Philip P. Ide

Author, programmer, science enthusiast, half-wit.
Life is sweet. Have you tasted it lately?

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        • Insight Landerplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInsight Lander

          This page is updated as new data is detected. InSight is no longer transmitting weather data. See InSight's Final Selfie

          Last update: 14:02 Sun. Jul 17th, 2022 BST

          If the image doesn't display, please wait. The NASA websites sometimes get busy.

          Explanation of the Wind Speed Chart
        • Perseverance Roverplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigPerseverance Rover

          Last Updated: 11:45:02 Thu Feb 02, 2023

          The Perseverance Rover, M20, is navigating its way around Jezero Crater, which is located on the flanks of Syrtis Major and to the North-West of the Isidis Basin. Jezero is easily identified the large mountain on it's Eastern crater wall.
        • 7 Minutes of Terrorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big7 Minutes of Terror

          [7 mins of terror]It takes seven minutes for a vehicles to descend through the Martian atmosphere to the surface. The distance between Earth and Mars is always greater than seven light minutes when these landings take place, so by the time Earth gets the message that the vehicles has made contact with the atmosphere, it is already on the ground. Hopefully in one piece.
        • Mission Statusplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMission Status

          Perserverance has now landed successfully, and the clock is now counting mission time.

          Watch this page for updated information as we move beyond landing

          The rover landed about a kilometre off-centre of its landing zone, and about 2km from the base of the cliffs at the edge of the silt fan (part of the influx delta complex).
      • Contactplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigContact

        If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.
      • Cookie Policy & GDPRplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCookie Policy & GDPR

        There are NO tracking cookies on this site!

        The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
      • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

        Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

        A full description and a list of the features are available
      • International Space Stationplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInternational Space Station

        This page has a portal through which you can view the current location of the International Space Station, updating in real-time. The tracker itself comes from the European Space Agency (ESA).

        There is also a handy link to get email notifications direct from NASA when the ISS is visible in your night sky.
      • Mars Mission Locatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Mission Locator

        [Mars Missions] The location of all the missions that have gone to Mars can be confusing when you don't know where they went. Many missions never made it to the surface successfully, or had a malfunction that prevented them from working properly. Some of the landers introduced themselves to the surface with a little too much vigour. Others sailed on past Mars never to be seen again.
      • NASA Image of the Dayplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Image of the Day

        Date: Thu 2nd February, 2023

        Title: Reflections on the 1970s

        The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cl…
      • Near Earth Objectsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNear Earth Objects

        The following data is reproduced from the NASA NEO (Near Earth Object) database, and is updated daily. Each record represents an object such as an asteroid or comet, and notes the date and approximate time the object is closest to the Earth as it passes by. The data is refreshed daily covering the period displayed on this page.
      • Perseverance Roverplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigPerseverance Rover

        Perseverance has launched succesfully and the clock is now counting flight and ETA time. It is due to land on Mars on (times and countdown timer based on NASA's timer):

        * Feb 18th 2021. * * * * * * *
      • Rules on Reviewingplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigRules on Reviewing

        First off, you should know I only have a limited amount of time, so I can't review a hundred novels at once. Sorry, but that's basic physics for you. If I agree to review your novel, you may have to wait a while for me to get around to it, and then I'll need time to read it. I only review hard copies.
      • 2022-07-10 A New Laptopplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big2022-07-10 A New Laptop

        [Mint flavoured laptop] I bought a nice, shiny new laptop, which unfortunately came with Windows 11 on it. I immediately installed Linux Mint and some of my favourite apps.

        As you can see from the screenshot, it looks good. It runs well too, taking just 12 seconds to boot from cold to login box, and another 3 secs from login to the desktop.
      • 2022-07-30 Fix Websiteplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_big2022-07-30 Fix Website

        Update to site software breaks something.

