Wednesday, September 28, 2016

First Three Parent Baby Thrives

The first baby born using a technique that implants the nucleus of an egg from the mother into an egg cell from a donor is now five months old - and healthy.

The technique is not some kind of weird vanity thing - it's designed to allow women who have mitochondrial faults (in this case Leigh syndrome) to have children. Leigh syndrome is fatal - the mother involved had already lost two children.

I can't be opposed to something that allows somebody to have healthy children that do not suffer - although I agree that we should be cautious and make sure that the technique doesn't produce unhealthy children.

But hopefully there will be lots more families taking advantage of this. (Again, it's not a vanity thing - the only alternative for women with these problems until now was to use donor eggs).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's Talk Proofreading

Okay, so I'm going to talk about proofreading - because it's something that a lot of independent authors and small publishers neglect.

There are two myths:

1. You don't need proofreaders any more because spellcheck catches everything. I can always tell when somebody thought spellcheck catches everything. The thing is - spellcheck will catch some things. It will catch typos, it will catch reversed letters, and it will catch doubled up words. It won't catch when you typed "there" instead of "they're". Oh, and grammar check tends to produce results that read awkwardly in fiction. I'm not saying spell checkers aren't useful - they are. But they should not be the only thing.

2. You can proofread your own work. I actually saw a job ad for writers where they said "Proofreading is 50 percent of a writer's job" - so clients often think this too. Fact is? You can't. Why? Because you know what you meant. With the best will in the world, you will never produce a hundred percent clean copy without somebody else proofreading it. (And to be honest, even multiple proofreaders don't always get things to a hundred percent).

So, what should you do?

You could hire a proofreader (Hi! I'm available). If you do, this person should be the last person who looks over your book other than you before it goes to print. I even recommend doing layout first. (And I also recommend, strongly, because it caught me out last time ordering print proofs and reviewing them before you post the ebook version). Any more substantive edits will introduce new errors. Trust me, they will.

Or if you can't find room in the budget, then find a writing buddy willing to trade with you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Forgotten Gardens of Petra found

Petra is the world's oldest known town - and now we know a little bit more about it. It's best known for the sandstone canyon, but 2,000 years ago it was known as a famous water stop. Now they have found it had gorgeous irrigated gardens...and apparently a near (modern) Olympic size swimming pool. It was conspicuous consumption at its finest: We have so much water we can actually jump in it. This in a place which gets 10 to 15 centimeters of rain a year...


Friday, September 23, 2016

Gravitational Lensing Growing Up

Gravitational lensing can be used to detect planets by studying how the gravitational force of one object bends the light of an object behind it. Hubble has confirmed that one "unsure" system is, in fact, a gas giant orbiting a tight pair of red dwarf stars - considerably further out than previous planets found in binary systems by Kepler.

(There may, of course, be something else in the system. We don't know yet.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Most Stable Culture In The World

People are saying "Oldest" but that makes no sense.

The "longest running" culture in the world? It's the Australian Aborigines. Nope, not something in Africa - Africa apparently changes too much to count for this.

Oh, and apparently they aren't pure homo sapiens either, but interbred with...something...as they migrated through Asia.

We don't know what. (Maybe some relatives of the hobbits?)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thoughts on "Passengers"

Hrm. Passengers is relatively unusual - a true science fiction film that is not based on anything.

It stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two passengers on a colony ship who are woken prematurely from cryogenic suspension by a malfunction - ninety years from their destination and with no way to go back into stasis.

Of course, they have to save the ship...and of course there's romance. (Possibly too much for my personal taste - but original science fiction movies are so rare I will probably give it a chance anyway).

The trailer hints at a character-focused feel, but also gives some spectacular visuals. I'm not sure about the design of the colony ship: Also, if everyone is asleep, why is there gravity? (And the plot might hint at why you wouldn't want everyone to be asleep...or at least if you did you might just want a really good AI to run the ship in your absence).

But it's definitely intriguing. It's described as "romantic" so I trust in a happy ending. But it also seems to have some drama to it.

Release date: December 21.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quantum Teleportation...

...over the actual internet.

Two teams have independently (one in China and one in Canada) sent quantum entangled information over commercial fiber optic networks. This is an important step to being able to use quantum teleportation to transmit real information.

Quantum teleportation does not allow the passage of information faster than light because decoding the entanglement requires a key, which must be sent independently by conventional means. It does, however, allow for the transmission of information by extremely secure methods, as you need both the information and the key to get the message. It may also be possible to do it wirelessly using laser communication techniques - and that, my friends, is how spaceships will send truly secure messages...