Three stories that grabbed my attention in 2017.

LED Braces – This one piqued my interest. As a two-time braces wearer anything that makes having metal torture devices wrapped around your teeth easier gains high praise in my book. The new braces use light therapy, something that promotes bone regeneration, and promises to speed up realignment for teeth.

Thompson, Alexandra. (2017). Now that’s a blinding smile! Daily Mail. Retrieved from
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5015567/New-3D-printed-braces-include-lights-batteries.html

*
Cocktail Chemistry – To my surprise the blue (and other colors) in some cocktails have a natural source. Flowers like blue blossoms contribute to the azure hues to certain liquors, like blue gins. Anthocyanins are pigments found in such flowers that are key to color attribute.

Malford, Bethany. (2017). Notable potables feature changing colors and mummified toes. Chemical & Engineering News, Volume 95 Issue 29 | p. 40 Retrieved from
https://cen.acs.org/articles/95/i29/Notable-potables-feature-changing-colors.html

*
Neutron Gold – Imagine a future spaceship sent out to deep space to collect newly formed gold and platinum (well, relatively new in astronomical terms). That is what I thought of when I heard about the collision of neutron stars

GreenfieldBoyce, Nell. (2017). Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold In Colliding Neutron Stars. NPR. Retrieved from
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/16/557557544/astronomers-strike-gravitational-gold-in-colliding-neutron-stars

Advertisements

Projects coming soon!

Coming soon!

Crossroads-Front-Cover (1).jpg

Yes it’s been awhile. I’m finally blogging again. I’ve been working on publishing a science fiction anthology with my writers group that should be out later this year. I’ve also been hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the first full length novel in my Future Jinn series ROGUE DESIRE. That should be out later this year as well. In the meantime I’ll have more short stories and sci/tech articles to share.

Mars city.jpg
Background of cover for Rouge Desire

Life As You Know It

Liv needed to get to that food line.

It should have been the last thing on her mind, but if she missed her chance to get rations they would not eat anything until Monday. Overhead the fluorescent lights felt like spotlights focused on her. She touched the disc she just placed in her left jacket pocket. The information she copied regarding XMeed’s secret project would leave the company in ruins.

Footsteps echoed on the hard, white tiles in the hallway. They would be at the door soon. Liv hurried to the rear of the laboratory and exited through a backdoor.

Out of the lab, she walked to the corner’s edge and peered down the hall. She waited while her boss, Doctor Edwards and his associate, Mr. Aimes, both unaware of her presence, entered the lab. Once they disappeared she moved off, eager to leave the lab with her cloning project behind.

Avoiding the cameras in the elevators, Liv crept down two flights of stairs to the underground parking garage. Jeff will be shocked and amazed when he looks over the data, she thought, as she peered past the entrance and scanned the garage for signs of life. Her fiancé was a political journalist for a news site. This was not his type of story, but he would know another journalist she could talk to. Months ago she told him that something unscrupulous was underfoot at XMeed. He had wanted her to leave it alone, but she just could not, not with her name attached to the project.

Liv crossed the massive garage to her white electric powered car, one of the few vehicles parked. She started the car and tried to imagine the garage full of vehicles at a time when no one worried about food lines and cloning humans was only thought of in the movies.

She pulled out of the garage. The project consumed her life for almost a year. She played such a small part. They wanted smaller, more efficient cloned human stomachs. It would help the obese they told her. They kept her in the dark about the other sections of the project. If only she knew.

Finally, parking in the lot of the city’s food center, she hopped out and ran inside. She took a position at the end of the line and someone slipped in behind her. A second later. A guard locked the front door.

Liv breathed a sigh of relief. Jeff was so upset the last time she was too late to receive rations. They had spent a week’s pay buying food on the black market in order to keep hunger at bay. Suddenly, the man behind her cackled and she glanced at him. He was ragged. Unshaven for quite some time, he sported a thick white beard that hung down the length of his neck. Patches of shorter snow colored hair rested on top of his head. The jacket he wore swallowed his arms, leaving only the tips of his fingers visible.

