Free SF and Science Books
- May Highlighted Stories: Natural History on Alternate Earths « Biology in Science Fiction: Free Fiction »
Looking for some free fiction? Like alternate history and old-fashioned science? If so check out this month's free story highlights, with tales set on Earths with biology that's not quite like our own...
- University of Chicago Press offers a free e-book every month. This month's offering is Carl Zimmer's A Planet of Viruses. The blurb:
"[it] presents the latest research on how viruses hold sway over our lives and our biosphere, how viruses helped give rise to the first life-forms, how viruses are producing new diseases, how we can harness viruses for our own ends, and how viruses will continue to control our fate for years to come. In this eye-opening tour of the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life as we know it, we learn that some treatments for the common cold do more harm than good; that the world’s oceans are home to an astonishing number of viruses; and that the evolution of HIV is now in overdrive, spawning more mutated strains than we care to imagine.
Science, SF and the Arts
- The Art of the Brain: Turning Illness into Art
"Elizabeth Jameson developed a fascination with the brain after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she turned her fascination into art. " A video about the artist: http://youtu.be/EUimgOr9D6s
- Author Spotlight: Linda Nagata (Lightspeed Magazine)
An interview with Linda Nagata about her story "Nightside on Callisto". The tech in the story is partially inspired by biology. Nagata says:
I see the pressure suits and air skins as a kind of biotechnology that adapts and extends the tricks of living organisms. I find nanotechnology fascinating from the bio perspective, in that we—all living things—are built up from tiny components. I was a biology major in college, and took the usual classes covering physiology, cell structure, evolution, ecology, and it was fascinating stuff. Then in my last semester I took a lecture class on biochemistry and that was revelatory, because it pulled together everything that had gone before, providing a mechanism for the macro-scale effects. When nanotechnology became the buzzword, I looked at it mostly as a means toward designed life.
- Get A Close Up Look At Rick Baker’s Creations For ‘Men In Black 3’ »
The aliens in MiB3 will have a retro 50s B-movie look to them.Cool Bioscience
- David Brin on the Need to Restore Optimism to Science Fiction » io9
David Brin's new novel Existence is set in the near future and one of the issues it considers is the possible uplift of other species:
"One of the novel's sub-plots goes into how difficult — but not impossible — it would be to get started on a project to alter and "improve" the functional intelligence of dolphins and/or apes. It seems a worthy goal, if the end result might be other minds, treated as equal citizens, broadening our perspectives and adding wisdom to a wider Earth Civilization. It addresses a wider definition of personhood (as we'll surely do with AI)."
- The Physics of The Hulk's Jump | Wired Science | Wired.com »
Physicist +Rhett Allain analyzes the Hulk's jump. Does the Hulk really have the density of cork?
Still unanswered: what fabric are the Hulk's pants made of that allow them to stretch so much without ripping?
- Africa in SF – The Prequel | Cheryl's Mewsings »
Lots of SF mentioned I haven't read yet.
- Neuroscience Fiction in the Newspapers (Guardian)
It seems the mainstream press is more interested in telling a story that will sell newspapers than providing accurate coverage of science. Not too surprising, I'm sorry to say.
" To summarise, it seems that when neuroscience findings are covered by the mainstream press, they're invariably interpreted in questionable ways in order to support political ideology or predetermined views and theories, up to and including discriminatory stereotypes - for example about homosexuals."
- Video: Avatar inspires scientists to plan brain transplants »
In the wake of the recent popular movie "Avatar", Russian scientists now have plans to transplant people's brains into robotsApparently Russian scientists have real plans to transplant a human brain into a robot. I am just a wee bit skeptical
- Brainball - Cassils Vs. Choi (YouTube)
Brainball is a game where the ball moves away from you as you relax. Since the only way to win the game is to be relaxed, I would surely lose...
- An Optical Illusion that Explains the Origins of Imaginary Monsters » io9
Monsters are all in your mind - and why chanting "Bloody Mary" while staring in the mirror will freak you out.
- How will we build an artificial human brain? »io9
George Dvorsky has a pretty good overview of the state of research into building an artificial brain.
- Dolphins that help humans to catch fish form tighter social networks | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine »
At least 3 generations of humans and bottlenose dolphins have helped each other fish in this Brazilian fishing village. It turns out the dolphins that spend more time helping humans seem to form closer social networks amongst themselves.
- Glowing Pygmy Shark Lights Up to Fade Away (National Geographic)
Pygmy sharks glow as a form of camouflage.
- Male water striders evolved antennae to grab females by the eyes | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine »"
The worst sex you have ever had pales in comparison with what female water striders have to put up with" Water strider mating sounds pretty unpleasant. Yikes!
- Smart materials to aid camouflage »
Scientists at the University of Bristol have developed artificial muscles that mimic the color-changing ability of squid and zebrafish.
"These materials, and this approach, is ideal for making smart colour-changing skins or soft devices in which fluid is pumped from one place to another.
"This could help us create a whole host of new technologies, ranging from active-camouflage and clothes that change colour and pattern, to a smart second-skin that can cool you when you are hot and keep you warm when you are cold."
- "Zombie Ant" Fungus Under Attack—By Another Fungus »
Even among the fungi, life is an ongoing battle.
- Powering the Cell: Mitochondria (YouTube)
Imagine you were shrunk to the size of a molecule, Fantastic Voyage-style. This is what you would see if you explored the inside of a cell. Amazing.
- Scientists switch mouse's genes off and on with radio waves »
This is very cool: Scientists have found a way to use radio waves to regulate insulin production in mice.
- Ross Douthat: Aging Japan evokes science fiction future »
Is modern-day Japan like "Children of Men" come to life? Hopefully it's not that dire. The problem, it seems, isn't biological but sociological:
"Japan is facing such swift demographic collapse, Eberstadt's essay suggests, because its culture combines liberalism and traditionalism in particularly disastrous ways. On the one hand, the old sexual culture, oriented around arranged marriage and family obligation, has largely collapsed. [...]