Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Blog

How were the Pyramids constructed?

I recently stumbled across this article: Archaeologists solve the mystery of the Great Pyramid

What mystery? I asked myself.

It turns out they mean archaeologists have found evidence about the construction materials and methods used:

New evidence proves that the ancient Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid at Giza by transporting 170,000 tons of limestone in boats.

It has long been known that the rock was extracted eight miles away in Tura and that granite used in the monumental structure was quarried 533 miles away in Aswan.

However, archaeologists have disagreed over how the material was transported to Giza, now part of modern-day Cairo, for construction of Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb in 2600 BC.

So not really a mystery, far less THE mystery. Just a question about methods, no doubt the subject of various academic squabbles over the last little while.

Who was it who was talking about Egyptologist envy and said something like, “No matter what you’re studying, you can’t help but realize that the Egyptians did it ten times longer ago at ten times the size.”

Martha Wells is always dropping giant ruins of long-vanished civilizations into her worlds. If you’d like to do the same in your worldbuilding — or for that matter show living civilizations that build on a grand scale — this might be the kind of construction detail that you’d enjoy working into your worldbuilding.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Working in backstory

Here’s a pretty good post from James Scott Bell at Writer Unboxed: Weaving Backstory Into Frontstory

Loads of exposition larded into a chapter can turn reading into a slog. But does that mean it should be chucked completely?

No.

Backstory, when artfully laced into the opening pages, actually works as a bonding agent. Which, I would argue, is the primary task of the opening: get us emotionally connected to a character facing a disturbance to their world.

Interesting!

Working backstory and worldbuilding into the introduction of your novel can indeed be something of a challenge. I don’t know if you agree, but I personally just detest an infodumpy prologue where the author explains the world. Hate hate hate that kind of beginning. Anne Bishop’s Others series has that kind of prologue, for example, and it probably took me at least an extra year or two to read the first book because of it. (After which I turned out to like the series quite a lot, though I don’t think the worldbuilding actually makes much sense.)

I’m not saying it’s impossible for that kind of prologue ever to work for me, and in fact I have seen indications that some readers do like to start out with an infodump, though I’m pretty sure most of them wouldn’t say it in those words. But rather than a prologue that explains stuff, I much prefer just not knowing much about the world or the situation or the characters. Not knowing stuff is fine with me at first, while an author works in the necessary details as the story unfolds. Not sure I quite agree that this is what builds an emotional connection between the reader and the story, but that could be part of what I like, some of the time.

Who are some writers (besides, ahem, me) who do this well? Let’s take a look at how four different authors work backstory and worldbuilding into their stories as they open their novels. In alphabetical order:

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

Cazaril heard the mounted horsemen on the road before he saw them. He glanced over his shoulder. The well-worn track behind him curled up around a rolling rise, what passed for a hill on these high windy plains, before dipping again into the late-winter muck of Baocia’s bony soil. At his feet a little rill, too small and intermittent to rate a culvert or a bridge, trickled greenly across the track from the sheep-cropped pastures above. The thump of hooves, jangle of harness, clink of bells, creak of gear and careless echo of voices came on at too quick a rhythm to be some careful farmer with a team, or parsimonious pack-men driving their mules.

The cavalcade trotted around the side of the rise ridding two by two, in full panoply of their order, some dozen men. Not bandits – Cazaril let out his breath and swallowed his unsettled stomach back down. Not that he had anything to offer bandits but sport. He trudged a little way off the track and turned to watch them pass.

The horsemen’s chain shirts were silvered, glinting in the watery morning sunlight, for show, not for use. Their tabards of blue, dyes almost matching one with another, were worked with white in the sigil of the Lady of Spring. Their gray cloaks were thrown back like banners in the breeze of their passing, pinned at their shoulders with silver badges that had all the tarnish polished off today. Soldier-brothers of ceremony, not of war; they would have no desire to get Cazaril’s stubborn bloodstains on those clothes.

To Cazaril’s surprise, their captain held up a hand as they came near. The column crashed raggedly to a halt, the squelch and suck of the hooves trailing off in a way that would have had Cazaril’s father’s old horse-master bellowing grievous and entertaining insults at such a band of boys as this. Well, no matter.

“You there, old fellow,” the leader called across the saddebow of his banner-carrier at Cazaril.

