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8 April 2014

Game of Thrones Geologic Map

Update: See this AGU Plainspoken Scientist blog post Mapping fantasy: The story behind the Game of Thrones geologic maps. The fourth season of the TV series Game of Thrones recently starting airing. I haven’t watched the first episode of the new season yet, but I plan to once my husband is back from a business trip. A friend of mine just sent me a link to this geologic map for …


26 April 2011

Why Read (Speculative) Fiction?

Today I gave a two-part guest lecture to a bunch of Cornell freshmen. The first part of the lecture was The Science of Red Mars, which you can read about over here. But since this writing seminar (taught by my officemate) might be the only course that some of these students take which involves reading fiction and writing about it, my officemate encouraged me to talk a bit in general about reading fiction, and particularly speculative fiction. I figured that since I already put together the guest lecture I might as well post it here!


4 April 2011

The Science of Red Mars

Have you read the book Red Mars yet? If not, you can download a pdf of it here. It’s a classic hard sci-fi epic about the colonization of Mars, and for my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, I took a look at how the highly accurate depiction of Mars in the book has held up with all the new discoveries in the last 20 years. Head on over and check it out!


7 January 2011

Strange New Worlds

I realized relatively recently that I like planets and I like speculative fiction for basically the same reason: strange new worlds just fire up my imagination.  That’s the topic of my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, where I take a look at some spectacular and bizarre real (or at least realistic) planetary locations that I think would be great settings for some sci-fi. I got a little …


14 November 2010

Book Review: The Road

I’ve been on a bit of a post-apocalyptic kick this year. It all started when I got Fallout 3 last Christmas, and once I finished that game I moved on to reading some of the classics of the genre like On the Beach and I am Legend and The Stand. There’s something oddly fascinating about seeing characters face the end of the world, and to me it’s even more interesting …


1 November 2010

Planets Like Grains of Sand

The other day I came across a press release announcing that nearly one in four sun-like stars could have planets as small as Earth. That’s pretty awesome! But I though it was especially interesting how they came up with this number. Current technology can’t quite see an Earth-sized planet around a sun-like star, so how do you count things that you can’t see? Well, you count everything else and then extrapolate.


28 October 2010

Bradbury on Martian Moonrise

A friend of mine sent me this Ray Bradbury quote: A few years back, one dreadful boy ran up to me and said, “Mr. Bradbury?” “Yes?” I said. “That book of yours, The Martian Chronicles?” he said. “Yes,” I said. “On page 92 where you have the moons of Mars rising in the east?” “Yeah,” I said. “Nah,” he said. So I hit him. I’ll be damned if I’ll be …


21 September 2010

The Science of Starcraft: Supernovae and Gauss Rifles

I’ve got two new posts up at The Science of Starcraft! The first tackles the difference between supernovae and novae. The words are often used interchangeably in sci-fi, but they are (usually) very different phenomena. Plus, I love telling the story of nucleosynthesis and stellar evolution, and this was a good excuse. The second post is sort of a sequel to my previous post about railguns. This time I look …


6 September 2010

The Science of Starcraft: What is a Railgun and How does it Work?

I have a new post up at The Science of Starcraft! This time I tackle rail guns: sci-fi staple and the bane of intro physics students everywhere. To learn how these futuristic guns work in the real world and whether their depiction in Starcraft is accurate, go check out my latest post!


12 August 2010

Can Life Survive in Space?

I’ve got a new post up at The Science of Starcraft! This time I tackle the question of whether unprotected living things could ever survive in the vacuum of space. Go check it out!


29 July 2010

Force Fields and Plasma Shields

Force fields are common in lots of science fiction, but how realistic are they? That’s the question I tackle in the latest Science of Starcraft post. Head on over and check it out!


27 July 2010

Starcraft Cloaking Devices

Today’s the big day: Starcraft 2 comes out! Over at my Science of Starcraft blog I have two new posts. One is a nice short video summarizing the plot of the original game, so if you want to know what I’m talking about when I make game references in other posts, check it out. I also posted an article about real-world research into cloaking devices, a technology that is common …


23 July 2010

The Science of Starcraft: Creepy Slime Molds

My second article is up over at my new Science of Starcraft blog! This one is about the weird substance in the game called “creep” and its similarities to real-world slime-molds. Check it out! Even if you don’t play Starcraft, slime molds are really cool/weird. (PS – I swear I’ll be posting some real Martian Chronicles content soon instead of just pointing to articles elsewhere! But I’m trying to get …


21 July 2010

The Science of Starcraft

In 1998 the computer game Starcraft came out, setting the bar for real-time strategy games for the next decade. I loved playing Starcraft, and spent more time that I’d like to admit doing so. Starcraft also gave me my first taste of computer programming: the game came with a “map editor” which let you construct your own maps, including simple if-then statements. IF an enemy unit enters my base THEN …


11 July 2010

Review: On the Beach

Last week I reviewed the post-apocalyptic horror novel I am Legend. As it so happens, I am Legend was a rather short book, and I finished it only partway through a rather long weekend of traveling to and from a wedding in Wyoming. I was already in a post-apocalyptic mood, so I bought a copy of the classic post-apocalypse novel On the Beach by Nevil Shute for my Kindle. On …


5 July 2010

Review: I am Legend

No, not the Will Smith movie. The classic 1954 post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie novel that inspired the movie. I am Legend, by William Matheson, is a quick read and well worth it. It is intensely atmospheric, conjuring a very dark future in which the world’s population has succumbed to a disease that turns them into vampire-like monsters. The sole survivor is the main character, Robert Neville. Neville spends his days hunting down …


15 June 2010

The Biological Singularity

If you’re a sci-fi reader, you are probably familiar with the idea of the “technological singularity“. For the uninitiated, the Singularity is the idea that computational power is increasing so rapidly that soon there will be genuine artificial intelligence that will far surpass humans. Essentially, once you have smarter-than-human computers, they will drive their own advancement and we will no longer be able to comprehend the technology. We can debate …


8 April 2010

Review: Bioshock

When Bioshock came out, I heard rave reviews about its revolutionary gameplay, deep storyline, tough moral choices, arresting visuals and general awesomeness. So of course, when I decided to give in to my old gaming addiction and get an XBox 360, it was near the top of the list of games I wanted. Well, I just finished playing and sadly, I was pretty underwhelmed. The premise of the game is …


18 March 2010

Book Review: The Next 100 Years

You would think that since I’m working at Johnson Space Center right now, I would have exciting tales from inside NASA to share with you, but I’m afraid it has been pretty uneventful. I have however managed to read a couple of books, one of which was The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, by George Friedman. This was a really fascinating book about using history and …


10 March 2010

Review: Fallout 3

Other than Spore, which I played briefly (but intensely!) last year, and occasional multiplayer games when I visited with friends, Fallout 3 is the first serious single player game that I have played in a very long time. I used to be extremely addicted to video games, and for most of undergrad and grad school I had steered clear of them because I felt like I couldn’t afford the time. …