The Astrobiology Primer v2.0

Everybody, the Astrobiology Primer version 2.0 is online. I have been looking forward to this moment since 2009, when I encountered the first version of the Primer. I found it helpful and engaging, and I wondered when an update would come along. You see, I love what the Astrobiology Primer does. I love how the Primer is created. And I love why the Primer exists.

Longer than a science article but shorter than a textbook, the Astrobiology Primer presents a summary of astrobiology. It is an introduction written for a broad audience, especially for young scientists and just generally curious people who like to think about science.

The Primer proceeds through a series of questions—awesome and epic questions that have always preoccupied humankind: What is life? How did Earth form? What do we know about the possibility of life beyond Earth? Of course, we have so much further to go to answer these questions. Yet it is amazing to realize how much we do know. The Primer provides a starting point for discussing current knowledge and introducing new realms of research.

What makes this project particularly rewarding is the people behind it. The Primer is written by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. It represents the future of astrobiology, with enthusiasm and fresh perspectives. It means a lot to me that the journal I work for can support these newcomers. And I admire the authors for successfully bringing together topics as diverse as planetary accretion, phylogenetic trees, and the presence of methane on Mars; forming these topics into a clear and consistent narrative; and persisting through all the reviews, proofs, and final touches of the publishing process.

In conclusion, a word of praise to astrobiology. I love it so. A diverse collection of disciplines (geology, biology, astrophysics, chemistry, engineering, philosophy, climatology, sedimentology—to name just a few) converges to address the most essential questions. Who are we? How did we get here? Are we alone? How can we find and communicate with others? Astrobiology is microcosm and macrocosm. It is the very ground we walk on, and it is the farthest reaches of space. It is our past and our future.

So read the Astrobiology Primer! It is available for free download! Right now:


Three cheers and three awards for Overcup!

Congratulations to Overcup Press for winning three awards this week: two IPPYs and one Nautilus Book Award. They’ve earned it: Overcup publishes beautiful art books. I copy edited Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry for them. And I’m keen to see The Tall Trees of Paris, which comes out next month.

For more info on what exactly an IPPY and a Nautilus Book Award are, see Overcup’s announcement here.

The crushing despair of running out of toner, The transcendant joy of printing again

One afternoon last week, my printer ran out of toner. This was too much for me to bear, so I had to take a nap. I had known for two weeks that my printer was low on toner and in fact had purchased a new cartridge weeks ago. Still, the thought of actually taking out the old cartridge and installing the new… it was a bridge too far.

Half an hour later, I did the deed. It was, of course, embarrassingly easy. Now I see the crisp, fresh printing and feel delight.

Editing: sometimes it all boils down to a toner-induced emotional rollercoaster.

Adjectives for astronomical bodies

Titanian haze

Observe the glorious titanian haze.

Oh man, I have been wanting to post again for weeks but have struggled to find the time. So it is past one o’clock in the morning, and I figure, why not?

Yesterday I found myself needing to know the adjective for Titan. I’m well acquainted with martian, jovian, and saturnian. Occasionally I encounter venusian. In terms of moons, though, I’ve only dealt with lunar and europan. But… Titan? Does it have an adjective? All the moons in our solar system—there are quite a lot—do they all get adjectives of their own?

Once again, the Internet answers everything. I found on Wikipedia this List of adjectivals and demonyms of astronomical bodies. And I found titanian. And I felt happy.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Testosterone Pit: a novel

Fun fact: I copy edited a book called Testosterone Pit. And I had a blast. And now the e-book is available for the Kindle.*

You might be wondering what could possibly be the subject matter of such a book. Testosterone Pit is a novel about car salesmen and, broadly, about sales anywhere, anytime, anyhow. I recommend it to readers who have, even briefly, entered that profession. The burning need to make a sale, followed by the exhilaration and triumph of success—or the crushing blow of failure—it’s all in Testosterone Pit. Plus there are characters named Massacre, Meat Grinder, and Whacker Packer; there is a Tower replete with Milky Way wrappers and Cheetos bags; and there are crises over shoe sizes and contemplation areas.

The novel is witty and funny, but it also illustrates the particular toll that salesmanship takes on its practitioners. Testosterone Pit drew me in, and I felt the pressures of a dealership environment. It’s a rollercoaster of delirium and despondency, to be sure.

So I recommend this book. It will make you laugh; it will make you think.

*If you don’t own a Kindle, as I do not, you can download free Kindle apps and read on your computer or smart phone.

Write to Publish 2012: Step into Genre with Ooligan Press

Recently I have had a couple of conversations that made me feel how badly I have neglected my blog. I cannot do much about it at this moment, as I have three projects over my head. However, I would like to take this opportunity to mention Write to Publish, an exciting publishing conference from Ooligan Press, held at Portland State University this Saturday, April 28 (all the info is there on the website). Several panels are offered, which provide a wealth of information on the publishing process. Also, $10 gains admission to the author stage, which runs from 9 am to 6 pm. Lilith Saintcrow, at 4:30, totally rocked the 2010 Write to Publish, so it’s great to see her back.

So if you’re in Portland this weekend, get yourself to Write to Publish. It’s good times, it’s book times, and proceeds support Ooligan Press and the Publishing Program at PSU.

Ooligan in Publishers Weekly

Our plight affects the larger sphere of book publishing. Read this short article in Publishers Weekly to learn more about how my beloved graduate program in book publishing is at risk. Please spread the word and help write letters of support.