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From: Icarus Volume 37, Issue 1, January 1979, Pages 351-357 by way of ScienceDirect.com

Habitable zones about main sequence stars

Michael H. Hart1

Systems and Applied Sciences Corporation, 6811 Kenilworth Avenue, Suite 606, Riverdale, Maryland 20840, USA

Received 16 November 1977;
revised 10 July 1978.
Available online 26 October 2002.


Calculations show that a main sequence star which is less massive than the Sun has a continuously habitable zone about it which is not only closer in than the corresponding zone about the Sun, but is also relatively narrower. Let L(t) represent the luminosity after t billion years of a main sequence star of mass M, and let rinner and router represent the boundaries of the continuously habitable zone about such a star—that is, the zone in which an Earthlike planet will undergo neither a runaway greenhouse effect in the early stages of its history nor runaway glaciation after it develops an oxidizing atmosphere. Then our computer results indicate that router/rinner is roughly proportional to [L(3.5)/L(1.0)]1/2. This ratio is smaller for stars less massive than the Sun (because they evolve more slowly), and the width of the continuously habitable zone about a main sequence star is therefore a strong function of the initial stellar mass. Our calculations show that rinner = router for M~0.83M{circle symbol} (i.e., K1 stars), and it therefore appears that there is no continuously habitable zone about most K stars, nor any about M stars.


Aug. 21st, 2008 09:15 pm
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Semi-generic fantasy setting. The universe is assumed to exist inside a deity's dreams. "Elves" were the first sentient race. Tall, fair skinned, do not sleep, (would there be any reason for pointy ears of cat-like eyes?) built up an Atlantis style advanced civilization including the development of magic and immortality. Eventually ran out of frontiers to explore and started descending into decadence and hedonism, at which point a new race appeared. This race did sleep, and the dreams of its members altered reality. This primarily manifested in terms of reshaping the sleeper, a result that some became skilled at reproducing but which others could not. Among those who had a hard time shifting, deities arose from their dreams and took a hand in locking reality into place.

A standard selection of races, each with its own pantheon meddling with its activities. (smaller pantheons for those races further from "baseline," which would probably have to be "human" for ease of storytelling) Deities communicate through dreams, but can influence the world in other ways dependent on how they were envisioned originally. Deities can be slain by the loss of their believers (different from worshippers) and new deities are occasionally born (but rarely last long, see preceding statement) With deities on their side, the new races slowly pushed the declining old ones back despite their magic and greater knowledge. Most of the shape shifters died out because a live birth requires staying in the same shape for the duration of the pregnancy. A few are still around, however, having either discovered a way around aging, or having been able to wait out the requisite period.

There: multiple races, pantheons for each, magic, ancient advanced civilization that probably left wonders hidden in crumbling ruins. Anything missing for generic-fantasy-setting? ...dragons... hm, maybe a third layer of creation that the sleeper got bored of either before the elves or between them and men? It just wouldn't seem right for them to be new and the result of the sleeper getting bored with men. Generic dragons are supposed to be ancient, wise, etc, not new to the world, but if they were pre-elves they should be well-nigh extinct and if they were between there ought to be a lot of them. Maybe creations of the elves? hm, anything else?
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The first rule of troubleshooting is do not make any assumptions.
The second rule of troubleshooting is do NOT make any assumptions.

Note to prospective consumers of troubleshooting:
If we ask you to check and make sure the thing is plugged in, please don't be insulted. It's not that we think you wouldn't have checked something so simple before contacting us, it's merely that we had been tripped up by that assumption at some point in the last few weeks. And sometimes the power cord was merely doing a very good "plugged in" imitation rather than the real thing, and persuading you to check again might uncover this fact.

A related note, to both recipients:
Things can change rapidly with computers. Just because the person with the problem has tried that already, it doesn't mean that the troubleshooter shouldn't have them do it again. They needn't even have made a mistake the first time, something may have simply changed in between the time they did it and the time you ask them to do it again.

This message brought to you by a tech call that could have been 10-15 minutes shorter if assumptions hadn't been made.
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Well, not an actual application of that phrase, but close. While recovering from my paroxysm of laughter cuased by QI, I went trekking through the wet wild woods of the internet tp distract myself and encountered the blog Overcoming Bias. So far it seems to be a fascinating mix of quantum physics, philosophy, and cybernetics. I'm going to have to spend some time digging through the back entries and see what there is to see.


