Tag Archives: science

Read It

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was the first sci-fi book I ever read. I remember being forced at school to choose a book from the shelf to take home and read for a book report. Not only did I not care what book I read, I didn’t even look at what I picked up when I chose (I know, I’m a total badass). Let me just say that my loathing for books stopped that day when I got home.

Ender’s Game was a total escape from reality. Imagine a world where there is an impending war with an alien race that resembles large ant-like creatures with a hive mind. Overpopulation has meant that birth restrictions are in place and the only hope for humanity lies with a six year old boy and a battle school found in space.

Ender is Earth’s saviour and the novel focuses on him and his journey. Being the third child he is loathed by many in a world where birth restrictions are in place to stop an already large population. The reason for his existence was sanctioned by the government who are slectively breeding stable-minded soldier children. His brother and sister before him were considered as candidates for battle school where these selected children go, but his sister Valentine was too caring and not violent enough while his brother Peter was the polar opposite. Ender is the equaliser in the family and is sent off to battle school where the escapism starts.

In battle school whole platoons of children live together and train together in preparation for mock battles fought in zero-gravity. The school is run by military officers who alter the rules and living environments to produce the most efficient and swift minded child-soldiers. Ender quickly rises to the top and is discovered to be a tactical genius able to turn a bad situation into a good one.

The alien race are called the Buggers and are a big theme in the novel. Almost everything that happens in battle school happens to serve the ultimate purpose of defeating the advancing alien species.

I’ve never been one for connecting with characters, if there is enough action and a good plot I couldn’t care less about how emotionally connected I get to a character, but in Ender’s Game I was really rooting for Ender the whole way through. The kid goes through a hell of a lot at the hands of the military, but in the back of his mind he knows it’s necessary for the greater good.

This is a sophisticated novel meant for anyone. The plot is engaging and multilayered with enough action in between, the characters are well written and the pace is consistent.

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The Mechanics Of Déjà Vu

It’s a phenomenon experienced by mostly every human being on the planet. The feeling that everything you are currently experiencing has happened before but there is no prior recollection of said experience. Déjà vu is a disturbance (delay) in the brain’s “time labelling” mechanism. For an animal to survive in its external environment two of the things it must be able to do are; identify an event and then determine when this event happened in accordance to other events. Take a ship’s log for instance, if you wanted to piece together a ship’s entire history you would find every major event that has occurred and the time it happened within the log (Efron, 1963). The brain is similar to this in that it logs and labels events.

How does déjà vu occur?

When events are perceived the information is relayed to the two hemispheres within the brain, the non-dominant and dominant hemispheres. Usually information is first received by the non-dominant hemisphere and then passed to the dominant hemisphere within a matter of milliseconds. Déjà vu occurs when there is a delay of this information pass over. So essentially both hemispheres perceive the same event but the information pass over is delayed between the two hemispheres. This delay gives the sensation that you have logged the event but the event has never been labelled (Efron, 1963).

Reference:

Efron R., (1963). Temporal Perception, Aphasia and Déjà vu. Neurophysiology-Biopysics Research Unit, Veterans Administraion Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

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Antimatter; Now Coming To You In Non Fiction

Captain Kirk

It was what Captain Kirk used to power the Enterprise from system to system but this fickle substance has eluded scientists for decades, annihilating itself as soon as it came into contact with matter.

Antimatter has today been successfully contained long enough to study its properties. Experiments at CERN have led to the suspension of antimatter for 1000 seconds or 16 minutes. While this breakthrough is quite huge in the physics world don’t be expecting any interstellar travel. Physicists at CERN have said that if they were to annihilate all the antimatter they have ever made it would only be enough to power a light bulb for a few minutes. It’s not all doom and gloom though as scientists will now be able to piece together why matter has become dominant within the universe and maybe even unlock some of its mysteries (i.e. how it came into existence).

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Film It

Considering my hermit-like behaviour these past few weeks you’d probably forgive me for not knowing about the new Star Trek movie that is going to be released next year some time during the American summer… FUCK YES! I say. I just hope to god they don’t butcher the thing, like they have obviously done for the prequel to “The Thing”. I have read both positive and negative thoughts for the upcoming film which is to be expected with such a diverse fan base, but the one underlying anticipation is whether or not the movie will target Trekkies or aim for the general public like it did for the 2009 film. I’m guessing it’ll be the latter, but who cares. It has been so long since anyone had gotten a Trek movie right that it was a refreshing feeling to sit down and watch one that was well written and action-packed. If I have to sacrifice a little fan knowledge for a winning formula then so be it. I just hope Hollywood doesn’t screw it up this time around.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Star Trek film?

Who do you think will be the villain(s) this time around?

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Read It

Because of upcoming mid-semester exams I’ve been bogged down with a fair bit of study lately, which has not given me much time for anything science-fiction. I’ve corrected this wrong and ordered four classics that I’ve been meaning to read. They’ll be arriving when my exams finish on the 21st of this month. In the meantime I’ll give a quick overview of what I’ve bought.

 

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969)

This is a satirical novel by Kurt Vonnegut about the WWII experiences and time travelling journeys of a soldier named Billy Pilgrim. One of the classics in science-fiction that has been read by many non sci-fi fans the world around. This is considered to be one of Vonnegut’s most influential and popular novels and I’m definitely anticipating this one.

 

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

This is a true science-fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who has returned to Earth in early adulthood after being raised by Martians on the planet Mars. The novel explores his interaction with – and the eventual transformation of – earth culture.

 

Darwin’s Radio (1999)

This one comes from the author Greg Bear. In the novel, a new form of endogenous retrovirus has emerged, SHEVA. It controls human evolution by rapidly evolving the next generation while in the womb, leading to speciation. The novel follows several characters as the “plague” is discovered as well as the reaction of the public and government.

 

The Forge of God (1987)

Another novel by Greg Bear this time one about an alien race and Earth’s demise. The Forge of God was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1987, and was also nominated for the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1988. Can’t wait for this one.

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To Start Us Off… The Almighty Thor

Thor's Helmet

With the new Hollywood blockbuster in cinemas I thought I’d chuck in something slightly related but just as cool. Yep, it’s the NGC 2359 nebula better know as “Thor’s Helmet”. It spans 30 light years across and sits 15,000 light years away from us and it just happens to be the most awesome thing out in space, aside from aliens.

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