Science Fiction in the Classroom! Plus Media Thoughts – and Coolstuff!

== Using Science Fiction to Excite the Future (minds) ==

Teaching-Science-FictionDo young people – and the teachers and librarians who work with them – benefit from science fiction?

Do you know any educators who might want to learn more about the genre of literature that is fascinated with change? And that does more than any other to inspire children to strive for success?  A nice, two page article describes several ongoing efforts to help educators learn about this field. It includes a short note, as well, from one of your favorite authors.

If you know any educators, send them to to access excellent materials that teach about the literary genre of bold ideas, willing to discuss the inevitability of change.

UsingScienceFictionToTeachScienceSee also the site: Teaching Science Fiction summarizing several resources for using sci fi in the classroom! In addition, see Using Science Fiction to Teach Science — with links to stories and books that help illustrate concepts in physics, space science or biology.

==On Existence==

Before diving into media and strange science, here’s a tentative announcement.

I’m thinking about a contest to create a mini-trailer  for my new novel (coming in June) – a great big near-future science fiction saga called EXISTENCE.

I’ve already sent feelers to the Computer Graphics society, whose members made some shorts based on my uplift books for an earlier contest. I’m also pondering a call for folks interested in doing a live action version.  Like this one done by my friend Jeff Carlson for his terrific book Plague Year.

Can’t afford to offer a huge prize for the winner and time is short. But I can promise a nibble… plus publicity and loads of fun. And a chance to read the novel early, for free! Starting with these novellas already posted online.

The Smartest Mob (a parable about times to come!)

== Fanboy Gushing about Firefly ==

Okay, I have spoken before about that great – if tragically brief – sci fi miniseries.  My kids (and wife) adore Firefly. But one episode stands out, written by Joss Whedon himself.  “Mrs. Reynolds” is just plain dazzlingly well-written from beginning to end.  Every sentence – even those just tossed aside – sparkles with cleverness and fun and even (sometimes) real depth.  That’s a fellow I’d buy several beers.

== More Science! ==

* A hundred years late, is Oswald Spengler finally proving right about the Decline of the West? Take this factoid:

”It isn’t just Americans concerned about science, though Europeans seem a little dramatic about it.   Currently, America can only employ 16% of its Ph.D.s in academia, what most academics regard as ‘science’, so there is a glut of post-docs and not enough grants to give them all jobs, but Europeans have a different sort of problem – young people are not going into science at all.”

* In about 18 months a newfound object that’s probably a small, compact gas cloud, will draw near the cosmic orifice at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Its orbit will carry it to within about 36 light-hours of the black hole, roughly twice the distance now separating NASA’s Voyager 1  from the sun. If it is a cloud, then some of the material will get sucked in! (A mere star would likely plunge on by, in a very tight orbit.) Very exciting, if this makes the Beast come alive!

* To gather material from asteroids or comets (re my doctoral thesis!), NASA is developing a sample-collecting space harpoon which could be projected “with surgical precision” from a spacecraft hovering above the target.  Seriously, this is what I would have done with my life, if you folks hadn’t bribed me into the arts, instead.

* Best-yet candidate “life-world“? The host star lies about 600 light-years away from us toward the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus. The star, a G5 star, has a mass and a radius only slightly smaller than that of our Sun, a G2 star. As a result, it is about 25% less luminous than the Sun. The planet orbits the G5 star with an orbital period of 290 days, compared to 365 days for the Earth, at a distance about 15% closer to its star than the Earth from the Sun. This results in the planet’s balmy temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  It orbits in the middle of the star’s habitable zone,

This new exoplanet is the smallest-radius planet discovered in the habitable zone of any star to date. It is about 2.4 times larger than that of the Earth, putting it in the class of exoplanets known as super-Earths. Alert! When you read estimated “temperatures” for such planets, remember it is the raw, black-body calculation based on the albedo of rock and the net insolation at that distance from its star. As we’ve seen on Earth, Venus and Mars, the greenhouse effects of an atmosphere change everything!

== Humor! ==

* See some cool T-Shirt logos that satirize all the blatantly silly things that are today touted as “controversial” instead of just plain wrong, but the now-lamentably crazy “history” channel, by Fox and by loons on both the left and right.

* Two bitingly funny comics online: A History of the World (according to The History Channel) from Tree Lobsters, and Life After College, from Abstruse Goose.

== The Frontiers of Life! ==

* Know any researchers or organizations that might be very interested in a possible Conference on Uplift?  Yes, regarding “the plausibility of altering the problem-solving or linguistic intelligence of higher animals or humans.”  Oh it would spark a HUGE row! And get everybody on TV.

