Thursday, October 18, 2012

Science and SF Tidbits: October 18, 2012: Hard SF, Silky Electronics, and Exoplanets

Recent interesting science fiction and bioscience bits:

• Locus Online Perspectives » Stanley Schmidt: Art of Speculation »
How would you define "hard" science fiction? Analog editor and SF author Stanley Schmidt thinks most fans are getting it all wrong. From his interview with Locus:

‘‘ What I mean by ‘hard science fiction’ is actually pretty simple: there’s some element of speculative science or technology in it, which is so integral to the story that you can’t take it out without making the whole story collapse. [...] The second requirement is that there should be some attempt to make the science or technology speculation plausible.”
I agree with him. The focus on engineering and technology often causes stories with solid speculative biology and chemistry to be overlooked as "hard" SF.

• A musical interlude for Battlestar Galactica fans: Sound of Cylons
Hello Gaius my old friend ....

• Excellent Idea of the Day: Sci-Fi in Class : Discovery News »
Do you think high school level science textbooks should include science fiction references or examples? A recent study suggests that science fiction can stimulate students' interest in science.
Join the discussion on Google+.

• Jumping DNA rides aboard a virus, which targets a giant virus, which infects an amoeba, which infected a woman’s eye | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine »
Examination of the microbes in an infected eye turned up a zoo:
"It was carrying two species of bacteria, and a giant virus that no one had seen before—they called it Lentille virus. Inside that, they found a virophage—an virus that can only reproduce in cells infected by other viruses—which they called Sputnik 2. And in both Lentille virus and Sputnik 2, they found even smaller genetic parasites – tiny chunks of DNA that can hop around the genomes of the virus, and stow away inside the virophage. They called these transpovirons."
• ALPHA CENTAURI HAS A PLANET! | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine »
Exciting discovery: The Alpha Centauri star system has at least one Earth-sized planet! As the nearest star system to our own, it's a frequent destination for SF space travelers, from Lost in Space to Avatar.  The bad news: it's so close to it's star, it's definitely not another Earth:
"... the planet is baking hot, far too hot to sustain any kind of life as we know it, or even liquid water."
• Spider Silk Could Weave Biodegradable Computer Chips | Wired Science | »
Materials science turns to nature: Spider silk is very thin, stronger than steel, extremely flexible and can transmit light almost as well as glass fiber optic cables. Even better, the human body doesn't have a problem with implanted fibers and the components are biodegradable.  That means that there is the potential to use silk produced by spiders or silkworms to develop implantable biomonitoring devices that do not need to be surgically removed. And perhaps far in the future there will be electronic devices that can be composed, rather than producing toxic waste.

Top Image: Artist’s impression of the planet around Alpha Centauri B. Credit: ESO/L. Cal├žada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.orgReleased by ESO under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. More artist's images and diagrams can be found at

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