Posts Tagged ‘Science Fact’

Some fungi, viruses and bacteria have evolved a spine-chilling way of being transmitted from one host to another. They turn their hosts into witless zombies.  Say what?  But this is the subtitle of a decidedly non-fictional article,”Real-Life Zombies that Are Stranger than Fiction” by Chris Baraniuk, published earlier this week on BBC.COM.  To quote Baraniuk further:  The zombies we know from fiction are ferocious, flesh-eating post-humans.  And while such stories have never come true, nature is full of disturbingly similar cases of zombification among plants and animals.  Sometimes the parallels are striking.  And moreover this isn’t something new.  While the “victims” thus far seem to be confined to such lower life forms as insects and spiders, at least one zombie-inducing parasite will attack frogs.

So are humans next?  I have a story, “Swarms,” coming out on Earth Day, April 22, in MOTHER’S REVENGE (Scary Dairy Press, see March 8, et al.), that takes a similar spin from possibly mutated ichneumon wasps — another insect of interest in itself.  But according to Baraniuk, some ants, at least, have been so affected for 48 million years.

Interest whetted?  Then gird your stomach and take another big swig of green beer, then check it out by pressing here.  But do so at your own risk as, to quote its author once more, [t]here is something particularly disconcerting about the idea that an animal’s behaviour could be drastically changed by an infection or parasite, but it is a phenomenon well-established in nature.

Move over Soyuz (cf. December 12), it looks like NASA has a new heavy-lift rocket ready to be on the launch pad next year.  And now there’s some talk that its maiden voyage could be a manned one.  No, not to Mars yet, just a lunar gallery-1458845021-slsloop-around for now, but apparently this is the one that may be used to go there eventually as well.  But see for yourself via “NASA Is Considering a Manned Flight for First SLS Launch,” by Jay Bennett, on POPULARMECHANICS.COM by pressing here.  And if that is intriguing see, also by Jay Bennett, “All You Need to Know NASA’s Mammoth SLS Rocket in Less Than 3 Minutes” by pressing here.

So go the news cycles, days in which nothing happens at all, then periods where it all piles up, one or two happenings every day.  And so, today, a twofer the first of which is by William Herkewitz via POPULARMECHANICS.COM, “Behold Bat Bot, the First Flying Robot Bat.”  Yes, really, but not necessarily intended as an aid for blood drives, but landscape-1485967968-batbotrather activities where drones might otherwise be used, except they’re in close proximity to people.  That is, if there’s an oopsie, even mechanical bats are softer than something with four little whirling, sharp rotors.  And besides that, they’re cool!  But a robot bat does provide, it seems, some unique design problems, for more on which one can press here.

Then, actually a day before, what should be met in the computer cave mailbox but my authors’ copy of MEET CUTE (see December 31, 11, et al.), with my own tale of flying beings, “Butterfly.”  This is a small book of flash fiction concerning unexpected encounters between pairs of people, some romantic, some not so, but all with a touch of the unusual to them.  In this case, my story met up as well with an illustration by Marge Simon, but that wasn’t necessarily surprising — Marge and I being friends for some years, I had told her about it.

Edited by Kara Landhuis, MEET CUTE can be found on Amazon by pressing here.

On the evening of November 9th, 1989, the Cold War came to a dramatic end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Four years ago another wall began to crumble, a wall that arguably has as much impact on the world as the wall that divided East and West Germany.  The wall in question is the network of paywalls that cuts off tens of thousands of students and researchers around the world, at institutions that can’t afford expensive journal subscriptions, from accessing scientific research.

On September 5th, 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, created Sci-Hub, a website that bypasses journal paywalls, illegally providing access to nearly every scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it. . . .  

This one’s a bit weird, that is that I’m picking it up for this blog.  I’m a writer of fiction, so let’s tag this one “science fiction” although it’s actually about real-time research right sci-hub-websitehere and now.  It’s about a worry I have about copyright, that the length a work remains in copyright after an author’s death is far too long.  And the problem is that it’s automatic, it’s not a case of an author’s heir having the option of extending protection for his or her work, but that the protection is in force even if the heir, a grandchild or niece or nephew or even conceivably a great-grandchild, etc., may not even know a work exists.

So now you’d like to republish the thing, and you’re even willing to pay a royalty, but who do you ask to get permission?  And how do you find out?  Or, most likely, if you’re not willing to reprint it illegally, do you just give up, allowing the work to remain in obscurity until even the memory of it is dead?

For me, as an author, I’d rather be pirated than forgotten — that’s my opinion — but I just write fiction, plus some poetry, so who really cares?  But what about published knowledge in general, what about scientists on the brink of an important discovery who need to research other work in their field, perhaps skimming thousands and thousands of pages, some in journals no longer published?  No longer in libraries?  Or if available, at a cost that can’t be afforded, and that’s just to read it?  It turns out academic publishing has its own rules, too, and these may be even more restrictive to the point of preventing research — not encouraging new work and new publication like copyright law was originally intended to do.

Which leads us to today’s email trove, and “Meet the Robin Hood of Science” by Simon Oxenham on BIGTHINK.COM about what the scientists themselves are doing, which in these waning days of an at least politically weird year seems to add some hope — at least for me!  For more, press here.


The “town” being Earth, of course, and you probably knew it even though it doesn’t get mentioned all that often.  But, President-to-be Trump aside, here’s an honest tip of the hat to the Russians courtesy of THEGUARDIAN.COM via Steph P. Bonchini’s THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, “Why the Soviet Space Workhorse Soyuz Is Still Going Strong — 50 Years On” by Robin McKie, for which press here.  Ah, nostalgia (and what a weird opportunity to have all the tags begin with an “S”)!

Mentioned last post, proofreading poetry, and this evening the task has been finished.  We may recall the absence of the orange-colored picture of VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) in the center column (cf. March 16) and hints of a new edition looming.  We’re one step closer as proof sheets arrived just before the weekend, the reading and corrections on which (largely concerning spacing issues for two very long poems, “Dreaming Saturn” and “Chinese Music” — what are these about?  buy the book when it’s out and see for yourself) took a fair bit of the weekend to go through.  But final corrections went in this evening (with possibly now a new problem concerning pagination) so that’s another step completed, at least for the OCTOPODIDAEmoment.  Ah, the writing life — it never  ends, does it?

For octopus fans (see April 25, January 14, et al.), UPWORTHY.COM has brought a followup concerning, in part, an eight-armed diva named Rambo (Rambette?) who takes pictures of people.  The article is “Scientists Gave a Camera to an Octopus and She Only Needed Three Tries to Learn to Use It” by Thom Dunn, also including some things you may not have known about tentacles, and can be found here; and which also links to another fascinating look at cephalopod intelligence with an essay on some moral implications thereof, “Why Not Eat Octopus?” by Silvia Killingsworth on NEWYORKER.COM, for which press here.

A lovely mid-April day today, the sun bright and warm after an at-best mixed spring.  And the Weather Channel says more is to come through most of next week!  But what of the vampires?  Will they be doomed to ever-shortening nights, fearful to go out in the sun by day?  Or is there a way to bring the sun’s power inside, even into one’s coffin, for power not only by day but night as well?

Enter Jarad Jones on UPWORTHY.COM with the latest in scientific prowess in “How Do You Power a Solar Panel Without Sunlight?  These Scientists Have an Awesome Answer.”  But let’s hear a bit from the horse’s own mouth:

Yes, the cumulonimbus cloud is truly the kryptonite to the solar panel’s Superman. . . . 

For some areas of the world, the push toward clean, renewable solar energy has faced an uphill battle due largely to climate constraints and regional weather patterns.  With environmental experts predicting that solar energy could account for two-thirds of all new energy generated in the next 25 years, these areas are increasingly at risk for missing out on this largely untapped goldmine.


Scientists from China just unveiled an “all weather solar cell” that could turn even gloomy weather into glorious electricity by generating energy from raindrops. . . .

And that isn’t all!  Scientists at Binghampton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York have suggested a second method of harnessing the sun, even at night, by using bacteria.  But for the rest, it’s time to read the whole article for oneself by pressing here.

Now, what will science offer to do with the moon for year-round werewolfing?

So another list, but it might be fun, compiled by James Gaines on UPWORTHY.COM, “14 Elephant Facts You Can Use to Impress People at Parties (If They’re Into Elephants).”  Curious?  Press here.

That’s aside from humans, of course, and Koko the gorilla is also taken as a given — the yardstick, in a way, by which the others are measured. And Wednesday, my cat, not very surprisingly isn’t on the list at all, though she is a smart cat (but they do have crows!).  But octo1what the heck, it’s fun to look through, and maybe lurking within could be a story idea or two.  Or not.  The article is “Five Other Animals that Are Almost as Smart as Humans” by Thom Dunn via THE UPWORTHY, for which to see for oneself click here.


*That is, for more on our eight-legged friends, see October 8 2015, while a close-up on their cousins, the squids, is practically just below (January 6).


As far as social behavior, most octopuses appear limited to “copulation or cannibalism,” says Janet Voight, a cephalopod expert and associate curator at the Field Museum in Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the study. “And after copulation, cannibalism is back on the table.”

(Douglas Main, “Bizarrely Social and Crafty Octopus Stuns Scientists,” NEWSWEEK.COM, August 12 2015)

Nevertheless, and I only e-discovered it myself this afternoon, there is a day specially set aside to celebrate our eight-tentacled oceanic friends who, one might add, have other hobbies than just the two noted above.  In addition, asks octo2NEWSWEEK writer Douglas Main, “What other animal has three hearts, a brain-like set of nerves in each leg and blue blood?  What other 50-pound beast could fit through a two-inch hole?” in the opening of his piece today, “It’s World Octopus Day!  Here Are Eight Awesome Octopodes” via NEWSWEEK.COM, the rest of which can be seen by pressing here.  Or, to read the article quoted at the top, specifically on the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus (a.k.a. Awesome Octopode number eight), press here.  And while celebrating, while Earthly octopodes might not necessarily be exactly the same thing as Cthulhu, one might set aside an extra glass for H.P. Lovecraft.

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