Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for . . .

Image source: Wikipedia

I Zwicky 18. Sounds like a robot from Star Wars, doesn't it? Close. It's a galaxy that found itself in list25's Most Bizarre Galaxies In The Universe because: a large amount of ionized helium is present, making scientists wonder what is emitting radiation strong enough to kick electrons off their helium atoms.

I think it's pretty.

And that's a wrap, folks! Twenty-six days of weird science! Huzzah! Over and out. Stick a fork in me. You can go get "Zwicky" with it, but I need a nap.

Tenchijin Fireworks at Nagaoka Festival 2011 2

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for . . .

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Yonaguni Monument. Say what? It's a submerged rock formation off the Ryukyu islands in Japan.

This sandstone and mudstone structure is around 490 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 90 feet tall. It starts about 16 feet below the surface so it can be easily visited by divers, but the currents in the area are strong. The regular shapes, including flat edges and 90 degree angles, make it look manmade, but there are no records of anything like this being built in the area. Scientist Maasaki Kimura theorizes the thousand-plus-year-old structure could be the lost continent of Mu.

Want a closer look at the monument or to see the cute ponies that inhabit the island? Check out this five-minute YouTube video.

Ever heard of the Yonaguni Monument? Ever been snorkeling or scuba diving?

I'm doing another Japanese Y word over at the Parallels blog today: Yūrei, or Japanese ghosts.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for . . .

Image Source: Creative Common

X-Files! Today I'm doing a joint post with myself on the Parallels blog. Hey, parallel blogs! Isn't that neat? On that blog, I'm featuring background information on the popular show, so here I will stick with my science theme.

The show has a science advisor: Anne Simon, a professor at the University of Maryland's Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. How did she get this fabulous job? Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files is a family friend. Here are some juicy tidbits from the article WTOP: U.Md. Professor Provides the Science Behind 'The X-Files' by Jamie Forzato.

Simon started with the first season's finale. The show needed an alien micro-organism for Scully to examine under her microscope. Simon chose something spiky with lots of craters: pollen. Next she had to come up with a way for Scully to discover that it was alien. Cells from Earth have DNA made from four nucleotides: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). To make the DNA alien, she had Scully find two additional nucleotides.

But being a science advisor is not always simple. On one hand, Simon wants to inject a healthy dose of realism. On the other, the shows are short. When Scully ran a Southern Blot to detect if her blood had been infected by alien DNA, the character did the 3-day test in 3 hours. Even though the steps were accurate, lecture attendees were forever asking Simon how Scully could possibly do that so fast.

If you'd like to read more, Simon published The Real Science Behind the X-Files:

Image Source: Amazon

Are you an X-Files fan? Have you ever wished to follow a career path based on something you saw on TV or the movies?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for . . .

Image Source: Lee Davy

What if?

What if there were more than one universe out there? It's not a silly question.

About 300,000 years after the Big Bang, atoms formed and light began to move, an event known as recombination. This lead to the cosmic microwave background (CMB) or a glow across the sky.

By studying this glow, cosmologist Ranga-Ram Chary (California Institute of Technology) thinks he may have found a "bruise" where a parallel universe bumped into ours.

Image Source: Jose Maria Cuellar

Picture universes as a bubbles. If two bump, one can deposit some of its matter into the other, leaving a mark. In this case, the mark is a signal 4500 times brighter than it should be based on the amount of matter one would expect to find in this region of the CMB. According to Chary, this signal is more consistent with a Universe whose ratio of matter particles to photons is about 65 times greater than our own.

But don't expect to meet another universe's version of humanity just yet. Even Chary is quick to admit there could be other explanations. The brighter light could be from a distant galaxy or from clouds of dust surrounding our galaxy.

(Information adapted from Universe Today, Cosmologist Thinks a Strange Signal May Be Evidence Of A Parallel Universe by Vanessa Janek, Nov. 16, 2015)

Image Source: sea turtle

In her short story, Haunted, Melanie Schulz examines a pair of universes in which the difference is the existence of one person. Talk about a page-turner! This one will have you racing to discover the secret behind the parallel universes. Check it out in Parallels, Felix Was Here available May 3 on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for . . .

Image Source: NIAID

Vaccine controversy. In Hart Johnson's short story, The Seventeen, she paints a horrifying picture of a society where there are no controls and no ethics in using human subjects for medical experiments. The consequence of the PharMagna's malpractice is one of the most delicious ironies I've ever read. You can experience it yourself on May 3 with the release of Parallels: Felix Was Here.

