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➕ Week 003: August 9, 2021

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This week: Octavia Butler telling us about the future, spiky genitalia, new members of the exclusive fundamental particles club, and build-a-human 

Octavia Butler: Science Future, Science Fiction

(Panel at UCLA, moderated by Arthur Cover | 2002)

“It's dangerous to assume that whatever we've been doing we're going to keep doing that - you know the future is more of the same more only more advanced. During the frenzy about the new millennium I reread an old book - I think was a collection by Harry Harrison called the year 2000 and it was done back in 1970 and that means the stories were written in the 60s thereabouts and over and over again you saw that what the writers were writing about was their own time but just more of it or harder or higher or whatever. You know more of the same. I think the one thing we can be sure of is that we won't have you know straight-line prophecy coming true that whatever technological things we're doing now will just do more of and better. I think we'll get surprises.”

The Pros and Cons of Spiky Genitals

(The Atlantic | Katherine J. Wu | July 6, 2021 )

“The story of seed-beetle sex has often been told in a very particular way, with the male in the evolutionary driver’s seat, his hapless mate taken along for a grudging ride. A quick glance at the insect’s penis makes it easy to see why: The appendage is tipped with hundreds of sharp, hard spines that give it the appearance of an elaborate mace. This terrifying surfeit of spikes riddles the female’s reproductive tract with punctures and scrapes that can leave, as the biologist Göran Arnqvist puts it, some ‘quite massive scars.’”

The Near-Magical Mystery of Quasiparticles

(Quanta Magazine | Thomas Lewton | March 24, 2021)

“‘Quasiparticles are kind of particles. Barred entry from the exclusive club of 17 ‘fundamental’ particles that are thought to be the building blocks of all material reality, quasiparticles emerge out of the complicated interactions between huge numbers of those fundamental particles. Physicists can take a solid, liquid or plasma made of a vast number of particles, subject it to extreme temperatures and pressures, and describe the resulting system as a few robust, particle like entities. The emerging quasiparticles can be quite stable with well-defined properties like mass and charge.

How to Create a Human Being

(JSTOR Daily | Amelia Sloth | July 19, 2018)

“According to The Book of Stones, the diligent student of alchemical wisdom could learn to manufacture living things: scorpions, snakes, even a human being. The Book of Stones was many things: a scientific treatise, a discourse on mysticism, an enigmatic allegory that has yet to be fully deciphered. The putative author, Jabir ibn Hayyan (c. 721 – c. 815), is almost a legend.”