The end of 2018: A year in review

Rachel M Brick

Wow, I can’t believe this is the third “Year in Review” post I’m writing on my blog! To continue this little tradition, which was inspired by my friend’s blog post, I wanted to take a little time and space to reflect on 2018 and emphasize to myself how much (or little) I accomplished this year. I started doing this to force myself not to obsess over things I didn’t do, but to think of the milestones I’ve hit and my achievements this year.

New year 2018 change to 2019 concept

Of everything in 2018, I’d like to highlight the following:

  • Launching my new thread of blog posts, “Put the Sci in your Fi“, and posting seven entries in that series over the past year. Seven might not seem like a large number, but for the amount of time required to research each topic and fact check everything, I’m happy with what I’ve put out so far…

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Put the Sci in your Fi — Kill the Character, Cure the Disease…Or Don’t

Why I love this author’s writing and mind – she questions, learns about the topic, and explains in a scientifically accurate manner. Her stories and blogs bear a greater semblance to scientific reality. And that in my opinion enhances the story. And these blog posts help everyone who wants to write sci-fi. Sherlock Holmes told John Watson – you see, but do not observe. This author is the antithesis of that statement, and everyone must follow her writing adventures!

Rachel M Brick

Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of Put the Sci in your Fi! I’m sure any sci-fi enthusiast has come across this trope, whether it’s in video games or books or TV show/movies, and that is: If you have a disease, plus an immune (usually human) character, that person will be sacrificed by the end to provide a cure and save the rest of humanity from the dastardly plague.

As a writer and reader, of course I understand why this approach is often taken. It’s dramatic, it creates tension and an ethical dilemma, and if a beloved character is sacrificed for “the greater good,” it pulls the reader’s heartstrings. But the scientist in me always whines that this isn’t scientifically sound, that it’s a huge waste of a valuable and limited resource, that there are other, more creative (and perhaps less obvious) ways where you can save the character and

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Put the Sci in your Fi — Getting Personal: The Realities of Life in STEM

Hows life for a typical scientist in the STEM field, especially in the life sciences? Read the experiences of a real scientist who did her PhD in the stem (pun intended) cell field.

Rachel M Brick

Hello everyone, welcome to another entry of “Put the Sci in your Fi”!

For this month’s post, instead of talking about superpowered animals or lab equipment, I thought I’d talk about the people who do the work with that equipment—the scientists. Recently, I came across this question on Quora: “What are the harsh realities about getting a PhD?”

water help This might be a little on the nose. It’s also an actual picture from my actual lab, so…

And the more I thought about it, the more I felt it might make a good “Put the Sci in your Fi” post. Not because it offers information on lesser known scientific research or gives an inside view to how a lab is typically set up, but because perhaps it can help an author create a more authentic fictional character dealing with the every day grind in the STEM field (that’s science, technology…

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Put the Sci in your Fi – Real Life Superpowers—The Naked Mole Rat

Check out the amazing ‘superpowers’ of the naked mole role. Was a very informative read for me!

Rachel M Brick

NMoleRat72-2 The Naked Mole Rat – image courtesy of Alex Ferri Land

Hi everyone, welcome to another “Put the Sci in your Fi” post! Today, we’ll be continuing the discussion of real life superpowers with the naked mole rat.

If you’re new to this line of posts, the previous topic discussed the tardigrade and what superpowers it had that could be useful to the sci-fi world. But, what on earth is so great about the naked mole rat? It looks like a sausage with giant buck teeth, after all. It lives strictly underground in East Africa, and can’t even go outside without being baked to death in the desert sun. Where does its superpower come in?

Well, a little digging reveals that the naked mole rat might just be the tardigrades of the rodent world—they boast a cornucopia of survival mechanisms, including pain resistance, aging resistance, hypoxia resistance, and cancer resistance. 

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Put the Sci in your Fi – #4 – Real Life Superpowers—Tardigrades: Just Add Water

Read this amazing post about the superpowers of tardigrades, or water bears!

Rachel M Brick

Science fiction and superhero stories are filled with people who have extraordinary abilities. People who can heal, who can walk through walls, survive vacuums, see perfectly in the dark. It’s quite a glamorous affair, especially when the characters jump off the page and onto the silver screen.

There are real animals on Earth, though, that do possess superpower-like qualities, many of which are specialized traits that have evolved as survival mechanisms. This post will delve into just one such creature: the tardigrade.

Tardigrade-Clear Hello! My name is Tardigrade! (Image courtesy of Alex Ferri Land)

The tardigrade is a microscopic aquatic invertebrate with four pairs of stubby legs. First discovered in 1773 by German zoologist Goeze, over 900 species have since been discovered around the world, and it seems only recently have researchers begun to decipher the molecular mechanisms that allow for this “extremophile” to survive the harshest of environments.