        There was an update to the software used to run this website - Dokuwiki - and unbeknownst to me, fixed a fix I had made and broke something. To put that more clearly, I had made a fix to the template I use for layout etc., so it was friendly to Facebook. With the
      • Coffee Blog: 2022-05-15plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCoffee Blog: 2022-05-15

        In 2021 I decided to take my love for coffee a stage further. For quite a few years I'd been making my own blends from pre-roasted beans, and that had met with varying amounts of success (as you can probably imagine). That is until I started getting serious with it and making charts with the various flavours and notes I perceived and what the strengths were of these and whether they were desirable or not. For example, I might taste a berry flavour, and depending upon ho…
      • Coffee Blog: 2022-07-24plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCoffee Blog: 2022-07-24

        Update: Profile H tested, see below

        I've been creating roasting profiles, and recently changed from a numeric system to an alphabetic. I don't know why, perhaps the numbers were making me depressed at how many times I'd done it and still not reached a particularly good roast other by accident.
      • Coffee Blog: 2022-07-31plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCoffee Blog: 2022-07-31

        Yesterday, I roasted Profile I, which I'd come up with after sampling Profile H. I did two loads, each of 200g. Profile I Load 200g End (mins)Pre-heat 200(^c) Stage 1 (to yellow) Drying 200(^c) 6:00Stage 2 (to 1st crack)
      • Coffee Blog: 2022-08-14 Upgradeplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCoffee Blog: 2022-08-14 Upgrade

        There is a coffee roasting machine called the Aillio Bullet. You have to read its specs hear the hype to see what it is capable of, and at £3,250 it appears to be worth it. However, it doesn't have a flu or chimney, just a vent, so all the steam and oil it releases just fill up the kitchen. Hopefully they'll see the short-sightedness of this. Not all of us have garages, basements or cellars.
        • A Keen Interest In Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigA Keen Interest In Mars

          [MOLA globe of Mars]You may have noticed from pages such as the Mars Weather Report page, that I have a keen interest in Mars, Martian weather, and the InSight lander.

          Mars itself, and the incredible science we are doing there is of course a fascination in and of itself. However, my interest goes deeper than that. My latest novel (at the time this article was written - March 2019) is about the exploration of Mars. NASA have provided a wealth of data and information for …
        • A New Siteplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigA New Site

          Yup, the old site was as ugly as sin and to find a blog entry you had to scroll through the feed or take your chances with the search option.

          This new site is just as easy to maintain, has extensive search capabilities, and both orders and structures the entries. Not only does this make it easier for you to find stuff, it encourages you to browse around. It's not as ugly either.
        • Astronomer's Nightmareplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAstronomer's Nightmare

          Satellites offer such huge benefits, including communications, taking the internet where it wouldn't otherwise be feasible, monitoring our weather and sea-level changes, GPS etc. etc. We shouldn't forget spying (um, military intelligence) either, because despite its sordid nature, it is important. At least, some people think so.
        • Getting To Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigGetting To Mars

          [Mars] Edit: updated to include

          There are multiple ways to get to Mars, and each has pros and cons. The one thing they all have in common is orbital mechanics. Some options can get to Mars in a short period of time, while others could take up to a year. Some are better suited for robotic missions, others for crewed missions. This article takes a look at the problems of getting to Mars (and getting back) and what options are available.
        • How do I Calculate Distance from Period?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHow do I Calculate Distance from Period?

          I've been asked how Orbital Calculator can calculate the distance an object is from a gravitational mass, using just its period (the time it takes to complete an orbit). The technique is relatively simple, so I'll explain it.
        • NASA Boarding Passplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Boarding Pass

          I took the plunge and got my NASA boarding pass for the Mars 2020 Rover mission.

          [NASA Boarding pass for Mars 2020 Mission]

          Get yours here: NASA Website SEND YOUR NAME TO MARS
        • NASA Receives 2 Emmy Awardsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Receives 2 Emmy Awards

          NASA recently won (14th-15th Sept 2019) two Emmy's for interactive content. Aside from the obvious achievements of winning the awards, there is something else going on here that should be recognised and encouraged. Awards, of course, are intended to recognise, encourage and promote excellence, but I'm talking about NASA not only reaching out to the public, but interactively engaging them.
        • Orbital Calculator v1.0.0.5 Updateplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v1.0.0.5 Update

          You can now calculate distance from a gravitational mass using the orbital period. The image above shows a calculation for Mars which has a 687 day year.