Apr. 29th, 2008 03:16 pm
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Housekeeping analogy to real-world administration. Dirt can look (and act, when cleaning is attempted) like it is a permanent stain on a surface when it is in fact adhered to some form of surface discontinuity, ie a scarred/roughened patch of surface, splash of paint/sealant of a different constancy, etc. In these cases a different cleaning method will often work, sometimes even making it hard to tell that there is a difference about that spot. However, such places often attract dirt faster if only because of the transition zone of their borders, and standard cleaning will never work well on them, you'll always need to use whatever method you found that worked the first time.

Further thoughts: In some cases, like a splash of paint, you can remove the difference, although sometimes this merely trades one problem for another, such as scratches. Sometimes you can find yet a third cleaning option that works equally well over multiple sets of circumstances, but often they are too harsh to use on a regular basis. Frequently, if you use too harsh a cleaning product you'll end up stripping away some of the surface, leaving something that looks clean but has a rougher surface than it had before and will get dirty again faster.
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Don't use medieval surnames (smith, cooper) in combination with unusual (or made up) first names. There aren't enough reasonable sounding 3-5 letter names to go around. While a John smith wouldn't be remarked upon even if two unrelated books both had one, the current book I'm reading has a main character and her two best friends with names remarkably similar to ones in books by three other authors. I know that you don't want every Elizabeth to be a 'Liz' or a 'Beth', but there's no way that you'll come up with a unique contraction of it, and it's quite possible that a last name that sounds appropriate to you also did so for someone else.

Further note to self: countermand that if doing something that's actually historical.


Dec. 22nd, 2007 09:43 am
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Conclusions from the previous notebook post:

Having thought about it more, in both cases there were a lot of factors that contributed to the abandonment. For example, one of them suffered from contagious apostrophes. It's a Dwarf! But with an apostrophe in it so that we don't think of Gimli. It's a Mermaid! But with an apostrophe in it so that we don't think of Hans Christian Anderson.

Anyway, I think that the final straw in each case was that I stopped believing that these characters could succeed at their tasks without the author pulling out a series of deus ex machinas. I don't think I would have had as much of a problem with that if I was given a narrower view of the world. With 3rd person focused, you expect there to be a lot going on that you don't know about, and it's quite reasonable for the calvary to come riding over the hill at the last moment. If you go headhopping through the allies and enemies, making sure the reader gets a feel for the one's weaknesses and the other's strengths, well then you've got trouble. Knowing a character is planning a betrayal is a lot different than thinking he is acting shifty and might be. Knowing that the enemies can communicate over vast distances and know roughly where the good guys are is a lot different than worrying if the continual attacks might be because the shifty guy has already sold them out.

This isn't as much of a problem when the quest isn't already impossible. After all, you do also get to learn some of the hidden strengths of the friends and vulnerabilities of the foe. But when you effectively have a bunch of mortals facing down a god, well... one side needs to have a lot more vulnerabilities than the other for it to be a fair fight. This possibly also indicates that truly impossible quests, like 1st person perspective, are something that should only be handled by professional stunt authors.


Dec. 21st, 2007 03:39 pm
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Hmm... I just gave up on a second book series this month and, as there seemed to be some similarities in why I did so, I feel I should try to figure out precisely why. In case I've failed to mention it, these notebook entries are me trying to learn from other peoples mistakes/successes in story writing.

Both were of a particular type of dark fantasy that I will refer to as bleak fantasy for clarity. The distinguishing carachteristic here is that the odds facing the protagonists are literally impossible as far as they are concerned. Often they are following scraps of prophecy that even they do not believe in, for lack of anything better to do. In other cases they don't even have that, and are just struggling on because to stop doing so would be suicide. Literally, in the case of one of series' I gave up on. The main character joined the events of the storyline because putting herself in such dangerous situations where she might die was the method she used to keep herself from taking more active steps to end her life.

Before anyone comments that maybe it's the "genre" itself that is the problem, consider that the Lord of the Rings probably fits into it. After all, there was never any suggestion of taking the fight to Sauron, only the hope that his armies could be held off long enough for the ring to be destroyed. And the prospects of the fellowship making it through were never particularly bright, either... I also like a number of horror stories where part of the point is that humanity is doomed, such as zombie flicks.

