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  1. Obituary: Bernard Cribbins

    Known to fans of Dr Who as Donna’s grandfather, he’s also responsible for, “Right, Said Fred”, my favourite silly song.?? You may also remember him from an episode of Faulty Towers in which he played the part of a spoon salesman whom Basil mistakes for a hotel inspector. –cpl

    There’s an extensive obituary on the BBC.





    Star discovered orbiting Milky Way’s supermassive black hole every 4 years

    Star discovered orbiting Milky Way’s supermassive black hole every 4 years

    The discovery should help astronomers better understand the extreme conditions at the center of our galaxy and what can survive there.

    Astronomers have discovered a star that orbits the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy every four years. That’s the shortest orbit ever observed around a supermassive black hole.

    The newly discovered star, called S4716, is about four times more massive than our Sun and twice as hot. It survives extraordinary conditions, orbiting this black hole at a distance as close as 100 astronomical units, less than three times the distance of Pluto from the Sun.

    The discovery should help astrophysicists better understand conditions near this gravitational behemoth at the center of the Milky Way and to better calculate its mass and radius.

    READ MORE: https://astronomy.com/news/2022/07/star-discovered-orbiting-milky-ways-supermassive-black-hole-every-4-years

    Upcoming events

    July 29 – 31, 2022 – CanFURence, Ottawa, ON https://www.canfurence.ca

    *August 5 – 7, 2022 – MONTREAL, QC, A convention for readers of SF, https://crossingscon.org/

    *August 5 – 7, 2022-MONTREAL, QC, Otakuthon, https://www.otakuthon.com/2022/home/

    August 12-14 – When Words Collide & Canvention 42 – ONLINE OKThis year the festival is once again online and free to attend, including the Aurora Awards ceremony. Registration via Eventbrite is required.? https://www.whenwordscollide.org/

    August 25-28, 2022 – Fan Expo, Toronto, ON, https://fanexpohq.com/fanexpocanada/

    Canvention 42 and the Aurora Awards

    Canvention 42 and the Aurora Awards

    On Saturday, August 13, starting at 5pm MDT, we invite everyone to join us for the Aurora Awards ceremony. Our Master of Ceremonies, author Mark Leslie Lefebvre, will be live streaming the ceremony on both his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkPw6Cu3P1c) and our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO7p4geRW6k). The event will also be streamed live on Facebook, with the URL becoming available here about one week prior to the event. This event is open to everyone and is free to watch.

    About the Auroras and the Hall of Fame, from the When Words Collide website:

    Each year a Canadian convention or festival hosts the floating convention known as Canvention. This year Canvention is being organized by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), a national non-profit society along with a host convention. CSFFA’s mandate is to give out the Aurora awards and induct people into CSFFA’s Hall of the Fame.

    There are twelve different Aurora awards. They are given out for both professional and volunteer (unpaid) work in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Works are nominated by members of CSFFA which all Canadians are welcome to join. The top nominated works are shortlisted for the Aurora ballot and voted on by CSFFA members. Through the generosity of the nominees and their publishers, CSFFA members also get to download electronic versions of almost all of the published nominated works.

    The Hall of Fame inductees are determined by a jury of four experts and one coordinator from CSFFA.

    For full details about CSFFA go to their site at: prixaurorawards.ca


    Micrometeoroid damage to James Webb Space Telescope imaged for first time

    ?The damage to NASA’s flagship observatory was significantly greater than pre-launch expectations.

    Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock

    The micrometeoroid that hit the James Webb Space Telescope in May caused significantly more damage than expected and will have a lasting impact on the telescope’s observations, according to a NASA report on the spacecraft’s performance. By contrast, other micrometeoroid impacts during the spacecraft’s first six months of operation have had a negligible effect.

    The report contains an image showing the damage to one hexagonal segment of the observatory’s main mirror, called C3. “The single micrometeorite impact that occurred between 22—24 May 2022 exceeded prelaunch expectations of damage for a single micrometeoroid,” says the NASA report.

    Spot the difference: infrared images of the James Webb Space Telescope before launch (left) and after the micrometeoroid strike (right). The damaged C3 segment is to the bottom right of the mirror.
    “Characterization of JWST science performance from commissioning” (July 12, 2022); NASA/ESA/CSA

    The performance of the main mirror is determined by how much it deforms incoming starlight and measured by a quantity called wavefront error rms (root mean square). At the beginning the mission, the C3 segment had a wavefront error of 56 nanometers rms, a level similar to the main mirror’s other 17 segments. The impact increased C3’s wavefront error to 258 nm rms.

    Spacecraft engineers can change the position and curvature of each segment and in this way were able to reduce the error to 178 nm rms. This has a measurable effect on the error of the main mirror as a whole. “However, the effect was small at the full telescope level because only a small portion of the telescope area was affected,” says the report.

