Category Archives: hard science

Clones in Science Fiction

photoIf you’re a writer and you haven’t seen this link yet, you should. It takes a look at the current trend for author dollars, showing with hard data that traditional publisher ebook sales are declining while self-publishing and small publishers are increasing. Even more interesting is where the data comes from and how sometimes the media gets it wrong.

If you like colorful graphs, lots of numbers, and care about the money flow for authors, check it out.

http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/

Another link I want to mention is to an article on nano advances at the molecular level. This is current hard science, that I consider back up data, which says nanobots in the bloodstream that can target viruses or cancers is a total possibility for the future.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/dna-based-nanodevices-for-molecular-medicine-an-overview

And since I’m currently writing about this as a medical approach, I wanted to mention it. Sometimes while I’m writing, real life jumps out and highlights what I’m writing. It happened with the meteor striking Russia practically to the day I wrote the beginning of Touching Crystal.

A bit scary.

No one has created a time gate, but as I pointed out in a previous blog, I have had dinner next to a physicist who is working on time reversal at the sub atomic level.

And…recently, Kurzweil’s newsletter came out with an article on creating wormholes. I think I’ll suggest a wormhole that lets my lost fleet jump several light years across the universe. However, I’m not the only science fiction writer to do this. It’s been used often enough in fiction that it seems it should be a forgone conclusion by now.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/first-known-magnetic-wormhole-created?

women-clonesI’m also writing about clones. Or will be again. The main character in my very first book, Caught in Time, Rowyna, is a clone. Did you notice the name Rowyna is a rearrangement of Arwoyn? Then, my novel Someone’s Clone also tells the story from a clone’s perspective.

I found there aren’t many books that use this viewpoint. The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe comes to mind as a favorite, and recently on a must read list was Pamela Sergeant’s Cloned Lives. I attempted to read two others books on clones, but because of various flaws in the books, I abandoned them.Fifth Head of Cerberus

I am reviewing Sargent’s book because it follows the lives of the main character’s five clones in an effort to show how environment affects personality and how different aspects of Paul Swenson’s personality emerge differently in each clone. Sargent also addresses the prejudice that society might harbor towards such an act, asking the question of how far should government let science progress when it could threaten society.

While all this was interesting, the part I enjoyed most was Sargent’s portrayal of the world of 2000 to 2037 because I could compare reality with her fiction. Published in 1976, Sargent sees the world of 2000 with automatic highways. The book drags, however as she goes into too much detail about why things are the way they are, almost delighting in her predictions.

She has high speed trains, which the government subsidizes, competing with airlines While airplane travel supposedly is more economical and efficient, Paul and his traveling companion wait an hour due to a mechanical breakdown in the airline’s luggage conveyor. Then the train from the airport is halted because of a riot by a group who claims the end of the world is near and clogs the track.

Such are her pointed comments on the far future, now our present.

Cloned LivesIn Cloned Lives, a moratorium on genetic research, legislated in 1980, has recently expired. Paul’s best friend, Hidey Takamura, is a genetic scientist who moves swiftly to make his mark at the university where both men work by convincing Paul he should be cloned. When a nosy reporter discovers the clones, all hell breaks loose and Paul and the new clones are hounded by the media. Government quickly slaps on another moratorium, and Paul hires a couple to raise the five kids.

The book leaps to 2016 and Paul is offered a research position on the moon where scientists have established a presence. Also mentioned are microfiche readers taking over physical books. That part she was close to the mark; the colonization of the moon, not at all.

The clones are sixteen years old now and painfully teenage. Unexpectedly, Paul is involved in a crash on the moon and the clones are informed that he has died. For the next five sections of the book, Sargent takes a point of view of each clone, analyzing similarities and differences of personality as their lives progress. Here is where the book breaks down into too much internal dialogue of teenage and young adult angst. Each clone has difficulty making social connections, and after a while, I got tired of the whining.

As the book winds up to a surprising ending, the clones eventually get married, find new relationships, and embark on their separate tortured lives.

I struggled to finish, but Pamela Sargent is a well-respected author and the subject matter was interesting. The storyline is strong, but Sargent bogs down in too much internal emotion and characters who should have been so much more than they were portrayed.

