Friday, February 23, 2007

Neat Science Factoids

On a number of my loops, readers ask where I get some of my ideas. Well, they come from all over the place to be honest.

I like to read; books, magazines, email, blogs...cereal boxes, license plates, LOL Usually my preference runs to our genre of fiction – the SF/paranormal/futuristic romance but you have to ‘fuel’ up sometimes on some of the science-y aspects. For those I rely on magazines like Scientific American or World Science (an electronic zine I’ve subscribed to). While they don’t provide me with the science I need for a particular project (unless there’s a lot of serendipity going on), they do plant ideas in my mind for future work. Today, I thought I’d share a few factoids I’ve recently come across.

Shades of Planet of the Apes?

Most of us have probably heard that chimps are primitive tool-users. It’s been documented they use sticks to draw termites from nests (crunchy snack food) or rocks to crack open tough nuts. But now, it seems that chimps in Senegal have been witnessed using spear-like sticks to hunt. They sharpen the sticks with their teeth, then poke the stick/spear into hollow tree trunks where other smaller primates hide. One was seen pulling out a bushbaby that had been caught by the spear.

Are these chimps moving up the evolutionary ladder? Maybe so. It appears that older male chimps, who do most of the hunting, aren’t as quick to use these spears. The spear hunting is primarily done by younger adolescent male and female chimps...who were taught to hunt in this fashion by their mothers! I’ve always said women are the moving force behind civilization and advancement.

If Aesop was still around, he’d have another fable to write.

Most of us have read or been told the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper (you remember...the ant was busy all summer long harvesting and storing food for the long winter months while the grasshopper simply sang and enjoyed the warm weather with somewhat dire consequences.

It’s been found that the Western Scrub Jay stores some of its food and carefully watches over its shoulder to see if any other bird is spying on its caches. If it is, the Jay relocates the food. Scientists, using 8 Jays, developed some behavioral tests to see how much forethought went into this hoarding practice. They found that these birds selected a variety of foods to hoard and if, during the test, given the opportunity would stash food in the compartment labeled ‘No Breakfast’ to ensure they’d have something the next day. Test results indicate the birds not only chose to guard against food shortages, but tried to maximize the variety of food for their diets. Pretty clever for a ‘bird brain’, don’t you agree?

Just think what one of us could do with these ideas. Wow, the worlds we could create!


Skylar Masey said...

I can so totally identify Lynda!

Last night I logged on to Yahoo to check my mail/or e-mail myself something lest I forget a great idea and saw a story about the mini-microchips that activate banking information from Smart Tags. They're needle point size!

Then today I saw an article on using video games as therapy for military men and women with post traumatic syndrome from serving in active duty.

And before I left my 9-to-5 job today there was a story on X-ray machines that can see through clothes! I'm guessing these are the ones they were going to ban from airports because they showed a little too much.

But imagine all these possiblities with a minor twist. Trackable human beings or smuggled artifacts that can be hunted down via microchip, games that can rework the nerve impulses to create feelings in the brain, and a justified scan of the heroine by the hero to make sure she isn't packing! Lol!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Oh, and another tidbit I read suggested that playing video games was a good learning tool for surgeons--apparently it improves hand-eye coordination.

Imagine, schools in the future taught by video game :D

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

That is a frightening thought. Kids spend too much time on video games these days and not enough creating their own worlds using their imaginations. That's my take on it anyhow...

As for your science finds. Oh, yes Scientific American has so many little gems it in, as does Fate Magazine. I love to read them for tidbits and story ideas.

And Skylar, on Yahoo yesterday they were already showing microchips to implant in humans to track their movements. How scary is that? We're being told in the medical community that the wave of the future is to download a patient's medical information onto a bar code that the patient will have implanted under their skin. Once the patient is admitted to hospital the staff need only scan the patient and pertinent data will show up. - This is great for those patients who are poor historians of their care, but scary...very very scary for the rest of us.


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Interesting stuff! What has always amazed me was that early science fiction writers dreamed up things that later became science fact. Ever see someone flip open a walkie-talkie cell phone and think of Classic Trek communicators? Who would have thought.

As for the tracking chips...this is a double edged sword. As a parent, I see merit in having a child tagged that way [it sounds awful but when you think about child abductions and being able to pinpoint a missing child's location in a matter of minutes, it makes a lot of sense] Those tags could be removed when a person turns 18 and could always be replaced later if they chose to have them. My son wears a Medic-Alert bracelet, but I do fear him losing it. A sub-dermal chip would ensure that his medical information was never lost if I wasn't around.

Skylar Masey said...

Did you guys read about the cat with bionic eyes? Supposedly a vet in Sweden is trying to save it's eye sight using microchips, and hopefully the trial will foster trying the same in humans who have the same (or a similar) degenerative eye disease.