Tag Archives: science

Don’t Mistake What I Am Saying About Women …

First off, I just finished doing some work I really do not have a lot of extra time to do, but I did it anyway. Second, I doubt too many male writers would share my experience of having to slack off to go get some items for dinner. It’s cooking right now. Of course there are some: single dads and others.

So hell I sit around and way more often than I should, I feel sorry for myself. I just counted up all the Nebula Award nominated stories and authors since this award began in 1966. I wanted to make the case that “who the story is about” is more important than “who wrote the story.” I discovered that my betters, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Vonda McIntyre, Nina Kiriki Hoffmann, Carol Emshwiller, Lisa Tuttle (who has ethics – she did not want her award, the only person to so-decline to date), Esther Friesner, Ursula Le Guin, and Jane Yolen – had all written stories with female protagonists who received the award.

I only dealt with the short story category. It would drive me insane to deal with all the other categories. And then there’s the Hugos, with which there is some, not a lot, of overlap.

So here’s who these babies are about – by year:

1966 The Harlequin and the Ticktockman
1967 Geology assistant/WWII Vet (“The Secret Place”) and “dead boy’s sister”
1968 Neutered Spacers (Chip Delany)
1969 Dr. Darin (male), monkeys, mentally deficient boy (Kate Wilhelm)
1970 A man (“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1971 – no award –
1972 A man (“Good News from the Vatican” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1973 Janet Evason – this story is “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ about an all-female planet
1974 Moggadeet – an alien who is eaten by his female mate (by “James Tiptree, Jr.” – “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death”)
1975 Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman (aka Odo, in male form, in “The Dispossessed” – by Ursula Le Guin)
1976 Dolf, a man running out of time, who must catch that Zeppelin
1977 A man (“A Crowd of Shadows” by Charles L. Grant – first person narrative)
1978 Jeffty – he’s five. He is always five.
1979 Rob (a guy, a musician)
1980 “An old scientist” and “young female reporter” and giant ants.
1981 Boyd, a male archaologist who discovers his acquaintance Luis is an immortal
1982 An unnamed woman (Lisa Tuttle “The Bone Flute” the only author to refuse the award, due to problems with another author campaigning)
1983 A girl and her dog (Connie Willis)
1984 A young boy who survives a global flood
1985 An old man and a young boy (Williams and John)
1986 Sally Gourley, a truck stop waitress of indeterminate age (by Nancy Kress!)
1987 Pal Tremont, a Korean boy
1988 Gordon Sills (male), Avery Roda (male), love object “Anna” (female)
1989 Sheila, a prostitute rescued from the Biblical Flood, and mother
1990 Male physicist who discovers time travel
1991 Guy who observes that bears have discovered fire
1992 Vietnam guy, Charlie
1993 Three women discuss menstruation (Connie Willis!)
1994 Vietnam guy, first-person narrative
1995 Anli (female) and Derren (male) (Martha Soukup)
1996 The Librarian and Death (Esther Friesner!)
1997 A woman who has the day off for her virtual child’s birthday (Esther Friesner!)
1998 Sister Emily (Jane Yolen!)
1999 Vietnam guy (my dear friend Bruce Holland Rogers – but this theme is starting to look like “Never go full-retard” as stated by fake black guy Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder)
2000 Professional (female) victim (Leslie What)
2001 Investigator of Victim Rights Closure Statements (anti-death penalty story by Terry Bisson)
2002 Maria, African albino women
2003 Mother with a creature for a child (Carol Emshwiller who is better than all)
2004 Female narrator hunting gorillas (Karen Joy Fowler “What I Didn’t See”)
2005 Daughter coming to terms with elderly dying father
2006 A succubus-type of indeterminate gender who lives with a typical middle-aged working woman
2007 An abandoned mistress
2008 17 year old, formerly youngest female resident of Always
2009 Alanna and Ylva (by Nina Kiriki Hoffmann)
2010 “Nameless female survivor” of spacewreck
2011 A man who creates a tiny man
2012 A little boy with a paper tiger
2013 Quy an “older sister”
2014 A narrator of indeterminate gender
2015 Grandma, Eva, a Jackalope wife

Now, nerds and dweebs and geeks – this is who I am. The majority of these winners are either my friends or friendly acquaintances. Some of them have been my teachers and mentors.

