personalspaceshow: Personal Space’s first trailer is out today!…

Monday, May 16th, 2016


Personal Space’s first trailer is out today! Support our Kickstarter here:

Reblogging for the official release of the teaser trailer. I’ve got a lot to say about the flyby of Overture (the antenna, the red color, the rotation…), but it will have to wait until I have time to obsess properly. Also, first trailer? Does that mean there could be more?

The recutting to use actual Reagan quotes is cool. Clearly that’s the main reference in the ship’s name (”the opening overture of a symphony in space”), but I still like to think an echo of the 2001 title card might be in there at least subliminally.

They’re at $24,759 out of $45K with 9 days to go. So hope they get there.

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How fast does Overture spin?

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

The latest in a series of posts in which I obsess over a tiny little ginormous fictional spaceship. including a Read More as a courtesy for the non-obsessed.

As previously discussed, Overture seems to be designed to spin on its axis to make artificial gravity. Looking “back” at the ship from “ahead” in terms of its direction of travel, it looks like this:


I was curious how fast it spins. So I did some math.

According to this post, Overture has a diameter of 448 meters. I wasn’t sure if that was just for the big donut with its presumably-habitable pods, or if it includes the antenna structure sticking out to the side. Fortunately the space shuttles docked on the hub provide a handy yardstick:


Using copy-and-paste, I confirmed that Overture’s big donut is about 19 shuttle wingspans across, or 456 m, which is close enough to the official figure of 448 m for me to assume that the difference is due to my sloppy measuring.

According to the Wikipedia article on artificial gravity, the following formula is what we need:


I’m going to assume that Overture is designed to produce 1 g at the outermost (lowest) deck of the inhabited big-donut pods. That gives:

R = 224 m, a = 9.81 m/s/s

Plug those in and do the math, and you end up with:

T = 30 seconds

So Overture spins at 2 rpm.

I bet it would look pretty out the windows. I think those might actually be windows in the two big-donut pods at either end of the gantry that connects the donut to the hub; they’re the only two pods that have them:


If those actually are decks it looks like there are 10 of them in the pod. Using my handy shuttle-wingspan yardstick, it looks like the decks are about 15 feet apart, which sounds a little big, but maybe it makes sense if the ceilings are high or there’s a lot of stuff taking up space between the decks.

Each deck would have slightly less artificial gravity than the one below. If I did the math right the middle of the pod would have 8.25 m/s/s, or about 84% of normal, while the top deck would have 6.67 m/s/s, or about 68% of normal.

I also figured out the gravity for the smaller donut’s pods: 6.05 m/s/s (62%) at the bottom (outermost) part of the pod, 4.74 m/s/s (48%) in the middle, and 3.42 m/s/s (35%) at the top. So the crew will definitely feel a lot lighter if they spend time in there.

Interestingly, if a crewmember were to travel around the rings that connect the pods in the donuts, going in the direction the ship is spinning would make them heavier, while going in the opposite direction would make them lighter. That in turn made me wonder: If they had a bicycle on the ship, and Dr. Blasto rode it as fast as he could through the big donut’s connecting ring in an anti-spinward direction, could he achieve weightlessness and just sit there, floating, while the ship turned past him?

The answer turns out to be no, for several reasons.

For one thing, he’d need to have an uninterrupted passage to ride through, and I bet the ship’s designers wouldn’t make that easy. There probably isn’t a breathable atmosphere throughout the ring’s 1,181-meter circumference. Even if there is, the pods are probably isolated with airtight bulkheads for safety.

But on a 25-year shift I can imagine boredom setting in. After a while those fussy safety rules might start to look more like guidelines than hard-and-fast rules. So maybe Blasto would wait until Commander Gartner was asleep or busy doing Oort Cloud observations and open all the hatches to he could try his weightless biking stunt.

The faster he goes, though, the lighter he becomes. He’d still have air resistance holding him back, but there’d be less and less friction with the deck for the bike’s tires to push against. At some point before he’d achieved weightlessness he’d be unable to go any faster.

The real problem, though, is that he can’t go fast enough regardless. At the 188 m radius that I estimate for the outer ring, he’d need to go 39.4 m/s, or 87.9 mph, to cancel out Overture’s rotation. I don’t think he can pedal that fast.

