Shared posts

27 Aug 13:35

The Keeper of Palmyra

by blackboardfiction
26 Aug 07:00

absquatulate: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

absquatulate: to flee.
23 Aug 07:00

quiddity: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

quiddity: the essential nature of a thing.
21 Aug 14:50

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Stoicism

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: With apologies to Massimo and to /r/stoicism.


New comic!
Today's News:
21 Aug 07:00

laconic: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

laconic: expressing much in few words; concise.
18 Aug 15:37

Roses & people.

by Jessica Hagy

card4674

The post Roses & people. appeared first on Indexed.

17 Aug 04:00

Back Seat

Hang on, let me scare the live raccoon over to the same side as the dead one.
13 Aug 07:00

ambisinister: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

ambisinister: clumsy or unskillful with both hands.
10 Aug 17:24

Nobody’s an island.

by Jessica Hagy

card4668

The post Nobody’s an island. appeared first on Indexed.

03 Aug 12:12

Rainfall By TeraS

by TeraS

The Queen of the Succubi is in a pensive mood of late. As I wrote this piece, a massive thunderstorm that come over, and the sounds that came brought this story along with them …

 

Rainfall
By TeraS

 

There are times when the Realm reflects the mood of the Queen herself. Most of the time, really almost all of the time, there is sun above, fine weather, the sort of day when all is right with the world. It seems to offer a hint, in some way, that Tera’s joy in being with others, helping them, sharing herself with them, is being reflected in the warm embrace that the weather gives to those within its lands.

The summer is, as a whole, quite long, and that allows for the joys of being on the beach, the twining of sundry tails, and, of course, all of the fun and games that those of the Realm, and those that know the way in, are able to enjoy. The entire season is warm and pleasant, and the evenings are even more so when even more intimate moments come in the heat of the night.

Then comes the fall. A time of fuzzy sweaters—red, of course, for Tera herself. Perhaps a bit more seductive than the bare skin of the summer, the fall brings enticing teases of what awaits when couples finish with the day, of leaves turning a most particular shade of red that seems to be an echo of the Queen’s own tail, and of retiring to cuddle with some hot chocolate. Autumn also brings the part of the year when the Queen’s powers are at their peak: her hair a bit more ebony, her tail and horns a bit more red, the glimmer in her so-green eyes just that much more captivating. And then comes the Grand Ball of the Realm, where all are welcome to share in the moment when the worlds are closest together, when the joys of a touch, a caress, a kiss, a moan, and a cry of ecstasy are at their peak. It is a time where the Queen joyfully gives of her all, wishing only that there is the joy of the moment for all around her to be shared and captured, bringing inspiration for all.

Following the heat of that moment within the cooler weather of the fall comes the winter, the time of year when the life of the Realm rests. A blanket of snow covers everything, allowing for the Realm to gather the energies of life which sustain. For those of the Realm, there is much time spent being bundled up as they go from place to place, of course. Eventually, all the succubi and incubi are lucky enough to have a certain knitter make them a special tail cozy, there are moans, followed by a race to their Eternals, beloveds, lovers, and so on to have that most needed of itches scratched in just the right way. Besides this, there are evenings spent by the fire, sipping hot chocolate—almost always in the nude, of course. The homes are warm and, as the evening is long, and something simply must be done to pass the time, the windows tend to get fogged over quite quickly, though no one really seems to mind that very much.

For the Queen herself, the winter brings time to consider, to mull over things as she is wont to do. However, as she was gifted with a rather special tail cozy and an attentive Eternal, she rarely finds herself not being occupied in the most passionate and captivating ways. While her Realm sleeps soundly throughout her passions shared, Tera herself rests in-between the moments which serve to rekindle her joys and love to be shared as always with all.

Then spring comes, the Realm waking up once more from the sleep of winter: the first shoots of new life springing from the ground and the sun peeking out from the clouds as they thin away, slowly, over time. As the cold gives way to the warmth returning, there also come the rains. The rain falls here and there, as it does, not caring for where exactly it does so. It brings with it the waters that quench thirst, make the life of the Realm blossom, and more. For some, the rains are seen as being a bother sometimes: a picnic brought to a close too soon, a dash for cover at the last moment. They look out from underneath an umbrella, or an awning, or from indoors to see the rain fall and await the time when the sun returns once more.

