Trains, aliens, fantasy and myths in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 8th  13:30: Tea-Time on the Orient Express

Join Seanchai Library and friends as they depart on a journey across aboard one of the most luxurious means of rail travel, as they present Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Offered in a special setting for the next 6 weekends, this most famous adventure for Christie’s Hercule Poirot. who merely wishes to return to London from Istanbul was all possible haste – but instead finds himself, along with the rest of the passengers – snowbound in the Yugoslavian mountains. And what’s more, there’s been a murder!

Read my preview, All aboard the Orient Express with Hercule Poirot, and don’t forget your boarding pass!

Murder on the Orient Express: your carriage awaits!

Monday, July 9th 19:00: Protector

Phssthpok the Pak had been travelling for most of his thirty-two thousand years. His mission: save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some two and a half million years previously.

Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days — Brennan figured to meet that ship first…

He was never seen again. At least not by those alive at the time.

Join Gyro Muggins as he reads Larry Niven’s engaging tale of humanity’s past – and future.

Tuesday, July 10th 1900: Brief Cases

Corwyn Allen dives into Jim Butcher’s 2018 collection of several of his excellent short stories and novellas from within the universe of Harry Dresden.

The tales present here not only offer excellent short narratives that dabble between the scenes of the other novels in the Dresden Universe series, they even encompass what might be Dresden’s greatest challenge…

….Becoming a father.

Wednesday, July 11th: NEW – Fireside Tales

11:00 Damon Runyon

VT Torvalar & Caledonia Skytower read two The Old Doll House  and A Piece of Pie.

19:00 Cecily Wong: Diamond Head

Caledonia shares a selection from Cecily Wong’s sweeping debut spanning from China to Hawaii that follows four generations of a wealthy shipping family whose rise and decline is riddled with secrets and tragic love—from a young, powerful new voice in fiction.

Thursday, July 12th

19:00: Monsters and Myths – Procrustes

With Shandon Loring. Also presented in Kitely (hop://

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary Sci-Fi with Finn Zeddmore.


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The current charity is Feed a Smile.

Space Sunday: Kepler, China, and a voyage to the Sun

An artist’s rendering of Kepler in its heliocentric orbit. Credit: NASA

In March 2018, I reported that NASA’s exoplanet hunting Kepler mission might be drawing to a close. The end of the mission was threatened when engineers confirmed that the observatory was showing signs of running out of fuel.

Responsible for locating 70% of the 3,750 exoplanets discovered to date, Kepler was launched in 2009 and has been one of the most successful missions NASA has run. Unfortunately, as a result of a change to its operational parameters following the failure of two of the four reaction wheels used to hold it steady while observing distant stars, the observatory has had to increase its use of its propellant reserves. As a result, on July 2nd, 2018, NASA Kepler was ordered into a “no-fuel-use safe mode” after telemetry reported an “anomalous” drop in fuel pressure in the spacecraft.

The observatory will remain in this mode until August 2nd, 2018, when it is due to use its manoeuvring jets to orient itself so it can transmit the data collected on its last observational campaign – the 18th in its extended mission – to Earth via the Deep Space Network. During the time between now and August 2nd, engineers will attempt evaluate the status of the spacecraft’s propulsion system to determine if it has sufficient fuel left to allow it to resume observations in what is called Campaign 19, scheduled to begin August 6th, 2018.

Kepler has been tremendously successful by any measure. In addition to its impressive raw planet tally – liable to raise as there are still more than 2,000 planet candidates still to be vetted – the data gathered by Kepler since 2009 seems to suggest that 20% of Sun-like stars host a roughly Earth-size planet in the habitable zone — that just-right range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world’s surface.

During its primary mission, from 2009 through May 2013, Kepler stared at about 150,000 stars simultaneously, hunting for periodic dipping in their brightness that might indicate a planetary body moving in front of them. Since 2014, it has been engaged on its extended K2 mission, comprising a series of observational campaigns lasting 80 days apiece, each focused on a slightly different area of sky.

However, if this is the beginning of the end for Kepler, it’s not the end of our exoplanet hunting efforts: if all is proceeding as planned, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April, 2018, should be taking over the task – although admittedly, news on its “first light” image, which was due in June, has yet to be released.

China’s Super-Heavy Launch and Reusable Rocket Capabilities

Speaking during an event in China at the end of May 2018, Long Lehao, a chief designer with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), gave an update on two of China’s new launch vehicles: the Long March 9 super booster and the partially reusable Long March 8 rocket.