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Time Traveling Neutrinos and Time Travel Romance

photoIn April, I found myself sitting near Thomas J. Weiler, who has a PhD. in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin and is a professor at Vanderbilt University. My sister, Sallie Mayne, is affiliated with the Chinese Arts Alliance in Nashville, and I was there for my mother’s 90th birthday. Sallie has organized a special once a month dinner party of adventurous Chinese dining, and I was invited. We ate at a round table and met some fascinating people. One was Tom Weiler. I mentioned I wrote science fiction time travel, and Tom smiled and commented that he was going to be on a television show called “Through the Wormhole.” Did I know it?

It’s one of my favorites. I TiVo it regularly.

Not thinking too much about it, as he was a friendly but unassuming gentleman, I made a point to record it and recently watched the show. I discovered that Dr. Weiler is investigating a theoretical subatomic particle called the Higgs-Singulaire that he believes can go back in time. If fact, he wrote and collaborated on a paper called “Neutrinos in Time.” (among many other papers). If he can discover and plot this elusive, now theoretical, particle, he may prove that time travel into the past is possible. Currently, there are conflicting experiments on the possibility.

I was blown away when I saw his segment and what he was doing. He also has a Ted lecture on neutrinos on Utube. If you want to know more, check it out.

Time travel

I write a lot about it because I think it’s interesting. My first book, Caught In Time deals with a created replicant of the last dying time traveler. She goes back to a medieval era on an alien planet to kill a supposedly mutant king. Since it’s a bit of a romance, love trips her up.

Other books in my series deal with cloning, alien invasions (yes, more than one), a comet crashing onto a nearby moon, space travel, the universe as a mathematical equation, and other science fiction concepts. Not all the books deal with time travel, but time travel is a predominate theme of the series.

That’s why this week’s book, Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury, intrigued me.Daughter of Time
What were the factors that drew me in? First, the subject matter was one I liked. Two, the cover and blurb were well executed. And last, the book was free on one of those free book sites. My price. I had nothing to lose. I actually bought it without checking reviews.
Okay, I’m lazy.

The main story takes place on Earth in Wales circa 1268, while the beginning is modern day.
A warning to any hard core military scifi fan– this leans more toward female tastes. Yes, you have both male and female point of views. The first is the female modern day protagonist who finds herself catapulted into a Wales of the past and has to deal with culture shock. The other main character is the stalwart Prince of Wales, who finds her beauty and attitude captivating, but has his hands full of nobility, including Edward, King of England, who wants to conquer his land and make it a part of Great Britain. Intrigue and double dealing distract Lord Llywelyn.

 

Footsteps in TimeI was pleasantly surprised at how well Ms. Woodbury sucked me into the characters and storyline. Because I had never Crossroads in Timeheard of her, I wasn’t expecting a lot.
I should have checked the reviews as she has a large, enthusiastic, fan base. Now I’m contemplating reading other books in the series.
That’s part of my marketing strategy, also. So if you like time travel romance a la Diana Gabaldon and me, you most likely will enjoy this series too.

Ps.

Weiler is a frontrunner in the use of neutrinos to elucidate new particle physics and astrophysics. He has previously won the Distinguished Alumni Fellow Award from the University of Wisconsin, received the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Career Award from Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and served as an elected member of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory board of directors. He is one of only 17 Simons Foundation Fellows in Theoretical Physics for 2014-15…and is a very nice dinner companion.

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Mars and The Martian

IMG_0165I figure you must be almost as frantic as I am coming down the holiday home stretch. Overwhelmed with things to do and vowing not to nibble that second Christmas cookies or sip the third eggnog, (So yummy) I am noticing the pounds climbing alarmingly upwards on my scale.

Or maybe you’re one of those cool-as-a cucumber types that has it all under control and smirk as we last minute shoppers scurry about.Christmas horn

(I’m making a rude gesture here)

Either way, I’m offering a quick, cheap idea where you don’t have to pay postage or even leave the house and get mired in insane traffic. If your gift is a mobile device…Kindle, iPad, iPhone 6, enhance the gift with a few interesting free books. Start with Cosmic Entanglement, which is being offered free 12/22 through 12/24 and also 12/26 through 12/28. A limited time offer, it’s one of my favorites, and although third in my series, it can stand alone or be the first one you read.

With time travel, you have that flexibility in your stories. This one is not heavy science…more of an Enders Game with a touch of James Bond. For more science in the area of space travel, Past the Event Horizon would be the choice. Even so, in several places I stretched the known rules of physics to support the story because, hey, we are learning new things about space every day. Yesterday’s speculations are today’s reality.