For the Queen, the rains reflect two sides of her. Sometimes, when the rains are fiercely falling, the thunder sounds, and the lightning flashes, it is the reflection of her mood at that moment, perhaps a reflection of her remembering something from her past that makes her wistful, or sad. Another time it might be some pain in the tail she is dealing with that is getting to her. Most of the time this tends to be some bureaucrat or other duty that she doesn’t particularly care for, but accepts … in her own way. Though some of these visitors remember to bring an umbrella with them, as it always seems to rain just as they leave her presence, and Tera always seems to softly giggle in amusement as the clouds open on them.

But there are other times, when the rain is falling in a soft mist, drifting from the skies above, when things are different. In these moments, the rain is pleasant, almost soothing as it drifts upon the Realm and those there. Somewhere in the Realm, on these days, someone looking at the right time can find the Queen out in the rain, watching it fall from above. She stands there, holding a red umbrella, waiting. That in itself wouldn’t be odd, almost normal: red jacket, black top, and so on; all quite normal. At least until she lowers the umbrella and, in the split second between being protected by it and her clothing being dampened, she stands there bare to the rains which continue to fall. The mists coat her skin, adding a sheen to her body, the light making that glow a bit more than what one might expect.

Her hair dampens slightly, draping against the skin of her back, over her curves, hiding her form—just slightly, but not too much so. Her horns glint as the rain continues, as does her tail. As her skin gains just a bit more sheen and slickness from the rains, the occasional rivulet of rain collects into a stream that travels down her chest, over her curves. That stream might dip into her navel, tickle over a hip, and then cascade along her thighs. If there is a bit of wind, her body cools, just slightly, goosebumps sparkling over her skin, and, as they do, she licks the moisture from her lips leaving the most interesting smile behind as she enjoys the moment.

In this moment, it is more obvious to those who look that she is connected to the life around her. She feels the joys, the anticipation of the summer to come with its heat, the fall with its power, the winter with its contentment. But over all of this comes the spring and the promise it brings. She tilts her head back, to feel the rains caressing her cheeks, a soft kiss to remind her that she is the promise of her Realm in all things. She embodies and ignites the joy, passion, love, desire, seduction and ecstasy.

The rain may fall at other times, certainly. But, in this moment, she knows that the rain does not simply fall. It uplifts her. It gives her hope for all.

And her hope, like rainfall, sustains all of the souls that she has touched, will touch, and has been touched by, and all the souls those souls touch. Her hope gives life to all creation.

05 Aug 07:00

twitterpated: Dictionary.com Word of the Day

twitterpated: excited or overcome by romantic feelings; smitten.
29 Jul 20:23

Assume 'Nurture' And See What Happens...

by Zak S
Players do an important bit of worldbuilding for you every time they make a character. If they choose a half-orc, that suddenly means your setting definitely has human and orcs. If they have a crowbar, that means someone invented crowbars.
What's in the Hool Marshes? Something

Here's a way to squeeze a little more worldbuilding out of every PC at the table. It's based around some simple principles:

-It's nice to have some regular old villages and whatnot to drop on the map
-Making regular old villages and whatnot is boring
-They're a little more interesting if they have a relationship to the PCs
-Even if the PCs die and get replaced, the part of the map they created just by existing is there forever, so they've added to the world even after they're gone.

Pick up any player's finished character sheet...




1. Is the character from the city, the country, the woods, or what? Often this'll be established or strongly implied by the character or player right out of the box, and some character gen systems even nail it down for you--the urchin background in 5e heavily implies a city, for instance.

If not, roll d100 for the place the PC came from:

1-30 City (in which case subsequent rolls may be about the whole city or just a neighborhood)
31-70 Rural (like villages, farms, etc)
71-85 Wilderness
86-90 Rootless group (group of hunter-gatherers, caravan of actors, etc)
91-95 Castle or fortress
96-00 Someplace weird and setting-specific like an eternal combat flotilla or zeppelin-city (maybe wait until you've figured out a little more below before deciding what exactly)






2. How common is the PC's class in their home?

Roll d8:

