Mike Hodel's Hour 25

Previous Shows
February 2005

Hour 25 Home Page
This Week's Show   Upcoming Shows   Audio Index
Current Calendar   Last Month's Calendar   On-Going Events   Authors on Tour  
Literacy Education   Hour 25 Background   Links  


Index to our previous shows

  • February 21, 2005 - Larry Niven
  • Shows from January, 2005, 2004
  • Shows from December, 2004
  • Shows from November, 2004
  • Shows from October, 2004
  • Shows from September, 2004
  • Shows from August, 2004
  • Shows from June, 2004
  • Shows from May, 2004
  • Shows from April, 2004
  • Shows from March, 2004
  • Shows from February, 2004
  • Shows from January, 2004
  • Shows from December, 2003
  • Shows from November, 2003
  • Shows from October, 2003
  • Shows from September, 2003
  • Shows from August, 2003
  • Shows from July, 2003
  • Shows from June, 2003
  • Shows from May, 2003
  • Shows from February, 2003
  • Shows from January, 2003
  • Shows from December, 2002
  • Shows from November, 2002
  • Shows from October, 2002
  • Shows from September, 2002
  • Shows from August, 2002
  • Shows from July, 2002
  • Shows from June, 2002
  • Shows from May, 2002
  • Shows from April, 2002
  • Shows from March, 2002
  • Shows from February, 2002
  • Shows from January, 2002
  • Shows from December 2001
  • Shows from November, 2001
  • Shows from October, 2001
  • Shows from September, 2001
  • Shows from August, 2001
  • Shows from July, 2001
  • Shows from June, 2001
  • Shows from May, 2001
  • Shows from April, 2001
  • Shows from March, 2001
  • Shows from February, 2001
  • Shows from January, 2001
  • Shows from November - December, 2000
  • Shows from September - October, 2000
  • Shows from July - August, 2000

  • Larry Niven     Listen to this show

    On Monday - February 21st, 2005 - our guest on Hour 25 was noted author Larry Niven chatting with us about his books and the art and craft of writing.

    Larry Niven is an author whose writing has played a big part in making science fiction what it is today. He has done this by gleefully exploring the implications of ideas arising from science, history and just about every phase of human activity. And he does this with such insight that his stories make you think about the world around you in ways that might otherwise not have occurred to you.

    But more than that, his stories are well crafted and entertaining. Fiction doesn't get any better than that.

         Larry Niven. Copyright © 2005 Suzanne Gibson All Rights Reserved.
    Image Copyright © 2005 Suzanne Gibson
    All Rights Reserved

    Larry Niven is the master of the art of asking the next question. His stories explore the implications new ideas, and follow them to their natural conclusion. For example...

    Lots of people have imagined that organ transplants would become affordable and reliable and used that as an element of their science fiction. But Larry asked the next question. How large would the demand for fresh organs become if anyone could extend their life by replacing their organs as they failed? Where would the raw material for all those transplants come from? How would society keep the organ banks full?

    Certainly criminals who had committed murder might repay their debt to society by becoming unwilling organ donors. Unfortunately that would probably not provide enough fodder for the organ banks. But murder isn't the only way to destroy someone's life. You can rob them of their life's savings or destroy their livelihood in some other way. So those people would, with little argument, end up in the organ banks.

    But where would it stop? How would society balance the almost unlimited demand for organ transplants with the limited supply of organs?

    For Larry's take on this problem you should check out his short story "The Jigsaw Man". And then hope that when the problem of organ legging becomes even bigger than it currently is, society will have found a better answer.

    Or what about alternate history? That's a popular sub-genre of science fiction and one that I enjoy. But Larry had to go and ask that next question.

    What if people really understood that every choice they made was remade on an infinite number of worlds with all of the possible choices playing out somewhere, sometime. How would they react? Would they change the decisions they made? Would their ideas of right and wrong change?

    Go read "All the Myriad Ways" and see if you ever think about alternate history in the same way again.

    Larry's approach to science fiction is a model of the scientific method. There you observe the world, form theories to explain what you see and then test those theories by asking the next question by requiring them to make a testable prediction about something else you might observe.

