Science Fiction Authors About Science

Science fiction intimidates some. Perhaps, these quotes by science fiction authors about science might help dispel some of that. 

Magic or Science?

Science Fiction Authors About Science

“Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.”

Ray Bradbury-The Martian Chronicles

 Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”

Jules Vern-A Journey to the Center of the Earth

“If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Science is magic that works.”

Kurt Vonnegut-Cat’s Cradle

Why Science

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

Frank Herbert-Dune

I think science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective. It lets us look at our mores, using science as the backdrop, as the game changer.

Mae Jemison

I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.

Phillip K. Dick, The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

Science and Science Fiction

The ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’ isn’t just physics and engineering. It can also be linguistics, anthropology, and psychology.

Ann Leckie

These final two quotes are the best ones,  though Michio Kaku is not a science fiction author 

Physics is often stranger than science fiction, and I think science fiction takes its cues from physics: higher dimensions, wormholes, the warping of space and time, stuff like that.

Michio Kaku

You cannot create new science unless you realize where the old science leaves off and new science begins, and science fiction forces us to confront this.

Michio Kaku

This post began as a quest for quotes from science fiction authors about science. Yet, the scientist gave the best answer. New science begins because science fiction forces us to confront this. Do you think this is true? What evidence (science) supports that? 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Conservation Genetics is in the good, the bad, and the ugly spotlight. Conservation Genetics “aims to understand the dynamics of genes in populations principally to avoid extinction.” Clear as mud?

Illustration of a strand of DNA--The good, the bad, the ugly of Conservation Genetics

An Example

It may be easier to understand with an example. Conservation genetics aims to help endangered species, like African cheetahs. Today the existing 10,000 African cheetahs share 99 percent of their DNA. In other words, they’re all related. This means there is little genetic diversity. Low genetic diversity leads to a population that is highly susceptible to disease. Disease that could make the African cheetahs extinct.

Photo of the African cheetah. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Conservation genetics and saving the African cheetah.

Scientists involved with cheetah breeding projects determine how closely related two cheetahs are. They want to reintroduce genetic variety into the population of cheetahs. So, they choose the ones that are the furthest apart genetically and breed those two together. 

If they are successful, the cheetah population will grow. (Source:

Revive & Restore

Revive and Restore is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to “enhance biodiversity through new techniques of genetic rescue for endangered and extinct species.” One of their funded projects searches for the genomic trigger of bleaching the coral reefs. They say that this study has the “potential opportunity to engineer genomic resilience to climate change. They also hope to de-extinct the Woolly Mammoth.

The Good

Preserving some species (bees?) would be good, even essential, for the survival of the human race. And who would argue against restoring beautiful cats like cheetahs? Or the coral reefs that protect shorelines and provide habitats for many species? 

The Bad: Not a Simple Answer

According to Nature, the early studies of the low genetic variability of the cheetah had many inconsistencies. But those studies brought genetics into conservation efforts and research. Conservationists are learning. They study population decline and inbreeding many near-extinction species. 

The cheetahs are one of many species that have developed low genetic variety despite no evidence of population decline. The authors of the article in Nature caution that scientists may study and manipulate genetic variations that do not matter to the species. 

They suggest that for some species, the low genetic variations during a population decline may be the best genetic survival mechanism for the species. 

The Ugly: Consequences

Conservation genetics is a young discipline. Young enough that they do not know what, beyond selective breeding programs, they might be able to do. 

Even with selective breeding programs, there have been consequences. “when a population of Tatra mountain ibex in Czechoslovakia was ‘enriched’ by new animals from Sinai and Turkey, the offspring inherited an inappropriate calving date, giving birth in mid-winter.” The calves born in the winter died. 

Learning how to de-extinct the Woolly Mammoth may help its current day cousins survive longer. We don’t know what the consequences of de-extincting any species would be. We rarely know the consequences of any new scientific research will be. Does that mean we should abandon new research?


As usual, the ethics discussions lag the scientific discussions and studies. Are conservation genetic efforts “directing evolutionary change?” Is de-extinction of long-gone species, like the Woolly Mammoth, an ethical thing to do? What about saving the coral reef? Or the cheetahs?

We humans are responsible directly and indirectly for the extinction of many species. Does that mean we have a moral duty to restore the species? If that is our moral duty, what about our duty to our species? If we learn enough, we could eradicate some diseases. Should we? Is there a line we should not cross? 

What do You Think?

We merely touched on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Conservation Genetics. Had you heard of conservation genetics before? Will the potential good of conservation genetics outweigh any bad or ugly consequences? Would you de-exterminate the Woolly Mammoth, if you could?

If this post made you think,, you might like to read “Head Transplants.”

The Sorrow and Joy of the Last Page

The writer and the reader experience the sorrow and joy of the last page. Not in exactly the same way, but pretty close. A good book drives you to that last page then, if you’re like me you sit there, hugging the book and feeling lost.

The sorrow and joy of the last page are almost the same for the writer as the reader.

This feeling comes from what psychologist and other scientists call deep reading. Most of us make pictures in our minds. We experience sorrow and joy. Science has shown that our emotional reactions are close to the same emotions as the characters we read about. The deeper, the more intense the reading–the more we exercise our brain. We become more empathetic.

There are people who are not natural readers. Shocking, I know. They don’t experience reading in the same way. But, they can improve their reading skills and enjoyment. Parents reading to children is a critical step in helping poor readers learn to enjoy reading more. It’s important to read because reading increases the white matter in our brain. (A brief discussion of the science can be found here.)