1-Rare
2-6 Common unless it's a spellcasting class
7 If the PC is a thief, wizard or druid, the class is common, if not, as 8 below.
8 The place is specially known having a lot of members of this class (for example, if the PC is a fighter, the place has a large military encampment, if they're a cleric, it has an important and active cathedral)





3. How common is the PC's race where they came from?

Roll d10:
1 The PC is an exception
2-3 The place is a mixed society
4-9 The dominant race is the same as the PC unless they're tiefling, half-elf or half-orc
10 Dominant race is the same as the PC





4. Take a look at the PC's ability scores and roll below to see if any of them might be a legacy of their upbringing. If previous rolls show the PC's class is common in their home, ignore the ability score associated with that class (for example, if the PC has a high int and wizards are common in the PC's hometown, we know why everybody there has a high int).


Unusually High Charisma? Roll d8
1 Sexy local gene pool
2 The place harbors a vigorous service-economy (bartenders, palm-readers, carriage-drivers, etc) and the locals have thereby developed a reputation for silver tongues
3 The notoriously dangerous nature of local politics, feudal conflict, wildlife, gang activity or the like gives all natives a certain edgy romance
4 The place is considered somewhat of a center of taste, sophistication, and style
5-8 The PC or their family is just unusual




Unusually Low Charisma? Roll d8
1 Hideous local gene pool
2 It's boring there: if isolated, the place is the far from the center of the action, if central, the place is so like its neighbors as to be unremarkable
3 Local customs and habits are considered kind of broadly obnoxious outside the area (100% chance inhabitants are proud of this)
4 Folks here either drink alone lot or learned manners from people who do
5-8 The PC or their family is just unusual





Above-average Dexterity? Roll d6
1 The landscape in the area is treacherous (steeply mountainous, full of angry wolves, etc)
2 A dominant industry or sport in the area requires nimbleness (pearl diving, juggling etc)
3 Thieves are common in the area
4-6 The PC or their family is just unusual




Below-average Dexterity? Roll d6
1 Food is plentiful in the area and inhabitants are typically sedentary or overweight
2 A dominant industry in the area requires no particular agility (accountancy, etc)
3 People there have distinctly deformed feet, hands or spines
4-6 The PC or their family is just unusual




Above-Average Wisdom? Roll d6
1 The place is home to a major temple, church or other spiritual center
2 There is an ineffable harmony to the place, which the inhabitants absorb by osmosis
3 The place has recently experienced a great and chastening social upheaval (war, revolution), the lessons of which are fresh in the minds of the populace
4-6 The PC or their family is just unusual




Below-Average Wisdom? Roll d10
1 The gods hate and shun this place on account of the behavior of its past rulers
2 The place is home to a powerful but hopelessly superstitious temple, church or other spiritual center
3 The place is essentially a sucky place to live, antithetical to human pleasure and prosperity and those who remain are a self-selected group of lunatics
4 The place is fundamentally unsettling and Twin Peaksish rendering all locals a wee bit wobbly
5 The government or administration is unusually good at both sucking and propaganda, rendering those who live here unusually out-of-touch with reality
6-10 The PC or their family is just unusual





Above-average Strength? Roll d4
1 A major industry in the area is mining or suchlike brawny task
2 The folk of this place are warlike and might-thewed
3-4 The PC or their family is just unusual




Below-average Strength? Roll d4
1 There's a lot of tapestrymaking or other work here requiring little physical heft
2 It is a wealthy place and many of the inhabitants scorn physical labor
3-4 The PC or their family is just unusual





Above-Average Intelligence? Roll d8
1 There is a university, monastery or other center of learning in this place
2 This is a crossroads, wayfarers bring ideas from all over
3 There is or was once great wealth here and denizens have access to public amenities which abet learning such as an observatory or zoos
4 The place is isolated, requiring those who live there to create ingenious or original solutions to basic problems of survival
5-8 The PC or their family is just unusual





Below-Average Intelligence? Roll d6
1 The place was founded by possessors of a dogmatic philosophy antithetical to learning
2 The place is isolated, but still wholly typical of a larger culture, accepting what comes in but producing little that is original
3 Something in the water makes folks there Not Quite Right
4-6 The PC or their family is just unusual





Above-Average Constitution? Roll d4
1 A robust and rugged environment promoting general health
2 The place is well-administered ensuring most inhabitants have access to health care
3-4 The PC or their family is just unusual





Below-Average Constitution? Roll d6
1 A poisonous, famine-prone or polluted place
2 An inbred environment, natives lack hybrid vigor
3 The place is decadent and pampered, ensuring inhabitants are poorly-prepared for the outside world
4-6 The PC or their family is just unusual






5. Money/Social Class. If previous rolls haven't yet established whether the PC's hometown was rich or poor, take a look at the PC's own markers of social class. In Old School games this is typically the starting money rolled but there can be other indicators: Paladins or those with the Aristocrat or Noble background are high-status for instance. If the character is unusually rich or poor roll below...