“I made it! It’s not going to be steak or lobster, but I’m eating tonight,” the unshaven man said. He cackled again, looking at Liv with a playful glint in his eyes. Liv merely smiled and turned around to face front, moving a step up with the line.

“You laugh,” the man said taking her smile as his cue, “but when I was little, my dad used to take me to these places that had wall-to-wall food. Buffets they were called. They even had rice and corn. Believe me, I’m speaking the truth.”

Liv had seen the archival footage of they way things were back then. Food appeared in almost every social scene. Businesses centered around food abounded. They sold edible products in carts on the street. Whole buildings, supermarkets, mainly sold food. All that changed when the grain stopped growing.

“Dang grain blight changed everything,” the unshaven man said in a solemn voice. “No more grain. No more feed for livestock. No more steak. Pets disappearing in the middle of the night. Police tried to stop that at first, but then they were starving to. Miss you ever had a Fluffy burger?”

Liv felt him peering over her shoulder as he waited for an answer. She kept her body still and her eyes facing forward until he got tired of waiting.
She sighed. The food supply never fully recovered after the grain disappeared. Scientists never discovered what stopped crops like rice and corn from growing. Not even cloning techniques brought grain plants to maturity. With a sense of dread she realized XMeed’s project could solve the food shortage problem and end humanity at the same time. No, she did not need to engage the man behind her about the famine troubles that hit the third decade of the twenty-first century. She had enough troubles now.

Liv reached the table at the front of the line. On either side stood a Food Service guard in a tan uniform and armed with a rifle. A scanner constructed with a robotic arm and a head like a flashlight, swiveled forward. Liv stuck her right hand under the scanner and waited for the red light to appear and disappear. With the RFID chip embedded in her hand read, she gave her attention to the woman seated at the table. A middle aged woman, dressed in the same uniform as the guards, sans the rifles, smiled pleasantly at her before reaching for one of the white plastic bags behind her.

“Here you go,” the woman said. “A bag of tomatoes, a bag of seaweed and nutrient bars.”

Thank goodness for hydroponic tomatoes. She smiled at the woman, who offered the same blank stare she gave Liv every time she came to the food center. Taking the bag, Liv rushed back to her car.

Liz whizzed by the sparse rush hour traffic. Traveling though Ghosttown was the fastest way home, but she did not want to get caught in her car alone at night. Rows of abandoned storefronts lined either side of the street. The drive was a straight run. In Ghosttown the power grid shut down years ago, so no stoplights worked to slow Liv down. As the sun set Liv rounded a corner, driving five minutes past abandoned rubble strewn lots before entering the parking lot of her building.

Minutes later Liv entered her apartment. Jeff always opened the curtains when he got home and they were pulled back now. With the curtains pulled back, the apartment’s living room windows gave a view of the night. Close to the apartment building a black void reigned, with no buildings and no light. Just rubble and empty space existed before you hit Ghosttown, the food center and the industrial park. XMeed, a beacon in the distance, with its lighted tower twinkled in the center of other similar tall buildings.

“Jeff!” Liv yelled while she looked out the window. “I knew there was something going on at work. I told you didn’t I.”

Soft footsteps made Liv turn around. “Told me what?”

“XMeed is part of a voluntary cloning human program,” she said. “They want low performing employees to sign their life away for five years so a clone can take their place. The clone does nothing but work. It doesn’t sleep much and survives on one nutrient bar a day.”

“Hmm.”

She took out the disc and waved in front of him. “I mean, who’s going to decide what a low performing employee is?”

“What is that?”

“I have all their plans right here, Jeff.” She gestured with the disc. “Their cloning procedures. Schematics for the cryogenic storage facilities for the employees. The names of companies that plan to pay for XMeed’s service. You need to contact your news friends. Someone into corporations. There’s no way the government would let them do this.”

