This Week 8–14 January 2023

Short science fiction by Torn MacAlester


Mor­gan’s Road by Torn MacAlester

Mor­gan’s Road is a short sto­ry that I wrote a few years ago.  It is not the first thing I ever wrote, but it is the first sto­ry that I decid­ed to share with a broad­er audi­ence. It is a fic­tion­al­ized account of the dis­cov­ery of water ice on the Moon. I imag­ined it as a tall tale that could be told around a camp-fire or in a typ­i­cal tavern.

Check out the Mor­gan’s Road sto­ry here.

As part of my process of writ­ing sci­ence fic­tion, I attempt to under­stand the sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy behind the sto­ry. In fact, I have a sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy ele­ment behind all my sto­ries.  Though I’ve point­ed out that Mor­gan’s Road is about anoth­er ele­ment that is equal­ly fas­ci­nat­ing.  You can read about it here.


This week’s discord chat

Week of Jan 8 2023 [8th at 1 PM EDT (6 PM GMT), 11th at 9 PM EDT (12th 2AM GMT)]

  • Torn dis­cuss­es his short sto­ry Morgan’s Road

Currently Reading

The New Fron­tiers Series, Book One: The Ship by Jack L. Knapp

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

The Space Envi­ron­ment: Impli­ca­tions for Space­craft Design — Revised and Expand­ed Edi­tion by Alan C. Tribble

Lunar Source­book: a Users Guide to the Moon edit­ed by Grant H. Heiken, David T. Van­i­man, and Bevan M. French

Thunder Moon Tussle Trailer

Thunder Moon Tussle by Torn MacAlester available on

This Week’s Short Fiction by Torn MacAlester

This week, I offer a glimpse of a major char­ac­ter in Sins of the Son.


A new novel by Torn MacAlester

The long awaited sequel to Thunder Moon Tussle:

Mask of the Joyful Moon

Coming Soon

Acquisition of Technology

NASA’s  (Dou­ble Aster­oid Redi­rec­tion Test) DART  Mis­sion is a demon­stra­tion of acqui­si­tion of tech­nol­o­gy nec­es­sary to ensure the sur­vival of human­i­ty. Last year, the suc­cess­ful kinet­ic inter­cept of an aster­oid showed the fea­si­bil­i­ty of plan­e­tary defense.

You can read more about DART at the NASA press release:

DART is a clever use of a dou­ble aster­oid to mea­sure the effect of the col­li­sion.  A dou­ble aster­oid is an aster­oid that is orbit­ed by a low­er com­pan­ion.  Because the aster­oids have such tiny mass, an impact on the small­er com­pan­ion would affect its orbit the oth­er in a notice­able way that is detectable over a short­er time scale. The orbits of the aster­oids around each oth­er  over a short timescale, so a dif­fer­ence in that orbit will be eas­i­er to observe than an orbit that has been changed around the sun.

In the video below, Anton Petrov, dis­cuss­es a new result explain­ing the unex­pect­ed­ly large orbit change that has been detected.

The Kardashev Scale

The Kar­da­shev scale is a means of con­ve­nient­ly mea­sur­ing the pow­er out­put of a civ­i­liza­tion.  The scale tra­di­tion­al­ly has three lev­els, called I — plan­e­tary, II — stel­lar , & III — galactic.

A Type I civ­i­liza­tion has a pow­er out­put of approx­i­mate­ly 10^{17} Watts. This is a fac­tor of ten thou­sand times greater than the Earth civ­i­liza­tion’s cur­rent pow­er out­put of 10^{14} Watts.

The recent break­through with fusion pow­er may put our civ­i­liza­tion on track for becom­ing Type I soon­er than with­out it. Check out my arti­cle on the Kar­da­shev scale here.

Below, Michio Kaku com­ments on the the Kar­da­shev scale and our tra­jec­to­ry to reach Type I with­in about a century.


Lunar Resources

Its not so out­ra­geous as it seemed at first glance. The Moon has water in unusu­al places.

The solar wind is com­posed of most­ly hydro­gen. The rate of solar wind flow is \inline 10^{-14} M_{\bigodot } yr^{-1}. That is the same as  \inline 4\times 10^{35} pro­tons per sec­ond stream­ing away from the sun in all direc­tions, or \inline 2\times 10^{25} pro­tons impact­ing the Moon’s sur­face per second.

Many lunar rocks are oxides, pro­vid­ing the source of oxy­gen.  If every pro­ton impact­ing the Moon’s sur­face turns into water mol­e­cules, then we have on order \inline 10^{25} mol­e­cules or 200 grams of water being formed every sec­ond just below the Moon’s sun­lit surface.

This water would be formed inside the rocks and regolith with a depth depend­ing upon the inci­dent ener­gy of the protons.

Realistic Large Scale Space Construction

Inter­est­ing web page with large scale space struc­tures and cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy readi­ness lev­el (TRL) estimates:

To date, the largest struc­ture built in space is the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion (ISS).  ISS took over a decade to build and required over a decade to assemble.

The fol­low-on space sta­tions that are expect­ed to be built in the com­ing decade are all small­er but are expect­ed to be com­mer­cial outposts.

But the real­ly big space sta­tions that could have there own spin grav­i­ty remain on the far hori­zon.  Two exam­ples are the Stan­ford Torus Space Set­tle­ment, and the O’Neill Cylin­der.

Space Cities Out of Aster­oids and Graphene Bags? Intrigu­ing O’Neill Cylin­der Study


Kilauea resumes eruption

Recent­ly, both Vol­canos on Hawai­i’s big island stopped erupting.

The Hun­ga-Ton­ga vol­canic erup­tion of last Jan­u­ary con­tin­ues to pro­vide a wealth of new sci­ence. Vol­canos con­tin­ue to sur­prise us. And this erup­tion is no excep­tion.  In the arti­cle below, the authors explain how the erup­tion effect­ed Earth­’s ionos­phere more than many solar storms.


Ton­ga Erup­tion Made Waves in Earth’s Ionosphere

Extrasolar Planets

Dying plan­et

Data­base of Extra­so­lar Planets:

Meth­ods for find­ing exoplanets:

This helps deter­mine the frac­tion of stars hav­ing plan­ets and the num­ber of plan­ets per star for the Drake Equation.

Using spec­tra to deter­mine com­po­si­tion and chem­istry of atmosphere:

This relates to frac­tion of worlds hav­ing life from the Drake Equation.

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