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(Jon sez:)

Your Writer: Jon Kilgannon As promised last week, we have a little treat for our regular readers for the next few weeks. Using Mark's art, I have created a bunch of icons of the sort used by LiveJournal, web boards, and other such programs. The first of these is a closeup of Benjamin and Caprice.

In other news: You may ask, Why would neutrino emissions be a sign that a fusion reactor is being fired up? Let me get out my huge, badly-designed Doctor Science hat and I'll answer that.

The fusion reactors on the fictional ship Gorbachev fuse standard hydrogen in what is called the proton-proton fusion cycle. This is the same process which keeps our Sun shining. In proton-proton fusion, six hydrogen nuclei (which are protons) combine to create a helium atom, four energetic gamma rays, two neutrinos, two "leftover" hydrogen nuclei, and a heck of a lot of kinetic energy (heat). The leftover hydrogen goes back into the cycle for another spin around the block, while the heat and gamma rays can be captured and used to do work.

However, we're interested for the moment in the two neutrinos. Neutrinos interact only very weakly with "normal" matter, passing entirely through truly ridiculous amounts of solid material as if it weren't there. Only very occasionally does a neutrino interact with another subatomic particle. In fact, if it is nighttime when you are reading this, the neutrinos from the Sun are shining up from underneath your chair, straight through the Earth.

We normally detect neutrinos in the present day by filling a very large tank (about the size of a house) with a liquid which contains chlorine, such as cleaning fluid. On the rare occasion when a neutrino interacts with an isotope of chlorine, it turns the chlorine into argon. The argon will eventually decay back into chlorine, emitting a photon which we can watch for with photomultipliers.

Presumably, the Gorbachev has a better way to watch for neutrinos than an Olympic swimming pool full of drycleaning fluid. I won't even speculate on what this detection method is.

P.S. Had you noticed that Sergeant Bhroinn looks really, really happy to be ordered to blow up the front of the Gorbachev? You gotta wonder about him.

(Mark sez:)

Your Artist: Mark Sachs A decoherence cannon? Boy, I sure hope such a dangerous-sounding gadget doesn't get used against our heroes! But really, what are the chances of that happening.

One thing I've noticed about my style is that I'm always unduly influenced by whatever I happened to be reading last. Before drawing the slightly triggerhappy Sgt. Bhroinn and friends I'd been reading a lot of Schlock Mercenary, so, uh, there you go. Don't ask me where the silly military robots smoking cigars and wearing glasses came from, though.

Now if you're wondering why today's update comes at such a late hour, well, it's not because I was playing Planetside (although I was, mind you; it's just not because of that.) It's because after finishing the page I ran across Celestia, the most high-tech, high-powered planetarium software made by the hand of man, and was zooming around the galaxy when I should have been uploading the comic. If you'd shown this little bit of software to my ten-year-old self I'm sure he would have just fainted dead away.

Oh yes, before I forget: the handsome fan art Andrael sent us last week is now properly ensconced on the fan art page.