I am surprised that there has not been a lot written about three pieces of breaking of science news.
The first piece of news concerns the temperature of Venus at its poles. The measurement the Venus Express probe took as it plunged to its death through the Venusian atmosphere was -157ºC. This is at least in part due to the vortex winds at the pole moving and consequently thinning so fast that, well, it kind of gets cold, in fact very cold. See here for more details.
This leads to interesting possibilities. If you remember, Geoffrey Landis, wrote a novella, Sultan of the Clouds. Here he pointed out that the upper atmosphere could just about be breathable for humans. Obviously these high speed winds could make it an interesting ride through the Venusian sky. Better understanding of weather and the way the winds work could alleviate that.
But here’s the thing – depending on just how variable the weather moves things round, we could have a ring surrounding the pole where the temperatures are bearable for humans. It could even act as a landing place to mend faulty Venus ‘cloud cities’.
And if the comfortable temperature ring on the Venusian surface oscillates closer to and farther away from the pole, then it is possible to make moving land cities to keep with the comfortable temperature zone.
This actually suggests some interesting science fiction stories, whether it be on Venus itself or on a similar world…
The second piece of news concerns the EM drives… they have come up with a theory of how it might work. Seriously. See here for more details. EM drive was proposed by British aerospace engineer, Roger Shawyer way back in 1999 and uses a radio frequency resonant cavity. It has been predicted that these drives can not only whizz around our Solar System, but can also be used for interstellar travel to neighbouring stars. Even better this theory explains some anomalous behaviour seen in how our space probes have been travelling around the Solar System! So this theory is not just a case of coming up with equations to fit the EM Drive experiments!
Now that there is a theory, it can be tested. Even better, it can be designed to give optimal thrust results. Yep… you know where this is going, don’t you? Yes – we’re going to have seriously rethink the way we fly around in space, whether to planets or asteroids or neighbouring stars, in our science fiction.
Finally, there’s further news of the hunt for the ninth planet in our Solar System. There has been a mysterious pull on the Cassini probe. When this is taken into account with the shepherding of the Kuiper Belt objects, then the search can be narrowed down to the constellation of Cetus. Below is a picture of what we could be looking for, estimated to be ten times the mass of Earth. See here for more details.
And yes… science fiction is going to have to take this into account as well.
So you can see, it’s all change in our understanding of space travel etc.
I haven’t seen any science fiction that has used or even suggested any of the above. And this brings with it a lot of questions about the state of science fiction today. Why have things like the above been missed? I know I put a strong wind vortex in my short story Flex and Flux on Venus, but not at the poles or leading to such a reduced temperature. If I can take steps in the right direction, surely other more experienced and knowledgeable writers can too, and do an even better job of it than me?