Another feature of this "genre" is that they tend to strongly point out the after affects of significant plot elements. Final Fantasy 6 is a good example here. At roughly the midpoint of the game, a madman/woman/don't know absorbs the power of the goddesses of magic and starts blasting those who annoy her. This obviously results in considerable loss of life, and significant reshaping of landscape. Then, when you defeat him/her in the end, this causes magic to be stripped from the world. Unless the monsters were weakened or destroyed by the loss of magic, I don't know if the remaining people could survive. And I've seen that "generations to rebuild, if we make it" theme in several other places.

While typing what I've written so far, I've come to the conclusion that what those two books did wrong was that I stopped caring about what happened to the characters. Part of that is a defense mechanism, you keep a little detachment from the characters of a horror story because you know bad things are going to happen to them, but I still need to figure out why I went from that to flat out not caring how the book ended. I have some theories regarding how flawed the characters were (i.e. very), or their ability to obtain assistance from those not already on their quest (i.e. almost nil), but nothing's coming together right now. I think I'll post it as is and either edit it when my thoughts gel, or make a new post, depending on how long it takes.


Dec. 10th, 2007 07:02 pm
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If a being that exists outside of time has the capacity to change, then both versions would exist simultaneously from the viewpoint of any being within time. The other version wouldn't simply come into being at some point, it would have been there all along. It is quite possible that prior to the "time" of the change there would be no reason for antone inside time to connect the two, but those similarly outside would. And if it was something like a evil god being redeemed or a good one falling, wouldn't the two versions hate each other like nothing else? Or at least struggle to undermine each other's actions. Perhaps this explains ambivalent deities such as Lady Luck?


Dec. 4th, 2007 12:46 pm
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Okay, found some time to finish up the novel that prompted the previous NB post. In this case, at least, I've figured out what was bugging me and it was far simpler than I was making it out to be. This book isn't actually set where/when the author was trying to imply it was. While there were a few direct references to characters from a previous work by the author as historical figures in this one, there's no other connection.

The first book has a somewhat generic fantasy setting, but its sequel has a very definite arabic/indian feel to it. Most importantly, they have a magic system that is consistent to them both. But this book, which would almost have to take place during the 200-500 (I don't recall the proper number) years between those to has a very midieval european feudal setup, and a rather fairy tale-esque magical setup which fits the book quite well, but is completely different from what is in the other two.

So there's no generalizing from this, it's just a good author (I like all three books) having an utter DOH moment. Although... that might be the underlying reason for the other cases that bother me. The only one that's coming to mind at the moment is an (internet) author who has decided to set all of their stories in a series of alternate universe versions of the same general area. They do a very good job with the differences, and it's neat seeing what known characters are like in this universe, but there is a period of disorientation until you can nail down which alternate a particular story is in. Especially since two of them have vampires, but they are vastly different in origin/powers in each.

I'll have to do some re-reading of other stories I don't remember as well, and see if the lesson to take away is "Research the background, even if it is your own damn books."


Dec. 1st, 2007 03:19 pm
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Linked settings: good or bad?

Referring here to implicit linkages like much of Heinlein's Future history stories, rather than explicit linkages such as the Pern novels. Most specifically, to fantasy stories that take place at a great distance in time and/or space from each other, but still have a few references that directly tie them together. Frequently, enough is different that with just a few changes they could be entirely separate settings. Like anything in writing, it works when done well, and doesn't when done poorly. But where is the line in this case? Over at the first person narrative end of things? Or is it more like technobabble, where we can ignore it as long as it isn't too egregious?

Two immediate positives that I see are that people might be more likely to buy a book that is allegedly in a familiar setting, and that it then easily allows for "crossover" stories including elements of both. It also grants the author license to use background material that they came up with for the initial story, but never quite fit into the book. Indeed, the reason such series usually grow so large is that the author soon has a large body of such material to draw from, and they can focus on just the current tale, turning them out faster. They usually end up linked explicitly like many of Anne Mccaffrey's space stories, connected haphazardly, with this story linking these two, and that one adding a third, and so on.

On the other hand, I've seen stories warped into uniteresting or confusing shapes in an attempt to fit them into a setting where they didn't belong. And if an author becomes known for the majority of their books being linked, there will be those who try to find any attaching point in one that isn't connected. Further, in ones that are very loosely connected, it comes as a shock to the reader when they come across a famillier name, city, or legend, and the reader might wonder whether it was there for good reason, or just because the author was too lazy to think up a new one. And "crossover" stories have their own perils, if the author hasn't been paying close enough attention. A story that connects two others also connects all those connected to each of them, and that sometimes results in contradictory things supposedly sharing a universe.


