ماشاء الله تبارك الله ماشاء الله لاقوة الا بالله , اللهم اني اسالك الهدى والتقى والعفاف والغنى

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time Lord regeneration physiology; or, Does the Doctor have to be a white dude?

Time Lord regeneration physiology; or, Does the Doctor have to be a white dude?

If you've been following the science fiction news over the past few days, you've probably heard the BBC's announcement that Matt Smith will follow David Tennant in the role of the Doctor in the long-running Doctor Who series. Ever since Tennant announced he would step down in the role, there has been rampant speculation as to who would replace them.

Some of the rumors were that the eleventh Doctor might be played by a black actor such as Chiwetel Ejiofor or Paterson Joseph (who would have been my pick) or a woman like Alex Kingston or Catherine Tate. It doesn't take more than a glance at Smith's photo to realize that he is neither a woman, nor black. Maybe he'll be the greatest Doctor ever, but even if he is, I'm still a bit disappointed that he's a super young white dude. Graeme McMillan summed it up nicely in his rant at io9:
Maybe the BBC didn't want to bring too much upset to their flagship family program, especially with the change in producers and showrunners, and worried that moving too far away from the familiar would make viewers leave the show in concern that it's not the same show they've loved for the last X number of years. If so, it's a shame, and - I think - a miscalculation; I really doubt that audiences would have had any problem with a black Doctor, or a female Doctor (or, for that matter, a black female Doctor, for anyone who wants to write fanfic that Martha Jones is actually a future Doctor herself); despite a stereotype and tradition for stuffiness, Britain is a strongly multicultural environment, and even if it wasn't, characters like Martha, or the admittedly-annoying Mickey, or even Captain Jack Harkness, had been quietly pushing the envelope on Who since its revival. Even if the BBC wasn't ready for a different kind of Doctor, the audience, I believe, was.
Of course this sparked a lot of discussion in the comments of the post, with some people agreeing and others disagreeing, with some people arguing that the Doctor just is white and is male and can't actually be anything else. But can he? What do we know about the biology of the Time Lords?

In case you aren't a Doctor Who fan, a bit of background is in order. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, a member of a race who can live a very very very long time by the process of regeneration when their body is at the point of death. They aren't immortals, though, since they can only regenerate 12 times, giving them a total of 13 long lives. During regeneration every cell in a Time Lord's body is replaced, but memories (and perhaps their whole brain) remains intact. The regenerated body has a completely different appearance and personality. But how different can different be?

Over the years the Doctor has changed the color and texture of his hair, the shape of his face and mouth and nose, and even his height. While his skin color hasn't changed much, fellow Time Lord Romana was able to "try on" a blue body during her first regeneration, so it seems that variation in skin color is certainly possible. We even glimpsed a black Time Lord in the Doctor's flashback to his youth on Gallifrey in the episode "The Sound of Drums". Taking all these factors into account, I don't think it would be at all inconsistent with what we know about his physiology for the Doctor to regenerate with dark brown skin and tightly curled black hair, looking very much like a human with black African ancestry.

So what about the possibility of the Doctor changing from male to female? While it appears uncommon, the Doctor did meet another Time Lord, I. M. Forman, who had regenerated in both male and female form. It certainly doesn't seem implausible for a sex change to occur if the newly regenerated version sports modified DNA and every cell is regrown from scratch.

It seems like anything is possible. Will we see a non-white, non-male doctor? Only time will tell.

Image (top): Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor.
Image (middle left): Eleven Doctors, from the Doctor Who Tardis Index File article on The Doctor.
Image (middle right): Regeneration forms "tried on" by Romana in the episode "Destiny of the Daleks". From the Wikipedia article on regeneration.
Image (bottom): black Time Lord glimpsed in the episode "The Sound of Drums", from the YouTube clip.

Help Needed: Can you identify this novel with a body-parts-for-sale plot line?

Help Needed: Can you identify this novel with a body-parts-for-sale plot line?

Mark Tushnet emailed me with a question I couldn't answer, and I'm hoping one of you kind readers might be able to help:
I'm trying to locate a novel I read, published in the last decade but not one of those on your list in that post, with the following plot line (it's a subordinate plot line to the main story): A person needing money sold a small body part, and prospered, but also found the sale altruistically satisfying. So, part by part, he sold off major body parts, to the point where he was reduced to a torso and head carried around by his close friend. In the end, a recipient of one of the body parts invents a technique for perfectly replacing lost body parts, so the donor is at the book's end restored to a full complement of body parts, mostly "artificial." (I use the story in teaching about legal regulation of risk -- students tend to think that there's something wrong about selling some body parts, although they disagree about where to draw the line, but don't have any objection to "selling" the risk to those same body parts at ordinary, risky jobs.)
The main story line probably had something to do with the "amputee's" friend, but he can't remember any other details. It's not any of the novels mentioned in this post.

If you think you can identify the story, you can email Mark at
mtushne (at) law (dot) harvard (dot) edu
or leave a comment below.

Ideas from Science Fiction are a Career Killer?

Ideas from Science Fiction are a Career Killer?

The December issue of Esquire Tom Junod profiled biologist Mark Roth, whose lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center studies suspended animation. Long term human hibernation is a staple of science fiction, particularly as a method for transporting people for the very long journeys necessary to traverse our galaxy at sub-light speeds.

The style of the Esquire article is pretty breezy, particularly if you are used to reading profiles of scientists in Science (or even the New York Times), so can be a bit hard to tell what bits are based on facts, and what Junod included because he liked the sound of it. That's why I'm not quite sure what to make of this:
Now, Mark Roth is a scientist. He's not a philosopher or a crank. He proves things, experimentally, according to the scientific method. In 2007, he got a MacArthur, so he's a genius, certified. [snip long description of Roth's appearance] He sometimes gives you a goofy double thumbs-up when he thinks he's proved his point, when he's proved that what he's talking about -- be it ball lightning or the philosopher's stone -- is not a crazy idea but rather a gamer. Still, he's got a lot of ideas, for a scientist, and some of them come from unusual sources, like tabloidy news reports and science fiction.

It's a weird thing about scientists -- you would think that they would love science fiction. But they don't. To admit that you get your ideas from science fiction, if you're a scientist, that's, like, career-threatening, man, just like it might be professionally risky to say you work in Mark Roth's lab, no matter how outlandish and game-changing its accomplishments. And so, yes, Mark Roth is a scientist. But he's a scientist in the way that you used to want to be a scientist when you were a kid, with weird substances -- dangerous substances, toxic substances, indeed the most toxic substances known to man! -- bubbling away in his lab, rather than a scientist in the way that most scientists are scientists, with NIH funding, a stack of grant applications to catch up on, and a commitment to pursue the one or two ideas that got them that precious federal funding to the death.
Now from where I sit, this reads like a tiny kernel of truth surrounded whole lot of stupid. Junod doesn't seen to have ever met a scientist or seen a lab, and he doesn't appear have a clue that even unusual scientific ideas owe credit to the research that has gone on before.

Take, for example, his description of Roth as having a lot of ideas "for a scientist". Most scientists I've met have lots of ideas. I suspect that Junod actually meant to write "Roth has lots of ideas I find really cool". And that's pretty much the theme of the whole article: Roth doesn't just punch the clock doing boring research like all those unimaginitive scientists with NIH grants. He's a maverick doing weird science who found creative ways to fund his work. He's like totally rad!

The jab about most scientists not loving science fiction falls along those lines. Some scientists love science fiction and some don't. Just like some scientists are of differening opionions on the entertainment value of murder mysteries and Tom Clancy novels. But the implication seems to be that scientists dislike SF because they can't use the ideas in their grant proposals, which is just stupid.

Which brings me to his next point:
"To admit that you get your ideas from science fiction, if you're a scientist, that's, like, career-threatening, man...".
Well yes, if all your scientific ideas are only based on science fiction and not on, you know, actual science, that would be a problem. Most science fiction is fiction first and science second. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but not really that useful for basing your research on.

I suspect that Roth's scientific ideas about inducing suspended animation actually are based on previous research and not just The Forever War, even though he did apparently have a lot of trouble getting them funded (but, like, NIH funds only boring unoriginal stuff, so, like, dude, it's better that he didn't get any grants). You'd never know that reading this article, though.

And I don't want to give the impression that I don't think Roth's research is interesting. It is. I'm just not keen on the way it's been framed as better than what other scientist have been doing because it's so science fictional.

Science and Science Fiction: What the scientists say: Do you like SF?

Science and Science Fiction: What the scientists say: Do you like SF?

As you may recall, Stephanie Zvan and I will be moderating a panel at the fast-approaching ScienceOnline09 conference about the role of science fiction in science communication. We asked a bunch of science fiction writers and scientists (and a number of people who are both) several questions about their thoughts on science in SF.