          I've allowed the use of tokens to identify time components to make it easy to use. The examples shown in the image should explain how it works.
        • Orbital Shenanigansplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Shenanigans

          [MOLA map of Mars coloured by elevation]

          Edited: 2019-03-14

          Sometimes when you do some research – actually, quite often – you find out some really interesting stuff and end up changing your mind. In my story, I had some people on the ground on Mars, and wanted a spacecraft in a geostationary orbit above them to give them communications between them at all times. Just for info, when talking about geostationary orbits, the accepted term for Mars is aerostationary. I’ll use g…
        • Adjustment to Mars Clocksplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAdjustment to Mars Clocks

          [Martian clock showing time at the prime meridian] The Martian clocks (keeping Martian time) on the Mars Weather page also display the L (pron. ell sub ess) - a way of describing where the planet is in its orbit, and the displacement of the sun in the sky at midday. I noticed the value for this was out by some distance, and after pondering the problem (and the code) for a while, the penny dropped.
        • Another Dayplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAnother Day

          A busy day today. I had an interview for a job today, so fingers crossed. Orbital Calculator got some attention too: I added the ability to have escape velocities output in km, metres or miles (per second) in the Gravity and Motion calculations - previously, output was just in km/s. I've tested and compiled and tested again, and I'll zip up the various releases and upload them to this site tomorrow (actually, later today - it's nearly 3am!).
        • Automatic Weather Updatesplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAutomatic Weather Updates

          The Mars Weather page is now 99.99% automatic, with rebuilds regularly throughout the day. The 0.001% that's not automated? Once a week I have to update the image that shows the relative positions of the inner planets. I think I can manage that
        • Hogfather Update 2plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHogfather Update 2

          The Website will be down for a short period Sun, Aug 2nd 2020 while the site is upgraded

          I shall be taking the site down for a while on Sun, Aug 2nd 2020, while i perform the upgrade. Although I have a local copy of the website, I also do a bit of experimentation on it, so the two are not perfectly synchronised, so I'll have to make a backup of the site and download it first. It'll actually take longer to do that than perform the update. It should all be over in less than tw…
        • Info Reportplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInfo Report

          N.B. This page gets bumped every now and again when new info is added.

          I've been pruning some of the stale articles and blog posts. If anything is broken, please let me know.
        • InSight's Final Selfieplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInSight's Final Selfie

          [InSight's Final Selfie] The InSight lander is in the final stages of of its extended mission. This image, taken on April 24th 2022, is it's last selfie.

          There was a possibility to keep going until the last operating science experiment had to be turned off, and then InSight would keep operating on safe mode until it eventually ran out of power.
        • Jezero Weather Dataplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigJezero Weather Data

          The Perseverance Rover has been sending back weather data. Now that InSight has officially retired from the weather business, I'll be collecting the weather data from Perseverance in Jezero Crater.

          It'll take me a while to get setup, and the data being returned is quite different. The InSight weather page will be renamed so it can still be accessed.
        • Mars July 2020plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars July 2020

          It's mid-July now, and temperatures at the InSight lander's location on Mars (south-west corner of Elysium in the northern hemisphere) are teetering on the edge and about to fall. At the end of the month - July 30th - NASA's Perseverance rover (formerly known as the Mars 2020 rover) gets its first launch opportunity. It had previously been scheduled to launch two weeks earlier but, you know, things happened.
        • Mars Solar Conjunctionplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Solar Conjunction

          This page is currently INACTIVE for 2021 conjunction

          Mars is heading for a solar conjunction, which in layman's terms means it's on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. For a short period, no commands will be sent to the Mars spacecraft (which includes landers and rovers) since the sun's corona could corrupt those commands and result in unintended actions, disablement of the spacecraft or worse.
        • Mars Weather Data Flows Againplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather Data Flows Again

