Genealogy – predicting what ancestors looked like

Buried in an article about “A genomic entrepreneur plans to sell genetic workups for as little as $250” is perhaps an even more striking claim that “the [Human Longevity Inc, HLI] company is trying to show it can predict from genes exactly what people look like.”

While the project is not complete, and some might look at this futuristic capability as a way to make designer babies,  it excites me instead as an amateur genealogist.  I mean, how cool would it be to find out exactly what an ancestor or famous person from the past looked like by having just a small sample of DNA?  Could the technique eventually be extended to look back by using a number of samples of descendants today?  In other words, if you don’t have a DNA sample for the ancestor, could you use DNA samples from descendants in such a way as to predict closely what that ancestor must have looked like?  Want to know who that man is on the right in an old family photo?

Yes, I’m ignoring the obvious usage of this technology for forensics, mostly because it could be kind of spooky in this regard to know what someone looks like just from a DNA sample.  Talk about profiling.  This is the stuff of science fiction today, though J. Craig Venter says that HLI can already describe the color of your eyes [from your DNA] better than you can.

Will predicting looks from DNA be the next tool on one or more of the genealogy websites?  Who knows when that might happen, but if you are interested in this subject as I am, you might enjoy the Ted talk below.

By the way, in the next year I plan to release a new e-book collection of my published stories related to genetics.

Time travel can be confusing

The time travel television series “Continuum” starts its final season — just 6 episodes — on the SYFY channel (Friday, September 11, 2015.  Those of us who have enjoyed this time-hopping show are happy to have a final season to wrap up the plot, not to mention a few more episodes with this fun and talented cast.  If you need a refresher on what happened in previous seasons, you can take SYFY’s “Continuum 101”.

Not every viewer has enjoyed the trip through time.  Some have stopped watching the show, because they either were confused by some of the events, or often because it didn’t adhere to their political, philosophical, logical, or common sense point-of-view.  That can easily happen with any time travel story, because inherently it is difficult to imagine that time travel can even occur, let alone be understandable in any simple way.

But, for me, time travel stories go beyond mere logic.  After all, how can time travel be logical?  There is the multiverse, where changes to the timeline just create a new timeline, or nature may correct any changes to the timeline.  But these are just theories.  So when I think, write, read, or view time travel, my personal choice is to enjoy the ride.  If it becomes too uncomfortably silly, or crosses outside my believability meter, that may be the point I stop at.  However, I really enjoy time travel as a science fiction theme, so I tend to have a high tolerance for these things.  Maybe others do too, since “Continuum” has a 7.8 rating on IMDB.

Many time travel themes have been experimented with by the writers of “Continuum”, such as back in time, forward in time, time travel romance, betting with future knowledge, and causal loops — when a future event is the cause of an event in the past.  I’m surprised I haven’t seen time travel tourism yet, although maybe I just missed that.  I mean, wouldn’t it be fun just to go to some period in time and enjoy it for an hour or a day?  Mostly on “Continuum” the events appear to be pretty serious stuff, though the Matthew Kellog character has had a sense of humor about it at times.

If you find you enjoy time travel, like I do, you might also enjoy my best selling e-book anthology (“Science Fiction: Time Travel”) which contains four of my published short stories.



There’s Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Decopunk, Atompunk, Biopunk, Nanopunk, and Dreampunk.  Do you even know what all of these are about?  I admit, that I couldn’t define all of these.  Now, according to there’s also Solarpunk.

Like Solarpunk stories about attempts to live in harmony with the Earth or not, I am in favor of more science fiction that has a positive outlook on the future.  There’s plenty of scifi that does not.

Punk or not, Solarpunk or not, I like how science fiction attempts to paint a picture of the future.



Robot passports

MIT Technology Review recently reported on the need for “License Plates for Drones.”  The concept involves colored blinking lights which would help someone identify the drone on video or in the air based on the sequence of lights.  The may be a viable technique for drone identification, helping to determine responsibility in an event, but what about other kinds of robot devices?

