Eponymously Yours, W. Skeffington Higgins
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in beamjockey's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, February 16th, 2017
12:37 am
My Schedule for Capricon 37
Here comes Capricon 37, this year again in the Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel in Wheeling, Illinois. It begins Thursday, 16 February, and runs through Sunday, 19 February. I'm participating in a number of program items.

Thursday, February 16

Conventions in the Social Media Age
Birch A (1), 3:30pm - 5pm
Track: Fan Interest

Liz Gilio (moderator), Meg Frank, William Frank, Neal F. Litherland, Bill Higgins

Social Media has allowed us unprecedented access to each other. While in many ways this is a good thing, it also allows anonymity and negativity to enter what many fans consider safe spaces. Has online fandom changed cons? For better or for worse? Has social media filled a void that cons used to fill? Are cons even necessary any more?

Friday, February 17

What Keeps You in Fandom?
Willow (1), 1pm - 2:30pm
Track: Fan Interest
Division: Programming
Dexter Fabi (moderator), Val Hoski, Jessica Guggenheim, Jason Betts, Bill Higgins

Every year you go to the same conventions, or you keep looking for that one author's books, or you dress as that character in the show you like.... what keeps your fandom alive? And what keeps you participating in your fandom at large?

Introduction to Classic Movies
Willow (1), 8:30pm - 10pm
Track: Media
Division: Programming
Dexter Fabi (moderator), Frank Salvatini, Bill Higgins

What classic SF movies are MUST see, and why?

Saturday, February 18

Return to Jupiter: NASA's Juno Mission
Botanic Garden Ballroom A (1), 10am - 11:30am
Track: Science
Division: Programming
Bill Higgins (a solo talk)

Last summer, a new spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. Juno's mission is to orbit the giant planet, studying its powerful magnetic field, intense radiation belts, and the intricate interplay of particles and energies surging through nearby space. Bill Higgins reviews Juno's role in gathering more clues to the formation and evolution of Jupiter.

Writing "Real" Aliens
Botanic Garden Ballroom B (1), 11:30am - 1pm
Track: Writing
Division: Programming
Richard Garfinkle (moderator), Phyllis Eisenstein, Martin L. Shoemaker, Michael Coorlim, Bill Higgins, Natalie Silk

Why do so many aliens look or sound like humans with prosthetics on their faces? Why does human sexual morphism/beauty codes carry across all species? Why aren't there more bugs and blobs?

Kids Plan a Mission to Mars
Elm (1), 4pm - 5:30pm
Track: Kids
Division: Programming
Jason Palmer, Bill Higgins, Lisa Garrison

What would YOU do if you were planning a mission to Mars? What things do you think would be needed?
Thursday, January 19th, 2017
1:13 pm
My Schedule for Friendship Is Confusion
Once again, I'm heading to Novi, Michigan for the 2017 iteration of Detroit fandom's venerable convention Confusion-- this year named "Friendship is Confusion." I'm participating in three program events. Say hello if you encounter me there.

Fan Guest of Honor Induction
Saturday 1 PM
St. Clair Room

The Fan Guest of Honour Introduction and Induction is a traditional ConFusion event, wherein any attending Fan GoHs of years past welcome the new Fan GoH to the club.

(I was Moonbase Confusion's Fan Guest of Honor in 2007, the year after Chuck Firment and the year before The Roving Pirate Party. This year we'll be inducting Mark Oshiro.)

Return to Jupiter: NASA's Juno Mission
Saturday noon
Manitou Room

Last summer, a new spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. Juno's mission is to orbit the giant planet, studying its powerful magnetic field, its intense radiation belts, and the intricate interplay of particles and energies surging through nearby space. Bill Higgins reviews Juno's role in gathering more clues to the formation and evolution of Jupiter.

Pimp Your Mars Rover
Saturday 5 PM
Manitou Room

What would a vehicle need to traverse the unforgiving surface of Mars? A perfect panel for those interested in engineering the next buggy.
Panelists: Karen Burnham (moderator), Martin L. Shoemaker, Courtney Schafer, Bill Higgins
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
12:14 pm
Out Shopping, Part 13: I Am Being Held Prisoner in an Oatmeal-Packet Factory
Oatmeal Packet Pleads Desperately IMG_20150104_111128 & IMG_20150104_111136 2877x1525

I feel this is a hidden message from some desperate trivia-question oatmeal-packet worker.
10:50 am
Out Shopping, Part 12: The Gluten-Free Bible
Gluten-Free Bible at B&N Springfield 20161226_145632

In which Jesus multiplies fishes. Just fishes.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
12:12 pm
Out Shopping, Part 11: Inarticulate Battery Display

Display of batteries seen at Wal-Mart.

What the batteries are saying.
Drawing by an artist who "swiped" from Mike Sekowsky.
Monday, August 15th, 2016
1:28 am
My Schedule for Worldcon: Midamericon II
It's nearly time for the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, in Kansas City, Missouri. It runs from the 17th to the 21st of August at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are program items in which I'm participating. "Kansas City, here I come!"

WSH HH&O 1090x960

Jungian Mindscapes and Clement's Iceworld

Thursday 10:00 - 11:00, 2201 (Academic) (Kansas City Convention Center)

[I'm the second speaker in this academic session of two short talks.]

“The Red One” and Enduring Archetypes of Science Fiction’s First Golden Age:
The Jungian Mindscapes Campbell Inherited from the Writers of the Fin de Siècle

Charles Von Nordheim

The Search for Saar: Looking Back at Hal Clement's Iceworld with 21st-Century Science
William S. Higgins
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Some scientific aspects of Hal Clement's 1951 novel Iceworld are notable 65 years later. First, in 1951 not one exoplanet was known. Clement would live to see an abundance of new planets circling distant stars. Furthermore, rather than seeking Earth-like planets, one may search for worlds Clement's sulfur-breathing aliens might inhabit comfortably. The planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has identified at least one planet, Kepler 42c, where conditions approximate those of the imaginary world Saar. Second, in detail unusual for SF of its time, Iceworld explores a planet with remotely-operated spacecraft, anticipating the methods of the coming Space Age.

Kaffeeklatsch: Bill Higgins

Thursday 12:00 - 13:00, 2211 (KKs) (Kansas City Convention Center)

An hour of conversation with a few people who wish to converse with me. Attendees must sign up in advance Wednesday afternoon for the limited seating. Signup instructions are here. (I doubt actual coffee will be served.)

Other kaffeklatsch hosts in the same room at the same time—at different tables—will be Kathleen Ann Goonan,  Brianna Spacekat Wu, and Christopher McKitterick.

Edison's Concrete Piano

Thursday 18:00 - 19:00, 2206 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Bill Higgins (Moderator), Dr. Jordin Kare, Allan Dyen-Shapiro, Howard Davidson,  andyvanoverberghe

Even the greatest minds have some pretty strange ideas. In 1911, Edison decided to create a concrete piano. What other great, or extremely bizarre ideas have found their way to the US patent office? A look at the oddities that people have imagined.

Note: This panel has moved forward one hour from the original timeslot.

Where Science Fails

Friday 15:00 - 16:00, 2502B (Kansas City Convention Center)

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ (Moderator), Bill Higgins, Anna Kashina,  Dr Helen Pennington, Mr. Donald Douglas Fratz

Although scientists are supposed to follow the scientific method, sometimes that allow their human side to get ahead of them. What caused the crisis of replication in social psychology, the false alarm on cosmic inflation detection, or the announcement of cold fusion?  How can these errors be avoided, and how do they damage the reputation of science?

Ask a Scientist

Saturday 15:00 - 16:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Mx Rachael Acks, Bill Higgins (Moderator), Dr. Claire McCague, Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis

Do you have a pressing question about the earth's warming, worm holes, advances in communication technology, cloning? A panel of scientists in varied areas of expertise are here to answer your scientific queries. Answers will be timed out at five minutes each, so don't ask for a detailed explanation of General Relativity! Please keep questions brief and specific.

Fizz and Fuse, the Reactor Brothers

Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)

Dr. Jordin Kare, Bill Higgins

In this humorous ad-lib chat, Jordin Kare and Bill Higgins diagnose people's spaceship (and other SF) problems in the style of "Car Talk."

