Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “astrophysics”

Video Glossary from Lawrence Livermore Labs

Video Glossary from Lawrence Livermore Labs – http://videoglossary.lbl.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where do extremophiles live?
  • What might a biologist look like?
  • What is cellular senescence?

Description:

If you are more of an auditory/visual learner, this site might be for you. Scientists from this National Laboratory spend a few minutes explaining particular terms. Sometimes there are visual aids, but most of the time it’s like a face to face chat. Or face to face short monologue. Some of the definitions available that might help a space based story be true to hard scifi are:

  • antimatter
  • artificial photosynthesis
  • cosmological inflation
  • dark energy
  • dark matter
  • extremophile
  • galactic emissions
  • gravity
  • gravitational lensing
  • measuring the universe
  • neutrino astronomy
  • plasma
  • quarks
  • solar cell
  • supernova

Aside from the benefit of the scientists’ knowledge is the opportunity to observe a scientist speaking on a subject of interest to them. See the variety of people who can be scientists and engineers. What do they look like? How do they dress? Notice anything special about their mannerisms or patterns of speech? Do they use stuff on their desk as props?

Glossary of Astrophysics Terms

Glossary of Astrophysics Terms – http://web.archive.org/web/20150321110136/http://ie.lbl.gov/education/glossary/glossaryfa.htm

Note: Seems to have dropped off the live web soon after March 2015.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is helium burning?
  • Why are there more protons in the universe than neutrons?
  • How is nuclear fusion different in stars heavier than the Sun?

Description:

Definition of astrophysics terms slanted towards high energy research. Contains links to animations and additional background materials.

Cosmicopia: An abundance of cosmic rays

Cosmicopia: An abundance of cosmic rays – http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is an isotope?
  • What are galactic cosmic rays?
  • What’s the effect of cosmic rays on eyesight?
  • What are the 10 most abundant elements in cosmic rays?

Description:

From the website:

“Cosmicopia contains an abundance (a cornucopia, if you will) of information about cosmic rays, the Earth’s magnetosphere, the Sun, space weather, and other exciting topics in space science. Brought to you by the ACE mission and the cosmic ray group at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, this site is aimed at the general public and intended to be accessible to interested readers without a background in this area of science.”

The site is part tutorial and part links to other resources. It is broken up into four sections: Basics, Cosmic Rays, Sun and Space Weather. The Cosmic Rays section includes a FAQ page.

Story and Scene Ideas

Writers need to know about cosmic rays, the magnetosphere and space weather if they send characters into space for any extended period of time using 21st Century technology. If your character is in an unshielded ship headed to Mars when a solar storm breaks, he will die. Add some shielding or explain how your character has been genetically altered to resist radiation. Same goes for when she and her companions are exploring Mars. One the first tasks should be to find or create shelter.

Knowing about space weather can help add spice to stories on earth too. A strong enough Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) could potentially bring down power grids and scramble satellite communications if the proper precautions are not taken.

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