I started feeling unholy sorry for myself. Some of my friends, acquaintances, teachers and mentors have unbelievable Publishers Weekly reviews for their work. They have loving retrospectives, and in-depth reviews, story-by-story, of collections of their work. And I saw book after book, whether single, standalone story or collection, with one, two, or three reviews on Amazon. I saw the same b.s. (maybe not the same “quality” as me – but I am “special”) on their work — two star reviews, etc. Judging by Amazon, my dreadful crap has even outsold some of their outstanding work.

So, what I wrote about was this:

To Kiss the Star
Mel Armstrong – 17 – wheelchair-bound, blind, spastic, chosen for spaceflight
The Renascence of Memory
Carol Meyers – 80 – Alzheimer’s patient, former wife, mother, college professor
This Monster
Grendel’s Dam – ageless
Jenny, With the Stars in Her Hair
Jenny Julian – 35 – addicted to extreme cosmetic surgery
The Color of Time
Gia – 21, Nana – 81, Faith – 31
Smiley the Robot
Miss Gia – 85
Everything I Have is Yours
Helene Bacon – 50 – famous film director, Sarah Bacon – 16 – her daughter
Heart of Jade
The Lady – 30 – daughter of 20 Rabbit, the last great king of Copan
Shakespeare in Hell
Emilia Bassano – 35-ish (actually died at age 74) – reputed “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets
The Ruined Gods
Ginger – 28 – a cat woman; Rikki/Roxane/Roksana – 73
The Gods That Men Don’t See
Ginny Baumann – 33 – primatologist
Digger Lady
Vi Elliott – 73 – paleontologist
Paperwhite – a newborn
Her Name is Jacqueline
Lori Johnston – 36 – attorney

The thing is, I might not write very well. I might be crude and maybe not very talented.

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900But I think I am honest. And I listen. So.

Disabled people really will go to the stars, once it is time. Women will continue to use extreme cosmetic surgery to get what they want, although it doesn’t work. There will be a sub-cellular level treatment for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases – even a reversal of the aging process. People will come to understand that time and space are artifacts of our sensory perceptions. Some day, a robot will fall in love with and care for an old lady, because he knows no better. A woman will one day win the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award as a film director. Some day, a woman will write better than Shakespeare. A woman likely did co-found today’s Mayan community. Some day a woman who lives only a short time will travel faster than the speed of light and save many lives. There probably were early humans here in North America 100,000 years ago. The Mayan howler monkey god is real. Gender reassignment will become much more common and complete. People will so seriously clone for companionship and then – some – the scummy few – will use for organ donation.

There is a hot trade in Altoid mints, intergalactically-speaking.

“Don’t write about your little life,” said Toni Morrison. Open your ears, open your eyes, open your heart –


I didn’t know this advice over the years. I know it now, and I’m glad I took it, instinctively. As I say to students, why should we become so upset about abortion, when medical science can and will solve this? Why should we become so angry about the death penalty, when the crimes to which it is the penalty will cease due to evolution?

You think I am wrong? I am an optimist; I am a listener.

Are you?

lufo and the looking glass

If This Film Does Not Spark Your Imagination …

maybe you don’t have one!

That was courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Review and I agree with them. The Looking Planet is an incredible short science fiction film by USC film school grad Eric Law Anderson that is real, honest-to-goodness science fiction.

lufo and the looking glass

Bruce and I were part of the audience at the Laguna Film Festival yesterday and of all the short films by talented filmmakers that we saw, The Looking Planet was …

Well, ya don’t see stuff like that every day! Fantastic! Amazing! More uplifting and enjoyable than pretty much anything that I’ve subjected myself to in a theatre for a long, long time.