Playback from Pluto

Sunday 15:00 - 16:00, 2502B (Kansas City Convention Center)

Bill Higgins

There's a treasure at the edge of the Solar System, a data recorder aboard the New Horizons spacecraft, sending Earth several gigabytes acquired during last summer's flyby of Pluto. The excitement of the initial encounter still lingers. Downlinks in recent months continue to illuminate the mysteries of Pluto, and 2019 brings us all new data. What will we learn?

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
9:26 pm
My Schedule for Musecon 6
I'm attending Musecon 6 this weekend in the Westin Chicago Northwest hotel in Itasca, Illinois.

I'm on the program for a couple of items.

Return to Jupiter: NASA's Juno Mission
Friday 9:00 PM - 10:15 PM
Room: Carlyle

This summer, a new spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. Juno's mission is to orbit the giant planet, studying its powerful magnetic field, its intense radiation belts, and the intricate interplay of particles and energies surging through nearby space. Bill Higgins reviews Juno's role in gathering more clues to the formation and evolution of Jupiter.

MuseCon's Eternal Ukulele Summit - 2016 Edition
Sunday 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM
Room: Trafalgar

Lisa Golladay, Bill Higgins

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That your life with a uke is better than your life without one. That you can bring a uke or borrow a loaner. That all players are welcome at any skill level, including the ones who haven't started yet. And that anyone who thinks a blues progression in C is "too easy" isn't trying hard enough (we can fix that).
Friday, February 26th, 2016
3:01 pm
Let's Talk Pluto! Hangout 2PM This Sunday with Aaron Freeman
Aaron Freeman and I will be conversing by means of Google Hangout this coming Sunday, 28 February, at 2 PM Central Standard Time. The topic is Pluto, recently explored by NASA's New Horizons mission. If that sounds like fun, please tune in. Send your questions along.

In its flyby last July, as you probably recall, New Horizons gathered so much data about Pluto, its big moon Charon, four smaller moons, and Pluto's atmosphere that it's taken many months to play back-- and even now, not all the data have yet been transmitted to Earth. Since new results are announced frequently, there's always something new to say.

So Sunday, we're holding our own personal Plutopalooza, and Aaron has renamed himself "Chaaron Freeman" in honor of the big gray satellite.

To join in, click this invitation link.

It leads to a page that says "You need an invitation to view this event," with a button that says "Request an invitation." Click that button, and you reach a page that says "You requested an invitation to this event. You will receive an invitation when the event organizer approves your request." At this point, I presume, some combination of Google's robots and Aaron himself will work unspecified magic. Come Sunday at 2 PM Central, fire up Google Hangout.

I suspect the event will be recorded, should you choose to review it later. But on such details, I am, like tiny particles suspended in Pluto's tenuous atmosphere, hazy.

During the encounter in July, I witnessed the excitement at New Horizons' home base, the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, and assisted APL with some education activities. In my capacity as a NASA Solar System Ambassador volunteer, I've been telling people about the mission for months.

Aaron Freeman is presently Artist-in-Residence at the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. His job: communicating about science in his offbeat, witty way. You can find his work on the Web, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

Aaron describes himself as "funnyman, science blogger... improv actor, auctioneer, MC, host, moderator" and a bunch more nouns. He entertains and educates, and has even left his mark in Chicago's history books. Years ago, I was a guest several times on his TV and radio talk shows. Recently we reconnected when the Chicago Council on Science and Technology invited me to give a talk in their Speakeasy series at Geek Bar. Aaron turned up, and it was a delight to see him again.

Long story short (skipping past this remarkable thing), we hatched a plot to do a Hangout next Sunday. Can't wait!
Thursday, February 25th, 2016
1:10 pm
The Very Best Fake Cowboy Song
What's the best fake cowboy song? "Jingle Jangle Jingle?" "Don't Fence Me In?" "Wah-Hoo?" Some other song?

"Jingle Jangle Jingle," also known as "I've Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle," Joseph J. Lilley and Frank Loesser, 1942.

"Don't Fence Me In," by Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher, 1934. Lyrics.

(Bonus: Trigger kisses Roy Rogers.)

"Wah-Hoo," by Cliff Friend, 1936. Lyrics.

