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The Why of Terraformed Worlds

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The idea of terraforming nearby planets (or more distant ones) is well established in modern culture. Moreso than I knew. The linked Wikipedia article on "Terraforming in Popular Culture" lists science fiction, movies, and video games that make reference to the idea. Some of the most important pioneering stories I was familiar with, including Robert Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky and Isaac Asimov's The Martian Way (both of which I'd read). I had also heard about Kim Stanley Robinson's Martian Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). But I didn't know that there are at least 15 science fiction stories that feature terraforming, as well as at least 20 TV and movie references to it and over 30 video games in which terraforming is either a goal or a plot element.

Those used to easy travel to other worlds in a lot of popular science fiction (which are often really a part of the sub-genre "Space Opera"), such as in both Star Wars and Star Trek, ma…

Asteroid Mining Wars

As per the linked Forbes article concerning an asteroid with a platinum core that space entrepreneurs would love to mine (how it is known the asteroid has a platinum core is unmentioned in the article, but another source says it's from spectrometer readings), there are a number of asteroids that fly relatively near the Planet Earth which have an estimated value far above what it would cost to travel into space to capture them and bring them back to Earth. The object just referenced, Asteroid 2011 UW158, has an estimated value between $300 billion and $5.6 trillion dollars. That would be 5600000000000 US dollars at estimated most. 
Planet Earth has limited amounts of certain rare metals like platinum. Though of course gaining a massive new supply of platinum from outer space would tend to flood the platinum market and reduce the overall selling price of this precious metal. This flooding effect would also be true from diamonds or other items obtained from outer space, at least to a …

Story Combat Realism 9: Battlefield Injury, Dying, Death, and Healing

Fictional portrayals of how people die in speculative fiction are often unrealistic. This topic has the potential encompass an entire book of its own, but this blog aim has the aim of correcting major errors and re-orienting the speculative fiction writer to how death and injury on the battlefield should look.

Let's start with epic fantasy and work our way to futuristic science fiction. Epic fantasy, of course, relates to real-world human ancient and medieval warfare, which provides the insights this post discusses.

Epic Fantasy Battle Observations

1. The single blow/single shot rarely kills: You've seen it in the LOTR movies--Legolas fires into an orc, who is blown back by the force of impact of an arrow. And never moves again. Or an orc is stabbed in the chest (right in the middle, no less) and may make a final shriek, but falls down after that, dead, never to move again. I find blows in the middle of enemy armor, without a magically sharp sword or something to explain how us…

Story Combat Realism 8: Universal Human Fears and Reactions in Combat

This blog post stands alone, but is also designed to add depth to other posts in this Combat Realism series, starting from the very first one, which discusses the human surrender reflex.

I've heard it reported that human beings only have one natural, instinctive fear that all of us share without learning it. That would be the fear of very loud noises, such as thunder or explosions.

That isn't quite true, though. Human beings instinctively feel a sense of intimidation by someone who much taller than they are. And while infants at times seem to show no fear of falling, the terror of falling from heights is very common in adult human beings, whether they've ever had a bad fall or not. As is the fear of drowning. An adult who has never been taught to swim feels instinctive terror of being submersed in water, in almost every case.

So there are fears other than loud noises that are for all practical purposes universal, if not fully so 100%. Especially significant to the discussi…

Story Combat Realism 7--the Human Organism at the Height of Battle

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My most recent blog post on combat realism in stories discussed long-term effects of combat on human beings. This post looks at the physical effects a life or death struggle has on a person . (Information below is derived from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's book, On Combat. Some of the specific physiological effects are summarized in an article on Lt. Col. Grossman's website):

When the human heart rate increases from stress alone (as opposed to exercise), certain predictable effects take place.
Note a trend in this chart. A certain level of elevation of the heart rate, between 115-145 bpm, benefits everything a human being can do, except fine motor skills. (If you need to thread a needle, it's best to be at resting heart rate.) Beyond that heart rate, human performance generally deteriorates, except for gross motor skills and movement, which are best over 160. The heart rate that supports best the activities of, say, swinging a sword with a full adrenaline power boost, generally…

A Basic Problem With Jurassic World

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By the way, this blog post discusses the movie Jurassic World. It does not commit any major spoilers, but it does give away a few story details.


You might wonder why I started this blog post with a picture of a helicopter. It so happens this particular helicopter is featured in the film as being used by an airborne security squad to go after an escaped genetically-engineered dinosaur.

And it illustrates my problem, indirectly. Don't get me wrong, I liked this movie. At its best it's visually stunning; it has interesting characters, interesting dinosaurs, and a fairly satisfying resolution. I think the very best of part of the movie is found in the beginning, with twenty thousand tourists crowded around to see dinosaur attractions. There are numerous small details in this section of the film that strike me as just right.

The Jurassic Park movies do an excellent job preparing the audience for the fact this level of control cannot be maintained forever. The story doesn't have…

Story Combat Realism Part 6--The Aftermath of Combat

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The picture I've included is by Tom Lea, an artist who travelled with US Marines in the Pacific during World War II (this particular painting is called "The Two Thousand Yard Stare"). The image captures better than words ever can one of the effects combat has.

I first meant this post to talk about long-term after the fact effects of combat, how it changes the warrior who fights in battle permanently. But I've found the actual information on this topic more elusive than I believed it was. So I'm going to broaden the topic a bit to talk about the effects of combat after the fact in general, not just long-term.

Let's start with the "thousand yard stare." I read one source that suggested that eyes staring unfocused in the distance is adaptive for survival, because by not focusing on any particular thing, the peripheral vision expands, so any potentially dangerous motion is easily detected. I mention this source more to illustrate that many of the actua…

I live you...I live you very much.

I'm still playing hooky from the next installment of my Combat Realism series. Let me float a different story idea instead:

Imagine a story setting in which you could assume the body of another person. Any other person, living or dead, complete with their memories. (This post was inspired by a friend's comment a while ago concerning spell check correcting her "I love you" to "I live you"--thanks, Teddi.)

Something like my idea has been done in a variety of ways in the past. An original Star Trek episode featured a machine that was able to transfer a woman's inner self, her soul if you will (though the episode didn't use that term) into Captain Kirk's body and vice versa. Later, in the movies, Doctor McCoy carries around Spock's Katra, the Vulcan equivalent to a soul (given to him in a mind-meld) prior to it being returned to a new version of Spock's body.

Stories have even featured robot surrogates that a person can project their conscio…