Fantasticon2008, Copenhagen, 26 – 27 April

This is a small Danish convention with a few hundred people attending. Only foreign Guest was Norman Spinrad. The con was held in the “Vanloese Kulturhus” (cultural house) in nice large rooms and a terrace. Even the weather cooperated and we could sit outside chatting along between the programmed events. I arrived there after a long (12 hour) drive and a few hours of sleep.

On Saturday I went to the interview with Niels Brunse who has translated a large amount of English language books into Danish, and also written stories of his own. He was, among other subjects, talking about the difficulty of making a good translation, something I can relate to in a limited capacity, having attempted translation in both directions between Danish and English. Some elegant words or phrases in one language translate *very* poorly into the other.

Sunday had a surprise guest speaker, the Danish physicist Holger Bech Nielsen, giving a presentation of his version of the “theory of everything” : “Random Dynamics”. He is a *very* lively lecturer, and it is always fun to see him, his enthusiasm for the subject is just radiating from him. This was the first time I saw him “live”, the other times were just on television.

Arthur C. Clarke :

For me the best part of the programme on Sunday was the panel discussion about Arthur C. Clarke, the panel consisting of 3 Danish fans and the guest speaker Norman Spinrad. Spinrad had sopme cooperation with Clarke in the 1960’s and could tell us that the final scene of the movie “2001 – A Space Odyssey” was in fact not the one we saw in the movie. Clarke had envisioned a scene with very beautiful aliens, but it was not technically possible to do to his satisfaction – meaning the scene had to be rewritten.

Clarke’s relatively optimistic view of the future has by some been regarded as naive, but it most probably is an expression of his dream about the future.

Finally there was a discussion of Clarke’s unusual combination of hard science fiction and the “mystical” (for lack of a better word), something very prominent in “2001”, but it is in much of his other work.

Of course, you cannot mention Arthur C. Clarke without talking about his strong influence on science and technology (as well as science fiction), interesting to see how many of his early thoughts have come true already.

All in all a very nice week end , I will try to make it again next year.

Doctor Who 2008 has started

The 4th season of the “New Doctor Who” has started on the BBC.

BBC started last Saturday with the episode “Partners in Crime” , quite a fun story, where Donna Noble from the Christmas Special 2006 reappears searching for the Doctor, misses him several times , and we see them meet again in a very amusing scene – that could have been a little shorter, but nonetheless I enjoyed it. We also briefly meet an old friend under mysterious circumstances , I will say no more , you will have to enjoy the moment for yourself.

Second episode brings us back about 2000 years to “witness” the destruction of Pompei, for the first time the Doctor Who team has been filming outside the UK. Quite a spectacular illustration of the volcano blowing up and the city buried under the ashes. As usual , when the Doctor arrives , things go awry, and he has to correct the flow of history , being put into a bit of a dilemma.

I quite enjoyed both episodes, and I am looking forward to the next ones , and solving the mystery of the first episode.

More real life space communications (2)

The Soyuz spacecraft has successfully docked to the ISS today.

Yesterday I listened for radio communications from the Soyuz, and was rewarded with hearing a few exchanges in Russian. They were likely talking to the ground station in Moscow. The frequency for Soyuz is 121.750 MHz, if any of you should have a scanner receiver. The signal was quite strong, even with a wrong sized antenna, so it should not be too difficult to hear.

Good hunting if you try – They will probably be radio-active for a day or two when they leave the ISS and return to Earth.

In the meantime , if you are in Europe, you can listen for the ISS , in the rare cases when they talk back to Moscow, on the frequency 143.625 MHz.

Jules Verne has arrived at the International Space Station

Yes – it is true …

The first ATV – Automatic Transfer Vehicle – has arrived and doced with the ISS. The name given to this ATV is “Jules Verne” , honouring the famous author (1828 – 1905) of old Science fiction classics like “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, “From the Earth to the Moon” and “20.000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

The ATV is a European contribution to the ISS, along with the Columbus module – launched with the Space Shuttle and added to the ISS in February. The spacecraft pioneers the use of automatic docking, absolutely no human intervention. Only option would be to break off the docking procedure with a “go away” order. The ATV is designed to transport supplies to the station , and – as its final act – be filled with the garbage from the station and sent back into the Earth’s atmosphere. We could call it a cargo ship and an advanced garbage truck – combined with an incinerator.

Another function of the ATV is as a booster for increasinf the orbital altitude of the ISS, since the station is slowly being dragged towards a lower orbit due to that fact that there is still a *tiny* amount of atmosphere up there.

Read more about the ATV here

Last year I went with a friend to visit ESTEC’s space exhibition in The Netherlands. During a tour of the Estec facilities we got to see the Columbus module and the ATV, as they were being tested at the time. Nice to have seen real life spacecraft – knowing that both the station module and the ATV are safely orbiting the Earth.

More info at ESA’s website

My own website.

My ISP has offered an “Advanced Website” to go with my subscription. Last year the speed was increadsed t the maximum possible for ADSL2+, this year they increased the max speed for the next lower level ADSL. They then had to offer something extra for mine.

So I took the offer , and moved the stuff from my “standard” homepage , plus added a few new items.

The Babylon Lurker

More real life space communications

When STS122 had just been launched, I went out to see if I could spot it and the ISS. The ISS arrived right on time and was *very* bright and easy to see (I missed the Shuttle, though). I had also brought my scanner radio receiver with me, and just before the ISS went into the Earth’s shadow , I heard a carrier wave for a few seconds , followed by [chorosho] (Russian for “good”) and a few more words in Russian, since they were communicating with a ground station in Russia.

In the first few orbits after launch of the space shuttle(s) and the last few orbits before the re-entry (landing) the shuttle uses the frequency 259.700 MHz (AM) for clear voice communications.

A few weeks later, when the STS-123 was launched, I joined a group listening for the Shuttle “Endeavour”. but since the high power (10 Watts) transmitter of the spacecraft was out, they were only transmitting with the low power (0.25 watts) transmitter. with my simple antenna and a long cable in to the receiver the signal was lost here, but a few other people around in Europe did hear them.

Since then I have had a preamplifier mounted at the antenna , so the loss in the cable has been compensated.

In the last few orbits before re-entry I listened for Endavour again – and even with their low power transmitter it was audible here. Signals were weak and noisy, but a few sentences were clearly heard here. Next time I will have to do some recordings.