My own stance with vaccines is complicated. Growing up, I got the recommended vaccines. I take my children for their recommended vaccines. I thought people who didn't vaccinate were a little strange. 

Then in 2012, I started researching Gardasil after it came up as a possible solution to the mystery of The Leroy Twelve. The more I learned, the worse I felt about allowing my daughters to have this vaccine. The body can heal itself from the majority of HPV infections. The chances of dying from cervical cancer are pretty small, especially with routine PAP smears. This type of cancer is more typical in older women. In other words, HPV is a different thing than meningitis, which affects school-age children and can kill a person in a day. 

So unlike every other vaccine, I chose not to get my 11-year-old vaccinated with Gardasil. This is something I never would have done had I not spent hours reading about the vaccine and the stories of young women whose lives fell apart (or ended) after taking the vaccine. (See The Truth About Gardasil: Injuries if curious, or this documentary from Denmark.)

Maybe I shouldn't let the horror stories of a few (hundred? thousand? no one knows for sure) influence me, but there's a bit more to the story. 

Vaccines are designed to provoke a response from the immune system. To boost this response, they contain what is called an adjuvant. Critics of Gardasil and other vaccines are worried that substances such as aluminum in the vaccine's adjuvant are dangerous. The concern is that the vaccine and/or the adjuvant can trigger not just a reaction, but an over-reaction in the immune system with dire consequences.

Image Source: Honorem Veritas

Cases of motor neuron and autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, lupus, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis among other horrible things have occurred in vaccinated patients. (But how to link them definitively to the vaccine or adjuvant? Might the disease have developed anyway over the course of time or with another trigger? Excellent questions!)

Here's another. What does the nurse ask before a vaccination: Have you or anyone in your family ever had a serious reaction to a vaccine before?

I'm not sure how to answer. You see, when my youngest daughter was 20 months old, we discovered she had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. There is no family history, but it surfaced at the age where she right in the thick of her vaccination schedule. So how should I answer? Yes? Or no?

Do you feel vaccinations are safe? Ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine? 

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for . . .

Image Source: Maartin Danial

Uluru rock. What is it? A humongous sandstone monolith smack dab in the middle of the Australian outback. It's around 600 million years old, higher than the Eiffel Tower at over 1,100 feet tall, 2.2 miles long, 1.2 miles wide, and has a circumference of 5.8 miles.

Why is it here? It's made of a harder rock than it's surroundings, so it got left behind after erosion did its thing. Like an iceberg, a large portion of this rock isn't even visible--it's underground. The orange-red color is due to the surface oxidation of iron. Without the iron, it would appear grey.

Image Source: Eddy

The Uluru rock is a holy place for the Anangu tribe of Aboriginal people who've lived there for over 10,000 years.

This site is a major tourist destination, but because it is a sacred site, climbing is discouraged (but not forbidden unless the winds are high), and visitors are asked not to take home pieces of the rock as souvenirs. But they do. Every day the park service receives at least one back with notes of apology. Apparently the rocks are cursed. Some of the returns come with notes of accidents, divorce, and other instances of bad luck. The largest rock sent back so far weighed 32 kg (70 pounds). Wonder what the postage was on that sucker?

Would you dare bring home a pebble or twig from this place?

(Information adapted from Science Kids: Uluru Facts for Kids and The Telegraph: Tourists Return Stones to "Cursed" Ayer's Rock)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for . . .

Image Source: Psychometry by Various Brennemans

Touch. In particular, psychometry or the psychic ability in which a person can sense or "read" the history of an object by touching it. (Source)

While psychometry is considered a pseudo-science, people who claim to have this ability have aided in police investigations. According to this web article by Stephen Wagner, What You Need To Know About . . . PsychometryGerard Croiset gained a reputation as a psychic detective in the 1930s and 40s. Here's one story:

He was even asked to help in the search for a missing four-year-old girl from Brooklyn, New York. Without leaving Holland, Croiset was given a photo of the girl, a map of New York City and a piece of her clothing. He correctly described that she was dead, the location of her body and the man who murdered her. His information led police to the girl's body and to the murderer, who was convicted of the crime.

Cool! The short story, Ground Zero, by Michael Abayomi features a character who can see the past of the dead or living with just a touch. This story will be released on May 3 as part of the anthology Parallels: Felix Was Here.

