Happy July 4th!

It’s America’s birthday and I’m celebrating. What I write today will be… anything I want–gibberish, a short story, guest articles on crazy topics. I have no idea. My son’s in Kuwait protecting America’s distant shores. My daughter’s in San Diego preparing her LPD for some future battle. I’m here, thanking both of them and every other service member who accepted the calling to protect our nation’s freedoms.

God be with all of you.

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Book Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly EverythingA Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So often scientific books lose us lay people with their PhD language. Not Bill Bryson. Using his infamous skill as a story-teller, he approaches the history of science with the same non-threatening approach John McPhee applied to the geology of America. Technicalities are dispensed with broad, non-pedagogic strokes while the surrounding humanity draws the reader into the intellectual excitement that is science. Readers can’t fail but want to read more.

Here are some of the topics he covers: Continue reading

Great Quotes About the Evolution of Man

credit: San Diego Museum of Man

Lucy: Her Story of Survival

I’m writing a novel about paleo-historic man. As such, I’ve spent an inordinately long period of time researching early man. Here are some of the best quotes I’ve run across on the

evolution of our species:

  • Future changes of any note will be in our minds, and what we do with them. –Phillip Tobias
  • “But I’m not dancing alone,” he said. “I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon.” Then, with the utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life. The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo — Colin Turnbull
  • Impossible is relative –Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. –Charles Darwin
  • When primeval man first used flint stones for any purpose, he would have accidentally splintered them, and would then have used the sharp fragments. From this step it would be a small one to break the flints on purpose and not a very wide step to fashion them rudely. –Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
  • Fossils are like truth. They are not where you look for them, but where you find them. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • I learnt from Flo how to be mother. Flo was patient, tolerant. She was supportive. She was always there. She was playful. She enjoyed having her babies, as good mothers do. –Jane Goodall, referring to a mother chimp she’d studied for years.
  • Chimps are unbelievably like us – in biological, non-verbal ways. They can be loving and compassionate and yet they have a dark side… 98 per cent of our DNA is the same. The difference is that we have developed language – we can teach about things that aren’t there, plan for the future, discuss, share ideas… –Jane Goodall
  • (Man’s) greatness does not consist in being different from the animals that share the earth with him, but in being…conscious of things of which his environment has no inkling. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. – Greek Proverb
  • Words require little energy to produce; they are ‘cheap tokens’ and can be used with little or no risk or cost to deceive, just as easily as to inform. Body language is much more reliable for most animal purposes. — Derek Bickerton
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Metamaterials and an invisibility cloak

Sounds like a Klingon cloaking device if you’re a Star Trek buff. What used to be the staple of science fiction is now almost reality thanks to ‘metamaterials’ and their ability to guide electromagnetic waves around an object and emerge on the other side as if they had passed through nothing but air. the result: They eliminate all reflection and shadows, thus rendering an object invisible. Early this year, Duke University made one that measures 20 inches by four inches and is less than an inch thick. Its 10,000 pieces are made of the same fiberglass material used in circuit boards. It uses algorithms to determine the shape and placement of each piece in the cloak.

I’ve been researching metamaterials for a book I’m writing. I like including weird science in my plots. I’d show you a picture of something shrouded in an invisibility cloak, but, well, if you’re a James Bond fan, remember his invisible car? Like that.

Here’s an amazing article from the BBC, gives you a sense of what it would be. This British art student painted her car to match the surroundings, invisiblesimulating invisibility. Kinda. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s amazing.

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