5 min read

Birthdays & Breakthroughs

This is the first issue of my newsletter about my interests, my work, and things I recommend to you all.
A picture of me smiling in my living room
38 laps around the Sun or 21.89 centi-arcsecond of a galactic year!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I thought to mark the occasion by starting a newsletter. Since there is a degree of self-indulgence in having one, I feel it is the perfect way to celebrate another lap around the Sun. Also, it will help me stay focused on having something to produce with a regular schedule, as I am planning to publish it every two weeks.

But you might be wondering, what are you going to use it for, Alfredo?  The plan is to share things I like, things I have written, things I have done and produced, and to sweeten the deal I'm going to throw in some exclusive pictures of our little corgi Llywelyn who is more than willing to parade himself in front of a camera for attention.

Here goes nothing!


WHAT I LOVED WRITING THIS PAST FORTNIGHT

I write more than a dozen articles per week, so it is always difficult to pick my favourites; they are my children. And while I love all my children equally like Lucille Bluth, I sometimes don't care for GOB.

The top spot goes to this new approach for connecting quantum microchips.  The work has huge potential as it is completely scalable; this means that there is no limit to the number of microchips that can be connected this way and it could be the way to build a quantum computer that can finally go beyond what the most powerful machines can deliver.

Major Breakthrough Paves The Way For Powerful Quantum Computers Today
Qubits transfer between microchips has been demonstrated with incredible speed and accuracy.

An honorable mention goes to this other piece for getting someone so irate that they had to write me to insult me. The piece is titled "Could you shoot a bullet through Jupiter?" and it was a good excuse to discuss how little we know of the interior of Jupiter. Hate mail is a daily occurrence for me, and while I do admit that the premise is farcical (and my title violates Betteridge's law) I did not expect to be called a dumb fuck and horrible writer. But the joke's on them. They believed, not having read the article, that is the extreme gravity on Jupiter that stops the bullet, but that is not the case!

Jupiter's gravitational pull is just 2.53 times that of Earth... you have experienced a higher acceleration on a rollercoaster!

Could You Shoot A Bullet Through Jupiter?
Being a gas giant doesn’t mean things just go through it.

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I'm currently playing the DLC of Outer Wilds and it is fantastically brainy - like an escape room written in a language you can't quite understand. Wholeheartedly recommend it.

READING RECOMMENDATIONS

Non-fiction

Sons and Others by Tanaka Mishi is one of those books that stay with you. I saw the author speak briefly about it and it intrigued me. The experience of male survivors of sexual violence is something I know little about and I felt I ought to know more. The book showed me I knew even less than I thought I knew, making it an even more important read. It is a great balance of statistics, studies, and personal recollections. It is certainly a challenging read in places but by the end, it is clear that a better and safer world is possible if we choose to make it.

A photo of the book cover in my hand. The title is Sons and Other and the subtitle is "On Loving Male Survivors"

Fiction

On the fictional side of things, I am plodding along with the Wheel of Time. In this last fortnight, I have finished book 10 and started book 11 of 14. Friends warned me that books 8-11 are a slog, but I do not find it that slow or dull. However, I totally understand why people would, or why some are intimidated by such an enormous series. There is a lot to setup, but I have never seen a world so complexly rich in three-dimensional characters. That said, Jordan loved to reexplain concepts that are well-established to the reader. Also, the prologue was 100 pages long! Robert, please get to the point 🤣

Rosamund Pike as Moraine in the Wheel of Time tv series saying The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills

We pop down to the Royal Observatory to get some insights into the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition!

RECIPE OF THE FORTNIGHT

A picture of the Blood Orange, chilli and mint curd tart!

This is eventually going to be a space for me to try recipes and give my opinion and also to write or translate the ones that I try. But I could not have started this newsletter without mentioning the exceptional tart that my lovely friend Dr Craig Poku baked as my birthday cake.

Actually, exceptional is an understatement. Seriously, it is a cool summer evening in tart form. Utterly sublime. The full recipe is below!

Blood orange, chilli and mint curd tart — Craig Poku: Pokubakes
A blood orange, mint and chilli curd tart? Why not give it a go!

MUSIC TO MY EARS

I have been so busy this month that I have not had the chance to listen to as many podcasts as I am used to but I did enjoy this interview with the great George Takei on Queer Talk. I got the tickets for his show Allegiance right after listening to it.

Meanwhile, we are busy recording a new season of The Astroholic Explains, but if you want to catch up here is a fun episode from season 4. Did you know scientists had to turn Venus into a giant disco ball to measure how slowly it rotates?


And finally, since you made it all the way to the end, here's the cutest pic of little Llywelyn for all you lovely subscribers!

Clue the corgi looking gorgeous in the Sun!

And a less flattering one sleeping like the little goblin he is...