Now…

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Put the Sci in your Fi – #3 – Beakers, Bunsen Burners and Budget Cuts (Part 2)

Rachel M Brick

Welcome to another post of “Put the Sci in your Fi!” Today we’ll be continuing with the previous discussion on how to make science more affordable for your science fiction character if they aren’t swimming in money. As much as we would all love to get those million dollar grants or inherit truckloads of $100 bills from our parents, it simply may not be realistic for everyone’s sci-fi characters to be abundantly wealthy.

Given the high costs of science, doing research may present financial challenges to your character—but some corners can be cut, and this post aims to continue showing you just what actual scientists have done with every day items.

Duct tape

Starting off simple, this is probably an obvious, but often overlooked, item. It’s used for: Everything. Sincerely, anything and everything that might need to be fixed or kept together. Holding tubes in place, keeping lids on desiccators…

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Put the Sci in your Fi – #2 – Beakers, Bunsen Burners and Budget Cuts (Part 1)

Read this blog from an amazingly talented and imaginative scientist about how scientists use some day-to-day wares and instruments in a life science laboratory.

Rachel M Brick

First of all, thank you to fellow sci-fi writer K.S. Watts for the title!

And now, on to post no. 2 for putting the ‘sci’ in your ‘fi’, part 1 of the mini-series, Beakers, Bunsen Burners and Budget Cuts!

If you’ve watched any sci-fi movie, you’re probably familiar with the following setting:

Super dark, blue-lit labs… (Image credit: jimmyjimjim)

Full of high-tech equipment… (Image credit: neisbeis)

Why do labs always look like this? Because it’s edgy. It’s dramatic. It’s exciting and photogenic.

It’s also incredibly expensive. And who can blame the author for wanting to set up a billion-dollar lab? Expensive, flashy toys are always exciting, not to mention they are apparently extremely effective at getting the job done. Vaccines can be discovered and mass-produced within a week, amiright?

But what if your character is not a trust fund baby with rich parents, and they want to set…

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Put the Sci in your Fi – #1 – Button, button, who’s got the button?

Amazing post about…would a genetically engineered baby grown outside a womb have a belly button?

Rachel M Brick

Hey guys! In keeping with one of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m starting up a new section on my blog: Put the Sci in your Fi.

My hope and intent with this blog thread is to create a fun, informal resource for non-scientists who want to write Sci-Fi novels. Those of you who are already well immersed in SF writing will know that you must do your homework, and sometimes there’s a great deal of homework to be done. But sometimes, it’s hard to know what to look for when you’re unfamiliar with the field, especially if you’re looking for something specific.

giphy Always researching…

During the course of writing SF, I’ve been asked a good number of questions that I did my best to explain. There is a certain level of creativity that we can inject into our works, of course. Otherwise, we might as well just write textbooks, and…

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Beliefs vs Facts

As a human and not a machine (unfortunately), I have numerous beliefs. But I have tried hard over the last 10-12 years to differentiate between beliefs and facts. I believe in God, but I don’t consider existence of God/s to be an objective fact. In this issue, atheists and agnostics have a better rational argument than I have. Just because none of us know the answer, doesn’t mean the answer that comforts us most (and belief in God is comforting to me) is the objective answer. Therefore I am dispassionate about beliefs, but what does upset me is when people force personal beliefs on others as a matter of fact.
Very few things can be considered objective facts. Political ideology is certainly not one of them. I might lean liberal in most issues, but neither liberal nor conservative ideologies are objective truths. Role of government vis-à-vis social safety nets, abortion, healthcare, military, and education can elicit deep emotional responses, but no matter how deeply we feel about the issue, the other side feels just as deeply about their viewpoint. This doesn’t mean logical inconsistencies or hypocrisy cannot exist on either side regarding an issue. We can still debate for our beliefs while still calling out irrationality or double-standards on all sides.
“Man-made climate change is a hoax” or “GMOs are inherently dangerous” are objective falsehoods. Evolution is true and vaccines are safe are objective truths. We should be humble enough to accept that the Universe is far too complicated for us to fully comprehend. But the scientific proofs and consensus in these issues are far too strong that unless there is a paradigm shift with new data, these scientific issues are objective truths. 9/11 was not a false-flag operation by Bush, and Obama was born in America are objective facts, doesn’t matter what the far-left and far-right want to believe. Once we learn to distinguish between facts and beliefs, hopefully we can be dispassionate in our debates and arguments and learn to understand the other side’s perspectives. It doesn’t mean giving up on all our beliefs, but at least not considering differing beliefs as objectively evil or falsehoods, or not giving in to the loonies on either extremes. It means not instinctively supporting “our team” or opposing the “other team”, but trying out best to study an issue devoid of emotions and then deciding if it is an issue that can have an objective answer, or is it an issue that will remain subjective and therefore open for endless debates.