Tag Archives: Research

New Knees, using 3D printing

I’m not at the point of needing to get my knees fixed yet, but they definitely ain’t what they used to be, so I was fascinated by the idea of using 3D printing to build the implants. More importantly, I was thrilled by the idea that the bioinks used in the 3D printing process could actually encourage the body to create new cells itself:

‘…the researchers used several bioinks together to print the entire fibrocartilage tissue layer by layer, in an interleaved crosshatch pattern. The first was a composite gellan gum and fibrinogen ink, which encourages the body’s own cells to repopulate. The second bioink is a silk fibroin methacrylate, which helps keep the structure strong and flexible.’

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM)

You can find the whole article on the New Atlas website. It’s quite short and not super technical, so if you’re like me and starting to creak, check it out.

I have to say I’m quite looking forward to becoming a ‘bionic’ woman in the years ahead. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Oh my darlings… :(

Remember that post about info dumps? Well, I’ve just cut two, and it’s breaking my heart. One of them was a cute little scene that I really enjoyed writing, but even as I wrote it I knew what it’s ultimate fate would be.

The other though…the other was about how Kaati picked a primitive lock with the claw of its little finger. I spent well over a week refining the description, trimming it, massaging it, loving it. But this morning I finally admitted the truth: describing the lock and how it was picked had absolutely nothing to do with the story. It may have added a little unnecessary background to the story, but nothing substantial. Nothing necessary.

So I killed it with those bloody great shears. But as the pieces lay twitching on the cutting room floor, I realised that I could write a post about them. Just in case anyone ever needed to know how an ancient lock worked…mwahahahaha!

Okay, ahem, way back in the mists of time, the Egyptians invented a lock that looked something like this:

diagram by Willh26 at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Locked.png

The yellow bar is the locking bar. It goes through the door and into the doorframe. At the top of the locking bar are three holes and a long slot. When the locking bar is lined up correctly, the three pins inside the lock drop down into the holes in the locking bar and stop it from pulling out of the doorframe. Effectively this keeps the door ‘locked’.

As you can see from the diagram, the pins do not extend all the way down into the locking bar. This is so that a key can be pushed through the slot. The key has three teeth, each of which lines up with one of the ‘pins’.

When you want to unlock the door, you insert the key and push it up so the pins pop out of the locking bar, allowing it to move. You can then pull the locking bar out of the doorframe with the key:

diagram created by Willh26 at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Unlocked.png/1024px-Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Unlocked.png

To make the lock work for Kaati, however, I had to simplify the design at bit. This is what the iVokh lock looks like:

Instead of three pins, the Vokh lock only has one. When Kaati sticks its small finger in the keyhole, the tip of its claw fits underneath the pin. When it pushes its claw up, the pin slips out of the locking bar and unlocks the door.

-grin- I feel better now.

cheers

Meeks


Covid-19 – micro droplets

With so many countries re-opening after lockdown, the risk of a second wave grows every day, especially as research now shows that the standard social distancing recommendations are…far too optimistic.

The research, conducted in Japan, uses lasers and special cameras to capture how the virus is spread, and how far it goes. The video below has some English dubbing and/or English sub-titles. Although the whole, hour+ video is interesting, the segment about the actual research begins at 29:10 and ends at approximately 35:18:

The research shows that even speaking can spread the virus via both large droplets and tiny micro droplets. The large droplets fall to the ground fairly quickly, even in an enclosed space with little air circulation, but the micro droplets remain in the air for over 20 minutes. Because they’re so small, they also spread a great deal further than the recommended 1.5 or 2 metres.

The take home message is that confined spaces – like public transport, office buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and classrooms – are the perfect breeding grounds for micro droplet borne virus particles.

