What’s a mycobiome?

A couple of years ago I wrote about our microbiome — microbial communities in and on our bodies — and since then much more has been learned about it.

But what about our mycobiome?  It’s about our resident fungal community and the role it plays in health and disease.  Scientists recognizing the importance of the relatively young study of our mycobiome are calling for microbiome researchers to include our mycobiome in their studies.

So would those studies be called our microbiome mycobiome?  Try saying that real fast a few times.

In my video game Microsurgeon (Imagic 1982), I included bacteria, viruses, and white blood cells that stand in your way of curing the patient.  But if someone were to make a Microsurgeon-like game today, they should include fungal opponents.  An average fungus is 50 times larger than an average bacterium.

If you’d like to read more about mycobiome you might like a 2013 article on the subject or a 2013 talk (video) about it.

 

What’s new in juggling?

The IJA (International Juggling Association) is having their annual convention in El Paso, Texas this year.  One of the main jugglers featured at the Cascade of Stars show at the end of the week is Emil Dahl.  Like many exciting new jugglers in the past few years, he’s created a new kind of juggling.  It’s called “Magnet Opus”.  Below is a video of his work.  Pretty neat.

Largest known prime number

BBC News reports “Largest known prime number discovered in Missouri.”  22 million digits is a really, really, really long number.  But what is it doing in Missouri? (hee hee).  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  Seriously, it’s an impressive calculation!

Speaking of primes — natural numbers that can only be divided by 1 and the number itself — Brilliant.org has some fun prime number problems.  Here’s one you might enjoy that I solved recently.

 

Popular scientists

Seems like every generation has its “cool” scientist.  Einstein was a popular scientist.  Before we had television personalities, when people thought of a genius, they thought of Einstein.

Carl Sagan came along, and the “Cosmos” television series made him a scientist star.  Following Einstein, Stephen Hawking brought genius back to popular science.  Bill Nye the Science Guy became so well known that he eventually took over “The Planetary Society” from Sagan.  Neil deGrasse Tyson is perhaps less well known, but he’s an excellent speaker and has continued the popularization of astronomy and scientific research.  Michio Kaku has become a popular physicist on television for outside-the-box thinking.  He isn’t afraid to tackle any wild idea in physics and explain it to the public.

So perhaps The Dancing Scientist will be next on the list.  Go to  and click on “Television shows” to see a sample of his work on television. He’s got a Masters in Biochemistry from UCLA, yet he dances to popularize science.  I don’t know if he deserves to rank among the elite in my list above, but I am happy to see another scientist who is popularizing science (this time chemistry) for the public.

Creative solution

If you’ve frequented my website, you know that I enjoy playing disc golf.  But I am tired of wiping leaves, grass, and bugs off my bag, and having to find long sticks when my disc is stuck in bushes or trees.

Below is a photo of my new bag, cart, and retriever.  The retriever is just a golf ball retriever that extends from a size I can fit in my bag (not quite length-wise, though) to almost 7 feet.  It’s around $10 from Amazon.com, which is less than most other disc golf retrievers I’ve read about.  It’s not as versatile for disc-in-the-water retrieval, but it’s really handy, inexpensive, and convenient to carry.

The cart is from the Clearwater Disc Golf Store in Clearwater, FL.  It keeps my bag off the ground about 6″ and folds up easily to store.  In the summer, I might put a small ice container under my bag to keep my drink(s) cold.

I’m always looking for creative outlets, and this solution allows me not only to keep my bag clean and avoid having to find long sticks, but also to concentrate on my throws and play rather than putting down and cleaning off my bag all the time.

NewDiscRetrieverExtendedRetracted

New in AI

MIT Technology Review recently wrote about “This AI Algorithm Learns Simple Tasks as Fast as We Do.”  If the algorithm — Human-level concept learning through probabilistic program induction — can be extended to more complex tasks, it could be an improvement on Deep Learning techniques.  Today’s AI generalizes from thousands of examples, but imagine if a robot could learn something new the way a person does from a single example.

Innovative approaches to genealogy

If you are a beginner in genealogical research, often every article on the subject introduces something new.  But once you get to a certain level of proficiency, this is no longer the case.  So it’s always nice to find a new research paper, article, or lecture that is detailed with new ideas for searching.  Such is the case with Pamela Weisberger — who sadly passed away suddenly in 2015 — whose lectures gave many genealogists new ideas to try.

Family Tree clip art

Mathlete update

Since the Old Miss Math Contest stopped providing new quizzes over a year ago, I have been working on the problems presented on Brilliant.org.  I solve a few algebra, trig, geometry, and number theory problems each week to keep math-fit.

I enjoy most of the stumpers (when less than a quarter of the participants are correct), even the ones I get wrong.  As I solve more problems in a particular subject, the problems presented are more difficult.  I am at level 3 in Geometry and Combinatorics (statistics), and level 4 in Algebra.

