Previous: Encounter log | Picofarad #5 contents | Next: An Evening with Lemony Snicket

Space Adventures announced Feb. 1st that it would be building a spaceport in Ras al-Khaimah in the UAE, financed in part by the UAE and the venture capital firm Prodea. The suborbital ships to be launched there will be built by Russia.s Myasishchev Design Bureau.

Stanislaw Lem, my favorite fiction author, died March 27th, 2006, in Kraków, and was unjustly remembered by critics around the world as a mere pessimist. Come on, people! Read The Cyberiad, read Mortal Engines, read Tales of Pirx the Pilot, read Peace on Earth! And if you happen to find a copy of Memoirs of a Space Traveler available somewhere, let me know, okay?

It was also thanks to Lem I had a minor heart attack reading the April 8th edition of the Wall Street Journal, which ran an obituary of him in the space normally reserved for a political rant disguised as a nonfiction book review. In the second paragraph, with no warning, out jumped a sentence beginning "Lem, according to British science-fiction critic David Langford..." Whereupon it occurred to me to check the byline and discover those words which would have warned me: "by Martin Morse Wooster".

Also in April, Money released a list of the 50 best jobs in the US, rated on a combination of earnings, job growth, flexibility, and creative potential, and rated "Writer" at #25. "Editor", of course, was #19.

Soaps by Willow, at, is selling soaps for gamers: each has a d20 embedded in the center. Chris's comment: "Well, that's one way to communicate the 5-2-1 rule."

James Doohan.s trip to space has been delayed. His ashes were to be sent into orbit by Space Services, Inc. of Houston last fall but the launch is now "in the December 2006/January 2007 time frame". Fans can still submit messages to travel with him at

Norwegian director Nina Grünfeld, writing in the newspaper Aftenposten in late November, advanced the theory that J. K. Rowling is a front for a whole group of writers, since no single person would be capable of writing such enormous books. She predicted the truth would emerge when "the market for Harry Potter is saturated, until the actress behind JK Rowling gets tired of her role and not until the real authors behind the pseudonym feel an enormous need for recognition." Observers were left dumbfounded by the wild asssertion that the market for Harry Potter is not saturated.

The FAA is starting to really sit up and take notice of the possibilities of commercial space travel: it has issued draft regulations aimed at ensuring space travellers can prove that they are not terrorists. Details probably hiding somewhere on the site

Writers take note: NASA's Apollo Chronicles site reports that moon dust smells like spent gunpowder.

Picofarad home