    The JWST team say the impact increased the error associated with entire main mirror to about 59 nm rms. “About 5-10 nm rms above the previous best wavefront error rms values.” That’s well within the performance limits the team were hoping for.

    Nevertheless, the impact raises questions about the nature of the space environment where the JWST operates. This is a point in space about a million kilometers from Earth where the gravitational fields of the Sun, Moon and Earth are in balance and so provide a relatively stable location.

    READ MORE https://astronomy.com/news/2022/07/micrometeoroid-damage-to-james-webb-space-telescope-imaged-for-first-time?

    Meeting of July 23rd

    Missed the meeting? It was a casual, virtual picnic, mostly on zoom.

    Keith’s presentation on our field trip to the train museum is here, and the raffle prizes and virtual display table is here.

    Keith’s presentation can also be accessed from the top menu. Click on activities/field trips/ . If you have photos of this event, please send them on to <president@> so that they can be posted also.

    Members of the club may watch a recording of the meeting under the members only tab. Usual password.


    How artificial intelligence is changing astronomy

    ?How artificial intelligence is changing astronomy

    Machine learning has become an essential piece of astronomers’ toolkits.
    An android cups its hand over one ear of a pair of premium headphones, looking at a screen of data from a radio telescope in the background under a starry night sky

    When most people picture an astronomer, they think of a lone person sitting on top of a mountain, peering into a massive telescope. Of course, that image is out of date: Digital cameras have long since done away with the need to actually look though a telescope.

    But now the face of astronomy is changing again. With the advent of more powerful computers and sky surveys that generate unimaginable quantities of data, artificial intelligence is the go-to tool for the keen researcher of space. But where is all of this data coming from? And how can computers help us learn about the universe?

    AI’s appetite for data

    Chances are you’ve heard the terms “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” thrown around recently, and while they are often used together, they actually refer to different things. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term used to describe any kind of computational behavior that mimics the way humans think and perform tasks. Machine learning (ML) is a little more specific: It’s a family of technologies that learn to make predictions and decisions based on vast quantities of historical data. Crucially, ML creates models which exhibit behavior that is not pre-programmed, but learned from the data used to train it.

    The facial recognition in your smartphone, the spam filter in your emails, and the ability of digital assistants like Siri or Alexa to understand speech are all examples of machine learning being used in the real world. Many of these technologies are now being used by astronomers to investigate the mysteries of space and time. Astronomy and machine learning are a match made in the heavens, because if there’s one thing astronomers have too much of — and ML models can’t get enough of — it’s data.

    We’re all familiar with megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), and terabytes (TB), but data at that scale is old news in astronomy. These days, we’re interested in petabytes (PB). A petabyte is about one thousand TB, a million GB, or a billion MB. It would take around 10 PB of storage to hold every single feature-length movie ever made in 4K resolution — and it would take over a hundred years to watch them all.

    READ MOREhttps://astronomy.com/news/2022/07/how-artificial-intelligence-is-changing-astronomy

    Raffle Prizes & Show & Tell

    Show and Tell

    Click to view full size

    Dan Kenney has completed the diorama for his Blue Dragon and is now starting work on a new headpiece, a blend of Klingon & Jem-Hadar. His next project will be a full Jem-Hadar mask.

    Wayne Glover send us pictures of his models:

    Raffle Prizes! All you need to do is participate in today’s meeting!


    Click the thumbnail to view full size

    Board game published by Metagaming Concepts in 1982 as MicroGame #21, donated by Brian

    Game donated by Brian https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fantasy_Trip

    16 stories by well-known authors, intro by Greg Bear, condition: new

    Tentacles, free-standing jigsaw puzzle designed by Judy Peterson, cut by CPL from birdseye maple. About 16 cm long.

    Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold, hardcover, pages a bit yellowed, Sylvain’s legacy

    B5 Season 5, trading cards, from Sylvain’s legacy. Condition: Still in original wrap. (I think it is the original, looks sealed)

    The first part? is a reprint of Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night, second part is a “sequel” by Gregory Benford that takes place many years later. Condition good, dust jacket shows wear but no tear.

    Boris, series 1, from Sylvain’s legacy, box of 90 cards, each card described on the back

    First of a duology by Ben Bova & A J Austin, dust jacket a bit scuffed, otherwise looks unread.



    2022 e-Picnic: Photo Album, 2022 Club Field Trip

    The club recently enjoyed a field trip…

    Photo by Lindsay Brown; insert photos, Joe Aspler

    June 18 Field Trip to Exporail

    Shortly after noon on Saturday, June 18, some dozen MonSFFen gathered, physically, face-to-face in the lobby of the Exporail Museum, located in the town of St-Constant, across the river, just south of Montreal. This outing marked our long-awaited but tentative return to in-person gatherings.