But that figure of 87.9 mph made me think of something else: What if Dr. Blasto has a flux capacitor? Then all he has to do is go 0.1 mph faster and he can travel through time! And for that all he has to do is descend to a lower deck. Way before he reaches the lowest deck, where the ship’s rotational velocity is a brisk 104.9 mph, he would hit the magic 88 mph and vanish in a burst of blue-white light, bound for temporal glory!

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So, I rewatched 2001 last night, partly to see if I was wrong to…

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

So, I rewatched 2001 last night, partly to see if I was wrong to think I remembered that somewhere in there was a title card that read OVERTURE. I really thought I remembered it being at the very beginning, before the MGM logo while the Ligeti was playing. But nope; no title card, neither there nor anywhere else in the movie.

So I googled, and guess what? I actually did remember it. It just wasn’t in the downloaded version I was watching. I think maybe the laserdisc version I had for many years must have had it.

So that made me happy two ways. One, because even if the ship in Personal Space isn’t named in homage to the film, this wasn’t one of those cases (increasingly common as I get older) in which I’m confronted by the fallibility of my memory. And two, because I got to watch 2001 again. Because man is that a great movie.

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lies: personalspaceshow: Overture is a massive ship, 448…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016



Overture is a massive ship, 448 meters in diameter and 1,100 meters long. She’s the only ship like this in existence, and it took a concerted effort to build her. 

Now we’re talking. :-)

We get to see the pusher plate, yay! And more of that curved-arm thingy that does who-knows-what!

Excuse me; I’m going to need to go stare at this for a while…

Sparing the dashboards of long-suffering followers by putting my latest thoughts about Overture below a cut.

As I previously discussed, I’m pretty sure the curved-arm thingy is Overture’s radio antenna for talking to Earth.

Lately I’ve been thinking about another aspect of the ship’s design. Overture accelerates (and presumably decelerates) by setting off nuclear bombs beyond the drive plate at the bottom of the ship. They set off a bunch of them, one after another, a few seconds apart. But there’s a problem: The force of those explosions pushes the ship all at once, which causes too much acceleration for the crew to withstand. Those abrupt pulses must be converted to smooth acceleration via some sort of shock-absorbing mechanism.

At first I thought the shock absorber would be down near the drive plate. But looking at that part of the ship, I don’t see anything that looks like one.

Today, though, I realized that it would make more sense to put the shock absorber at the other end of the ship, up near the crew quarters, where it can be easily accessed and maintained. And there’s a great candidate for it up there: That massive tapered central hub that receives the long mast extending up from the drive plate:


I can imagine the mast sliding up through that hub when a nuke explodes, with some kind of braking mechanism being used to transfer momentum to the crew quarters. Then the hub would climb back up the mast using some kind of energy-consuming process (electromagnetic induction?). You’d probably try to engineer it so the initial braking stored energy, with that energy then powering the second, “climbing back up” phase. Like regenerative breaking in an electric car, only on a slightly (ahem) larger scale.

Looking at the top of the central hub in the overhead image, I don’t see anything that looks like a place where the mast would exit, but maybe it has a cap that we’re actually seeing here:


I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept of Overture’s mission and how it would be experienced by the crew. With 25 years per shift and 1200 years to their destination, there are 48 shifts, and nearly 200 astronauts, each of whom has volunteered to be frozen for all but 25 years of the flight. Later shifts would be emerging into a world many hundreds of years in the future from their pre-cryosis perspective. But technologically they’d be flying the same (now ancient, by contemporary Earth standards) ship. In a way it’s like technological progress would stop for the crew on Overture, since they would be cutting themselves off from developments back home, other than what they could acquire via radio.

But would the crew evolve in step with Earth culturally? Would they try to use the materials on Overture to match the latest fashions they see in videos from Earth? Would their language evolve in step with changes back home? I imagine later shifts would face significant culture shock in trying to make sense of what they were seeing in the transmissions. Earth would become less and less real to them, their friends and loved ones dead and gone, the culture and language evolved until they were barely recognizable…

Would it draw them closer to their fellow crewmembers, who would share their Rip van Winkle experience and would be, after all, the only people they would interact with directly throughout their 25 years on watch?