The good news is that masks do reduce the distance that both large and small droplets can travel. And /that/ is why countries that mandate the wearing of masks in public have less viral transmission than Western countries in which people are ‘self conscious’ about wearing masks. Apparently it’s okay to become infected and infect others, but heaven forbid that we should look silly

And now a word about the hypocrisy of my government in scolding protestors attending the Black Lives Matter demonstrations:

  • those protests ALL happened in the open air where normal air circulation [with or without wind] would have dispersed the droplets quickly,
  • this is in contrast to people returning to work – at the behest of this government – in confined spaces with air conditioning instead of natural ventilation. Does anyone else remember the legionnaire outbreaks caused by contaminated, commercial air conditioning units?
  • a great many of the protestors wore masks,
  • this compares to people travelling or working in confined spaces without masks.
  • the organisers of the protests, at least here in Australia, were handing out masks and hand sanitiser to help reduce the risk of infection,
  • I’m not aware of any public transport employee handing out masks or hand sanitiser to travellers. Ditto supermarkets. Office buildings etc etc etc.

It’s the height of hypocrisy to say that it’s okay to catch the virus from public transport, or offices, factories, shops, restaurants etc…to save jobs…and the economy…and the effing budget bottom line…but it’s not okay to catch it while protesting state sanctioned murder.

And we all nod wisely and say ‘tut tut’.

I find that more disturbing than I can say. When did we turn into such placid sheep?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Dr. John Campbell for talking about the Japanese research in his latest video update: https://youtu.be/kmo_1Tcdp30


How to cheat a paranormal polygraph test

I’m in the middle of a scene where the Yellow [a very powerful healer] is interrogating Death using its paranormal talents to work out whether Death is lying or not.

Death must lie, and the Yellow must believe the lie, but how can it when it’s aware of Death’s feelings?

That was the point at which I remembered that sociopaths were supposed to be very good at cheating real world polygraph tests. As iVokh are essentially sociopaths, I realised that what worked in the real world might also work in Vokhtah.

That led me to the internet where I found this fascinating article in Wikihow: https://www.wikihow.com/Cheat-a-Polygraph-Test-(Lie-Detector)

If you’ve ever secretly wondered how people can cheat the polygraph test, it boils down to knowing how the machine and the interrogator asking the questions work together. This can be broken down into a few key things:

  1. The control questions – i.e. the harmless questions – allow the machine to gauge what physiological reactions the subject has when ‘telling the truth’.
  2. These reactions then become the baseline against which the ‘real’ – i.e. dangerous – questions are compared.
  3. If you can change your physiological reactions to the control questions, the baseline will be faulty.
  4. Then, when the real questions are asked, the machine will not be able to tell which answer is a lie because the lies will resemble the baseline.

Of course the skill of the interrogator also comes into it, but I now have enough to write the scene convincingly. -joy-

cheers
Meeks


Advances in wearable tech

I know that most of you won’t be interested in the technical side of this article: https://www.physics-astronomy.org/2020/04/mini-generator-cheaply-converts-heat.html but it could have really important implications for how we use technology in the future.

At the moment, wearable technology is limited by the need to power the device[s] :

a) without bulky batteries, and
b) without those batteries quickly going flat

We could wear little solar panel hats; they could charge the batteries as we walk around. But only outside, and only when there’s some sunshine. Plus there’s the added problem of fashion. Hats simply aren’t ‘in’ at the moment.

Or…we could use the heat of our own bodies to generate power. Mammals maintain a constant body temperature so we could have a constant source of power to run our wearable devices – no need for batteries at all.

Using body heat to generate power isn’t a new idea, but the research described in the article offers a new, more efficient way of doing so. If the researchers can make it work at a cost efficient price, we could be wearing our computers and communications devices within twenty years. Or less.

Let’s just hope that fashion and function go hand in hand. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


The Christmas Roast

Writing sci-fi involves a lot of research, most of which never appears in the finished story. I created the following schematic so I could see the layout of the Undercity apartments in my story, The Christmas Roast:

The diagram of the SL’ick tank below details how the SL’ick are harvested:

None of the details about the SL’ick tank appeared in the story, but I needed to know them in order to make Caitlyn’s feelings ‘real’.

The Christmas Roast is one of the sci-fi short stories found in my book, The Vintage Egg. I hope you enjoy the story and have a safe and happy Christmas. Cheers, Meeks.

The Christmas Roast, a short story

Christmas was supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer, but fourteen year old Caitlyn Nguyen knew that Christmas was going to be horrible this year. That was why she was still awake at 3am on Christmas morning.