    And that is how Larry crafts his stories. He takes an idea and then asks the next question, and the next one and the one after that until he has followed that first idea to its logical conclusion. While making sure that the journey is filled with interesting events and characters, plot twists and resolutions and all those other things that are a part of great fiction.

    Don't miss any of his books. They are all most highly recommended.

    cover for Scatterbrain

         cover for Ringworld's Children.

    Dateline: Mars

    NASA is releasing all of the images from the two Mars Exploration Rovers almost as soon as they arrive at JPL. The raw images for the Spirit rover can be found at the following Web Page and raw images for Opportunity can be found here. The images that have been released to the press, along with animations and explanatory text, can be found here. You can find larger versions of the images shown below at that last NASA Web Site.


    Opportunity, meteor, color. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    Here's a picture of an unexpected discovery that was recently made by the Opportunity rover. A meteorite on the surface of Mars.

    When you think about how rare such finds are on the Earth, it is truly amazing that such a discovery should be made on another world by a spacecraft exploring just a tiny fraction of that planet's surface. But like Harry Turtledove has said, "Real life does not have to be believable, it just has to have happened".

    Opportunity, overhead of Endurance crater. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    Here you see an overhead view of Endurance crater showing the heatshield that protected Opportunity when it entered the Martian atmosphere. Now that Opportunity has completed its exploration of Endurance crater it will be spending some time checking out that heatshield so that engineers back on Earth can learn how well it worked and come up with even better systems for use on future spacecraft.

    Opportunity, heat shield impact area, color. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    In this image you see that heatshield and some other debris. That orange 'splotch' is where the heatshield hit the ground and created a small crater that dug up light colored material from just below the surface of Mars.

    Opportunity, heat shield color. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    Here is a close up image of the heatshield. The impact actually turned the heatshield inside out like an umbrella that has been popped open by a strong wind.

    Opportunity, dust comparison. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    This picture shows two images of the color calibration target on Opportunity taken approximately a year apart. There has been some accumulation of dust, but not much. This is probably because a chance gust of wind cleaned off the rover a few months ago. Compare this picture to the corresponding picture from Spirit shown below and you'll see just how dirty a spacecraft can get on Mars. {I guess exploration really is a dirty job.}

    Opportunity, tracks. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    I love pictures of the rover's tracks on the sands of Mars. They point the way back to the places we have been and remind us of the wonders that await us in those places where no tracks have yet been made.


    Spirit, hills and tracks, color.  Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL

    Here's a true color image of the surface of Mars showing the tracks left by Spirit as it continues its exploration of Mars. Don't you wish you were seeing this with your own eyes directly, and not in a picture taken by a robotic surrogate?

    Spirit, cable tie dust tracks.  Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL

    Shown in the image above is a cable tie, it's a cousin to those 'twisties' you use to tie up your trash bags back on Earth, that has been jiggling around on the top of Spirit while it roves about on Mars. The tracks left by this cable tie provide a unique, if hard to interpret, record of the rover's travels.

    Spirit, dust comparison.  Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL

    This image shows the dust that has accumulated on the color calibration target on Spirit over the course of the last year. Notice how the colors are obscured by the red dust of Mars.

    The accumulation of dust on Spirit is starting to interfere with the rover's ability to operate since this dust is severely reducing the amount of power that can be generated by the solar panels on the rover.

    Dateline: Saturn/Titan

    Information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, including the newest released images from Huygens, can be found at this ESA Web Site. The University of Arizona Web Site for the imaging system used to take these pictures has much information about how they were obtained and processed as well as a collection of processed and unprocessed images.

    The Huygens probe carried a microphone and recorded the various sounds that it heard while descending to the surface of Titan. You can listen to those sounds at this Web Page sponsored by the Planetary Society.

    Information about the Cassini mission can be found at the Project's Official Web Site at JPL. Pictures taken by the Cassini spacecraft can be found by going to this JPL Web Page.