Here’s a number theory problem I got recently that you might enjoy pondering (A>3, B=A+2, C=A+4; Are A,B,C all prime? — half the participants, including me, got that one right).  Many of the problems I encounter are much tougher, such as “find the last two digits of 9 to the 9th to the 9th power” — only 30% got that one right.

I’m particularly fond of the geometry problems.  For one recently it came in handy to know how to deal with an inscribed square in a triangle.

InscribedSquare

Intellivision Truckin’ interview

My “Truckin'” interview (Episode 23) with Intellivisionairies was recently posted.

While I was developing “Microsurgeon” (Imagic 1982), I was driving back and forth on the I-5 freeway to the Los Angeles area to visit friends and family.  There are thousands of trucks of all colors and sizes traveling on the road.  Many carry goods to retailers or for delivery.  I often thought about what it must be like to drive a truck down the thousands of miles of major highways in the U.S.  So I designed and programmed “Truckin'” (Imagic 1983) in order to give game players the feel of the open road, a taste of logistics — planning the best path, and the challenge of delivering goods as safely and efficiently as possible.

Below is a short video of the gameplay on Intellivision.

Interconnected brains

When I wrote “Agent Lenore” several years ago, I was thinking about the growing freelance marketplace for software engineers and others.  As a science fiction writer, I took the idea and extrapolated into the future, wondering how freelance work might be shared in some cooperative fashion between man and machine.

Idealist that I tend to be, I thought it would be even better if people could freelance while doing other things.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for your skills while sleeping?  After all, many of us who do brain work for a living have probably at one time or another felt like our minds were hooked up to the company’s computers.

So I found it fascinating to read about Brainets this year in research entitled “Building an organic computing device with multiple interconnected brains“.  If you’d like to read “Agent Lenore” it is part of my e-book anthology “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs.”

RobotsAndCyborgsCover

Golden Globes insult science fiction writers

Yes, I think it is an insult to science fiction writers to nominate “The Martian” in the category of Best Musical or Comedy.  While some science fiction movies are meant to be humorous, such as “Mars Attacks!”, the best of them are thought-provoking and often quite serious.

“The Martian” was supposed to be a movie that presented travel to and survival on Mars in a mostly realistic fashion.  While I admit that I was a little disappointed in some aspects of the movie — Matt Damon’s character was a bit too snarky and a bit too resourceful — I did think it was an overall good movie and certainly not a comedy.

While I realize that the Golden Globes nominators weren’t considering science fiction writer’s feelings when they nominated “The Martian” for Best Musical or Comedy, they nevertheless showed that they don’t consider hard science fiction — at least that was what “The Martian” was supposed to be — seriously important enough to be dramatic.  After all “Interstellar”, another attempt at hard science fiction in movies, didn’t even get nominated at all.

So, although I admit to having a little fun — not just me, see EW and other online commentary — with the Golden Globes here since they chose to flippantly put “The Martian” in this category, I am happy that a science fiction movie is being recognized.  Just remember, though, that when you see Matt Damon’s character throwing a few funny snarky lines at the audience, it’s not all that funny to face the possibility of death on Mars.

Does this trailer look funny or musical to you?

“It Came From the Desert” meets next gen game engines

On YouTube gaming, the post “Top 5 Best Next Gen Game Engines of The Future” by EETech  (see video below) presents some nice looking demonstrations of coming game engines.

Their choice for #1, Euclideon Unlimited, starts by presenting a quick history of advances in computer graphics.  They begin with Activision’s Pitfall (at 7min 41sec), a nice example of some first or second generation video game graphics.  But, after a couple of other early games, they show Cinemaware’s “It Came From the Desert” (at 7min 45 sec) — a game that I developed scripting tools for in 1988.  Although I would have preferred to also see my video game “Microsurgeon” (Imagic, 1982) in the list, I was happy to see that Cinemaware’s game made it.

As I said, these future game engines produce some beautiful images.  Soon we’ll see if they also produce some wonderful games.

How does Pi = 1000 * 8080?

The Raspberry Pi Zero is $5!

It comes with a 1GHz processor, 512MB of Ram, HDMI, USB, and other nice features. I remember in the 70’s when I was programming a Sol-20 8080-based computer, the processor running at 2MHz. Considering also the tiny amount of memory, I’d say the Raspberry Pi is about 1000 times more powerful than the Sol-20 was. That’s how Pi equals 1000 times more powerful than an 8080 system.

Not to mention, it easily cost $1,000 and more to put together a Sol-20 system back in the 70’s, and the Pi is only $5.  In the video below, you can see other early systems and their comparison to the Pi’s cost.