Caitlyn’s two younger brothers, Jeff and little Michael, had gone to sleep hours before, and she could hear them snoring softly in the bunks below. They were probably dreaming of the presents they would find under the tree when they got up in the morning.

It wasn’t a real tree of course. It was illegal to grow pines anymore because of the bushfires, but the fake Christmas tree was still very pretty, and Caitlyn had been happy to help decorate it until the moment her mother had started talking about the huge roast she was going to bake for Christmas lunch – real potatoes, real carrots, real pumpkin… and their very first, home-grown SL’ick.

The boys had jumped up and down in excitement, wanting to know if they could help get the SL’ick out of its tank. Neither of them had given a thought to the fact that taking the SL’ick out of its tank would kill it. All they had cared about was that there would be meat for Christmas lunch…

Carnivores! Caitlyn thought in disgust as she stared up at the ceiling just a couple of feet above her head. All they care about is food!

Before being assigned to their very own apartment in the undercity, Caitlyn had been much like her brothers. They had never gone hungry, her parents worked very hard to make sure that never happened, but still, meat was not something they could afford to eat.

There had been special occasions of course, birthdays and anniversaries and such, when they would all go out to have a hamburger as a treat, but the meat inside the bun had been mostly soy anyway, with just a bit of SL’eef for flavour, so Caitlyn had never really had to worry about where the meat came from. But eating a whole SL’ick was different, especially when it was a SL’ick she knew.

Like everyone else, Caitlyn had grown up knowing about Synthetic Life Animals. She knew they made precious compost because they were engineered from earthworms. She knew they had no bones, or eyes or anything, and she knew her family was incredibly lucky to be assigned an apartment with its own SLA tank. However none of that changed the sense of horror she felt at the thought of eating one. No matter what anyone said, she knew the SL’ick in their home tank were not just giant worms!

When the Nguyen family had first moved into their apartment, everyone had been given one special chore, even three year old Michael. As the eldest, Caitlyn was given the important task of feeding the five tiny synthetic life chickens her mother had bought. Three times a day she would have to scrape the leftovers from their meals into the SLA tank, and three times a day she would have to look down into the tank and see the brown, segmented things that moved around inside.

While the SL’ick were small she hardly even noticed them, however once they became bigger a curious thing began to happen. Instead of staying below the surface of the compost, the SL’ick began squirming up to the top, their toothless mouths opening and closing as if in anticipation of the food she was about to give them.

When Caitlyn told her parents about the SL’icks’ odd behaviour they laughed it off, saying it must have been a coincidence because SL’ick were too primitive for such ‘purposeful behaviour’.

Even the boys had laughed at Caitlyn’s fanciful story, so she had not brought the subject up again, but the strange behaviour of the creatures in the tank continued. She did notice, however, that the SL’ick only seemed to respond to her. Whenever anyone else opened the tank they would hide below the compost. It was almost as if they recognized her in some weird way.

And then two weeks ago the biggest one, the one that was going to end up as Christmas lunch, began bumping its mouth-end up against Caitlyn’s hand, almost as if it was saying hello or something. The first time it happened she had fled to the holoscreen, desperately searching for answers, but all the wiki clips said the same thing – SLA did not have heads as such because they didn’t really have any brains, so there was just an in-end and an out-end.

Nonetheless every time the big SL’ick bumped her hand it was always with the mouth-end, the end that would be its head if it had a brain. Could it be that these SL’ick were made differently to normal SLAs? But why would the company that made them suddenly give them a brain?

It didn’t make sense, unless the company hadn’t meant to make them this way. Maybe Buffa and the others were part of a batch that went wrong. Glitches did happen. Usually they were caught before people bought them, but there was that Eterna face cream recently. It made hundreds of women’s faces turn blue…

Fearing the ridicule of her friends and family, Caitlyn told no-one of her latest suspicions, but in the privacy of her own mind she began thinking of the big SL’ick as Buffa. It was a silly name from a little kids holo, but somehow the name seemed to fit; just like the fat cat in the story, Buffa really was very smart. Before each feed it would bump up against her hand as if telling her to hurry up, but afterward it would slide gently beneath her fingers, back and forth, for all the world as if it was saying thank you.

