Category Archives: sciences

The call of adventure -1 : Starship

You read that in every How-to novel writing advice, the call of adventure that the hero or heroine spurns at first… I wish to share this incredible moment when I boarded and rode an experimental hovercraft.

The name of the vehicle was… Starship. Don’t laugh. It was a miniature orange two-person hovercraft, in demonstration at an event organized by my father (a hovercraft specialist) for an aerospace association that do not exist today. A jobless geographer atthe time, I had volunteered to help him with small things. We were in a hangar by the St-Lawrence River, under a gray sky.

Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile.
Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile, the ear coverings. And the faraway Victoria Bridge.

One visiting engineer had been invited to test it, but he said he would get drenched (and he was an experienced, gray-haired guy, I suspect he knew what to expect bouncing in a small craft next to the engine, while I didn’t). So, I offered to go instead. I put on a thick and loose and dark wetsuit over my light and elegant September clothes and sat behind the pilot.

The first assault on my senses was the deafening noise of the main engine (see in the pic, right in my back) and the propeller pulling the air down to lift the hovercraft, screaming at one hundred and ten decibels that made even the red composite hull shake. It was impossible to talk, and the earmuffs might have been cotton candy for all the protecting they did.

After the flat concrete, the cold, cold September water of the St-Lawrence River rushed at us, sprayed droplets everywhere. Water seeped through the seams of the wetsuit, enclosing my legs in a moist embrace. The smell of tar and exhaust, the stench of dead fish coming from the posts of the bridge we were passing nearby gave a moldy taste on my tongue. But nothing beat the excitement of flying over the water in an experimetal hovercraft!

The hovercreaft jumped over chopping waves, propelled so fast every bone of my spine and basin was vibrating at the same pace. I grabbed the hull on my sides, not sure the orange lifejacket would be of any use if a sudden swerve shook me off. The craft reached the faraway bridge at piers in less than a minute!

At our dizzying speed bouncing over the wavelets, the air rushed at my face with countless droplets, my carefully combed hair was askew, but I still remember today how exhilarating those five minutes had been!

Gratitude

My grateful thanks for the gallant Starship pilot, who may have retired since the pic ws taken (I didn’t get your name, alas, so say hello if you recognize yourself!) Note how on the pics the pilot did not wear the earmuffs; he probably lent those to me for the test drive.

And kudos to the fellow engineer who took this picture and sent it to my dad, Jacques Laframboise, a few weeks later. We thought you might like this as a little memento of a happy day, he had written, noting the dsate September 23rd, 1987, and a time 2 min 45 sec, which may be the time elapsed in the hovercraft test drive. Alas, that friend didn’t write his name, and my father has flown into the great unknown in 2014.

It had been 34 years, and I still count those three minutes as the most exciting in my life!

Thinking Inside the Box…

CompellingSF7_375 Copy

My hard-SF short-story has just been published in Issue 7 of Compelling Science Fiction, edited by Joe Stech. I am grateful for the occasion as this is my third publication in the English SF market.

Compelling SF has a very accommodating subscription system, as you can give what you want to sustain the mag. All five stories are available, and you can purchase the back issus on the Kindle Store.

 

 

Fog Bow

RunningInMist

Running at daybreak on August 11, I had the occasion to observe a strange meteorological phenomenon.

I was running on a small side road, making 3 km circuits. The morning mist floated above the hay fields, a large open space. Then the sun rose, and I had the wonderful surprise!  Continue reading

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Winter Gardening

DecemberGardening

Yes, a heat record for the Toronto area! The winter solstice has changed…

Political Musings : What Do I Want to Conserve?

Thinking about our values, and which ones do we want to conserve?

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Personal musings at the end of a long election  campaign.

What do I want to conserve?

Our environment, because without an hospitable planet, there’s no viable economy!

Social diversity as much as biological, guaranteeing humanity’s long-term survival.

Sciences and education, because we will need all the available heads to solve issues born from the past, to face the challenges ahead. (No, there are no piranhas in the St. Lawrence River, but other exotic creepers such as Asian carp threaten these places.)

Public support for the artists, magazines and cultural organizations, for without creativity, without imagination, where are we going?

