Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
What is hard science fiction, anyway? Astrophysics

What is hard science fiction, anyway?

Brandon Q. Morris writes hard science fiction. But what does that actually mean? I like to explain it this way: What happens in my books could happen in reality. There are no laws of physics that would prevent it. You could also call it "realistic" science fiction, although the fiction remains, of course. In the end, it is a story that I tell. Apart from the degree of hardness (more on that below), hard science fiction also tends to depict the conflict between the hero and the environment (in the form of the universe and its manifold phenomena) instead of…
The noise of interstellar space Astrophysics

The noise of interstellar space

The vacuum between the stars is not empty. The interstellar medium consists of dust and gas, which in turn can be in atomic, molecular and ionized form. Its density varies widely. Interestingly, it is greatest in cool, dense regions where matter is mainly in molecular form and one could count up to 1 million molecules per cubic centimeter. In hot, diffuse regions, on the other hand, matter is mainly ionized and one finds only a single ion per 10,000 cubic centimeters. Compared to, say, the capabilities of a vacuum chamber constructed by humans, with still ten billion particles per…
How to make the invisible visible Astrophysics

How to make the invisible visible

Astronomers have a lot in common with forensic scientists. They infer from traces the events that might have led to the formation of these traces. They take photographs and look at what is visible of these events in order to then also be able to capture their invisible parts. Very much remains invisible in the universe: Black holes, dark matter or dark energy, which we all see only through their effects, are certainly the most prominent. But also magnetic fields play an important role. They provide the framework in which charged particles move in galaxies. For example, when clusters…
What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin Space

What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin

BlueOrigin, the space company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has now announced the date of its first manned space flight. The New Shepard capsule will cross the official boundary to space in a suborbital flight. This means that all passengers will subsequently be real astronauts. You can bid for a seat on the first flight on July 20 at BlueOrigin. The company has now announced the requirements that candidates must meet. Namely these (translated into everyday requirements): (more…)
Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone? Space

Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone?

In almost all of my novels, the protagonists use devices the size of a smartphone to examine substances they encounter. Current laboratory technology is quite a bit bigger - but that doesn't have to be the case at all. A team of researchers is now proving this in an article in the Review of Scientific Instruments. The team, led by Peter Rentzepis of Texas A&M, has developed an extension for an ordinary cell phone that allows the device to detect chemicals, drugs, biological molecules and pathogens. Modern cell phones have high-quality cameras capable of detecting low light levels and eliminating…
Watching a planet grow Space

Watching a planet grow

Astronomers usually detect exoplanets based on irregularities in the glow of the parent star. Although more than 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged to date, only 15 have been imaged directly by telescopes. Even in their best photos, the planets are just dots, simply because they are so far away and quite small. A new technique from the Hubble team is now expected to help image planets directly. The researchers have used it to catch a rare glimpse of a Jupiter-sized planet, still forming, that feeds on material surrounding a young star. They report it in the Astronomical Journal. "We…
Older stars rotate faster than expected Astrophysics

Older stars rotate faster than expected

Not only humans lose mobility in old age - stars also rotate more slowly then. All stars are born with angular momentum that comes from the rotation of the protostellar cloud. Then, as they get older, their rotation slows in a process called "magnetic braking." A study published in 2016 by scientists at Carnegie Observatories provided the first evidence that stars at a similar stage of life as the Sun are spinning faster than magnetic braking theories predict. The results of that study were based on a method in which scientists locate dark spots on the surface of stars and…
Brown dwarfs at the speed limit Space

Brown dwarfs at the speed limit

Brown dwarfs are formed when a newborn star does not have enough mass to ignite the nuclear fusion of hydrogen. This is their essential difference to giant gas planets - brown dwarfs form quasi first and in the center of the system, gas giants follow later. As central objects of their system, brown dwarfs naturally inherit the rotation of the protostellar cloud. But some of them apparently give extra gas later. Astronomers at Western University in Canada have now discovered three brown dwarfs that spin faster than any previously found, coming close to the theoretical maximum speed. The astronomers…