Roll d6
1-2 The PCs relative wealth or lack thereof compared to the average reflects the prosperity or poverty of their place of origin
3-6 The PC or their family is just unusual




6. Extra languages.  If the PC has any extra languages...

Roll d6 for each extra language:
1-2 The extra language is often spoken in the PC's place of origin
3-6 The PC or their family is just unusual





7. Weapons

Roll d6 for each of the PC's major weapons...
1-2 The weapon is a typical hunting, self-defense or military weapon in the area the PC came from
3-6 The PC is just unusual in having skill with this weapon




8. Special abilities, backgrounds, skills and trades 

In some systems (AD&D by-the-book and 5e for instance) your PC will have non-class non-race associated abilities or trades (my AD&D half-orc fighter Slovenly Trull can sew for instance).


For each of these abilities or descriptors, roll d10
1 The PC's home is a renowned center of this trade
2-7 This trade is common in the area the PC hails from
8-10 The PC is just unusual in having this ability

Alright, go to it.


---

And now a word from our sponsor...
Here's an adventure by Kelvin Green--his stuff
is neat, check out Horror Among Thieves


31 Jul 19:06

The Demise of the Public Library?

by Dover Public Library
The public library system has been predicted to become obsolete for as long as I can remember. It was thought that with the rise of technology and the ease of access to various pieces of information, that there simply wouldn’t be any need for the institution any longer. I was one of those people that thought […]
01 Aug 06:23

sarahtaylorgibson: In honor of my parents arriving in North...



sarahtaylorgibson:

In honor of my parents arriving in North Carolina on Lammas, the ancient Celt holiday of harvest, prosperity, new beginnings, and domestic togetherness, I baked a wreath of sweet blessed bread to bring to the new house. For those of you who don’t know, I observe the Celtic sabbats along with Christian holidays, and see them as opportunities to mark the cycles of God’s Earth and re-connect with His creation, as well as honor my heritage. 

I adapted an Estonian Kringle recipe and made filling with cinnamon for financial prosperity, almonds for success in new endeavors, nutmeg for passion in my parent’s marriage, vanilla for potency, and lots of brown sugar for sweetness and harmony. I drew a cross and symbols of blessing in the flour I rolled the dough out on, and even though I forgot to add the splash of holy water I was planning on, I still think the loaf came out full of love and good vibes for my family’s new stage in life. I can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share it with them. (Also the bread was baked while a blue moon was overhead, which is always a good thing!)

31 Jul 15:00

If only you were just someone else entirely, you know?

by Jessica Hagy
29 Jul 22:04

How to tell a centipede from a millipede.A centipede has 1 pair...



How to tell a centipede from a millipede.

A centipede has 1 pair of legs on each body ring, and a millipede has two on most body segments. Hence millipedes will generally have plenty more legs to go round. As far as I know this is fairly foolproof. Though generally speaking there are more obvious ways to tell, such as millipedes looking more like long armoured nice round worms and usually moving slowly, and centipedes zipping around while generally seeming more long-legged and insecty, with longer antennae at the front and longer angled back legs, sometimes with hooks for defence.

If you were offered to pick one of them up, you’d probably pick the millipede.

Also, in case you were tempted to think they are insects, they’re not because insects have six legs. They are arthropods (loosely meaning jointed feet) along with insects, spiders, scorpions and crustaceans, but in their own subphylum of, aptly named, myriapoda (loosely meaning many legs).

Check out core insect anatomy for a sketchplanation insect refresher.

27 Jul 12:12

Seduction By TeraS

by TeraS

Call this work today … something of a statement. Think of this, in a way, as an expression of the Queen of the Succubi, what she believes in, and why things are as they are …

 

Seduction
By TeraS

 

“Seduction is, always, more sublime than sex.”

