Tick…tick…tick…

A reader going by the handle Sylvain linked me to a cool paper a few days back; it’s something I would have killed to have had back when writing Blindsight. Are you ready for this? A tick that turns its victims into vegetarians. Look to Commins et al for the peer-reviewed details; the tl;dr version […]

Posted in: biology, blindsight, scilitics by Peter Watts 12 Comments

Giving Up on Life.

The ‘crawl’s been kinda quiet lately, mainly because I am (for the second time in as many years) on the last lap of this dumb novel. I am, in fact, committed to delivering the damn thing to  Tor before I leave for FinnCon — and I’m on track to do that, if I don’t let […]

Breathing Metal

Those of you familiar with Blindsight‘s Scramblers may remember this quirk about their physiology: they didn’t keep all their metabolism on the inside. “I don’t think Rorschach’s magnetic fields are counterintrusion mechanisms at all. I think they’re part of the life-support system. I think they mediate and regulate a good chunk of scrambler metabolism… If […]

Did I Call It? Did I Call It?

So Lever et al have found something in the rocks, deep below the Pacific seabed (Source paper; supplementary materials; Wired popsci commentary). It eats inorganics, notably sulfur— (βehemoth assimilates several inorganic nutrients 26-84% more efficiently than its closest terrestrial competitors. This is especially problematic when dealing with sulfur.) —it’s an anaerobe— (“βehemoth doesn’t just predate […]

Posted in: biology, deep sea, rifters by Peter Watts 30 Comments

Lateral Transfers

The whitecap’s skin glows with a golden tan of cultured xanthophylls.  Joel’s smile grows a little more brittle.  He’s heard all about the benefits, of course. UV protection, higher blood oxygen, more energy — they say it even cuts down on your food requirements, not that any of these people have to worry about grocery […]

Posted in: biology, biotech, evolution, fiblet by Peter Watts 20 Comments

Sealing Fate

I’ve got a soft spot for seals. Back in the day I built a fair bit of my truncated biology career on the little beach maggots; Pacific harbor seals formed the very heart of my doctoral thesis, in fact (Attila, Thalidomide, and Strangway: I salute you, wherever you ended up). They even netted me a […]

Posted in: biology, marine, scilitics by Peter Watts 21 Comments

Last Rites, Lost Rights

Take Roger Bradbury very seriously.  He’s no crank: coral reef specialist, heavy background in mathematical ecology, published repeatedly in Science. Chief and director of more scientific panels than you could roll a raccoon over.  So when he says the coral reef ecosystem is already effectively extinct — not the Florida Keys, not the Great Barrier […]

Fruit Flies, Forest Fires, and the Ecstasy of Being Wrong.

I’ve got this friend, known her since we were both grad students back in the eighties: well-regarded in her profession, well-published, even coauthored a few texts on evolutionary ecology. Keeps getting best-teacher awards for her work in the classroom. Occasionally she appears as the resident expert at the local Café Scientifique‘s Valentine’s Day edition, where […]

Posted in: biology, scilitics, sociobiology by Peter Watts 23 Comments

“PyrE. Make them tell you what it is.”

At the end of one of the classic novels of TwenCen SF, the protagonist — an illiterate third-class mechanic’s mate named Gulliver Foyle, bootstrapped by his passion for revenge into the most powerful man in the solar system — gets hold of a top-secret doomsday weapon. Think of it as a kind of antimatter which […]

Posted in: biology, biotech, scilitics by Peter Watts 42 Comments

Sex, Death, and the Appalachian Trail

I’ve always had a fondness for Toxoplasma, to the point of featuring it prominently in one of my novels. It’s a protozoan after my metaphorical heart and my literal brain (specifically the part that synthesizes dopamine), and many of yours as well; in past installments (scroll down to May 6 on the right-hand side) I’ve […]

Posted in: biology, neuro by Peter Watts 37 Comments