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September 30, 2011 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Scientist and Science Fiction author Joan Slonczewski, author of A Door Into The Ocean, guest blogs about science fictional and microbiology on Charles Stross's site: Salt Beings, Microbes grow the starship, Synthetic Babies
posted by Artw (13 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, contrary to usual internet practices, the comments are actually very worth reading on these.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on September 30, 2011


I had Prof. Slonczewski at Kenyon. Very tough lady, but enjoyable stuff.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:08 PM on September 30, 2011


I haven't read science fiction in about 20 years. This is a great place to start. Thanks for posting.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:11 PM on September 30, 2011


roomthreeseventeen: Me too! Except I had her for Biology of Science Fiction, which wasn't so much tough as it was completely insane (course description: "Confront the Mutants before they destroy Earth"). She's a wonderful person, though, and a good writer and storyteller.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:11 PM on September 30, 2011


A Door Into Ocean
posted by CaseyB at 5:55 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joan is a great person. I was in a writer's workshop with her in New Haven, back in the day. Very talented writer.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:13 PM on September 30, 2011


I wish my college had classes in Sci-fi :(
posted by Renoroc at 6:45 PM on September 30, 2011


A Door Into Ocean

Heh. You'd think I'd get that right, it's a favourite book of mine.
posted by Artw at 6:50 PM on September 30, 2011


Could photosynthetic bacteria run fuel cells and make hydrogen? This is no longer fiction, it's science today.

Wow, she tosses it out there casually in the "Salt Beings" post but the article she links about harnessing bacteria is fascinating:

Notably, the energy content of H2, a mere waste product for R. palustris, is three times that of gasoline. Indeed, H2 is being used to power automobile prototypes whose engines are reconfigured to burn this gas, yielding energy and water as a nonpolluting combustion byproduct. Although widespread use of H2 as a transportation fuel is not yet a practical reality, H2 is being used industrially in petroleum refining operations and to produce ammonia. Even though commercially produced H2 derives mainly from fossil fuels, many microbiologists are asking whether biologically produced H2 can contribute significantly to our economy.

The section called "Harnessing R. palustris To Produce More H2" is full of science/fiction goodness. And this at the end is great speculative stuff:

Another strategy, developed by Michael Flickinger at North Carolina State University, is to immobilize bacterial cells in thin nanoporous and transparent latex films. At least on a small scale, nongrowing cells of R. palustris can be embedded in latex at very high concentrations of 1011 cells/ml, forming very thin, 50-μm films. When illuminated and supplied with buffer containing acetate as an electron donor, such cells produce H2 continuously for several months. One can further imagine layering films of different H2-producing photosynthetic bacteria to maximize photosynthetic efficiencies. H2-producing biological films might also be painted onto light-conducting plastics, and arrayed as cylindars in enclosed bioreactors.

I love love love exobiology. And I love it even more when it's exobiology that actually right here on earth, right now. Thanks for cluing me in to Joan.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mmm, these look awesome. Thanks!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:14 PM on September 30, 2011


I saw Joan on a panel at a con this summer. The panel was about how humans always define "intelligence" to mean "whatever machine haven't accomplished yet" -- in other words, how we always shift the goalposts. She made the case very well, but a bunch of people in the audience just wouldn't get it. "But machines can't do X, so they aren't intelligent!" They didn't notice that they were arguing against her by using the exact same problematic reasoning she was critiquing. Really interesting panel, and Joan was great. Could've used a better-attuned audience, though.
posted by jiawen at 1:51 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stross' comment sections are gold mines, it's hard to not just link to every one of them.
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on October 1, 2011


A few more:
Are Professors Obsolete?
So long, and thanks for the ride
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on October 4, 2011


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