Jeff shrugged. “Is that all you have?” he asked his voice bland, emotionless.

“Yes, but have you been listening to me? You’re not still upset about me working those late hours are you?”

“No.” Jeff reached for the disc. He flicked it over in his hand, then said, “But you are wrong about one thing.”

“What?” His subsequent silence gave Liv a chill. Something was very wrong. “What do you mean?”

“The procedure isn’t voluntary at all.”

From behind her a shadow appeared across the floor and Liv whirled around. Dr. Edwards approached her with a hypodermic needle in hand, while hands too strong to be Jeff’s grabbed her shoulders.

“This isn’t Jeff is it?” she asked as she struggled against the clone’s grip.

Dr. Edwards shook his head.“I’m sorry Liv, but see you in five years.”

END.

mf76.jpg
Yes it’s been awhile. I’m finally blogging again. For the past year, I’ve been working on publishing a science fiction anthology (Crossroads) with my writers group that should be out later this year. I’ve also been hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the first full length novel in my Future Jinn series ROGUE DESIRE. That book should be out later this year as well. In the meantime I’ll have more short stories and sci/tech articles to share each month.

FICTION: Life Made Easier

“You need to open that package immediately!”

“Yes, Mr. Cunningham,” Kamryn said as she rushed into the lobby of her building. She snagged a heel on the edge of the carpet, managed to pull it free and performed a brief tottering dance to keep her stride without a fall.

“The people at XMeed were very specific about you personally opening the package upon its arrival.”

“I know Mr. Cunningham.” Without taking her eyes off the elevators Kamryn waved to the building’s security officers and concierges.

“I need the designs on my desk by the end of the day tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” she said but his phone already clicked off in her ear.

Kamryn reached the elevators and pushed the “up” button, letting her finger linger for the security scanner to examine her fingerprint. She lived in one of the most secure apartment complexes in the city, as evinced by the human officers, the cameras and the fingerprint scanners.

The light emanating from the “up” button turned from white to green and the doors to the car on her left opened. She stepped inside with a sigh, relieved that her trip was finally over. The trip had been uneventful–the usual convention trip with people peddling software and other services that her company might use–but the return home became a nightmare. Bad weather delayed her flight. The delay lasted more than half a day and severely set back completion of her work and personal duties. Her monthly speed dating session would get canceled and put off yet another month.

Kamryn barely possessed leisure time without delays, so when Cunningham announced the company intended to work in conjugation with XMeed to provide employees with prototypes that could help everyone utilize their time more efficiently she jumped at the idea.

The doors opened–no need to choose a floor when all your information, including your default floor, is picked up through the fingerprint scanner–and Kamryn stepped out onto the hall.

She had no idea what the package contained though she believed it a robot of some kind. Her company, TechnoTrack, frequently worked with companies that dealt in AI and robotic technology to compliment their electronic appliance lines. So far details of her new personal assistant remained absolutely hush-hush. Whatever the new product the company unloaded on its employees, it promised to ease the hectic woes of everyday life.

Anticipation filled Kamryn as she considered uses for her newfound assistant.

“Let’s see,” she muttered, “I could have it tidy up a bit. Check for groceries I might need and do the shopping.” Kamryn smiled at the image of shoppers gawking at some strange device as it went from aisle to aisle in the nearby mart.

“It can do the laundry,” she said while she opened the door to her apartment and strode inside.

“Lights.” On her command the overheads displaced the darkness. A light in one corner never came on. Perhaps, the robot can change a light bulb, she thought. Kamryn thought about the things she could accomplish after her new XMeed toy gave her more free time. Work projects would get finished on time. The frequency of visits to the senior residence where her parents lived would improve. On her last visit she noticed her father looked thinner than usual and she needed to talk to his caregivers about his diet.