I’d like to say that maybe this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego would be notable for showcasing panels about things that are mind-blowingly excellent: The Looking Planet had a panel there (in addition to Is SHE Available?).

Wonderful and entertaining need not be mutually exclusive. And I find it hard to imagine anyone, of any age, not being enthralled and entertained by The Looking Planet.

Did I mention, “It’s real sci fi”?

The Looking Planet [trailer] from Eric Law Anderson on Vimeo.

I’m not going to sit around like a slug myself, but there are fewer “likes” on this unbelievable film’s Facebook page than on my piece-of-you-know-what FSFW page.

Quit gazing at your own navel, quit complaining and grow some imagination. Somebody else already did: Eric Law Anderson. I guarantee you if you ever enjoyed one minute of an actual real, good sci-fi film or liked a real sci fi short story you will adore this. If you have a heart and are breathing you will enjoy this!

Lufo! Time to go! Better luck next universe!

(The Looking Planet is in some ways a meditation on the special relationship between the earth and moon and where that may have come from).


How Will The World End? Is There a Clue From The Easter Island Heads? They Also Have Bodies!

Did you know? The Easter Island heads have giant bodies that are buried below the surface!

AH2B07The end of the world came sooner for the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) people than for the rest of us.

While people remain on the island today, all the trees of this once-tropical paradise are gone, and the secrets of making the giant statues are forgotten. This rare picture shows the size of the head compared to the buried body.

easter island head bodyThere are more mysteries on earth than we can possibly imagine!

I am often inspired by one of my favorite media personalities, Giorgio Tsoukalos. Giorgio’s open mind helps us to see many possibilities that we otherwise would not consider.

Aliens may very well have started the human race down the path of civilization. They may also have been a source of much ancient knowledge that has been forgotten today. From the ancient Mayans to the Easter Island Rapa Nui people to the ancient Greeks and Romans, many have predicted the end of the world or apocalypse.

Hundreds of predictions have not come to pass, but here are some of the threats coming up soon:

“There is an asteroid with our name on it,” British television astrophysicist Brian Cox told the Daily Mail. tv astrophysicist brian coxAn asteroid nearly impacted the earth in 2014. We almost died in a cataclysm similar to the one that destroyed the dinosaurs.

But, we didn’t.

Now, as many as six world-shattering asteroids could be headed our way, with reported impacts predicted for the days between coming between September 21 and 28 … less than a month from now!

The “Blood Moon Prophecy” originated with Rev. Efrain Rodriguez. Additional pastors, including the Revs. Mark Blitz and John Hagee, have told their followings of tens of thousands that the fourth “Blood Moon” this year will herald the arrival of a giant asteroid. This monster-sized rock the size of a city block, is supposed to hit the earth near Puerto Rico, causing a 300-foot tsunami, vaporization of Puerto Rico and surrounding areas, and a magnitude-12 earthquake.

jumbo jet sized asteroid

Asteroids “bigger than a jumbo jet” come close to earth on a monthly basis, according to NASA, which regularly updates the public on near-misses.

And guess what?

By anywhere from 1 to 2 billion years from now, the earth will for certain be burned to a cinder due to the inevitable expansion of our Sun. Some experts now predict that the end may come even sooner than that — as soon as 100 years from now. According to Reuters, children born today may live to see humanity’s end as a result of global warming above 2C.

Just in case …

You can read up on all of these doomsday scenarios and more!

For $15, you can get a bunch of classic disaster novels from StoryBundle, and donate to the Challenger Center for Science Education! Featuring FIRE by Alan Rodgers (there are some nuclear challenges in the book, but mostly a horrible virus that brings the dead back to life — including meat in freezers! — is on the rampage) and great books by Kevin J. Anderson, David Sakmyster, Laura Anne Gilman and more! If you have never heard of StoryBundle, check it out! You can get top-quality, best-selling books for a single low price, you can name your own price as well, and let them know how much of the proceeds you would like to go to the author, to StoryBundle, and to a designated charity!



