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The Science of Airships at Clockwork Alchemy 2021

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the science of airships
Hail, fellow adventurers! Clockwork Alchemy goes virtual this year, and tomorrow at 10am I'll be on a panel on the Science of Airships with moderator Laurel Anne Hill and fellow panelists Madeline Holly-Rosing and Mike Tierney. We'll be talking about everything we can fit in 45 minutes, including:
  • Zeppelins, dirigibles and blimps: what do all these terms mean?
  • The history of airships, starting with an airborne chicken.
  • The science of airships, including innovations for flight.
  • The failures of airships - what brought them down?
  • The future of airships - airships on the drawing board!

Sign up here, and the full schedule is also online.

We're the first panel, at 10am Saturday, and our panelists include:

Laurel Anne Hill [Moderator]

Laurel Anne Hill—author and former underground storage tank operator—grew up in San Francisco, with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. Her close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence her writing and her life. She has authored two award-winning novels: The Engine Woman’s Light (Sand Hill Review Press), a gripping spirits-meet-steampunk, coming-of-age heroic journey, and Heroes Arise. Laurel’s published short stories and nonfiction pieces total over forty. She has served as a program participant at many science fiction/fantasy conventions, including the World Science Fiction Con and World Fantasy Con. She’s the Literary Stage Manager for the annual San Mateo County Fair, a speaker, writing contest judge, and editor. And she’s even engineered a steam locomotive. For more about her, go to

Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the award-winning Boston Metaphysical Society graphic novel series. Previously self-published, it is now published by Source Point Press. The series also includes the award winning prequel novel, A Storm of Secrets, and an anthology.  After running eight successful crowdfunding campaigns, she published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.  Other comic anthology projects include: The Scout (The 4th Monkey), The Sanctuary (The Edgar Allan Poe Chronicles), The Marriage Counselor (Cthulhu is Hard to Spell), The Glob (Night Wolf), The Infinity Tree (Menagerie: Declassified), and the upcoming, The Birth (Stan Yak Vampire Anthology).

Michael Tierney

Michael Tierney writes steampunk-laced alternative historical fiction stories from his Victorian home in Silicon Valley. After writing technical and scientific publications for many years, he turned his sights to more imaginative genres. Trained as a chemist, he brings an appreciation of both science and history to his stories. His latest novel is Mr. Darwin’s Dragon. Visit his blog at

Anthony Francis

By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night he writes science fiction and draws comic books. Anthony’s best known for his Skindancer urban fantasy series of novels including the Epic eBook Award winner Frost Moon and its sequels Blood Rock and Liquid Fire, all following the misadventures of magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost trying to raise her weretiger daughter Cinnamon in Atlanta.

Anthony also writes the Jeremiah Willstone steampunk series, following a young female soldier in a world where women’s liberation happened a century early – and so, with twice as many brains working on hard problems, the Victorians invented rayguns and time travel. In addition to her debut novel Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, Jeremiah appears in a dozen other stories, including “Steampunk Fairy Chick” in the UnCONventional anthology.

Anthony is co-editor of the anthology Doorways to Extra Time and a co-founder of Thinking Ink Press, publisher of the steampunk anthologies Twelve Hours Later, Thirty Days Later, and Some Time Later. He’s the artist of the webcomic fanu fiku and he’s co-author of the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide. He’s participated in National Novel Writing Month and its related challenges over 20 times, recently cracking one million words written in Nano.

Anthony lives in San Jose with his wife and cats, but his heart will always belong in Atlanta. To learn more about Dakota Frost, visit or; to learn more about Jeremiah Willstone, visit; to learn more about Anthony and his appearances, visit his blog

You can also take a look at my previous presentations on the science of airships, which I've been doing on and off for about 10 years now, for more details ...

Hope to see you virtually there, or in the air!

-the Centaur

Day 167

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riker drawing

Quick Sharpie sketch of Riker from Best of Both Worlds, Part I:

riker headshot

The comparison below shows that the hair and eyes are OK; the beard doesn't line up.

riker comparison

Ah well. Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 166

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masego sketch

Masego from his amazing one-take performance on "Tadow" with looping artist FKJ. How did I do? Eh,  meh, it looks like I dented his face in compared to the original.

masego headshot

As usual, I missed the ~3 degree tilt of the head, and while dude is thin, I gave him a giraffe neck because I stopped measuring when I got to the shoulder section. Sigh.

masego comparison

Sigh. Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 165

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tos sketches

Quick Sharpie sketches of the Star Trek: The Original Series cast.

tos cast

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 164

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doc sketchy

Quick Sharpie sketches of the Doctors. Some came out better than others, but it gave me practice drawing 13 faces quickly, without the luxury of obsessing over each one.

doc griddy

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

He thinks he invented Java because he was in the room when someone made coffee

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... came up as my wife and I were discussing the "creative hangers-on form" of Stigler's Law. The original Stigler's Law, discovered by Roger Merton and popularized by Stephen Stigler, is the idea that in science, no discovery is named after its original discoverer.

In creative circles, it comes up when someone who had little or nothing to do with a creative process takes credit for it. A few of my wife's friends were like this, dropping by to visit her while she was in the middle of a creative project, describing out loud what she was doing, then claiming, "I told her to do that."

In the words of Finn from The Rise of Skywalker: "You did not!"

In computing circles, the old joke referred to the Java programming language. I've heard several variants, but the distilled version is "He thinks he invented Java because he was in the room when someone made coffee."  Apparently this is a good description of how Java itself was named, down to at least one person  claiming they came up with the name Java and others disputing that, even suggesting that they opposed it, claiming instead that someone else in the room was responsible - while that person in turn rejected the idea, noting only that there was some coffee in the room from Peet's.

Regardless, I dispute Howard Aiken's saying "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." Nah. Once you've forced an idea down someone's throat, they won't just swallow it, they'll claim it was in their stomach all along.

-the Centaur

Day 163

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Various studies of eyes, noses, and mouths ...

noses mouths

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Days 161 and 162

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another capaldi fail

Another rushed day, another quick sketch from memory fail. Despite having drawn Capaldi like 4 times in a row, when I try drawing without reference it just doesn't look like him. The above is day 161; below is day 162, when I decided to focus on just eyes. Again, I'm doing quick Sharpie sketches to force me to focus on shapes and proportions, where my biggest flaws are, rather than fine details of rendering.


those eyeballs

I swear, this has nothing to do with what's going on at Kill 6 Billion Demons right now:

your pal, gog agog

Oh, if you're not reading K6BD, you should.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur


Day 160

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capaldi sketch

Now that's better. Tilting the page, pencil roughs, and measurements of the face were critical here to getting the drawing better - though, even with careful roughs, I did that weird thing where one part of the face lines up and the other doesn't, causing a dent on the right side of the page when compared to the original below:

another capaldi headshot

Still, it doesn't line up too terrible:

capaldi comparison

I see a couple of places that need work, particularly my measurement of jawlines. Or, looking more closely, picking which line to emphasize in the jawline.

On to another subject tomorrow ...

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 159

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capaldi fail

Wow, this quick Sharpie sketch of Peter Capaldi from memory was a complete fail. I was trying to save time so I can crash early, but the Twelfth Doctor here ended up looking like a bad extra from Aeon Flux. Comparing to yesterday's reference shot (which I did not use, but nevermind) you can't make them line up, but if you try, the features need to be squashed about 80%, the hair about 90%, and the neck, well, the neck is a caricature and is not fixable by any amount of warping:

capaldi fail comparison

Oh well. Back to reference drawing (or leaving myself more time).

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur