Saturday, November 01, 2008

Biology in Science Fiction Roundup: November 1 Edition

Here are a few biology in science fiction-related links from the past couple of weeks.

Written Word

Jennifer Rohn of Mind the Gap has another post about the best way to write about science in your fiction. Her lab-lit novel Experimental Heart was released today.

Jo Walton writes at about "Telepathy and Tribulation: John Wyndham's The Chrysalids"
Wyndham really was a terrific storyteller. He manages to evoke his oppressive world of “Watch Thou For The Mutant” and burning the blasphemous crops is evoked in impressively few words. I have no idea what I’d think if I was reading this for the first time now. As a child I identified totally with David and his telepathic mutation. I felt that Sophie, Rosalind and Petra were solidly characterised, whereas now I see them as barely more than plot tokens. Wyndham’s attitude to women is exceedingly peculiar. It goes way beyond the times he lived in. But the book does pass the Bechdel test, which is pretty good for a first person male novel—the narrator overhears two women have a conversation about a mutant (female) baby.

The complete series of the dinosaur-time portal show Primeval will be released on DVD on November 4.

The Science Not Fiction blog continues its series on the Eleventh Hour by looking at the the latest episode that features children with Heller's Syndrome.


Cash @ Science and Super Models explains "Everything I Need to Know About Science I Learned From Watching "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" has a portal for Repo! The Genetic Opera (affiliate link), with video clips and an interview with director Darren Lynn Bousman. Apparently there is more to it than gore, singing and Paris Hilton.

Amazon: The movie depicts a bleak dystopian future – do you think that something like this reality is possible in our lifetime?
Bousman: Yes, I do. A big portion of this movie is about perfecting our bodies, and what measures we would go to to reach perfection. Isn't that what is happening now. We all our guilty. Rather that mean tanning, or going to the gym. We all want to look good. We all want to feel good. But how far would you go? Would you get breast implants? Botox? How about a new heart? A better looking FACE? And in the end, what would you be willing to pay?
SciFi Scanner has a slide show that looks at "how The Fly has morphed over the years"

Bloody-Disgusting has posters for the film Infected.

Cool Bioscience

Japanese scientist Makoto Nakamura is developing a printer that sprays cells rather than ink droplets. His ultimate goal is to be able to print 3-dimensional organs like the heart. (via Discoblog)

SES: Science, Education & Society explains the difference between "genetic" and "heritable".

The European Space Agency's Huygens probe has found new evidence that life could have arisen on Saturn's moon Titan.

Scientists are recreating the circuits that regulate amoeba behavior in an attempt to understand primitive "intelligence":
Di Ventra's team thinks there is an intrinsic memory storage device within the amoeba. As with the human brain, that device can strengthen and store memories for some time. But if the memory isn't used, it gradually fades away. Now they have identified a potential storage device. Now they have identified a potential storage device. The amoeba's interior contains a watery sol – a solid suspended in liquid – within a thick viscous gel. The sol flows through the gel like water through a sponge, creating a network of low-viscosity channels. Those channels are strengthened as long as the amoeba continues to respond to a static environment, but if that environment changes the channels gradually break down and a new network appears as the amoeba adapts. For a short while, though, the amoeba retains a “memory” of those earlier conditions. Di Ventra's team took advantage of the development this year of memristors – electrical resistors that retain a memory of earlier voltages or currents applied and vary their resistance accordingly – to design a simple circuit that models the amoeba's gel-sol system.

The ASU School of Life Sciences Podcast Series has some episodes of scifi interest:
John Horgan debated Ray Kurzweil at the Singularity Summit in San Jose:
I reiterated my old argument that the lack of progress in treating cancer and mental illness reflects the primitive state of biology, genetics, neuroscience and hence the improbability of Kurzweil’s claims. Ray reiterated his old argument that neuroscience and other fields will soon reap the benefits of exponential progress in information technologies. I added that the Singularity is hurting the credibility of science at a time when science is already under attack. Ray shrugged off this complaint, because of course his vision rests on reasonable projections of current scitech trends, not on faith.


  1. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Hi Peggy

    I hope the family emergency isn't too dire. Ithought you might like to know that I reviewed Jenny's book on one of my blogs and on


  2. Jenny's book sounds entertaining - I've put it on my "want to read list" (which just keeps getting longer). Thanks for he link to your review.


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