Science Affliction #1

Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Story Fodder, Word of the Day | 2 comments

While I browsed through my Google Reader feed this morning, an idea occurred to me. I’m a big science fiction fan, and though I haven’t written much in the genre yet, I know I will. I’m always on the lookout for cool science tidbits that would make good story fodder. Every week I’ll pluck out a few of the best and put them up here for your (and my) brainstorming pleasure. I’m going to shoot for Fridays with this, but this week I’m putting it up a little early because I’m hoping to dedicate tomorrow to writing since I have the day off.

This week’s story fodder:

1) Human echolocation a blog post by Ed Yong about how amazing the human brain is, more specifically how blind people develop a form of echolocation.

2) Ancient Sea Monsters Were No Shrimps is an article on that talks about some neat fossils found in Morocco of huge predator shrimps known as anomalocaridids.

3) Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Science meets fiction in an article called Drug May Help Overwrite Bad Memories on about a new drug that doesn’t touch memories, but could potentially erase the bad emotions tied to them.

4) Here is a conversation between two science nuts (science writer Carl Zimmer and scientist Timothy Lu) discussing bacteriophages, a topic near and dear to my heart. Phages have gotten a lot of science press lately, but I first heard of these teeny guys in a virology course more than a decade ago. My professor explained why he thought bacteriophages could be instrumental in defeating genetic disorders and quite literally stole my imagination.

I hope you don’t mind a brief aside here: To this day, Robert Leamnson, the professor I mentioned above, is the person who had the biggest impact on my life. I found out recently that he passed away. Learning of his death upset me quite a bit and I did a few web searches trying to find out what I could about what he had done after I left school. I found a paper he wrote about learning that shows what he was about better than I could ever explain it.

Ryan’s Word of the Day is convivial, an adjective that means festive.


  1. Other than reading your favourite (bestselling) scifi authors, do you have any thoughts on figuring out what readers might want to read in that genre?

    • What a great question! Reading bestselling authors is definitely the way to start. I think, like all good fiction, scifi is ultimately about the characters, about making your readers want to find out what happens. Science is really part of the setting of these stories, so in that regard I don’t think it matters what science angle you use.

      There are some topics that have good conflict built in: encountering an alien species for the first time, a scientist’s quest goes wrong, artificial life takes over. That explains why those sorts of things are so often used in this genre. I think genetics is a hot topic these days because it’s something on our minds and in the news frequently. That’s one of the reasons I like to peruse science news.

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