It also reminds me of one of my favorite Stephen King books, The Dead Zone, in which Johnny Smith awakens from a coma with a life-saving twist of psychometry. I also loved the movie, but did not watch the TV show. How about you?

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for . . .

Image source: Pieter Von Marion


Do you suffer from arachnophobia? Then you may be female, as 50% of women claim this fear, while only 16% of men will admit to it.

Spiders make me nervous if the creepy-crawly in question is big enough and surprises me. But I also know they eat other insects, so I don't like to squish them dead. I will catch them and put them out of the house instead. (Hey, I'm a poet and didn't know it.) Yet this altruistic bit on my part is not so helpful. Most spiders you find inside are adapted to living there. (Source)

Here's a few other tidbits you might not know about spiders:

1. There are 40,000 different types of known spiders. So how many are left to be discovered? Same number.

2. Tensile strength is the greatest stress a material can take before breaking. A spider's silk has a tensile strength greater than bone and half the strength of steel.

3. The bite of the Brazilian Wandering Spider can cause long and painful erections in guys. (Insert your own joke here.)

4. The Goliath Birdeater can weigh up to 6 ounces.

(Material adapted from Live Sciences's 10 Things You Didn't Know About Spiders

Image Source: Aiden

Have you seen any spider movies? I remember seeing Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo and Arachnophobia when I was a kid. Or is Charlotte's Web more to your liking?

And as an extra bonus, blogger and author Chrys Fey is releasing her first novel, Seismic Crimes!

An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane—Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer's location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?



Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for . . .

Image Source: Andy Wagstaffe

Rabies. According to Wikipedia, rabies is a deadly viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain. It's old, like 2000 B.C. old.

Fever and tingling at the site of exposure (where the animal bit you) are early symptoms. Later comes violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, inability to move parts of the body, confusion, and loss of consciousness (kind of like binge-drinking, maybe?) The time from exposure to symptoms can vary from days to months. In the U.S., bats are more likely to infect a person with rabies than a dog.

Image source: Andrew Codrington

The fear of water, or hydrophobia, seems especially weird to me. But get this. Rabies causes saliva production to go into overdrive while at the same time, causing excruciatingly pain in the muscles of the throat and larynx if the sick animal tries to drink. Since the sick animal can't wash away the virus by drinking, the virus builds up in the saliva. Now the virus has an even better chance of being spread when the sick animal bites someone. Talk about diabolical!

Speaking of diabolical, remember Cujo? That's the title of a movie based on a book by Stephen King where a mother and her son are trapped in their hot, tiny car by a rabid St. Bernard. Now imagine being attacked by a rabid human, and not only that, the virus has turned their saliva a hideous indigo color. Now you've got the premise for Sandra Coxes' Rainers, a terrifying short story in the anthology Parallels: Felix Was Here.

Unlike Sandra's world, there is treatment for rabies. Remember the old 27 shots in the stomach routine? That's being phased out by less shots into the arm. There's also a new treatment, the Milwaukee Protocol, in which the patient is put into a coma to save the brain from damage and give the body's immune system time to fight the virus.

Have you read Cujo or seen the movie? Are you now more afraid of bats than barking dogs?

Sandra is doing an amazing catalogue of cats for the A to Z challenge and her book, Makita, available for 99 cents on Amazon this week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for . . .

The Quinhai Province of China. Why this? Because of the Baigong Pipes, of course! Never heard of them? Well, neither had I.

Mt. Baigong is weird for a couple of reasons. First, it's more a hill than an actual mountain. There are three caves near the base with triangle shaped openings. Inside the caves are pipe-like structures where there couldn't possibly be any man-made pipes.

These tubes range in size from a needle to 16 inches in diameter. Some of them stretch from deep inside the mountain to a salt water lake 260 feet away. This is not a populated area. These pipes are not human in origin.

So where did they come from? Alien plumbers? Probably not. The composition of these so-called pipes turns out to be 92% common mineral and metals and 8% unknown, but don't grab your aluminum foil hat yet.

Scientists think these "pipes" are fossils of tree roots. These roots underwent both pedogenesis (turning plant matter into soil) and diagenesis (turning soil into rock). So it's not a mammoth alien organ, which would have been cool.

(Information adapted from Atlas Obscura Baigong Pipes and Ancient Wisdom Baigong Pipes.)

Ever heard of these pipes before? Ever been to China? Did you have to cheat a bit on your Q word?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for . . .

Image source: Bjorn


Search for this word on Google and you won't get a definition. Search for images under paberist voltimine, and you'll find some beautiful art made of paper. Think origami on steroids. So where does this word even come from? From the upcoming anthology, Parallels: Felix Was Here!

In Cherie Reich's short story, Folds in Life or Death, a paperist can create intricate animals out of paper and animate them. Paper frogs hop, birds fly, and lanterns float away, ferrying the spirits to the next world. (These paperists possess certain psychic abilities and these abilities are genetic.)

In traditional origami, one sheet of paper is folded into the desired shape. These days, there are modular origami creations made of several sheets folded into units that are put together without glue or tape to form a 3-D sculpture. Here is one made by Sophie Ekard:

Wow, that is unbelievable. What does origami have to do with science? According to Wikipedia, the folding techniques have been used in developing ways to deploy airbags in cars and stents (metal or plastic tube that keeps duct or vessel open) in humans. An origami plane may be launched from space someday.

This is one origami project I used to know how to make:

Image source: Cootie catcher coin-coin heaven or hell fortune teller made, photographed and enhanced picture by me, myself and I 2006/10/20 Paul Blais

Did you make and play with these things in school? My kids did. Ever try your hand at origami?

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for . . .

Image source: dazbaz

Ocular escapades.

Would you like to see better in the dark? Maybe join your cats on some nightly excursions? From InfoWorld's article Weird Science: 10 Strange Tech Stories from 2015, they describe an experiment where a test subject achieved night vision after his eyeballs were injected with a solution of Chlorin e6, saline, insulin and dimethlysulfoxide (DMSO).

Chlorin e6 has been used for cancer treatment and treating night blindness. In this experiment, the night vision only lasted a few hours and the test subject did not have any adverse side effects, but it sure made him look creepy! You can read more about the experiment at Science for the Masses.

Image Source: Science for the Masses via InfoWorld. Test subject Gabriel Licina experiences temporary night vision.

Would you be willing to be a test subject in such an experiment? Have you heard of biohackers (people who conduct experiments on their own usually outside commercial or university associated labs)?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for . . .

Image source: Super Star


Is it:

(a) a star showing a sudden large increase in brightness and then slowly returning to its original state over a few months

(b) An award-winning PBS show on science

(c) Latin word, feminine of "novus", meaning new

(d) all of the above

If you picked (d), you are correct! Now celebrate by rockin' out to Liz Phair's Supernova (which is star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass. Ouch!)

What? You were hoping for Oasis's Champagne Supernova instead? Dude! Say it ain't so!

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for . . .

Alice through the looking glass 
Image Source: John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Who could forget this famous question from Snow White? (Well, actually it's "Magic mirror on the wall...", but never mind.) Then there's Through the Looking Glass, which has another adaption coming soon to a theatre near you.

Mirrors can heal. When someone looses a limb, they might experience great pain from the missing part. Mirrors can be used to give the illusion that the missing limb is there, and the patient will feel relief.

Mirrors can distort reality. If you stare at yourself in a mirror in a room without a lot of light for several moments, you will hallucinate distortions. (Just don't say, "Bloody Mary" three times. I mean it.)

 by ForestOwlEnt

Do mirrors show you your true self? Hardly. Hold up a book or other writing to a mirror. It's reversed. (Who could forget what REDRUM spells backwards in Stephen King's The Shining?) So technically, you don't see yourself in a mirror the way people see you. Want to know what you really look like to the world? Position two mirrors at 90 degree angles, and look at your reflection from the join. Heck, you could buy this True Mirror from Amazon, if you have 200 bucks to spare.

True Mirror sold on Amazon

Mysterious things are mirrors and reflections. In The Mirror PeopleCrystal Collier creates an alternate universe in which your mirror image may be up to no good at all. You can enjoy this creepy tale in the anthology Parallels:Felix Was Here to be released on May 3. 

(Information on mirrors adapted from 10 Crazy Facts About Mirrors.)

Do you find mirrors frightening? Or just the image they reflect back?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for . . .

Image source: John Fowler

Lightning. KA-POW!

About two weeks ago, I was standing in line with my family for The Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disney's Magic Kingdom when a storm hit. We had a good roof over our heads, but the sides were open to the elements. As we shuffled through the maze of chains, the rain pounded down with a vengeance. For the first time that day, we were happy to be stuck in a slow-moving line.

Then lightning struck super close, sounding like a pirate had fired a cannon over our heads. Everyone screamed, and one guy shouted, "WHOOO-WEE!! I bet that woke you up!" We all laughed and it was okay, but man, I felt that one in my bones.

Here's some cool stuff about lightening (taken from Reader's Digest - 6 Weird Facts About Lightning and Wikipedia):

1. Someone struck by lightening may get a red rash on their skin in a branching pattern called a Lichtenberg figure. (Click here for photo of man's arm with this pattern.)

Image source: Timo Newton-Syms

2. If lightening hits a tree, it can explode. Why? One theory is that the massive amount of electrical charge vaporizes the sap and the steam causes the explosion.

3. When lightening hits the ground, the minerals can fuse together to form a fulgurite or petrified lightning. There are how-to videos and articles for making your own with a lightning rod and bucket of sand. Here's an example of an "artificial" fulgurite:

Image source: yoyoj3d1

4. A record-setting area for the most strikes per year is located in Venezuela at the intersection of the Catatumbo River and Lake Maracaibo. Here, the warm trade winds from the Caribbean Sea mix with cool air descending from the Andes causing lightning to flash more than 300 nights a year.

Do you like a good thunder storm? Ever worried about being struck by lightning?

(I am also posting over at the Parallels blog today. You can experience an online chat with Lily Reynolds, the main character of my short story, Scrying the Plane. This story, along with nine other mind-blowing tales of alternate universes, will be released May 3 in Parallels, Felix Was Here.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for . . .

Source: Scottish Bridge by Judit Bermudez Morte

Königsberg Bridge. The town of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) is in Russia. Königsberg had seven bridges joining the two sides of the river and also an island and a peninsula. (Source: Gates, Les Bill. "Activity: The Seven Bridges of Königsberg" Math Is Fun. Ed. Rod Pierce. 24 Jan 2014. 12 Apr 2016 This is also the source for the following three images.)

Mathematician Leonhard Euler was asked if it was possible to walk through Königsberg, visit each part, and cross each bridge only once. (You can visit city "parts" more than once.)

In order to made the problem easier, we use Graph Theory. First we simplify the picture, labeling each part of town with a capital letter (A, B, C, and D) and each bridge with a lower case letter (p, q, r, s, t, u, v):

Otay! Now grab a stylus and get walking. Let's try the path A-p-C-r-B-s-C-q-A-u-D-v-B oh crap, we would have to cross bridge r or s or v to get to bridge t. Try a few more routes and you'll get the feeling such a walk is not possible. That is correct. Why not?

Let's change the picture a bit more, representing each part of the city with a dot (called a vertex in graph theory) and each bridge with a line (called an edge in graph theory). The resulting picture is called a graph. A path that passes through each edge (bridge) exactly once is an Euler path.

It looks like a pair of dropped ice-cream cones, doesn't it? This problem would be much easier if the bridges labeled q, s, and t disappeared. Then we could merrily go in a simple circle A-p-C-r-B-v-D-u- and be back at A. Done and done. Or add another bridge, say bridge w between B and C. Then our first attempt could be completed as: A-p-C-r-B-s-C-q-A-u-D-v-B-w-C-t.

Now let me throw another graph theory definition at you: the degree of a vertex (dot) is the number of edges next to that vertex. Since A is next to bridges p, q, and u, its degree is 3 or d(A)=3. Similarly, d(B)=3, d(C)=5, and d(D)=3. 

If we took away bridges p, q, and t, the degrees would be d(A)=2, d(B)=2, d(C)=4, and d(D)=2.

So does the Euler path only exist if the degrees are all even? Not quite.

If we added our bridge w between B and C, the degrees would be d(A)=3, d(B)=4, d(C)=6, and d(D)=3, and our Euler path (A-p-C-r-B-s-C-q-A-u-D-v-B-w-C-t) does exist.

So what's up? The solution is this: A graph has an Euler path if there are no vertices with an odd degree or two vertices with an odd degree.

Ta-DAH! Extra gold star if you followed this blog to the end. Are you a math hater, tolerator, or lover? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for . . .

Olindias formosa1
Image:Flower hat jelly by I, KENPEI [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Jellyfish. I am not a fan. Every year my family vacations on Kiawah Island, which is off the coast of S.C. about thirty miles south of Charleston. The beach is lovely, but usually peppered with the carcasses of these slimy scourges. My children love playing in the waves and I do join them, reluctantly. When I was in my twenties, I brushed against a jellyfish in those waters, and the pain is something I have not forgotten.

Here are some interesting things about these cringe-worthy critters from Wikipedia:

1. They've been lurking in our seas for somewhere between 500 to 700 million years, making them the oldest multi-organ animal.

2. A group of jellyfish can be called a bloom, swarm, or smack.

Image: Lion's Mane Jelly by Dan Hershman ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

3. They range in size from 1 mm to 2 m (6.6 ft). The longest jellyfish, the lion's mane jellyfish, have thread-like tentacles that can be 37 m or 120 ft long. (See image above.) The giant Nomura's jellyfish can weigh up to 200 kg (440 lbs)!

4. They have one opening for both eating and expelling waste. (shudder)

5. Jellyfish populations are growing because of overfishing which decreases the number of their predators. They also eat plankton that contains fish eggs and larvae, reproduce rapidly, and grow fast.

Image: Rehydrated jellyfish strips prepared with soy sauce and sesame oil by Roland from (optional) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Some countries like China, Japan, and Korea consider jellyfish a delicacy. A company in Israel, Cine'al, is using them to produce highly absorbent material for diapers, tampons, and paper towels.

7. The effect of a jellyfish sting on a person can range from tingling to intense pain to death. To avoid dying from a sea wasp sting in Australia, wear pantyhose. This jellyfishes' tentacles are activated by chemicals on human skin. Pantyhose blocks their detection of these chemicals.

8. What do you do if you're stung at the beach? Wash with fresh, cold water or ice it down? WRONG! This can actually cause any nematocysts (stinging cells) in your skin to release more venom. Similarly, you shouldn't reach for rubbing alcohol, or have someone pee on you (old wive's tale).

Vinegar is a better bet. Meat tenderizer might work, but you shouldn't leave it on your skin for more than 10 minutes and should not use this remedy for babies, young kids, or anyone with sensitive skin. Also take an antihistamine.

Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish? Would you consider eating one?

Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for . . .

Image source: zeevveez

Internet. But not just any internet, virtual reality internet. The future is closer than you think. The Verge reported in February that Facebook is spending big bucks to launch the Telephon Infra Project (TIP) in order to invite companies to join with them to focus on delivering high-res video and virtual reality, including the development of 5G networks. (Source)

Why is this important? Well, Forbes also released an article in February discussing the amount of bandwidth (5.2 Gbps) needed for humans to experience virtual reality comparable to what we experience in the "real world" in terms of sight, sound, and eventually, touch, smell, and temperature. (Source) We don't want to just look at the pretty kitty above, we want to hear it purr, rub our faces into its soft, warm fur, and then scream when it scratches us with its virtual claws.

What does 5.2 Gbps mean? Broadband speeds are measured in megabits per second. A bit is one piece of data and a megabit is a million pieces or bits of data. The higher your broad band speed, the faster you can download stuff or stream videos or whatever it is you want to do.  (Source: Superfast Dorset.)

Want to know how fast your connection is right now? Go to by Ookla. My download speed was a measly 3.15 Mbps and upload speed was 0.5 Mbps. 

What is the difference between 3.15 Mbps and 5.2 Gbps? Take a look at the numbers: A megabit is 1 million bits or 1,000,000 and a gigabit is 1,000 million bits or 1,000,000,000 bits. So we are comparing 3,150,000 to 5,200,000,000. Big difference. No virtual reality for me!

But I can still watch this Youtube video from JanusVR on another virtual reality product (which you can download). It's a 3D browser which isn't exactly virtual reality, but it's still pretty cool. I love how they use portals for links.

And now for the promotional part of today's blog: My short story, Scrying the Plane, features a virtual reality version of the internet where users can ride the Minecraft roller coasters they've created, see flocks of Twitterbirds darken the sky, and choose whatever "skin" suits their mood. It's fun, but forbidden to anyone under 21. So, of course teenagers find ways to sneak in, and my story features the adventures of one such rebellious teen, named Lily Reynolds and what happens to her on the VRP (virtual reality plane). Scrying the Plane will be released on May 3 as part of the ISWG anthology Parallels, Felix Was Here, and you can find out more on the book's blog, Parallels.

What app or program would you like to experience in virtual reality?