To find other special offers, goggle for free books and a number of websites will pop up with a vast array of free and discounted books.

Just a suggestion.

The MartianSo, I am halfway through The Martian by Andy Weir. The story is basically a Robinson Crusoe on Mars told through first person using a journal. So, I don’t know if he survives or we’re just reading a left behind journal. That keeps up the suspense.

Weir has a very personable voice. The reader feels like the writer is just leaning over a cup of coffee and telling his tale. For example he writes:

“The most important piece of the advance supplies, of course, was the MAV. The Mar ascent vehicle. This was how we would get back to the Hermes (orbiting ship) after surface operations were complete…

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered the MAV was gone.”

What follows is the attempt to survive for four years until the next mission is due to arrive. For those that like hard science in their science fiction, the story will satisfy.

Understandably, there’s not much romance or personal interrelationships. Not even a volleyball with a face to talk to. But the left behind astronaut, Mark Whatney, does reveal the roller coaster of emotions from despair to hope to brilliant problem solving.

There’s a lot of chemistry as he tries to create water for his plants, but he spares the reader the heavy math.

It’s a book that I put down after awhile, but then, I picked it back up to get a feel for what it might be like to live in such a different environment as Mars. Just a quick note that the reviews have nearly 4600 five star reviews, so a lot of people really like this one.

MarsCurrently there are several experiments that address what it might be like to survive on Mars. Last year I wrote a blog that carried a link to David LeVine’s gripping experience in a habitat that attempted to recreate conditions that might be found on Mars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcuOwpdkWCM&appDavid Levine

Life on Mars… or at least a close facsimile (KGW-TV, 2/20/10)

http://bentopress.com/mars/ David’s journal of his “Mars” experience.

Mars is getting more and more notice as we gaze past the moon to what might very well be the next planetary body we visit. This book gives you a realistic taste if you can’t afford the ticket.Holly

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Comets and Book Clubs

IMG_9503We are landing on a comet tonight! This is a momentous event. After ten years of chasing, using gravity assist, the Philae Lander, a robotic spacecraft, will catch up to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P, and anchor itself there for hopefully a year long ride.

The Rosetta project, led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA and others, will be studying this comet in order to better understand the composition of comets, thought to bring water to primitive Earth, and possibly life itself. Eventually it will be within 180 million km of the sun and expelling water and gases because of intense heat.New Image of Comet ISON

Find more at: CNN.com: Rosetta Landing or www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

This is the ESA’s official website, where you can find the latest news, images and animations on the spacecraft and its lander .

touching-crystal-thumb-1Why does this intrigue me? My sixth novel, Touching Crystal deals with the impact of a comet against Alysia’s moon, Thanos, and the resulting consequences to my world of Alysia.

Science will now explain what was once mystical, a harbinger or omen for humans. Although it took ten years to get close enough to land, the idea that we can interface with a moving comet offers hope that we may be able to divert any future threats to Earth from this type of cosmic threat.

Although, we certainly didn’t see the meteor that crashed into Russia last year and took us by surprise. We were too busy staring at a passing asteroid.

NeuromancerI am currently reading Snow Crash, as it is a selection of my Powell’s Book Club and we meet tonight. It is a Hugo winner classic from 1992 and is very different. Think William Gibson and his Hugo winning book, Neuromancer, which created the sub genre of Cyber-punk in the early 1990s and you have an idea of the story.Snow Crash

The Powell’s book club is a rowdy group of fifteen to twenty-five or so science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who have been meeting for over ten years at the world famous bookstore of Powell’s in Beaverton. They are awesomely intelligent about science fiction and not shy about offering opinions.

Makes for lively discussions, so I need to be prepared.

Abyss Beyond DreamsI also plan on reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton, and will report on that new offering in the next week or two.

someones_clone_front-cover_v2_finalBut first, I have my proof for Someone’s Clone in my hot hands and expect a November 20 publication date. Until then, I’ll be working feverishly to put the final touches on it and conquer the format and download monster.

Check out Amazon for this exciting new adventure, one of my best to date. A murder, a mystery, time travel, romance, aliens…this one has it all…so stay tuned.

 

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Quantum Theory Noir Thriller: hard science in science fiction

IMG_0165

Grab your chisels ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been mumbling that McCartha has gone soft, this week’s review is for you.

It’s all about hard science fiction.

For what is the most challenging, the most difficult to get your head around, the least understood of all the science theories?

Quantum Theory.