Cannot Win for Losing: Sir Tim Hunt the SexGod

In 2001, UK scientist Tim Hunt won the Nobel Prize. On June 9, he blew off some steam at the World Conference of Science Journalists:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

sexy sir tim huntNow, Sir Tim, knighted for his contributions to science in 2006, has resigned from his honorary position at University College London. He says he meant what he said – but he’s “awfully sorry” that he said it.

Professor Casil says he wouldn’t be in such trouble if he’d avoided the second person or “you.” What if he’d said, “Let me tell you [ok, since he’s talking to an audience] about MY trouble with girls. Three things happened to ME when women were in the lab. I fell in love with them, they also fell in love with ME, and when I criticized some women, they cried and that drove ME crazy.” This would be expressing his feelings. It’s not great overall since it says more about him than “women scientists,” but as he’s said, it’s honest.

If he’d said it that way, from a management or work perspective, he’d have admitted:

I might be a 70 year-old Nobel Prize winning biochemist, but while on the job, I can’t keep my pants zipped, I’m constantly on the lookout for new conquests – really, they can’t help falling for me – and my people skills stink to the point I make my co-workers cry.

Which, since he did NOT say it that way, brings me to my sisters!

#distractinglysexy female scientists burning up the labs with their hot outfits and provocative ways.

suit flatters curves










No clue how men can resist this type of hot outfit (duly noted her co-worker is showing some hot and hairy leg).

muffles my woman cries










This is about the funniest Twitter meme ever. The Twitter sluts (male) are trying but the best humor comes out of truth.

fire distractingly sexy










Just too …

Baycon 2015 “Women of Wonder” Schedule

Bruce and I will be at Baycon this coming weekend in Santa Clara. The theme of this year’s con is “Women of Wonder” and there are some fantastic guests, including the amazing Winner Twins, whom we met at the Writers of the Future event in April.

I want to say “thank you” in advance to the amazing con committee, and programming led by co-chairs SallyRose Robinson and Kathleen McDowell. I’m blown away – because SallyRose and Kathleen assigned me to moderate two panels where I actually have some expertise and ability to contribute to the event! Also will be reading with my awesome friends Marie Brennan and Maya Bohnhoff and a new friend I will be very glad to meet at Baycon, Laurel Anne Hill. This’ll be my story about the lady scientist and the howler monkeys. Oh My! Baycon 2015

 1. DIY Biohacking: The Next Maker Movement? on Friday at 1:30 PM in Cypress
    (with Edward Kukla) – have to bone up on this one … been a bit since I was writing about it. But those Russians! Dang!

    40 years ago, hobbyists kicked off the personal computer revolution with low-cost kits they could order by mail. In the past few years a similar shift has started in biology, where hobbyists have figured out how to build biotech equipment at 1/10th to 1/1000th of the previous cost. Why is biohacking so interesting, and what are these DIYers creating in their garages, hackerspaces, and startups?

 2. Themed Reading: Women’s Work on Friday at 3:00 PM in Stevens Creek
    (with Laurel Anne Hill , Marie Brennan, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff)

    In honor of the Bicentennial of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, hear authors read from stories about women that have jobs in a STEM (science, technical, engineering, and math) field. 

I’ll be reading from “The Gods Men Don’t See” from Mad Science Cafe.

 3. Closing the Gender Confidence Gap on Saturday at 10:00 AM in Lawrence
    [You are moderating.]
    (with Emily Jiang, Kyle Aisteach, Deborah M. Pratt, Heidi L Stauffer)

    Why are women less likely than men to tout themselves when a promotion opens up? Is it due to facts like parents and teachers interrupt or talk over girls twice as often as they do with boys? What can we do to reinforce confidence in young girls and help them overcome the “imposter syndrome” as an adult? Our panelists discuss how parents and people who work with kids can monitor and alter their own behavior so that they aren’t blocking the development of self-confidence in girls.