The Long March 9 – referred to as the CZ-9, or Changzheng 9 in Chinese – is slated to enter service in 2030, and is central to China’s interplanetary ambitions. It is also a huge increase in scale a capability for the nation’s launch systems. The core three-stage rocket will stand 93 metres tall, using a 10-metre diameter first stage. It will be assisted at launch by four 5-metre diameter strap-on boosters – these alone being the same diameter as China’s Long March 5, currently the country’s most powerful rocket. The most powerful variant of the vehicle will be capable of launching 140 tonnes to low-Earth orbit (LEO), 50 tonnes to the Moon and around 44 tonnes to Mars.

China’s Long March 9 (CZ-9), flanked by launch vehicles past and present, including Russia’s never successfully flown N-1 lunar rocket from the 1960s. Via: Wikipedia

By comparison, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle will have a core stage 8.4 metres in diameter, with its most powerful variant (Block 2) capable of placing 130 tonnes into LEO, and SpaceX’s BFR with a 9-metre diameter core and be capable of putting 150 tonnes into LEO.

In his presentation, Long confirmed the first CZ-9 is slated for launch in 2030 – around the time the Block 2 variant of the SLS is due to fly. One of the first missions earmarked for the super booster is an automated Mars sample return mission, with crewed lunar missions also on the cards for the vehicle. In addition, the CZ-9 could be used to deploy a system of solar power satellites the Chinese government and military are said to be considering.

Meanwhile, the Long March 8, based on the core of China’s current mid-range launcher, the Long March 7, is expected to make its first flight in 2021. Capable of lifting a more modest 8 tonnes to LEO, the first stage of the booster is designed to be reusable, employing a similar methodology to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stages to return to Earth and land.

An artist’s impression of the Long March 8 first stage about to make a soft-landing at the end of a launch flight. Credit: Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology

While the payload capacity of the Long March 8 might sound small, it is ideal for typical satellite payloads. More to the point, the use of the Long March 7 first stage means the system could be “upgraded” to work with that vehicle, which is capable of placing 13 tonnes into LEO.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Kepler, China, and a voyage to the Sun”

In the Wild in Second Life

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild – click any image for full size

Update: In the Wild appears to have closed.

Given it is summer in the northern hemisphere and many are experiencing heat waves (even those of us in the UK!), the mind  turns inevitably to holidays and vacations. Often, however, we can’t always just take off to somewhere where the sun and warmth are more fun; but fortunately, there are plenty of places in Second Life that at least give the illusion of escape when we’d all rather be somewhere other than slowing baking in the heat at home.

Take In the Wild, for example. Sitting at the eastern end of the Orchard Heights Estates, it offer local residents and visitors alike the opportunity to escape the demands of physical and virtual life, and simply relax in a parkland setting offering much to see and do. For those seeking a little piece of privacy for a day, it also provides vacation cabins and tents for daily rent.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

Designed by Liyora Resident, this is an exceptionally picturesque region, rich in detail with plenty of opportunities for photography and fun. Comprising three islands connected by bridges, the park offers a good mix of land and water, with trails and lookout points on the former, and sampans, bumper boats and kayaks on the latter – there’s even a swimming area with floating slide available, as this is a family friendly park.

The largest island includes the landing point, overlooking the waters and complete with an information board. A long covered bridge links it back to the rest of the estate, reached via a track snaking down the hillside. Above and behind the landing point is one of the park’s rental cabins, sitting atop a high cliff and presenting superb views to the south and north-west. Between landing point and cabin is a second track, pointing the way to the bridge leading to the next of the park’s islands.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

This is where the water fun can be found – the swimming circle with its slide, and the bumper boats, together with a couple  of static water vehicles  which give the park a sense of being used, rather than offering actual rides. This is the largest of the island, backed by another high shoulder of rock on which a further cabin sits, guarded by the tower of a windmill and partially overlooking a circular inlet cutting into the lowlands.

Out on a north-eastern headland of the island is a public picnic area offering another fine lookout point, sitting as it does on a shoulder of rock just below another of the park’s cabins and the local lighthouse. Before this headland is  tongue a of land ending in a finger of rock where a further bridge connects to the smallest of the three islands, and home to another holiday cabin as well as the park’s music events area.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

As well as the cabins, there are several tens scattered around the islands, also available for daily rent and provided pre-furnished and a modest LI allowance for rezzing props, etc. Paths through the park take a variety of  forms: dirt tracks, wooden board walks and sets of paving stones loosely place across the grass. Like spots offer solo places to sit in the shade of a parasols and. The kayaks mentioned earlier can be obtained via a waterfront rezzer a short walk from the landing point. and come in single and tandem seat versions.

In the Wild can be summarised as a well-designed region, one that is – as already noted – very picturesque. It is certainly well deserving of a visit.

In the Wild; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrIn the Wild

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