Friday, October 29, 2010

Layers in Fiction

I watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown last night with my family. My son really enjoyed the part where Snoopy flew his doghouse. After the World War I flying ace was shot down, he had to sneak across enemy lines. That part was definitely not something most kids would understand; it was written for adults.

Stories with different parts to appeal to different audiences have a long tradition. In many of Shakespeare's plays, there are the "high" characters who are part of the main plot, and then there are "low" characters like clowns and peasants who, while working for the main characters, also serve as comic relief. I find when I read epic stories told from multiple points of view, I prefer some characters and sections over others.

Do you consciously attempt to weave different layers for different audiences in your fiction? If so, what types of audiences do you target, and how do you do it?

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone! Monday is the start of NaNoWriMo. I'll have a blog post up for the Blog Chain, but I'll be posting less frequently here during November so I can concentrate on my NaNoWriMo project.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: How to Avoid the Grandfather Paradox

Science fiction has played with the grandfather paradox for decades. (If you're not familiar with the grandfather paradox, it's an argument put forth to demonstrate that time travel must be impossible, otherwise a person could travel back in time and kill off an ancestor before he/she reproduces, thereby causing the traveler not to exist--but then the traveler couldn't have prevented his/her own birth.) However, science has already come up with several answers to this paradox, including one listed in this article.

According to this article, time travel can occur along Closed Timelike Curves (CTC), a path in spacetime that returns to its starting point. The time travel happens by quantum teleportation (two particles that are entangled, or very closely linked, can affect each other instantaneously, even if they are separated. This means they seem to communicate faster than the speed of light, though no actual information is transmitted.) Before the quantum teleportation happens, post-selection is applied. This means only some types of quantum teleportation are allowed--the ones that are self-consistent. The whole idea seems like the Novikov self-consistency principle to me (basically, it's the idea that events leading to a time travel paradox aren't allowed.) However, it's interesting to see an actual physics paper supporting this idea. Unfortunately, quantum teleportation only works on the quantum level, not on the macro level where we exist. I suppose it's up to us science fiction writers to find ways to make time travel for humans plausible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Makes Loglines So Hard?

I was lucky enough to have my logline for Across Two Universes included in today's critique session at Miss Snark's First Victim. (Mine's #11, if you'd like to see it.) Earlier today, I happened to read Agent Kristin's comments about what makes a pitch fail. (There are two parts: here and here.) One of the common problems she sees in pitches is problems with the writing.

It occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons it's so hard to write loglines and pitches has to do with sentence structure. Since you have to cram so much information -- characters, settings, conflicts, goals, and stakes--into just a couple of sentences, there's a tendency to write long, complex sentences. However, this is a different style from what we typically use in our stories.

Would anyone find it useful to review the types of sentences? (e.g., simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.) I can do a blog post about them if there's interest.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten Things about WisCon

Some of you may have heard about Elizabeth Moon's blog post about citizenship and her comments on the Islamic community center near Ground Zero. Before she posted that essay, she'd been invited to be one of the Guests of Honor at WisCon next year. Last week, after much controversy, her invitation was rescinded. (Technically, as Feminist SF--The Blog! points, out, she could still attend WisCon if she wishes.) Even this action hasn't stilled the controversy. I think at this point, as a long-time attendee of WisCon, I'd like to mention some of the things that I think make this convention great and still worth attending. They're listed in no particular order.

1. It's set in Madison, which is my favorite city and was ranked as one of the most livable cities in the U.S.
2. It's held in late May, which is a great time to visit Madison. The weather is usually (though not always good), the students are gone, and the Farmer's Market on Capitol Square is going on Saturday morning.
3. It's the home of BroadUniverse.
4. Dessert Salon!
5. Childcare is available for a nominal fee ($1).
6. Programming is open to unpublished writers.
7. They hold a writer's workshop before the official start of the con.
8.The Gathering.
9. High number of writers, editors, and agents among the guests.
10. It's still the world's leading feminist science fiction convention--and still the place to discuss gender, race, class, and other factors affecting diversity and tolerance in today's world.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oma Elisabeth

I didn't post yesterday because I got some bad news Wednesday night. My maternal grandmother (and last surviving grandparent) passed away at the age of 95. She would have been 96 on November 3rd.

