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Friday, November 12, 2010

Artificial Ovaries - Life Imitating Art?

In my novel, The Gender Divide, women live four times as long as men by shutting down menstruation. There are a number of ramifications of this but one of them is a dramatic decline in the birth rate, especially male birthrates. In order to compensate for this, I postulated an artificial embryogenesis machine that used artificial ova.

Now it appears that the first artificial ovary has been created.  The ova were created to

“…study how ovarian cells develop and interact… “

Now the method used isn’t exactly how I envisioned the process but then again, I had a different goal in mind when I ‘created’ artificial ova.

The hero of The Gender Divide, Ryan Peters, has been treated to have the same kind of extended life as women do but the formula for how to do this has been lost. Ryan poses as his own son in order to try and retrieve the formula and so one of the side effects of using artificial ova that I postulated was the lack of the nucleotides that determined hereditary characteristics. As a result, the men who use these artificial ova to have sons (they aren’t allowed to have daughters) that either closely resemble them or in some cases are even identical in appearance.

Of course this research is still in the early stages and relies on donated material as the starting point, something that wouldn’t be feasible in the world I envisioned. However it is exciting to see research in this area, particularly since

“…it could also be used clinically to bring immature eggs to term outside the bodies of women facing cancer treatments or other fertility-hindering treatments.”

posted by David at 1:32 pm  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rare Earth Minerals

The central storyline in my novella Venus Inferno is the search for a rare earth mineral called Tellurium.

The premise is that new thermoelectric materials and improvements in energy storage and transportation have eliminated the need for fossil fuels, only to replace it with a growing demand for rare earth minerals.

I took pride in the fact that all of the major technology and concepts in Venus Inferno are real.

Ion drives are real. They are slow compared to chemical rockets but they do exist.

Tellurium is real. It really is one of the nine rarest minerals on earth and it really does fall as snow on Venus.

Thermoelectric Materials are also real. And tellurium - in the form of bismuth telluride and lead telluride - really is a working element of thermoelectric devices.

And now it appears that the shift from the need for fossil fuels to rare earth minerals is also real.

I came across an article in the Globe & Mail in late September about the delay in Chinese shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan. Once thing that caught my eye was this notable quote:

“In 1992, Deng Xiaoping, the nominally retired but still paramount leader of China, said that rare earths would be to
China as oil is to the Middle East. Estimates of the proportion of the world supply currently coming from China -
especially from Inner Mongolia - range from 93 to 97 per cent. “

There area couple of reasons why rare earth minerals are rare but the main one hindering their extraction in North America is that the deposits are small and extracting the minerals can produce radioactive waste.

Now another article claims that Chinese exports of these rare earth minerals to the U.S. and Europe are being delayed.

“… the secret embargo has widened to include the U.S. and Europe.”

This has major economic implications at a time when we can least afford it.

“The seventeen rare earths – elements like neodymium, dysprosium, and cerium – are crucial for the manufacturing of just about everything a modern economy relies upon…”

U.S companies are starting to arrange their own supplies but this can only be a short term solution. After all, there is a reason they are called ‘rare’. So perhaps it’s time to start looking past the ‘rare’ part and start looking at the ‘earth’ part.

After all,  tellurium really does fall as snow on Venus.

posted by David at 12:30 pm  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life Imitates Art

In my novel The Gender Divide the protagonist Ryan Peters is hired as the VP of Security for a biotech firm. One of the first things that he does is centralize security by combining a number of disparate systems into one.  There are a number of high tech twists involved in the process, given that The Gender Divide is a science fiction novel, but the overarching goal is to make the process of security simpler for both employees and those responsible for it.

The premise behind The Gender Divide is that women live four times as long as men and resultantly women dominate the executive ranks. The raison d’être for centralization of security in the novel is to legitimize Ryan as a viable choice for the position of VP of Security, a position previously held by a woman.

However as an author this was driven by my real life experiences at the time. The company I worked for had a security system using mag cards but the cards were generic cards embossed with the logo of the security company. The head office, on the other hand, used personalized badges with the employees picture on it. As a result I needed two sets of security badges, one for office where I worked and one for the head office. Admittedly this wasn’t very onerous as I didn’t travel to the head office that frequently but it was irritating.

Consequently I was both amused and delighted to come across this article about security:

It’s the crowning achievement in a security evolution for Telus, which has spent the past five years developing its key cards. They eliminate a gaggle of distinct security systems, inherited in a series of acquisitions, that required Telus employees who visited multiple locations across Canada to carry a stack of access cards.

In the novel Ryan’s transformation only took a month but such is the beauty of writing fiction. Of course the environment that Ryan was working under was different as the company had just experienced a rather costly security breach. It is always much easier to make modifications in a time of crisis, when objections to changes to the status quo are notably absent. Also the change was only made at the head office and not at other locations.

One could argue that Ryan’s accomplishment in the novel was also his crowning achievement - at least in terms of his role as VP of Security - but the real crowning achievement was the change in culture at the company. This change enabled Ryan to position himself as a credible male in a female dominated world and like any change at the top it had a trickle down effect. It also cemented his role as a leader and his ability to rally the beleaguered and disillusioned security staff. As Olivia, one of the other main characters in the novel, says:

Ryan hadn’t just built up the security infrastructure in the last month—he had built himself a team, too.

As interesting as this is, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Exploring the premise of The Gender Divide is even more interesting. I just checked out Amazon.com and noticed a new 5 star reader review which sums it up nicely - Scary Wow!. There is an Excerpt of Chapter 1 available and for those of you interested in more here are places to buy.

posted by David at 2:18 pm  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Venus Inferno

Originally posted on Champagne Books Blog

Click cover for an Excerpt from Chapter One

Venus Inferno comes out very shortly and I’m very excited by it. It represents a couple of firsts for me and one second.

It is my very first - but probably not my last - novella. I rather enjoyed this shorter format, although at times it was difficult to restrain myself from dropping an element into the story that would come up later. There wasn’t going to be a later so if I wanted to say something, I had to say it now. I also didn’t get the chance to interweave very much social commentary into the story, which I missed more than the chance to expand on the storyline.

It is also the very first story I wrote in the first person, which was very usual. I’m used to the third person and being able to provide different vantage points to allow the reader insight into what is happening. It is also odd using the personal pronoun ‘I’ all the time. One can’t help but to identify with the main character. Admittedly this is an occupational hazard for writers but even more so in this case.

Venus Inferno represents my second published work with Champagne books. Hopefully there will be many more but having a second story accepted and published make it seem all the more real.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about Venus Inferno was that all of the main technology there is real.

Ion drives are real. They are slow compared to chemical rockets but they do exist.

Tellurium is real. It really is one of the nine rarest minerals on earth and it really does fall as snow on Venus.

Thermoelectric Materials are also real. And tellurium - in the form of bismuth telluride and lead telluride - really is a working element of thermoelectric devices.

Who knows? Maybe one day in the future they will be as commonplace as they are in Venus Inferno.

Let’s hope so.

posted by David at 11:59 pm  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gender Divide & Drugs

The Globe and Mail continues to provide me with interesting articles. The latest article (Drug makers ignoring key gender differences, immunologist warns) is about the role that gender plays in the drug development process. (more…)

posted by David at 10:49 pm  

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Concept for The Gender Divide

Gabriella Hewitt has graciously permitted me to do a guest posting on her blog so I’ve posted more info on the Concept for The Gender Divide.

You can find the full post here » http://www.gabriellahewitt.com/blog/?p=259

posted by David at 9:57 am  

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