Imagine an asteroid, hurtling toward the Earth. A really big one, a kilometer across, weighing millions of tons. In fact, don’t even imagine, watch this video for a simulation. Bad news, right? What to do? If time is really short, we may need to fire up the nuclear weapons in a desperate bid to either destroy the asteroid or alter its direction, but emphasis on the word desperate. It’s a long shot that it will help at all.
But hopefully we’ll have some more time than that, maybe on the order of 40 or 50 years. Then we can make plans. In How I saved the World, Valentin Ivanov’s short story from Diamonds in the Sky, a heroic team of astronauts are living on the surface of an asteroid called “The Hammer” and…painting it black. Read More
Continuing on with our look at short stories of the Diamonds In The Sky online anthology, we turn to “The Freshman Hook Up” by Wil McCarthy (McCarthy wrote an article for the October 2008 issue of DISCOVER about the very real possibilities of the programmable matter that appears in many of his science fiction books).
The Freshman Hook Up is a wry take on the phenonmenon of stellar nucleosynthesis–a phenomenon to which we owe our existence. After the Big Bang, most of the ordinary matter in the universe formed into isotopes of hydrogen, helium and a smattering of lithium. Heavier elements—making up nearly all of the periodic table—simply did not exist. So how is it that we can stand on a planet mostly made of rock, and enjoy active biochemistries that rely on carbon, oxygen, nitrogen along with some other elements?
Last week we mentioned the release of the hard-science fiction Diamonds In The Sky online anthology, edited by Mike Brotherton. Science Not Fiction is going to be looking at some of the individual stories over the next few weeks, and we decided to kick off with one co-written by our old pal, Kevin Grazier and Ges Seger. Because the story, Planet Killer, is a cosmic whodunnit, we’ll leave our discussion below the jump: come back when you’ve read it!