As the wind of the dust storm blew, billions of dust particles collided with and slid past the primary surface antennae array. Over time, this rubbing of dust on metal caused an electrical charge to build up on the array. Rub a balloon on your hair and stick it to the wall. Rub your socked feet in the carpet on a winter evening and then touch your sibling. These are examples of such static charges.

Air: Generation Mars, Book One

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(image: Luis Peres)

Walking in dust

As they walked, Sally told them about dust storms. She used words like “polar vortex” and “baroclinic wave”, which the kids did not understand but which made sense to them as she spoke. One of Sally’s teaching tricks was to use words and phrases that the kids did not know in ways that made their meaning obvious.

Air: Generation Mars, Book One

Coming in October

(image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)


A new study suggests lightning may be weak or nonexistent in Martian dust storms. Researchers vibrated basalt grains at various atmospheric pressures to test their ability to build up charge.

Lightning in a dust storm plays a role in my forthcoming book, Air: Generation Mars, Book One. Hard science fiction is a moving target. Still, the fictional strike in question is weak and only damaging to electrical equipment, so I think it’s plausible.


Whither terraforming?

Humans love the idea of a rebel. But only the idea. Take action too far outside the box of current experience and you begin to hear the Greek Chorus of naysayers heckling you, gleefully glomming onto anything that might pull you back within accepted norms.

Such has been the case recently regarding a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy, which reported that there does not appear to be enough CO2 on Mars to allow for terraforming. I can’t count the number of articles that have floated through my various feeds starting with the mocking phrase “Sorry Elon…” Google it yourself and see what I mean.

Continue reading “Whither terraforming?”