The Death Star: An Uneconomical Way To Blow Up Planets

A Death Star made from Lego. Still too expensive. (Gizmodo)

A Death Star made from Lego. Still too expensive. (Gizmodo)

It’s been one of those bad blogging days. Usually, I’d start the day rifling through the day’s space news on the mainstream to work out what has been going on in the world. If some exciting stuff has been going on, my notebook will be filled with scribble, usually priming me for an afternoon of writing for the Universe Today or Astroengine. Usually. Today, although I got up bright and early, my writing ability took a U-turn much like the abysmal LA winter weather (grey and soggy). Writer’s block.

Bloggers writers block is especially frustrating as there is no end to the cool stuff going on in space (and even if there isn’t, I can usually unearth something not-so-cool and make it cool by doing a bit of research), but for some reason my brain wouldn’t budge. Not a bit. Plus I’m co-writing a book (but I’m not saying about what… yet), so it was a double-whammy bad writing day.

I gave up, had a bath, read a book and watched two episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Awesome
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The Essential Selection for Space Exploration (Music)

The Astroengine Live Top 10 Space Tunes

Disco balls at Spundae, Hollywood in December 2006 (© Ian O'Neill)

Often when writing about space, I like to listen to music. Unfortunately, my brain is terrible at multitasking, so any music with vocals slows me down. However, trance music doesn’t seem to hurt my thinking-typing skills (probably due to minimal vocal tracks), so on go the headphones as I get lost in a mix of space and sound.

If you are a listener of my radio show Astroengine Live, you may be forgiven in thinking that it is based more on the music selection than my opinions on the current state of manned space flight! So I’ve decided to pair up trance and space to compile my favourite space-based tracks of all time (mainly trance and electro, but with some surprises thrown in).

Here’s Astroengine Live’s Top 10 Space Tunes, or the Essential Selection for Space Exploration
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In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream “Get Back Here You Thieving Alien!”


I’m quickly realising that the Super Bowl ad break is as eagerly awaited as the match itself. I’ve lived in the US for 3 Super Bowls, and each time there’s the buzz, “I wonder what the [insert company here] ad will be this year?” It’s funny, I’ve only watched one Super Bowl (in my first year) and I was astonished that there were more ad breaks than (American) football. (Which is no bad thing, I’m not a huge fan of the sport, give me football–soccer–any day.)

All I do know is, some of the ads are funny, some are clever but most are crap (don’t get me started on the GoDaddy marketing campaign… what in the hell are they doing?). But today, as posted on Greg Fish’s World of Weird Things, there was a glimmer of Space Age hope from a tire manufacturer…
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Carnival of Space Week 88 – The Spacewriter


Want to know what’s been happening in the Universe this week? Get over to Carolyn Collins Petersen’s space and astronomy blog (a.k.a. “The Spacewriter”) for a SUPERB Carnival of Space. I’m not entirely sure where to start for week 88, there’s so much to choose from! In fact, looking at the number of entries, I’d say this is one of the largest turnouts so far. Wow, there’s a lot of science writing going on!

From Carolyn’s well-crafted peek into the space blogosphere, here’s a tiny fraction of articles that caused a derailment to my plans for getting any work done this afternoon (plus my first reaction, in a word):

21st Century Waves (Bruce Cordell): Long Waves and the Future of Human SpaceflightWow

Centauri Dreams (Paul Gilster): A Workable Fusion Starship?Whoosh!

Space Video of the Day: Announcement by Pres. Regan after the Challenger disasterMoving

Mang’s Bat Page (David Gamey): How You Could Pilot a Space Telescope (Upside Down)Shiny!

Simostronomy (Mike Simonsen): Aperture FeverObsessed!

The Martian Chronicles (Ryan Anderson): The MOC “Book”: IntroductionInsightful

Starts With A Bang! (Ethan Siegel): Supernovae and Dark Energy: Part IIAha!

There are loads more where that came from, so get your bums down to The Spacewriter and enjoy!

From, I submitted my musings about the secret payload on that Delta IV Heavy… just why are clandestine launches so damned sexy?


Stimulus Package Stimulates the Wrong Package

Porn in the workplace affects science too (SciAm)

Porn in the workplace affects science too (SciAm)

I’ve just worked out why my research proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) failed to get funded last year.

I thought it was the returned critique: “inadequate consideration of outreach activities” that was the main reason for the failure (isn’t saying: “that’s the Sun,” whilst pointing to the sky, enough “outreach”?), or perhaps it was my criticism of research councils for not funding enough solar missions (fair point)… I’m not sure.

But it might have been a crap proposal that skimmed the desks of the NSF and filed under “LOL”, or “FAIL”.

After a year of getting used to the idea that I might not get back into solar research again, today I’ve seen what must have happened. My proposal landed on the NSF proposals desk during the 20% of the time the NSF staff member was taking an unauthorized break (i.e. surfing for porn).

Phew, perhaps I’m not bad at proposals after all
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Astroengine Live Show #9: It’s a Vacuum Out There


For today’s Astroengine Live, I’ll be talking about anything and everything. There will be the obligatory stop-over at the Carnival of Space and a peek at one (or possibly two) podcasts from the 365 Days of Astronomy and then… who knows?

In fact, it would be great if I could get some opinions about last week’s launch of the top secret US spy satellite (or, at least, that’s what we think it is). So check out “Why Are Clandestine Space Launches So Sexy?” and share your views. Do you find it a little frightening that such activities are being carried out in space? Do you think the secrecy adds to the thrill of wanting to find out more? Or do you think the government should be more transparent with things of this nature? As always, send me an email on or leave me a comment at the bottom of this post.

Get Involved!

Have any articles or stories you want to contribute? Have an opinion on anything in the world of space? Email me on and I’ll be sure to give it a mention. Eventually, I hope to have telephone call-ins, but for now, email will do.

Listen to Astroengine Live using the Paranormal Radio player. Or, pick up the podcast feed to activate your favourite audio software.

Astroengine Live Shows 7 & 8 Now Available in the Archives


Two more Astroengine Live shows are now available for your listening pleasure via the BVRN radio/podcast archive. You can either navigate to the Astroengine Live section of, selecting your choice of show from the gadgiwidgity thingy in the top right-hand corner, or you can go directly to the Black Vault itself and select which show you want to stream or download…
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