Monday, August 13, 2007

Biology in Science Fiction Roundup: August 13 Edition

There doesn't seem to have been much biology-related SF news from the post week. Maybe I'm not reading enough blogs? Or maybe it's because the only SF TV show premiering was the disappointing (and non-biological) Flash Gordon on SciFi. Anyway, here are a few tidbits:

SciFi Weekly reviews the Cartoon Network movie Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, which has the same characters as the Ben 10 series.
It's business as usual when the dastardly Dr. Animo is attempting to turn a nuclear reactor into a DNA bomb that will de-evolutionize the world. Gwen, who'd really rather be shopping at the mall, and her grandfather, Max, are literally all tied up in the midst of Animo's evil plan. Luckily, it's 10-year-old Ben Tennyson to the rescue in the form of Heatblast, one of the 10 alien creatures he can change into thanks to the alien device known as the Omnitrix.
It premiered last Friday night, but probably will be shown again. Check our local listings!

Discover Magazine tells us "What You Can Learn from Zombie Moves": science, consumerism and the soul.

USA Today talks to physics professor Paul Halpern
about science on the Simpsons, and his new book "What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe." Despite the title, he tails a fair bit about biology:

In one episode, Homer makes a tomato-tobacco hybrid plant by putting plutonium in the soil. Plutonium in the soil would not produce a hybrid "tomacco" plant, Halpern says. But there have been documented cases of grafting together tobacco and tomato plants to produce a tomato plant with traces of nicotine.

In another episode, Bart and Lisa find a strange three-eyed fish in a river near Mr. Burns' power plant. To counter the idea that nuclear power produced the mutation, Mr. Burns launches an ad campaign portraying Blinky the fish as the next step in evolution through natural selection — a "superfish."

But natural selection takes generations, Halpern says, and successful varieties must maintain a survival advantage over others. To prove his assertion, Mr. Burns would have to track three-eyed fish over time to see whether the extra eye allows them to spot food more quickly or elude predators.

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