This is the first in a series of posts that gives overview of the answers the scientists gave - there are links to the full replies on my original post. Meanwhile, Stephanie is summarizing the writer's responses over at her blog. Be sure to check them out too.


What is your relationship to science fiction? Do you read it? Watch it? What/who do you like and why?

All of the people who answered the questions read or watch at least a bit of science fiction. That's not particularly surprising, considering that number of the responses are from science fiction writers with science backgrounds, or scientists who regularly write about SF.

It may be overly reductionist, but it seems to me that the reasons why science types like science fiction can be roughly split into three categories:

1. Imaginative ideas and exploring strange new worlds

David Brin "Science Fiction is the literature of change... the genre that admits that human life is in flux and that transformations occur all of the time. Sometimes these are propelled by scientific advances or technology. But not always. The changing roles of women in society, for example. These have long been grist for SF stories that predicted the important shifts that have taken place. Modern environmentalism was first pushed in SF."

Kim @ All My Faults are Stress Related : "As an adult, I like stories that imagine societies different from ours. Science fiction (and also fantasy) seem like great ways to explore human-ness by imagining what happens if things were a little different. Maybe the difference is some kind of technology. Maybe the difference is a cultural attitude. In a way, it's like experiments in science."

Z @ It's The Thought that Counts : "In general I think sci-fi appeals to me because of its capabilities to challenge our most basic assumptions and to explore human nature in different settings. Sci-fi is not just narrowly about imagining future technology, but rather about imagining future society in the context of human discoveries and how they influence our lifestyles. Also, I’m impressed by the many discoveries and inventions that were foreshadowed in science fiction, and to some extent as a scientist I read sci-fi to find new ways of thinking about research questions."

Lee @ Cocktail Party Physics : "What attracts me to science fiction and its various subgenres is not just the hardware or the science but the world-building: how that science fits into the larger scheme of things, how it shapes society, how society interacts with it, how society shapes science in turn. I've been at least as fascinated by the interaction as I've been by the science itself. I think scientists sometimes unconsciously think of their research as occurring in a vacuum; it's pure and righteous because it's the search for knowledge. But history is full of boxes that were opened too early, or that couldn't be slammed shut again and I think that's one of the useful checks and balances of science fiction. It asks those questions about consequences."

Martin R. @ Aardvarchaeology : "That honour goes to good old sense of wonder. Sf is good when it's gripping and exciting, preferably emotionally, artistically and intellectually. And if you learn some science along the way, real or fictional, then all the better. It's probably very hard to remain ignorant of and hostile to science if you like sf, but then, if such is your background, chances are you won't seek out sf anyway." Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0) : "I love thinking about aliens: what if they weren't carbon-based? Would they be anything we would even recognize? What other self-replicating systems could there be beyond DNA? These are ideas that bench scientists often consider a waste of time, and it's great to know that there are writers out there thinking of it and making us all think deeper than we might ever go on our own. We spend a lot of time confronted by the dull face of reality. I love that writers in general, and Sci-fi and fantasy writers in particular, look beyond that, and give us the funny little questions that make us stop, and make us think. If there were androids, would they dream of electric sheep? I also feel that Sci-fi (and fantasy) provides another lens for looking at issues of society and morality. It is easier to look from the outside when you're looking a society of aliens. Personality traits can be thrown into sharp relief and actions can be emphasized to raise moral and psychological questions."

Chad Orzel @ Uncertain Principles :"The science aspect was definitely a draw, but I think the real attraction was a little more mundane-- science fiction books were books in which Really Cool Things Happened-- space battles and alien encounters and gateways to different dimensions-- as opposed to boring mainstream stories about people with relationship problems and beloved pets who die in the last chapter. "

John S. Wilkins @ Evolving Thoughts : "The flights of imagination about large things, ideas and worlds, was enough to trigger off my own imagination. I read pretty well everything I could for over two decades before it all petered out into second rate thick books of fantasy and Star Wars knockoffs. Science fiction had a use-by date, and roughly when Dick Tracy's radio watch became ordinary, it stopped appealing, and I started getting interested in the science."

Janet Stemwedel @ Adventures in Ethics and Science :"[...] I'm interested in science fiction's ability to paint a picture of everyday human relations in worlds that did not follow precisely the same course that ours has. The strange worlds of science fiction play out against different environmental backdrops, different choices made at crucial junctures, and different assumptions about what people can do and about what will make them happy. Yet, for the fiction to succeed, there needs to be a way for the real-world reader to relate to the characters -- which is to say, they are not completely different from us but rather are people like us moving through a world interestingly different from our own."

Nina Munteanu @ The Alien Next Door: "My favorite movies are those which ask the deeper questions about us as a species and where we are going and, yes, how science propels us into new territory that forces us to ask even deeper questions about ourselves, God and the universe."

2. Entertainment and escapism

Ken @ GeoSlice: "I read primarily for entertainment and escape, though I certainly enjoy some ‘meat’ to the books I read. It’s hard for me to pin down exactly why I enjoy SFF specifically – I imagine that a large reason why that I deal with the ‘real world’ all the time, so I want something different, something more, when I read. I also think that SFF allows a lot more flexibility in an author than ‘normal’ fiction and seeing what authors do with that flexibility is quite rewarding."

Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter : "I suppose I’m kind of sterotypically girly in that I care a lot about character development and less about speculative technology, though I do love me some space fights."

kcsphil of DC Dispatches : "I think it gives me the opportunity to let my imagination go, instead of thinking about how much damage this r that policy is doing to science."

Eva Amsen @ Expression Patterns : "I used to watch Star Trek years ago, and last year I was introduced to Doctor Who and Torchwood. They all have in common that anything can be explained away with some supernatural “science”. That’s not what I like about them. In all three cases I think I just liked the characters and stories as a few minutes of distraction. And then I obviously watched ReGenesis, which is different from the classical genre of science fiction because its based on real science and set in our regular world. It’s more a drama/mystery series with lots of scientists. [...] I like mysteries that are set in a regular world, and that need believable solutions."
3. An optimistic view of the future

Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India : I like the stories particularly with optimistic note and happy endings. This may be due to the deep sacraments through which an Indian undergoes since his childhood. As a matter of fact most of the Indian stories have happy endings and a positive thought towards human life [...]

Dr Isis @ On Being a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess : "So why did [Star Trek:TOS, Star Trek:TNG, Star Trek: Voyager] have such an impact on Dr. Isis? There are two reasons. First, each series demonstrated a progressive inclusion of women and minorities in science and technology. [...] Second, Dr. Isis appreciated the idea of the pursuit of science as a means to fulfill one's own curiosity -- the mission to explore where no totally hot domestic and laboratory goddess had gone before. [...] So, I suppose Virginia, the role I see for science fiction in science is to offer us a vision of how the future might be and to give us something to dream about. [...]"
---
Of course there is overlap between those categories - imaginative world building creates those optimistic futures, and I doubt anyone would care for either if the stories weren't entertaining.

So what about me? Obviously I enjoy science fiction or this blog wouldn't exist. I have always been a voracious reader, but I didn't start really getting into science fiction until I was in my early teens. I enjoyed the adventures and reading about strange places, but the science was a big part of my enjoyment too. You see, I was a bit of a know-it-all, and I felt like the bits of science I picked up just made me that much smarter (Reading that, I realize I must have been a bit insufferable. Sorry mom.). Neutron stars, cloning, even the bad sex found in so much SF - I gobbled it all up. I think all the SF I read influenced - or at least reinforced - my view that while the universe is full of wonders both known and unknown, it operates under knowable physical laws. Learning those laws, even if it takes thousands of years, will let humankind conquer both the stars and mother Earth. I like the optimism of that idea.

Over the years my tastes have changed a bit. While I still like a good adventure, these days I'm less interested in stories that include diagrams of black holes and more interested in character development and the effects of changing technology on society. I've also become a lot more sensitive to the way that women are portrayed. I like to read about futures where women have interesting roles to play other than just being wives and secretaries. Ultimately, though, I think SF should have either an extremely interesting idea that it explores, or an entertaining storyline. Ideally, it has both.

Some favorite SF writers:

Peter Watts @ No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Reloaded) : Most influenced, growing up, by John Brunner, Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg. Tried to imitate William Gibson and Neal Stephenson while breaking into the field. It's probably just as well I didn't succeed.

Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India :"My all time favorite sf writer has been Issac Asimov who still has many of his admirers in India.His many stories have social implications and is appreciated by Indian audience. "

Mike Brotherton : "As for writers, I have one list posted on my website and happily keep finding others. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War was my most recent happy discovery. My shortlist of current writers I like would have to include: Scalzi, Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Robert Sawyer, Robert Charles Wilson, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Michael Swanwick, Eric Nylund, Robert Reed, Jack McDevitt, and many more."

