The webcomics blog about webcomics

Just Trust Me, Okay?

Heya. I’ve got two things for you today, one of which is obviously on-message for this page, one of which is not obviously so but I promise is at least tangentially related. Promise.

  • First up, we at Fleen have watched the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (aka MICE, aka MICExpo, aka MassMICE) for a number of years from afar; by reputation it is doing a fine job of upholding the low- to zero-cost, public-facing, comics-oriented Expo tradition (cf: TCAF, SPX, VanCaf, MoCCA Fest, etc) from the campus of Lesley University in Cambridge¹, MA. They always attract a good crowd, the scale and pace of the show is humane, and yesterday they announced the open application period for tables:

    Want to show at MICE 2016? Our Exhibitor Application is open May 1-18! Send us your comics!

    Individual rates go as low as $60, with a discount for students! But that last bit of the tweet, the Send us your comics bit is important; MICE will be reviewing the work of its vendors to try maintain a balance of new work, new creators, local flavor, and variety:

    While we welcome all to apply and wish we could host all of you, space for seasoned exhibitors (those who have already tabled at MICE several times) will likely be determined by lottery. Thank you for understanding that while interest in MICE grows, our available space stays the same.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a show with an emphasis on the new to this degree before; the larger shows are almost completely driven by grandfathered booth owners and I think that this approach just might make the big shows more interesting and fresh-feeling. It really shows an emphasis not just on comics, but on making the show have the greatest appeal and attraction for the attendees. Doubly so, given that the show is free to attend.

  • Secondly, from the science desk, it was announced earlier today that a group of influential Smart People (including Drs Hawking and Jemison) have proposed a project that would send spacecraft² to Alpha Centauri on a mission that would complete potentially within my lifetime. This sort of thing will cost money, so it’s a good thing they’ve got a Rich Guy willing to pony up US$100 million:

    [Financier Yuri] Milner is backing the $100 million R&D program necessary to get this to work. Existing technology won’t do; New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft we’ve ever launched, and it would take 78,000 years to get to any of the stars in Alpha Centauri, a nearby three-star system. The plutonium in its power systems alone weighs 11kg and would require staggering amounts of energy to accelerate to the necessary speeds.

    Instead, Breakthrough Starshot plans to build what’s essentially a spacecraft on a chip, which Milner called a nanocraft. A gram-scale wafer will include “cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation and communication equipment.”

    Each device would cost roughly the same as a high-end smartphone to make, allowing a massive number to be sent on the journey, providing some significant redundancy. Milner held up an early prototype during the announcement.

    Propulsion will be outsourced to a facility on Earth. The small spacecraft will be equipped with a light sail, and a phased array of lasers in the 100GW range will provide the sail with enough push to get the craft moving at roughly 20 percent the speed of light in just a matter of minutes. [emphasis mine]

    Let’s repeat that last bit: humans are proposing that we build a swarm of tiny robots with solar sails, accelerate them to 0.2c, and throw them at our nearest interstellar neighbors. Alpha Centauri is a bit under 4.2 light years away; at 0.2c, we’re talking about a stunningly fast 21 years. Allow another 4 years for any signals to return and it’s 25 years to find out what the neighborhood of another star looks like.

    >ahem< Fuck, yes.

    Now, for the webcomics connection — I first saw this story because Jeph Jacques pointed it out and immediately wondered about conspiracy angles:

    “Freeman Dyson, for his part, emphasized that the space between here and Alpha Centauri isn’t empty” HMMMMMM

    Jacques, of course, knows exactly what’s out there: chatty, occasionally snippy robots. And now we’ll finally be able to prove it!

Spam of the day:

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Is this some kind of weird threat?

¹ Our Fair City. RIP, Tommy.

² Very, very tiny, gram-scale spacecraft, but hundreds of them.

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