    MonSFFen will recall that the last time we gathered together in the same room for a club event was on the occasion of our March 7, 2020 club meeting at the downtown H?tel Espresso. Shortly after that meeting, the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared, lockdowns initiated, and all club events suspended until further notice! We soon opted to move our monthly get-togethers online for the duration of the pandemic, which, take note, is not yet entirely over, though considerably moderated. We continue to gather online every month, even as we prepare for an anticipated return to in-person monthly meetings very soon.

    Exporail houses the nation’s largest collection of locomotives, rail coaches and cars, and railroad equipment and paraphernalia, representing Canada’s railway heritage, dating back to the early days of steam and streetcars. Steampunk fans will surely delight in this museum, strolling among the elegantly appointed passenger cars, and the massive nuts-and-bolts steam locomotives, their cabs replete with a plethora of pipes and valves and levers.

    The museum also featured several exhibits devoted to the history of toy trains, and a sizable, operating HO-scale model-railroad layout, of particular interest to the collectors and scale-modellers in our group. Furthermore, we braved the day’s rain to walk about outside, where were parked on sidings additional engines and cars awaiting restoration. We both explored the museum on our own and benefitted from a guided tour of some of the notable trains in the collection, including a first-generation Montreal Metro car!

    For the benefit of those who were unable to join us on this field trip, we present, here, a photo gallery of our visit to the Exporail museum. (All photos by Keith Braithwaite unless otherwise indicated.)

    The main “Angus” pavilion was our starting point. From the lobby and leading into the cavernous primary exhibit area, a short passageway served to display an assortment of track-laying tools, uniform caps, signage, promotional models, toy trains, plaques, historical photographs, and other railroad accoutrements. Interpretive videos screened on television monitors, as well.

    Within the exhibit area itself, numerous locomotives, coaches, and railroad cars were grouped together on sidings amongst which we were able to meander, effectively taking a stroll through Canadian railway history.

    Street Cars, Montreal Metro

    In one corner and belonging to the Montreal City Passenger Railway was an early stagecoach-like vehicle, which had been pulled through city streets by a team of horses, presaging rail transportation.

    An open-air, sightseeing type was among several street cars on exhibit, including the “Rocket,” which we were able to board. Period advertising signage was reproduced as a detail of this car’s restoration.

    Lindsay Brown, seated aboard the “Rocket,” playing the part of “The Girl on the Train!”

    Regrettably out of service on this day is an operating street car that carries patrons on a brief tour around the museum grounds outdoors. It was undergoing work in a maintenance garage adjacent the Angus building.

    This operating street car was, regrettably, undergoing maintenance on the day of our visit. Usually, museum visitors are able to ride Number 1959 around the museum grounds.
    Club president Cathy Palmer-Lister makes her way past several trains, headed towards the Montreal Metro car on display in one corner of the Angus pavilion.

    Familiar to Montrealers was a first-generation Metro car, its sky-blue colour and white trim easily recognized. A vintage map of the Metro system, circa mid-1960s, was among the details featured aboard this car—the Metro then was but a fraction of the circuit it is today.

    Photo by Joe Aspler
    Mark Burakoff, Lindsay, and Cathy view the museum’s first-generation Montreal Metro car.

    Passenger Coaches

    Exporail’s collection includes a number of passenger coaches, from vintage to more modern, and we were able to view the interiors of some of these trains by way of an elevated platform.

    Moreover, we were able to board a couple of the coaches for a closer look at the ornate decorative flourishes of a bygone era, and such features as fold-out upper and lower sleeping berths, a rather compact washroom, and a coal-fired stove positioned at one end of the coach, providing heat for the entire car. Passengers seated closest to the stove were charged more for their tickets!

    Josee Bellemare, Cathy, and Warp editor Danny Sichel examine a fold-down, overhead sleeping berth.
    The upper sleeping berth and coal-burning stove aboard a vintage passenger coach.
    Seats convert into a lower sleeping berth.
    Lindsay relaxes at a window seat.

    We also boarded a mail car and learned about the pick-up/delivery system employed to move mail across the vast expanses of this country, in a time when carrying the mail was an important function of Canada’s railways.

    Interior, mail car.
    A luggage cart.
    Keith Braithwaite, Mark, and Dom Durocher pose next to a passenger coach. (Photo, Paula DuFour)

    The Age of Steam

    A highlight of our visit was the opportunity to view the many mighty steam locomotives in the collection, from smaller—relatively speaking—workhorse engines to formidable, giant powerhouses and streamlined behemoths, some of which we were able to board for a close-up look at the crew compartments. Given the enormous size of these locomotives, their cabs were a surprisingly cramped space to work for engineer and crew!

    Cramped seating in the cab of a steam locomotive.
    A steam locomotive’s “dashboard!”
    The coal goes in here!