Until recently I didn't care for the highly-earwormy "Wah-Hoo," but then I discovered the Hoosier Hotshots' cover of the song, and it's growing on me.
Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
9:22 am
Happy 21 October 2015, Everyone!

And now, a word from President Ronald Reagan.

Audio of an interview with Caseen Gaines, author of We Don't Need Roads: Th Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy.

And thanks to msminlr for the hoverboard!
Sunday, August 16th, 2015
10:26 pm
My Schedule for Sasquan
Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, starts Wednesday, 19 August, in Spokane, Washington. Here are the program items I'm scheduled to participate in. (Keep an eye out for last-minute changes…) "CC" refers to rooms in the Spokane Convention Center. "M" designates a moderator.

Pluto in Your Rear-View Mirror: News from the New Horizons Mission
Thursday 11:00 - 11:45, 302AB (CC)

Pluto has always been the planet...errhhh...dwarf planet of mystery.  On July 14, the New Horizons spacecraft whizzed past Pluto and its satellites 9 years after blasting off from Earth. Find out what science has learned in 2015 about the worlds on the solar system's frontier, and where the New Horizons will journey next.   This panel will open with a presentation on the New Horizons spacecraft mission by Bill Higgins and will include a discussion among the panelists.

Bill Higgins (M), Alan Boyle, Tony Lewis, Guy Consolmagno, David Clements

What’s New in Astronomy
Thursday 13:00 - 13:45, Bays 111B (CC)

What are the latest astronomical discoveries? What are the upcoming events in the exploration of the solar system? Find out what is happening out there and what we are doing about it.

David Clements (M), Mark L. Olson, Bill Higgins, April Faires, Bobbie Benton Hull

SF/Fantasy Set in Washington & Environs
Thursday 20:00 - 20:45, Bays 111C (CC)

From classics like Hal Clement's Iceworld to Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books, Washington state has been the setting for many works of SF & fantasy.  

Bill Higgins (M), Helen Gbala

[Hmm, this is looking a bit thin.]

100 Years of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity
Friday 13:00 - 13:45, Bays 111C (CC)

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the theory of relativity by exploring what physicists have been doing for the last 100 years, the status of the theory today, and what might change in the future.

Mark L. Olson (M) , David Clements, James C. Glass, Bill Higgins, Lori White

[I'm by no means a relativity expert, and can only hope I will be able to add a few remarks to the conversation.]

Pluto Isn't Just a Disney Dog
Friday 19:00 - 19:45, 207 (CC)

Pluto has now been explored! Join scientists to see what NASA has learned about the famous icy world on the edge of our Solar System.

Bill Higgins, Guy Consolmagno

[This is an item in the children's program, so Guy and I will be discussing Pluto with young people.]

Dawn of the Asteroid Belt: Exploring Vesta and Ceres
Saturday 10:00 - 10:45, 207 (CC)

Asteroids are relics of the ancient Solar System. NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited Vesta for a year. Now its ion thrusters have propelled it across the Asteroid Belt to Ceres, the largest asteroid, where Dawn has again entered orbit. Join Bill Higgins to explore Dawn's findings at Vesta and its plans for doing science at Ceres.

Bill Higgins, Guy Consolmagno

Tech Talk for Teens
Saturday 15:00 - 15:45, 401C (CC)

Join us for a fun discussion that delves into the mysteries of teaching science and technology to kids. What's a good starting point? Does it always have to be "fun"? Which sci-fi concepts might today's teens be turning into reality twenty years from now? We'll discuss all of these things and more!

Torrey Stenmark (M), Bill Higgins, Tim Griffin , E. C. Blake
Thursday, August 6th, 2015
6:52 pm
Worldcon: Best Way to Seek Roommates?
We're attending Sasquan. K and I have a reservation for a room in the Doubletree from the 19th to the 24th. It has two queen-size beds. It would be nice to share the cost of the room with one or two others.

What's the best way to find potential roommates?
Friday, July 24th, 2015
8:27 pm
This Accident Was DEFINITELY Not My Fault
Okay, I was nowhere near the Deepsea Challenger when it caught fire. I was in another state at the time.

And I'll repeat that I had nothing to do with the loss of that other submersible. So quit spreading rumors.
Sunday, July 12th, 2015
7:43 pm
On the Road to Pluto, Posted Elseweb
Over on the Vatican Observatory Foundation blog: On the Road to Pluto
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
3:12 pm
Encounter with the Underworld: The Pluto Campaign
Tomorrow, it begins.

I will get in a car and drive various places. On Sunday, I expect to arrive in Laurel, Maryland.

I saw Neptune long ago and I am very glad to have lived long enough to see Pluto explored by a spacecraft.

Over time, I hope to tell a lot of people about it. People at Musecon, Worldcon, and Windycon, to begin with.

See you on the far side.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015
10:37 pm
In Case You Were Worried about New Horizons
Just ten days away from Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft had an "anomaly" yesterday and went into "safe-mode." It switched control to its backup computer and tried to establish contact with Earth.

This made a lot of us anxious, despite assurances that the spacecraft was probably fine.

NASA has announced that recovery is going well and New Horizons "remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto:"
Preparations are ongoing to resume the originally planned science operations on July 7 and to conduct the entire close flyby sequence as planned. The mission science team and principal investigator have concluded that the science observations lost during the anomaly recovery do not affect any primary objectives of the mission, with a minimal effect on lesser objectives.
Nothing like a little suspense to make a flyby more exciting. Time to get some sleep.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
5:35 pm
Your Nuclear Physics Thought for the Day
Over on Twitter today Dr. Katie Mack (@AstroKatie), astrophysicist at Melbourne University, was waxing enthusiastic about the New Horizons Pluto spacecraft. I (@MrBeamjockey) responded.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
7:30 pm
8 July at Ela Area Library: Secret Cities, Secret Jobs: Creating the Atomic Bomb in World War II
About a year ago, I borrowed from my local library Denise Kiernan's book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet finished it by the due date, so I had to take it back to the library.

Having turned the book in, I strolled over, as is my wont, to the used-book-sale shelf. Because you never know what you might find there. I found this:

Obviously Fate intended me to be united with this book. I'd already read enough of it to know that it was well worth owning. I paid a dollar and went home with my very own copy.

In the course of time, the Ela Area Public Library District chose The Girls of Atomic City as this year's tome in their One Book, One Reading Community program. They've lined up a variety of speakers over the summer weeks. I've agreed to give a talk on Wednesday, 8 July.

Secret Cities, Secret Jobs: Creating the Atomic Bomb in World War II
Wednesday, 8 July, 2015
7:00pm to 8:15pm

Ela Area Public Library
275 Mohawk Trail, Lake Zurich, Illinois 60047

Physicists discovered that uranium fission could be applied to make a devastating weapon--but it would take the help of hundreds of thousands of citizens working under the cloak of secrecy to make nuclear bombs a reality. Join Fermilab physicist William Higgins as he shares insights into this urgent effort...one of many memorable WWII dramas.

Kiernan's book concentrates on the women who worked at Oak Ridge. I'll be giving an overview of the Manhattan Project. Hanford and Los Alamos were two other sites where secret towns employing thousands of workers sprang up to meet the needs of the massive project.

I hope to say a few words about why Kiernan's book is both interesting to the average reader and also to the reader already steeped in Manhattan Project lore.

I'm pleased that the Library District has invited me, and I'm looking forward to my visit.
Thursday, June 11th, 2015
7:03 pm
Bryan Burrough, Sarah Ellison, and Suzanna Andrews Win 2015 Higgins Award
This year's John M. Higgins Award for Best In-Depth/Enterprise Reporting was given today to Bryan Burrough, Sarah Ellison, and Suzanna Andrews of Vanity Fair for their article "The Snowden Saga: A Shadowland of Secrets and Light."  Congratulations to them.

Today in New York the annual Mirror Awards ceremony, sponsored by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, honored "the reporters, editors and teams of writers who hold a mirror to their own industry for the public's benefit."

As you may know, the John M. Higgins Award is named for my late brother.

Here's a list of all of today's 2015 Mirror Awards winners.

Here's a list of all the Higgins Award finalists.

I'm always pleased to thank Discovery Communications and Time Warner Cable for their gift establishing the Higgins Award. I am also grateful to the people of the Newhouse School for their work continuing to celebrate journalism about journalism.
Thursday, May 21st, 2015
1:59 pm
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