Sunday, August 26, 2012

Science and SF Tidbits: August 26, 2012

Some of the science and SF links originally posted on Google+Biology in Science Fiction on Google+Twitter , and Facebook  over the past week. Follow Biology in Science Fiction for more!

Free fiction:

Innsmouth Free Press
Like weird fiction? Check out Innsmouth Free Press's June 2010 issue, which "takes the New England out of Lovecraft". It's free to download.
"The mixture of writers, settings and voices is eclectic, from well-known authors such as Ekaterina Sedia and Charles R. Saunders to other, lesser-known-yet-equally-compelling storytellers. The stories are set in France, South America, India, Canada, and many more locations. The characters are as diverse as the writers, with Hmong painters and Japanese empresses caught between the lines."

Science fiction writers on science, and science in SF:

From the article:
"Isaac Asimov is credited with saying, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka' but 'That’s funny...'" Since you don't want anyone excited about your work, due to the likelihood they will ask annoying questions, you need to avoid this reaction at all costs. Under no circumstances should your work cause anyone to raise an intrigued eyebrow."
Interview: Kim Stanley Robinson »
Lightspeed Magazine interviews Kim Stanley Robinson. They talk about space colonies, economics, and why futurologists declaring that "the singularity" is like bad science fiction:
"I think it’s a misunderstanding of the brain and of computers, in effect. We are underestimating how complex the brain is and how little we understand it, and we’re overestimating how much computers might have a will or intention. I think the intention will always stay with us, and the machines will be search engines and adding machines—enormously powerful and fast binary, digital things—but they’re not going to do the singularity as I understand it, this notion that machines will take off on their own and leave us behind."
David Brin writes about animal communication and the possibly painful path to "Uplift" of non-human animals.

Why SF sometimes needs to be scientifically inaccurate for sake of the story.

Jo Walton looks at what she calls anthropological SF where " one lone traveler, from a spaceship culture that is recognisably connected to our future, as an outsider exploring the culture of a planet populated with low-tech and culturally fascinating people."

Is anyone outside of Hollywood surprised that scientists are regular people?

Science In My Fiction » Blog Archive » Science Fiction Fails Immunology »
At Science in My Fiction Amanda Barrett points out that many science fiction stories ignore the reality 
of the way the human immune system works.

Event Recap: Medical Miracles: Cutting Edge Health Technology | The Science & Entertainment Exchange »
The cutting edge of medical technology: I wonder which will turn up in next summer's blockbusters or the fall medical dramas.

Cool Bioscience

What some grad student scientists do when procrastinating writing their thesis: diagram dragon evolution. It's some hard-core old-school phylogeny based on several centuries worth of dragon art. Very cool! (Also possibly a t-shirt)

Water bears are amazing creatures that can even survive the vacuum of space. Science Friday gives you the whole scoop.

A (sensationalized) look at how scientists at the National Institutes of Health used whole genome sequencing to trace the outbreak of a deadly bacterial infection.

From butterfly wings to pine cones, nature has inspired human design. Why not let millions of years of evolution do some of the design work?

Bioluminescence is most commonly found in marine organisms. This is a rare example of a land-based organism that bioluminesces. Sadly the glowing roaches may now be extinct.

Is GAATACA-style genetic testing currently possible? Not yet, but we're getting closer.

Could identical twins get away with murder? Scars and fingerprints may differ. And there are molecular differences the detection of which seems more like science fiction than science at the moment.

Neuroscience and beautiful brains

A great article about how to recognize bad neuroscience, based on a lecture by Oxford Neuroscientist Prof. Dorothy Bishop. Dorothy Bishop's original presentation is here.

Yoshiki Sasai's research into the development of the nervous system has moved from frog embryos to mammalian stem cells. He's been able to grow an eye and parts of the brain in vitro. What's next?

Winners of the Brain-Art Competition. Beautiful brains!

Watch neurons dance to hip hop. It's a petri dish party!

The search for extraterrestrial life and habitable planets

The The New York Times looks at the current status of Gliese 581g, a planet that may exist in the habitable zone of it's star - just far enough away so that surface water is possible, but not so far that it's frozen.  The trouble is that it still isn't clear if Gliese 581g even exists. 

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait looks at the search for extraterrestrial life. I totally agree with his conclusion:
"So when will we find life in space? If it’s out there, then my hope is: very soon."

We're going back to Mars in 2016!

For creators:

Imagine Science Films | Submit Your Film »
The journal Nature is one of the sponsors of the Imagine Science Film Festival, and they are still looking for entries: 
• ISFF seeks films, that effectively incorporate science into a compelling narrative while maintaining credible scientific groundings.
• ISFF seeks films that have a scientific or technological theme and storyline, or that have a leading character who is a scientist, engineer, or mathematician.
• The scientific content needs to be presented in a compelling, narrative-driven and accurate manner.

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