Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I know I'll never be as good as a Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, or Poul Anderson. Those men could take their knowledge of science and intertwine it with an amazing story. I think I'm a fairly good storyteller. But my science is marginal at best and my math skills pretty much stop at algebra (I've studied calculus and differential equations but to do them now . . .). My biggest fear is in on of my science fiction novels is to make a glaring, basic science error. Sometimes I'm vague to cover up my inability to calculate things. But I'm always worried I'm going to miss something.

Right now I'm working on a science fiction novel that doesn't have a title, yet. A lot of it takes place in a solar system much like ours. But because the distances are so great at times, I am constantly calculating light-speed delays. For example, a space battle starts out 30 light minutes (144 million kilometers) from where my protagonist is. So I mention that everything he is seeing happened 30 minutes ago.

Last night I was watching TV with half my brain and plotting out the next space battle with the other half. And I reminded myself I needed to take into account light-speed delays. And something made me realize that in my finished (I thought) novel, Treasure of the Black Hole, I have an event where things and people are 5 AUs (Astronomical Units) apart and yet I have them seeing and reacting as if they are just across the room (thank you, scifi movies). So a quick calculation and I realized they were 250 light minutes apart. Then I realized that couldn't be right. So I redid the calculation and realized I had a math error (the number should have been 2,500) and that that was seconds, not minutes, and 2,500 seconds is about 42 minutes (I tend to round a lot, part of that being vague).

So this morning I went back and did a little re-writing on Treasure of the Black Hole. I hope it's fixed, now. And I really hope there's no more glaring science errors.

I hope.

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