55 Essential Space Operas from the Last 70 Years

harris

Source: Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantsasy Blog
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What makes a science fiction story a space opera? Well, it needs to take place in space obviously, though not necessarily all of the time. Hanging out solely in an arcology on a climate-blasted Earth, or even in a domed city on Mars, doesn’t cut it. Actually, the more space the better; though there are certainly exceptions, a good space opera should span a galaxy or two, or at least a solar system. And an opera has to be grand and dramatic –battling empires, invading aliens, mysterious ancient technology, and grand, sweeping story arcs.

HERE are 55 science fiction stories from the last 70 years that make the cut.

How to read more books

Source: How to read more books — Quartz
by Elle Kaplan

I’ve said it many times: reading books is a major key to success. The mega-rich and successful like Bill Gates and Elon Musk devote extraordinary amounts of their time to reading. Musk even attributes his knowledge of how to build rockets to his reading repertoire, and studies have proven that reading can reduce stress, increase focus, and improve long and short-term memory.

The benefits of flexing your reading muscles are clear. But reading is time-consuming—and as a busy professional, it’s almost impossible to both find the time to read and actually stay focused enough to reap the benefits when deadlines start piling up.

Thankfully, experts at Harvard Business Review (along with a few others) have discovered some tips and tricks to ensure that you not only make reading a daily habit, but that you‘re able to radically increase the amount you read and the benefits you reap.

Read more HERE for seven practical ways to continue to improve your reading habits as time goes on.

What Powered the Vimana, the 6,000-year-old Flying Machines of Ancient India?

According to Ancient Indian history –one of the most extensive on the planet– their ancient sacred texts called the ‘Vedas’ speak of incredible flying ships that visited our planet over 6000 years ago. The Ancient Vimana’s power source has turned out to be not only accessible to the entire world, but easy to harness as well…

Source: What Powered the Vimana, the 6,000-year-old Flying Machines of Ancient India? | Ancient Code

Introverts – we’re not weirdos

introvert
noun
1. A shy, reticent person.
2. Psychology  A person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings (opposed to extrovert).

Some would possibly disagree, but I don’t think I’m weird. However, I do know that I am firmly stuck at the introvert end of the sociability scale, like many other book lovers are. Reading takes me to a place where I can find solace and helps me to recharge energy stores depleted by social interaction.

Here is a good pictorial presentation describing how an introvert functions and how we need it be to exist comfortaby beside more extroverted people. I couldn’t possibly describe it any better and can certainly relate to each aspect. I wish that more people knew this stuff.

introvert1

introvert2

Illustrations by Roman Jones
https://schroederjones.carbonmade.com/

Why Reading is one of the Healthiest Things you can do for Yourself

Every day people strive to make themselves healthier. Between gyms, diets, and supplements, one simple activity can boost your overall health in ways you never imagined: Reading.

Source: Why Reading is one of the Healthiest Things you can do for Yourself

The print book vs. ebook debate – my thoughts

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I’ve written on this topic before, as have many others, and it still frequently comes up in conversation. Whenever I tell people that I read a lot and review books, they will often bring up the question of print versus digital. They’ll ask me which I prefer and why.

What I love are words that contain good stories and meaningful information, whether it’s printed on paper or made up of e-ink capsules over a white background is irrelevant. It’s the words that I’m there for. However, it’s still an issue that many readers appear to battle over.

I dabble with both, but confess that I am reading mostly ebooks these days. The reasons for this are purely pragmatic, of which portability, convenience and ease of access are top of the list. I love being able to have that new novel from a favorite author on the spot, eliminating the need to visit some annoying shopping mall to pay a sizable chunk of money for the print version. Some of the bigger books that I read are quite hefty in print form and digital obviously eliminates this problem. My ebook reader is light and easy to hold whether I’m standing, sitting or reclining and takes up a fraction of the space in my bag.

I use ebook management software on my computer and keep my collection backed up. Because of this my physical book shelf is growing very slowly as of late.

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These days my library is huge yet takes up hardly any space.

Sure, there are the tangible facets of a “real” book like the weight of it, the feel of the cover and the smell of the paper, etc. I admit to being rather fond of these things, and I even recently re-read my old hardcover copy of The War of the Worlds in an attempt to relive the experience from many years ago. I enjoyed it too. But it was the story that I mainly focused on, I didn’t really pay much attention to the medium at all.

As a thumbs down for modern devices, research has shown that reading a tablet before bed can actually lead to increased symptoms of insomnia (to clarify, that’s a device with a back-lit LCD screen, e-ink devices do not cause this problem). Reading a physical printed book is apparently the key. A recent study has shown that people who read on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering what they read compared to those who read printed text. It was concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.” I’m assuming that this finding applies not only to Amazon’s iconic Kindle but also other proprietary e-readers as well.

I buy print books for my kids who like to read, the robustness of a chunky book being of obvious value here. But already my 9 year-old son is expressing interest in an ebook reader, so he’ll soon be discovering the pros and cons for himself. (It may also teach him the benefit of picking things up of the floor…)

As far as sales go, I’ve found that reliable figures are a bit elusive but most sources are showing ebooks to be consistently increasing in sales and forecast to overhaul print (which has seen a corresponding reduction in sales). But it hasn’t been a fast process, and I was one of those who predicted the rapid demise of print media once mobile devices became so widespread. I was a little off-target because paper has hung in there admirably. It’ll be interesting to see if the lines do actually cross over and how much they might diverge the other way.

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This graph is for US sales, but from what I’ve seen (I’m in New Zealand) I’d wager that this trend is generally consistent worldwide.

Returning to the personal preferences of readers, the following points seem to sum up the feelings of most folk that I talk to:

Prefer ebooks:
Storage – hundreds, even thousands, of books within one device
Ease of purchase – buying an ebook is just a click away
Portability – light, on hand, easy to carry around
Price – usually less than a print book (although I’ve seen the gap close up alarmingly in recent years)
Purchasing options – many different online sources
Freedom – the ability to share titles with others easily and quickly (the legalities aside)

Prefer print books:
Tangibility – an actual physical item for the money
Accomplishment – the mass of the book moves from the right side to the left, visual progress
Libraries – people like the vibe of a library with books to browse and choose
Aroma – the smell of ink on paper (rather nice I admit)
Less restriction – no DRM (Digital Rights Management) and no battery issues

books-vs-ebooks

I can relate to some extent with every one of those points and this leads me to the obvious conclusion, that there is a solid place for both. In today’s world it’s a lot more about convenience and accessibility meaning ebooks fit with modern “must have it now” attitudes. But, print books are still moving off the shelves okay, even among younger readers, so it look as if the old-school perceptions still mean something within the same society.

To conclude, I’ll say that I hope that print and digital will continue to coexist and I don’t see any reasons why they shouldn’t. I can see many reasons why the demise of print would be undesirable, the possible disappearance of community libraries not least of these. But nor is the rise of electronic media unwelcome with less paper used, i.e. a smaller carbon footprint and that sort of thing.

In my mind the format is largely a moot point, what matters most to me is that there are books being written, published and read. After all, it’s about the words, wonderful words with which we feed our minds (for better or worse).

“In union there is strength.”
— Aesop

book-and-ebook-holding-hands

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God


By ERIC METAXAS
from The Wall Street Journal

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life. [see the Drake Equation – LS]

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely bubkis – 0 followed by nothing.

SETI radio telescope array


What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest… We should quietly admit that the early estimates…may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life – every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Jupiter – our stalwart protector


Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces – gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces – were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off  by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction – by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 – then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator…gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something – or Someone – beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” (Dutton Adult, 2014).