Tag Archives: Science

Matter, Mass, Reality. Hope You Like Onions

Here’s a link for you: http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/physics-has-demoted-mass.

I can’t say that I actually understood it all, but it was fun to read. Matter matters, of course, but energy is the heart of the matter.

So to speak.

Read the comments, too. There are some good observations by people smarter than me.

 

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Blogging 101, aka, Back to School

Every New Year, WordPress sends out a report about how your blog did during the previous year. It’s always a lot of fun, with statistics like if everyone who read your blog got on a cable car, it would take 60 cable cars to hold them all. Really, it’s a hoot.

It’s always nice to know that I’m not just talking to myself over here. I know I tend to wander around like I’m lost in Topic Land, but I really am interested in a lot of things and I like the idea of throwing out an idea or a current issue, or something and see what happens with it.

More often than not, nothing happens. One or two people might “like” the post, and sometimes you dear regulars will say something, but in general I get back a big resounding NADA. Now, that’s not your fault. I know you’re busy. I read a LOT of blogs and I don’t leave comments very often myself.

But I do hope to have interesting conversations with my readers. Better yet, I’d like to see them having interesting conversations with each other in my comment section. It’s not happening and I’d like to learn how to fix it.

Hence: Blogging 101, an online course offered by WordPress to help lonely bloggers improve their presence. Everyday, we’ll get an assignment to do something with our blogs and somehow this will all coalesce into real wisdom. Or something like that.

Today’s assignment is to post what my blog is for, what I want to accomplish with it, and what its purpose is.

To wit:
My blog’s main purpose is to let the world know about my books and where they can purchased. I gotta make a living you know.

Visitors to my blog can learn pretty quickly about my books. They’re all right there on the first page. But I want you to stay and chat. So I talk about a lot of other things. They are things I’m interested in, because it is MY blog after all.

So on my blog, we’ll talk about, in no particular order of importance and certainly not limited to only these topics:

Women
Feminism
Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding
Raising kids
Politics
Religion
Humanism
Science
Climate
Food
Agriculture
Travel (especially my travels)
Community
Paganism
Holistic Living
And oh yeah, writing, publishing, and when am I gonna finally finish another book????

What I want to see happening this year on my blog: conversations with my readers.

So go ahead. Drop me a line.

Take a Deep Breath…

Go on, take a breath. A deep, satisfying, relaxing breath. Fill your lungs, let your diaphragm expand with the air. Let it out when you’re ready.

Do you ever think about breathing? Specifically, about the air you’re taking into your body?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been working on a novel where a group of miners escape from their exploding space station and have to take refuge on an unexplored planet. Science fiction is full of people coming or going to other planets – it’s one of the best things about SF, in my opinion. We’ve all grown up with it, or at least been exposed to for many decades. Even people who don’t follow SF don’t think anything about a story, movie, or TV show that has human characters on other planets.

But I as wrote scenes about my characters arrival on this planet, I had to pause and think this through. They know from probe data that they can breathe the air. It’s got the right mix of nitrogen and oxygen, with no additional gases that are harmful to humans. While they have to make drastic fixes to water and food sources, breathing is not something they have to think about.

Except… that’s wrong. They do have to think about it. They’ll have to deal with it.

Think about a human baby, just born. It’s entire existence has been in a sterile environment within a bag of waters inside its mother, with no breathing needed. Indeed, the lungs are filled with fluid. Oxygen and other needs are provided through the umbilical cord. But suddenly, after several strange hours of hard work, the infant comes out of its bag and out of its mother, and into a world of cold atmosphere. During labor and at the instant of birth, many changes take place in baby’s body to prepare the lungs for air and to force baby to take that first breath.

Earth’s air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and a bit of other gases. Perfect for the newborn human and everyone else on the planet. And…

…and a million other things we seldom think about. Pollen. Dust. Spores. Viruses, bacteria, and microscopic critters. That first breath taken by our innocent babe is full of all of these. And every breath thereafter adds to the load.

For the most part, this is not a problem. Baby is formed of the earth, and that amazing little body has automatic defenses inherited from its time in the womb and supplemented in mother’s milk. Indeed, the human body has even learned to use some of the inhaled matter for growth and health.

Yet the system is not perfect. We don’t all escape unscathed. Hayfever. Rashes. Asthma. Allergies. Gut illness. Even here, on our very own planet, the planet we evolved on… even here, breathing the air can bring us trouble.

So when I think about my poor traumatized characters landing on this unknown planet and stepping out of the their ships and taking that first breath of alien air… what do they take in with it?

I imagine the first thing they’ll do is cough, as their respiratory defenses attempt to expel unwanted spores or pollen (or whatever the alien equivalent is). They’ll sneeze too, for the same reason. If they are lucky (and I haven’t decided yet if they will be lucky or not) then they won’t have any other immediate reactions. They’ll be able to set about the urgent chores of survival as they continue to breathe. And every breath adds to the body’s load of alien matter.

I suspect my characters will have to deal with this sooner rather than later. I imagine it will be an ongoing problem for them.

No, it appears that all the SF we’ve been reading and watching has given us a false sense of security about stepping out on another planet. We’ll need more than the right mix of gases. We’ll need an arsenal of tools to clear our bodies of microscopic TROUBLE.

And bring plenty of tissues.

How Climate Scientists Feel About Climate Change Deniers – Jason Box Tweet Controversy

The gist of this article comes down to a very disturbing thing for me. You’ve got the climate change deniers on one hand, which is bad enough. But it seems that the reality has gotten so bad, that most of what we hear from the scientists is watered down, or presented in a way that blunts the hard truth and  the consequences of it. Not just by the media, but by the scientists themselves, because what the data show is happening, scares them.

That scares me.

How Climate Scientists Feel About Climate Change Deniers – Jason Box Tweet Controversy.

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains – Scientific American

Wow, this is amazing. I remember some time back reading about fetal cells remaining in the mother’s body, but this report also says that those cells are active and can affect the mother’s health.

While the cells can have a detrimental affect (I’ve bookmarked a couple of the links to read later), it seems that in a lot of ways, the cells improve the mother’s health. I wonder if this is possibly a contributor to women living longer than men?

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains – Scientific American.

Have a Happy, Geeky New Year

With this post, I will finally get around to acknowledging that it’s no longer 2014. I don’t know about you, but I still get a thrill when I think about these year numbers. When you start reading science fiction in 1963, as I did, the 21st century was the future, man. Way off in time when all these fantastic things would be happening.

Yet here we are. It’s 2015 and ya know? There are some of those fantastic things actually going on. Just typing this post on my tablet/laptop hybrid, with world-wide-available word-processing software, and sending it out wirelessly to thousands of people at once, with just a keystroke, is pretty incredible. Even more incredible is that I could have done all this with my phone. Or my TV.

The flying cars aren’t here yet, but the driverless ones are. I suspect one day our infrastructure will support computer-controlled traffic and we’ll all eat breakfast while our car takes us to work. Or better – we won’t own private vehicles because we won’t need to. Computer-controlled public transport will be efficient and affordable. We’ll even be able to press a button and order a private car to pick us up if we need it.

I won’t be surprised if this happens in my lifetime. I’ll be around for a while longer, keeping track as the science fiction of my youth becomes the life I live.

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always lost myself in the stories I read. Even as a child, it was easy for me to understand different sides of an argument or experience empathy for others. I’m certain my reading contributed to this.

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing.

Published for the First Time: a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity | MIT Technology Review

The ideas here are interesting. Asimov’s central thought is that creative people tend to think out of the box.

I think this is true, but it’s worthwhile to define the the box. The hardest box to describe is the one you’re in. So perhaps Asimov, who by all accounts, was a brilliant, intuitive thinker, was nevertheless mentally constrained by the box of the 20th century’s worship of deductive science.

Okay, stop right there. Don’t panic. I am ever as much a fan of deductive science. But I do believe it has limits,  an idea that was anathema to the powers-that-be of the middle 20th century.

It’s anathema to today’s,  too, which is a big reason we can’t solve most of our global problems. We get so blindsided by details that we never look at the big picture.

We scoff at the people who do look at the big picture and see the myriad integrations of real world issues. When they offer solutions that take these issues into account, the immediate response is to insist “we need more studies.” This is doublespeak for “it would cost too much,” or “we’d have to change our way of life.”

I’m a big picture thinker, albeit without the brilliance required to be worthwhile.  I know that the way I see the world is not the way most people see it. I’ve often had my ideas scoffed out of the room. Big picture ideas are complex, and I often have trouble expressing what I see. But others can express them – people like Joel Salatin, Michael Pollen, Courtney White, Elizabeth Warren, and many others in many diverse fields… these people have the creative ideas that our world needs.

We only need the courage to implement them.

Here’s the article.

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/531911/isaac-asimov-asks-how-do-people-get-new-ideas/