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Ken Macleod


Learning the World
Year 2005
Publisher Orbit
ISBN 1841493430



The Fermi Paradox:  If there are billions of planets in the universe that are capable of supporting life, and millions of intelligent species out there, then why haven't we encountered any?

The great sunliner But the Sky, My Lady! The Sky! is nearing the end of a four-hundred-year journey.  A ship-born generation is tense with expectation for the new system that is to be their home.  Expecting to find nothing more complex than bacteria and algae, the detection of electronic signals from one of the planets comes as a shock.  In millennia of slow expansion, humanity has never encountered aliens, and yet these new signals cannot be ignored.  They suspect a fast robot probe has overtaken them, and send probes of their own to investigate.

On a world called Ground, whose inhabitants are struggling into the age of radio, petroleum and powered flight, a young astronomer searching for distant planets detects an anomaly that he presumes must be a comet.  His friend, a brilliant foreign physicist, calculates the orbit, only to discover an anomaly of his own.  The comet is slowing down .....




Reminding us that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger then we can imagine, Learning the World is Ken Macleod's stunning novel of exploration, discovery and Mankind's destiny amongst the stars.

'A hectic ride, through slaloms of audacious complexity, irreverent ingenuity and paradox as purposeful as it is playful'

'The modern-day George Orwell'



Black Widow Nebula



Credit: NASA

Black Widow Nebula Hides in the Dust
In this Spitzer image, the two opposing bubbles are being formed in opposite directions by the powerful outflows from massive groups of forming stars. The baby stars can be seen as specks of yellow where the two bubbles overlap.

When individual stars form from molecular clouds of gas and dust they produce intense radiation and very strong particle winds. Both the radiation and the stellar winds blow the dust outward from the star creating a cavity or bubble.

In the case of the Black Widow Nebula, astronomers suspect that a large cloud of gas and dust condensed to create multiple clusters of massive star formation. The combined winds from these groups of large stars probably blew out bubbles into the direction of least resistance, forming a double bubble.


NASA Image of the day archive





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