Reading nonfiction doesn’t do quite the same thing. In studies, reading nonfiction lights different areas of the brain than reading fiction does. Not better areas, different. Our emotions aren’t as engaged, but learning centers are.

I prefer reading physical books. I’m of an age where all my pleasurable, early reading experiences come from physical books. I thought this made me prefer physical books. Turns out there’s an extra reason. Physical books give us something that ebooks cannot. It’s called spacial navigability. What that means is that the physical weight and or thickness of a book gives cues about location. We can train ourselves to read electronic format books and enjoy them. We simply have to look for different spacial navigability cues such as the percentage read.

The fact that stories have beginnings, middles, and ends are another reason reading is good for us. It encourages our brains to think in sequence and it expands our attention span. We anticipate the changes from the beginning to the middle and the middle to the end.

Still, reaching the end of a good story can leave us feeling wistful. How long? Depends on the strength of the story and how much you identified with the characters, place, or situation. The same thing can happen when writing a book. The writer has spent days, months, or years with the characters and the world. Breaking up is hard to do.

The Sorrow and Joy of the Last Page are shared by writer and reader.
Thank goodness there are more books to read and more books to write. See, the reader and the writer experience almost the same sorrow and joy of the last page. We are sorry to see it end, but eager for the next one to begin. Me? I’m approaching the end of Ian’s Trust, a novella in the My Soul to Keep series, and the beginning of If I Should Die, book two of the My Soul to Keep Series. Are you at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the book you’re reading?

Heart Stories

February isn’t over yet and neither is my list of heart stories. This week we look at history, at a true love story, an organization dedicated to helping women make time for and feel the love, and some real heart stories reminding you to take care of your heart health.


From the Smithsonian, we take a look at How the Heart Balm Racket Convinced America Women Were No Good.

What do you think? Was the Heart Balm Racket sensationalistic journalism or a real threat?


A love at first sight story, also from the Smithsonian.

How do you like that Mr. Clemmons deliberately writing passages that his wife would react to?


HeartStories is an organization whose mission is to help women hear Love louder than all the negative noise in your life. Read about them here. If you can’t or don’t want to join that organization, consider doing something for yourself. Make a goal to set aside time to slow down and feel the love around you.


Do yourself a favor and read the Real Heart Stories from The Heart Foundation, then check out the rest of the Heart Foundation site. Make sure you don’t end up as one of those Real Heart Stories.  

Heart stories

There are many more heart stories across the world. Make it one of your February goals to look for and feel the love around you. Then, let’s make that wonderful feeling viral. In the comments below, tell me how you feel the love today or how you plan to share the love.

Listen & Learn: Podcasts

We’re all busy, right? We have lives, children (two-legged or/and four-legged), spouses, and chores to do. Some of us have more than one career we juggle, too. So how does one make time for everything? Listen & learn.


In my busy lifestyle, I find it difficult to find time to read. But I have a lot of tasks that I do that keep my hands busy like dishes, yard work, and data collection. During those times I sometimes listen to audio books but more and more lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts.


According to Wikipedia, “A podcast is an episodic series of audio files which a user can subscribe to so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s local computer, mobile application, or media player. The term podcast was invented by BBC  journalist Ben Hammersly in 2004.

Podcasts are usually free of charge. Some charge a small fee, others use sponsors and ads, still others use Patron to cover the cost of production.

The user can listen to current podcast episodes or archived ones. Podcasts are produced by a wide range of people from professionals working for well-known corporations to a beginner working out of her own home. This means that quality can be all over the place. But don’t avoid a podcast done by a beginner. Sometimes their enthusiasm for their subject more than makes up for the poorer sound quality and production values.


Where do you find podcasts? Primarily on Apple iTunes or Stitcher, which was initially designed for android phones. Some podcasters have links to the podcasts on their websites.

A word of caution: I’ve never used Stitcher but have seen reviews that suggest it may not be working well.


There are thousands of podcasts, maybe millions, covering nearly every topic in existence. It’s hard to sort through the titles to find the ones that speak to you. Here are a few that I enjoy.

You Are Not So Smart (YANSS)—hosted by David McRaney this podcast takes a look at flawed perception and reasoning. McRaney interviews experts that are always fascinating. He also taste-tests cookies on air, that are made from recipes sent to him by listeners. The YANSS website with more information and a link to the podcast is here.

Science Friday (SciFri)—hosted and produced by Ira Flatow, SciFri is a podcast that started as a public radio show in 1991.  It “is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff.”  One of the topics in a recent episode was about advances in the field of prosthetics for amputees that sound like something out of the Bionic Man. The Science Friday website with a link to the radio show and the podcast is here.

Flash Forward—hosted and produced by Rose Eveleth. This podcast explores the future with a ‘what if’ sensibility. Eveleth begins each podcast with a short audio play that reflects a future where this month’s ‘what if’ is a reality. The bulk of the podcast is interviews with experts about the advantages, disadvantages, and probabilities of the ’what if’ becoming reality. The Flash Forward website with a link to the podcast is here.

Entertaining and informative, these three podcasts are my current top picks for the sciences. In the future, I’ll share the writing podcasts that I enjoy.

Do you listen to podcasts? If you don’t, will you try one now?

If you are a podcast listener, which ones do you enjoy?

Audio-Tehnica headphones via Flickr Creative Commons