 4. The Hugo tug-of-war: Diversity of opinion among Worldcon voters on Saturday at 11:30 AM in Camino Real
    (with Deirdre Saoirse Moen, Kate Secor, Randy Smith (M), James Stanley Daugherty)

    This year’s Hugo nominations certainly have fandom talking. Is this just another periodic “all fandom is plunged into war” outbreak, or are there serious systemic issues to address?

 5. When Is a Book Not a Book? Alternative Storytelling Media on Sunday at 11:30 AM in Lafayette
    [You are moderating.]
    (with M.Christian, Margaret Dunlap, Beth Barany)

    Advancements in technology and digital publishing are expanding the boundaries of what we consider a “book”. Our panelists discuss some alternative formats, including audiobooks, podcasts, enhanced apps, and motion books.

 6. Marketing & Branding for the Author on Sunday at 4:00 PM in Bayshore
    (with Emily Jiang (M), Emerian Rich, Beth Barany, Sinead Toolis)

    Authors wanting to give up their day job and write full-time need to grapple with the challenge of cutting through the clutter of competing book titles. Hear the panelists dicuss tips and strategies on promoting your writing to your potential audience, and on how building the right identity can attract readers to your work.*

*Just because – now I’m a publisher and don’t have to worry about this any more.


I think the multiverse is real, as proposed by Laura Mersini-Houghton. Dr. Mersini-Houghton has now proposed that black holes are not real, based in math, making herself once more the popular proponent of theories that aren’t accepted by the cognoscenti.

The multiverse is a concept proposing that there are infinite universes, all existing simultaneously. Because of our limited senses and biological makeup, people don’t generally have the idea that there are infinite versions of themselves out there “somewhere,” as well as infinite versions of our pets, of various trees, of the ocean, land, earth and everything else in the universe we live in, perceive and know.

But if we listen and feel and breathe and perceive more subtly, a great many people would admit to having an impression that there is at least one, or more, life they lived which was different from the one they inhabit.

My daughter Meredith mentioned to me a vivid dream she’d had, in which her life was very different. She was living in a large apartment complex, a place she’d never seen or been in before, and a monorail carried people to and fro. She had a different job and was older than she is now. She had different friends – her life was just plain different.

I was in her age range when I had similar vivid dreams of a hometown that was absolutely not Redlands. It was, strangely, near Redlands, in a location that has always been filled with orange groves and no town whatsoever. There were different stores, streets, houses — and people — including lifelong friends I’d never in my present life, met.

But my most notable visit to the multiverse occurred when I was a student at Scripps College. I was an art (and literature) student. I was in Alan Blizzard’s painting class, and because I’m “just so special,” my individual studio was in a favorable location in the corner of the painting studio, which was north of Scripps’ famous Seal Court. It was the same location that is currently the college coffee shop, the Motley. I painted large, obnoxious paintings, stretching huge canvases myself, and gesso-ing them myself, before doing hideous things with charcoal, acrylics, paint brushes and … one day I got the smart idea of throwing paint from a bucket. I hurled this upward, and it splashed the canvas, and the window approximately 10 feet overhead, where it dried in a blood red splatter, remaining there for almost two decades. When I did return to campus, I always looked to see the “blood spatter.” It was a comfort, in a strange way.

I do not think it was “paint bucket day,” but rather another painting day, when I slipped from this world we know into the other. I was painting, wearing one of my grandmother’s 50s dresses and heels, dressed up like Donna Reed from her eponymous show. I was alone. And at once, I was overcome with the … I can’t call it a memory. For this one brief time, my mother had not died. She had come to school to spend the day with me, and we had spent the day, walking up and down campus, having coffee, seeing art, meeting other friends. I was, for this time, whole and happy — an entirely different young woman. My mother was with me, and I felt her love and warmth. She was, I had the sense, proud of me. Happy for me. She was everything I had ever imagined, and so much more.

I went outside and sat by the Seal Court, looking at the water, enjoying the sun on my face. Then, I realized.

This was some other me, some other time, some other – universe. In that place, my mother had come. In this one: she was dead and had been for years.

