Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Updates

Okay, so...I'll be gone all next week dealing with Christmas and family stuff.

Finished January Making Fate.

"Crone" is back from the editor, and I'm definitely looking at a mid-January release date. If you don't have your copy of "Mother" yet - go get it.

Strange Voyages is in layout, but that might not be done until after the holidays. We're just adding the backer content now.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Science Fiction Things Under Serious Discussion

Here we go again. This is why science fiction writers keep having to up their game. Here's a few things that are now seriously in discussion and development that, you know, belong to science fiction:

1. Power sats. Four countries - the US, China, India and, of course, Japan have projects in development. SpaceX's reusable rockets could be key to bringing the project into economic feasibility - the number of launches required could give the first one a price tag of $20 billion.

2. Self-guilding bullets. DARPA claims they've cracked this one. Of course, being DARPA, they won't go into details as to how, but with modern miniaturization the bottom size of a guided missile has to have dropped a lot.

3. Mind over machine. Mind-controlled robotic arms are close to being ready for primetime. And machine-mediated telepathy's on the way too.

What do we think will be 2015's breakthrough?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fraudproof Credit Cards?

Personally, I don't think such a thing exists.

Dutch researchers are proposing using something they call quantum-secure authentication - a nanoparticle strip that has a unique pattern carved into it by a laser.

They claim it can't be hacked.

The hackers of the world slaver at such claims. I'm not sure even quantum physics can end the arms race between the white hats and black hats of the world. There's a good explanation of how the system would work here.

What do people think? Is this really "unhackable"?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Domestication Gene?

There isn't really a domestication gene. (There is something called domestication syndrome, which refers to the physical changes that are genetically linked to breeding for tameness - the "symptoms" include physical neoteny especially of the face, floppy ears, and patched or piebald coats).

Researchers studying the horse genome, though, have found 125 domestication genes. Or to be more precise, 125 genes involved in the physical and behavioral traits we favor. Stuff like, you know, not bucking people off, paying more attention to humans, having good withers to support a saddle and, most likely, size (wild horses are smaller than most domestic breeds).

I find this particular topic fascinating. One day I'll get a convention panel together on it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evolution does cool things

For one thing, we now know that only one mutation caused birds to lose the ability to produce teeth. (Beaks are an advantage in some situations, but a disadvantage in others).

Even more cool is a species of deep water worm. These worms eat bones - they eat the skeletons of whales and bony fish that fall to the bottom of the ocean. And in almost all of them the males have shrunk. Females keep harems and the males are permanently attached to them.

Almost all. They just found a new species in which the sexes are the same size - and they're saying it's an evolutionary reversal - a return to an older state. This doesn't happen very often because unused genes tend to slowly atrophy or disappear (just like the genes that would make teeth in birds). And these males are, of course, fully mobile.

Turning stuff back on? Evolution doesn't do that very often.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Updates

No huge news this week - although I did get caught up on what I planned on doing writing-wise. Pretty quiet pre-Christmas lull here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So...

...dinosaurs are extinct, right?

But the closest genetic relative to the dinosaur is an animal we've all seen (and almost all eaten), an animal so common we don't even think about it twice.

Yup - the humble chicken is the most dinosaur-like of all birds, genetically. (The second most is, of course, the turkey).

Also, birds evolve more slowly than mammals, possibly explaining why none of the flightless birds have invented livebearing yet. (And the slowest evolution? Crocodilians).

(My dear darling husband will insert a Doom Chicken joke here. It's a bad movie reference).