Tag Archives: Science

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes About Science


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A male Asian scientist wearing a face mask and peering through a microscope at something on a slide. Perhaps he is looking at a highly infectious disease?While all of my book reviews on this blog are about the speculative fiction genre, I read many other genres as well.

Nonfiction is a particular favourite of mine. It’s exciting to learn about everything from prehistory to astronomy to the latest medical breakthroughs in books.

Here are ten bookish quotes about science.

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
Stephen Hawking

 

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.”
Claude Levi-Strauss

 

“Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.”
Werner Heisenberg, Across the Frontiers

 

“Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”
Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

 

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”
Alan Turing, Computing machinery and intelligence

 

“I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe.”
“You poked it with a stick?”
“No!” I said. “Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick.”
Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary

 

“In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes? Yes.”
Jane Goodall

 

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.

{Speech accepting the John Burroughs Medal}”
Rachel Carson

 

“It takes a fearless, unflinching love and deep humility to accept the universe as it is. The most effective way he knew to accomplish that, the most powerful tool at his disposal, was the scientific method, which over time winnows out deception. It can’t give you absolute truth because science is a permanent revolution, always subject to revision, but it can give you successive approximations of reality.”
Ann Druyan

 

If you’ve read any great books about any branch of science lately, I’d love to hear about them!

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Criticize Your Favourite Book, Show, or Movie

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Poster for the tv show The Last of Us. Poster shows the two main character, Ellie and My favourite pieces of media can shift a lot over time, but I will follow the rules and only give one answer this week. 😉

One of the shows at the top of my list is The Last of Us. You’ve all probably heard of it already, but if not it was a science fiction zombie show based on a video game that came out last winter.

The first zombies in this universe were created when they ate food made from (or were otherwise exposed to) flour that was contaminated with the cordyceps fungus (This was strongly hinted at in the first episode, so it’s only a mild spoiler).  In the real world, certain types of this fungus really do infect ants which still scares me a little.

Here are my criticisms of this show:

1) Normal human body temperature is too high for cordyceps to survive in. Some people literally eat this fungus as a dietary supplement or food, and it has no ill effect on them.

2) It’s rare and difficult for an organism like a fungus to learn to jump species, especially ones that are as wildly different as humans and ants. They would have probably had to learn how to infect many other species between us before people were ever in danger, so the characters should have had many generations to notice this was happening and stop it.

3) Given that the vast majority of people do not eat raw flour or raw dough, how did the cordyceps surviving the scorching heat of baking process and manage to infect so many folks nearly simultaneously?

4) The mycologist in one of the first episodes of this show say there are no treatments for fungal infections, but that’s false. Yes, some fungal infections can be difficult to treat, but this isn’t a completely new and unknown pathogen by any means. We currently have many different anti-fungal medicines, after all.

Basically, I wanted the scientific explanation of the origins of this disease to be more accurate. Apparently, I can believe that cordyceps could take control of the human mind and turn folks into mindless zombies in this universe, but I can’t suspend disbelief when to comes to the idea of anything surviving being baked in an oven for an hour. Ha!

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Strangest Dream I’ve Had Recently

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Five little green plants are growing in five glass test tubes as the tubes sit in a test tube tray on a white counter in the sunlight. Back in May I dreamed that I was standing in a laboratory watching scientists work. I may have been a scientist, too, although the dream logic wasn’t very clear on that.

We had a limited amount of time left to solve the biggest problem humanity has ever faced: the plants were revolting.

That is to say, every single plant on Earth had become sentient and was furious with humanity.

Not only were we eating the plants themselves, we were stealing their children (seeds) and eating them, too.

Plantkind had run out of patience with us. They were so angry, in fact, that they made a unanimous decision to stop reproducing forever.

The scientists I was working with had captured a plant specimen and was attempting to find her seeds. When they realized she had none, they decided to try reasoning with her. She was about the size of a small doll, dark green, and almost too angry to speak with us.

Didn’t she realize that her species, too, would die out if there were no seeds left?

She knew and didn’t care. So far the scientists had only strengthened her resolution to carry out her plan and encourage every other plant to do the same.

And then I woke up.

(Aren’t dreams odd sometimes?)

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books That Did a Great Job of Explaining Science to Non-Scientists

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Three DNA strandsI’ve mentioned my interest in science in previous posts here. There’s nothing like finding new books about various branches of science that were written for people who are not experts on the topic.

All of these titles were good reads that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about their subject matter.

 

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Branches of Science It Covers: Medicine, Public Health, and Sociology

This is one of those books that made me very grateful to grow up in a time and place when vaccinations, antibiotics, and clean water exist.

 

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

Branches of Science It Covers: Astronomy

Since I’m currently reading this book, I won’t provide any commentary on it yet other than to say that it’s as educational as it is humorous. Scientists are still debating whether to designate Pluto a planet again, but it never stopped being a planet in my opinion. Ha!

