Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Science That Isn't Science Fiction Anymore

On c| (you have to click to skip an annoying ad first) there was a great article today that seemed to be a perfect follow up on last night's post - although I'm sure c|net doesn't get it's ideas from reading my blog (their loss *wink*).

The article "Playing science's genetic lottery" is about how "...single-celled animals might be some of the most important figures in high technology. Driving this trend is a small but growing number of start-ups and researchers that are trying to tap the power of the metabolic pathway--the complex chemical reactions inside a living organism that turn food into energy, body parts and waste products."

Some of the examples are fascinating! For example "Researchers at Rice University and the University of Southern California have embarked on a project to harness the power of Shewanella oneidensis(note - this link is to a picture that took a while to load on DSL - if you're on dial-up don't click!), a microorganism that essentially spits lightning. Rather than consume oxygen to turn food into energy, Shewanella consumes metals. In five years, the researchers hope to have a fuel cell that can propel itself."

I have often mourned that my youthful science fiction daydreams, induced by Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov filled reading - colonies in space stations and on the Moon and Mars or the asteroids - have not (and probably will not in my lifetime) come true. It seems, however that things as, or more, amazing than living extraterrestrially could come true before I pass away. And with other research going on in cloning and stem cells and nanotech - who knows, maybe I will live long enough to see it after all.

Today at work I was in a bit of a rut trying to solve a problem and I remembered that a technique called Mind Mapping has been helpful in the past. So I went on a search for some software that had a trial download period so I could put out a couple maps without investing several hundred dollars (yeah, those programs aren't cheap) and I found a freeware version! You betcha I downloaded that! If you're interested it can be found at Freemind. Anyway, using the mind map was very helpful and I did break through my roadblock. Now I'm thinking - this could be vewwy vewwy good for writing, too. I may just have a go at it. I'm stymied on one story and out of steam on another - this could revitalize them both.

Oh, I also downloaded fellow AWer and blogger Fahim's PlotCraft software. I need to explore it, too. I love gizmos and gadgets. My poor VAIO is stuffed to the gills. I think I may need to get a new compy soon that can handle all the stuff I use without groaning.

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Fahim said...

Mindmap's really help with writing - at least as far as I'm concerned :) I originally wrote my novel using an app that I coded myself. This utility, called Amanuensis, let me structure my scenes/chapters as branches in a tree list and so I could move branches around and so shift scenes/chapters around. Amanuensis also had a separate section where I could keep various notes about the current story in a tree list. Yes, that has nothing to do with mind maps but I'm getting to it :p I liked Amanuensis but the tree list became limiting and so I moved on to a mind mapping tool, Mindjet's Mind Manager and I must say, I like it a lot. Currently, I have three (or is it four?) different Mind Maps for novels that I plan to write. The characters, the world, the scenes, basically everything about the story is mind mapped. The great thing is that Mind Manager allows me to link to other maps and so I have cross referencing all over the place. Makes it fairly easy to have all the known details and history about a specific character in one place and then to link to it from all over :)

Dawno said...

I looked at Mind Manager and am still considering investing in a commercial grade app. but I want to make sure I would use it enough to justify the cost. The FreeMind is pretty versitile and friendly - so far.

Fahim said...

Freemind actually looks pretty nifty :) I believe there are a couple of other free alternatives out there that might do as well. I looked at a whole bunch of them originally when I was evaluating mind mapping software and finally settled on Mind Manager mostly because of its integration with Office and because we used it with another tool at work :)