I wonder, too, about the passing of the baton between crewmembers with corresponding responsibilities: commander to commander, doctor to doctor, botanist to botanist, engineer to engineer… You spend 25 years dealing with just three other people, none of whom share your background, then have a brief time during which you finally get to talk shop with someone who understands you.

Jeff Lipschitz, the first engineer, would have had a special role, one that subsequent engineers (until the last one) would not have had: firing the nuclear pulse drive. The Expanded Universe content the show creators have been including in the Kickstarter updates included a seriously cool mention yesterday of Lipschitz preparing to fire the first nuke as Overture completed its gravity-assist maneuver at Jupiter.

I wonder what that would have looked like. I love the fact that Tom and the other creators of the show care enough to make the technology of Overture believably complex, so that things like the communication antenna and the ship’s shock-absorber mechanism don’t necessarily jump out at first glance, but are instead visual anomalies, their form dictated by the actual engineering demands of the ship, rather than being dumbed-down versions more immediately recognizable but ultimately less interesting.

My favorite storytellers have always been those willing to carry their world building beyond the point where a less-obsessive creator would have stopped. I dig that obsession. I want to live in those richly imagined worlds. The more I see of Personal Space, the more I look forward to spending time there.

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Random thoughts on Overture, the Personal Space generation…

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Random thoughts on Overture, the Personal Space generation ship:

  • I wonder what the name is from. I was thinking I remembered a title card that said OVERTURE in 2001, which would be a cool thing to have named it after. But this page doesn’t mention it, and I didn’t see it when I took a quick look just now. I’ll have to do a full re-watch to look for it. (Any excuse to re-watch 2001.)
  • Looking at the space shuttle docked on the central hub for scale, that really is a big spaceship. Because a space shuttle isn’t exactly small:

…but it looks tiny docked on Overture:

  • Since I found the higher-res version of the overhead view at, I realized there actually are two shuttles, on one each side of the hub:
  • I speculated before that the drive plate/pusher plate (whatever you call it) was at the lower end of that long boom you can see extending downward in this image:
  • After reading more about Project Orion I realize there also needs to be some kind of huge shock-absorber mechanism so that the nuclear explosions that power the ship have their impetus converted to constant acceleration that won’t squish the crew.
  • I also realized that since the two donut-shaped rings with the crew quarters have empty space surrounding them, that’s actually the drive plate/pusher plate that I’m seeing behind the rings and crosspieces in the overhead view.
  • I’ve been wondering about that structure jutting out to the left in the overhead view. What is that? Maybe something to hold an antenna array far enough out so it can “see” past the drive plate to communicate with Earth? Hm. Except once they’re coasting they should be able to reorient the ship however they want, shouldn’t they? And it doesn’t really look like a boom to hold an antenna; it’s a lot more substantial than that. And why does the rendering show it getting darker the farther away from the ship it is? Is it curved? Definitely a mystery.
  • If Overture is similar to the “momentum limited” version of Freeman Dyson’s design talked about at that Project Orion Wikipedia page, they would have set off something like 300,000 1-megaton explosions, one explosion every 3 seconds, causing them to accelerate at 1 g for 10 days, eventually reaching a speed of 10,000 km/sec, or 3.3% of the speed of light.
  • Then they would coast for as long as it takes to reach their destination (not counting deceleration time at the end). Reaching Alpha Centauri at that speed would take 133 years. If it’s 25 years and 4 crew per shift, that would mean they’d need 6 shifts and 24 crew. Presumably they have more people in stasis, though, so they can be revived for colonization after arrival.
  • There’s no particular reason to think they’re going to Alpha Centauri, though; it could easily be (probably would be) some other exoplanet-containing system further away. And they might be traveling slower than Dyson’s estimated speed. Either of those factors would make the trip longer.
  • I’m curious about the stuff on the chalkboard in this shot of von Braun (Mark Tierno) describing the mission to his team:
  • 12 lightyears and 1200 years’ travel time? So maybe the ship is doing 1% of the speed of light, rather than Dyson’s 3%?
  • There are 12 stars within 10 lightyears of Earth, so 12 lightyears seems like a reasonable distance for Overture’s destination. That would mean 48 shifts’ worth of crew, or 192 astronauts, plus however many more colonists. That’s a lot of cryosis tubes to look after. No wonder Dr. Blasto is a little neurotic.