Buffa is smart, Caitlyn thought as her throat tightened up, and the first tear slid down her cheek. More tears followed, leaving cold, wet trails down her face before pooling in her ears. Rolling onto her stomach she buried her face in the pillow, but the tears kept coming. Soon the sound would wake the boys, and then they would wake her parents and-

Sliding to the side of the bunk, Caitlyn grabbed the guard rail with both hands, and swung her feet onto the rungs of the ladder that connected the three bunks. Once on the floor she tip-toed from the small cubicle, and swiped the panel that closed off their bedroom from the round hallway.

Like all of the apartments in the honeycomb of the undercity, the Nguyen’s 20 foot square of living space had a circular, multifunction ‘hall’ in the middle that provided access to the two bedrooms, the kitchen and the communal living space. However when all the openings in the hall were closed, the circular space automatically turned into a bathroom.  The toilet and basin would rise up from the floor while the shower-dryer would drop down from the ceiling. The bathroom was also the only space in the apartment that was sound-proofed.

As the door leading to her parents’ room was already closed, Caitlyn only had to close off the living, and kitchen spaces to gain the privacy she needed. In moments she was alone in the bathroom, but she made no attempt to use any of the fixtures. Instead she just sat on the toilet and cried.

She had already made up her mind that she could not, would not eat any of the SL’ick her mother served up for lunch, no matter how much trouble she got into. However, as she sat there with snot running from her nose, and her shoulders bouncing up and down with hiccups, she suddenly realised that refusing to eat was not going to be enough. Buffa knew her and trusted her. She couldn’t just stand by and let him die. She just couldn’t.

When the hiccups finally stopped, Caitlyn took a deep breath, washed her face and hands, and opened up the doors. Creeping back into the room she shared with her brothers, she grabbed her clothes and school bag, and crept out again. She knew exactly what she had to do, but guilt still made her shiver as she crept into the tiny, compact kitchen. SL’ick were expensive.

Placing her shoes and the bag on the floor with exaggerated care, Caitlyn stared at the door to her parents room as she pulled on her coveralls, and slipped into her shoes.

The only light in the kitchen came from the night light that always burned in the hall, but the apartment was so tiny even that dim light was enough to see by. If one of her parents got up to go to the bathroom, and saw her standing in the kitchen fully dressed, they would know something was up.

Nervous sweat made Caitlyn’s hands feel wet, and she wiped them on her coveralls before she reached out and opened the SL’ick tank.

During the day, the soft hiss of the servos was impossible to hear against the background noise of five people moving around inside a very small space, but now even that slight sound seemed unnaturally loud.

Caitlyn held her breath as her eyes flicked to the door of her parents’ room. She expected to see her father standing there, cricket bat in hand, ready to repel intruders, but the door stayed closed.

Breathing out in relief, Caitlyn turned back to the SL’ick tank, desperate to grab Buffa, and leave before her imaginings turned into reality. However when she looked into the tank she could not see the big SL’ick anywhere. The little ones were all coming to the surface, but there was no sign of Buffa.

Cold hands seemed to clutch at her heart. Had her mother killed Buffa already? Was that what her parents had been doing after the rest of them had gone to bed?

Sorrow, relief and guilt battled it out in Caitlyn’s mind as she stared at the small SL’ick waiting hopefully for an unscheduled feed. I’ll never see Buffa again. I won’t get into trouble. I should have rescued Buffa sooner.

After all the crying Caitlyn had done in the bathroom, she should have been all out of tears, but there they were, blurring her vision all over again.

“I’m so sorry Buffa,” she whispered as she gently patted the surface of the compost. “I did try. Really I did.”

Caitlyn was shaking the compost off her fingers when something wet, and slightly slimy, rose up and nudged the palm of her hand. It was the big SL’ick and it was still very much alive!

Thrusting both hands into the compost, Caitlyn scooped up the big SL’ick, and placed it gently in the bottom of her bag before quickly covering it with some of the moist compost from the tank.

SL’ick could survive in the air for a short time, but she knew Buffa would never survive the trip to the surface without compost.

