December 2022

An Asgard archaeon of the proposed species Lokiarchaeum ossiferum

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study on archaea that belong to the proposed superphylum called Asgard and in particular on their characteristics that make them a possible evolutionary missing link with eukaryotes. A team of researchers formed by the collaboration of the working groups of Christa Schleper of the Austrian University of Vienna and Martin Pilhofer of ETH Zurich was successful in cultivating a species belonging to this group of microorganisms to study them in the laboratory. This allowed conducting thorough examinations of their cellular structures such as the extensive cytoskeleton.

Death's End by Liu Cixin

The novel “Death’s End” by Liu Cixin was published for the first time in 2010. It was translated into English by Ken Liu. It’s the third book of the trilogy known as The Three-Body Problem or Remembrance of Earth’s Past and follows “The Dark Forest”.

Cheng Xin is a part of the team working on the Staircase Project which aims to send a probe toward the Trisolaran Fleet. The examination of the technical limitations shows that it’s impossible to use it to send a human being, and director Thomas Wade decides to send only a person’s brain. Yun Tianming chose euthanasia because of an incurable disease but agrees to participate in the Staircase Project. The launch seems unsuccessful but Cheng Xin received a star as a gift from Yun, who was in love with her.

After a period of hibernation, Cheng Xin awakens in the deterrence era in which the Earth and Trisolaris maintain a fragile truce based on mutual threats to reveal the coordinates of their respective planets to the entire universe. Cheng Li is appointed to be the Swordholder, the human representative who is tasked with transmitting the coordinates of Trisolaris but when the Trisolarans attack, she decides not to activate the device.

Bloodlines: Home Fires Burn by Gareth Madgwick

The novel “Bloodlines: Home Fires Burn” by Gareth Madgwick was published for the first time in 2019.

Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart is taken from the normal space-time continuum by an entity who explains that he’s the Guardian of the Quantum Realm and needs him as an agent because he can’t operate directly in the physical universe. Now that there’s no one left to watch over the integrity of time, serious dangers are emerging due to interference in the timeline that could cause serious damage.

Professor Edward Travers has been sent to investigate strange events that may be caused by new Nazi weapons but he finds himself involved in the disappearance of a village child. Eileen Le Croissette is sent undercover to investigate a factory engaged in the British war effort which is using far too many resources that aren’t producing new weapons.

Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick

The novel “Dr. Bloodmoney or How We Got Along After the Bomb” by Philip K. Dick was published for the first time in 1965.

The failure of an atomic test directed by Dr. Bruno Bluthgeld caused a significant release of radioactive materials that led to mutations. That doesn’t stop international hostilities, and after a few years, the USA suffers a nuclear attack. The consequences are not only on the territory but also in a space mission: Walt and Lydia Dangerfield were launched into space in a mission that was supposed to represent the first phase of the colonization of Mars but got stuck in Earth orbit.

The community of Marin County survives and governs itself. Hoppy Harrington, a phocomelic who was discriminated against before the war, rises to prominence through his skills as a handyman, aided by his psychokinetic powers. He wants revenge against the so-called normal people and fears only Bill Keller, whose development remained at the fetal level within his sister Edie’s body but is still sentient and has strange telepathic powers.

The target chamber of NIF (Photo courtesy LLNL. All rights reserved)

The US Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have announced a success in a nuclear fusion experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) National Ignition Facility (NIF). A system of 192 lasers emitted 2.05 megajoules of energy by focusing it on a tiny gold cylinder containing a pellet of deuterium and tritium. The energy from the lasers created conditions similar to those in a stellar core by triggering nuclear fusion and generating about 3.15 megajoules of energy. Obtaining more energy than emitted is an important step in using nuclear fusion as an energy source but a lot remains to be done to build fusion nuclear power plants.