Friday, June 27, 2008

Interesting Areas of Scientific Research

Recently, I was asked by JP Frantz at SF Signal to respond to an interesting question on their forum, “MIND MELD: Interesting Areas of Scientific Research”. The editors said,

“For many of us, one of the main interests of science fiction is it's use of science as part of the story. There's nothing quite like reading about a cool idea that is based on current scientific thought and then going back and finding out more. We asked our respondents this question:

Q: There is a lot of scientific research being performed across a wide array of disciplines. So much that it can be difficult to keep up with it all. What current avenue of scientific inquiry do you believe people should be paying attention to, and why?”
Head over there and read some thought provoking answers from the likes of Kathleen Ann Goonan, Nancy Kress, Mike Brotherton, Jennifer Ouellette, Kay Kenyon, and Alexis Glynn Latner.

Just to whet your appetite, here are some "clips" from a few examples of answers:

This one by Jennefer Ouellette interested me greatly: “My mantra is always, "Look to the fringes!" That is, those boundary areas between disciplines, where scientists from different fields are collaborating with each other and doing more interdisciplinary investigations. That's where many exciting breakthroughs are likely to occur in the near future, I think. And with good reason: Science has become so highly specialized/compartmentalized that researchers often aren't aware of breakthroughs in other fields that might have relevance to their own work. So any kind of cross-pollination is likely to lead to new insights or technologies, and, potentially, revolutionary breakthroughs…”(go here for more, like some examples she provides).

Kay Kenyon, always providing a great overview of humankind’s place in the world said this: “I wish we'd pay more attention to the Theory of Everything. I'm coming from the standpoint that basic research gets short shrift in the quest for marketable results. I read somewhere that we don't understand photosynthesis at important levels of detail. Perhaps if we did understand photosynthesis we'd be on track for truly efficient solar panels. In the 19th century, realizing that electricity and magnetism could be understood as one combined force led to the harnessing of electricity, radio and that cell phone in your purse.

“So I'm just saying, let's get back to basics. And what could be more basic than understanding the fundamental interactions in nature? (Electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces and gravity.) I don't pretend to understand the issues, but apparently we've still got a long slog ahead to fitting gravity into the general scheme of things. (Unless you're an adherent of M-theory, and think string theory solves it. In case you care about an English major's opinion, I agree with those who hold that string theory is suspect because it can't be tested.)

“So let's give a cheer for basic physics. And when we take an interest, perhaps our short-sighted electeds (Clinton era and beyond) will rue the day they canceled the superconducting Super Collider in Texas even after 14 miles of it had already been dug. The research continues at CERN at a smaller scale.”

Kathleen Ann Goonan provided a very interesting discussion on brain research and memory. Michael S. Brotherton talked about the Hubble Space Telescope and Alexis Glynn Latner described nanoscale science. Add your two cents worth and comment on the SF Signal post and/or leave a comment right here.

Bios:Kathleen Ann Goonan is a science fiction writer with several Nebula Award nominated books. Her debut novel, Queen City Jazz was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and her most recent novel, In War Times, was chosen by the American Library Association as Best Science Fiction Novel for their 2008 reading list.

Nancy Kress is the author of 21 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. She has three more books appearing in 2008, a collection of short stories and two novels. Her fiction has won three Nebulas, a Hugo, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Mike Brotherton is the author of the hard science fiction novels Spider Star (2008) and Star Dragon (2003), the latter being a finalist for the Campbell award. He's also a professor of astronomy at the University of Wyoming, Clarion West graduate, and founder of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers ( He blogs at

Jennifer Ouellette is the author of The Physics of the Buffyverse and Black Bodies and Quantum Cats. She also blogs at Cocktail Party Physics and Twisted Physics.

Kay Kenyon is a science fiction and fantasy writer currently living in Wenatchee, Washington. Her most recent novel, A World Too Near, has just been released, and continues the story begun in Bright of the Sky.

Alexis Glynn Latner's science fiction novel Hurricane Moon was published by Pyr in 2007. Twenty-three of her novelettes and short stories have been or will be published in science fiction magazines, especially Analog, and horror and mystery anthologies. She also does editing, teaches and coaches creative writing, and works in the Rice University Library.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Scientific research can always be a dangerous area. Right now, though, our beautiful British countryside is getting blighted by wind farms. It looks like this is being done in excess, Nina.

Nina Munteanu said...

Ah yes, research and action is double-edged sword... There is always consequence to others in ways unanticipated. And I so love your British countryside, Jean-luc! This is mostly in the coastal areas, I take it?

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Anonymous said...

I would like to see whether we can transform mars environment to earth's environment. I heard scientist will send loads of co2 there and this will make mars suitable for earth.

Nina Munteanu said...

Yes, effectively jumping the time-game of what our plate tectonic action and prehistoric jungles did to circulate CO2 in the atmosphere through photosynthesis and respiration... explains it this way: "Early in its history, Mars was much more like Earth. As with Earth almost all of its carbon dioxide was used up to form carbonate rocks. But lacking the Earth's plate tectonics, Mars is unable to recycle any of this carbon dioxide back into its atmosphere and so cannot sustain a significant greenhouse effect. The surface of Mars is therefore much colder than the Earth would be at that distance from the Sun."

Anonymous said...

I need to know when there will be 3d video games . Beside that i am interested in teleportation .

Nina Munteanu said...

Teleportation.... Now THERE's a topic for science! Love it! There are scientists looking into it... See what leading physicist, Michio Kaku, says about it...He contends that: "Teleportation and forcefields could become scientific realities within decades, and time travel will also be possible in the future."

We live in exciting times... :)

Nina Munteanu said...

p.s. here is a bit more on the topic of teleportation and some more interesting topics my friend, Michio discusses in the Telegraph:

"Teleportation is likely to be achieved through "quantum entanglement", a property that allows connections to be formed – and information transmitted - between particles many miles apart.

"Applying the process to larger objects like people is just a scientific "engineering problem", that is likely to be solved in time, Prof Kaku writes in his new book Physics of the Impossible.

"Similarly, telepathy will be made possible by improved MRI machines that can effectively read minds, and electrodes that can then pass the information into the brains of other humans.

"Invisibility will probably be achieved using a recently-built "metamaterial" capable of bending light rays, he argues. Alien life will most likely be discovered within decades as our ability to analyse the universe improves."

Very cool stuff! Enjoy!