Putting the life back in science fiction

Hot and Cold Running Evolution
April 6, 2017, 9:31 pm
Filed under: deep time, evolution, Hot Earth Dreams | Tags: , ,

I’m not following the primary journals as much as I used to, so this pop-science article in Quanta on the rate of evolution caught my attention.  It claims, apparently on the grounds of several different lines of evidence, that rates of mutation and evolution appear to run faster at short time scales than long time scales.  In other words, there’s more genetic and morphological variation over short time spans than over long ones.

Paradoxical?  Not quite. Useful?  Very. Continue reading

Tekelili! The Wilkes Land Gravitational Anomaly

Another little post, this one on a news item a few months old.  Whenever someone spots a gravity anomaly in Antarctica, people get silly, write things about how the tinfoil hat brigade think it’s a UFO, or an alien base, or NAZIs.   They’re so silly.  Of course it’s shoggoth (not sure what the singular or plural is.  Since shoggoth is sort of like concrete or nanotech, is it singular, plural, collective singular, collective plural, or what?).  Anything that close to the Transantarctic Mountains has to be.  it’s canon.

More seriously, there’s some potentially interesting science buried under the ice.   Continue reading

2016 Predictions: The roadkill edition
December 27, 2016, 5:35 pm
Filed under: 2016, climate change, Hot Earth Dreams, Speculation, Uncategorized | Tags:

As 2016 waits for the knackers, I figured I’d go back to the predictions I made last January to see how far off I was.  While yes, I understand that I’m not supposed to look backwards, because the past is gaining on us and they’ve got the original papers on what we owe the future, well, I’m still a pessimist, so let’s see what I got wrong.  Or right.   Continue reading

Hot Earth Dreams and Space Opera

I was going to post this on Charlie Stross’ Antipope, where there’s another interesting discussion developing on space opera.  So as not to chunk 1,450-plus words onto that message board, I thought I’d post my thoughts over here, for those who are interested.

Continue reading

The Day After

Yay, it’s the day after Earth Day.  They’ve started signing the Paris climate accord, John Kerry photo-opping by signing with his granddaughter on his lap.  Obama will ratify it by executive action, the Senate Republicans will pass something nauseating telling him to stop chasing myths (unless maybe that doesn’t happen?), he’ll veto their attempt to quash him, and…

Well, what happens next?  In the real world, I’m not so sure, but after I finish the swarm of stuff I’m working on (I won’t be blogging for the next few weeks), I’ll start figuring out how to revise Hot Earth Dreams. There’s still time to get your comments in, but the window is closing.

Now that it’s the day after Earth Day, what have I learned?

Continue reading

What mass extinctions look like

Another post, in part to remind myself that I’ll need to update the chapter on reefs in Hot Earth Dreams.  The bad news of March, at least in my opinion (aside from all the rain that didn’t fall on California) was that the bleaching of the northern section of the Great Barrier reef (as mentioned by, among many others, National Geographic, DW, Slate, CNN, and The University of Queensland.  Personally I like the last one the best, but tastes differ).

What’s going on, to be brief and oversimplify, is that coral have a temperature range, and the Coral Sea, or at least parts of it, are exceeding that range with this year’s El Niño.  By itself it’s a tragedy, and it’s one that’s going to leave a mark that’s bigger than you might think.

Here’s why.

Continue reading

Climate change and mental health
March 29, 2016, 1:22 am
Filed under: climate change, Hot Earth Dreams, meditation, PTSD | Tags: , ,

This is small entry, but as many people reading this know, working on climate change has mental health effects.  There are articles on the web with such heartwarming titles as:

When the End of the World is Your Day Job

Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist

Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome: Scientists Speak Out

One college teacher contacted me, because he wanted to use Hot Earth Dreams as a text in his class.  One of the things he asked was what book should be paired with HED to offer a complementary view.  Unfortunately, I probably pissed him off, because my answer was a book on mindfulness. Anyway, after I suggested that, I never heard from him again.  But it was an honest suggestion.

Here’s the thing: I’ve suffered too.  My chiropractor got to know me very well as I wrote HED, and after I released it, I started suffering from what I’m now sure were symptoms of anxiety, although they felt like fairly scary diseases at the time.  What has worked for me in dealing with this is mindfulness meditation.  You don’t have to become a Buddhist to learn it, but it’s worth remembering that the fundamental Buddhist truth is that life is unsatisfactory, but that it’s possible to escape it through embracing the suck rather than trying (inevitably unsuccessfully) to avoid it.

It’s not just about anxiety and depression either.  There’s also guilt, because I’m part of the problem and I don’t feel like I’m doing nearly enough to solve it.  There’s fury, when I see these self-preening…okay, I won’t go on a three paragraph rant about all the politicians and moguls I see, but I get as stressed out imagining them getting their just and gruesome desserts as I do when dealing with depression.  And there’s frustration, of course, and sadness, and the endless chores of dealing with others’ denialism, nihilism, and constant changing of the subject, because anything’s better than trying to do something that requires suffering.  That’s a whole unholy brew, and that’s just inside my own skull.

Just based on my own limited experience, if you’re dealing with similar crap and don’t want to try self-medication, I’d recommend Bhante Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English.   It’s short, sweet, and it’s helping me.  There’s no magic here: it’s more about putting in the hours learning how to patiently deal.  The only difference is that, unlike the other things I’ve tried so far, it does seem to help.  I’ve also downloaded an app from the American VA for using mindfulness to deal with conventional PTSD, and that helps as well, mostly because I use it to keep track of how long I meditate each day.

Hopefully this will help some of you.  Let me know if it does, or if something else works as well.  There’s enough suffering out there without people suffering alone with this too.