Asteroids can be hazardous to life on Earth, but they also provide clues about the early solar system. Denton Ebel, curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, explains how asteroids formed and the varying degrees of destruction they cause when they fall to Earth.
A lot of people have been messaging me, in various forms or another, because Terry Pratchett has died. To those who don’t know, Pratchett was probably the biggest inspiration for… any of my things. So much of his writing not only influenced me when I was younger, but a big part of Nanosteam’s world especially comes from his writing (I’ve often said that I want Nanosteam to be considered a sci-fi Discworld). I don’t think half my stuff would be what it was without Discworld. I got to meet him a few years ago, and it really was an amazing experience. We mostly talked about TES, and modding. I’ll get to that later. The thing about Pratchett is that he really was a one-of-a-kind person. Many people, authors especially, aren’t often the same personality writing their books. But Pratchett, even just talking, was ever bit as clever, whimsical, and brilliant as his books were. He was the kind of man to sit down and just talk for an hour with a wide-eyed fan, heck he did just that, and those who know his personal life knew that he was a big proponent of a lot of things, especially the importance of fantasy in people’s lives. More than that, his books were something else, cynical yet at the same time wide-eyed and optimistic, that managed to have every single fantasy cliche in them yet were wholly amazingly original. They were books that managed to take absolute advantage of the medium they were in, and showed me that world-building wasn’t just about how a setting and characters looked, but how they felt and acted. Pratchett gave us incredible characters with various ways of talking, and made us fall in love with tyrants, thieves, maniacs, and Death itself. Pratchett to me and my family meant a lot. All of us got more than one weird look an airport, because people couldn’t believe that you could laugh that much at a book. Pratchett helped my brother realize that he could, in fact, talk to women (let’s just say a human Greebo costume goes a long way), and more than that, Pratchett was a man who pushed for and believed that not just books, but videogames could be an incredible medium of storytelling. See, some people, but not many, know that Pratchett was a pretty big gamer. A few Thief fans might remember that he was active on the TTLG forums (given the styles of the games, you can guess why), you can even find old posts of his asking after good fan campaigns. His daughter is actually a writer in the game industry, and he was a fan of Doom (his quote on it provides the page opener for TVTropes), Half Life, and of course, Oblivion. Pratchett was a big TES fan. More than that, Pratchett was a huge TES modder! My experience with Pratchett consisted of him talking quite at length of the sheer amount of things he got up to in Oblivion, and he readily praised the ability for users to push the boundaries of the game far beyond what developers intended. He shared quite a few of his adventures, from his regular trips to harvest the Black Bow Bandits for cash, to his experience in the Romancing of Eyja mod, or the time he crashed Cyrodiil’s economy by selling it nothing but boots. Pratchett knew the potential mods and games had to tell stories and build worlds, and he himself got in on the action. He was a writer for the mod Vilja, and a tester and developer for the mod Craftybits, and its leads attest to his skill at utterly breaking their crafting systems, and entire kitchens would explode in Oblivion cheese wheels and potatoes. Pratchett was an utter delight, an absolute saint in every medium he was in (and there were a lot of them), and today, I’ve lost one of my heroes, and the world has lost one of the kindest, funniest men it could hope to have. RIP Pratchett, those who called you a wordsmith were spot on. I’ll leave you with probably the best Discworld mod out there, my personal favorite, the Broken Drum mod by Nimrod Flamehair.
In a spectacular bit of coincident timing, on Tuesday night a webcam observing the Turrialba volcano in Costa Rica captured this video of a shooting star - a meteor, a small piece of solar system debris entering our atmosphere - flying over the plume of the erupting volcano.