Category Archives: science

He is coming for you

The Abscission Zone – a new novel by Samuel Muggington

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The Abscission Zone – Kindle version

What if things are not as they seem?

What if all humans are engaging in unintentional cruelty?

What might the consequences be for the human race?

Cover of The Abscission Zone


They approached the white dwarf with caution. “No life forces appear to be within range,” it said. An intense beam shot down to the surface of the fiery white sphere and a tiny puff ball appeared. “Approaching ignition point,” it said. A purplish flare rose from the white dwarf and zoomed by them.  Everything occurred in silence. The writhing sheets of violet continued to spew into space.

It began to chuckle. It turned to its partner. “Let’s do another one,” it said. “I don’t know if we should,” the other said. “Come on, it doesn’t hurt anything, it’s just a little gamma radiation,” it said. “Alright, but this is the last one, okay?” the other said.

It grinned and turned them towards another juicy white dwarf.

Any second

It could happen to any of us, any second.

Today I read about a thirty five year old man who had blood clot in his ankle. The next morning he was found dead.  It is so sad but also something all of us face.

Life is an incredibly fragile phenomenon. Life is also one of the most persistent, unusual, and mysterious forces in our Universe.

In my novel Pomroy’s World I attempted to explore this fear that hangs over all humans. A young teenager is on his skateboard and weaving his way down a street. All of us see teens like this every day. They don’t seem to have a care in the world.

At the same time, on the same street, I watch impatient drivers honk when the car in front of them slows down for a second. They race their engines and lean on their horns to show their hatred and anger at the unfair delay they are being subjected to.

It is only a matter of time and chance before the unthinkable happens.  A boy is hit by a racing vehicle and he either lives or dies. In Pomroy’s World, a third possibility is presented. The teen is in a coma and the doctors say he will never regain consciousness.

What happens next is my dream and my hope for Pomroy and everyone else like him.


We needed it

I woke this morning to a nice drizzle of rain. Our parched lawn needed a good soak. The only downside is that the mosquitoes are probably rubbing their limbs in glee anticipating all the great spots to drop clusters of eggs.

I can just imagine the revelry and chaos in plant cells right now. Water is rushing into root hairs and whooshing up xylem vessels. Cells are frantically trying to take in as much water as they can, their cell walls turgid to the point of bursting. Up in the leaves the palisade cells are grumbling, “Come on, get that good stuff up here,”  but they are going to have to be patient.

In order to get the water up that high, they are going to need to get some heat and a nice breeze.  Once the water molecules get jumpy enough they will hop out of the stomata and fling themselves into the air. Now, those long columns of water can start clawing their way up the insides of the zillions of tiny tubes. If all the leaves cooperate just right they can pull the water up a surprising height.

It’s those greedy little green guys that are desperate for the water. As soon as they get some water they will start tossing electrons around, breaking and making chemical bonds and churning out gooey carbohydrates that are destined to be the supposed bane of human dieters everywhere.

Back down at the roots, things are getting mushy. Earthworms are gasping for breath and squirming their way skyward. The fungal mycelia are happy. They just grow and grow and digest and absorb. It’s a great life being a decomposer.

I think I better take a closer look at the water, the main player in this morning’s drama. What this? It seems the hydrogen atoms won’t stay still. They are jumping from one water molecule to another, almost like they are doing the Lindy.  And they are throwing the electrons back and forth. Naughty polar molecules, I wish you could just sit still for a millisecond. Still, you’re all we’ve got in the liquids that make life possible category so I guess we will just have to put up with it.

We did really did need a good soaking today.

the Brain Initiative

I started a post about an interesting topic, entropy and life, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet to deal with it.  Instead, I will take a stroll through my mind and see what else I encounter.

Lots and lots of stimuli are bombarding me.  Photons are bouncing off a zillion different objects and reaching the rods and cones of my retinas.  The wind is pushing air molecules against thousands of receptors in my skin.  Dust particles are hitting my corneas.  Dust mites are probably crawling over my eyebrows.  My tympanic membranes are vibrating in response to a huge variety of waves.  My taste buds are rioting in response to the strong coffee I am drinking.

Somehow my brain is taking this gigantic amount of input and considering its value, while at the same time maintaining my bodily functions, my memories, my consciousness and more, while I am seated typing these trivial words.

Good luck with the Brain Initiative.

510 nm

Where would we be without the color green?

510 nm is a very special measure.  It happens to be the approximate wavelength of the color green.  You might remember from your school days that white light is made up of all the colors.  The infamous R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. was the mnemonic most of us used to remember the colors of the spectrum.  Unfortunately ROY lost his “I” when scientists made it clear there is no Indigo.  Indigo now resides in the dust heap of science history along with Pluto the planet.  

Anyway, back to the color green.  When we see something green, all of R.O.Y.G.B.V.’s colors are absorbed by the object except green light which bounces back to our eyes.  

What’s so special about the color green?  Without it we would have no life on Earth.  The green pigment named chlorophyll is the key.  Plants use the beautiful green color to capture light from the Sun and then build food for the rest of us.  


Good job Rosetta

Humans are amazing.

Spacecraft wakes, calls home

Scientists have flung a spacecraft 800 million kilometers at a comet.  Because of low power the spacecraft was put to sleep for three years.  Now, they have successfully reactivated it and soon it will dance around Comet 67P before sending a lander to the surface.

Talk about unbelievable…

Just think about how hard it is for a pitcher to throw a strike, or a quarterback to connect with a tight end.

It might be good to remember Rosetta the next time we come up against a difficult problem.

Does reading fiction help your brain?

Recently a flurry of articles came out that purport to describe how reading fiction improves the brain.

Brain Function “Boosted For Days After Reading a Novel” from slashdot

Your brain on fiction from the New York Times

It would be great if it was possible to measure “brain function” in a simple way and to be able to show that reading a novel causes an improvement in “brain function”.  Unfortunately reality is not this simple.  When one is reading a novel time passes.  Over time, a multitude of intervening variables might influence the dependent variable/s in question.

These studies are a perfect example of the limits of science.  Certain phenomena are too complex to fit neatly into a hypothesis or controlled experiment.  It is obvious to anyone who spends time reading good fiction that it is relaxing and beneficial in many ways.  For one thing, reading requires a person to carve a substantial amount of time out of each day and this alone might account for some of the benefits from reading.

In any event, why does there have to be a scientific explanation for something so pleasurable and so human?  Why do we need to pick it apart and dissect it?  However, if studies like this do encourage more people to read deeply then that is fine.

The magic of literature and the other arts is that they are mysterious.  There are some things in this universe that scientists will never poke, prod or measure.  Muses are one of these.