Sunday, November 16, 2008

Biology in Science Fiction Roundup: November 16 Edition

Some recent biology & science fiction-related links:

General

Arvind Mishra has an overview of The First Ever National Disuccussion of Science Fiction: Past, Present, Future, held in Varanasi, India from November 10-14.

If you like both "Lost World" and Americana you'll probably love Dinosaur Kingdom in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where the Civil War meets dinosaurs (via Metafilter)

Written Word

Lots of memories of Michael Crichton. A few that talk about the biology in his books:
Jennifer Rohn posts about natural-sounding ways to have your scientist characters introduce science background into your novel.

Peter Watts has finished an outline for a new novel (not a completed novel like I first wrote, bummer). Like Blindsight it is based in neuroscience:
What we got here is a Blindsight spinoff; a thought-experiment on the nature and evolution of Singularities, past and future; a cast of characters who don't understand their own actions (one of the themes of the book is that it's neurologically impossible to understand our own true motives; the best we can do is make guesses after the fact); all told through the eyes of a man whose brain is literally being rewired throughout the course of the story.
There's a CJ Cherryh link roundup at Feminist SF.

Television

A Fantasy Magazine Randy Henderson explains Why We Need Scientist Heroes Again

The LA Times Show Tracker blog interviewed Fringe writer Jeff Pinkner, who claims the shows plots are based in science fact:

A: There’s always a degree of responsibility we feel, but all of our science is grounded in reality. We’re not telling any stories that are in the world of potential.

Q: If you’re playing with the reality anyway, why rely on scientific fact at all? Couldn’t you just completely make something up that sounds plausible and go with that?

A: Yes. But our rule is we don’t want to do it if it’s totally made up. I’m sure people would tell you everything we’re doing is totally unbelievable, but for us, if we set out to do an utterly fictional show, it would probably be easier in some ways, but it would be less exciting. I think we all quite like the idea that we’re working in the realm of the real, as opposed to the entirely made-up. Again, it’s not necessary to watch the show and see how it’s ripped from the headlines, because it’s not. But there’s a certain quality of authenticity that it’s much easier to create if you know the parameters.

Science Not Fiction reviews the Primeval DVD:
The other big stars of the show are the creatures, beautifully and realistically animated CGI creations–it’s not a surprise that they’re good, since the team that produces them was responsible for the BBC documentary Walking With Dinosaurs. For Primeval, some artistic license does get taken, but the creatures that run, swim, and fly through the show are very believable, and prove you don’t have to travel to another planet to find creatures and worlds that are utterly alien.
Science Not Fiction also has another look at science in The Eleventh Hour: Staying Safe From Scary Germs

Movies

Hero Complex talked to Guillermo del Toro, who told them that Swamp Thing is "one of the last Holy Grail projects that is still out there."

Repo! The Genetic Opera has been released on a small number of screens, and the reviews are in - and pretty bad. Says the LA Times:
The film is bad -- not good-bad, tacky-bad or fun-bad, just plain awful and nearly unwatchable. "
On the other hand, some fans in LA have already seen it 4 times. Paris Hilton groupies, perhaps?
And io9 has an interview with writer and on-screen graverobber Terrance Zdunich. He says there's a real organ trade behind the fiction:
... when Darren Smith and I were researching and doing the writing of Repo!, we actually had some really cool interviews and some cool stories we found with surgeons and transplant doctors. We just studied what's really out there. The reality is, a lot of what's happening in Repo! isn't as far-fetched as it may seem. And certainly, perhaps not that far off in the future. Organs are used as currency. Maybe not at Walmart, but there is a market around body parts — and ironically, right now, at least in the States, the only people that don't profit from organ donations are the actual donors. Everyone else literally makes a killing off of it. And in other countries, there are tons of stories, in South America, for example, of people who are selling, like, a kidney to fat rich Americans. And they're doing it for a price that you'd be kind of like — "Woah, you're losing a kidney for just, you know, a Whopper combo super-sized? That's pretty intense." And even recently, the Chinese government, which has denied it for ages, came clean on the fact that they had been in many cases executing prisoners and then taking their organs and selling them again to rich, fat Americans. So I don't think it's that far off. Do I ever think that Big Brother's going to come in and actually on-the-books sanction murder? I don't think so. But do I think that there's perhaps a lot of social commentary and satire in what we're doing? Yes, that was definitely intentional.
Mike Brotherton lists ten great SF novels that would make terrible movies. He doesn't think people would want to see Connie Willis's plague novel, The Doomsday Book, even though it's about the survivors; Forward's The Dragon's Egg is too alien; and the smart dolphins of Brin's Startide Rising would "look dumb on film". I'd watch any of those over the rumored Ridley Scott movie based on the Monopoly board game.

SF Signal has a trailer for the new animated CGI movie Monsters vs. Aliens. Looks cute!

Slice of SciFi reports that there may be a new Planet of the Apes movie in the works - not a sequel to Burton's recent version, but another "reboot".

Wired reports on "Six Real Gadgets Minority Report Predicted Correctly", including neuroscientists being able to "predict mistakes" (no, not murder, though). I'm not sure it's that clever that the 2002 movie "predicted" technologies that were almost certainly in the pipeline at the time it came out. It's still nifty stuff.

Cool Bioscience

Carl Zimmer has a great science fiction idea: aliens whose skin turns green from the plants they eat. It's based on the real science emerald green sea slugs that turn green from plant matter they retain in their skin from the algae they ingest.

Japanese scientists cloned a mouse that had been in the freezer for 16 years, and have speculated that extinct animals like the wooly mammoth could be next. Aparently a Pleistocene Park (ala Jurassic Park) is already in the planning stages.

Scientists have identified the genetic changes that allowed vampire bats to "subsist on a diet of pure blood."

Lifehacker has clips from the 60 minutes program about recent developments in brain-computer interfaces.

Post-Weird Thoughts has a bit on a plant named Midori that has its own blog. Somehow Midori's bioelectric signals are translated into words - sounds like science fiction to me.

The New York Times ran an interesting series of articles about epigenetics. The Knight Science Journalism Tracker has an overview and links. Two of my favorite science writers contributed: Natalie Angier on the meaning of "Gene" and Carl Zimmer on "the rest of the genome".

Hourglass is the blog carnival of biogerentology: the science of aging. Read the latest edition at psique.

Ian Musgrave at Panda's Thumb points to a cool interactive web exhibit exploring the origins of life on the Boston Museum of Science Web Site.

Genetics & Health rounds up information on the "hard questions" about the personal genome revolution.

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1 comment:

Arvind Mishra said...

Thanks a lot Peggy , for the mention of first ever national discussion on sf in India.