Schadwen @ Elemental Home : "My first introduction to science fiction was H.G. Wells and The War of the Worlds. More Wells followed with The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. I've read others of his works, so I learned about cavorite, but none of the others really captured me like the big three. [...] I read the Dune series, and a few of his other books, and was very depressed when he died. And then I found Robert Heinlein, and Job introduced me to the wide range of alternate realities. And then I found Larry Niven who has consistently remained my favorite for science fiction. Known Space keeps me coming back wishing for more. "

Z @ It's The Thought that Counts :"My favorite book of all time is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and I love the rest of that series as well. Some other examples of books I like for the above reasons are Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Galapagos, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and pretty much everything ever written by Philip K. Dick."

Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter : "Though I read all kinds of tripe in my callow youth, I now no longer enjoy books without decent female characters. (Though I don’t mind if they’re sexbots as long as they have a personality and actual humanoid motivations - I thought Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children was tons of fun.) My favorite scifi author is Ray Bradbury. I’m going to count China Mieville in there too, since he kind of writes about speculative (albeit dystopian) biotechnology."

Lee @ Cocktail Party Physics : "I cut my teeth on the original Star Trek in the 60s and quickly moved on to harder drugs in the 70s: Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, Cherryh, Norton, Pohl, Niven, Clarke, Frank Herbert, and reluctantly, Philip K. Dick. [...] Currently, I'm following Iain M. Banks, China Mieville, Melissa Scott, Neal Stephenson, Dan Simmons, Connie Willis, and William Gibson, among others. [...] I also have a deep fondness for Spider Robinson, who is one of the most humanist of contemporary science fiction writers, but because he's funny as all hell, gets little credit. He's the guy who first got me interested in Tesla. How could I resist someone who carries lightning in his pockets?"

Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0) : "Reading-wise, I'm a big fan of Dan Simmons, the famous writer of the "Hyperion" cantos. I really admire the way he combines the old (referencing things like Proust, Shakespeare, the Iliad, etc) with the futuristic, adding extra layers to the plot and characters that leave you interpreting actions for days."

Martin R. @ Aardvarchaeology : "I started to read novels and ploughed through Heinlein and Clarke. I remember finding Stranger in a Strange Land a little weird at about age eleven, but I enjoyed it. Later I became a devotee of LeGuin and Lovecraft. Sf was such an obvious thing to me from an early age, and so the fantasy of Tolkien and his tradition came as more of a revelation to me when I discovered it. I spent ten years in the Stockholm Tolkien Society, and when the time came for me to choose a profession, there were really only two alternatives: either astronomy (inspired by sf) or archaeology (inspired by fantasy). [...] Weaning myself off television as a teen, and never a being a big moviegoer, I may not look much like an SF/F fan to people who have the Babylon Five and Battlestar Galactica boxed sets on their shelves. But I read, and I listen to weekly short-fiction podcasts like Escape Pod."
---

As for me, I've always been a voracious - some might say promiscuous - reader. During my teen years I think I checked out most of the SF books at my small local library, which was in addition to many murder mysteries, thrillers, mainstream YA and adult fiction, and the occasional fantasy. When I find a novel I like, I usually seek out all the sequels, even if they don't quite measure up to the original. I've read a lot of junk and a lot of gems.

Connie Willis is one of my favorite writers, as is Neal Stephenson (particularly Snow Crash and Diamond Age). Spider Robinson's terrible puns and hippie heroes have given me hours of reading pleasure, although I'm not sure I'd want to read all the Callahan books in one sitting. I recently read and enjoyed Robert Charles Wilson's Spin and Chronoliths, and like to find more from him. Some other SF novels that particularly stnd out to me: Herbert's Dune, Heinlein's The Moon is Harsh Mistress and the collected "Past Through Tomorrow" stories, Huxley's Brave New World (one of my favorites in high school), Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Butler's Dawn, Niven's Ringworld, Pohl's Gateway, Asimov's Robot novels and the original Foundation series (which is really dated, but fascinating). I also have fond memories of Steve Perry's Matador series, maybe more because my husband had those on his bookshelf when we started dating than because I particularly enjoy SF-martial arts novels. I'm sure I've left some off the list, but those are what come to mind immediately. And I'm a huge fan of short stories, which I think are the perfect vehicle for exploring interesting ideas.

Some favorite TV shows and movies:

Mike Brotherton : "My favorite on TV right now is Battlestar Galactica, although it has its flaws, and I watch Heroes, although the “science” is laughable. Waiting to see if Life on Mars fully hooks me. I haven’t seen what I would consider a really good science fiction film released in many years — Gattaca and Contact are two that come to mind. I have my top ten list of my own favorite sf movies."

Schadwen @ Elemental Home : "As for watching science fiction, it's really difficult sometimes. I will refrain from naming the trinity of geology movie bastardizations. My favorites for science fiction are "Firefly"/"Serenity", "Eureka", and the lamented "Journeyman"."

Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter : "I listen to several scifi podcasts, mainly Escape Pod. My favorite scifi show is Battlestar Galactica, particularly the first and second seasons, with their optimal combination of space fights, daring rescues, and interesting, flawed characters. (Please, gentle readers, DO NOT spoil the fourth season. I watch it on DVD so I haven’t seen it yet!) I still pine for Firefly. I found Heroes tedious and derivative, and could never bear any of the Stargate series."

Lee @ Cocktail Party Physics : "I still think Babylon 5 is one of the finest pieces of TV science fiction ever made, though Firefly is certainly interesting and could have been a close rival had it gone on longer. Networks have a bad habit of canceling stuff just when it gets interesting, which is why I've always been more of a fan of SF (or specfic) in print than on TV or in the movies. That said, Star Wars hooked me when it first came out and deeply disappointed me later (though I'm an undying fan). I also saw Silent Running at about the same time and still think of it fondly. It kind of rode in on the cusp of the ecology movement and the thought of that orbiting forest was just heartbreaking. I still hope it wasn't prophetic. And, of course, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I didn't see until several years after it came out. That just reinforced my interest in astronomy, cosmology and space travel, Hal or no. "It's full of stars!"

Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0) : "I've been a Sci-Fi geek since my youthful days, watching Star Trek with my mom. Now I read, watch, whatever. I've always been a Next Gen fan, mostly because Patrick Stewart is SO brilliant. [...] I also love Firefly, though since it's a "Space-Western", I'm not entirely sure it counts. Excellent character development and fantastically funny writing."

Dr Isis @ On Being a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess : "Dr. Isis grew up a huge Star Trek fan. I mean, massively huge. She started out watching The Original Series and all but lost her junk when The Next Generation started. While Dr. Isis prefers to pretend that Deep Space Nine and Enterprise never happened, she is one of the few who enjoyed Voyager (yes, even when Seven of Nine showed up). Dr. Isis might own the three complete serieses on DVD and consider an ideal night to be a glass of wine, an Aveda clay mask, and the tribbles episode."
---

Like Dr. Isis, I was a big fan of the original Star Trek growing up. When I think back, it seems like was on every afternoon all through the 70s, but that can't have been the case, can it? Anyway, I loved the exploration of a new world in each, the trials of wits and character where humanity was always demonstrated to be a superior moral species, and the heavy-handed (in restrospect) morality tales. But what I think I liked best was the easy camaraderie of the crew, who seemed more like a bunch of buddies than members of the military. I don't think the subsequent series never really recaptured that completely, even though they were entertaining (and I did watch them all from TNG through Enterprise). I went through a Doctor Who phase in high school and watched Babylon 5 religiously in grad school. My current favorite is the Battlestar Galactica reboot, which has sadly run its course. Sometimes I hope next season's new shows turn out to be duds, because I spend far too much time infront of the TV.

Next up:

What do you see as science fiction's role in promoting science, if any? Can it do more than make people excited about science? Can it harm the cause of science?

Science and Science Fictioion

Science and Science Fiction: What the scientists say: Using Science Fiction to Promote Science

This is a continuation of my overview of the responses of scientists to the questions Stephanie Svan and I asked about the relationship between science and science fiction. You can find links to all the contributors' complete answers and our summaries at the ScienceOnline09 Wiki.

Below I've highlighted snippets from some of the responses to the question:

What do you see as science fiction's role in promoting science, if any? Can it do more than make people excited about science? Can it harm the cause of science?

Many of the respondents thought science fiction could indeed play a role in stimulating the public's interest in science.
Schadwen @ Elemental Home : "I think good science fiction can interest children and adults into following a science education and career. The best example I can think of is "How William Shatner Changed the World". [...] The combination of imagination and science can only help fields grow."

kcsphil of DC Dispatches "I think SF has to help promote good science. We scientists are a bit . . . . dry . . . . so good sound science, perhaps stretched a bit, in SF is a real boon."
Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India : "At least in India sf could play a pivotal role in popularizing sf but for this we have to look for many new innovative formats and procedures [...] An ingenious mix of mythology and sf could also be tried to attract the common masses. [...] If you rationally mix something very familiar like myths of a country with something very unfamiliar like sf ,things get going very well to carry and communicate the intended message to masses."

