Saturday, June 23
So I picked up the latest July issue of Wired Magazine because I'd been interviewed for a feature in it, and I'm slightly mortified to find that the quotation they use from me is probably the most negative I said about the Mars Society (for the article was about the Mars Society). It follows:
But even some Mars Society supporters are spooked by the group's jingoistic ideals. "There's a concern that the Mars Society is a bit too heavily dominated by Americans," says Adrian Hon, an 18-year-old Brit who cofounded Generation Mars, an outreach program that deploys an Up With People/Trekkie vibe to get youth interested in the planet. "This always comes up at the conferences, that Europeans don't get enough say. Obviously, America has a very strong space policy, but effectively, Mars will just be a colony of America if the current trend continues. It worries some people."
(The full article won't be online for a few more weeks - I'll let you know when it is)
Now, I do stand by my words - I think it's true that the Mars Society has a (perhaps inevitable) American bias. And I don't really care that 80% or whatever of the members live in America. What I care about is the perception that we have to continue thinking like Americans when we get to Mars. That's not the point of going there, it's not just to recreate California. We already have a California, thank you very much. It's a valid concern, in my mind.
What bothers me, though, is that it sounds as if I'm completely against the Mars Society and Mars colonisation. Which, as anyone who knows me can tell, is complete rubbish. I'm proud to be a member of the Society and just because I don't agree with some of their policies doesn't mean that I'm against all of them. I guess what I'm worried about is the real possibility that some people within the Society will perceive me as traitor, considering that I'm only one of two members quoted in the article of having anti-Society tendencies, and the other guy is an award-winning author who can get away with saying stuff like that.
But what the hell. It doesn't bother me that much, and if it becomes an issue then I'll go and kick up a fuss about it.
Friday, June 22
So, I'm back on Vavatch again. Before I launch into what I've been doing lately, here's my plan of action for the summer:
On Thursday (28th) I'm flying to Amsterdam to check out a special European advance screening of A.I., four months ahead of general European release and about roughly four hours ahead of the special USA preview. Not staying there long.
I'm hoping to get some kind of super-cheapo package holiday early on in July, and then later that month I'm flying off to Seattle for a week or so. Beyond that, little is clear...
As for work, well, I have a few websites that need developing and updating, all of which are to do with Mars. There's Generation Mars, which I haven't worked on for a while, and a 'New Mars' webzine/community website I want to develop. Neither of those should take too much time as long as I'm sufficiently concentrated.
It's looking as if the bulk of my time this summer will be taken up by writing the manuscript for the textbook adaptation I'm doing of my Astrobiology: The Living Universe website, which at least one publisher is interested in having a look at. From my point of view, the content on the website is pretty good but if it's going to be made into a textbook then I want to make it perfect, and I want to make it a lot more advanced with a lot more meaty content and facts and figures. Also, the problem with the website (well, not so much a problem as a feature) is that it has a more hierarchical web-approach as opposed to the linear style we're used to seeing in textbooks. So obviously all the separate 100+ articles have to be joined up, which is no mean feat.
I think that to get it really up to scratch I'd want to spend as least as much time on it as I have done so far, which is a pretty damn large number of hours. I'd also have to spend a while in a library checking out references from all over the place.
Don't get me wrong, the website has a fully-completed list of references and citations, but for the extra material I'll need to look at the source.
The textbook (which I'm writing with Katie Harris, the person who I did the website with) will be written as an introductory text for undergraduates studying astrobiology or related fields. And yes, there are several reputable universities in America that offer an undergraduate astrobiology course. It should do fine at that, but to be honest I don't think it'll be a bestseller compared to, say, biology or physics textbooks even though there are no textbooks on astrobiology yet.
So, in keeping with the nice original 'conversational' tone that is adopted in some parts of the website, we might also try and aim the textbook so that it is also accessible as a pop science book. It will always be a textbook - but if written properly we can make it so that the general public will be able to read and enjoy it.
Anyway, that's enough of my ramblings. I should be uploading some photos that I've taken lately, of punting around Cambridge and so on.
Monday, June 18
Horrible horrible lack of updates due to post-exam unwinding, being very busy lately with May Balls and roughing it out on the Cam in torrential rain. Will be back soon...