 

Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be The Only Humans on Earth by Chris Stringer

Branches of Science It Covers: Biology and Paleoanthropology

Longterm readers might remember my never-ending fascination with how and why the various types of humans evolved over time. Every time a new book comes out on Neanderthals, Archaic humans, or any other closely related species, I simply must read it. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to actually meeting the people that eventually lead to the birth of modern humans.

 

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Doidge

Branches of Science It Covers: Neuroscience, Medicine, and Psychology

Is anyone else fascinated by neuroplasticity? It’s been a while since I read this, but I do recall being surprised by how much the human mind can adapt when accidents, injuries, or other issues cause damage to it.

 

American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel

Branches of Science It Covers: Botany, Mycology, and Ecology

The American Chestnut is a tree that has been driven nearly to extinction by a fungus called the chestnut blight. Since this was published, there have been a few signs of hope for this species. My fingers are crossed that scientists will find a way to keep it alive either by killing the fungus or figuring out a way for the remaining American Chestnut trees to no longer be so susceptible to it.

 

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

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Rest in Peace, Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking in 2006. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I’m assuming all of my readers heard this news yesterday, but the famous physicist Stephen Hawking is dead.

The world is a dimmer and sadder place without him. I doubt any of his friends and loved ones will read this, but I’d like to extend my sincere condolences to them if they do.

A Brief History of Time was one of my all-time favourite pop-science reads. The only science classes I took in high school were Biology and Chemistry, so he was my first introduction to Cosmology and Physics.

He explained everything so clearly and concisely in the things he wrote for a general audience. By far the best part of A Brief History of Time in particular was the section on black holes. Mr. Hawking’s theories about how they worked and why it’s actually possible for some material to escape a black hole blew my mind.

It sounded like something from a science fiction novel, yet it was happening in our universe and it could be explained in purely scientific terms. There’s something special about touching the far reaches of current human knowledge like that.

Not every physicist is capable of explaining his or her work so well to people who have little to no understanding of what physics is about or how physicists are slowing figuring out more and more details about how the universe works and how it began.

In 2014, Stephen Hawking asked science fiction writers to incorporate his ideas about imaginary time into their stories.  To the best of my knowledge, no one has taken him up on that challenge yet.

(If any of my readers know of any plausible hard science fiction books, movies, or TV shows that are based on Stephen Hawking’s work, do mention them in the comment section below! Everything I could find online about this topic involved soft science fiction like Futurama or Doctor Who.

Mr. Hawking, thank you for everything you did for the scientific community. Thank you for inspiring generations of science fiction authors, too. May you rest in peace.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Mr. Hawking himself:

It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.

 

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A Tale of Six Pies

six pies

Photo credit: Alpha.

I have two basic kinds of dreams: ordinary ones about the somewhat-boring things everyone has to do in life and and pulse-pounding, action-adventure tales where I narrowly outrun zombies, ghosts, or other malevolent forces. (Sometimes I don’t outrun them, of course, and then I get to see what life is like as a sci-fi monster. But I digress).

Then there is my bizarrely specific dream about buying pies from a few nights ago. How many pies, you ask? Six of them, and each one a different flavour.

What two adults with small-to-moderate appetites could be expected to do with so many pies before they grew stale remains to be seen, but dream-me was thrilled with what I’d picked up at the grocery store. I thought we’d start with the lemon meringue, and then move onto the chocolate one that looked a lot like this festive pie pictured above. Just before I woke up, I was imagining how content we’d feel with bellies full of pie. It was the nicest thing I could possibly think of at the time.

This was one of those dreams that  took me a moment or two to separate from reality when I woke up. Did we really have six pies sitting on the counter in the kitchen? No, thank goodness. Our kitchen was as pie-free as it ever is.

The dream has stuck with me, though, as I wonder what could have caused it. I’m not craving this type of dessert. I haven’t actually been craving many sweets at all. If I were going to eat them, Halloween candy would be closer to what I’d want at this time of year. There are only so many weeks when you can get certain types of it, after all!

I wish there were more scientific studies about what dreams mean. Almost everything I’ve found on this topic is infused with woo or spiritual beliefs that I don’t share. Those interpretations are great for people who believe in those things, but I’d love to see someone come up with explanations that don’t rely on them.

If I ever win the lottery or sell so many books that I become independently wealthy, I’m going to study this as scientifically as I possibly can. My theory is that the emotions we feel when we’re dreaming are far more important than the content of the dreams themselves.

I’ve had peaceful dreams about zombies and terrifying dreams about something as simple as trying to find a clean, dry, available toilet in a building that seems to contain everything else in the entire world but that.

What odd things have you been dreaming about lately? How do you interpret them?

And more importantly, has this post made you crave pie? 🙂

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