Chad Orzel @ Uncertain Principles : "Plenty of young people are pushed toward physics by stories that riff off various odd quantum phenomena, or talk about black holes and curved space-time, and all that astrophysical stuff."

Ken @ GeoSlice: "[... ] the answer to the first question is that science fiction has both no role in promoting science and that it often serves as a de facto introduction to science for the general public."

Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0): "One of the things I think is most important about Sci-fi is that it makes people excited about science. It gives you the "wow" factor that you may never get in science class, and it encourages people to imagine beyond the limits of human possibility."

Mike Brotherton : "People learn from story, too easily. Anecdote trumps science all too often in the minds of many. Why not put out some stories that get the science right? People who are not in a position to take a class, or who won’t pick up a textbook, still turn on their TV. There’s a real opportunity that hasn’t been exploited. [...] It’s both a matter of achieving a base level of scientific literacy in the public, and making people care about it. "

Eva Amsen @ Expression Patterns: "I don’t think science fiction needs to actively promote science, but just by being more realistic it can undo some misunderstandings."
Some thought that SF is better at promoting a scientific attitude and making scientists looks interesting than actually teaching science.
Peter Watts @ No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Reloaded) : "I believe the genre can slip a little real science under the reader's guard, but more importantly I think it can help instill scientific attitudes. The best science fiction carries the subtext that the universe works according to consistent rules, dammit, and if you're smart enough you can pop the hood and figure them out. "
Chad Orzel @ Uncertain Principles : "The real power of SF, it seems to me, is to show people, particularly younger kids, a world in which science really matters, and Knowing Stuff is cool. The occasional disaster novel aside, the heroes of most science fiction books and movies succeed because they know things, and more importantly, they remain calm and think their way through the problems that get in their way."
Greg Laden : "The other angle is a little less obvious, and this is about making science and scientists sexy, or at least, interesting. Or at least, not total dickheads or hopeless nerds."

Lee Kottner @ Cocktail Party Physics : "What science fiction can do that science journalism can't (or just doesn't, often) is not just elide the boring stuff, the drudgery of lab work, the negative results, the scratching for grants, but gussy up that process. [...] Fiction is great at communicating the sense of possibility and the excitement of discovery. It humanizes the scientific process. "
Science fiction can inspire scientists and engineers to both develop new technologies and think about the possible consequences of their research.
Z @ It's The Thought that Counts : "I think science fiction’s role with respect to science is primarily to give it context, to help us hypothesize about science ethics or to help us recognize benefits and drawbacks to thinking scientifically. Occasionally a sci-fi author’s message may be to discourage a certain path of R&D, or to discourage a certain style of scientific inquiry, but if that attempt at supposedly stifling science is based on a belief that such work would be unethical, I think it would be aiding the cause of science rather than harming it."

Janet Stemwedel @ Adventures in Ethics and Science:"I think science fiction has the potential to help us make better science. I don't mean that works of science fiction should create the wish-list of technologies for scientists and engineers to bring into existence (although I'd like a rocket-pack as well as the next guy). Rather, I'm interested in science fiction's ability to paint a picture of everyday human relations in worlds that did not follow precisely the same course that ours has. "
Greg Laden : "Not only does science fiction potentially inspire science and technology, it also gauges science and technology. If you don't know what I mean, just sit down and watch three or four episodes of the original Star Trek and pay special attention to the technology itself, and its use in day to day life (on a Starship) and see how that washes in relation to day to day technology today. "
Lee Kottner @ Cocktail Party Physics "What stories like, say, A Canticle for Leibowitz or The Road or even Dr. Strangelove do is make us think about the possible consequences of new or old technologies. That's never a bad thing. [...] Even if it's not entirely factual or absolutely correct in every detail, SF is serving science. Ask those engineering geeks who went around WorldCon chanting "The Ringworld is unstable!" at Larry Niven. Asked to derive those same equations for some other unstable system, they'd have been bored stiff. Sometimes those mistakes are just as important as the absolutely correct science facts."

Nina Munteanu @ The Alien Next Door: "The SF writer is both herald and conscience of science. It is a responsibility that some don’t realize they have when writing in this unique of genres. They are—we are—commentators of the present and reporters of the future."
Some thought that the science in science fiction is just too inaccurate to use it to teach science:
John S. Wilkins @ Evolving Thoughts "[...] I had to unlearn much of the "science" I had picked up by reading SF (scifi is for latercomers). I recall one book, well before the film Altered States in which an astronaut travelling at faster than the speed of light "de-evolved" through a chimps stage, a monkey stages and then a lemur stage, thereby doing great harm to both physics and evolutionary biology. "
Chad Orzel @ Uncertain Principles : "Science fiction, for the most part, does a really lousy job of teaching science. I'm sure that I'll get a couple of comments from people who learned everything there is to know about orbital mechanics from reading old Hal Clement stories, but the science in most science fiction tends to be pretty shaky. It's often dated, almost always distorted, and frequently warped to serve dramatic purposes. "

Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter : "Right now, I don’t see scifi as having much to do with real science. Most of the science in science fiction is so bad that it is either neutral (not associated with real science at all) or harmful to science. I stopped watching Farscape over some nonsense about Aeryn Sun being cold-blooded and how that meant she couldn’t get hot. Hadn’t anyone in LA been to the desert and seen all the lizards scuttling around?"
Several argued that the depiction of science as dangerous and frightening in science fiction can harm public perception of science:
David Brin : "Silly movie sci fi can be harmful. It often goes for the simplistic tale, and cares little about how people would really react to new technologies. The standard Idiot Plot is lazy and assumes that people and society will be stupid, because that drives a simpleminded plot easiest. Viewers come away convinced that progress is bad, society is helpless and we will always misuse technology. A dumb notion to propagandize!"
Peter Watts @ No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Reloaded): "Can it harm the cause of science? Sure, especially if it's anti-science polemic tarted up in sf tropes. Did Michael Crichton ever write a novel in which there weren't Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know?"

Kim @ All My Faults are Stress Related "I don't think science fiction is particularly good at promoting science. (One word: Frankenstein.) An awful lot of science fiction seems to reveal a fear of the unknown, a fear of tampering with nature or with going too far in trying to understand something. It's not true of all science fiction (or fantasy), but I've seen it in places as different as Tolkien and the new Dr. Who."

John S. Wilkins @ Evolving Thoughts : "Few novels are accurate, but even fewer show science in a good light. Frankenstein is the model of the SF scientist, meddling where he (usually a he - SF was very masculine for a long time) had no right to meddle. Arthur Clarke, despite the woodenness of his characters and dialogues, at least stood out in that respect - scientists were the good guys for him (and for a number of Eastern Bloc SF writers like Lem). But most SF showed science in a very apocalyptic and dangerous aspect, as befitted the post A-bomb era."

Z @ It's The Thought that Counts : "It can harm the cause of science if it’s unnecessarily alarmist."
And even the glorification of science in SF can have a negative impact if it sets up unrealistic expectations that modern science simply can't live up to:
Mike Brotherton : "As for the harm, well, there has been a lot of discussion about that, too, following Buzz Aldrin’s comments that unrealistic and unscientific science fiction has dampened interest in the space program. I don’t think his case is overwhelming, but I agree that science fiction has an effect and it isn’t always positive, at least to the public at large that isn’t already a fan of science and discovery."

Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter : "[...] the science portrayed is so far away from what is possible now. For example, somebody who became a computer programmer to be like Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash would be sadly disappointed."

Ken @ GeoSlice : "In the case of science fiction movies and TV, I think that harm often results. Most of the general public wouldn’t consider the various CSI shows as science fiction, but that’s exactly what they are. One consequence is that people serving on juries often expect more than is actually possible from prosecutors and have little understanding of important details and caveats of scientific evidence – so, our legal system is suffering due to missunderstandings that often originate from TV shows."

Eva Amsen @ Expression Patterns: "I think that the kind of science fiction that portrays a type of future that is unrealistic doesn’t so much harm science in general, but it does leave people with some unrealistic expectations. Sure, it’s fiction, but by labeling something as 200 years in the future, it suggests that the fictional scenarios are maybe possible some day. "

Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0): "Of course, Sci-fi (and medical shows and things) can harm people's perceptions of scientists and doctors. [...] I think some of these problems arise from issues such as simplifying what we DO know, and how that comes across in books and on-screen. Most people who watch or read sci-fi don't actually know that much about science, and the simplification can get them confused. We do know a LOT, but a lot of what we know is so intricately detailed that it doesn't come across. And what does come across is often over-simplified and results in people thinking that scientists are gods, and then being horribly disillusioned when they realize they aren't. "
But a couple of respondents think doubt that SF can do any harm:
Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India : "No, there seems to be no damage to the science itself, instead it serves the very purpose of sci communication. Its helpful to bring out the science out of our iron walled laboratories to the public."