          It appears that after a long hiatus, Mars Weather data is flowing again.
        • Mars Weather Page Updateplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather Page Update

          [Temperature over time] I've updated the format of the Temperature Over Time chart on the Mars Weather page to make it more readable. The sol numbers were overlapping each other, despite being broken into two rows. The chart is now interactive, in that you can use your mouse (or other pointing device) to select a position on one of the temperature graphs, and the sol number will be displayed at the bottom.
        • News 11th Feb 2021plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNews 11th Feb 2021

          My internet connection has now been established in my new home, and the Raspberry Pi's are working their hearts out to update the pages containing NASA data. There is a brief period that Mars Weather data is temporarily lost (I assume I'll be able to recover it when the data is next uploaded to the PDS repository in about 6 months time).
        • News 15th Jan 2021plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNews 15th Jan 2021


          As the Perseverance Rover approaches Mars, NASA mysteriously remove the countdown clock to the landing. Fear not, the countdown clocks on this site are still working: Perseverance Rover. Note that after the landing, the page will reflect the current mission time and other data made available.
        • Orbital Calculator 2.0.7 Releasedplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator 2.0.7 Released

          This is a maintenance update. see Release Notes for details.
        • Orbital Calculator v2.0.6 Releasedplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v2.0.6 Released

          [Orbital Calculator v2.0.6] Four major new functions for acceleration and gravity and a few tweaks under the hood. New functions include: Constant Velocity, Free-Fall, N-Body Centre of Gravity (in 3D space) and Distance/Speed/Time.

          These powerful functions allow you to calculate speed as a constant, as constant acceleration or as increasing acceleration, as well as determine the common centre of gravity of any number of astronomical or artificial space-born o…
        • Pi Zero Planplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigPi Zero Plan

          I've been wondering what to do with my Raspberry Pi Zero, and didn't think I'd come up with an idea for a few months. Like most things, it's not necessarily a good idea to go looking for a use for it: wait until a use suggests itself.
        • Raw Weather Dataplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigRaw Weather Data

          I have (at last) managed to get hold of all the Mars Weather data that's been missing from my dataset. In fact, I've got hold of so much (over 110Gb) that it's going to take some processing - it bears little resemblance to the data I currently fetch. I need a plan.
        • Scatter Graphplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigScatter Graph

          I've added a scatter graph to the Near Earth Object page, to show when objects are at closest approach and at what distance.
        • Site Softwareplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSite Software

          Some people have expressed an interest in what software I use for this site. It's built around DokuWiki with some extensions to make it work like a blog, keep it transparent (all the articles and entries are visible in the treeview menu) and to spruce things up - such as the auto-tooltip which displays the first part of a page when the user mouses over an internal link (this also works in the top-bar menu). Some extensions make administering the site easier, such as moving articl…
        • Site Statisticsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSite Statistics

          For the last year I've been using a plugin for my site that generates a statistics page, through which I can keep an eye on how well the site is doing. A couple of days ago, it stopped working. After a bit of analysis I discovered the data structures it was creating in memory had consumed too much of said memory and my hosting service had auto-assassinated it.
        • Updatesplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigUpdates

          The physical Martian clock... I have to come up with a better name for it than that. PiMars! Yup, I like that. The PiMars clock was up and running and displaying data at a crucial time. It was just a couple of hours before the end of the day at the InSight location, and as luck would have it, I had it display time at that place.
        • Weather Page Updateplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigWeather Page Update

          Mon Aug 10, 2020

          I've made some updates to the Mars Weather page.