* Dolphin language? Here’s new research that pretty much verifies my own hypotheses. “Researchers in the United States and Great Britain have made a breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language in which a series of eight objects have been sonically identified by dolphins. Team leader, Jack Kassewitz of, ‘spoke’ to dolphins with the dolphin’s own sound picture words. Dolphins in two separate research centers understood the words, presenting convincing evidence that dolphins employ a universal “sono-pictorial” language of communication.

“…(he) recorded dolphin echolocation sounds as they reflected off a range of eight submersed objects, including a plastic cube, a toy duck and a flowerpot. He discovered that the reflected sounds actually contain sound pictures and when replayed to the dolphin in the form of a game, the dolphin was able to identify the objects with 86% accuracy, providing evidence that dolphins understand echolocation sounds as pictures.  Kassewitz then drove to a different facility and replayed the sound pictures to a dolphin that had not previously experienced them. The second dolphin identified the objects with a similar high success rate.”

Sonic glyphs based on shape reflections? Quick!  To the Predictions Registry!

* Proof that the unconscious ponders complex matters that affect WHEN or IF we consciously become aware of things.

* Woolly mammoth to be brought back to life from cloned bone marrow ‘within five years’.  Um… predicted in both EARTH and  EXISTENCE.

* Remember the “arsenic life” that was claimed from a poison lake in California?  A year later, it is still very interesting, but arsenic has NOT replaced phosphorus in the crucial sites along the spine of DNA. Hyped up? Well… probably.

== Politically Relevant ==

* Federal regulators have tentatively approved a nuclear reactor designed by Westinghouse Electric Co. that could power the first atomic plants built from scratch in the U.S. in a generation.

* In terms of weather, 2011 has made it into the record books. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that during this year, there have been 12 different weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion. The previous record was nine in 2008.

Given these two facts — um, who are the flexible pragmatists and who are the dogmatists who drove us off a cliff in the first decade of the century?

== And the Land of the Bizarre ==

* Afterlife is a system that involves turning a deceased human body back into its core chemical energy. The decedent is placed into the special Afterlife coffin which features small drains in the bottom. The drains lead to microbial fuel cells beneath the coffin that thereupon charge batteries that loved ones can recover and emblem “Dad” and use for some purpose stated in dad’s will.

* Smell your way to intuition? “Participants in the study assessed, with some degree of accuracy, how outgoing, anxious or dominant people were after only taking a whiff of their clothes. The study is the first to test whether personality traits can be discerned through body odor.”

== Useful?  Or Chilling? ==

* LocAid can use your full cell phone number to figure out exactly where you are right now. Banks and card issuers are interested in checking where their customers are—as a way to reduce fraud—and of retailers interested in sending deals to people nearby.  Currently, the company claims to have a very strongly protective privacy policy in which each request for the info must be presented to the cell phone owner on an opt-in basis.  A reasonable model, if it works and if it is maintained with power in our hands.

* New research published in Science suggests it may be possible to use MRI to induce brain activity patterns to improve performance on tasks involving visual performance, such as playing the piano. This worked even when the subjects weren’t aware of what they were learning. Inspiring or creepy?

== The Paranoia Lamp is Lit! ==

“The commentator says there’s “absolutely no explanation” for the nearly Mercury-size mystery object other than that it’s a spaceship. “What object in space cloaks itself and doesn’t appear until it gets hit by energy from the sun?” siniXster asked.”

Hmmm. well, the official explanation is convincing.  Notice how the “ship” is aimed right at Mercury, and happens to lie over the pixels where the planet had been the previous day or two.  The supports the STEREO spacecraft managers’ explanation that they “subtract the previous day’s pixels in order to enhance the coronal mass (which is normally quite dim). That subtraction creates a visual artifact where the planet had been, the day before.

Still, these “Aha!” moments are fun! They show how excitable amateurs with keen eyes can interact non-destructively with the professionals.  That is exactly the process for a society that blends common-sense skepticism up-top with a T-Cell approach for swarming those low-probability events… one out of a million of which might turn out to be way-huge.

What is criminal and insane has been the recent trend by cynical media to pit us against each other. And especially the recent campaign to turn 1/3 of Americans against every profession of intellect, knowledge and skill.


Filed under science fiction, society

2 responses to “Science Fiction in the Classroom! Plus Media Thoughts – and Coolstuff!

  1. KEM

    Will you come to the community to deliver the prize?

  2. Hi David!

    Jeff’s trailer is indeed great. Take a look at the trailer I did for my book NECROPOLIS, which has been very well-received. (Jeff actually provided a very nice blurb for my book.) I’d definitely be interested in helping you out if there was some ancillary benefit for my book. I’m a huge fan!!!

    We’re friends on FB if you want to get ahold of me.

    Michael Dempsey

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