The Heinlein Hormone

You all remember Starship Troopers, right? That slim little YA contained a number of beer-worthy ideas, but the one that really stuck with me was the idea of earned citizenship— that the only people allowed to vote, or hold public office, were those who’d proven they could put society’s interests ahead of their own. Heinlein’s […]

Posted in: biology, neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 33 Comments

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