She was just about to close the tank when two of the medium sized SL’ick slithered up, still looking for food. They were only about half the size of Buffa, but as she watched their little mouths open and close in entreaty, Caitlyn knew she couldn’t leave them behind either. Even though they were small, her mother was a very determined woman, and she had set her heart on having roast SL’ick for Christmas.

Sorry Mum, Caitlyn thought as she grabbed a SL’ick in either hand. They too went into the bag with a blanket of compost. Catching the two smallest ones was a little harder as they were only as big as her index finger, and quite fast, but she kept combing her hands through the compost until she had them both.

After covering all the SL’ick with a few more handfuls of compost, Caitlyn quickly sealed the bag, and hoisted it onto her shoulder. Five SL’ick and a load of compost turned out to be a lot heavier than she expected, but desperation and a strange, wild excitement gave her the strength to tip-toe away.

A few moments later the front door irised shut with a soft snick as Caitlyn and her SL’ick made their escape.

* * *

As soon as Caitlyn stepped out into the corridor running past her home, the guilty elation fled. She had never been out this late before, and the corridor looked spooky, and somehow alien with only the dim blue of the floor panels to light the way. They led off in either direction like the footprints of a ghost.

Maybe this had not been such a good idea after all. Passive sensors guarded every corridor of the undercity, but Caitlyn knew they wouldn’t be much help if some psycho jumped out of the shadows. Security would come, but not in time to save her.

That was a lesson the whole undercity had learned two years ago when a nightshift worker had been found, raped and strangled. Security had caught the psycho responsible, but that had not been much consolation to the victim, or her family.

Maybe I should just put the SL’ick back, Caitlyn thought as her hand groped blindly for the access panel next to the door. Surely if she made enough of a fuss her mother would change her mind about the roast…

Yeah, right. And maybe we’ll have snow for Christmas too.

Ever since Caitlyn had put the SL’ick in her bag, they had been quiet and still, but now she could feel them squirming around against her back. There really wasn’t enough compost in her bag to keep them alive for long. She would have to decide one way or the other very soon.

It’s not that far to the recycling plant…

Caitlyn’s parents both worked at the recycling plant, so she knew the way. All she had to do was walk to the first main intersection, and ride the strip until she hit the Hub. From there it would only be a short ride up to the recycling plant on the surface.

C’mon, c’mon you can do this!

The SL’ick seemed to agree as they intensified their squirming. Or perhaps they were just getting more uncomfortable.

What if they died before she could get them up to the recycling plant?

Snot-on-a-stick!

That was one of Michael’s favourite sayings, and the thought of her four year-old brother steadied Caitlyn’s nerves. Both boys would think this was a great adventure. How could she wimp out now?

Hitching the heavy bag a little higher, Caitlyn took a deep breath and started walking up the corridor. The floor panels brightened at her approach, and dimmed again as she walked on. The added light should have been welcome, but being in her own cone of light just made her feel more exposed. She longed to run, to get this all over with, but the bag seemed to get heavier with every step, and a slow trudge was all she could manage.

It seemed to take forever just to reach the first side corridor, and when she got there, Caitlyn had to put the bag down, and catch her breath. She did not rest for long though; the sound of her own breathing seemed terribly loud in the silence. Picking up the bag again, she trudged on.

The main corridor was much wider than the narrow residential one she had come from, and the lighting was brighter, but the emptiness stretching ahead and behind scared her in a way she could not define. During the day, this corridor teemed with people and bots, all hurrying to someplace else. Now it was as if she was the only person alive in the whole of the undercity.

If Caitlyn had been less tired she might have given in to her fears then, and trudged home again, but with the moving strip just a few feet away it seemed easier to keep going.

Hefting the bag onto her shoulder once more, she turned the corner, and stepped across the west bound strip at an angle so she would not be carried too far in the wrong direction. Once on the east-bound strip she lowered the bag to the moving pavement, and stared at her feet, refusing to look at all the empty corridors trundling past. Yet not seeing was somehow even worse than seeing, and her head quickly snapped up again. The back of her neck crawled, as if hundreds of tiny insects were marching up and down in feathery little boots.