Kamryn spied the silvery metallic container in the middle of the living room floor, just where she instructed the building to place it. Dropping her carry-on Kamryn walked to the front of the box intent on removing whatever lay inside. “It will know what to do once it’s out,” the representative from XMeed had told her.

The rectangular container came to her knees. Kamryn bent down and to her surprise the lock looked twisted and broken. The door also sported several dents that pushed outward. She raised the door and peeked inside. Empty.

While Kamryn pondered the possibility that the deliveryman forced the container open because she had not yet arrived, the sound of rapid fire typing drifted out of her bedroom and then ceased. Kamryn straightened up. Was the deliveryperson still here? Perhaps someone from XMeed returned to set up her robot assistant since she was not home. The building never allowed visitors onsite without the occupants permission, so that seemed unlikely. Retrieving her phone from her jacket pocket, she started to press the numbers for security when someone came down the hall from her bedroom.

A gasp escaped from Kamryn’s throat. Across the room stood a woman that looked exactly like her, the only differentiating feature was that her was cut short above her shoulders. She wore a black cat suit with a white ‘XM’ logo over her heart. Suddenly, the realization of who her new houseguest must be dawned on her.

Kamryn shook her head. “I can’t believe they made the robot look like me.”

“I am not a robot. I am a personality imprinted genetically enhanced clone,” said the Kamryn clone as it made a calm approach.

“What were you doing back there?”

“Completing your latest project. It’s due tomorrow.”

“What!”

Her initial shock at meeting her doppelganger forgotten, Kamryn rushed forward to check on her files. With her designs ruined she would need to start work on the backups she made a few days ago. The prospect of working all night and into the next morning did not sit well.

She needed to talk to Cunningham. The clone had to be reprogrammed, or whatever need to be done so the clone followed an appropriate set of instructions. It could not be allowed to screw with her work. Plus, it should look like someone else.  Maybe a change in hair color would remedy that.

Kamryn brushed past the Kamryn-clone, but a hand shot out to grab her arm stopping her progression. A second hand clamped around her neck like a vise. Breathing difficult, Kamryn wondered if the thing had already malfunctioned.

“You don’t understand. The owners of TechnoTrack thank you for your DNA.  As I only require two hours sleep and the most basic sustenance, I will have more time to complete your duties.”

Kamryn tried to pry the firm grip from her neck, but to no avail. She mentally pleaded with the thing to let her go. The idea of what the clone said made her panic.  It meant to replace her. What would happen to her parents? What would happen at work?

“Don’t worry,” the clone said as it seemed to read her mind, “when your contract terminates my memories and your life will be given back to you. I will take care of all your personal and business needs until then.”

Kamryn’s silent pleas went unanswered as she stared into the expressionless face of her manmade twin. The hand around her arm let go, but then something sharp pricked her skin as a needle shot from the knuckle of the clone. Black spots formed in front of her eyes, though from the injection or the loss of air she did not know. The Kamryn clone released her and she slumped to the floor slipping into the coma where she would remain until the end of her service.

Before she lost consciousness, Kamryn wondered if she would remember this moment when she finally woke up.

 

END.

Pumpkin Science

Pumpkin is one of the favorite foods for the fall and holiday seasons. It can be found in anything from pies to beer. But what exactly is in this particular squash?

Carotenoids, like the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, give pumpkins their orange hue. Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids good for eye health are also found in pumpkin. Vitamins A and C, important for overall health, are found in pumpkins. One cup of cooked pumpkin can have more potassium than a banana. A variety of alcohols and aldehydes contribute to a pumpkin’s smell, the main culprit being leaf alcohol (cis-3-Hexen-1-ol).

So go ahead and order that pumpkin spice latte and enjoy.

Sources:

Periodic Graphics: The Chemistry of Pumpkins by Andy Brunning http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/i40/Periodic-Graphics-Chemistry-Pumpkins.html

8 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin by Sarah Klein http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/pumpkin-health-benefits_n_1936919.html