Lee Kottner @ Cocktail Party Physics : "If the cause of science is to discover how everything works, to advance human knowledge, I doubt that much said about it in science fiction would stop or harm that. Humans are too curious to let much stop them from asking "Why?" and "How?" If the questions aren't asked now, they will be eventually. The mad scientist has been an archetype in the culture at least since Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, if not Prometheus, and that hasn't stopped or hindered anything. Politics and ignorance do far more damage in that area than sketchy science in SF ever will."
The excerpts I picked out don't really do justice to the thoughtful answers people gave, so if you are interested in the topic, I'd urge you to read the full responses.
---

Personally, I think that science fiction can and does influence the public's perception of science, both positively and negatively.

In my teenage years SF novels both stimulated my interest in science and taught me a few interesting tidbits about astrophysics and cosmology. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, it also reinforced my view that the universe operates on physical laws that are knowable. It's hard to know, though, if the SF I read shaped my interests, or if I read SF because my interests already leaned in the direction of science and technology. I suspect it's more the latter than the former, since the other kids I knew who read SF were also big ole science nerds too. Honestly, I don't think that SF novels have that much impact on how most people view science.

On the other hand, almost everyone watches the occasional SF movie or TV show. That means visual media can have a much greater influence on the perception of science and scientists. I think that can be both positive and negative. On the positive side, popular SF movies can generate interest in scientific research. I've had a number of conversations with people who saw movies like Gattaca or Jurassic Park and were interested in learning more about the science behind the scenes.

It does concern me, though, that there is so much bad science on screen. In the absence of other sources of scientific information I don't think it's a surprise that people start believing in the reality of Hollywood science, where every mutation causes either a gross deformity or bestows a superpower, clones grow to adulthood in a few days, and new diseases are cured within an hour by the efforts of a lone doctor/scientist. It can make real science seem dull and disappointing in comparison. And worse, it means that people have serious misconceptions about both how the natural world works and what it is possible for present-day science to achieve, which can have a harmful effect on public policy relating to science.

That's one of the reasons why I started this blog. I'd like to think that having an easily Googled discussion about the science behind the SF people are reading and watching is a useful resource for those who are inspired to learn more about the science. But since many people who simply absorb what they watch without seeking additional information, I'd really love to see programs like the Science and Entertainment Exchange improve the accuracy level of on-screen science.


Science and Science Fiction: What the scientists say: SF to discuss science

Science and Science Fiction: What the scientists say: SF to discuss science

This is part three of my overview of the responses of scientists to the questions Stephanie Svan and I asked about the relationship between science and science fiction. You can find links to all the contributors' complete answers and our summaries at the ScienceOnline09 Wiki.

Also, be sure to check out the compilation of recommended science, science fiction, and related web sites.

Below I've highlighted snippets from some of the responses to the question:
Have you used science fiction as a starting point to talk about science? Is it easier to talk about people doing it right or getting it wrong?
There were a number of respondents who said they have used SF as a starting point for discussing science:
Nina Munteanu @ The Alien Next Door : "Yes, I have, particularly to do with my own work. My SF thriller, Darwin’s Paradox, examines—and even challenges— many scientific premises and theories within the context of “what would you do?” SF provides an excellent platform for scientific discussion and the deeper social and ethical questions that follow."
Peter Watts : "All the time."
Lee Kottner @ Cocktail Party Physics "Absolutely. Not only here at CPP and on my own blogs, but in the classroom. For a couple of years, I taught a freshman composition course based on writing about science. We used one of Stephen Jay Gould's essay collections and a couple of science fiction novels each semester to both illustrate the difference between writing factually and writing about science and to ask questions about science itself. [...] The lesson I learned from this is that most people don't notice whether the science is wrong or right when it's a good story. They suspend disbelief, which is what writers want. What matters is that the plot seems plausible."

Arvind Mishra @ Science Fiction in India : "Quite often. To begin a lecture on science or technology stories act as attracting contrivances /devices for the audience and thus could be used in various medium of imparting knowledge from class room to open theater as par the need and demand."

Schadwen @ Elemental Home "Every now and then I have been talking to people about science fiction books or stories, and we've segued into science discussions. Or I've used science fiction examples to expand on a point in a scientific discussion. Sometimes to extreme thoughts of science fiction can help set an upper bound for what people see as possible."

kcsphil of DC Dispatches : "I had a general chemistry professor who did years ago - he taught us equation balancing using the breakdown of Tri-Lithium."
Several pointed out that using science fiction is a way to spark enthusiasm and make science memorable:
Mike Brotherton : "I’ve developed and taught an entire course about physical science starting from science fiction. Even good, motivated science students react enthusiastically when science fiction is used to introduce particular topics. "
Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0) : "When I am teaching, I'd like to make people excited about real science, not just Sci-fi. I want them to realize that that same "wow" factor is in real life as well as in fiction. This is part of why I write, trying to express real science in an interesting and exciting way to hold people's interest. And some real science IS just as 'out there' as Sci-fi. Think of string theory. Heck, think of neural networks and things like memory formation! I hope that for many people, Sci-fi provides the "wow" that gets them started looking at our earth-bound science, and making their own science-nonfiction."
Blake Stacey @ Science After Sunclipse : "Arrogant popularizers of science like myself will seize on anything to make a bit of science memorable. If that means joshing a silly mistake in a screenplay, well, that's the price we have to pay."
Some scientific fields aren't very well represented in science fiction, making it difficult to use SF to discuss those topics:
Miriam Goldstein @ The Oyster's Garter "I really haven’t. This is probably because I’m a marine ecologist and not too much science fiction is about that type of thing. (Except for the horrible abundance of “dolphins with mystical knowledge” books. I would never use these book as examples because a) people do not need to be encouraged to harass poor cetaceans for Mystical Truths; and b) they are BAD books.)"
Kim @ All My Faults are Stress Related : "Geology is rarely explicitly part of science fiction. (Any time a different world is imagined, geology could be used to build a world that makes sense. I've rarely seen an imaginary world that makes geologic sense, unfortunately.) Off the top of my head, I can think of only one set of books that does geology well (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson), and I have yet to run across a student who is familiar with them."
Bad science fiction can be an easy way to start discussion about science:
Mike Brotherton : "On my blog, my most popular posts tend to be science fiction I love or hate because of the quality, or lack thereof, of the science."
Z @ It's The Thought that Counts : "It’s certainly easier to strike up a conversation with my fellow physics grad students by talking about people doing it wrong; the movie The Core is a classic in this regard. As a starting point for some more educational endeavor, I think the standard wouldn’t be so much whether the science was accurate or inaccurate, but rather whether the underlying science stuck out as strange to a viewer or reader. Often this would be blatantly inaccurate science, but I could easily imagine it being something verifiably true that happens not to match our real-world intuition. In either case, it’s a good hook to get people interested in the lesson to come."
Blake Stacey @ Science After Sunclipse : "Yes, Virginia, a lot of science on TV is rather silly. Pointing out these mistakes, whether they are due to carelessness or otherwise, is a way to make scientific discoveries memorable, and is therefore a valuable tool of science education. We can, in principle, work together to get things right so that everybody wins, if everybody holds on to their sense of humour."
Eva Amsen @ Expression Patterns : "It is easier to talk (and laugh) about the obvious mistakes, simply because you notice the silly stuff, but you tend not to notice when it’s not wrong. And you can use the unrealistic scenarios to say “This is not possible, because…” [...] Things that are clearly impossible are a lot easier to point out, and probably easier to use as a teaching tool than things that are just on the edge of being possible."
Scicurious @ Neurotopia (version 2.0) : "I've found in general it's easier to start with what people are getting wrong. Shows like "Bones" are always good starting points. "
But sometimes the bad science in SF makes discussion more difficult:
Eva Amsen @ Expression Patterns : "But when I was writing the fact sheets for ReGenesis I much preferred the episodes that were based on things that really happened, because at least I could find references for it and explain what was going on. The ones that were really stretching it were so difficult. Is it not possible? Why not? Is it really not possible? I ended up saying a lot of “probably not” and “maybe” because there is a big area of things that we simply don’t know enough about. "

Kim @ All My Faults are Stress Related : "I guess The Core could count as a science fiction movie (as well as a bad disaster movie). I've encouraged students to watch it and criticize the geology, but it's so goofy that it's difficult to get much science from it. I haven't seen the new Journey to the Center of the Earth, but I've watched the old version with geology students. Again, it was fun to laugh at it, but it was so wrong that it was hard to know where to start with a critique. "

Peter Watts: "That first thing ["it's easier to talk about people doing it right"]. There's far, far fewer examples to keep track of."
It was also pointed out that SF is not necessarily a good introduction to science:
Ken @ GeoSlice : "Simply put – no. I think that there are much easier and more applicable ways to introduce science than from science fiction. In an ideal world I think that it should be the other way around – science should be the introduction for science fiction."

