paperback cost $7.72 (up from $7.43). These numbers should look familiar to regular book shoppers; most list prices are generally within a few dollars of average.
by Anthony Lewis
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