          * Bugfix to Wind direction chart to correctly show most common wind direction and sample count * Smoothed the max/min data lines in the Temperature over Time chart so anomolies don't distort the location of the lines
          • Pi-Mars Installationplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigPi-Mars Installation

            You require an RPIv2 or later (to use the SmartiPi Touch 2 case, you require an RPI4). It will not run on an RPI1 or an RPI-Zero. This installation and configuration guide assumes you have installed an operating system on your Pi and can login either directly (with a keyboard/monitor attached to the Pi) or indirectly through SSH or VNC across a network.
          • Pi-Mars v1.1plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigPi-Mars v1.1

            Pi-Mars is a clock for the Raspberry Pi, that tells the time anywhere on Mars. It has options to nominate ad-hoc locations, pre-selected locations and sites of the various missions that made it to the Martian surface. It is skinnable and highly configurable.
        • Adding a Chromebookplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAdding a Chromebook

          I have a network with wiki-farm server to support my writing, a NAS and a home-made laptop. All of these things are based on Raspberry Pi's. Besides using the wiki-farm (which is used to write novels), I also use Zim-Wiki for making copious notes, character creation, world-building and plot development. Zim-Wiki is available on both Linux and Windows, and there is an ARM build that runs happily on the Raspberry Pi. And then I added a Chromebook, and that went from good idea …
          • SmartSuitplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSmartSuit

            SmartSuit: A Hybrid, Intelligent, and Highly Mobile EVA Spacesuit for Next Generation Exploration Missions

            Developer: Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

            I think the title says it all, but just in case it wasn't crystal clear, this is what they have to say about it:
          • THE MOST Space Telescopeplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTHE MOST Space Telescope

            [Disambiguation: this page is about The High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope, not Canada's MOST space telescope]

            Few telescopes can honestly say they've reinvented the concept, yet THE MOST certainly has. It works on a surprisingly old principle, by passing light through two prisms. As Isaac Newton demonstrated, this first splits light into its constituent components, then recombines it back again.
        • Dragonfly to Explore Titanplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDragonfly to Explore Titan

          Credits: NASA/JHU-APL Few worlds excite exoplanetary chemists like Titan, Saturn's enigmatic and largest moon. It is the second-largest moon in the solar system, and the only one known to have a dense atmosphere. As such, it is seen as an analogue to the early Earth, and therefore important in understanding how life might have evolved on our homeworld.
        • How Big Is The Universe?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHow Big Is The Universe?

          [Hubble deep Field Image]

          I recently came across a youtube video explaining a method for multiplication that was quite different from long multiplication. To explain why this was so interesting, let’s first talk about long multiplication and what’s wrong with it, and then we'll calculate the size of the visible universe in centimeters.
        • Landing the Mars 2020 Rover Safelyplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigLanding the Mars 2020 Rover Safely

          Autonomous landings are always fraught with danger. One of the most dangerous terrains any landing might occur on is a boulder field. Not only would the impact of the landing on these hard objects be a threat, but the boulders are likely to be jagged too. Another threat are the steep cliffs of the crater - not falling off them (although that's a possibility), but crashing into them.
        • Magnetic Field Lines on a Galactic Scaleplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMagnetic Field Lines on a Galactic Scale

          [Powerful magnetic fields are visible]

          The Cigar galaxy (M82) is already famous for the speed at which it creates new stars. The composite image shows the powerful magnetic field lines on a truly epic scale, wrapping around the entire galaxy. NASA's SOFIA observatory (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - a converted Boeing 747) has shed light on what is happening.
        • Mysterious Starplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMysterious Star

          Back in 2016, Tabetha Boyajian gave a TED talk about a star with nifty little name KIC 8462852. The Kepler space telescope had studied it and lots of other stars over the course of four years, but this one stood out.

          Also known as Tabby's Star, it is a main-sequence F-type star located in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,480 light-years from Earth. Its claim to fame of course, is that it was suggested that alien megastructures would explain the weird data that Kepler had recor…
        • NASA Got it Wrong - Oops!plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Got it Wrong - Oops!

          It's not every day you get the chance to tell NASA they screwed up.

          I was reviewing the data I'd collected from NASA's Mars Weather page, and I noticed that the graphs they generated didn't match the summary data.