    We were able, as well, to descend into a pit and have a gander at the undercarriage of one huge locomotive, and view, in a secondary pavilion, a couple of European-made engines, the showcase example of which was the beautiful, aerodynamic, A4-class “Dominion of Canada.”

    The mighty Alexei Despland!

    Lindsay and Mark beside the beautiful “Dominion of Canada.”

    Built in 1937 for British Railways’ London-Edinburgh line and originally dubbed “Woodcock,” this locomotive was cutting-edge railroad technology in its day. Renamed “Dominion of Canada,” it was rescued from the scrap heap in 1965 after having been put out of service, restored by British Railways, and shipped to Canada just in time for this country’s Centennial Celebrations in 1967.


    Also on view in this secondary pavilion was the exquisitely reconditioned “John Molson.”

    Diesel-Electric Locomotives, Boxcars, Snow Removal Equipment

    The age of steam gave way to diesel-electric power, and Exporail’s inventory includes a number of fine examples of these more contemporary locomotives.

    Lindsay is positively Lilliputian next to a colossal diesel-electric locomotive!


    There were on site a couple of boxcars, too, and this being Canada, special snow-removal equipment.

    A mammoth snowblower! (Photo, Joe Aspler)
    Alexei examines the giant snowblower.
    Danny is dwarfed by a snowplow!

    Model Railroading and Toy Trains

    The Angus pavilion also featured several anterooms dedicated to model railroading and toy trains. A large, finely detailed model of Canadian National’s number 5606, locomotive and tender, marked the entrance to these rooms, and within was spotlighted a toaster-sized model of an engine imported from England for service on Canada’s first railroad, the Champlain and St. Lawrence, running between La Prairie and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu beginning in 1836.

    Alexei, Joe and Annette Aspler walk behind a scale model of a Canadian National locomotive and tender.
    Immediately Above and Below: Model of a locomotive, Canada’s first railway.


    A few wonderfully intricate model railroad layouts were on exhibit, including a pintsized set-up enclosed within a suitcase! Glass display cases showcased a variety of miniature locomotives and railcars, the most popular and common scale among model railroaders being HO, or 1:87.

    A big, impressive HO layout occupied most of one large room, with operating trains snaking through miniature forest and mountain, tiny, lifelike town and city.

    Toy trains and accessories were featured as well, from simple wooden models to metal and plastic replicas of varying sizes and levels of detail. Several of the famous and very collectible Lionel electric trains were included, here.

    Photographer Keith is reflected in the glass case as he snaps toy trains.


    As the rain let up a little, we made our way outside to explore the many trains parked in the railyard—locomotives, passenger coaches, boxcars, flatcars, maintenance vehicles, all awaiting refurbishment.

    Recreated were a couple of passenger train stations and platforms, one of which harkened back to an era when passengers were segregated by gender as they awaited their train, the women in one waiting room, which was heated by a coal-burning stove, the men in the other, without any source of heat! The station’s ticket office was positioned between the two, with service wickets on either side. Luggage carts, and the office’s furniture and antiquated equipment completed the recreation.

    As the time came to put a caboose on our field trip, we made one last stop before departing: the gift shop! We left having enjoyed a most pleasant afternoon exploring a most interesting museum.

    2022 Club e-Picnic: Introduction

    Welcome to MonSFFA’s 2022 e-Picnic!

    Make your favourite sandwich or prepare a tasty snack, pour yourself a cool, refreshing drink, and join us for an hour or two, or for the?whole afternoon?as we get together online to chat via ZOOM and enjoy each other’s company!
    With the seventh wave now upon us and COVID numbers climbing locally, we’ve postponed our in-person club BBQ-in-the-Park until Sunday, August 28, by which time, we are told by authorities, the seventh wave should have dissipated.
    So, in the meantime, we’ll be getting together for a casual video-chat?this afternoon! No presentations, just light, informal programming, and the chance to catch up, discuss the latest in sci-fi entertainment, or share with the group thoughts on recent books read or screen sci-fi enjoyed. If you’re working on any nifty SF/F-related crafting or other projects, or perhaps recently visited a fun and interesting vacation destination, tell us all about it, and share any photos you snapped with the group!
    Do?join us for an afternoon of conversation and camaraderie right here, right now!
    To join our ZOOM video-chat, which will run throughout the next few hours, simply click here and follow the prompts: This Afternoon’s MonSFFA e-Meeting on ZOOM
    If you’re not fully equipped to ZOOM, you can also join in by phone (voice only); in the Montreal area, the toll-free number to call is: 1-438-809-7799. If you’re from out of town, find your ZOOM call-in number here: Call-In Numbers
    Also, have this information on hand as you may be asked to enter it:
    Meeting ID: 881 9398 4413
    Passcode: 150245

    Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association