Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Science Quiz

For 7 years, I’ve tried to ‘update my science [knowledge].’ I’ve always wanted to write science fiction, but my last science class was a quarter century ago, the one before that in 1970. I’d been busy working full time, raising kids, and so on. So when I retired and started writing science fiction, I found the vast research I did – and the results produced – shot huge holes in my time, the story background, and the plot I had picked.

Therefore, I subscribed to magazines, watched science and history documentaries, did other ‘educational’ things. I love to learn but… have I caught up? Am I ready to write science fiction?

Last week, I received the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Discover. It includes a list of the ‘Top 100 Stories of 2016’. As I read through some of this list and the entry for each article, I realized I was not familiar with everything listed. Have I failed?

I decided to keep track of which stories I had and had not already heard about. Now, I don’t get to read a magazine in one sitting, so as of today, I’ve only gotten to #40. Don’t worry, I will finish this issue, but in the meantime, how many of these 40 items had I already learned about before this issue?

First, the ones I had no knowledge of:
#4. Oldest Human DNA Revises Our Family Tree (I’d heard of Neanderthals & Denisovans, but not this particular story)
#5. Biologists Create Organism with Smallest Genome
#9. New Particle Fizzles, Leaving Physicists to Soul Search
#10. Did Lucy Fall and Not Get Up? (I knew about Lucy, but this was a new hypothesis that she died by falling out of a tree.)
#11. Bangladesh Sits Atop Potential Major Quake Zone
#12. Big Data May Lead to Earlier Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
#18. Electrons ‘Split’ in New Form of Matter
#19. Science in a Post-Brexit World
#22. NIH Proposes Lifting ‘Chimera’ Research Ban
#23. Picky Primes (Prime numbers are not as random as believed.)
#24. Finding China’s Great Flood
#27. Battle for Access (Should scientific papers be available to all, or only those who can afford to subscribe to scientific journals?)
#28. A Bone to Pick about Philistines
#29. Go, Go AlphaGo (Computer learns game, beats human champion.)
#31. Pushing the Limits of Life in the Lab
#32. Disrupting Dopamine Dogma
#35. Mathematicians Find the Answers (I was unaware of this question.)
#36. T. Rex Evolution: Smarts First, Size Second
#37. The Rise and Fall of Theranos (Fake medicine exposed)
#39. Plenty of Room at the Bottom (Saving data with chlorine and copper)
#40. Pluto’s Hidden Ocean (I knew it had one, but this article is about how it’s freezing, breaking Pluto apart.)

And the ones I was familiar with:
#1. Einstein’s Ripples in Space-Time
#2. Earth’s Surprise Neighbor Hints at Exoplanet Abundance (planets of Proxima Centauri)
#3. A New Enemy Emerges (zika and mosquitoes)
#6. The Pace – and Problems – of Climate Change Accelerate
#7. Can America Avoid Another Flint?
#8. Looking for Planet Nine
#13. Persistent Heat Decimates Coral Reefs
#14. The Ozone Hole is Finally Healing (Still has a long way to go.)
#15. More Hobbitses, Prescious! (More remains of hobbit-sized hominids found.)
#16. We Are All Africans
#17. The Falcon Has Landed, Now SpaceX is Eyeing Mars
#20. Ceres Hosts an Ice Volcano
#21. Regulating the Brave New World of Human Gene Editing
#25. The End of the Periodic Table? (How many more elements can scientists make?)
#26. Drug Couriers for Brain Injuries
#30. Crowdsourced Study Pinpoints Depression Genes
#33. Planets of the Milky Way
#34. Superbug Arrives in the US (Bacteria not deterred by any known medicine.)
#38. A Sharp Find (Ancient sword found in Denmark)

How did I shape up? Hmm, 21 stories I did not know; 19 I was semi-familiar with. If I were in school, that would be less than 50%, a solid F. But, I can’t know everything, so I don’t feel bad. Besides, some of these articles have hinted at background knowledge or even a story plot. I am stoked!

What have you learned in the past 7 years? I bet it’s a lot, whether science or not.

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