My Oma (grandmother) was born in Europe in 1914 and came to the U.S. in the 1950s. She wasn't fluent in English, and I'm not fluent in German. That made it hard to communicate at times. But she loved cats and flowers, and we used to play a German game whenever I visited her. She lived independently until just a few years ago, when her failing health forced her to move in with my parents. Even then, she still sat outside as much as possible and helped take care of the garden. She developed cancer about twelve years ago, and she also had diabetes and circulation problems. We found out earlier this month that the cancer had spread, undetected, into her spine. The doctors originally thought she might still have a few more months, and my parents made plans to care for her at home. Unfortunately, her condition worsened more quickly than we would have liked. We drove up to see her on Sunday; she smiled when Alex waved at her and seemed to follow what was going on, but she wasn't able to say much, if anything.

I was planning on posting a picture of her, but I'm having some server issues with Blogger.

Oma was lucky enough to see not just her grandchildren, but great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren. If you're lucky enough to still have your grandparents, be sure to talk to them and treasure the experiences they can share with you.

I'll return to my normal blogging topics on Monday. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: DNA as Crime Deterrent

I came across this article in the NT Times earlier today and found it strange enough to blog about. Some businesses in Europe have found a novel way to use DNA for fighting crime. Instead of taking DNA samples from robbers, the businesses set up devices that spray synthetic DNA onto the robber while also alerting the police. Although in theory the DNA can be made unique for each business (so it could serve as a marker), the idea is to scare robbers away from committing burglaries in the first place (since the DNA could be seen under a special light and so identify them). So far police say it's working, although they don't have hard evidence to support their anecdotes. A DNA "crayon" can also be used to mark goods to identify them in case they're ever stolen.

One of the interesting points made in this article is that this spray may be effective because of the "mystique" surrounding DNA. I wonder if the overall scientific literacy of a society would affect the effectiveness of this spray. Would it matter if another chemical was used instead, like the security devices on expensive clothing that explode and leave stains if they're not removed properly? On the other hand, if there was a society where a few people had the technical knowledge to handle DNA but most of the population knew very little about it, would that increase DNA's mystique? I think in that case, you'd be venturing into the realm of Clark's third law. I suppose it's easier to spray DNA onto someone than a RFID tag--though perhaps in a society where people have electronic implants or always, always carry cell phones, it'll be easy enough to track people without the extra DNA tag.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ten Word Tuesday: Persistence

Sometimes it's better to plod along than wait for inspiration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Discussion: Name Brands as Description

Yesterday, as I was reading Jane Lindskold's Thirteen Orphans, I came across a section where one of the POV characters, an elderly lady, was described as wearing a Chanel suit. I came across a similar description in Louise Marley's Mozart's Blood. Other urban fantasies often drop brand names when describing the protagonist's clothing; most often, these are high-end brands.

As a reader, I don't get much out of these descriptions. Sure, the Chanel label carries a certain cachet, evoking not just wealth, but a classic sense of style. But I'm not familiar enough with fashion to look at someone in real life and say, "Oh, she's wearing a Chanel suit." I'd notice color and styling, perhaps maybe even figure out the material, but unless the label is plastered all over the suit, I'd be clueless. Maybe there are readers out there who can do this; I could be the odd woman to lack this ability, since I don't dress up for work and don't read fashion magazines. Even so, I'd personally get a better visualization out of "a pink silk suit" or "a black suit with big gold buttons" than a brand name.

I'm interested in hearing other's thoughts on this. How do you feel about using name brands as descriptions of clothes? Do you find it helpful or not when you find them in books you read? If you were reading an e-book (I know not everyone likes them, but please bear with me for a moment) and came across a brand name that linked to an ad for that piece of clothing, would you find it annoying? If you were the author of that book, would you drop name brands as another source of revenue?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First 250 Words Blogfest

A couple of weeks ago, Elle Strauss hosted a First 250 Words Contest. I was fortunate enough to be one of the finalists. Today, she's hosting a Blogfest so everyone can share their openings. Here's my entry, the opening of Across Two Universes:


            After standing so long under the hot stage lights, Paul would have crossed the wormhole without a spacesuit for a drink of water. The greenroom was down the hall, but crew members dashing around and setting up for the next scene made the backstage area an obstacle course. As he reached the hallway, a costume programmer yanked him off to the side.
            “You’re Paul Harrison, right?” she asked. “Your sister’s at the back door. She says there’s a family emergency.”
            He removed his sweaty face mesh. “Just her? What’s wrong?”
            “She was too upset to say.”
            Dad and his sister had been shopping for supplies to be sent up to the spaceship; why wasn’t he here too? Frowning, Paul sprinted down the corridor of narrow dressing rooms to the back. Cass peered through the security window. Mascara was streaked across her face, and auburn hair tumbled around her head. After he let her in, she clung to him so tightly her jacket became entangled in his holoprojectors.
            “What’s up, Sis?” He strained his ears to follow the onstage dialogue. “I have to go back before my next scene.”
            She looked up at him, her blue eyes glistening. “Mom’s in the hospital.”
             Shit. A spasm of itching crept over Paul’s arms. “She was fine at lunch. What happened?”
             “I don’t know!” Cass released him. “Dad got a call from one of the ushers saying Mom threw up and passed out.”
            “I’m right here. How come no one told me?” 
I hope you enjoyed that! To visit the other blogs participating in this contest, please check here

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cancer in the Ancient World

I just came across this article on CNN about how cancer was treated in the ancient world. Cancer was much less common back then than it is now. This may be due to a couple of reasons; there were fewer toxins such as pollution, but people didn't live as long as we do now. (Cancer can take a long time to develop, though this may be shortened in people with a genetic tendency for the disease.) Anyway, I thought this might be an interesting resource for anyone writing a fantasy set in ancient times. The American Cancer Society has a much longer and more detailed file about the history of cancer here.

Have a happy weekend, everyone! If you're online, stop by tomorrow to check out my entry in Elle Strauss's First 250 Words Blogfest--or perhaps head over to her blog to sign up too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From a Pantser to a Plotter?

I admit I'm a slow writer, and I think part of the reason is that I'm a pantser, trying to brainstorm ideas and put them into words at the same time. (The other part, of course, is that I goof off when I should be writing.) Still, I have been able to plow through and finish my drafts. But with both of the new projects I started recently, I've been having a particularly hard time with it. I think that's because there's still things I need to work out not just about the plot, but about some of the characters and the world-building. So lately instead of working on the stories, I've been focusing on the brain-storming and pre-writing parts. I've drawn up character sheets, developed two alien races (though there's still so much to decide about them), and even started a story outline. Hopefully this will make NaNoWriMo go more smoothly, though I fear I may throw all my prep work out the window once I do start writing. But I find the brainstorming sessions invigorating and productive, so maybe they will be useful. Maybe I won't even have to write umpteen zillion drafts before I have a decent story.

So, are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in the middle? Have you ever tried to change your writing style? If so, did it work out for you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back on the Blog Chain: Making Mistakes

Time again for another Blog Chain post! (For my new followers, I participate in a Blog Chain dealing with writing topics about twice a month.) For this round, Laura asks us this question:

Regarding your writing career, what’s the best mistake you’ve ever made and why?

This is a difficult question to answer. I've certainly made plenty of writing mistakes, but it's hard to judge which one's the "best." I'm not sure if this one is really a mistake, but it's the best one I can think of.

I started out writing novels, but at one point I got an idea for a short story. About 2000 words later, I took the story to a workshop at a convention. (This particular workshop was led by my writing mentor.) I read it out loud and waited for comments. And boy, did I get them. I don't remember all of them, but there were a lot about the plot and the execution of the story. The other people took a constructive approach to their comments, so it could have been much worse to take. But I wrote down all their comments and talked with some of them afterward. Ultimately, I decided that the story wasn't working and needed a new approach, so I trunked it. I like to say that the story died but the writer lived. After surviving that crit experience, I've gone on to participate in other crit groups. I'm also happy to say that I've gotten better at writing short stories, though I still prefer novels. I just wish my mentor had lived long enough to see me sell a story, though.

If you need more inspiration to cope with your writing mistakes, check out this video:



If you'd like to read more about other writers' mistakes, check out Shannon's post before me and Eric's upcoming post tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Few Things (and NaNoWriMo)

Alex's daycare is closed today, so I'm on vacation with him. We'll be leaving soon for a playdate, but in the meantime, there are a few quick things I wanted to post.

First, for the winners of my book giveaway, I mailed them out Saturday. They should arrive sometime this week; please let me know if they don't.

Second, I've received the "One Lovely Blog" three times over. Unfortunately, I don't have time at the moment to properly thank everyone who gave it to me or to pick new recipients. I'll try to get to it later this week.

Finally, if you've looked at the sidebar of my blog recently, you may have seen that I've decided to join NaNoWriMo this year. I did it back in 2007 and managed to win despite closing on a house, working full-time, and having an infant. However, writing like that was so much different from my normal style that I didn't bother doing it for the next two years. But I feel I need something like this to push me past the problems I've been having with my next project, so we'll see how I do this year. Plus, I see so many other bloggers posting about NaNoWriMo that I'd like to join in on the camaraderie. If you'd like to add me as a buddy, my username is smua. Please feel free to leave your username in the comments section so I can add you as a buddy too.

That's all I have time for now, but I have other topics on deck for the rest of the week, so come back soon!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

It's Johnny's Birthday....

and it would be remiss of me to ignore it. So here's a little tribute for John Lennon:

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction--Aliens and Digestion, Part 3

Welcome to the final installment of the "Aliens and Digestion" mini-series. If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here and here. For this installment, I'm going to talk briefly about aliens whose biochemistry is completely different from ours. For this, I thought of two types of alien races: the silicon-based and pure energy forms. There may be other forms out there, but these two should illustrate how difficult it can be to speculate about something we know so little about.

Silicon-Based Life Forms: If you've ever taken organic chemistry, then you know how versatile the element carbon is. It has special properties that allow it to form the many types of molecules our bodies use. So naturally, if you want to create a new type of biochemistry, you might want to find another element that can take carbon's place. Silicon is part of the same group of elements that carbon belongs to, and it's the next-lightest element in the group after carbon. Although its structure is similar to carbon in some ways, it can't perform all the chemical tricks carbon can. Even though silicon is more common on our planet than carbon (rocks are made with silicon), the fact that life here is carbon-based rather than silicon-based suggests that silicon might be less suitable for life than we'd like. Some types of silicon molecules decompose in water, and if you combine silicon with oxygen, you get a solid instead of a gas like carbon dioxide. This means that a silicon-based life form that tried to breathe oxygen would soon suffocate. In order to have any silicon biochemistry, you'd have to find alternate molecules for water and oxygen. Some people have proposed ammonia and methane as possible alternates for water.

How would a silicon life-form digest its food? I think it would have to rely on physical processes like grinding or dissolving instead of chemical ones, since the chemistry of silicon is much more limited than that of carbon. I'm not sure if silicon could be used to make the equivalent of enzymes.

For more information, check out the following links:
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry


http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/astrobio/feat_questions/silicon_life.cfm


http://io9.com/5020921/where-is-my-silicon+based-life

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/siliconlife.html

Energy Beings: Although I've listed them (since they're part of popular culture), I find them very difficult to think about scientifically. All life forms that we know about have definitive boundaries. On the cellular level, these boundaries, called membranes, control what flows in and out of the cell. How could you get pure energy to cohere in any reasonable form? How could you keep it from radiating away? Could it keep itself alive if it moved away from an energy source? The only way I can think of an energy being "digesting" something would be for it to convert one type of energy into the type it uses. I have no idea how that would work without access to something material. You can learn more about energy beings at the links below:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_being

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EnergyBeings


I hope you enjoyed this mini-series. I found it fun to put together, and since I'm creating a couple of alien races for my next project, it was useful for me too. I post these science topics because I think science is cool and to demonstrate how to brainstorm ideas and fit them together into a unified whole. No matter what genre you write, that's still a useful skill.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction--Aliens and Digestion, Part 2

In yesterday's post, I provided a brief overview of how the process of digestion works in Terran animals. There are so many different ways of digesting food that it's hard to think of ways to improve the process--or at least provide useful alternatives. I've come up with a couple of ideas, though some of them may be twists on what some animals already do.

WARNING: Although I'm not trying to be gross, this post isn't for the squeamish.

OK, now that that's out of the way, here are my ideas, along with thoughts on how they might actually work in a real fictional creature:

Internal Cooking--If humans cook food before we eat it, perhaps other species, either aliens or fantasy creatures, might do the same. Of course, fire-breathing dragons could do this, but my idea is to have a stomach with a temperature higher than the rest of the body. It couldn't be too much higher (a 350ºF oven in a 98.6ºF body would cook the rest of the body, unless there was some excellent thermal insulation), but a stomach just a few degrees warmer might help break down the food. More importantly, enzymes are generally more active at higher temperatures, though they they tend to be less stable. Perhaps the stomach could also act as an internal heat source, warming the rest of the body.

How could an animal or alien have a stomach warmer than the rest of the body? The way I see it, the stomach would have to have a high concentration of energy-producing cells/tissue. Perhaps these cells would have high concentrations of mitochondria, organelles that produce energy by breaking certain chemical bonds. Alternatively, the stomach muscles could be designed in such a way to give off excess heat.

A Series of Stomachs/Different Solvents--Eric's original suggestion to me was to talk about how several stomachs, like in cows, might work in aliens. Cows have four stomachs with different functions; two are devoted to forming the cud and breaking down fibers, one is devoted to absorbing water and minerals, and the final one is where proteins are broken down (similar to our own stomach). Perhaps in aliens with several stomachs, this specialization could be extended. Perhaps each stomach could be at a slightly different pH and have different enzymes, so each stomach digests a different type of food. Or instead of just mixing the food with water (or strong acid, as in our stomachs), one stomach might be more saline, another might have an oil-water emulsion, and so on.


Pre-Digestion--Some animals, such as spiders, inject their digestive enzymes into their food before they actually eat it. What if aliens had other methods of pre-digesting their food? Maybe they would domesticate animals that could predigest food and then milk it out (or use harsher methods) to get their "soup." Let's imagine an alien race that had done this for so long their digestive system had atrophied. Perhaps instead of a stomach, all they may have left are the intestines for absorbing micronutrients. What would be the advantage of this? One idea that I came up with is allowing more room for other organs or perhaps reducing the alien's weight to make it easier for it to fly. The alien wouldn't have to spend energy on digesting food and could divert it to other activities. The downside is that I think aliens with such limited digestive systems might be more prone to starvation if they're separated from their traditional food supply.

If you were going to design an alien race, what kind of foods would it eat, and how would it digest them? What would you do for really exotic aliens, those with completely different metabolisms? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: Aliens & Digestion, Part 1

Normally I write a "Science of Science Fiction" post when I come across an inspiring science article. But a couple of days ago, my fabulous Blog Chain buddy Eric suggested I talk about how I'd use different types of digestive systems in an alien race. I'm going to take a slightly different spin on the topic and spread it out over three posts. Today, I'll provide a quick overview of how digestion works in various animals here on Earth. Tomorrow, I'll come up with some novel ways aliens might digest food, assuming their biochemistry is similar to ours. Finally, on Friday, I'll speculate how aliens much different from us might digest their food--or if they would even need food. If you have questions or suggestions along the way, please comment.

(For what it's worth, although I don't have a Ph.D., I do have a B.S. in molecular biology. I also have thirteen years experience in the enzyme industry.)

Wikipedia has a good overview article on digestion here. Basically, digestion is a process that takes food and breaks it down into its component molecules, which are then used as building materials or energy sources. Starches are broken down into simple sugars, fats into fatty acids, and proteins into amino acids. All these foods are broken down by a combination of physical and chemical processes.

The physical processes usually start first to break down big chunks of food and prepare it for chemical processing. The physical processes include cooking, breaking it up with teeth or stones in a gizzard, and changing the pH (this denatures proteins, or breaks some of the bonds that hold the protein in a particular form). Food is also moistened to prepare it for chemical processing.

Once the food has been partially broken down, chemicals (mostly enzymes) finish the job of breaking it up into the molecules used by the body. Enzymes are natural catalysts; they're proteins that speed up biological processes without being used up in the process. There are enzymes that break down starches, proteins, and lipids by severing certain bonds. Once these foods are broken down into sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and brought to the places in the body where they're needed.

Most animals carry out digestion in a dedicated tract running through their bodies. However, animals eat many different types of food, and they carry out digestion in many varied ways. Some pretreat their food with enzymes, digesting it before they even eat it. Some have multiple stomachs or chew their food several times. Any of these behaviors can be given to an alien race. But are there ways aliens might digest food not seen on Earth? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Ten Word Tuesday: Darwin's Origin of Species

This book illustrates why short sentences evolved from longer ones.

Books on Your Life List

Normally my blog posts on Tuesdays are only ten words long, but I'm feeling talkative today. (grin)

One of the first things I did when my Kindle arrived was download a bunch of free classics. Some of them were books that I've always meant to read, like the complete works of Shakespeare, Rememberance of Things Past, and Ulysses. I have to admit that when I peeked at the first page of the last two books, I quickly clicked away. Those books aren't going to be easy reads, and I may have to tackle them in stages.

As far as SF/Fantasy books go, I've always meant to read some of Philip K. Dick's work, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, and CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series. I wasn't sure where to start with the Darkover and Foreigner series, so I had to look them up on Wikipedia. I finally downloaded samples of two of Dick's books today, along with one of Bradley's. I didn't find a Kindle version of the first book in the Foreigner series. I think I may have to start looking at used bookstores for some of these books.

So, what books have you always meant to read but haven't yet? And why haven't you read them?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Book Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered! I used random.org to pick the winners. Drum roll, please....

Red Hot Fury goes to....

Carolyn V!

 Love in the Time of Dragons goes to....
Nicki Elson!

 The Crystal Throne goes to...
Inspired Throne!

And finally, Writing the Other goes to...
 PK Hrezo!

Congratulations to everyone! I wish I could give books to everyone who entered. There will be other giveaways in the future, though.

Winners, please e-mail me your shipping addresses to sandra(at)sandraulbrich(dot)com. I plan to send them out this week, but they may not go out until Saturday, depending on my work schedule.

We now return you to your normally scheduled blogging. 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Quote of the Day

Foolish writers and readers are created for each other.

Horace Walpole

Contest Ends Tonight!

Just a reminder that tonight at midnight CDT is the deadline for entering my book giveaway. The full details are here. I'll announce the winners tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: Life on Another Planet?

By now, you may have heard about Gliese 581g, a newly discovered extrasolar planet only about 20 light-years from us. What's special about this planet is that it's in the habitable zone (also known as the Goldilocks zone, where water could be liquid) and could possibly support life. It's also a rocky planet with an atmosphere (I haven't seen data on the composition of this) and gravity comparable to Earth's. According to this article on CNN, some scientists think it's a given that there really is life on Gliese 581g. Personally, I think they should confirm first that there really is water on that planet. I haven't seen a report stating that they have detected water on Gliese 581g, so if you've seen one, please provide a link.

(Of course, there may be types of life out there that don't require liquid water, but for purposes of this blog post, let's stick to lifeforms that operate on similar principles to Terran life.)

If there is life on this planet, what would it be like? Let's extrapolate from what we know about this planet so far:

It orbits a red dwarf star which is cooler than our sun but has a much longer life span. I don't know enough about astronomy or physics to state how the light given off by the red dwarf would differ from sunlight, other than to say it would be different. Plants (or plant-like creatures) might have to use a different wavelength of light than they do here. This would mean that they would use some other energy-capturing protein besides chlorophyll, so they might not be green. Also, if the type of light given off by the red dwarf doesn't provide enough energy, life on Gliese 581g might rely on thermal vents or other sources of energy instead.

The planet is tidally locked, with one side always facing its star and the other always facing away. Although the overall temperature of the planet is similar to Earth's (highest average temperature of -12ºC or 10ºF), I don't know what the temperature is on the warm side or what the variation is from equator to pole. Is this planet tilted on its axis? Does it have seasons? Its year is only about 37 Earth days, so seasons would only be a week or so long. Any life on this planet would have to adapt to this short span, suggesting that life might have a shorter life span as well and move at a fast pace.

As you can see, there's still a lot of data missing that would tell us more about what type of life this planet could support. Can anyone think of science fiction books or stories set on a planet orbiting a red dwarf? If so, please share the titles/authors with us. It would be very interesting to see how well science fiction matches science's findings.

Quote of the Day

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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