Lee Kottner @ Cocktail Party Physics : "I think worrying about "wrong science" or "bad science" in science fiction is something of a red herring, truthfully. I don't think it has that much influence, even on TV. [. . . ] I don't think the non-geeky public at large pays much attention to SF, or, sadly, to science. And it's the non-geeky public that science needs to reach most."
Personally, I use SF as a starting point to discuss science all the time. I started this blog for that very reason. But that's a sort of formal discussion. More informally, SF movies and TV shows have often inspired me to complain about discuss the poor way that genetics, evolution and other bioscience is often depicted. Sometimes it's just me pointing out the flaws, but it has occasionally led to actual discussions about what the science should have been. When Jurassic Park was at the peak of its popularity it seemed like every other person wanted to know if dinosaurs could really be cloned from insects trapped in amber.

Sometimes I get annoyed when the main stream media frames a science story in terms of SF. But they do that for a reason. "Jurassic Park" headlines catch people's attention, for one. But it also becomes a cultural shorthand for certain scientific ideas that would otherwise be completely foreign to most people. You say "cloning" and the average person may not have a clear picture of what you mean, but you mention those dinosaurs being brought to life and there is immediate recognition. Of course there is the problem that popular SF with bad science can actually give people false ideas about science. An example of that is all the comics and movies where a "mutation" always creates a drastic change of some sort - usually depicted as bestowing a superpower or a causing a gross change in form. You'd never know from SF that mutations are often neutral. I do think there's an upside, though: people are at least familiar with the idea of a "mutation" causing heritable changes in DNA, even if they don't really understand how it works.

So does writing about the science behind SF make a difference in people's understanding or perception of science? From the stats about how people arrive here at Biology in Science Fiction, it looks like a lot of people search for information about their favorite TV shows, movies and books. I'd like to think that at least some people who visit here end up knowing a bit more about the biosciences than they did before. Does the information reach everyone? No. But it does reach people who wouldn't necessarily have been otherwise exposed to discussions about science.

Financial crisis of '08 among the worst ever

Financial crisis of '08 among the worst ever

An interesting look at the current economic crisis from a historic perspective.

Financial crisis of '08 among the worst ever From SignonSan Diego:
"Scott Reynolds Nelson, a history professor at Virginia's College of William and Mary, suggests that 2008 may be much more like 1873 than 1929.

In 1873, the crisis started in Europe, where cheap mortgage terms spurred a residential real estate bubble. When the bubble popped, bankers in London tightened their credit terms, triggering a financial crisis in the United States, where banks already were overextended with speculative loans to railroads and railroad-related real estate.

“The echoes of the past in the current problems with residential mortgages trouble me,” Nelson wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “As in 1873, a complex financial pyramid (in the past decade) rested on a pinhead. Banks are hoarding cash. Banks that hoard cash do not make short-term loans....”

The result in 1873 was an international depression that sparked double-digit unemployment rates, corporate bankruptcies and widespread labor unrest. The United States did not fully recover until the mid-1890s, by which time it endured another credit crisis, known as the Panic of 1893.

The response to the current crisis bears resemblance to past solutions."
Interesting. Here is Nelson's piece from the Chronicle. I won't go into all of it, but here is the conclusion:
"In the end, the Panic of 1873 demonstrated that the center of gravity for the world's credit had shifted west — from Central Europe toward the United States. The current panic suggests a further shift — from the United States to China and India. Beyond that I would not hazard a guess."

Putting Bernie Madoff On The Couch - TIME

Putting Bernie Madoff On The Couch - TIME

While it is not a finance article per se, it is interesting and relevant for any class discussion on the Madoff case specifically and many frauds more generally. Especially since it does not fit normal (i.e. rational) economic models.

Putting Bernie Madoff On The Couch - TIME:
"No matter how grand your ill-gotten Bentley or your cooked-books villa, they have to be hard to enjoy when you know that at any moment the jig could be up....

A Ponzi scheme — as anyone smart enough to engineer one knows — is a plan that is uniquely without an exit strategy. It requires a constant infusion of new investors to pay off a growing body of existing ones, and ultimately it becomes impossible to find enough suckers. When that happens, the scam collapses. Sure, you could always flee the country before the roof caves in, but many scammers don't and Madoff famously didn't. The reason lies in the personality — or, more accurately, the personality disorder — that drives them to such frauds in the first place.

Forensic psychologists studying Madoff-type minds start with the usual menu of personality disorders, particularly narcissism. "These people get real enjoyment from doing what they do," says forensic psychologist Michele Galietta of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. "They feel good pulling the wool over other people's eyes."

Back to class and back to blogging

Well it is time to restart our engines.

It has been a while. Texas went great. Really got a great deal done. I would encourage others to go volunteer in the area. It may set your pocket book back a bit, but well worth the price. You will help others.

Ok, so fast recap. When classes ended the Dow was at about 8500 it rose to a bit over 9,000 at the start of the year and is now down to about 8200 (down a bit more than 3% since our last class).

In other news, while the speed and surprise of financial difficulties may have abated, financial firms are not out of the woods yet. Recently the Royal Bank of Scotland announced major losses and the need for a cash infusion from the Bank of England. (interestingly RBS was a frequently studied case study in my finance classes in past years for the agressive takeovers.).

As soon as I get my last syllabus in, we can get back to regular blogging. See you soon!

Trishaw Ride Around the City of Malacca

Trishaw Ride Around the City of Malacca

Trishaw Ride? I love it so much!

Suddenly, I feel like I wanna have a ride on a trishaw. So, my husband took me to the City of Malacca on the Chinese New Year Holiday. Wow, there were so many people in town. Most of them are tourists. Our first destination was the Maritim Museum, which I had written about it before. Then, we had a tour on a trishaw. Tour around the City of Malacca. What is so special about the trishaw ride at Malacca? Here, you can see many beautifully decorated trishaw with different theme. Just choose which one you like the most. The tour become more meaningful when the trishaw ride includes a tour guide given by the trishaw’s owner. They were all well-trained by a tourism body to deliver the tour guide to the tourists.

We were brought to the Ethnics Museum, Dataran Pahlawan, Kota A Famosa, etc. What a wonderful moment I had on that day. With the beautiful decorated trishaw, riding with your loved one…you’ll feel really great! I wish I can be there again in the future.

Of course there are many other places of attraction around Malacca, but we straight away go to the city because we want to have our lunch at Umbai after that. As usual, love the “Ikan Bakar @ Umbai” grilled fish together with other seafood such as prawns, crabs and cuttlefish. The sea foods here are fresh…and delicious…and one more thing, the price is also reasonable as compared to seafood in KL.

Due to heavy traffic on that day, we didn’t have enough time to go to Mini Asian, Malacca Zoo, Crocodile Park, etc. Even though I had already been there a few years back, still wanna see if there is a change or new attraction available at those places. Hope we’ll find some other time to go there.

"Pekan Rabu" or Wednesday Market @ Alor Setar, Kedah

"Pekan Rabu" or Wednesday Market @ Alor Setar, Kedah

Every time I went back to my hometown at Perlis, I must visit this place, Pekan Rabu. This is one of the popular places in Kedah. Pekan Rabu is located at the centre of Alor Setar town. The place is well known for their traditional items such as foods, clothes, etc. and is very popular among both local people and also tourists from all over the countries.

Traditional foods (Kuih tradisional) such as dodol, kuih karas, peneram, bahulu, etc. are among the hot items sold here. With the new business complexes built surrounding the Pekan Rabu, the variety of items sold increased. Now, there are plenty of shops selling different kind of textiles, tudung, songkok, traditional clothes such as baju kurung and baju melayu. It’s more or less like Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur, which is also known as the Heaven of Textiles.

So, now, people who live nearby, for example, Perlis and Penang, they may choose to go to Kuala Lumpur or just shop at Alor Setar, which is nearer to their places.

Pekan Rabu will become more busy during public holidays, festive seasons such Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya, and weekends. You can see that many outsiders, from other states went back to their hometown, and shop their things at Pekan Rabu. This is the place where they come to get their materials for the preparation for Hari Raya.

The MINES Resort City Tour @ The MINES Shopping Mall

The MINES Resort City Tour @ The MINES Shopping Mall

My husband and I had great experience yesterday from the MINES Resort City Tour @ Mines Shopping Mall. Got the opportunity to enjoy the sightseeing cruise for almost 1 ½ hours. Just pay RM60 for two persons, you’ll be cruising from the MINES Cruise main jetty, to the water lift (new experience for us), and then down to the north lake. We saw Palace Beach and Spa Resort, it's really beautiful. Nearby the lake, we had fishfeeding. We can see so many fish in the lake. We had the cruise with another two families. Their children really enjoy the moment here.


After seeing the beautiful scenery from the golfclub, Palace Beach and Spa, several VIPs’ private bungalows, including our our former Prime Minister’s mansion, we headed to The Palace of the Golden Horses, the six-start hotel. according to the tour-guide, the rate for 1 night at the hotel is around RM600-RM700. So expensive...But, I'm sure the service and facilities are superb...six-star...Then we made a U-turn, to continue our journey to the south lake. More VIPs’ mansions and apartments by the lakeside can be seen from the south lake tour. Not much interesting things explored from the South lake tour.


My new experience from the tour was the “WATER LIFT”. Before this, I had several times enjoyed the sighseeing cruise, but during that time, there's no water lift and the tour was rather limited. wanna know more about the water lift? Click here: http://www.minescruise.com/water_lift.htm

Other packages are also available to choose from. For example, Sunset dining cruise, message cruise, etc. We started our cruise at about 11.30 am and finish at almost 1 pm.

The MINES Resort City Tour @ The MINES Shopping Mall

The MINES Resort City Tour @ The MINES Shopping Mall

My husband and I had great experience yesterday from the MINES Resort City Tour @ Mines Shopping Mall. Got the opportunity to enjoy the sightseeing cruise for almost 1 ½ hours. Just pay RM60 for two persons, you’ll be cruising from the MINES Cruise main jetty, to the water lift (new experience for us), and then down to the north lake. We saw Palace Beach and Spa Resort, it's really beautiful. Nearby the lake, we had fishfeeding. We can see so many fish in the lake. We had the cruise with another two families. Their children really enjoy the moment here.


After seeing the beautiful scenery from the golfclub, Palace Beach and Spa, several VIPs’ private bungalows, including our our former Prime Minister’s mansion, we headed to The Palace of the Golden Horses, the six-start hotel. according to the tour-guide, the rate for 1 night at the hotel is around RM600-RM700. So expensive...But, I'm sure the service and facilities are superb...six-star...Then we made a U-turn, to continue our journey to the south lake. More VIPs’ mansions and apartments by the lakeside can be seen from the south lake tour. Not much interesting things explored from the South lake tour.


My new experience from the tour was the “WATER LIFT”. Before this, I had several times enjoyed the sighseeing cruise, but during that time, there's no water lift and the tour was rather limited. wanna know more about the water lift? Click here: http://www.minescruise.com/water_lift.htm

Other packages are also available to choose from. For example, Sunset dining cruise, message cruise, etc. We started our cruise at about 11.30 am and finish at almost 1 pm.

For 'Satay' / 'Sate' Lover: Satay Hut, Tanjung Karang @ Tanjong Karang, Selangor

For 'Satay' / 'Sate' Lover: Satay Hut, Tanjung Karang @ Tanjong Karang, Selangor

I can say it (Satay Hut) as one of attraction in Selangor. What’s so special about this place? We can simply find satay almost anyway in KL or other places. “Satay Hut”, a place to taste a “large size” satay. Before this, we have Sate Ria and Sate King in town, but now both businesses shut down already.

Here it comes another choice for satay lovers. Satay Hut…Located in Tanjong Karang, Selangor, nearby Tanjung Karang Hospital. Opened at 4.30 pm till 2.00 am. It is a worth place to come for satay lover. Even though the main attraction is the “plus-size” satay, there are also small / ordinary size satay there. In case some of your friends or family members don’t really like satay, Satay Hut also offer other menus such as Thai and Malay cruisine. I went there with my beloved husband. Just to try some meals at another “popular place to eat”. We tasted mee bandung there, hmm..not bad. It tasted great. We had ABC and watermelon juice too…may be we will try other menus in our next visits.

Especially for those who are already in Kuala Selangor, beside having seafood for dinner, may be you can try Satay Hut, as alternative. Just a few miles from Kuala Selangor, you’ll reach Tanjung Karang. You can see Satay Hut just beside the main road, near the Tanjung Karang Hospital. Make sure you come in the evening or night because Satay Hut is not available during lunch.

Really hope that I can bring my family members to taste Satay Hut next time. Enjoy your Satay @ Satay Hut Tanjung Karang @ Tanjong Karang.

BOH Tea Plantation @ Cameron Highland, Pahang

BOH Tea Plantation @ Cameron Highland, Pahang


Located at Cameron Highland, Pahang, BOH Tea Plantation offers another attraction for those who visit to this premier hill resort. Even though I had several times been in Cameron Highland, this is my first time there. I always stop at Cameron Bharat Tea Shop, to have some light refreshments before continue my journey to Brinchang. But this time, I had the chance to visit Boh Tea Plantation instead. The route to the plantation is quite challenging. But, once you reach the plantation, you may have some rest there, visit the factory to see the process of tea production, feel the calmness and beautiful scenery out of the tea plantation while tasting the great tea at the tea shop, and even shop some souveniours there. There’s so much variety of tea you can try (original, mint, herb…can’t remember all). I wish I can be there everyday…having my tea time with my love one there…Hot tea served with muffin, sandwiches, pie, cakes, yum..yum..yum...Can’t wait our the visit. Maybe to bring other family members together.

I wish I can visit the factory on that day, unfortunately, the factory was closed. So sad…huhuhu…and I wish I can climb the hill to see the larger view of the plantation from the top of the hill (look-point), but with my condition of 2+ months pregnant during that time, just can’t afford it. Even the journey to the BOH tea plantation (from the main road) had made me feel a bit dizzy…Hmm…but, it can be compensated with the great taste of BOH tea at the tea shop on that day.

As alternative, you can visit the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Centre, near Equatorial Hotel at Brinchang. That is my aim for the next visit to the Cameron Highland.

BOH Tea Plantation @ Cameron Highland, Pahang

BOH Tea Plantation @ Cameron Highland, Pahang


Located at Cameron Highland, Pahang, BOH Tea Plantation offers another attraction for those who visit to this premier hill resort. Even though I had several times been in Cameron Highland, this is my first time there. I always stop at Cameron Bharat Tea Shop, to have some light refreshments before continue my journey to Brinchang. But this time, I had the chance to visit Boh Tea Plantation instead. The route to the plantation is quite challenging. But, once you reach the plantation, you may have some rest there, visit the factory to see the process of tea production, feel the calmness and beautiful scenery out of the tea plantation while tasting the great tea at the tea shop, and even shop some souveniours there. There’s so much variety of tea you can try (original, mint, herb…can’t remember all). I wish I can be there everyday…having my tea time with my love one there…Hot tea served with muffin, sandwiches, pie, cakes, yum..yum..yum...Can’t wait our the visit. Maybe to bring other family members together.

I wish I can visit the factory on that day, unfortunately, the factory was closed. So sad…huhuhu…and I wish I can climb the hill to see the larger view of the plantation from the top of the hill (look-point), but with my condition of 2+ months pregnant during that time, just can’t afford it. Even the journey to the BOH tea plantation (from the main road) had made me feel a bit dizzy…Hmm…but, it can be compensated with the great taste of BOH tea at the tea shop on that day.

As alternative, you can visit the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Centre, near Equatorial Hotel at Brinchang. That is my aim for the next visit to the Cameron Highland.

HDVphoto.com Life in High Definition

HDVphoto.com Life in High Definition

Here you are…http://www.hdvphoto.com. A brand new website from us, dedicated to share the beauty of life in high-definition format. Since everybody has started to look into the high-definition (HD) format for photos and video, we would like to share with others what we have captured using this popular format.Still in the process of learning on how to capture a good photos and video, editing, etc. It’s not that easy, actually. Since both of us are quite busy with our daily routine, it may take longer time for us to explore our new hobby.Feel free to visit the website and do comments. Enjoy your time watching the video and photos…

Best Ideas For a Good Business - Service People

The best ideas for a good business lie in the service industry. People need to be served in some way and you need to make sure you can do that if you want to be profitable. You can't be profitable unless you do something that people need.

So what are some good business ideas in the service industry? Well, there is customer service. That is an industry that is quite profitable because people need things. People need questions answered and needs met.

You can actually do a customer service job from your home. Call centers all around are now routing calls to people who work out of their homes. Whether it is answering general questions to solve a problem or technical support, the job is there.