          For example, the summary data for Sol 169 shows the maximum temperature peaking at -17.6°C, while the graph for the same day showed the temperature never rising above -25°C.
        • To the Moon and Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTo the Moon and Mars

          [The Moon - watch out, here we come (again)!]NASA has outlined an aggressive timetable for an equally aggressive return to the Moon, with a view to making the Moon a waystation for trips to Mars. This requires the development of a whole slew of new technologies, as well as ramping up existing technologies and capabilities to whole new levels.
        • Calculate your Age and Weight on the Planetsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCalculate your Age and Weight on the Planets

          This little calculator allows you to calculate how old you would be on each of the planets in the solar system, and what your weight would be. If you have weight issues, don't look at the result for Jupiter!
        • DLCounter Pluginplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDLCounter Plugin


          This download-counter plugin for DokuWiki enables you to keep track of the number of downloads of media files such as zip, gzip, tarballs and pdf's (your choice of media formats). This plugin has been developed and tested on “Greebo
        • DLCounter Plugin Bugtrackerplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDLCounter Plugin Bugtracker

          If you have any issues with the plugin, leave a comment here.
        • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

          I needed to calculate orbital characteristics for any orbit around any gravitational mass (because I write sci-fi stories), so I wrote this program because I'm a programmer and I'm too lazy to do it by hand all the time. The program has expanded over the last few years, sometimes from suggestions by other writers. I make it freely available and as simple to use as possible. It now has a list of functions as long as your arm (assuming you're not a tentacle user), and the numbe…
        • Orbital Calculator v2.x Release Notesplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v2.x Release Notes

          This lists the important notes on each new release, explaining what has changed and what's new.

          See the Downloads page to download Orbital Calculator for various platforms. A full description of the product is available on the
        • Surface Gravity Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSurface Gravity Calculator

          Want to know what the surface gravity is on any celestial object? You just need to know it's mass in terms of Earth masses (e.g. Earth = 1, Venus = 0.815, Mars = 0.107 etc.) and it's radius. This calculator will do the rest.
      • Animal Farmplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAnimal Farm

        As a writer, I love sitting at my computer and either writing my next novel, or working on the development phase - world-building, character creation, plot development etc. However, after 12 hours sitting at my desk I'm getting a bit uncomfortable and if I listen very carefully, I can hear the sofa's siren call
      • Animal Farm Part 2plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigAnimal Farm Part 2

        In an earlier article I explained why using a wiki farm could be productive for someone who is on the move or likes to preserve previous versions of documents, and also for someone like me who uses multiple operating systems.

        It's worth noting too that collaborating becomes a lot easier using a wiki, and since the platform preserves old versions of each document, it provides a safety net too. That aside, I thought I'd share how this all works for the user.
      • Description or Teaser?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDescription or Teaser?

        When you write the blurb that goes on the back of the book, should you write a description or a teaser? This article explores that question, explaining why each of them work and what their effects are, and why sometimes one is a better choice than the other.
      • Oh, The Facts!plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOh, The Facts!

        [Only the facts, ma'am]There was a litany that writers used to be told, but is rarely heard these days. If you've been a writer for more than ten years you will probably recall it: “Stick to the facts!”. Does that mean your story ends up a dry, soulless, sequential list of equally dry, soulless facts? Of course not.
      • Proper Paragraph Spacing and Indenting on Web Pagesplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigProper Paragraph Spacing and Indenting on Web Pages

        This is a short article on how to setup the correct CSS in order to replicate the paragraph spacing and indenting displayed in a book on your web pages. It will also enlarge and embolden the first character in the scene.
      • Self-Publishing Trapsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSelf-Publishing Traps

        Sometimes it's a while before I post a new book review. Usually this is because I've read some self-published novels that I don't want to review. When I post a review, I'm telling readers about a book I'd recommend. This is good for readers, and it's good for the authors who get the recommendation. I'm not out to harm someone's writing career - which can always be turned around in the future - and I'm certainly not the sort of pompous umm, donkey, that simply lets my mouth…
      • Smart but Dumb Aliensplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSmart but Dumb Aliens

        We all know the problem, especially from video games and movies, where the super-smart aliens turn out to be really dumb. This is usually because the creator hasn't put much thought into it.

