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20 August 2013 @ 07:30 am
Michael Flynn, Kerbal Space Program, and Syncrhonicity  
Late last year Audible started releasing Michael Flynn's "Firestar" series. I read "Firestar" when it first came out in 1996, and i believe "Rogue Star" as well, but somehow i never got around to the last two books. Since i've really been enjoying his newer "Spiral Arm" series, which had already inspired me to relisten to "In the Country of the Blind' (one of my favorite conspiracy novels ever,) i decided to add these books to my list as well. So i'd been listening to them for the past two months or so.

A couple weeks ago i started playing Kerbal Space Program. I knew from various SF reading way back as a kid, and "Integral Trees" and "the Smoke Ring" in particular, that when dealing with orbital mechanics you never actually apply thrust in the direction you actually want to go. However i'd never memorized the exact rules and certainly never absorbed them to the extent that i had a gut feeling for how they worked. I had a pretty good grasp on how slingshot maneuvers are supposed to work (reinforced by hours of playing StarCon and StarCon II =) but that was about it.

So i flailed about quite a bit in Kerbal Space Program before i got around to checking out some of the tutorials (both in the game, on the wiki, and on youtube) and learned all about apoapsis, periapsis, ascending and descending nodes, and what one needed to do at each of them to get to where you wanted to go.

And then just about that point i started up "Lodestar", the third book in the Firestar series. In some ways the series is almost a pair of duologies, and the third book introduces several new characters, including Jacinta Rosario, an aspiring space pilot who has just entered in flight school. In the course of following her progress the reader is exposed to a number of pop-quizzes, aka info dumps, about how orbital mechanics work. And all of the sudden i realized i knew what they were talking about! Not the specifics of how much delta-v to burn to get from orbit X to orbit Y in the earth-moon system or anything like that, but i knew all the simple stuff like where you should be burning in your orbit and in which direction in order to accomplish a certain goal. It was really kind of cool.

And now of course that i'm getting near the end of the "Firestar" series i'm thinking i may have to go relisten to the "Spiral Arm" series again, just so i can figure out how the two series (which are set thousands of years apart) are tied together.