Archive for April, 2008

Drinking dulls the brain’s response to threats

April 30, 2008

By Julie Steenhuysen
Tue Apr 29, 6:05 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) –
Drinking alcohol dulls the brain’s
ability to detect threats, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in
a study that helps explain why people who are drunk cannot tell
when the guy at the end of the bar is angling for a fight.

They said the study is the first to show how alcohol
affects the human brain as it responds to threats.


No duh. We’ve know that for a long time. We call it “beer goggles”. They only studied 12 people, and the method seemed a little iffy (brain MRI scans while showing people pictures, and while giving some intravenous alcohol and others intravenous salt water). Normally you’d want a lot more test subjects if you want to see a significant difference. And by significant, I mean true difference above the random noise.

But shaky methods aside, we can use the idea of a chemical that specifically targets the brain in such a way as to decrease the ability to perceive threats. How, you ask? Well, we could make a Daredevil-like superhero (the man who knows no fear). The protag hops himself up on the drug in order to go out and fight crime. His Achilles’ heel? Running out of the drug and then being afraid.

Or have a ninja/commando-type character who uses the drug to dose the enemy guards/guard dogs in order to have a technological version of a Jedi Mind Trick.

I guess the idea is less a plot and more a Cheap Plot Device (CPD). Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

Bug Has Sex with Orchids

April 29, 2008

Charles Q. Choi

Special to LiveScience

Mon Apr 28, 2:45 PM ET

Orchids may be enthralling to humans, but our love of these flowers only goes so far.

Some wasps, on the other hand, find orchids so enchanting that they sexually climax while visiting them.

That first statement might not quite fit Georgia O’keeffe and some of her “flower” paintings, but wow, that is some weird research. Basically, the orchid mimics a female wasp. The male wasp has been out hunting all day and is on his way back to the nest when “Hello? What do we have here?” He takes care of business and goes on about his way without so much as leaving his cell phone number. The orchid doesn’t care, because she was just using the wasp. While he was distracted, she dusted him with pollen, which he will do doubt spread to the next “innocent” orchid he comes across. You see, this stuff writes itself. Apparently the deed includes a happy ending, but I don’t want to know who came up with the idea to find that out.

Now on to the real story. Clearly there will have to be a STD involved, or maybe a parasitic alien species that mimics humans in order to copulate. They can’t impregnate each other, but instead have to use an intermediary (us). To make it horror, have the eggs spawn inside the human host. To make it comedy, well, I’m sure you can come up with any number of ideas. The movie version will star Patrick Dempsey as the unsuspecting horny human.

Time delay posting

April 28, 2008

Live Writer looks like it might let me create a post now and automatically have it show up later (e.g. if I go on vacation).

Time delay posting with ScribeFire

April 28, 2008

Will it work?

Windows Live Writer

April 28, 2008

I’m now trying the standalone app Windows Live Writer:

This app runs outside of Firefox, but otherwise it looks similar to the Plugin I tried earlier. Let’s see how it performs…

The results

April 28, 2008

Well, it worked. But with trouble. LJ auto-converted the url’s to links, but WP did not. Boo WP!

Also I didn’t see any place to add tags. I found one option, so let’s see how it works out…

Technorati Tags:

Desktop Blog Publishing

April 28, 2008

In my constant struggle to stay on the trailing edge of the leading curve, I am exploring desktop blog publishing. I have several blogs and I don’t like doing lots of cutting and pasting.

I tried having my own WordPress blog on my site, and I got it to export to LJ and Facebook, but then I realized that I’ll probably get better exposure if I’m in the WordPress community (similar to how random people seem to be finding me on LJ now). Having the blog on my site made me isolated and pretty much meant no random traffic.

So now I’m on WordPress, Facebook, and LJ:

And I’m trying out the ScribeFire plugin for Firefox. It connects to both WP and LJ, and then Facebook sucks down the posts from WP.

In theory.

Need to find a drug?

April 10, 2008

No, this is not about spam email. I’m writing a horror short story to submit to an anthology, and I needed a convenient drug for my character to OD on. But it has to have specific properties. Yay DEA!

Lots of good info on drugs in there. More useful for modern day-ish plots, but you could look at what people are taking now and extrapolate into the future, when home chemistry/biology labs will be as common as Easy-Bake ovens. Who knows what druggies will be putting into their bodies? (Hint: microscopic worms that feed on the myelin sheath that surrounds neurons.)

And if you were wondering, the drug I’m using (in my story) is OxyContin.

Winners Don’t Use Drugs. Except caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. Just kidding. (not really.)

April Newsletter

April 7, 2008

The April newsletter is out. I won’t repost it here, but you can read it on the front page of my website: 

And while you are there, you can sign up to receive future newsletters by email, and you can download my first novel for free.


If you attack them, it will only make them stronger.

April 3, 2008


Soil ‘ultra-bugs’ thrive on a diet of antibiotics

  • 19:00 03 April 2008
  • news service
  • Ewen Callaway


So these researchers were randomly looking for naturally occurring bacteria in soil. They wanted to find some that would help convert biomaterial (e.g. switch grass or corn) into biofuel. They needed to do a negative control, so they grew soil in the presence of a bunch of antibiotics. That way they could see what their results look like when using sterile soil. They needed that to get a good baseline for comparison. There was just one problem: some of the bacteria in the soil grew like gangbusters.


Yep, these bugs ate the antibiotics and multiplied. It’s like the hero shooting the bad guy full of lead, and the bad guy absorbs the bullets and grows bigger. Wait, didn’t they do that in the Blob or the Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman? “Stop shooting, it’s only making it stronger!” Yeah, so that turns out to be real.


I was worried about all the low levels of antibiotics saturating the world. There was bound to be some that lived and grew to give the population resistance to antibiotics, but I never imagined they would actually learn to EAT the drugs. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Bioremediation uses naturally occurring bacteria to eat petroleum. That’s how nature cleans up from our oil spills. In fact, in Alaska, our efforts to pressure wash the oil from the rocks actually killed off those bacteria so it took (is still taking?) longer for the coast to recover.


But where’s the plot? I see a biotech thriller (much like the one I wrote and haven’t finished editing). The bad guys engineer their bug to thrive on whatever would be used against it. That way when they release it on the unsuspecting world, the efforts to stop it will only make it worse. It has been done before, but never with hard science. Now we can write about a super bug without having to wave our hands too much.