        So, you're creating a super-intelligent alien or species or civilisation for your short story or novel or whatever. How do you avoid the pitfalls of dumbing them down?
      • Story Structure (Hero's Journey)plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigStory Structure (Hero's Journey)

        The Hero's Journey is an overlay for the 4-part story structure. See how they work in conjunction with the character arc.


        Click on this image to review it, then click it again to see it full size

        Other Structures
      • The Climaxplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigThe Climax

        Whether you work out what happens at the end of your story before you start writing, or discover what happens when you write the climactic scene, understanding why the scene is so important to the protagonist's story is critical to getting it right.
      • The Prophecyplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigThe Prophecy

        [Myrddin]Prophecy is a common theme in fantasy, partly because it tugs on the strings that are entangled with mythos - somehow it just excites us - and partly because it is a huge convenience. Never underestimate the power of a single word. In all of writing, there are few words that are as powerful as
      • Voices in the Darkplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigVoices in the Dark

        A scene that is all dialogue and no action creates the dreaded “voices in the dark”. Perhaps they're at a conference table, or standing around talking things through before making a decision that will propel the story into its next phase.
          • Silvertongueplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSilvertongue


            Silvertongue is the first in a series named “Remnants of Magic”, and both the title of the novel and the series become readily apparent in the first scene. Speaking of the first scene, it's a big one at 100 pages spanning eleven chapters, but don't let that put you off - it's one hell of a scene. The story kicks you straight into the action and that first scene is a long and continuous battle - and the poor protagonist (Jon) hasn't got a clue what's going on or why…
          • Beyond Falcon's Reachplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigBeyond Falcon's Reach

            Beyond Falcon's Reach by Jay Northearn, is a mish-mash of high fantasy, gothic-horror, steampunk and electropunk, with a dash of semi-intelligent machine-learning AI's thrown-in to boot. Yet for all of this, the world Northearn has created is homogenous and holistic - two watchwords I'll bang on about until the cows come home, to anyone who'll listen. Giving everything in your world a place and a reason for being there is something that every writer should always keep i…
        • The Bluffers Guide to the Quantum Universeplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigThe Bluffers Guide to the Quantum Universe

          [The Bluffers Guide to the Quantum Universe]

          The Bluffers Guide to the Quantum Universe is a very funny guide (read: hilarious) to things surrounding quantum mechanics. Who the major players were, how the major theories won out over each other... or didn't. Tons of interesting facts you can toss around at parties and make it look like you know what you're talking about when discussing anything to do with quantum theory, quantum mechanics, who was who…
          • Creation Machineplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCreation Machine

            Andrew Bannister’s “Creation Machine” is the best novel I’ve read this year – and that’s saying something, I’ve read some of the best sci-fi novels from the last five years in the last ten months.

            The breadth and depth of his imagination is incredible. He’s created an entire artificial galaxy, given it character and taken us on a tour that is as exciting as it is varied.
          • Iron Godsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigIron Gods

            Another novel of The Spin, and following on from Creation Machine, Iron Gods continues in much the same vein. There are intriguing and plausible characters, a spaceship AI that has had its lobotomy reversed, strange worlds and even stranger economic forces.
          • Stone Clockplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigStone Clock

            The third outing in The Spin series from acclaimed author Andrew Bannister, Stone Clock, has a dark edge to it. Already an accomplished writer, Bannister has taken things up a notch.

            His usual mélange of lucid and slightly demented imagination is in full force, and the array of modes of humour are all present and permeate the pages as if they’d been dipped in the stuff.
          • Hard-Boiled Wonderlandplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHard-Boiled Wonderland

            [Hard-Boiled Wonderland]

            Chris Morton is a writer with a certain pedigree, having been shortlisted for a Guardian award, this story is his third novel and his first in science-fiction.

