Astronomers peer inside stars, finding giant magnets

Astronomers have for the first time probed the magnetic fields in the mysterious inner regions of stars, finding they are strongly magnetized. Using a technique called asteroseismology, the scientists were able to calculate the magnetic field strengths in the fusion-powered hearts of dozens of red giants, stars that are evolved versions of our sun.

Source: Astronomers peer inside stars, finding giant magnets

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Brain activity pattern as unique as fingerprint | Human World | EarthSky

This fits in perfectly with the concept of a “mindprint” that I use throughout my science fiction series, The Star Trails Tetralogy.

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Your brain scans are quintessentially you, says a new Yale study.

Source: Brain activity pattern as unique as fingerprint | Human World | EarthSky

A possible – not likely – alien megastructure | Science Wire | EarthSky

KIC 8462852 is an oddly dimming star – 1,500 light-years away. It might or might not be surrounded by vast megastructures in space, built by aliens.

Source: A possible – not likely – alien megastructure | Science Wire | EarthSky

Study Advances Possibility of Mind-Controlled Devices

A study published in the journal Nature Medicine has shown a possible path to creating effective neural prosthetics. The study’s subjects, only listed as T6 and T7, have Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Source: Study Advances Possibility of Mind-Controlled Devices

Another Winner from the Queen of Adult Bedtime Stories

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I consider Regina Puckett the absolute queen of adult bedtime stories. But I better qualify that so you don’t get the wrong impression. When I say “adult” I don’t mean erotic or “R” rated, since the ones I’ve read are clean enough to read to a child. Rather, a child probably would not get the relationship and societal subtleties, though of course most of us who grew up with the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson never understood the underlying themes, either.

All that aside, I almost always read before I go to sleep and while I enjoy a wide variety of genres, including the pulse-pounding variety, there’s nothing better than one of Ms. Puckett’s after a stressful day when all you want to do is slip into a fantasy world prior to drifting off. (Clearly this might not apply to those she’s done in the horror genre which may not be so appropriate at that time.) So far the characters I’ve encountered are endearing and even though her stories tend to be relatively short, the people and plot are well-developed. There’s outstanding imagery and just enough detail to make the story come to life. Truly she’s a master storyteller, and I’m not an easy reader to please. It’s no surprise she’s won so many awards.

This particular steampunk tale as well as those in that genre I’ve read by other authors reminds me of hitting Earth’s reset button and taking us back to a simpler time with only mysterious remnants remaining of high technology. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where the few survivors are gradually rebuilding society. In this one, the main character, Liberty, travels extensively in her airship to different locales where she gathers goods to trade in other locations.

On the philosophical side, this is an interesting reminder that most merchandise and commodities (especially food) used to originate relatively close to home as opposed to coming from just about anywhere on the globe. In simpler times there was more accountability, similar to buying produce in a farmers’ market, as opposed to some of the questionable products from places like China found in modern grocery stores which I wouldn’t feed to a stray dog. Indeed, a few years back, products from that country were killing our dogs and cats, yet we persist in allowing these questionable consumables into our country. As one of her characters savored an apple I pondered the importance of everyday products we take for granted that could disappear given some sort of global disaster. Maybe it’s just me, but I found plenty to think about in this relatively simple story, giving it considerably more thought-provoking depth than you might expect.

The process of rebuilding society, one person at a time, is typically explored in this genre. Human nature being what it is, individuals would react differently to global disaster. The opportunity to take advantage of and exploit others is always there for those who are selfish while those who are more highly evolved would be concerned with the human species as a whole. Under such circumstances, society will rebuild sooner or later and most likely be entirely foreign to what we know. It’s nice to think that mankind would learn his lesson and try to get along with his fellow species better than we see today, but there are no guarantees. There’s just such a mix in Liberty’s world and she’s suspicious of everyone, which helps her survive. As you would expect, she has a rather jaded view of love as well which begins to change when she’s given a small robot named Boy. Before she knows it she’s developing a warm relationship with this wise and philosophical little being from which the tale’s title derives. Soon after that another trader like herself comes along as well and Liberty learns more about friendship and trust.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and definitely look forward to reading the next one in the series which promises to provide more information about Liberty’s background. If you’re looking for a mildly suspenseful tale saturated with charm and character to say nothing of a few philosophical considerations, I highly recommend this one.  You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Creepy & Too Believable: “Daimones Trilogy” Volume I

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I usually don’t have that much trouble putting a book down. Most of the time I have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen next and even if I don’t, it takes a lot of suspense to keep me reading beyond my usual half-hour morning session on my stationary bike or in the evening before I go to sleep. I’m not impressed by either vampires or zombies. This book, however, was another story, literally and figuratively.

Not only was the suspense palpable, it sucked me into a world that in some ways was too familiar. All quality fiction transports the reader to another place and/or time, but it’s usually relatively easy (at least for me) to separate the story from reality. Not so with this one.

Apocalyptic/dystopian fiction has been extremely popular the last few years, which isn’t surprising given the state of the world. Things have gone crazy and have been heading that way for several decades. There are end-of-world prophecies from various religions and cultures with the signs that they are near clearly upon us. The world has ended before and will again. It’s just a matter of time. Things can change dramatically overnight, as we witnessed with the events of September 11, 2001. As pervasive as that influence was, however, life did manage to go on, at least for those who weren’t directly affected. I think most of us suspect that we’ll have some warning, if no more than a bad feeling, before, as the preppers say, when TSHTF.

But will we?

This story begins in the here and now. A somewhat normal but bad day for the protagonist, Dan, who loses his job. The next day a predawn windstorm comes through, doing what amounts to moderate damage. Except for the fact that as far as Dan can tell, he, his wife and daughter are the only ones left alive. Vehicles of all descriptions are askew on the roadways, their drivers dead. The neighbors are dead in their bed. Animals mysteriously seem to have been spared. Unlike most apocalyptic stories, the world itself is unharmed. The power is still on as well as the internet but there’s nothing to be found in any media source that even hints at anyone else on the entire planet being alive. Unlike other apocalyptic stories where some sort of natural or man-made catastrophe sets things off, in this case there is no known cause.

So now what?

Dan and his family live in Switzerland on what could most easily be described as a comfortable homestead. They have a large home with a guesthouse surrounded by a well cared for yard and a garden. He and his wife are educated people with some idea how to take care of themselves. Since there is no massive destruction other than the pervasive loss of life, they can go to the store and get whatever they need, which they do. Their actions under the circumstances reflect what most of us would do and reflect today’s world. For example, he ran a Facebook ad looking for others.

The story depicts how the world changes with the people gone. The skies are clear and blue, wildlife, packs of dogs, and vegetation start to take over. After a while they get paranoid as they wonder if any other survivors might be hostile. Dan’s young daughter goes into a depression as she realizes she will never share her life with anyone besides her parents. The realism and level of detail in this first person account are chilling and too easy to imagine. But why has everyone died? Or conversely, why has Dan and his family survived?

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory so will leave it at that. There are numerous interesting plot developments and a few more surprises. I will say that the majority of questions are answered by the conclusion and the explanations are not as far-fetched as you might expect, again adding to the rather alarming message underlying this brilliant novel.

The human species remains barbaric in spite of our technological achievements. We are not taking care of our planet as we should. Wars are everywhere and violence in the name of religion has got to be the ultimate travesty. Different animal species care for each other better than too many humans. They have evolved more than we have.

If you had the power to do something about the status quo what would you do? “Daimones” describes one scenario that’s real enough to give considerable pause to the next predawn windstorm. The next volumes in this trilogy are definitely on my list and are bound to be extremely gripping as well.  You can get your copy at Amazon here.