Cazaril, alone on the road, barely kept his head from swiveling around to see who was being so addressed. They took him for some local farm lout, trundling to market or on some errand, and he supposed he looked the part: worn boots mud-weighted, a thick jumble of mismatched charity clothes keeping the chill southwest wind from freezing his bones. He was grateful to all the gods of the year’s turning for every grubby stitch of that fabric, eh. Two weeks of beard itching his chin. Fellow indeed. The captain might with justice have chosen more scornful appellations. But … old?

What do you think? We know quite a bit about Cazaril already, don’t we? He’s definitely hit a rough patch. Plus, we know that this looks like a pretty standard fantasy world. I think we know more about Cazaril than the world, but both are taking shape in these six paragraphs. Bujold sees no need to add an explanatory prologue about the five gods or the way they influence the world, nor any explanation about how Caz comes to be in rough shape. We learn a bit more about his recent injuries in the next couple of pages, and we start to learn about the gods as well when he finds the dead man a page or two after that. Then, as you all know, Bujold goes on unfolding a bit of the background here and there as she nudges the story along. Definitely a good example of how to work in the backstory and worldbuilding without stopping to explain everything to the reader.

Okay, here’s another: A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly

Had Cardinarl Richelieu not assaulted the Mohican Princess, thrusting her up against the brick wall of the carriageway and forcing her mouth with his kisses, Benjamin January probably wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss later on.

Now, THERE’S a story for the papers. January considered the tangle of satin and buckskin, the crimson of the prelate’s robe nearly black in the darkness of the passageway save where the oil lamp that burned above the gate splashed it with gory color, the grip of the man’s hand on the woman’s buttocks and the way her dark braids surged over his tight-clenched arm. Certainly the American papers: Cardinal Richelieu Surprised with Leatherstocking’s Sister It was a common enough sight in the season of Mardi Gras, when the February dark fell early and the muddy streets of the old French town had been rioting since five o’clock with revelers – white, black, and colored, slave and free, French and American – bedizened in every variation of evening costume or fancy dress. God knew there were women enough yanking men off the high brick banquettes into doorways and carriage gates and public houses on Rue Royale and Rue Bourbon and all over the old quarter tonight. He wondered what Titian or Rembrandt would have made of the composition; he was turning politely to go when the woman screamed.

The fear in her voice made him swing around, just within the arch of the gate. The oil lamp’s light must have fallen on his face, for when she screamed a second time, she cried his name.

“Monsieur Janvier!”

A stride took him to the grappling forms. He seized His Eminence by the shoulder and tossed him clear out of the carriageway, across the brick banquette, over the dark-glittering stream of the open gutter and into the oozy slops of Rue Ste-Ann with a single throw – for January was a very big man – making sure to cry as he did so in his most jovial tones, “Why, Rufus, you old scamp, ain’t nobody told you . . .?”

Timing was everything. He’d learned that as a child.

Even as his victim went staggering into the jostle of carriages, he was bounding after him, catching the man’s arm in a firm grip and gasping, “Oh, my God, sir, I’m terribly sorry!” He managed to yank the enraged churchman out of the way before both could be run down by a stanhope full of extremely Cooperesque Indians. “I thought you were a friend of mine! My fault entirely!” Richelieu was pomegranate with rage and thrashing like a fish on a hook, but he was also a good half foot shorter than January’s six-foot three-inch height and hadn’t spent nine years carrying cadavers – and occasionally pianofortes – on a daily basis. “I do beg your pardon!”

January knew the man would hit him the moment he let go and knew also that he’d better not hit back.

He was correct. It wasn’t much of a blow, and at least Richelieu wasn’t carrying a cane, but as the scarlet-masked villain flounced back across the gutter and disappeared into the dark maw of the gate once more, January was surprised by his own anger. Rage rose through him like a fever heat as he tasted his own blood on his lips, burning worse than the sting of the blow, and for a time he could only stand in the gluey street, jostled on both sides by gaudy passersby, not trusting himself to follow.

I’ve been in Paris too long.

Or not long enough.

He picked up his high-crowned beaver hat, flicked the mud from it – it had fallen on the banquette, not in the gutter – and put it on.

The last time he’d let a white man strike him, he’d been twenty-four. An American sailor on the docks had cuffed him with casual violence as he was boarding the boat to take him to Paris. He’d thought then, Never again..

He drew a long breath, steadying himself, willing the anger away as he had learned to will it as a child.

Welcome home.

Honestly, it’s hard to find a better example of working background into the story than this. We don’t know much about Benjamin January, but we know that people who know him trust him to help in tight spots, and that he’s been in Paris, and that for some reason he has been lugging around both cadavers and pianofortes.