            It tells the story of a man (Maggie Flycatcher) who has almost certainly the most boring job in history: he's a lemon tree supervisor. The creative talent that can come up with such a pointless job is one that deserves some recognition, so it instantly grabbed my attention. Flycatcher's …
          • Colony One Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigColony One Mars

            [Colony One Mars] [4.5 stars]

            Colony One Mars promises to be a fast-paced sci-fi thriller, and it certainly delivers. The prologue is short and sweet, and although it doesn't offer any story information that isn't in the story proper, it does set up the atmosphere for what is to follow. The tension ramps up very quickly and most unexpectedly, and everything changes before we've had a chance to grab our breath.
          • Colony Three Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigColony Three Mars

            [Colony Three Mars by Gerald M. Kilby] [4 Stars] The third instalment in the saga is even messier (for the protagonists) than the previous two, ramping up the tension and the action, and making the solution even harder for the reader to predict. The cast of protagonists has grown a little, but that's fair because the cast of antagonists has too.
          • Colony Two Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigColony Two Mars

            [Colony Two Mars] [4 Stars] Colony Two Mars picks up the story a few years after the preceding story, Colony One Mars left off. I really enjoyed the first instalment in this trilogy, but this is a much better, much stronger story. As the overarching story of the trilogy begins to emerge, Kilby's eye for a good story starts to pay dividends.
        • Science Fiction Double Featureplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigScience Fiction Double Feature

          [Science Fiction Double Feature ]

          This pair of novellas comes courtesy of Zombie Pirate Publishing, and indeed the stories themselves come from the publishing house's founders and resident editors, Sam M. Phillips (Into the Eye) and Adam Bennett (Phosphorus).

          Since they come as a pair it is necessary of me to review each in turn before giving an overall impression, and I've chosen the order they appear between the covers.
    • DokuWikiplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDokuWiki

      wiki:dokuwiki DokuWiki is a simple to use and highly versatile Open Source wiki software that doesn't require a database. It is loved by users for its clean and readable Formatting Syntax. The ease of maintenance, backup and integration makes it an administrator's favorite. Built in
    • Formatting Syntaxplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigFormatting Syntax

      DokuWiki supports some simple markup language, which tries to make the datafiles to be as readable as possible. This page contains all possible syntax you may use when editing the pages. Simply have a look at the source of this page by pressing
    • Welcome to your new DokuWikiplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigWelcome to your new DokuWiki

      Congratulations, your wiki is now up and running. Here are a few more tips to get you started.

      Enjoy your work with DokuWiki,

      -- the developers

      Create your first pages

      Your wiki needs to have a start page. As long as it doesn't exist, this link will be red:
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  • ISSplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigInternational Space Station

    This page has a portal through which you can view the current location of the International Space Station, updating in real-time. The tracker itself comes from the European Space Agency (ESA).

    There is also a handy link to get email notifications direct from NASA when the ISS is visible in your night sky.
  • Mars Weatherplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Weather

    Weather Reports Insight Lander Perseverance Rover Curiosity data to come [Current positions of Earth and Mars] Image courtesy of and © Dominic Ford

    This image is updated once per week. A daily update is available on the Mars Solar Conjunctions page when such events are active.

    You can check the position of Mars vs the Sun and Earth for any date here:
  • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

    Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

    A full description and a list of the features are available
  • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

    I needed to calculate orbital characteristics for any orbit around any gravitational mass (because I write sci-fi stories), so I wrote this program because I'm a programmer and I'm too lazy to do it by hand all the time. The program has expanded over the last few years, sometimes from suggestions by other writers. I make it freely available and as simple to use as possible. It now has a list of functions as long as your arm (assuming you're not a tentacle user), and the numbe…
  • Cookie Policy & GDPRplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCookie Policy & GDPR

    There are NO tracking cookies on this site!

    The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
  • Book Reviewsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigBook Reviews

    Here you can find all the book reviews, broken down by genre, and further subdivided by author. If you want me to review your novel, please read my Rules on Reviewing.

    * Science-Fiction * Fantasy * Non-Fiction
  • Contactplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigContact

    If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.