As she spoke those words, Tera looked out over the lecture hall, examining the reactions of those who were there. Noting the response, she pressed onward: “Seduction can be an expression of the beauty of the one who seduces. Perhaps in a dress that allows a teasing glimpse of thigh, offering the mystery that awaits beneath the fabric, lurking there in the shadows, an expression of the thoughts within the one who is captured in the beguiling consideration of what awaits.”

Stepping away from the lectern, brushing her right hand through her ebony locks, and beginning to pace, she considered: “Within seduction comes the moment when, if one is truly capable of seducing, one can inspire great admiration from the other. Drawing the desired one closer, like a moth to a flame, calling out to the imagination, and offering that which someone desires and dreams of … or even inspiring that desire.”

After one step, she turned and smiled: “Or, more rarely, seduction can create awe. It can cause, sometimes, an epiphany. The sudden realization that the seducer, or seductress, has caught the prey, has hold over another’s thoughts, and, then the seduced wonders how to express that awe”

Tracing a finger over her lips, the Succubi Queen continued: “Occasionally, there are those that know, clearly, they are being seduced. Oh they know, intimately, they are, but even in knowing there is a certain admiration of that. To know there is someone that could, in spite of oneself, find the way into one’s soul. To open that door, look within, and whisper the things which are simply irresistible.”

Regarding one figure in the front row, who seemed to be captivated, the raven-haired red-tail graciously focused her attention as she explained: “In the seduction comes the ability to inspire; to give an artist something to paint that creates a legend; to cause a musician to write a sonnet that will effect untold souls to be, spreading the allure indefinitely; perhaps even to cause a writer to tell a story that will live on eternally.”

Tera walked closer to the enchanted listener, passing by and winking: “One never knows how the seduction will unfold or what will come from it. If nothing else, a dream, at least … boundless pleasures if such are to be.” Continuing, she picked up a small bottle of water and rolled it between her palms as she considered: “To seduce is heavenly, a gift of the Divine. To be the essence of seduction is to be a reflection of that divinity: all of the joys, passions, pleasures and more. A seductress becomes a small part of the infinite, holy, transcendent potential of everything that can be.”

Her Majesty considered the group once more, gathering her thoughts for a moment. Then she pressed on: “To be seduction is a noble pursuit. Anyone can be sexy or evoke lust. There are so few who can be truly seductive, and that is an important distinction. To snap one’s fingers is not a challenge. To evoke desire, love, and passion, by being seductive, that is a very special and cherished thing. It is a lofty goal, taking much commitment to that purpose within oneself. There is the easy path of sex and that alone—which leaves nothing—or the challenge of being bewitching, enticing, inspiring, inviting, irresistible desirable, all at once, and, through that expression, finding more within oneself, as well.”

Tera waved her bottle of water towards them all: “How magnificent to be seductive! How superb! How blessed! How wonderful the moment when one comes to be the seductive being one is meant to be!” She was silent for a time, allowing her words to echo in the hall, before continuing: “We are seduction. Our kind lives for sharing a touch, a kiss, a look. We exist for the pleasure of that connection. It is said that man cannot live by bread alone. In the same vein, we cannot be complete by sex alone.”

She smirked slightly: “Of course, that isn’t to say that we can’t enjoy the sex, too.”

As a small wave of laughter passed through the hall, the Queen opened her water and took a sip. Setting it down on the lectern, she returned to her pacing as she considered once more: “To many we are simply sex. That is their mistake, for they do not see all that we are. They are seduced not by our being, our souls, who each of us are, but are, instead, taken by the idea that sex is what we care about, as if all else is irrelevant. Their self-delusion means they miss out on the wonder of true seduction.”

Again, the teasing smile: “Personally, I would like dinner, at least.” The giggles from the right side of the hall were quite clear and Tera favoured them with a warm smile: “And a movie, but then I digress a bit, don’t I?”

Stepping in front of the lectern, she crossed her arms over her chest, looking out towards those in the hall: “To be seductive is to be all that you are, to be challenged to use all of your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is not being a caricature or a shadow of oneself. It is to be yourself to the fullest, to exist as you are, who you are, and, through being so, allow the seductiveness that exists within you to come to the fore, thus becoming more than you ever were.”