Adding to Caitlyn’s fears was the lack of movement from her bag. The SL’ick had stopped moving, and she was terrified they would all die for nothing.

Please, please…

By the time Caitlyn finally saw the Hub in the distance, its massive ramp corkscrewing its way through the centre of the undercity, her coveralls were sticky with fear sweat. The only thing that kept her from crying like a little kid was the sight of one of the freight elevators standing open, its interior bright with light. Sanctuary beckoned, and she shuffled inside like a lost soul coming home.

“Destination please.”

“S-surface,” Caitlyn whispered as the massive doors slid shut.

With no other passengers getting on or off, the ride up from the nineteenth level of the Hub took only seconds. All too soon, the great doors slid open once more, and the AI’s impersonal voice was wishing her a Merry Christmas.

Caitlyn had never felt less merry in her life. The plexiglass dome that protected the entrance to the undercity was awash with stars, but their light was too fragile, and too distant, to relieve the immensity of the blackness pressing in from the Outside. Even the strip lighting that led the way to the brightly lit portal of the recycling plant seemed ineffectual. Each cone of bright light just made the shadows beyond its reach even darker.

Anything could be hiding in those shadows, absolutely anything.

Almost there… Almost there…

Making herself walk that last quarter of a mile to the recycling plant was the hardest thing Caitlyn had ever had to do. Every time she left the light and stepped into shadow, it felt like walking into the maw of a ravenous beast.

By the time she reached the portal she had reached a level of fear beyond terror. Mouth open in a silent scream, eyes wide and dry, she walked like an automaton with just one program functioning – get inside.

Five paces from the portal, the sensors detected the presence of a human, and the massive, metal petals of the portal irised open.

Caitlyn kept walking, hardly aware of her surroundings. Only when the rich smell of humus assaulted her nose did she stop, and look around like someone waking from a terrible dream. To her left were the sealed vats where human wastes were processed by a series of engineered bacteria. In the middle were the administrative areas, and behind them were the compost farms that turned all food waste into rich, soil-nourishing humus.

But the young girl with the tear-stained face had eyes for just one thing – the neat rows of hover-trains lined up against the right hand wall. That was where she had to go. And then her job would be done.

Too tired to carry the bag any longer, Caitlyn dragged the SL’ick behind her on the brightly polished floor as she staggered to the nearest hover-train. The huge container was resting on the ground, waiting for the teleoperators to arrive in the morning. She knew it would be full of precious soil for the farms.

With the last of her strength, Caitlyn opened the floor level door and climbed the narrow plasteel steps of the service hatch. When she reached the top, she opened her bag and wrestled it to the top of the guard rail.

As the bag fell, compost and five brown shapes fell onto the pile of humus. The drop was not that long, but none of the five SL’ick moved.

Caitlyn knew she should be feeling something, but there was a strange emptiness in the middle of her chest where her heart should be. Only the need for secrecy still drove her, although why it should matter now was lost in the fuzzy concept of ‘tomorrow’. Turning from the railing, she trudged down the steps, and closed the access door to the hover-train behind her.

She had to hide. 

Looking out across the expanse of faux marble, Caitlyn’s eyes brightened a little when she saw the curved reception desk facing the portal. There.

Beneath that desk was a safe, dark place. She had played there many times as a small girl. No one but her mother would know to look for her there.

Moments after crawling under the desk, Caitlyn was asleep.

* * *

Caitlyn was eventually found by the skeleton crew who came in to keep the recycling plant ticking over during the holidays.

She spent the rest of Christmas day in hospital, under observation. Despite being questioned by Security, hospital staff, and her own family, she refused to say what she was doing at the recycling plant.

The only person who did not question Caitlyn was her mother. She did not need to. As soon as she had found the SL’ick gone that morning she had known something was very wrong. Finding Caitlyn missing as well had confirmed her worst fears.

She had known Caitlyn would be upset by the idea of eating the SL’ick, but she had hardened her heart, telling herself the child would outgrow her squeamishness. Now she just prayed her daughter had not paid too high a price for her soft heart.

Mother and daughter were finally reunited in the hospital where they spent some time alone together.

