Radio Active #18: Finding Serenity Contest, OgreCave and Integral Trees

I managed to take a break from my ongoing home improvement efforts and record a podcast! This one opens with an announcement about Radio Active’sFinding Serenity book contest, and then launches into reviews of the OgreCave Audio Report, the Librivox audio book project, and Edge of the Edge podcast. The show wraps up with a review of Larry Niven’s excellent thought experiment novel, The Integral Trees.

Getting the Podcast

You can get the podcast in two ways:

Show Notes

  • Starblazers Theme Song
    • Since we don’t have one of our own yet…
  • Show & Site News
    • Home Improvement
      • I came home from work on Monday and saw that half-mad look in my wife’s eye, you know, the sort that comes from either sneaking a peek at the Necromonicon or having spent the entire day with a grumpy two and a half year old. Decided that caulking the tub and shower so she didn’t have to was probably a better idea than knocking out the podcast. Sorry guys.
      • The joys of home ownership: geeks with power tools. Speaking of geeks and stereotypes — a while back Mur Lafferty had an essay about being pregnant as a geek and how it mess with everyone else’s expectations. Home improvement’s like that for guys — if something breaks it’s just naturally assumed that hey, you’ll know how to fix it. And I don’t. Not at all. Key to getting work done: listening to podcasts with the iPod shuffle.
    • “Finding Serenity” Book Contest
      • Giving a way a copy of the book “Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly”, a review of which is available on Nuketown.
      • To enter, e-mail me at with the subject line “Finding Serenity Giveaway” and I’ll randomly pick one person to win the book. Submissions need to be received by 10/22 and the winner will be announced on the 10/23 show.
  • TSFPN Promo
  • Sites of Note
    • OgreCave Audio Report
      • Weekly to biweekly round-up of game industry news coupled with rants and commentary. Several different hosts from a variety of backgrounds, including one who’s a shop owner. Provides a good overview of the gaming industry.
    • Librivox
      • Attempting create audio records of as many public domain books as possible. And they’re looking for volunteers.
    • Edge of the Edge
      • Geek podcast based in Bethlehem, PA, which is the next city over from Easton in the Lehigh Valley. A sci-fi loving, new media designing child of the 80s. Kind of like me … except he plays racquetball. His podcast includes commentary, movie reviews and occasional geekiness, though most of that’s moved to another podcast he’s doing, called Phasers on Stun.
      • Also see: Phasers on Stun
    • Weyerbacher Beer
  • Halo Soundtrack: Rock Anthem for Saving the World
  • Book Review: Integral Trees by Larry Niven
    • By Larry Niven
    • Del Rey
    • 480 pages
    • Buy it from
    • In the distant future, Earth’s authoritarian world government is seeding worlds throughout the galaxy via colony ships. One such ship, the Discipline, never reaches its destination. Instead it encounters “the smoke ring”, a huge gas torus surrounding a neutron star. Comprised of oxygen and nitrogen, the “ring” is capable of supporting life, albeit life that must survive in a free-fall, zero-g environment.
    • Something goes wrong aboard the Discipline while investigating the Smoke Ring, and its crew is forced to flee the ship and colonize the ring. 500 years later the book opens to find the descendants¬†of humanity have evolved into their own subspecies¬†adapted for life in zero gravity and with little memory of the far distant Earth.
    • Some of the humans have adapted to living in gigantic “integral trees” that are hundreds of miles long and end with forested “tufts”. I won’t go into the physics here, but suffice it to say that Niven figured that the gravitational forces at work on the trees would create areas of low gravity near the ends of the trees. That’s where the humans live … right up until the point where their tree, which grows too large, breaks apart. Check out the math [Web Archive]
    • Meanwhile, humanity is being watched from Discipline, which still survives, as does its artificial intelligence, Sharls Davis Kendy who is finally able to restore contact with his long-lost crew as the book progresses and the refugees from the integral trees struggle to find a new home.
    • Awesome exercise in world building, in many ways better than the more famous Ringworld. Characters have more depth and are less stereotypical. It helps that the entire novels take place apart from Niven’s Known Space novels, freeing up a lot of baggage.
    • It can be difficult to visualize exactly what Niven’s describing, but the book has charts, and if you spend a little time working at it, you can wrap your brain¬†around the ideas without too much difficulty. Gotta love a book that makes you work!
    • Followed up with a sequel, called the Smoke Ring, which nicely builds on the earlier work and brings the entire story to fruition. While I like the idea of Ringworld more, these two books are probably my favorite of Niven’s work.
  • Outro
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