Modifying genetics epigenetically

Epigenetic changes can change gene expression, effectively acting like a genetics modification.  Scientists have had meetings recently to discuss the ethics, dangers, and future of gene modification therapies.  Looks like they’ll have to have future meetings to also discuss epigenetics modification.

I recently published “Science Fiction: Genetics”, an anthology of four of my stories related to genetics.  One of my short stories, “The Library of Pain”, examines epigenetics modification in relation to a possible future tool for psychologists.  “The Scientist” magazine announced their choices for the top 10 Innovations of 2015, and one is a “CRISPR Epigenetic Activator.”  Perhaps my futuristic device isn’t so far in the future as it might sound.

 
Dna clip art

Good aliens or bad aliens?

“Childhood’s End”, based on one of Arthur C. Clarke’s best novels, is coming to the SYFY television network on December 14, 2015.  But are the visitors good aliens or bad aliens?

In the movie “Independence Day”, the world’s largest cities are visited by huge spaceships.  No one knows whether they are good aliens or bad aliens.  Of course, everyone knows they will find out soon enough.  The movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” depicts an alien visit with a particularly now-famous robot.  Good alien or bad alien?

In “The Last Mimzy”, children are affected by very advanced toys.  Are the toys provided by aliens or someone else?  Are they good or bad?  In the movie “2001”, a strange obelisk appears at multiple times on Earth and in space.  Is it alien?  Are they good aliens or bad aliens?

“Remorse Above Enceladus” in my new science fiction anthology, “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2”, involves the sudden arrival of aliens.  Are they good aliens or bad aliens?

Good aliens or bad aliens?  So often in science fiction, when aliens or some unknown forces are involved, this is the question.  I, for one, am very excited to find out whether the aliens in “Childhood’s End” are good aliens or bad aliens.  Of course, if you read the book, you probably think you already know the answer.  But television and movies have been known to change the ending of a book.  I don’t know if that has been done here or not.  So I’ll be wondering right from the start, good aliens or bad aliens?

“Science Fiction: Genetics”

See Amazon.com for “Science Fiction: Genetics”.  This is my first genetics-related anthology of my stories.  I enjoy following advances in genetic and epigenetic research, so I’m sure I will write more of these.

“You Can Choose Your Parents” refutes the notion that you can’t choose your parents.  “Liar” examines the life of a young woman who visits a Lie Bar.  “The Library of Pain” probes a psychologist’s patient who has issues with pain.  In “It’s in the Stars” we meet a couple who wonder if fame will be in the stars for their children.  “My Brother’s Keeper” is a clone mystery that takes place on Mars.

Versions for Smashwords.com, including a variety of formats for various distributors,  of “Science Fiction: Genetics” and “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2” coming next.

GeneticsCover_ForAmazonKindle

“Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2” by Richard S. Levine

Thank you to all my readers who have enjoyed “Science Fiction: Time Travel” or “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs”!  I’ve been so pleased with the response to these e-book anthologies that I decided to publish a volume 2 entitled “Science Fiction: Time Travel and Robots 2”.  It is now available on Amazon.com.

Each story relates to some form of time travel, robots, or cyborgs.  “The Time of Your Life” makes a life and death game out of time travel.  “Oddly Perfect” examines math and time in multiple dimensions.  “RemoteDoc” describes a possible future for surgeons, In “Remorse above Enceladus” a robot space cowboy probes a new feeling, and “A Penny for your Thoughts” presents a futuristic social network.

Next, I will make this available on Smashwords for other reading devices and formats.  Also, “Science Fiction: Genetics” is in the works.

TimeTravelandRobotsTooCover_ForAmazonKindle

 

 

 

Pandora – making virtual reality real

Avatar’s Pandora is coming to Disneyworld’s Animal Kingdom by 2017.  That’s a pretty strong vote for 3D environments and their influence.

Universal Studios has already tried this to some extent, recreating a Jurassic Park environment in their theme park, and more recently the streets and buildings of the Harry Potter stories.  But Pandora is a totally made up world, and it does not exist on Earth at all.  Perhaps Disney’s Star Tours ride, Universal’s Simpson’s ride, and others are more along those lines, unless Harry Potter actually transports to another world when he goes to school.  In any case, they are all fantasy rides with some having elements of science fiction.

With Hololens, Oculus Rift, and Magic Leap — among others — upping the ante for virtual world experiences, is it any wonder Disney wants to get into the game by making virtual reality real?  I wonder how long it will be before you can go to a theme park and then put on your Hololens or Magic Leap headsets to enhance your experience as you walk through worlds like Pandora, Jurassic Park, Alice in Wonderland, Mars, and so many other interesting places of fantasy, science, and science fiction.

If you’d like to experience science fiction the old fashioned way, I have several e-book anthologies of my works you might like.

Author, Game Designer, Programmer, Tutor, Genealogist