    Huygens descent image. Image credit ESA/NASA/University of Arizona.
    Image Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona
    This mosaic of three images was taken while the Huygens probe was descending to the surface of Titan. It clearly shows what looks to be a river channel, fed by smaller streams, that flows into a smooth low lying region. Might that smooth area be the shore of a lake? Or is it a smooth plain, perhaps the remnant of a vanished ocean or other body of liquid. Only time - lubricated by hard work and lots of analysis - will tell.

    Cassini image of large crater on Titan. Image credit NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    Craters are common on most planets in the solar system. It is only on places like the Earth, where active geology and erosion can erase them, that craters are rare.

    Very few craters have been seen in the images and radar maps created during Cassini's flybys of Titan. This suggests that Titan, like the Earth, may be geologically active.

    None the less, there are craters on Titan. This image shows one of them and it's big, over 400 km in diameter. If you look in the lower left corner of this picture you can see what looks like a stream channel on the rim of the crater. This shows that the geology of Titan promises to be an interesting combination of features seen on Earth and other planets.

    Cassini image of another crater on Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL
    This image shows another crater on Titan, though this one is much smaller - less than 40 km in diameter. Studies of these craters and how they have been modified by various geologic forces promise to tell us much about the geologic history of Titan.

    Listen to this show


    Click here to listen to the entire show. {1:24:57}


        Larry Niven. Picture copyright © 2003 Suzanne Gibson.  All rights reserved.
    Copyright © 2003 Suzanne Gibson
    All Rights Reserved
    • Click here for the show's intro music.{0:41}
    • Click here for the show's opening and our introduction of Larry Niven. {9:41}
    • Click here to learn about NASA's decision to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope. {5:30}
    • Click here for news about a bit of excitement on the last EVA on the ISS. {3:12}
    • Click here to hear about the doppler wind experiment on the Huygens probe. {5:04}
    • Click here to learn about a huge gamma ray outburst that occurred recently. {3:09}
    • Click here for our interview with Larry Niven. {55:53}
    • Click here for the show's closing.{1:47}

    • Click here for our current show.
    • Click here for links to all of our previous Shows that you can listen to on the Hour 25 Web Site.
    If you enjoyed this show and would like to know when other interviews are uploaded to the Hour 25 Web Site, then send an email to me at wwjames@earthlink.net and I will add your name to the free Hour 25 Newsletter mailing list. That way you'll get a brief notice in your email every time a new show gets uploaded to the web.

    Links for more information relating to this week's show

    Larry Niven
  • Much information about Larry Niven's books can be found at the Known Space Web Site. Many great links to other web sites dealing with Larry's books can be found on the Known Space Links Page.
  • Biographical information about Larry can be found at the web page from DragonCon and a bibliography of his work can be found in the Larry Niven section of Alpha Ralpha Blvd.
  • Be sure to check out this Known Space Chronological Ordering or this even more extensive chronology to see how all of Larry's stories fit together.
  • If you live in the Los Angeles area, or will be passing through town, you really should drop by LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society). Their weekly meetings are filled with folks who have wide ranging interests and various writers - including Larry Niven - can frequently be found there.

    Tsunami Relief
  • Information about the impact of the Tsunami on Sri Lanka and on relief efforts and much more can be found at the Web Site for the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.
  • Here is the link to Jerry Pournelle's Web Site that has information from Sir Arthur C. Clarke concerning places to send donations to for Tsunami relief.
  • Below are a number of organizations that are providing Tsunami relief.
  • American Red Cross International Response Fund
    PO Box 37243
    Washington, DC 20013
    (800)-HELP NOW
  • Catholic Relief Services
    PO Box 17090
    Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
    PO Box 2247
    New York, NY 10116-2247
    (888) 392-0392
  • Oxfam America
    Asia Earthquake Fund
    PO Box 1211
    Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211

    Space News - Mars
  • For more information about the Mars Exploration Rovers be sure to check out the MER Web Site at JPL or this Mars Rover site at Cornell University.
  • To learn more about the Mars Express mission you can go to this ESA Mars Express Web Site, this Mars Express Web Page from JPL, this NSSDC Mars Express Web Page, or this Web Page from Mars News.Com.
  • For more information about the Exploration of Mars be sure to go to the JPL Mars Exploration Site, the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA Ames, or the Mars Missions Web Site at the Planetary Society.
  • Information about the data returned by previous Mars missions can be found at this Mars Web Page at the NSSDC.
  • Information about the Phoenix Mission to Mars can be found at this Press Release from the University of Arizona. You can view a 3D picture of the Mars Phoenix spacecraft here.
  • For more Mars news be sure to check out the Mars News.Com Web Site.
  • Percival Lowell did much to shape our ideas about Mars in the early years of the 20th Century. You can learn more about his work by reading this on-line copy of his 1895 book Mars.

    Space News - The Cassini Mission to Saturn
  • Much information about the Cassini mission can be found at the Project's Official Web Site at JPL.
  • JPL is constantly releasing pictures from Cassini. You can find them by going to this JPL Web Page.
  • Additional information about the Cassini mission can be found at this ESA Web Site.

    For On-Going Updates on Space News
  • Links relating to the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia can be found here.
  • The Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News Web Site Web Page that is part of the Hobby Space Web Site is a really good place to watch for news about, well... Reusable Launch Vehicles and related subjects. I check it out just about every day and often find news there that doesn't show up anywhere else. Give it a look. {And while you're there be sure to check out some of the site's other pages. Wow! Is there a lot of information there.}
  • The Space Today Web Site is a great place to find space news from all over the 'net.
  • The Spaceflight Now Web Site carries real time information about current space missions and presents a lot of space and astronomy news. This is the place I go to when I want up to the minute information about current space missions. Do I need to say more?
  • The NASA Watch Web Site is another great place for getting information about current space missions. Check there also for news about other 'goings on' within NASA. Highly recommended.

    ISS News
  • The Florida Today Web Site has a very interesting report about the causes of the ISS budget problems and their impact on the space program. It makes very interesting reading.
  • Click here to view the press kits for various ISS missions.
  • Check out the NASA International Space Station Web Page or the Boeing Web Page to learn more about this project.
  • A great source of news about Russian space activities, including their work on the ISS, can be found at the Russian Space Web.
  • Do you wonder where the Space Station is right now? You can use your browser to view real time maps showing the location of the ISS by going to this link at the NASA Space Link Web Site or here at the Johnson Spacecraft Center. Please note that your browser must support Java to make use of this satellite tracking software.
  • You can find out when the ISS - or many other spacecraft - can be seen from your location by going to this NASA Web Page. Please note; your browser must support Java for this application to work.

    Space Related Organizations
    If you are interested in learning more about current space activities there are many local and national organizations you might want to know about. Joining these organizations and taking part in their activities is a good way to stay abreast of things going on in space as well as a way to show your support for those activities. Listed below are some of those organizations.
  • The Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement has long been place for persons living in the Los Angeles area to gather and discuss the promise of space. Be sure to check out their Web Site for information about their meetings and other activities.
  • The Orange County Space Society is another Los Angeles area organization that provides a focal point for persons who are interested in space developments to get together and share their ideas. They have created a number of displays explaining the history and importance of space exploration that have appeared at various public events. Be sure to check their Web Site for information about their meetings and other events.
  • The National Space Society has a long history of being an advocate for a vigorous space program and provides much information to its members through their magazine and Web Site.
  • The Space Frontier Foundation is a strong advocate for a non-governmental space program and serves as a focal point for much activity in that arena. Their annual conference in Los Angeles during the Fall is a great way to find out what is happening in the non-government space arena.
  • The Space Access Society is focused on reducing the cost of going into space by promoting non-governmental launch vehicle programs. Their annual conference in the spring is a major source of information on non-traditional launch vehicle activities.
  • The Planetary Society is focused on the exploration of the Solar System and has a wealth of information for its members and others.

    Click here for information about the audio files used for Hour 25 and for information about configuring your browser and downloading audio players.

    Please note Web Pages from external sites will open in a separate browser window and that Hour 25 Productions are not responsible for the content of any external Web Sites.

  • Return to the Index for this month's shows

    Back to Hour 25 Home Page

    Unless otherwise noted the entire content of this web site is
    Copyright © Warren W. James, 2000-2005. All rights reserved.