Many have now written about the singularity, a time when robots are capable of making other robots and quickly exceeding the capabilities of mankind.  If robots were suddenly making other robots, how would we even know?  I mean, it’s hard enough to determine when other countries are manufacturing weapons underground.  Robots might be even more secretive.  And would you know that a new kind of robot is out there if you saw one?  It’s not like they come with license plates or passports.  Should they?

Should there be an online database of every kind of robot that has been made?  Without that, any robot can be squirming, flying, or walking around and we’ll have no idea whether they are a new kind of robot or not.

Are robots citizens of the country that they are made in or the country that owns them?  Are they citizens at all?  If so, then shouldn’t they carry passports like humans.  If not, shouldn’t they have a license plate or some other easy identification.

Granted, all this is speculative, but that’s why I’m a speculative writer.  I enjoy thinking about these kinds of things.  If you do to, you might enjoy reading my science fiction anthologies.

Robot Carrying Things clip art

Is Lucy dead on Extant?

Lucy is a humanoid robot (Humanics) soldier on the television series Extant.  I found it interesting that the programmers/developers of her mind thought it would not be possible for her to blackmail someone — see the video below.

This reminds me a bit of one of my short stories (“Like Mother, Like Son”) you can find in my anthology, “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs.”  It’s about a different kind of female humanoid robot with possibly a hidden agenda.

Quantum Biology

The term Quantum Biology was coined over 60 years ago, but only recently has it gained momentum.  I believe quantum biology science has the potential to change the understanding of the human brain and consciousness, since many AI researchers today believe they can produce an artificial brain through the construction of circuits and software — and some AI researchers think that consciousness is nothing more than an illusion.

Until utterly proven wrong, I still think that the theories behind quantum consciousness raised by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff are science’s best bet for understanding how consciousness works — or at least understanding where it originates from.  The Scientist recently reported on a new book, “The Coming Age of Quantum Biology: Life on the Edge“.  You can find the book on Amazon and read a bit of the beginning for free.  The book’s authors are discussed in a recent Discover Magazine article as well.

Apparently on Quantum Mind they don’t see Quantum Biology as a major support yet for the theories of Quantum Consciousness.  But maybe it is just a matter of time before biologists and physicists, as well as AI researchers, discover that they are all barking up the same tree — understanding consciousness.

Brain clip art

When will we see Microsoft Edge browser extensions?

According to a couple of different websites we won’t see Microsoft Edge browser extensions — for better security they’ll be HTML5, not Active-X add-ons — until sometime this autumn.  The other website says probably around October, which is still autumn by definition.

There have been a few articles lately claiming that Microsoft Edge is not doing that well with new Windows 10 users.  However, when you consider that it doesn’t yet support all the right-click options (extensions) that most users want, it’s easy to see why.  It will be interesting to see if the Edge browser sees a significant uptick in usage after extensions are released in hopefully autumn.

Personally, I look forward to having right-click translation and “map with” back.  I would also like to see grouped tabs in favorites added to Edge, as well as alphabetized favorites.  I don’t know if those are related to extensions, though, or whether we will see those added to Edge.

The Maritimes and vicinity – Wow!

I just got back from a vacation in The Maritime provinces of Canada, as well as Quebec, Maine, and a few neighboring states.  I highly recommend the Maritimes if you haven’t been!

We started in Bangor, ME on our way to the Bold Coast boat tour of Machias Seal Island where seals and puffins and other birds can be seen up close, especially if the weather is nice enough for a landing on this small island.

SealsNearMachiasSealIsland TowardsTheBlinds TwoWisePuffins

From there we made our way to New Brunswick, Canada, where we visited Hopewell Rocks, where ocean levels often range from 0 feet at low tide to over 40 feet at high tide.


You can fly over to Newfoundland, but we chose to sleep in a cabin on the night ferry to Port-aux-Basques, rising the next morning for our drive to amazing Gros Morne National park.  If you’re lucky you might spot a bear (Western Brook Pond, NL) or a moose (Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia), or even icebergs in late July as we did.  Fantastic waterfalls in the Maritimes and region are everywhere, such as Montmorency Falls near Quebec City.