And we sure do have a clear impression of both the place and the time. Hambly has no need to say, Here in 1830s New Orleans, race prejudice is an important feature of life. Though there is a short author’s note in the front, it is not in any way necessary to read it to get a vivid sense of the period. In fact, this is something well-written historical fiction can do so much better than any textbook – give the reader a sense of history, I mean.

Here’s another, shorter selection. This one’s from Inda by Sherwood Smith:

“Let’s go fight the girls!”

Inda Algara-Vayir’s shout signaled the end of morning chores. Broom handles clattered against the stable walls and buckets thumped down as the boys of Castle Tenthen whooped with joy. Dawn had brought the first clear day of a late spring. After winter’s bleakness, the sunlight shafting from the still-low northern sun cheered the castle’s people going about their work.

For the young, it meant the first war game of the year.

“What’s your plan, Inda?”

What’re we gonna do, Inda?”

Some of the older stable hands laughed as the boys romped like pups, exchanging shoves and yapping questions that no one listened to. Might as well be barks.

A hard thump across Inda’s back came from cousin Branid, the tallest and oldest of the boys. “Be a short war if the girls aren’t ready for us.” Some of the other boys paused, and Branid added, smirking, “Unless you want us to attack ‘em while they’re up studying scrolls with your mother or restringing the bows.”

Inda shook his head. “They’ll be ready. Worked it out with Tdor at breakfast. Both to finish by midmorning bells.”

The boys yelled again, then Inda said, “We’ll have a short one today. On account of the mud. Later in the week, if the ground dries, we’ll have our first overnight game.”

This time the cheer the boys sent up was very close – as close as they dared – to the notorious academy fox yip.

The girls waiting at the lakeside heard the cheer and grinned at one another in readiness.

And up on the castle walls, some of the Riders on sentry duty and the women of the Princess’ Guard who were on watch smiled, remembering the first war games of spring in their own youth, for these were the days in Marlovan history when both men and women guarded the castle walls, men outward, women inward.

How about this? It’s a short section, I know, but so lively and catchy! Who could resist turning the page? Don’t you want to know all about these war games and how the boys’ attack on the girls is going to go? They all seem to be enjoying themselves; that’s important in establishing the tone and drawing in the reader.

We know something about the world, too. It’s a fantasy world; we don’t know a whole lot about it; but we do know that both men and women defend their castle home, and we can guess that gender roles may be important.

When you go on with the book, you find that stuff starts happening right away, and that the reader doesn’t really understand much of what’s going on. This is fine. Curiosity about what’s going on and what’s going to happen and what shape the story’s going to take keeps the reader turning the pages. Or it did me.

One more, a brief snippet of the beginning from The Sunbird by Elizabet Wein:

Telemakos was hiding in the New Palace. He lay among the palms at the edge of the big fountain in the Golden Court. The marble lip of the fountain’s rim just cleared the top of his head, and the imported soil beneath his chest was warm and moist. He was comfortable. He could move about easily behind the plants, for the sound of the fountains hid any noise he might make. Telemakos was watching his aunt.

She, Geowin, ought rightfully to be queen of Britain, queen of kings in her own land. Everyone said this. But she had chosen to send her cousin, Constantine, home to Britain as its high king, and she had taken his place here in African Aksum as Britain’s ambassador. Goewin was young, barely a dozen years older than Telemakos himself. She often held informal audiences in unofficial places, like the Golden Court. She said she liked the sound of the fountains. Telemakos sometimes lay in his hiding place for hours, listening, listening. He did not understand all he heard, nor did he talk about it. But he loved to listen.

These men were not taking his aunt seriously, Teleakos could tell. They were talking about the salt trade. One of them was an official from Deire, in the far south beyond the Salt Desert, and one was a merchant, and one was a chieftain from Aar, where the valuable amole salt blocks were cut. The men were supposed to be negotiating a way of sending a regular salt shipment to Britain in exchange for tin and wool. But their conversation had deteriorated into a litany of complaints, and they spoke to one another without acknowledging Goewin’s presence, as if she were a servant or an interpreter. If they did acknowledge her, it was to make some condescending explanation, as though she were a child.

Telemakos knew how this felt. It was one reason he had become adept at keeping himself hidden. People taunted him for his British father’s hair, or they touched it superstitiously as if it would bring them luck; it was so fair as to be nearly white, incongruously framing a fine-drawn Aksumite face the color of coffee. And everyone hated his stony blue eyes, for which he could not blame them. “Foreign One” was the least offensive name they gave him. It was something Telemakos had lived with all his life, and he thought he did not mind it. But it was not something to which his aunt was accustomed, and he knew it made her angry.

I think this is an interesting contrast with the first three snippets. There is quite a bit of plain telling in this beginning. It’s a good example of why the advice of “show don’t tell” is sometimes treated with more deference than any piece of advice deserves. Wein is very rapidly filling in background for the reader in short infodumps, especially in the second paragraph. Why does this work?

Well, because the first paragraph is extremely catchy, that’s one thing. It gives us a vivid sense of place – imported soil, wow, that’s different. Palms and fountains, and why in the world is Telemakos hiding behind the plants spying on his aunt? So right away we’re getting a sense of the protagonist as well, enough to be curious about him. Then we’re invited to empathize with Telemakos: he doesn’t quite fit in, he’s considered somewhat foreign.

Also, the second paragraph, where we’re handed a chunk of background, is, first, very short, and second, from Telemakos’ point of view rather than handed to the reader by the author. Plus notice how much Wein doesn’t explain. And everyone hated his stony blue eyes, for which he could not blame them. Hmm. What beliefs do people here have about blue eyes? We don’t know because Wein doesn’t tell us that. But we’re certainly eager to find out more about this world. It’s a lot like the first mention of death magic in The Curse of Chalion or the first mention of cadavers and pianofortes in A Free Man of Color or the Riders in Inda; an important detail that is left, at first, unexplained.

Okay, who’s an author who you think does a particularly good job of working in backstory and worldbuilding? Or who has managed to pull off a good infodumpy prologue that actually works?

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

A tribute to the departed

Here’s something at SyFyWire that’s worth a look: 25 PEOPLE WE REALLY MISS

In the last 25 years, we’ve had some amazing new creators of science fiction, fantasy, and horror emerge – but we’ve lost many true legends in the field along the way, as well. These writers, artists, actors, and visionaries helped to make our world a richer place with the power of their imaginations and continue to inspire us long after they’re gone.

Click through to see the whole list.

Out of the entire list of twenty-five, I may be sorriest about Octavia Butler’s death. She was so young. I feel like she had just started her writing career and would have done so much more, almost certainly breaking from SFF to literary and exerting a powerful, widespread influence on writers across a wide spectrum of genres.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Okay, fine, this is a catchy title for a post —

Via The Passive Voice, a link to this article: High School Reading as an Act of Meaningful Aggression

Now, I have become pretty well proof against the … and you won’t believe what happened next! types of clickbait. But this title is one that practically compelled me to click through and at least skim the article. Which does not, at the beginning, seem to have a lot to do with the title. Here is the first paragraph:

Towards the end of each year I do one of those anonymous surveys where I ask the students—high-school sophomores and juniors—how much they read, as a percentage, of each book. I’ve been doing this for the last 10 years or so, and the results are remarkably consistent: most students read most, but rarely all, of each book. About 15 percent read every single word of every single thing, some of it twice. These the kids who would read the contents list of a 7-11 freezer if told, the same students who tend to sit in the front row and take the kind of notes that end up in the Smithsonian. Another 15 percent admit to struggling to even open the books, but would gladly read the 7-11 freezer list because of its novelty value and the refreshing lack of obfuscating adjectives and modifiers. The 70 percent of students in the middle make up the dominant percentage, the ones who often leave little notes, not quite apologia, but regretful explanations about wishing that they had more time to do all the reading because they would have liked to, that they did most of it, that what they read of The Great Gatsby was really good but what with other homework, and athletics, and Uncle Steve’s birthday dinner, and the cousin in Jersey with leukemia, and x not yet having said anything about prom…well, there was a lot to think about.

Okay, so, the author (Giles Scott) doesn’t mean that kids read most-but-not-all of the books they choose to read. That initially baffled me, but by the end of this paragraph, it’s clear he means that they read most-but-not-all of assigned books. That makes much more sense, and in fact I don’t see anything surprising about it at all, though so far I have no clue about this “act of meaningful aggression” thing.

Is this good writing or bad writing? Is Scott deliberately prompting an initial misunderstanding of what he’s talking about, or is he not seeing how much clearer it would be to say “I ask the students—high-school sophomores and juniors—how much they read, as a percentage, of each assigned book.” Perhaps everyone else read it that way automatically, and I just didn’t because 99% of all the reading I did in high school was not assigned.

Also, is he deliberately withholding the connection between his article and the title, and if so, is that playing fair with the reader?

Scott goes on:

For most high-school students, the act of “reading” recalls the soft glow of something done at night, before bed, in jim-jams with a cup of hot cocoa—the equivalent of night-time elevator music. Or, if not that, they’re “reading” on the bus, in the car, while standing outside class two minutes before the bell. And, at best, gaining an understanding of situation and context: who did what or said what to whom and where at what time in what kind of weather. Seeing words but not really reading them, a marriage without contact.
I want them to see reading as something far more intimate, even fractured at times, as something combative, vulgar, assertive—a constant back-and-forth between reading and rereading, moments of stepping outside the text then coming back and battering at it with questions. Something better done in a flak jacket than pajamas. And high school students hate doing it.

Oh! Ah ha! Now I see. Scott has his own personal definition of reading, which excludes reading for fun, instead equating reading you enjoy with mindless, meaningless activities that don’t engage your brain. Naturally this means that books you enjoy reading probably aren’t worth spending time with. What counts is, I guess, philosophy textbooks plus whatever novels Scott personally approves of.

Scott has his students annotate their texts — he’s talking here about The Great Gatsby, among others — and while I think slowing down and paying attention and even annotation might be fine in class, I am baffled by his implication that all reading should involve such exercises. Also by his report that some students feel he has “ruined reading” for them — surely they don’t feel any need to annotate the books they read for fun?

As you might expect, Scott winds up by waxing philosophical:

The skill of delaying judgment, at least categorically, until sufficient questions are in play stands so powerfully at the center of empathy. … if reading can teach us how to begin to push preconceptions about fictional characters further aside (“banish” seems overly hopeful), then reading perhaps serves as a model for a similar push in response to people in the world, and not just those that enter our interpersonal spaces, but also the persons in the worlds outside ours—the cultural, social, and political worlds so often represented in binary ways in the media. To effectively annotate and read the fictional worlds of Jay Gatsby, Janie Crawford, Esperanza, Macbeth, et. al. allows students, ultimately, to be able to do the same for hurricanes, race riots, economic policies, state of the union speeches, even wardrobe malfunctions—but to do so from a place that begins with witness, a place that works aggressively to keep preconceptions at bay—questions not answers. This what real reading can accomplish—an aggressive stance, a flak jacket, that stands as a condition, ironically, for more empathy. Romanticized? Maybe—actually, not even maybe. But still essential.

Not a bad point. Perhaps it could have been made, and made effectively, without dismissing as worthless the act of reading for fun, or implying that only close, analytical reading promotes empathy when that does not appear to be the case. Perhaps reading might be worthwhile in a multitude of ways, even if someone might like to do so at bedtime, with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Genre Recs by Myers-Briggs Type

Of course this is silly, but who doesn’t enjoy playing around with their Myers-Briggs Type? So, this from Book Riot:

16 GENRE RECS BASED ON YOUR MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE

I [Kate Scott] made a list of genres and Myers-Briggs types and paired them up. Sure enough, certain Myers-Briggs types and genres go together like ham and cheese. Of course, there will be exceptions, but here’s which genre I think best fits each personality type….

Good, good, sounds like fun! I’m skipping straight down to INTJ. Let’s see what Kate suggests for me and all you other INTJs out there —

INTJ | MYSTERY

INTJs are curious, independent, and private. We like solving puzzles and finding explanations for the unexplainable. Mysteries tap into INTJs’ love of problem-solving, our tendency toward secrecy, and our fascination with the unknown.

I do enjoy mysteries! But the logical can-I-solve-it thing is not what I like best about this genre. For me, character and setting are primary qualities of mysteries, with the clever plot coming a distant third. That is why I really liked Barbara Hambly’s (“Hamilton’s”) Abigail Adams mysteries. As mysteries, I don’t think they are very mysterious. As a look at the historical period and at Abigail Adams within that period, they’re wonderful.

I was talking to Tamora Pierce about those mysteries at . . . must have been ArmadilloCon . . . and she asked when I realized that Ninth Daughter was actually by Hambly. In case you’re interested, it was when a particular character moment happened, so that a character suddenly moved from being a bad guy to being a good guy. That was a classic Hambly moment. At that point, stylistic elements suddenly made me realize “Hamilton” was Hambly, which a google search quickly confirmed. So, yeah, character is something I’m likely to focus on!

Okay, now, what Myers-Briggs type is supposed to be into fantasy? Let’s look:

INTP

INTPs are cerebral, theoretical, and logical. They like to generate new ideas and speculate about all the possibilities, often walking the line between the fantastical and the scientific. Science fiction taps into INTPs’ fascination with the far reaches of what is possible.

Not bad! I used to be INTP before I shifted more toward the J end of that spectrum. Actually I’m moderately impressed that Kate Scott managed to pick two genres that I do focus on for INT-whatevers. Even though she thinks I should be more focused on SF than fantasy, which is definitely not the case. For fantasy, she’s suggesting more INFJ, which I guess is not that far off for me either.

For each type, she provides links to lists of “great mysteries” and “best epic fantasy” and all like that, though massive lists of the hundred best whatever don’t strike me as all that helpful. But if you would care to click through and check out those lists, there they are.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Good News Tuesday

Today, back to one of my favorite topics — improvements in health and medicine.

Researchers build first functional vascularized lung scaffold

End-stage lung disease is the third leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 400,000 deaths per year in the United States alone…. “We reasoned that an ideal lung scaffold would need to have perfusable and healthy vasculature, and so we developed a method that maintains fully functional lung vasculature while we remove defective epithelial lining of the airways and replace it with healthy therapeutic cells. This ability to selectively treat the pulmonary epithelium is important, as most lung conditions are diseases of the epithelium.”

Promising!

Nanomachines that drill into cancer cells killing them in just 60 seconds developed by scientists

The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated….In one test conducted at Durham University the nanomachines took between one and three minutes to break through the outer membrane of prostate cancer cell, killing it instantly.

Science-fiction-y!

FDA Approves First Gene Therapy For Leukemia

The treatment involves removing immune system cells known as T cells from each patient and genetically modifying the cells in the laboratory to attack and kill leukemia cells. The genetically modified cells are then infused back into patients. It’s also known as CAR-T cell therapy….The treatment, which is also called CTL019, produced remission within three months in 83 percent of 63 pediatric and young adult patients. The patients had failed to respond to standard treatments or had suffered relapses. Based on those results, an FDA advisory panel recommended the approval in July.

Yay!

Why The Science World Is Freaking Out Over This 25-Year-Old’s Answer to Antibiotic Resistance

The headline is fairly ridiculous — less sensationalism, please, and more information, is that too much to ask? But this is still cool:

Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls….The polymers – which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers – work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilising the cell membrane of bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, which ‘poison’ bacteria, and can also affect healthy cells in the area, the SNAPPs that Lam has designed are so large that they don’t seem to affect healthy cells at all.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Pics from this weekend

So, here, enjoy some shots from my weekend at a local(ish) dog show:

Chinese Crested, Hairless

Chinese Crested, Powderpuff

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

English Cocker Spaniel

Ibizan Hound

You all recognize this one

And finally:

Papillon

The woman with the Papillon was kind enough to take Kimmie in for me, because when Kim got Winners Bitch and Conner got Winners Dog, they both had to go back in the ring at the same time for Best of Breed. This time there were no champions showing, so we wound up with Winners Bitch, Winners Dog, Best of Breed (Conner) and Best of Opposite Sex (Kimmie) — both days. One point each, both days. At the moment, Conner and Kimmie seem unbeatable. This is proooobably an illusion.

Here they are, showing off Saturday’s ribbons:

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

Technological progress expressed as an iPhone

I would never make any claims to have checked these numbers, but:

Consider the 256 GB memory iPhone X: Implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors in an iPhoneX alone would have:

*cost 150 trillion of today’s dollars: one and a half times today’s global annual product

*taken up a hundred-story square building 300 meters high, and 3 kilometers long and wide

*drawn 150 terawatts of power—30 times the world’s current generating capacity

Many more details at the link. Click through for some serious gosh-wow number crunching.

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Blog

The best Farside cartoons

At Science Daily: the 30 best Farside cartoons of all time.

Although they picked some good ones, I guess, I think they missed all the ones that stuck in my memory. Here’s my personal favorite, which it turns out was pretty easy to find by googling Farside wolves bobby.

And remember this one?

I don’t know, it seems to me that “thirty best” would be more like “thirty best for biologists” and “thirty best for wordplay” and so on.

Still, click through and check out the so-called thirty best. Do you have any particular favorites they picked (or failed to pick?)

Update: Okay, from the comments, it’s clear that Midvale School for the Gifted is memorable. I don’t happen to remember it, but it did indeed pop up instantly on a google search.

Here it is for anyone else who isn’t familiar with it:

I wonder if I have any Farside collections sitting in my library? If so, I need to get them out and enjoy them. If not, I should pick up at least one. No matter what other cartoons I might have never seen or fogotten, though, the wolf one is probably always going to be my personal favorite!

Please Feel Free to Share:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail