PlotBot: Year 3 Review

in science •  10 months ago  (edited)

Once again, life got in the way of Steemit.  My wife had a heart attack in February, and that put quite a damper on blogging.  Most of the difficulty came not from the event itself but from the fallout.  She was scheduled for a knee replacement, and the surgeon refused to do it until she's off the blood thinners, which won't happen for a year and a day.  Seems a little arbitrary to me, but that's our legal system for you.

Once again, however, I did manage to keep my perfect record with the column on The Intergalactic Medicine Show.  I even expanded my role there by starting an interview series, which I'll post here as well.  Keep an eye out for those.  Below are quick summaries of the main monthly columns.


August 2017: Total Eclipfe of the Fun reports not so much on the total solar eclipse of 2017, which was hugely hyped by NASA and our local March for Science, but on the history of how eclipses have been written about in SF.  I personally went to my in-laws' house in Georgia, which was right on the path of totality.  The weather cleared and the experience was pretty much perfect.  I did not expect the crickets to start up and stop so suddenly, but my experience was not creepy the way Annie Dillard described it in The Atlantic.  There's a collection of other eclipse essays there, too, which I did not cite.

September 2017: The Bastard Sister of Science introduces SF writers to Sir James George Frazer, the Victorian armchair anthropologist who wrote The Golden Bough, a huge collection of religious customs from around the world, and started theorizing about the underlying psychological constructs that drive magical thinking.  A year later and I still haven't finished the blasted thing.

October 2017: War of the Words celebrates the 1939 broadcast of the Orson Welles radio play of the HG Wells novel.  Stories of the panic may or may not have been exaggerated, but it would be hard to exaggerate the effects of this on pop culture.  Journalist Annie Jacobsen traces effects on government secrecy and psychological warfare.  It gets pretty crazy.

November 2017: Hacking the Weight-O-Stat details a model of weight control by renegade psychologist and self-experimenter Seth Roberts.  Regular readers of the column may not be surprised to find out that Pavlov's classical conditioning is involved.

December 2017: The Way of Transparency is one I expect the Steemit community is gonna like.  I propose that the Vatican adopt blockchain technology to process payments for Peter's Pence, their global tithe for the poor.  The Catholic Church has some interesting prior history with cryptography, which I didn't know about prior to researching this piece.

January 2018: Morphic Madness explores Rupert Sheldrake's concept of the morphic field, which was proposed several decades ago, before we actually knew anything about the genetic control of development, and how the New Age people have latched onto it as part of their campaign to prove ... something.

February 2018: Rube Goldberg Love combines those wacky machine cartoons with a discussion of engineering control theory, biological complexity, and the way authors like to use glowing colored lines to represent social bonds, which is honestly not that different than the way social psychologists have thought about them.

March 2018: Will There Eventually Be a National Raygun Association? was my response to the campaign by the survivors of the Parkland school shootings, which I admired.  I skim lightly over how different categories of weapons have been used and misused in SF, focusing specifically on how SF societies control weapons.

April 2018: Don't You Dare Call it Dirt delves into soil science, a fascinating field that is making rapid progress now that we can genetically sequence the microbes that live below ground.  Sort of a carbon-sequestering sequel to last year's Earth Day column on carbon taxes.

May 2018: Violence is Not an Option (Maybe on the NASDAQ) laments the lack of a coherent scientific theory of political change, violent or not, and suggests that writers take the amateur flash fictions of political strategist Micah White and run with them.  One of them is even blockchain-relevant.

June 2018: The Water Economy, or, Geoengineering for Infidels continues the environmental theme with a wacky plan to rehydrate the American midwest with ocean water desalinated through renewable energy, solving two difficult problems at once.  Plus Dune jokes.

July 2018: This Century's Apprentices draws on my entrepreneurial ambitions to reform the educational system, which still imagines itself as a factory for producing identical widget workers, not the crafty intellectual artisans the modern global economy calls for.  Just like your favorite fantasy novel, this will require more societal investment and mentoring than classrooms can offer.

Another 12kw (kilo-words) of salty science, free for the reading.

I'd be remiss in not mentioning that while the column is free to read, with a $15 subscription to IGMS you get access to not just this year's stories and interviews, but everything they've ever published.  That's a pretty good value.  I give them out as Christmas gifts sometimes, when I'm too busy to shop.  This will be one of those years, since I'm again working the election, and since I hope to be in India during the holiday season.  More on that later.

Thanks for reading!


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