Author of SECTOR 64: Ambush

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Recipient

See it on Amazon Preview the Coming Audiobook

Reptilian Aliens? Why Wouldn’t They Be?

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People ask why writers often depict reptilian aliens, sometimes referring to it as cliché. While humans seem predisposed to fear reptiles and regularly equate them with evil (see: Garden of Eden), I think there is a fundamental and practical reason for casting reptiles as a viable intelligent alien species.

The vast majority of Earth’s vertebrate animals sport scales.

The one example we have of life’s diversity—the biosphere we call Earth—demonstrates that hair follicles are the anomaly, not scales. Of all the classes of animal that constitute this planet’s vast wealth of life, only mammals have hair follicles. Species falling within the mammalian class only constitute 5400 of Earth’s 60,000 vertebrates. That’s less than 10%. The percentage falls to 00.3% when you include all 1.5 million known animals.

What if no Earth-changing calamity took out the dinosaurs?

If not for a big ass rock knocking down their evolutionary tree 65 million years ago, dinosaurs would likely still rule this biosphere. Considering we mammals managed to progress from rodents to spacefaring homo sapiens in the intervening 65 million years, it’s interesting to imagine what the dinosaurs might have evolved into had said ‘big ass rock’ not ended their reign.

Now for the fun part, the part where I go off into one of my thought experiments, the part where I ask: ‘What if?’ (And, you probably respond: Well, IF my Aunt had testicles, she’d be my Uncle.)

Thousands of millennia ago, Velociraptors were already hunting in organized parties, a level of intelligence far ahead of the tiny mammals scurrying about their feet.

Imagine those Velociraptors continued to develop and evolve. Hell, I’ll even diminish (but not eliminate) their huge head start over mammals. Let’s suppose it takes this advanced dinosaur species 64 million years to do what base mammals did in 65 million years: produce a spacefaring species.

In other words, what if during the first 64 million of the intervening 65 million years, Velociraptors developed into an intelligent earth-conquering species. Through utilization of superior intellect, opposable thumbs, and tools, they render the planet safe; free of the bigger more threatening species like T-Rex. Who knows, maybe they hunted them into extinction (as we likely did to the wooly mammoth). At the end of those 64 million years, they conquered gravity and put the first dino in space; one even famously referring to their astronauts as ‘Spam in a can.’ (A reference to a popular mammalian meat product.)

Now you say: “Dean, you’re missing a million years. The dinosaur’s evolutionary tree toppled 65 million years ago.”

You’re right. In my hypothetical scenario, our slow-to-develop Velociraptors conquered space a MILLION years ago. I think that is a conservative number. If we instead suppose they maintained their massive evolutionary head start, they might have conquered space tens of millions of years ago.

Where will humans be in a million years?

Back to the real world. If we don’t kill ourselves (and somehow survive Ebola), where will humans be in a million years? Perhaps the reptiles populating a nearby solar system will look up and see scale-free aliens descending on their world. After seeing our hairy heads, they will turn to their science fiction writers and apologize for calling their depictions of hairy aliens cliché.

Enjoyed my writing? Be sure to check out my new novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush.

Free Audiobook Sample:

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2014 Galveston Lone Star Motorcycle Rally

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IMG_3249

My ‘Choppers’

Many of my readers only know me as an author who flies ‘choppers’ for his day job, but you may not know I build and ride them, as well.

I finished the baby pictured above in June 2008. A few months later, she made her Galveston Lone Star Motorcycle Rally debut, and she’s still going strong in 2014. It’s almost time for this year’s rally. Look for Donna and me there November 7-9.

Save us a parking space … a really long parking space with plenty of turning room. That rake allows for the turning radius of a Mack truck … but it looks good doing it. Hey, I never said it was practical.

When you see that ten-foot-long yellow chopper with my beautiful wife, Donna, behind my ugly mug, give us a yell. If you can’t remember my name, just yell out, “Hey you, author!”

Hope to see you there.

Me and the Chopper on the Cover of the Houston Chronicle 2008 — Hurricane-Ike-Delayed Lone Star Rally

2008 Ike Delayed Lone Star Rally

Bike Stats:
Chasis: 2007 JSR Custom – Outrage
Suspension: Rear – None (Hardtail)
Front – American Suspension Inverted Forks
Wheels: Xtreme Machines – Burnt
330mm rear tire (WIDE)
Engine: Ultima 127 cubic inch El Bruto
HP – 140
Tq – 145 LB FT
Exhaust: Vance & Hines Big Radius

Parking a 10′ chopper can be a challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

The Night I Met Donna, My Beautiful Wife.

The Night I Met Donna, My Beautiful Wife.

Daytona Biketoberfest 2011 - First Place at the Broken Spoke Saloon

Daytona Biketoberfest 2011 – First Place at the Broken Spoke Saloon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daytona Beach Biketoberfest 2011 - Main St.

Daytona Beach Biketoberfest 2011 – Main St.

Key West - 2012

Key West – 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key West - 2012

Key West – 2012

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Audiobook in Production

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Click the red play button at the top left corner to hear nationally recognized voice artist, Mike Ortego, read scene 1 of my novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush. You’ll recognize his voice from documentaries and commercials for Coke-Zero, Kingsford Charcoal, and more.

He’s currently producing and narrating the audiobook for my new novel. It sounds great; he really brings the dialogue to life. The ebook and paperback versions of SECTOR 64: Ambush are available now. The finished audiobook should be available on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible by Halloween.

Ambush Audio Cover Art 1.1

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New Science Fiction Novel Available Today

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Ambush Cover Art 1.3

New science fiction novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush, is complete. Both the ebook and 500-page paperback are available on Amazon.

A dizzying chain of events thrust US Air Force fighter pilot Captain Jake Giard into a well-intentioned global conspiracy with extraterrestrial roots. However, as Jake finishes indoctrination into the program, it renders Earth a pawn in a galactic civil war. Within and above Washington DC, Captain Giard and two wingmen fight through a post-apocalyptic hell. On the West Coast, his girlfriend and fellow fighter pilot, Captain Sandra Fitzpatrick, wades through blazing infernos and demented looters in a desperate attempt to save her family. Finally, with the fate of the world in the balance, they take the battle to the enemy, humanity’s very survival hanging on their success.

This new full-length novel, an action-packed present-day apocalyptic thriller based and expanding on the highly rated novella, Coup de Main, delivers a broader scope with twice the action, richer scenery, and additional characters drawn with greater depth. Tapping his experiences as a combat pilot, the author creates authentic dialogue and gripping action.

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What’s Wrong With The Fermi Paradox

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In a 1950 discussion with colleagues on the subject of the potential existence of extraterrestrial life, famed physicist Enrico Fermi asked, “Where are they?” Uttering those three words, Fermi forever tied his name to the issue as it came to be known as the Fermi Paradox.

fermi paradoxHis question is reasonable.

The Fermi Paradox lies in the contradiction between high estimates of the potential numbers of extraterrestrial civilizations, and the lack of evidence for or contact with said civilizations.

Considering the billions of years of galactic history predating humanity’s arrival and taking Earth’s life-development timeline as average, the age of the universe and its vast number of stars suggests extraterrestrial life should be common. Even using conservative numbers for the percentage of stars with planets and the percentage of those that will host life and so on, the number of technological galactic civilizations could easily be in the millions.

So, withstanding the multitude of UFO sightings, where’s the hard evidence that would surely be visible in the form of spacecraft or probes if the galaxy teamed with life.

There are several gaps in this logic, one being that all UFO sightings are either hoaxes or misidentified natural phenomenon. The US Air Force’s Project Blue Book found a small percentage “inexplicable by contemporary technology.” If even one sighting were real, the paradox evaporates.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s say every UFO sighting in history has been terrestrial in origin. What are the other holes in the argument?

One is the Zoo Hypothesis. Essentially it postulates that earth-space is a sanctuary. Much like a wildlife refuge, it is to be left unmolested and unaltered by external cultures and technologies, allowed to develop on its own course and of its own volition. Under this hypothesis, alien ships could be observing us now. As long as they remain undetected, they could pursue their anthropologic aspirations utilizing their advanced technology.

Fermi’s paradox evaporates at the very idea that aliens could inhabit local space undetected by our current technology.

Undetectable spaceships? Sounds like paranoid conspiracy theorist fodder. Maybe not when you consider how close we are to realizing that ability.

Humans, barely a century from our first forays into the air and mere decades since first breaching our atmosphere into local space, are already pondering invisibility cloaks rendered through the employment of metamaterials. While that century’s hundred years seems like a long time on a human timescale, it is less than a blink of the eye on a geologic timescale, even less on an astronomic timescale.

Another paradoxical hole arises when we review the assumption that we would see an uncloaked ship.

Most of us grew up in the space and information ages. We believe we know what’s out there and surely must know what is in our solar system. In this time-lapse computer animation produced by Scott Manley, we humans look like cavemen shining our light of discovery upon our solar neighborhood. Watch the video. You’ll be amazed at how little we knew about our solar neighborhood a few years ago, much less in Fermi’s time.


The rendered asteroids are mostly 100 meters or larger. By the end of the animation, there are roughly half a million asteroids. Current scientific estimates place the number of asteroids 100 meters or larger at half a billion. That’s billion with a B. Meaning there are a thousand times more football-field-sized asteroids than have been found to date.

In other words, in 2014 scientists believe roughly 499.5 million sports-arena-sized asteroids remain undiscovered in our neck of the solar system. 

In that light, how much water does Fermi’s 1950 assertion hold. Even 64 years later, we can’t say there aren’t (potentially cloaked and potentially smaller than a football field) alien ships visiting.

All things considered, it doesn’t seem like much of a paradox.

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Overpopulation and the New Space Age

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As popularly depicted in several recent fiction offerings, we face a coming crisis. Over the last several decades, we’ve added a billion people to the world’s population every twelve years. Considering our economy, stock markets, and corporate valuations are growth based, this is great news for our retirement nest eggs. However, at some point in the next hundred years, the irresistible force of growth will smack into the immovable wall of earth’s finite resources and real estate.

Dan Brown’s new present-day thriller, Inferno, revolves around a mad scientist’s deranged solution for overpopulation. Matt Damon’s Elysium portrays a future where the ‘Have-Not’s are left to struggle in the squalor of a dystopic overpopulated world while the ‘Have’s take to living in a utopian orbital Halo-like ring world.

While Inferno’s fictional mad-scientist assumes additional resources will not avail themselves in time to prevent catastrophe, Elysium envisions growth’s substantial economic force leading to off world development. I believe the latter is the likely outcome.

In simplest terms, a reduction in growth creates a recession while a contraction generates a depression. We all suffer during those economic downturns. The stagnation of permanent zero growth would create economic chaos. Elysium’s dystopic vision not withstanding, when the forces of continued growth collide with earth’s limited resources, I believe it will be in our children’s (or their children’s) best interest to look to the stars.

It will also be in the corporate world’s best interest. More than any other factor, I believe the forces of capitalism will take us to the stars. It won’t happen tomorrow, next year, or even in the next several decades. However, at some point in the next century, the negative inflationary forces of improving technology and the need to continue growth will render large-scale space habitation an affordable option, propelling us across the solar system and eventually to the stars.

It won’t happen overnight. Barring a huge leap in technology, or the discovery of new physics that open paths to the stars, we won’t leap directly from our current forays into low earth orbit to interstellar travel. However, as the Samoans populated the Pacific’s scattered islands, humanity will likely spend the next thousand years spreading about the solar system. Through terraforming the inner planets or deploying Elysium style ring worlds, or both, our growth will continue until we’ve completely tapped the solar system’s resources. At that point, we’ll truly reach for the stars.

 

While vast, the Sol system’s resources are finite. Knowing that, we will have long ago identified nearby star systems ripe for human immigration. We already possess the ability to detect the atmosphere of nearby extra solar planets. Hubble recently detected the blue atmosphere of a gas giant orbiting one of our neighbors. In the coming decades, we will almost certainly gain the ability to directly observe some of our galaxy’s 100 billion earth-like planets.

While most, if not all of these events, will take place after we’ve moved on, our current outer space efforts are allowing us a glimpse of the universe our descendants may inherit when our socioeconomic model gets caught between a rock and a hard place.

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Plausible Alien First Contact (Part I)

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In my new novel, SECTOR 64: Ambush, I put forth an alien first contact scenario that my readers find very plausible, some even wondering aloud if this could be our current reality.

Let’s imagine that, elsewhere in the galaxy, a species elevated itself from the primordial soup a million years ahead of us. Making the most of that thousand-millennia head start, they master physics, achieve faster than light (FTL) travel, and populate thousands of star systems.

Always looking for burgeoning technological societies to bring into the galactic government, they populate the galaxy with a network of detectors designed to watch for certain markers thought to be key indicators, i.e.: unnaturally organized radio waves or light waves (laser beams) and unnatural fission reactions (nuclear detonations). Some, like radio waves, would probably just be annotated for future research. Others, like nuclear detonations, would require a more urgent investigation.

While they’ve mastered FTL travel and communications, their sensors are still limited to detecting occurrences at the speed of light. In other words, if a burgeoning society starts blasting radio waves or nuclear electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) across the cosmos our curious aliens wouldn’t detect it until the wave traveled at the speed of light to the nearest sensor. At which time, their sensor would pass the news across their FTL sub-space communication network.

To appreciate the logistics involved, we must have a full appreciation of the galaxy’s size. It’s a BIG galaxy. If our curious aliens only wanted to deploy ten million sensors, they would have to disperse them throughout the galaxy on a grid with one-hundred light-year spacing. The Milky Way is 100,000 light-years across and one thousand light-years thick. That means if you could travel at the speed of light, the earth would circle the sun 100,000 times in the time it would take you to cross the galaxy. (Note: these are external observations. The hypothetical FTL traveler would experience this time quite differently, but that’s a subject for a future blog.) Even if you could travel 100,000 times the speed of light, an earth year would pass in the time it took you to traverse the galaxy.

When it comes to jaunting about the galaxy, your FTL travel would have to be MUCH faster than the speed of light to be of any appreciable use. The reason scientist and sci-fi writers often employ worm holes is their hypothetical ability to fold space. Joining two points of space-time, like folding a paper in half, brings two remote points together. This makes traveling between them as simple as stepping through a door.

Back to our first contact scenario. Because of the aforementioned galactic scale, our fictional aliens have quite a few (read: ten million) sensors spread throughout the Milky Way. One day, they receive a signal indicating a planet in a remote portion of the galaxy identified as SECTOR 64 has detonated a nuclear device. They identify the signal as having originated from a medium sized rocky planet in a solar system only two light-years from the sensor. (That would be very fortuitous, remember our one-hundred light-year spacing.)

So our curious aliens fold space-time and dispatch a couple of scout ships to SECTOR 64. Arriving only a few days after their sensor detects the nuclear blast, they arrive on the planet the locals (humans) call Earth, in a year the humans have designated as one-thousand nine-hundred and forty-seven or 1947. Because of the sensor’s two light-year distance from the planet, two earth years have passed since their original nuclear detonations in 1945. Our curious alien scouts travel to the only place on the planet where they detect current nuclear weapons. It happens to be relatively close to where the first nuclear detonation occurred. The humans call the area New Mexico. It turns out the only nuclear armed bomber squadron on the planet in 1947 was the 509th Bomber Group at an Army Air Corp Base known as Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) near a small town of the same name, Roswell, New Mexico.

Proving their fallibility, in spite of their advanced technological prowess, one of the scout ships is knocked out of the air by a surprisingly strong thunderstorm (most planets they’ve explored don’t have such strong electrical storms—okay work with me here, that’s probably the biggest stretch for this scenario). At any rate, the surviving curious alien scout goes on to make first contact with the world leaders of the day.

In Part 2 of our alien contact scenario, we’ll look at the steps or procedures our hypothetical galactic government would set in place to incorporate a newly discovered race. Sound like an interesting premise for a novel?

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Plausible Alien First Contact (Part II)

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Close-EncountersHow We’d Integrate Into a Hypothetical Galactic Government.

In the first part, I laid out the plausible alien first contact scenario that forms the premise of my novel, SECTOR 64: Coup de Main. As promised at the end of that post, I’m back to postulate how things would pan out post-contact.

Given the premise that this alien species/society is extremely advanced and has been at the business of heading the Galactic Government for unknown millennia, we have to assume this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve had hundreds, if not thousands of first contacts. Through trial and error they’ve perfected this process.

Now they stumble into another race in a backwoods SECTOR of the galaxy, make first contact, and layout the steps for inclusion into the Galactic Government:

You must go through a decades-long program designed to streamline your society, governments, and economy for galactic integration.

It MUST be a secret program. Why? Because, through thousands of iterations they’ve refined the process. The political, economic, and social implications of premature disclosure during previous transitions were often catastrophic, creating unacceptable hardships on the populace. If everybody knows about the transition, then all time and energy invested in softening the socio/economic blow will be for naught.

In short, disclosure defeats the purpose of a phased integration.

They tell us the necessary social changes are usually self-perpetuating. If we make the necessary political and economic changes, most populace are fairly rugged and capable of making the transition without totally freaking out.

So here’s what our fictional galactic governors laid out:

  • The world’s governments must conform to galactic standards. In my fictional book, this ties into the gradual worldwide moves towards an economic and cultural center. Examples include, the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent Capitalization/Democratization of its member nations, the gradual transition of China away from strict communism, and the social reforms of the West.
  • The gradual shift of economies away from a fossil fuel energy base. Perhaps the biggest indicator that this truly is fiction, is our continued growing dependence on fossil fuels. Our economy is getting more, not less intertwined in them. I’m not saying this is bad, hell it’s where I make my living. However, if free energy dropped into our lap tomorrow, the short and near-term economic impacts would be HUGE. (Yes, I know that, in the long-run, it would be a HUGE boon to our society and economy.)

Case in point: My Job (the flying one). If virtually free energy were discovered tomorrow, the huge sector of our economy devoted to oil & gas exploration would evaporate overnight. While we would still need petroleum products for fuel during the transition, and for plastics and lubrication into the foreseeable future, I imagine those needs could be met with our current production levels.

A hiccup in 1980’s oil prices turned Houston into a virtual ghost town and had shockwaves that rippled through the world economy. Oil & Gas exploration and oil markets in general are futures based. Free energy would be their death. But by ‘their death’ I don’t mean the Oil company’s. The rich people behind them won’t go broke, but every person you know that either works for, or in support of, any sector of the petroleum industry would. Energy is the biggest slice of the world’s economic pie, and petroleum is its present filling. Now imagine the economic impact of it, and the careers of all the people whose livelihood depends on it, evaporating overnight.

As I said earlier, long-term, unlimited free energy would be a HUGE boon to our economy and our society. But, without a planned, gradual phasing in, the short-term impacts could be catastrophic.

The premise of my fictional story holds that the advanced galactic governors know these potential pitfalls, and while my book takes place in the modern day, I envision that had things not turned out as poorly as they ultimately do, my fictional Earth was to have had a phased introduction of alternate energy solutions in the not too distant future… Wait are we talking fiction or today … I’m confused again…

This alien first contact scenario is merely the premise or backdrop, not the meat and potatoes, of my story. If I’ve piqued your interest click here to read more about SECTOR 64: Coup de Main.

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Will We Find ET in the Next 20 Years?

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If ET phoned over the summer he would have received the embarrassing I-didn’t-pay-my-phone-bill message stating ‘The planet you are calling has been temporarily disconnected.’ In April the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute shuttered the Allen Telescope Array due to budgetary woes. Thanks to the SETIStars initiative and generous donations we’re back to listening for that call.

In a recent Popular Science article SETI director, Seth Shostak, said he believes we’ll detect alien life in the next twenty years. He lists a few ways he thinks this may come about. Last but not least he mentions SETI’s improving technology and its anticipated ability to search a million star systems over the next twenty years.

He touched on the idea that an alien race might detect the radio signals we’ve been emitting for decades and send a reply. Minimizing the possibility he pointed out that only a few tens of thousands of stars have been exposed to our transmissions.

If one employs conservative/pessimistic numbers in the Drake Equation then life is probably too rare and scattered about to expect a reply anytime in the next several thousand years. However, if you plug slightly more optimistic values into the equation you see a galaxy teaming with life.

This later scenario presents exciting possibilities, and is an area I think warrants more consideration.

Given the relatively slow speed of light (relative to the size of the galaxy anyway) only a tiny fraction of the galaxy may know we exist. Arguably the most powerful unnatural radio signals mankind ever sent out were our aboveground nuclear detonations. Considering the speed limit of 186,000 miles per second, that energy has blazed across the galaxy and covered a whopping 66 light-year radius in the intervening 66 years. That’s a bubble of information roughly 122 light-years across.

Big huh?

Not really, it’s only 3/100,000 of 1 % (0.000003%) of the galaxy.

Hard to visualize? Imagine you shrunk the galaxy down to the volume of the Superdome. Now imagine you’re up in the nosebleed section. At that scale picture a four-foot-wide beach ball at mid-field. That sphere, a few centimeters over a meter, would represent the 122 light-year bubble of stars exposed to the energy waves emitted from the planet in 1945. It’s unlikely anything outside of that beach ball even knows we exist.

Our galaxy is not as boxy. The Superdome’s interior volume is roughly as tall as it is wide, or 1:1. With a 100:1 width-to-height ratio our galaxy is 100,000 light-years across and only 1,000 light-years thick. Now imagine trying to see that four-foot sphere from a mile away instead of the upper-deck. And remember, if you’re not in that bubble all you hear from its center point is cosmic white noise.

Knowing how small the portion of the galaxy is that may know of our existence, consider this: every day that sphere’s radius grows, its surface grows exponentially. In other words the potential pool of star systems learning of our existence is growing daily, and at an ever-increasing rate.

Complicating the issue is the time a reply takes to reach us. If a civilization decides to beam an instant reply it will take just as long for us to receive it as our signal took to get to them.

What if 33 years ago, back when that bubble was the size of a basketball, a relatively advanced civilization in our galactic backyard received the signal and blasted a return message our way? We’ll receive it thirty-three years later (today). Therefore, any instant replies beamed in the last 32+ years are still en route.

That’s all if they decide to reply immediately. Considering the signal they received was a nuclear detonation they may want to listen for a while. After a few decades of I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, Seinfeld, and Lost they decide ‘what-the-hell let’s say hello to our wacky neighbors.’

Side note: I often muse over the idea that somewhere there’s an alien race agonizing over who shot JR as they painfully wait for the next season of Dallas to reach their planet. Who knows, there may even be a cultural niche of Elvis Presley fans on some remote rock (there’s some bad news heading their way circa 1976).

People and politicians often ask, ‘Why should we spend money listening for aliens? It’s not like they’ll balance the federal budget for us.’ That’s tantamount to a five year old asking, ‘Why should I go to school? There’s nothing they can teach me.’ Setting aside man’s innate curiosity and our desire to answer the burning questions: ‘Are we alone?’ and ‘Is there anybody out there?’ there are more practical reasons to search.

In regards to social and scientific development we are likely babes in the Galactic woods. Any data gathered from alien contact would probably be more enlightening than Pythagoras’ Theorem. Spanning decades, it would be an inefficient discussion, but we most certainly would be the prime beneficiary of that interaction. Thus a tiny-tiny-tiny-miniscule investment (relative to GDP) lands us invaluable knowledge.

In Carl Sagan’s Contact aliens send us blueprints for a wormhole generator. But saving that, what if they merely said ‘Hello, here’s the perfect mouse trap,’ or ‘free energy and the cure to world hunger,’ or whatever.

I for one am glad we’re paying our phone bill again.

Click here for more information about, or to donate to SETIStars.

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Underground Hangar Entrance

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Today’s volume of totally useless trivia: As many of you who read my book already know an underground hangar entrance at Southern Nevada’s Area 51 is the setting for two key scenes in my Amazon Top Rated novel SECTOR 64: Coup de Main.

What you may not know is I based that hangar’s location and description on a feature I saw on Google Earth’s images of the secretive Air Force facility adjacent to Groom Lake.  While researching the novel I did an in depth visual scan of the airfield. If you look at the base’s layout you’ll notice a not inconsequential distance lies between the hangar facilities and the runway complex. I reasoned that if you had a vehicle who’s very appearance would stand out you’d want a shorter path to the runway complex.

During my search I found the feature pictured above. While it may only be a jet-blast shield, its position seemed out of place and inconvenient for that purpose. Usually jet-blast shields are positioned to protect roads and structures from said jet blast. Also, the dirt behind/above it appears groomed as though work had been done there. Look closely and you’ll see parallel dark lines leading into the feature’s center.

I created a Google Earth Placemark for it. Click here to open a Google Map centered on the feature.

What do you think?

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Why Do We Think We Know It All?

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As a science fiction writer I try to root my stories in the possible. However, if taken to the extreme of Hard-Science Fiction stories become quite limited. To be sure many an author has produced quite fascinating stories within those limitations, Sir Arthur C. Clarke high among them.

I regularly see reviews and forum comments about various books and subjects in which said commentators make disparaging remarks about authors who have spaceships that magically travel faster than light, communicate faster than light, or somehow violate physics as we know it.

As I said in the beginning of this article, I try to root my stories within the possible, but having the imagination of … well, a writer I imagine that we may not know everything there is to know about the universe.

I do understand that E=MC2 ties space and time together so that you can’t change one part without affecting the other. But we humans who:

  • Don’t know how many dimensions or forces form our universe.
  • What dark energy is.
  • What dark matter is (or if either exist)
  • Why the universe expanded at superluminal (Faster Than Light – FTL) speeds for a time after the big bang
  • Why its expansion is accelerating today

somehow feel certain that FTL travel, communication, or anything else is impossible.

To me it’s as arrogant and assuming as those in the 1800s that said speeds over 100mph would kill you and those in the early 1900s that said travel faster than the speed of sound was a feat man would never accomplish.

Before I present my fictional workarounds (to call them theoretical would make me the biggest pompous ass of all) let me first say that I’m not a physicist, hell I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So there are likely glaring holes in my fictional workarounds. Also, as an author I generally chose not to put my readers to sleep so these are ideas that, for the most part, do not get explained ad nauseum in my books. Till today they merely floated around in the back of my mind as a self-defense mechanism. They allow me tell myself: “I’m anchoring my tale in the possible.”

The basis for my workarounds: I believe three areas that we as a society are just starting to nibble at, three areas that, once figured out, will either lock us into our piece of the galaxy, or open up the universe to us are:

* Dark Energy:

Its apparent anti-gravity effect. Can it be manipulated?

*Undiscovered Forces:

For every force in the known universe there is an associated particle, either known i.e.: Electromagnetism – Photon, Weak Force – Intermediate Vector Bosons, Strong Force – Gluon … and so on; or hypothesized i.e.:  Mass – Higgs Boson (aka God Particle), Gravity – Graviton … and so on.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the US’ Tevatron have recently hinted at as yet unknown forces. Who knows how many underlying forces may exist and how they might be manipulated.

Electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin; Yin and Yang if you will. Manipulate one and you generate the other and vice versa. What if some new force or a new manifestation of an existing force, i.e.: electricity and magnetism, rises from the data and turns out to be the Yin of gravity’s Yang. In that scenario just as you can manipulate magnetism to generate positive and negative electricity, you could manipulate the new force or manifestation of gravity to generate positive or negative gravity.

* Extra Dimensions:

If we fully understand them and how they tie into the underlying fabric of space-time could they open up the potential for my book’s fictional FTL Parallel-Space travel? (again, see Heim’s Quantum Theory)

What about using extra dimensions for communication. Theoretical physicists postulate the existence of additional dimensions beyond the three spatial and one temporal that we perceive. They tell us these dimensions, existing near the Plank level (the smallest theoretical size), have no size in our universe, but are like curled up dimensions existing adjacent to our dimensions throughout the entire universe.

Now suppose an advanced race, has decoded the mysteries of the universe, i.e.: they’ve unified Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity, they’ve unified gravity and electromagnetism (see Heim’s Quantum Theory), and even taught cats and dogs to live together in perfect harmony. Employing their mastery of the universe they learn how to expand one of those curled up dimensions just enough to accept an energy state. That energy state (say, half of a quantum pair) could then be manipulated to convey a signal, creating a data-stream.

This extra-dimensional dimension has no size other than that created through their manipulations. So this data would have nowhere to travel, but it could be accessed from anywhere in the universe … who says you couldn’t have instantaneous communication across the universe? (at least fictionally)

In Conclusion (Finally)

Once again, I’m not a physicist and I’m sure there are plenty of theories that would rule out most if not all of my fictional workarounds.

The region between proven facts and the waterfalls at the edge of the universe (here there be dragons) is the realm of science fiction and fantasy. While I like to think my work leans away from said falls and dragons, I’m okay if it takes literary license from time to time. The truest measures are my reader’s opinions, and their willingness to suspend their disbelief whilst they roam my universe.

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Anti-Gravity . . . What If?

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I’ve always been a huge admirer of the works of the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke. One of my favorite aspects of his writing lies in his use of real world, or at least theoretical, physics in his storylines. He never went off into flights of fancy with plotlines that could only happen in a magical universe. (Disclaimer: that doesn’t mean I don’t love Star Wars. Like every other red-blooded American male that came of age in the late seventies, I too am a big fan of the ‘Force’.)

I tried to emulate his approach in my novel. In the book I tie the physics of the UFO encountered in the first scene with an obscure but very exciting branch of theoretical physics known as Heim’s Quantum Theory, or HQT.

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s Burkhard Heim, a German self-taught theoretical physicist developed his unified field theory (HQT). Now before your eyes glaze over let me tell you the exciting part. If proved viable, HQT opens the door to gravity manipulation and faster than light (FTL) travel.

In 1957 he became an instant celebrity (in Germany) when he first presented his work. In the 1960’s Wernher von Braun, the famous German rocket scientist (think: father of the United States’ rocket program, aka NASA) approached Heim about his work and asked whether his Saturn rockets were worthwhile.

In a 1964 letter, relativity theorist Pascual Jordan, a member of the Nobel committee, told Heim his plan was so important “its successful experimental treatment would without doubt make the researcher a candidate for the Nobel prize.”

For multiple reasons his theory was never put to an experimental test. Primarily because the cost, scale and technologies involved exceeded his abilities.

This leads back to my book. Without giving away too much of the plot, it ask the question:

  • What if Heim was right?
  • What if the boys in Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories tested it?
  • What if the US Government already has craft that fly using an HQT inspired drive?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we have a fleet of faster than light anti-gravity ships. But it might make for interesting fiction…

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How Humans Will Become Computers.

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I think one of the biggest challenges in writing Near to Distant Future Science Fiction lies in finding a common point of reference for today’s readers. Under the mantra that fact often eclipses fiction, I believe the world as it will look a millennium from now will be so alien to today’s culture, any fiction that truly captures the likely changes might be a difficult read.

Most authors (me included) limit the ways future technologies change those cultures, leaving the human condition relatively unchanged. This allows the reader to identify with the story’s characters in ways that would be difficult with the truly alien culture that a millennium of “progress” would generate.

What could so radically change our culture, you ask. Say one day someone implants a chip in a brain for a simple memory augmentation. No big change right? Let’s even suppose that becomes a commonplace treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In the next step, having perfected nanotechnology, we learn how to implement these changes without surgery. The surgeons or scientist need only inject a solution teaming with millions of nanobots programmed to seek a certain location and self-assemble into the same circuits that were previously surgically implanted.

Now say someone gets tired of doing rudimentary calculations and decides to utilize the same painless, non-invasive technology to implant those memory circuits along with an integrated circuit. Ah hell, throw in a modem while you’re at it. Now you have upgradeable memory in a powerful PC—or Mac—built into and integrated with your mind. (Kind of gives a whole new slant to the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials.) All of that incorporated with a low powered Electro-Organic modem. Talk about the information superhighway.

The biggest impediment to seamless computer access is the interface. With a thought-integrated computer, instantaneous internet, email, and tweets are only a thought away. Think the Internet has had significant social implications? What will happen to our society when we’re all linked together with no information bottlenecks.

Now, let’s take our thought experiment a little farther. The next logical brain enhancement would be the implementation of thought expanding circuitry. You have all of this data coming through your Electro Organic Network (EON as it’s called in my book) but the organic part of your brain can only handle so much at a time. Some hacker or scientist figures out a way to reprogram intellect into your memory or integrated circuits (EON). This would enable you to shift some of your thought processes into a network that runs exponentially faster than your organic computer (read: brain). This assumes that Moore’s Law will have made computers much more powerful than the human mind, currently they are not.

Unhappy with the status quo, people add more and more mental functions and thought processes to their EON. Eventually the silicon-based thoughts exceed the carbon-based.

So I’ve laid out the hypothetical path for a society to transition from organic based thoughts to computer-based without a single huge leap. What kind of social changes would that bring about? The slow-thinking twenty-first century man will look like knuckle-dragging caveman in comparison to the twenty-second century EON enhanced man.

Most people shrug off the suggestion that we may someday shift our thoughts to computers, saying “It’s too big of a leap.” Not in the small baby steps I’ve laid out. Or, “It would be a soulless copy of the real person.” Once again, not in the parallel processing scenario I’ve painted. Although, I’m sure philosophers and theologians will argue ad nauseum.

Those ideas represent a mere fraction of the possibilities of the next century, let alone a millennium. On a geologic timescale a thousand years is blink of the eye. What about 10,000; 100,000; or even a million years (still barely a yawn on a geologic timescale).

But who knows, maybe I’m underestimating my prognosticating ability. Maybe humans several millennia removed will closely resemble what I’ve depicted in my book.

Side note: Just when I thought I had an original thought—  While looking for links to tie in real-world data to my theories I discovered many references to Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity. He took this thought experiment to its ultimate outcome long before me.

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