There was going to be more, but I was distracted and knocked out of the proper frame of mind for thinking about this. Since the purpose of these notebook entres is to help me formalize some of the ideas I get while walking, reading, etc there's no point in continuing at this time. More later.


Nov. 28th, 2007 01:36 pm
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It is necessary for an individual to be exposed to germs during development for it to develop a strong immune system. This is a basic tenet of medicine, see also: vaccination. Similar ideas are represented else where in nature as well, for example the survival rate of domesticated animals forced into competition with non-domesticated equivalents.

Assume: Intelligent Design

Mankind has aggressive tendencies. These were either added in or left in deliberately, depending on the specifics of the Designer believed in. Mankind also lives in a world with unexpected hardships: earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, etc. Once again, this was either intentional, or the Designer didn't (or possibly couldn't) change it. Therefore, at least some portion of Mankind is supposed to be aggressive and prepared to deal with the unexpected. What is the common name applied to such a group?

Conclusion: Intelligent Design implies the existence of potentially hostile extraterrestrial lifeforms, which we may need to have an army to defend ourselves from.


Nov. 15th, 2007 07:50 pm
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Magic has a price.
This is necessary for a work of fantasy to be enjoyable.
Frequently, it also has limits, but those aren't required. All they do is add "creative thinking" to the list of prices as casters try to figure out how to accomplish their needs within those limits. Even when a character has Godly powers, such as the ends of several of Eddings' stories, they usually end up paying in some way, such as attracting the attention of others with equivalent or greater power.

A failure I frequently see is not applying this metric to all sides of the conflict highlighted in a given work. Occasionally it is a Gandolf figure, able to do what ever needs to be done when normal means fail, a transparent deus ex machina especially when they don't actually act at any other time. Some indication of why they only acted at certain times needs to be given or the read is left with a lingering sense of "well why didn't high mage Azathoth just go blow up the enemy army on his own? I mean he's able to bore a tunnel right through a mountain, so what was stopping him?"

Most commonly, however, this problem rears its ugly head with respect to the villains. Star Wars is a great example. Turning to "the dark side" makes a jedi much more powerful and what is the cost? As far as I can tell, just that they are "evil." So it's a cost paid by others, not by the individual in question. And that too is a common thread among stories where "evil" has unlimited magic. "Oh, evil mages spend energy just like we do, but they take it from unwilling victims rather than themselves." Not that there is anything wrong with that, but there needs to be some other cost that they take on instead. The time spent concealing their activities if nothing else. Or the need to shield themselves from their own allies first and foremost, and only after that working against the "forces of good." If there isn't something holding them back, why haven't they taken over the world?

On the other hand, the cost can't be too high either. If, as Terry Pratchet put it, "you spend twenty years studying to be able to cast a spell that make 7 red-headed virgins appear in your bedroom, but you're half blind from reading mouldering tomes and too addled from quicksilver fumes to remember what happens next" why are there any mages of power? Magic would be nothing more than a party trick, with no-one every having bothered to develop "great magics" if it takes two years to learn how to light a candle and only gets worse from there.

Either way, the reader is left with a nagging sense of unreality. A feeling that the history we are given is a lie and the world was created as-is. Otherwise, potential mages would have taken up professions requiring much less effort, having no way to know the power the might have had, and demons would rule the world because more power is only as far away as their nearest enemy.


Nov. 12th, 2007 10:15 pm
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One problem the the majority of Sci-Fi movie/tv show depictions of the future is the degree of uniformity. We have as of this time at least 3 different technologies that can economically provide moving images in billboards. We have others, like electronic paper, that provide cheap and easy ways to change the contents of the billboard even if they aren't moving-image capable. And these technologies are used in a few instances. But the majority of billboards are still plastered on sheets of paper or even hand painted on large sheets of plywood.

Similar things happened with the adoption of the automobile and the electric light fixture. In the latter case, we even have a double jump. The fluorecent bulb is just barely starting to edge out it's incandescent predecessor, but now true white LED fixtures are starting to make there way onto the market.

And yet, in so many Sci-Fis ALL advertisement is video, ALL cars fly, ALL datavisors work the same...


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