When Caitlyn was allowed to leave the hospital, she looked less stricken than she had when she first arrived, but it would be another six months before the haunted look finally left her eyes.

The family were eating dinner, and watching the nightly news, when an odd little story appeared on the holo. Apparently a group of young men had gone Outside during a drunken binge, and one of them swore he had seen a giant earthworm burrow into the ground just a few feet from where he was taking a leak.

The newscaster made a snide reference to pink elephants before going on to discuss the latest findings published by the Global Climate Change Authority.

Caitlyn and her mother just looked at each other…and smiled.


Amazing Mr Fox

I’m hosting an un-christmas tomorrow so busy cleaning and cooking, but all work and no play is boring, right? So I did a quick jigsaw puzzle of a fox. Note the eyes:

Slit pupils

Those slit pupils sent me off on a search of the internet where I discovered that fox vision allows them to hunt at dawn and dusk…much like cats. But foxes are related to dogs and wolves. What gives?

The similarities between foxes and cats doesn’t end there. You can find a host of fascinating facts in the article below:

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59739/14-fascinating-facts-about-foxes

One of those facts is illustrated in the following video:

Amazing Mr Fox!

Okay, well play time is over, got floors to mop… -sigh-… Enjoy your weekend. I’ll have food pics tomorrow 🙂

Cheers

Meeks


Seeing in Infrared

I’ve been doing some research on different types of vision, and apparently what we humans see is the visible wavelength of light – i.e. the colours you see in a rainbow. But many animals, and especially insects, see things we can’t. For example, the humble goldfish can see in both infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths.

Without getting too technical, think of wavelengths as a line of spaghetti of different lengths, from shortest to longest. The shortest bits are in the ultraviolet wavelength. The longest bits are in the infrared wavelength, and there in the middle are the colours we humans can see. Blue is longer than ultraviolet and red is shorter than infrared.

For the purposes of my research, infrared was what I was looking for, but what is it, and what does it look like?

We can’t see infrared, not with the naked eye, but we can feel it because infrared is basically the wavelength of ‘heat’. In visual terms, the colder something is, the darker it appears. The hotter something is, the brighter it looks.

Confused? Good, so was I. As a visual creature, I needed to be able to visualise something that is essentially, invisible. Luckily, we have developed special cameras that can:

  • detect infrared wavelengths, and
  • translate them into colours on the visible spectrum – i.e. into colours we can see.

Generally speaking, infrared cameras translate cold images into dark colours such as dark blue or dark purple. As areas of an image warm up, the heat is translated into brighter colours – from red to orange to yellow to white.

In the screenshot below, the infrared camera shows a cold frying pan on a stove top [the yellow labels are mine]:

To get an idea of what the camera sees as the pan heats up, please have a look at this short video on the National Geographic website:

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/infrared-vision/#seeing-infrared

It’s only a very short video [1.18 minutes] and well worth the look [if you have a phobia about mosquitoes, avert your eyes for the first twenty seconds or so]. Isn’t that amazing?

More on why I’m doing this research at a later date. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


Jewellery from Meteorites

I’ve known that some meteorites contain iron for a long time – the starrock of Vokhtah is metal made from ‘found’ meteorites. But I was just guessing when I imagined that the gems worn by the Council of Seven [including the Blue], also came from meteorites. I’ve just learned that I was right, about some of them at least. God, I love research!

Have a look at this:

This is a peridot cut from the Jepara meteorite. A green gem for The Green. 🙂

“Very rarely, meteorites will contain facetable mineral material large enough to actually cut a gemstone, since the heat and impact of the fall can easily destroy most gemmy material or shatter it into tiny fragments. For example, the olivine material in stony and stony-iron meteorites can sometimes yield beautiful peridots.”

https://www.gemsociety.org/article/meteorite-jewelry-introduction/

Green is more rare than yellow, which works perfectly for me as there are three Councillors in the Yellow faction but only one Green. I haven’t found anything about a blue gem but a little fantasy is okay, right?