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I saw The Martian yesterday

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Long, rambly, but mostly non-spoilery thoughts after a cut.

  • They did not screw it up. It’s extremely faithful to the book’s old-school “hard sci-fi” sensibility.
  • Having read the book multiple times (including one time reading it out loud, which really tends to cement a book in my brain), I was super-aware of any departures from the text. There were very few.
  • The main adaptation changes were in leaving some specific incidents out, and glossing over some of the technical detail. Which made sense, given the already-long running time.
  • Some of the weaker parts of the book (the back-on-Earth characterizations and dialog, is what I’m thinking of) were fixed by just not having those characters do too much. It turns out that having a two-dimensional/cardboard-cutout level of characterization works just fine as a minor character with only a few minutes of screen time,
  • A lot was riding on Matt Damon’s portrayal of Watney. And he delivered. It’s the main reason the movie is compelling. I saw it in a packed theater where the audience was really into it. The lady on my left didn’t know the story, I’m pretty sure, and she was super caught up in what was going to happen. The biggest addition the movie brought to the experience of having read the book was in Damon’s wordless portrayal of Watney’s emotions at key moments. Those parts were powerful.
  • There was a smallish departure from the book during the climax. I could see how it made the ending more emotionally satisfying, and it was really quite restrained. I’m a curmudgeon about stuff like this, but I give it a pass.
  • I saw it in 3D, which I usually avoid, because the showtime fit my schedule better. And it was fine. I had no issues with the 3D.
  • The attempts to make Mars look epically cinematic occasionally felt a little forced. I know it’s Ridley Scott and that’s his look, so it’s okay. I guess my inner curmudgeon wanted something a little more subtle. But you need soaring cliffs and whatnot if you’re going to show off the 3D.

My overall takeaway: For me personally, it wasn’t a great movie, because it just felt a little cold and simple and straightforward. But that was the book. Comparing it to the two other big quasi-realistic space sci fi movies I’ve seen in the last few years (Gravity and Interstellar), I think I’d have to say that The Martian is the best when evaluated strictly by the standards of realistically non-stupid sci-fi, with Gravity the worst and Interstellar somewhere in between. But as a movie, in terms of its emotional impact, The Martian fell a little short of Interstellar, at least for me.

But it was really good. And it was cool to have a movie that was so faithful to the kind of sci fi I grew up reading.

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marykatewiles:SPORE is here! Perry Spore’s first mission to…

Friday, March 27th, 2015


SPORE is here! 

Perry Spore’s first mission to Earth goes horribly wrong. 

Mary Kate Wiles as Perry 
Ashley Clements as Cal 
Tim Hautekiet as Charlie 

Directed by Miles Cozart
Written by Taylor Brogan 
Produced by Whitney Milam 

Executive Producers:
Taylor Brogan
Mary Kate Wiles

Cinematography – Zack Wallnau
Editor – Joseph Hatton 

Perry –
Cal –

A very special thank you to my Patreon supporters for making the project possible, and to the YouTube Space LA. 

Please reblog and share! This was a labor of love and we’d like to share it with as many people as possible. Thank you for watching. 

I liked this. I’ve been a fan of sci fi since I was young, so it’s fun to see people I’m a fan of and haven’t previously associated with it doing it.

Things I especially liked:

  • the look of it
  • MK getting to do some serious actor-y stuff (I believe that’s the technical term)
  • Ashley laying on the Shakespearean-trained creepiness
  • just seeing the two of them together again in something so not-LBD

There have been some really good sci fi films lately (along with plenty of not-so-good). I really liked Edge of Tomorrow and Interstellar, for example. In terms of lower-budget/fewer-effects films, I’m a fan of Shane Carruth’s Primer and Upstream Color, and Duncan Jones’ Moon and Source Code. Spore reminded me a little of those. I realize it’s a much smaller thing, but I like how it worked around its limitations to make something that was cool and spooky and hinted at a larger world.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

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