Friday, August 22, 2014

Science of the Week: 8/22/14

It's the first day of second grade for my son today.Yes, it may seem strange that he goes back on a Friday, but I think it's partly because his school goes from preschool through high school, and the older kids have special events that take place earlier in the week. Or perhaps it's so the young kids can get the first day excitement out of the way, recuperate over the weekend, and start fresh on Monday. I'm just as excited as Alex is--perhaps more so.

Anyway, here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Why global warming is taking a break

The doctor can see you now: high-tech health gadgets to watch for

First indirect evidence of so-far undetected strange baryons

New home for an "evolutionary misfit"

FDA-approved drug restores hair in patients with alopecia areata

Laser device may end pin pricks, improve quality of life for diabetics

MIT helps drones monitor their own health on long flights

The ABCs of animal speech: not so random after all

How lizards regenerate their tails: researchers discover genetic "recipe"

 Have a good weekend, and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ren Faire

My family and I went to the Bristol Renaissance Faire on Sunday. The last time we were there was before Eugene and I got married; Alex has never been there. We had great weather and a good time. Unfortunately, the pictures I took on Eugene's camera are in the wrong format for posting, but here are a few shots from my cell phone.

 A fairy posing by some flowers. Fairies were everywhere.

Eugene helps Alex with the crossbow.

Eugene and Alex after fencing with each other. (Eugene won quite handily. There's a video on my Facebook page.)

EDITED TO ADD: By request, here's a picture of me with someone else in costume.

In addition to all of this, we watched jousting, falconry, and a fire-whip show; tried archery; examined armor; and just enjoyed the atmosphere. I wore my queen costume and braided my hair and got some compliments on them. 

Have you ever been to a Ren Faire? What period of history would you like to see recreated?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Seasons' Beginnings Available for Pre-Order!

Last week, Amazon gave indies the ability to make their books available for pre-order. Naturally, I decided to try this new feature. It involves uploading a draft file, but luckily I already had that formatted. I just have to have the final draft uploaded ten days before the due date. Hopefully my beta readers will get back to me on schedule so I have time to make any last-minute changes.

The publication date is October 21, 2014. You can pre-order the eBook for $2.99 at this link. The paper version will be $14; I'll try to make it available close to 10/21. Here again is the cover and blurb:

Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. When he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August Issue of Indie Writers Monthly Is Out!

It's a little late, but we finally have the August issue of Indie Writers Monthly available. This issue includes an interview and time travel story from Jeff Hargett, blog and book reviews from me, a book review from PT, title advice from Briane, and editing advice from Andrew. Best of all, it's free today through the 17th.

If you missed any of the previous issues of Indie Writers Monthly, you can also pick them up for free, at least for now. Here are the direct links to the March, April, May, and June issues. I don't have the direct link for the July issue, but it should be free from now through the 16th.

Although the First Annual IWM INDIE-Pendence Day Anthology isn't free (unless you're part of Kindle Unlimited), it's still a good value at $3.99 for fourteen stories about time travel. Check it out here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Facts for Fiction: The Future of the Mind

It's been a long time since I posted a Facts for Fiction article. (In fact, I think this is only the second time I used it.) However, even though I read a fair amount of non-fiction, I haven't come across any books I wanted to discuss until recently, when I read Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.

Kaku's book is divided into three main sections: the mind and consciousness, mind over matter, and altered consciousness. The first section discusses ways to study the brain and provides a working definition of consciousness. According to Kaku, "consciousness is the process of creating a model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food, shelter)." There are various levels of consciousness, with animals less able to model the world (in particular, the future), than humans. Having established this, Kaku then goes on to discuss scientifically valid ways in which telepathy, telekinesis, memory creation/manipulation, and intelligence enhancement can be accomplished. Finally, he covers even more exotic subjects such as mind control, artificial minds, minds made of energy, and alien minds. There is also an appendix on quantum consciousness, which is something I make indirect use of in the Catalyst Chronicles. Alas, Paul's and Julia's Catalyst abilities aren't considered scientifically plausible, though I can't change them at this point in the series.

Kaku provides clear explanations for how the various therapies and enhancements might work, and he does touch on some of the legal and ethical questions that might arise from them. I don't think he works through the implications of all his topics equally. For instance, he mentions that a mind without outside stimulation (for example, a mind duplicated on a computer) would eventually go insane. However, this doesn't seem to be an issue for energy minds. Perhaps this is meant as an exercise for the science fiction writer. He also talks about what characteristics might give rise to an alien intelligence. For example, he mentions that predator species tend to be more intelligent than prey species. I admit I feel a bit challenged to come up with an intelligent prey species, perhaps one that had to evolve to keep up with its predator. (The Sparrow might be a good example of a dual alien race society.) All in all, however, I recommend this book to any science fiction writer interested in learning how our minds, robots, aliens, or any type of intelligence might evolve or by affected by technology.

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