I’m a writer, so I could easily go on and on about this trip.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our visits to France last year and Quebec and the Maritimes this year.  I’ve been thinking about making a small e-book series called “Two Week Drive: The Maritimes”, “Two Week Drive: France”, etc.

You can’t see everything in just two weeks, but the challenge and the excitement of that kind of vacation is choosing what can best be experienced and seen in that time frame.  For my wife and I, and another couple, it worked out great!


With earthquakes, warning time makes a difference

Wired magazine recently published an article entitled “A New Earthquake Early Warning System For Mexico City.”  In theory, residents could have up to 60 to 90 seconds of warning before a quake.  That’s enough time to leave a building or move to a safer place, potentially saving many lives.  But what happens when someone develops a system that might warn users of a quake hours or more before it happens?

It depends.  Would the system include the probability of the quake hitting within various ranges of time, such as what we find nowadays for hurricane predictions?  Would it present probabilities for cities that might be hit as well as the chance for various ranges of intensity?

This is not exactly the same as hurricane prediction data.  Hurricanes often come with predictions that are days ahead of making landfall.  There is usually time to evacuate, and often time to go far enough away to be out of the expected path.  But it’s hard to imagine a future where earthquakes can be predicted in that fashion, with notice days ahead and predictions good enough to give residents confidence.

My science fiction short story “Seismic Morality” examines a few of the issues with earthquake prediction in the future.  You can find it in my anthology “Science Fiction: Tragedies”.



Science is difficult

Recently, the famous little Philae comet lander re-made contact with satellite Rosetta.  After Philae landed and lost power, likely due to being in shade, it was hoped that Philae would regain power at some point.  So this is great news!

Unfortunately, Rosetta had to move further away from the comet due to interference from the comet’s increasing dust-particle trail.  So now it’s apparently more difficult for Philae to communicate its incredibly valuable scientific data to Rosetta — and then to Earth.

This is the kind of scientific tension and struggle of science fiction.  Whether on Earth or exploring the solar system, new technology sometimes achieves success for its inventors, but it is often accompanied by some kind of failure(s) along the way.   After a number of space launch successes, SpaceX recently lost a Dragon spacecraft in an explosion shortly after a launch for a space station resupply mission.

In my “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” anthology, little robot Floccin has to deal with the inherent danger of new technology when he gets a software upgrade.

Comet In Space clip art


Is it possible that the future affects the past?

Second Nexus reports that recent physics experiments would seem to indicate that the future affects the past.  If so, that would be a form of time travel.

I love to write about time travel and ponder the implications.  Whether the form of time travel is through messaging into the past or future, suspended animation, wormholes, time machines, or some other quirks of physics, the paradoxes created are mind boggling as well as entertaining.  If you think so too, you might enjoy my “Science Fiction: Time Travel” anthology.

Time Travel E-book Cover

The Future is Short – Volume 2

My microstory “Winners Take All” is in print!

The Future is Short – Volume 2” is printed through Amazon’s Createspace service.  There are many other very short stories in this anthology “based on the best from the second year of the Science Fiction Microstory Contest on LinkedIn’s Sci-Fi group.”  The e-book version will be available in the near future, probably on

“Winners Take All” is my second story to make use of anti-gravity technology.  The other was “Above the Mississippi”, which you can find in my “Science Fiction: The Arts” anthology.

The Future is Short – Volume 2

LightSail Test Success

Image: The Planetary Society; LightSail unfurled June 9, 2015

The Planetary Society blog declared the LightSail test mission a success as of today, June 9, 2015.  Above you can see an image of the unfurled light sail, though it won’t be until next year’s mission that another LightSail is used to actually attempt to sail into space.  Below you can see LightSail crossing the night sky on June 8, 2015.

Our ancestors sailed the seas and discovered new lands.  Perhaps today is a step towards future vehicles sailing on sunlight — and possibly laser light, running supply missions, and making new discoveries.  The stuff of science fiction made into reality.

LightSail deployed!

The Planetary Society’s Mission Control website exudes excitement as the LightSail test flight successfully deployed the sail.  It’s only a matter of time before the test sail falls, but until then you might be able to spot it in space if you check on sighting instructions at the mission control site.  I imagine this raises expectations for next year’s launch when LightSail will be expected to achieve real space flight.  The Planetary Society already well exceeded their goal on Kickstarter.

Whether portending sailing on light or taking an elevator to space, science fiction is fuel for the imagination.  If you want to dream of the possibilities, or just take a ride in a time shuttle, check out my short science fiction anthologies available in several e-book formats.




Computerworld recently reported on simulated robotic surgery over the internet.  I think it’s only a matter of time before doctors are able to operate on a patient across the country.  But, as the Computerworld headline hints at, how about across space?

As long as the space station is within the orbit of the moon, we’re probably only talking about a 1 second or less display — assuming the station is within reach of a ground station.  That’s not ideal, but it might be acceptable for some emergency remote operations that are supervised.  But Mars communications, when everything is aligned to allow it, is a matter of minutes, not seconds.  That might be okay for communicating a set of operating instructions to a doctor on Mars — or surgical subtasks to a robot on Mars, which would have to be more robust than the research shows in the video below — but it would likely be dangerous for not-close-enough-to-real-time operation of a robotic surgical device.

But once you get further out to other solar systems, the communication times are in years.  Surgery from Earth would not be possible without some kind of FTL (faster than light) communications.  One can see in the movie “Prometheus” a — rather disturbing — example of a robotic surgeon capable of many different kinds of operating procedures on its own.  On Star Trek “Voyager” we’re introduced to an Emergency Medical Hologram capable of serving as the ship’s doctor when needed.

My story “RemoteDoc” — about a woman in the future who performs remote surgeries on Mars and on Earth — was published in 2004 in “The Martian Wave”.  It’s not in print, but I will put this in my second “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” anthology.

Extremely slow Wi-Fi transporter?

CNet recently wrote about a Wi-Fi router tricked out to look like the “Star Trek” Enterprise. That’s pretty neat to have, if you can get one or make one. As the article says, you might feel the need to say “Beam me onto the internet, Scotty”. But don’t expect to be transporting yourself from one place to another anytime soon. I figure it would take about 3 billion centuries to transport once using a Wi-Fi router. Here’s my rough calculations.

Figure quantum processing time on a quantum computer is unbelievably fast, but the Wi-Fi transfer rate is limited (1 gigabit per second, maybe) and recording quantum atom states likely takes more than 1 bit, so maybe 100,000,000=10^8 atoms recorded per second. The human body has approximately 10^27 atoms, so 10^27/10^8 = 10^19 seconds. There are about 60*60*24*365*100=3*10^9 seconds in a century, so 10^19/(3*10^9) is about 10^10/3 = 3 billion centuries.

Below is a video showing several transporter glitches in “Star Trek” movies and television episodes. Notice they don’t include any where the crew’s Wi-Fi signal is suddenly lost because their badges lost contact with the router, but they’ve had worse things happen.

While I haven’t written any stories that discuss transporters, I did have one published about a young man who has a device that attempts to predict the near future based on the current state of the atoms in his vicinity. This, like the transporter, would require technology far more advanced than Wi-Fi speeds. But it was fun to write about. The story is called “Surfing the Wave” and can be found in my anthology of science fiction short stories: “Science Fiction: Future Youth”.

Earth Impact Database

Speaking of Earth impacts — see my previous blog entry — The Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) in Canada has a nice website on the subject of Earth impacts sorted by diameter.  If you have an interest in the subject, or you just enjoy seeing geologic features while on vacation, it’s handy to study the impact locations before your trip.

Many large impacts are now covered by lakes, rivers, grass, etc., and cannot easily be discerned when visiting the site.  However, if you’ve already explored the PASSC website and gotten an idea of what the impact was really like millions of years ago, it is easier to visualize in person what happened back then.  In my experience, it makes the view more impressive!

Impacts are mentioned often in science fiction, and I’ve written a couple of short stories that mentioned an impact of some kind.  “Myron’s Debarkation” is one of them.  Another of my stories, “A Comic on Phobos”, is about an effort by a team of robots to avert an impact.

Meteor clip art

Author, Game Designer, Programmer, Tutor, Genealogist