I need a cultural diffuser as CBC-RadioCanada because no eventual “official organ of the Party” will replace it  A mari usque ad mare. (As a Franco-Ontarian, the CBC is our own French language buoy! )

I am a staunch conservative for human dignity, honesty, and the liberty for women to choose their own path in life.

I want to get back to what is, for me, the original meaning of the word “religion“, reli-connected + ion-all, “to connect all”: building bridges between people, multiplying loaves of bread instead of fences.

Dwarf Planet, Big Flaming Ice Heart!

PLuto surprised everyone with this heart-shaped geological  feature

(Pluto photographied by LORRI and Ralph instruments on the New Horizons, spacecraft)

Pluto is technically a  dwarf planet since 2006, but it changes nothing to the sense of wonder. Pluto surprised everyone with this heart-shaped geological feature!

Colors are boosted since only a small fraction of our sunlight reaches the Pluto system. The dwarf planet has known activity periods, and this 2000 km wide flaming heart maybe composed of nitrogen ice.

New satellites (Hydra, Nix since 2004,  Kerberos and Styx) added themselves to the larger Charon).

The sense of wonder of those pictures should not make us forget the long years of preparation by NASA astronomers and other teams, the nine-year voyage of the New Horizons craft, travelling more than 5 billions km in spirals to take advantage of the Jupiter sling-shot effect to boost acceleration.

Science, unlike movies where everything goes fast (problem detection,  hypothesis, analysis, solution finding), needs time. Reality is years of painstaking preparation for a few second of scintillating results.  Followed by more months and years of analysis, that may help us to learn more about the solar system origins. The freshly transmitted pictures show impressive mountains and canyons…

Fun at the Signing Table – The 2015 Leap Second !

This Minute Has 61 Seconds - the 2015 leap second To learn more about the 2015 Leap Second:

The International Earth Rotation Service and Reference Systems and the Paris observatory! Yes, it does have a nice SF-ish ring to its name!

The Leap Second home page.

More about Universal and  coordinated universal  time. International second

And for the “bug”, the network time protocol for clock synchronization between computer systems.

And to look up the time anywhere, (one of the atomic time websites!) and to look up in Eastern Time.

Happy July! 

Fun at the Signing Table – Hyperboles, again!

Hyperboles and physics! Art and writing by Michèle Laframboise

Meddling with physics is still big fun for a SF writer!

Thanks to my hyperboles suppliers Pascal Colpron (eternity), Robin Dumont (hair) and André Lavoie (minus a thousand). The ET visitor comes from a Le Bob original creation.

Matter falling in a black hole get heated up, so much that it emits a stream of X rays. In the panel with the car in space, a Cygnus X1 like binary system is illustrated, a star with a companion black hole.

The mean universe temperature is about 3 Kelvin.  The fossil microwave picture is a courtesy of NASA.

The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking was an inspiration for the universe 4-dimensional models. The Hawking radiation is the name given to a black body radiation when a black hole evaporates.

As for the Big Crunch, well, there’s still some time before, if it happens!

Fun at the Signing Table – A Glass of Water

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A Glass of Water - how to explain the glooal climate change with a glass of water.

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The relation between our recent cold weather spells and global warming involves complex phenomena, the Gulf Stream current among them. For the more eager :

To better understand our irrealists expectations regarding science, conditioned by our “I-want-it-now!” culture: The Problem with Science: from Action Movies to the Real World!

For a innovative use of our fossil resources to mitigate the climate change, see une solution au casse-tête arctique.

To read about the projected effects of a Shutdown of thermohaline circulation, and here is a map of the thermohaline circulation.

For a more higher level paper, about the Gulf Stream, see this abstract of a paper published in 2015 by Jaime B. Palter, from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences of McGill University: The Role of the Gulf Stream in European Climate (Annual Review of Marine Science Vol. 7: 113-137) 

The real demonstration will be given by the planet, as soon as the last ice and land glaciers will have melted.

The joys of eutrophication: discover the algal bowl!

Beware of eutrophication!

Summer is (almost) on us, the urge to swim is overwhelming… But why are our lake waters becoming greenish and gluey?  Continue reading