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Saturday, I went to the con on less than enough sleep (since I was getting rather rank on Friday and had to shower => half an hour + away from my sleeping time). Here are my notes.


10: Beyond the Goldilocks Zone (Olli Wilkman, Janet Catherine Johnston, Julie Novakova, Michael Reid)
This panel got videoed!
It's way possible for there to be life beyond the HZ (Europa, for instance, is a good candidate), but life in the HZ is the easiest to detect, since it lives on the surface, not under a few km of ice.
Earthlike life outside the HZ is possible in subsurface oceans and on highly eccentric planets with oceans and a thick atmosphere to insulate. It's also possible there might be liquid water beneath a hydrogen atmosphere, on super-Earths in Jovian orbits (ie solar wind hasn't blown away all hydrogen).
Even water-and-carbon-based life could be found outside the HZ – for instance on Jovian moons.
For non-carbon life, other solvents have their own "habitable zones" – cf Titan with its lakes of liquid methane and a methane cycle analogous to Earth's water cycle.
Also, even Earth was not always habitable-looking. In the Hadean era, from before we have any remaining crust, the Earth was probably quite violent.
Jeffrey Landis did some percolation theory simulations on life-forms colonizing the galaxy, and always there were little voids around which were only systems with no desire to colonize. One solution to the Fermi paradox is that Earth is in such a void. Alternatively, "advanced" civilisations aren't interested in squishballs anymore, and want more "exotic" locales, such as planets around pulsars.
Titanean cell membranes would be "inverted" from Earthlings' perspective, made from some flexible phospholipid.
Perhaps there's life on the pulsar itself? (Cf Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward, another book I've ordered.)
Is there such a thing as superhabitability? 2 Earth masses (so lots of surface ares), shallow seas, etc?
What is sentience? How could we communicate with aliens?
CETI: start with rocky planets, since the aliens that evolved there are most likely to have minds we could possibly comprehend. What do we have in common with potential gasbag floaters from Jovian planets?
Perhaps modeling of extremophile evolution may generate insight into aliens? In a way, we are the product of this, since oxygen-breathing bacteria were at one time extremophiles.
Plate tectonics are essential for the recycling of elements necessary for life.

13: Clouds on the Horizon: Where Physics May Be Changing (Janet Catherine Johnston, Tsana Dolichva, G. David Nordley, Katherine Inskip, Jeffrey A. Carver)
Firstly, let me note that this panel was stuffed with astrophysicists/cosmologists and others preoccupied with the large-scale, and that small-scale things like the standard model were mostly ignored.
What is dark matter?
If one observes a thing closely, one shall discover surprises. No exceptions.
Gravity waves from primordial black holes of a few dozen solar masses? Follow-up is complex.
The problem with quantum technology is maintaining coherence for long enough to do something useful.
Quantum gravity would be a useful new diagnostic and window into the Universe.
Dark matter exists and has been used for gravitational lensing.
Can spacetime cause itself/make a big bang by getting itself into a warp?
Cool idea: an ocean planet that's supercooled. If you drop a probe in, it'll freeze through. (Nice job breaking it!)
How uniform is the Universe?

14: Pullantuoksuinen – Writing While Multilingual (Nina Niskanen, Aliette de Bodard, Emmi Itäranta, Ken Liu, Jakob Drud)
Cultural mistranslations are a possibility: Chinese "dragons" aren't really dragons, and filial piety isn't really piety.
Do not translate if it's not necessary: write around it, or use an illustrative phrase. If one has problems with connotations, one could make a new word. Summarizing context is hard: build a background, explain the context to yourself, and toss the reader in the deep end?
Readers interpret things according to their dominant culture.
Reconstruct a thing in a novel way if at all possible. (Metaphorical logic vs clues to clue the reader in?) For worldbuilding, try to see the thing afresh, even if it's familiar to you.
Ways to overcome a reader's bias include repeatedly hitting them over the head with it.
If something is normal for the society, don't comment on it overly longly. Just casually toss in a mention about the human sacrifice going on at the temple or w/e and get on with the plot.
Inserting loanwords (from the language the original concept is from) is in some ways an artificial compromise. Also, transliteration can lose things; diacritics typically aren't included in transliterations.
Translation vs transliteration of names is an issue of power.
Make a character's choices consistent with the character's culture, not the reader's.

17: Morality of Generation Ships (Samuel Penn, Geoffrey A. Landis, Sirocco, Janet Catherine Johnston)
"The barrier between the past and the future is the speed of light" –Geoffrey A. Landis
(The moderator, David Clements, was sick and thus not present; the panel was noticeably unmoderated.)
The ship must have a biosphere and thus be large.
Kids are guaranteed food, an education, and a job – better than on Earth, in some circumstances?
The destination may not necessarily be what was expected – see Plateau in Niven's Known Space stuff: a few square km of habitable plateau ... amidst an utterly uninhabitable dense fog.
At minimum, we must've scouted the locale before sending out a ship.
Generation ships are probably in the tech tree somewhere after self-sustaining space colonies.
Is it moral to have kids on Luna? They'd never be able to return back to Earth.
No constraints from Earth, so they'd make their own society – and potentially fall to barbarism.
It's a society with a definite purpose, so it's probably got some sort of culty religion thing going on. (Also, what about after the society has achieved its purpose?)
Historically, societies have been stable – it's only in the current tech explosion that societies' half-lives have shortened considerably.
Each generation needs its shipfixers.
What are the motivations of the middle generations? (They've always lived on a space ship; why should they wish to turn around the thing to go to damp Earth?)
Potential failure state: totalitarian régime pretends box on a habitable planet is a space station to keep people under control.
The final dozen or so generations would need a program to get used to non-ship, planetary environments – or they'd just ignore the planet in favor of the nearby asteroid belt.
They'd need social engineering/conditioning of some sort – would it be necessary to have it be a totalitarian régime?

(After that, I went and met a local friend I hadn't seen in a long while.)
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