While I’m prepared to do a bit of hand-waving [fudging the science] over the colour of the gems, my tolerance does have its limits, so it was wonderful to learn that these gems can ‘fall out’ of the metal matrix due to the presence of water in the environment – i.e. the water makes the iron corrode away leaving the gems behind:

“This Brenham piece was found in a damp, muddy part of the strewnfield and much of the iron-nickel has terrestrialized, while the olivine crystals remain intact. Corroded specimens such as this are unofficially called meteorodes.” [Under the picture of the meteorite].

https://geology.com/meteorites/stony-iron-meteorites.shtml

This is important as the iVokh Smiths have barely made it into Iron Age technology; they needed some way of extracting the gems from the starrock. Plus, it so happens that Vokhtah goes through a season of torrential rain every year [Kohoh].

-pats self on the back-

And to prove that meteorites were used to make jewellery right here on Earth, here’s a picture of a bead found in an Egyptian tomb. It dates back about 5,000 years:

That bead may not look like much, but it is most definitely made from a meteorite. You can find the whole article at the following link:

https://www.livescience.com/36981-ancient-egyptian-jewelry-made-from-meteorite.html

If anyone is interested in extraterrestrial metals and jewels, the link to geology.com will take you to a brilliant article that gives a very detailed, in-depth explanation of these beautiful visitors to Earth.

But wait, there’s more. 😀 I wasn’t actually researching gems today, I was researching the metal in meteorites to see if I could find some property of meteorites to ‘identify’ a Healer’s chain that is becoming pivotal to the story of Kaati [Vokhtah book 2].

Iron and Stony-iron meteorites contain both iron and nickel. Earth does have some iron-nickel but it’s rare. Meteorites have it in abundance [one way of identifying them]. For my purposes, the following is of great interest:

“Iron-nickel (terrestrial or extraterrestrial) develops a coating of rust if washed or if kept in a humid area. If a specimen must be washed with water, it should be thoroughly dried.”

https://www.minerals.net/meteorites-iron-nickel.aspx

I knew that terrestrial iron would rust if not protected, but its nice to know that I was right about starrock as well :

“Left alone in the empty bathing cavern, the Voice sighed as it picked up the discarded cloth and dried the large starrock medallion that hung from its neck.  Starrock did not like water. It hoped the na-Seneschal would remember that, but suspected the young iVokh would not. There were still a great many things the na-Seneschal did not know about being a Voice. Foremost among them was knowing when to bend and when to stand firm.”

[Vokhtah, book 1]

Getting back to the Healer’s chain, however, I think I may have found what I’m looking for in a type of meteorite called ataxite. It has an exceptionally high nickel content which gives the metal a strange, almost white colour:

 

“Today, modern blacksmiths are still following the tradition: a blacksmith from historical re-enactment group ASBL Lucilinburhuc created a sword incorporating a chunk of ataxitea type of meteorite with an unusually high proportion of nickel, at least 18 percent.”

https://www.cnet.com/pictures/swords-from-the-stars-weapons-forged-from-meteoric-iron/

The red emphasis is mine. If you’re interested in the process, this is the video made of the creation of the sword:

The truly interesting thing is that the meteorite wasn’t melted. It was heated and then hammered to gradually remove the impurities. This is called forging and is a technique that my iVokh Smiths could have mastered quite easily!

The following is a screenshot taken from the very end of the video. It shows the amazing colour [almost white] and the patterning left behind after the ‘etching’ process [an acid bath to bring out the folds]:

The video includes other techniques that the iVokh probably wouldn’t have had access to, but then they weren’t making a sword, just the links for a simple chain. An unusual chain that fits my plot perfectly.

I have the degree of possibility I need. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Did you know that…?

Okay, I’m sure you’re all sick of my love affair with odd bits of information so…I promise, this will be the last [for now]. 😀

Allow me to introduce you to the Harpy Eagle of Central America:

See that Harpy Eagle chick? See its talons? If you watch that amazing video you will learn that the feet of a fully grown Harpy Eagle are more powerful than the jaws of a Rottweiler. You will also learn that the back talon is used to stab the eagle’s prey:

https://www.reshareworthy.com/harpy-eagle/

Guess who’s going to have killing talons like the Harpy Eagle? Mwahahaha!

cheers

Meeks


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