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:
https://doctodd.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=645026792&ref=pb
http://doctodd.livejournal.com/

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.

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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!

http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/concern/concern.htm

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:

http://toddcedwards.com/ 

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

–Todd

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
  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Ewen Callaway

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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.

Blog linking

April 3, 2008

I have my primary blog on my website:

http://toddcedwards.com/blog

But I know some people only go to LiveJournal or Facebook or others, so I’m testing some software that will let me post once on my blog and then have the entry show up in the other locations. Wish me luck!

Particle smasher ‘not a threat to the Earth’

March 29, 2008

http://www.newscientist.com/

We’ve all heard it before: The Core, Earth (by David Brin), and many Star Trek episodes. Scientists go too far and create rip in the space/time continuum, or an anomaly in the fabric of reality, or a miniature black hole. The abhorant creation sinks into the Earth’s core and eventually we all die, consumed by the ever-growing threat that eats away at the inside of the planet. There is always one handsom young (or wizened old) hero who tries to stop the arrogant scientists before it is too late. But we are all doomed when the scientists utter their famous last words. Something like:

The lawsuit’s claims are “complete nonsense”, James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN, told New Scientist. “The LHC will start up this year, and it will produce all sorts of exciting new physics and knowledge about the universe,” he said, adding: “A year from now, the world will still be here.”

Except you couldn’t actually use that in a story, since it is so cliche.

Could the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have a catastrophic accident that annihilates the Earth? Possibly. Should we be worried? No. You should be more worried about the Earth getting struck by a killer asteroid and us going the way of the dinosaurs. Or perhaps you should be more worried that we’ll use up all the water in the aquifers and wars will break out over fresh water sources while millions starve. Or global warming. Or rainforest destruction. Those things are much more likely to destroy human life on Earth.

Also this.

Ancient Sea Scorpion was Bigger than a Human

November 21, 2007

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071121/sc_nm/scorpion_fossil_dc_1

This is as critter akin to a lobster. They found a fossilized claw that put the whole creature at about 8 feet long. Probably about the size of a big bull sea lion. How scary would that be? For the answer, see the inevitable thriller about the people who accidentally run across a group of these things that are still around.

One of the problems with monster SF is that things with exoskeletons don’t usually get very big (gravity, inefficiency with exterior supports, the scaling of surface area, and the amount of energy to create a big exoskeleton). The article mentions the possibility of higher O2 concentrations in the air. Also, these were sea creatures, so they have buoyancy to help counteract gravity.

Now imagine what sorts of creatures could evolve on a low gravity planet with high O2 levels. Throw in some stranded astronauts and the story writes itself.

Children bonding with robots

November 6, 2007

http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/dn12879-giggling-robot-becomes-one-of-the-kids-.html?feedId=online-news_rss20

Now, if this isn’t a sign of impending doom (via a Star Trek inspired plot), I don’t know what is. THEY have built a robot that giggles when children touch it’s head. It wanders around a room full of kids and avoids them, sitting occasionally, and over a few weeks, the children seem to be bonding to it.

Is the government looking for more ways to make the population into automatons? Are aliens prepping the way for an easy take-over? Is this a preview of Battlestar Galactica science gone awry?

I don’t know, but if I wrote it, it wouldn’t be a giggle robot for toddlers. It would be a slapping robot for politicians who make speeches to congress when they are supposed to be asking the witness a question. NO! Bad senator. Go to your room for wasting everyone’s time.

Solar sails revisited

March 13, 2007

http://space.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn11375&feedId=online-news_rss20

Some ideas for how to use magnetic fields to power satellites and space craft. Basically, a charge in a changing magnetic field (or a moving charge in a static magnetic field) produces a current. Use that to power up a capacitor and then use that energy to run your systems. The moving charge is generated by radioisotopes attached to the capacitor material, so it generates power constantly. They plan to use a device like a sail (probably folded up into a sock-like geometry) with large surface area. Change the surface area or geometry to alter the capacitance and thus regulate the power generation.

You could use that to accelerate or brake as you travel, and Jupiter (with its bigger magnetic fields) could serve as the depot where space stations and ships hang out/get built before being sent off on missions.

Good inspiration for writers, and something I’ll use in my Science in Science Fiction talk at Writer’s Weekend later this month.

U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins – Yahoo! News

January 11, 2007

U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins – Yahoo! News: “WASHINGTON – Money talks, but can it also follow your movements?

In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.”
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Wow, that seems so, I don’t know, Cold War. If it is China, they should just embed the transmitters into cellphone plastic when they are made. Or shirt buttons. Something that won’t change (ha ha) hands as often as coins.

Reminds me of the nanobarcode technology for embedding tags in plastic at the time of molding, so you can fingerprint each one on a molecular scale.