You bet. It changes even as you look at it, and a cat-in-a-box can be both dead and alive until the observer decides it’s fate.

Schrodinger’s Gat attempts to explain Quantum Theory, Probability and Permutation as the main characters manipulate events at every toss of a coin.

Welcome to a hard science novel that tackles a challenging subject and gives lectures along the way. Yes, throughout the book are serious science lectures where the author warns you that if you’re after story only, you should skip the next several paragraphs of dense science theory.

Of course, when anyone says, “Don’t read this, or look away,” that’s when I dig out my glasses.

Told in the first person,using the voice and ambience of a Dashiell Hamnet novel, Schrodinger’s Gat is a simple story that  explores the quandary of fate versus free will and the puzzle of parallel dimensions.

Interested?

Yes, please.

Schrodinger's GatFailed writer, teacher and divorced father, Paul Bayes succumbs to depression, tosses a coin and lets its outcome direct him to step in front of an oncoming Bart subway.

There are several depression ridden moments…be warned.

While moaning over his life in true Hamlet fashion, he is still male enough to notice out of the corner of his eye, a pretty dark-haired girl watching him and when the coin comes up tails and he begins to step forth, she yells, “No!” and runs away.

Flummoxed, he hesitates just long enough to miss his train, and instead he takes off and chases her to begin a wild ride into the realm of quantum physics. For Tali, can locate tragedies and prevent them from happening. She dices with fate at the toss of a coin and the possibility of breaking free from the grip of fate fills Paul with hope…until the future begins to punch back.

This two-hundred and eight page story is full of action, but is also a mind-bending romp into the hard science of Quantum Physics.

You wanted it.

And if you haven’t had your fill yet,  this fascinating link shows how the dreams of science fiction writers have turned into the reality of present day science. http://www.buzzfeed.com/microsoftmsn/10-science-fiction-technologies-that-are-now-real

Check it out…science fiction technology becomes real day technology.

 

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An Exciting new Space Opera

IMG_9518Sometimes a book is so good that you can’t wait to talk about it. Such is the case with Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey.

But first…

For my hard science followers, this Utube link discusses how we see our universe and contains some interesting concepts on how big it must be. I just had to include it in my blog. There must be a book in there somewhere. Misconceptions about the Universe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBr4GkRnY04

On to Caliban’s War…

Caliban's war

Caliban’s War is the second book in The Expanse trilogy that is slated to be made into a mini series on the syfy channel sometime in the future. It will be interesting to see how they present this series.

I read and reviewed the first book, Leviathan Wakes, (February 11, 2014) but dragged my feet on delving into this 600 page adventure because of both price and title. The title just didn’t excite me, but the price did.

Leviathan Wakes

I went on a rant.

The publisher is Hatchette and that house puts out expensive hardbacks at $25 by popular authors until the next book debuts, a year later, and then publishes a trade paperback so they can charge $17 a book. That’s high for my budget, in addition to a wait.

So, I went to Kindle where I found the Ebook at $9.99. For an Ebook! Fortunately, I had a credit at Powell’s Bookstore so I justified buying the paperback…but now I want to read Abaddon’s Gate, the next in the series with a cool title, and I’m faced with the same high cost and so I am impatiently waiting until it shows up in my library (which it hasn’t yet).

Maybe that’s what Amazon is protesting in their suit with Hatchette.

After struggling through some Indie books and a few traditional novels of mediocre writing, the professionalism of the writing and formatting in Caliban was a welcome change. Hatchette does that right at least.

Abaddon's GateFour main characters reveal the story. On Ganymede, breadbasket to the outer planets, Roberta Draper, a Martian marine, watches in horror as an alien super soldier easily slaughters her entire platoon and destroys the critical food installation. As the sole survivor, she is taken to Earth and questioned about what happened where she meets and becomes involved with…

Chrisjen Avasarala, an elderly, powerful, politician from Earth, who deftly manipulates the game of politics in a desperate attempt to prevent interplanetary war. Cracking pistachios in a bright orange sari, the assistant to the undersecretary of executive administration wields her power as she tries to out maneuver war-mongering generals and power hungry, good old boy politicians.

While on Venus, the protomolecule from the first book evolves, spreads and overruns the planet, threatening to escape and take over the solar system.

Meanwhile, James Holden takes on the job of keeping the peace for the Outer Planet Alliance until Prax, a desperate scientist from the devastated Ganymede, pleads with him to help find Mei, his daughter, who has been kidnapped from Ganymede by mysterious scientists.

In order to pay for the rescue, Holden crowdsources the funds, showing pictures of the kidnapped child while her father, Prax, emails and communicates with millions who sends what they can to support the endeavor. The idealistic Holden pursues a trail that becomes more and more dangerous and complex, until the future of humanity rests on whether his single ship can stop the alien invasion that threatens them all. With the help of the Earth politician and Martian soldier, he tries to dismantle a secret conspiracy that unwittingly may destroy humankind.

Lots of action with real characters and emotion, this space opera should be on any science fiction enthusiast’s reading list.

So, start saving your pennies now.

 

 

 

 

 

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Asimov’s World Fair Predictions 1964

IMG_0174After reading Timebound by Rysa Walker where the main character time travels back to the World’s Fair in Chicago of 1899, I stumbled into an article that talked about the fifty year ago predictions of science fiction author, Isaac Asimov, for the future at the 1964 World’s Fair. I thought it was interesting to learn some of his predictions and whether they came true or not. Can science fiction authors predict the future or are they just writing good stories?

He actually nailed some of them and some he missed the mark on. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27069716

He predicted:

We would be able to see and hear any conversations.

With the advent of Skype and Facetime, this is possible. However, I think FaceTime hasn’t reached the popularity Apple or the world thought it might, mainly because I’m not ready to show my face bright and early in the morning before make-up has been applied. The little picture in the window is never as flattering as I wish it could be. Maybe the young kids use it much more often than we more mature (read wrinkled) generation, but I’m surprised at how overlooked it is. Do you FaceTime?

We could direct dial to any spot.

downloadPretty much true.

 

 

Robots would not be common, but would exist.download (1)

A lot of research is going forward developing amazing robots. Recently Cosmos, a new tv show, talked about a four-legged robot that could go over any rough terrain and carry several hundred pounds. It’s a mechanical packhorse. I own a romba (named Robbie)  that cleans my rugs and floors, and this is rather commonplace. IRobot also makes robots that go into dangerous places or war zones to investigate possible bombs. Currently robots can do surgery and, of course, manufacture cars. Manufacturing uses a lot of robotic functions. Amazon is talking about having drones deliver packages.Microrobotics

3D television and wall screens will be common.

While large flat tv screens are in most homes, the acceptance of 3D television has flopped. No one wants to pay the extra money and wear the goofy glasses.

There will be conversations with the moon.

Except if you call, no one will answer.

Robots will make coffee.

My morning coffee is set up at night so all I have to do is push a button and it’s percolating. You can schedule it to go on automatically if you want. Pretty much automated except I put in beans and water. There’s no robot picking beans for me or bustling around the kitchen that early.

We will have algae grown and vat made meat that will taste not so bad.vat meat

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-08/first-lab-grown-hamburger-served

This just happened where a pseudo burger was developed in a lab. However, the not-so- bad taste is still in question.

We will have fusion and solar power and other sources of alternate energy.download (2)

While the fusion power is still a dream of the future, large solar arrays in the desert and house-top solar panels are growing by leaps and bounds. We are making progress, but it still isn’t in every household. Electric cars are gaining traction…buy Tesla stock.

Vehicles will drive with robot brains. Jetpack’s and hovercraft will be common modes of transportation. http://www.google.com/about/careers/lifeatgoogle/self-driving-car-test-steve-mahan.html

While most vehicles use computers and high tech devices for gps, video and audio, self driving cars are still in the developmental stage. (but see the link on this progress) However, they are coming. Jetpack’s and hovercraft displayed at the Fair are still not used extensively, although they exist.

Not all will enjoy the gadgetry in full, but the majority will be better off than present, but many will be further behind.

There is a new class division developing between those that have access to tech and can use it and those that are falling behind. Tech is developing and changing at a breath-taking pace and those that can keep up will forge ahead, leaving many in luddite dust. Some of this is generational. My daughter has integrated high tech more deeply into her life than I have, and understands it far better, but my mother doesn’t even own a computer or understand the basics of our current tech world. She can barely comprehend the complicated world of social media that now exists and the wide array of aps and websites that proliferate.

If you could hop in a time machine and power ahead fifty years from now, what would be one technology now in the developmental stage that you might find integrated into society?

PS: On Mother’s Day through the 15th I have enrolled in the KDP Select program that will offer Caught in Time free. Check out the right panel for synopsis and more details of the book.

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