Tera’s tail moved slowly behind her as he moved towards the end of her talk: “Recall that I noted that seduction is, always, more sublime than sex at the beginning. This is the key point to be remembered. Sex is easy for us. To collar someone, make them a thrall, is as simple as breathing. To walk into a room, strike up a conversation with someone, and have them willingly give themselves to their passions … that’s a challenge.” Waving her right hand towards them all, she noted: “Seduction without challenge is nothing to be proud of; in fact, it isn’t really seduction. There’s more pleasure in being all we are than not. We are more, and that, most of all, matters the most.”

She tilted her head to the left, smiled, and then concluded: “We matter as the incarnation of passion, pleasure, seduction and more. Seduction is, obviously, one part of the puzzle. Putting the pieces together, knowing when one does, and becoming whole … that’s amazing, and I hope each of you will find that moment as well.”

The Succubi Queen closed her eyes, hearing the applause from the hall, and then, with a smile, a wink, and a gleam in her eyes, she departed, to find herself out in the Realm once more.

There were those needing her, waiting to be seduced by their own desires through her … She looked forward to the next souls that called to her and helping them all to be seduced in their own ways …

27 Jul 11:00

#705 Cereal Port

by treelobsters
25 Jul 22:54

nigra-lux: GERZHEDOVICH, Yaroslav (b. 1970, St....



nigra-lux:

GERZHEDOVICH, Yaroslav (b. 1970, St. Petersburg)

Corona Mundi
2012
acrylic on paper, 16 x 12 cm

21 Jul 19:52

Maze of the Blue Medusa Available

by Zak S
This is probably my most D&Dish painting. You can now order a print of it here.







It's designed so it can actually be keyed and used as a map






You can also get it as a throw pillow or a shower curtain or a bunch of other things.

21 Jul 05:01

Me At Every Con Ever Yep – DORK TOWER 21.07.15

by John Kovalic

Happy Fun Meet For the First Time Action Hour

23 Jul 11:00

#704 Meeting Expectations

by treelobsters
21 Jul 14:46

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Rapture

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: There is a lot of money to be made servicing the stupid.


New comic!
Today's News:

 I'm afraid we didn't quite get as many BAHFest submissions as we needed. Especially for the west coast show. So, if you know anyone super clever, please let them know the deadline has been extended a week!

21 Jul 02:01

Photo

by joberholtzer


20 Jul 11:00

#703 Forte Knocks

by treelobsters
19 Jul 06:40

stuffbhappenin: July the 19th is National Ice Cream Day and...







stuffbhappenin:

July the 19th is National Ice Cream Day and this is not one of those fake holidays that someone made up but is not official, this is legally a holiday in America, if it weren’t on a Sunday the banks and post office could close and it would be legal.

Lincoln made Thanksgiving official, Woodrow Wilson did the same for Mother’s Day, well in 1984 Ronald Reagan for some reason made the 3rd Sunday in July officially National Ice Cream Day, or as was said then 

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim The 3rd Sunday of each year Ice Cream Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” I jive you not, so far it hasn’t made the splash the other two have because seriously we need encouragement to eat ice cream… in July!

18 Jul 19:13

Photo



15 Jul 23:18

Hark, A Vagrant: Bessie and Benkei




buy this print!

OH

Look who made good on a throwaway twitter mashup idea from 2013

It really doesn't make sense but their names sounded good together! I had a little time on this book deadline so I sketched it up quick for you. It was fun anyway!

Bessie

Benkei

I have started selling original art through The Beguiling store. This is new to me!

And as always, The Princess and the Pony is in stores. Here is a link roundup of related articles there! Some cool things in it, like a visit to Time magazine.

I didn't want a pony as a child, but I did want a cat really really bad. Here is a little comic about that cat.
14 Jul 00:00

New Horizons

by xkcd

New Horizons

What if New Horizons hits my car?

—Robin Sheat

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently flying past Pluto.[1]Ever since astrophysicist Katie Mack pointed out that "New Horizons" appears in the lyrics to A Whole New World, I've gotten it stuck in my head every time I've seen something about Pluto. For the last few days, it's been giving us our first clear look at the world, and it should be making its closest approach at the moment this article is posted. Either that, or hitting your car, I guess.

It's hard to imagine how that could happen, even if New Horizons had headed to Earth by mistake. Unless there's been an especially strange freeway accident, your car is currently within the Earth's atmosphere. All that air stops spacecraft from flying into the ground at full speed. But maybe you took a wrong turn and ended up near Charon, or maybe you drove into a freak extremely-low-pressure system, leaving no atmosphere above you. It could happen!​[2]It really, really couldn't.

New Horizons is about the size and weight of a grand piano, and is currently screaming along at about 14 kilometers per second. If it hit your car, it would be pretty bad for both vehicles.

How fast is 14 kilometers per second? Here's my favorite comparison for putting that speed in perspective: If you were standing at one end of a football field and fired a gun toward the other end, right while New Horizons flew past you, the spacecraft would reach the far end zone before the bullet made it to the 10-yard line.[3]In that same amount of time, a speeding car would travel about an inch.

This high speed means that by this afternoon, New Horizons will be on its way out of the Pluto system,[4]People often ask why New Horizons is just doing a flyby, and not sticking around to orbit Pluto. The answer is: If you can figure out a way to do that, go for it. Pluto is really far away, and to get a probe there before your career ends, you have to go really fast. When you're going that fast, it's hard to stop. (At least, if you want to stop in one piece.) and over the coming days and weeks it will let us know what it saw today. It can't talk to Earth and take photos at the same time, so right now it's spending all its time taking pictures and gathering data.

Later today, the spacecraft will pause the data-gathering for a moment to send a brief message to Earth. No results—just, "Hey, I'm still alive". If it is still alive, that is. It's flying at terrifying speed through a part of the Solar System we've never visited. There could be, say, a bunch of small rocks there.[5]In case of disaster, New Horizons has sent back a few snapshots and data dumps right before the encounter, so at least we'll have those. Or a car.

New Horizons will send the "I'm okay" message in the afternoon, but it takes light four and a half hours to get back to Earth, so it will get here around 8:53pm Eastern US time—so if you're going to have a Pluto party, that's the time to do it. You can tune in to NASA TV to watch the nervous people in mission control wait for the signal. You'll know it worked if there's lots of cheering and hugging.

For more details on the mission, check out Emily Lakdawalla's comprehensive Planetary Society post, What to expect when you're expecting a flyby, which has dates, times, and background on all the equipment. (For up-to-the-minute coverage, her Twitter feed is probably the best place to go for updates, context, and excitement.)

So what does all this mean for your car?

Passenger cars have "crumple zones," which are areas of the car designed to fold up and absorb some of the force of an impact before it reaches the passenger cabin. Unfortunately, in a hypervelocity impact, materials like metal aren't nearly strong enough to hold together. Instead of crumpling, they splash. New Horizons and your car's crumple zone would splash as bits of them passed through each other, and the resulting spray of metal would do the same to the rest of your car. From a distance, it would probably look approximately like this.

Here's the good news: NASA will have to pay for your car. Under the Convention on the International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Object, NASA and the US government would clearly be on the hook for the damage. And, since you wouldn't be considered at fault in the accident, in most states insurance companies would be legally prohibited from raising your premiums.

The situation would be slightly complicated by the fact that this would be a nuclear accident. New Horizons flies too far from the Sun to use solar panels, so it's powered by the heat from a bunch of lumps of plutonium-238. The container holding the plutonium is sturdy, since it's designed to survive atmospheric reentry (and has done so). However, it's not designed to survive entry into a Chevy. The container and the plutonium inside it would be splattered across the landscape. The US government will not only have to replace your car, it will probably have to replace much of your neighborhood.

This has actually happened before. In 1978, the Soviet satellite Kosmos 954, which carried a nuclear reactor, reentered the atmosphere and disintegrated over Canada. The Canadian government spent millions cleaning up the radioactive debris near Yellowknife. They demanded over $6 million (CAD) from the Soviets for the cleanup, and were eventually paid $3 million.

Hopefully, New Horizons is currently flying past Pluto. But don't worry; if it somehow hits your car instead, the US government will cover things. To find out which one it is—Pluto or your car—tune in to NASA TV.

And watch your driveway.

14 Jul 22:03

Because people are wonderfully complicated.

by Jessica Hagy