You can also try providing support for products that you know about. No, you don't have to work for the company, but you can say something such as “I am an expert with this program and can help you. For $10 an hour, I can help you do things with this program that you never thought was possible." That is a great line to use on your website.

So if you need to start a good business, the world is your playground. Look at what you feel you can do best and capitalize on that. If you don't, then you have a talent that is going to waste. Go ahead and let the world benefit from that talent. You'll agree that it was the wisest move you could ever make.

If you need money now, like I mean in the next hour, try what I did. I am making more money now than in my old business and you can too, read the amazing, true story, in the link below. When I joined I was skeptical for just ten seconds before I realized what this was. I was smiling from ear to ear and you will too.

Imagine doubling your money every week with no or little risk! To discover a verified list of Million Dollar Corporations offering you their products at 75% commission to you. Click the link below to learn HOW you will begin compounding your capital towards your first Million Dollars at the easy corporate money program.

Ways to Make Steady Money at Home - Have a Virtual Call Center

There are ways to make steady money at home. It is just a matter of you finding those opportunities. One of those opportunities is the virtual call center. Now, you're probably thinking, “A virtual what? How do I do that?"

Well, a virtual call center is where you provide some sort of telephone service such as customer service, technical support, and even telemarketing. The training is minimal and the supplies are minimal as well. There is not a lot that is involved in getting prepared for this. You have plenty of resources available to you.

Yes, you have to dedicate your time. But you have to look at the fact that this is a steady job from home. It is a steady paycheck that you can take advantage of. It isn't an opportunity in which you only get paid when you find work. With this, the work is always there.

There are many of these opportunities on the Internet. All you have to do is look for them. There are companies taking the commute out of the job, which is something that is great for a lot of people. This means no more high gas costs to go back and forth to work. In all reality, many people are able to do the same job that they would be doing in a call center. They are just not surrounded by other employees or having to deal with a supervisor breathing down their neck.

So if this sounds like something that you would like to do, check it out. There are plenty of opportunities available.

If you need money now, like I mean in the next hour, try what I did. I am making more money now than in my old business and you can too, read the amazing, true story, in the link below. When I joined I was skeptical for just ten seconds before I realized what this was. I was smiling from ear to ear and you will too.

Imagine doubling your money every week with no or little risk! To discover a verified list of Million Dollar Corporations offering you their products at 75% commission to you. Click the link below to learn HOW you will begin compounding your capital towards your first Million Dollars at the easy corporate money program.

Making Your Home Based Business More Attractive

When joining a home based business I know how excited it is and how fired up you are to go around and pitch your business to everyone you encounter. I know this feeling because i have been there and done that. I know how heart breaking it is to be rejected over and over and it doesn't help the fact that you are still new to the business. This is how a lot of new people get discouraged and end up quitting. There is a way to make your home based business more attractive without having to pitch it out to everyone you see.

People initially relate to other people and that is what they remember. If you go to some kind of event when asked what you remember you may be a little blurry about the actually content talked about but if there was someone who stood out I bet you would remember that person and what they had to say.

So remember that in order to make your home based business more attractive you must work on making yourself more attractive in the way you talk and in the way you handle yourself. It takes time and practice but eventually you will become more attractive in the eyes of others. A good first step is to work on yourself with something called personal development.

When you work on yourself and improve your all around thinking and approach as a default you attracted like minded people to you without having to pitch anything to them. By pitching your business you are actually doing the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish and driving those people away.

For more information feel free to click on link located in my resources box.

Thanks for reading!

Omar Negron is a 21 year old internet marketer who is student of attraction marketing and teaches hidden techniques on how to market your business on the internet.

Want to learn how he generates 35 leads a day? Get your FREE attraction marketing strategy from the Co-Creator of http://www.RetireAfterCollege.net

Work From Home Online For Fun, Free and Profit How to Instantly Change Your Life With Easy Profits

Who else is ready to start working online from home? If you are anything like the masses of folks out there simply SUFFERING from the scathing financial meltdown we're all watching in front of our eyes.....the STRAIGHT answer is probably you! It's true.....interest (and need!) in starting a work online business has NEVER been higher, and for those of you in the “know", it could powerfully transform your life in a hurry!

Did you know that there are a veritable AVALANCHE of legitimate ways you can earn money from your imagination, intellect and effort, and WITHOUT having to buy a whole bunch of overpriced products to do it?

It's true....and similar to THIS article I'm writing about internet marketing that WILL earn me a profit, you can do the very SAME thing about anything that YOU love....be it snow boarding, surfing, salsa or any OTHER niche topic that's got a ton of interest around the globe.

Installing blogs are free , writing content is simply a matter of effort and energy,and putting together a simple plan to monetize them both is an hour long investment in strategy! Do you want to sell products, services or affiliate items around your niche of choice.....or would you prefer to sell your OWN stuff? (I recommend the latter..:-)

Its’ all quick, easy and FAR faster than you could ever dream, and if you DON'T get started soon...trust me, someone else with your exact idea, will! And remember, you have NOTHING to lose...and EVERYTHING to gain by simply starting today on a NEW you, complete with the bank account to prove it!

What We Have: A Brand Spanking New, 28 page Power Packed PDF on Advanced Article and Affiliate Marketing Strategies You Won't Find Anywhere Else for Free.

Who it's For: ANYONE who wants, needs and CRAVES More FREE Traffic, easier sales, better copy and more push button, autopilot online profits.

How To Get It: Simply Click the Article Marketing Manifesto Link and Download it for FREE anytime between now and New Year's Day 2009.

What is the Easiest Way of Making Money From Home? 2 Wildly Profitable Strategies to Try Today

Who else wants to know the absolute easiest, and quickest ways to make money from home? If you are anything like most of the folks reading this right now, the simple answer is we ALL do, right? It's true....and with so many different strategies, approaches and work at home philosophies to choose from, it's often difficult to find one that works long enough to keep your interest. With that in mind, let's look at a couple common questions we get, and my answers, as to the very BEST ways of turning YOUR passion, into profit, and FAST. Read on..:-)

What is ithe Easiest Way of Making Money From Home?

Selling your passion. Info products are the EASIEST, most elegant and expeditious way of taking what you know...and turning it into REAL dollars that you can put IN the bank, and fast. Everyone is good at something...has knowledge in a specialized area that OTHER folks would love to tap into. What is yours? Maybe you've got LOTS of areas of expertise..:-) Simply take one, have someone interview you about it, and turn it into an AUDIO info product. Or simply spend a long weekend banging it out on the keyboard and offering it a PDF or text based doc. Or do both...:-) Either way, this is the QUICKEST way that I know of to create an enduring, viable and fun business from home.

What About Blogs and Affiliate Products?

Yes...and YES! If you DON'T want to create your own product ( which I do recommend first) you can simply find OTHER people who have already done it, and sell theirs. Of course they NEED an affiliate program of their own to allow you to be compensated, but you'll find someone in just about EVERY niche that does, and it's a dead simple way of taking YOUR passion, someone ELSE'S product, and combining them both into a win/win strategy of easy cash for both of you.

What We Have: A Brand Spanking New, 28 page Power Packed PDF on Advanced Article and Affiliate Marketing Strategies You Won't Find Anywhere Else for Free.

Who it's For: ANYONE who wants, needs and CRAVES More FREE Traffic, easier sales, better copy and more push button, autopilot online profits.

Cat Trauma and Burns - What You Should Do When Your Cat is Having These Problems

If your cat has fallen from a height or is struck by a car, the most important thing to do is to prevent him from going into shock or to minimize the effects of shock. Cover him lightly, keep him warm, talk to him in low tones and a soothing manner, and do not rush.

Lift him as carefully as possible as not to worsen any damage, place him in a small container and take him to the veterinarian immediately. Only a veterinarian can treat such injuries, and often anesthesia is required.

Although you might want to try to splint a broken limb, bear in mind that most cats do not tolerate being handled when they are in pain and your best efforts will probably be greeted by teeth flashing and claws striking. You may well cause even more damage.

What about burns? Your cat could suffer serious injury if he jumps on a hot stove or tips over a pan of boiling water. If it is a superficial burn or scald, the affected area turns red and could blister slightly.

If the burn is more serious, the skin turns white and the hairs are easily removed when pulled. To treat minor burns, immediately apply cold water or ice to the affected area for about 20 minutes.

If the burn is serious, you will need to take him to the veterinarian for further treatment. You can help prevent these accidents by keeping pans away from the edge of the stove and by covering gas and electric rings with fireproof lids.

Kitchens can be the heart of the home, and very much your cat's domain. To treat minor burns, immediately apply ice to the area. If the burn is more serious, you need to take your cat to the veterinarian. Always remember, prevention is better than cure.

Your cat will not always land on his feet, and may suffer a fracture from a bad landing. Never try to splint his leg yourself or you could both be hurt.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails