...the version I got from Gutenberg.org is the version with the foreword about his fictional planets Niffelheim and Uller, and the planets' respective chemistries, and the biochemistry of the latter planet. This foreword is incredibly detailed. I would never think of doing this kind of work on describing the biochemistry of a silicon-based lifeform; it's too exotic for my little brain and I never took any chemistry worth speaking of, anyway.
The chemistry of Niffelheim's environment revolves around a flourine cycle. It rains hydroflouric acid. Chlorine triflouride can be found occurring naturally there. The world has life on it, though it's not very complex life. I'll tell you what: I certainly wouldn't want to visit that place. Holy crap.
...the animal life on Niffelheim has teflon bones and/or shells.
This foreword was written by John D. Clark. No wonder there was so much detail.
And so once the foreword is dispensed with, you get on to the actual novel. I'm about halfway through it, and this is the kind of stuff Piper is known for writing.
* * *
This kind of thing is the reason I like SF. I'm a tourist at heart; when I read SF I want to read about things happening in exotic locations: the Ringworld, for example, or the gas torus in The Integral Trees; Niven's an expert at that stuff. Forward's Rocheworld series was good stuff, too. This book by Piper is more of the same, with part of it taking place on a planet with a reducing flourine atmosphere--phew!
Unfortunately, I kind of stink at coming up with stuff like that. I've done a few interesting things with the "geography" ("astrography"?) of my universe but nothing really elaborate.
Part of it is that I'm afraid I'll trip up if I do something too exotic, that someone will read the story and say, "Hey, did you consider this?" and it'll ruin the entire premise. *sigh* Another part of it is that all of the really good ideas have been done. If I set a story in a gas torus, I'm copying Integral Trees. I can't do a ringworld, same reason. I do have a form of Rocheworld in my universe but it doesn't have an atmosphere (shared or not) and it's a pretty crappy place to live. I've never set a story there--at least, not yet--and probably won't, unless I get a wild hair in an unlikely place...and even if I do, the dual planet won't be integral to the happenings of the story; it'll just be background.
No one's done anything with a Dyson sphere, but a Dyson sphere is too big. Bigger than the Ringworld, which isn't easy to accomplish; and anyway the canon for my universe can't support one, at least not in our galaxy.
...still, I'm creative enough to write some interesting stories (IMHO) so WTF.
* * *
Apropos of nothing, the sun has abruptly ceased to produce sunspots. It's been blank for 3 days now.
It's the first time since much earlier this year that the sun has been blank; there have been only 39 days this year without sunspots, compared to 260 days last year. I had figured that the sun had finally cranked up into Cycle 24, and that the spotless days were over for a while; and I thought that even if we did get another spotless day or two they wouldn't come consecutively.
I'm wrong: it's 4 days in a row now, not 3.
Still, one's coming over the eastern limb of the sun, so the spotless run will end. But even so, a multiple-day run of no sunspots is an unusual thing. Normally the sun has few to no spotless days, even during solar minima; certainly when the solar minimum ends and the sunspot counts begin to climb the sun doesn't abruptly go blank for several days at a time, not normally.
So something is still going on; the sun is still in some kind of weird phase where it's not as active as it should be, all things considered.
Well, I guess we'll see. Maybe this was just the last hurrah for the solar minimum, or something.