Monday, July 16, 2007

Biology in SF bits 7-16-07

Here's a roundup of interesting links from the past week:

Science in Science Fiction

Philip Ball's current Nature Muse column is about an article by CJ Efthimiou and R.A. Llewellyn about bad physics in the movies
But Hollywood's scientific absurdities do raise some interesting questions. Can we spot physics abuse? And when we see superheroic feats, do we sense that laws are being broken?

Our understanding of sporting prowess comes at the same questions from the opposite direction. No one supposes that baseball fielders or football players use newtonian mechanics to predict trajectories; rather, they seem to have a superior intuitive sense of its dynamical consequences.

The answers might imply interesting things about how much evolution has honed our senses to appreciate the laws of physics. British biologist Lewis Wolpert has argued persuasively that, on the contrary, much of science depends on subverting intuitive reasoning about the world4
Diane Kelly at Science Made Cool writes about becoming a cyborg.
The idea of melding people with machines has been a staple of science fiction for a very long time. Brian Stableford, writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, identifies its first major use in E. V. Odle’s 1923 novel The Clockwork Man. In that story, the eponomous man from the future has a clockwork mechanism built into his head that lets him move between dimensions. His machine is an enhancement; an add-on module that gives him abilities beyond what normal humans can do. It’s the great-great grandfather of the BrainPals in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. And more often than not, when an author sticks a machine into a character it’s a means of examining whether your humanity is diminshed if there’s a machine attached to you that you can’t ever take off. Let me tell you one thing, it beats dying.

These stories are usually set hundreds of years in the future, but people are becoming cyborgs now. It’s not to become stronger, faster, or smarter. People become cyborgs because it’s a better option for living with a chronic condition, even when it isn’t life threatening.
Science Made Cool is the official blog of Zygote Games, which sells bio-fun board games Bone Wars: The Game of Ruthless Paleontology and Parasites Unleashed!

Blog Carnivals

First off there were two science fiction-related carnivals this week.

The first People of Color in Science Fiction and Fantasy Carnival has been posted: Painted With A Bitter Brush at Willow's Live Journal. As N.K. Jemison points out in "No more lily-white futures and monochrome myths" science fiction futures are usually depicted as much whiter than present-day America:
Star Trek, for example. The show is set several hundred years in the future. White men are in the severe minority now on this planet, destined to become far more so if current demographic trends continue. Yet the Enterprise has a crew overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Another example is the current longest-running SF show on TV, Stargate SG-1, which has pretty much relegated people of color to the role of superstitious space-primitives (carrying space-spears, no less). There’s a whole planet of ‘em, or two or three. But there still aren’t many in the show’s version of the American military.
If you haven't done so already, be sure to read Pam Noles' 2006 essay "shame" in Infinite Matrix written in response to the SciFi version of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea starring a blond blue-eyed Ged. If you are interested in contributing the official PoC SF Carnival blog has submission information. They are especially interested in links to or about SF&F Illustrators of Color.

Also this week was the 15th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans at Feminist SF - The Blog! with a great roundup of posts about the panels at this year's Wiscon. The Feminist SF Carnival blog has submission information.

Book Bits and Free Fiction

John Scalzi has created an e-book version of his novel of genetically-engineered sheep interstellar diplomacy, The Android's Dream, that is free for overseas service people.

Robert J. Sawyer has made a number of his short stories available for free online. Colin Harvey at Suite 101 has reviewed his novel Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax trilogy) as part of the Essential SF Library series.

The June Issue of Hub Magazine has provides the story "More than a Butterfly"by January Mortimer for free (pdf version, Mobi Pocket version, MS Reader version). As SF UK Review sums it up: "It’s a story of genetic manipulation, fashion, butterflies and one woman’s passion for her work. There are some nice touches that help to flesh out the main character, showing her to be a complex person while hinting at the complexity of the subject without getting bogged down in technicalities." (via Andrew Wheeler)


Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain is being developed as a miniseries for A&E.

SciFi Weekly reviews Kyle XY: The Complete First Season - Declassified DVD.

SciFi Chick has an update on the upcoming release of the Heroes Season 1 DVD set.

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