Would books ever go to Mars? See below...
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A Personal Note (Archive)
October 30, 2014
I'm reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson at the moment, an imagined account of the colonisation of Mars. It's a very interesting and well written book, with many compelling visions of what might happen as people travel to other planets. But there is one detail which seems fundamentally wrong, and reflects on cultural changes that are happening to us now. This detail is the presence of books and paper on Mars. The labs where work is done to transform Mars into a habitable place are described as stuffed with books. In reality there is no way that books will go to Mars. Paper is expensive to make, and uses plant fibres, usually derived from wood pulp - so not likely to be made locally on a planet with no plants. Once paper is made into books it is heavy, takes up space, and is difficult to store and dispose of. A quick internet search suggests that at the moment it costs $27,000 to put a kilo of weight into Earth orbit. No doubt this will change, but we can be sure that moving weight away from Earth to Mars is always going to be expensive. So why would you send heavy books when you could send a weightless digital file? The idea of having books on Mars throws into sharp relief the same economic drawbacks of books on Earth. I don't necessarily have to get a book into orbit, but I do have to go to a shop which has to have stock shipped in at great expense. My house no doubt is bigger than a space capsule or a Mars habitat, but books are still bulky, and take up a huge amount of room in my attic. The idea of books on Mars is like a caricature of a situation showing us that we are in the midst of a historical switch from paper to digital means of distributing printed matter. As you might expect I am reading Red Mars on my Ipad.
To have a look at my novel, available on kindle and in paperback click here
Historical news for October
For the last thirty years the Turner Prize has been highlighting the work of new British artists. On 30th September the Turner Prize 2014 Exhibition opens at the Tate in London. For more details go to http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/turner-prize-2014
An exhibition exploring the sources, techniques and stories behind famous paintings by John Constable opens in late September at the V&A London. Pictures involved include the Haywain and Salisbury Cathedral From The Meadows. The exhibition runs 20th September - 11th January 2015. Telephone 020 7942 2000
Smallhythe Place in Kent, former home of actors Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, has its own theatre, which has been refurbished over the winter. Free backstage tours are available on twenty seven dates between the end of July and the end of October. For more details go to http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/whats-on/find-an-event/
London grew up around a bridge over the Thames. An exhibition exploring the significance of London's bridges opened at the end of June at the Museum of Docklands. The exhibition uses historical art works and the museum collections to tell the story. The exhibition runs 27th June - 2nd November. Telephone 020 7001 9844.
Anniversaries for October
2nd October 1925: John Logie Baird transmits the first black and white television picture, of the head of a ventriloquist's dummy called Stooke Bill.
3rd October 1952: Britain becomes the world's third nuclear power following detonation of a nuclear device in the hold of a frigate off the Montebello Islands, Western Australia.
6th October 1927: The Jazz Singer, the first full length talking picture opens. Al Jolson's first words in the film were "wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet."
8th October 1829: A steam engine called the Rocket wins the Rainhill Trials. The Rocket's designers, George and Robert Stevenson are awarded the contract for providing locomotives on the new Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
13th October 1884:Greenwich in London is established as the prime meridian from which all distances east and west would then be calculated.
19th October 1812: After an attempt to conquer Russia, Napoleon begins his retreat from Moscow. Around 380,000 French soldiers died in the Russian winter during the retreat.
27th October 1914: the British battleship HMS Audacious is sunk after striking a mine off the west coast of Ireland. This loss was considered so serious that the it was not officially announced until after the end of World War One in 1918.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.