My friend Dovey arrived to paint and I attempted to explain what had happened to her. The sense of grief and loss was overwhelming. Because I’d not only seen that, I had felt it and known it. For those moments, and time wasn’t exactly “real” because I had the feeling I’d spent an entire day there, and only a couple of hours had passed in the world that is, I had been another, better, happier, stronger me. I sensed it was a better world in general, also. Things were just plain better all the way around.

People write around these ideas with their “alternate histories.” They focus, of course, on big events and upheavals. What if the Nazis had won WWII? What if the Kaiser had won WWI? What if John Kennedy had not been assassinated?

Given the multiverses, all of these things happened, or did not happen.

But for us as individuals, the differences are perhaps more subtle. Perhaps they are little increments, where our favorite color is red, not blue. Perhaps we own a cat, not a dog.

I do think that time is an illusion, but that location (place) is real. I think perhaps, we all do live simultaneously in these different locations — places that we cannot immediately travel to, but which reveal themselves to us in strange, sudden glimpses of the true reality.

So different from the one we think it is.




My Idol Was a Barbie Doll


My idol was a Barbie doll
With pointy breasts and waist so small.
She really was a fancy thing
With soft blond hair in a sixties swing

We drank Tang, ate tasty filler
We listened to songs sung by Mitch Miller
Barbie’s legs, they bent just so
I couldn’t figure it out, you know

So, I took my trusty blade
To see of what stuff my Barbie was made
I showed my friends Hey look! A wire!
They refused to believe, called me a liar

Her wireless legs now all aflop
Her neat blond hair twisted in a tangled mop

My Barbie still was totally swell
Made special for me by Mister Mattel

So, here is a link to the Marge Piercy poem tIdbarb18hat children are taught in school.  It’s about a girl with a big nose and big legs that cuts them off and then dies.  Some of the explicators don’t think she dies.  They think she has cosmetic surgery and gets married.

This poem is so negative and depressing that I would personally like to catapult MY poem to the top of the Google rankings.  My poem celebrates childhood discovery, the use of folding knives, and teaches the lesson that anybody can have fun with dolls any old time they want – with or without their heads or wires in their legs.  So there!

I learned (or I should say “re-learned”) that this Barbie that I cut up (this is an autobiographical poem) was “Living Barbie.”  You bet she was!  This picture of the collectible exactly what she looked like, too.  Right up until I scraped off her eye makeup and lipstick to see what it was made of.  Someday I’m going to write about the Norse God bonfire I set with Barbie, Ken and probably “Midge.”  I’m sure Midge went into the funeral pyre first.  Nobody ever liked Midge.

Update: “The Barbie Poem” actually *is* assigned in school now. Take that, depressing Barbie victims! Girls and boys – this poem does encourage doll surgery – to find out what they’re made of and how they work! Engineering 101, kid-style.

Sustainable Humanity / Human Sustainability / The Human Equation

There’s a way that most “futurists” view the world. It’s typically tech-focused. Some are very big thinkers — far bigger than I could ever imagine.

In March, Vernor Vinge was on a panel with me at the science fiction convention in San Diego and he turned to me and said in a quiet, mild tone (and I could have the figures wrong), “If we want large-scale interstellar travel and colonization, it will take three-quarters of gross global product for 20 years.”

Oh, I thought. That’s an awful lot …

“It will be worth it,” he added. A twinkle flickered in his eyes.

It may well be worth it. And it may well happen. And the one point I will quibble with Vernor about is – I’m sure he’s correct about the vast amount of resources and concerted effort required given current assumptions. But if the human dividend pays and we achieve genuine sustainable humanity, then concepts like “gross global product” will not apply.

People Drive Technology and There’s Nothing to Fear

I don’t think that the “technological revolution” has resulted in improved lives for most on the globe. I think improved lives for most on the globe drives the “technological revolution.” Without people, there is no technology. Technology is growing so rapidly because our previously-developed tools are enabling the development of more tools, just as some of today’s 3-D printer manufacturers are using their own 3-D printers to make more printers to sell. I had forgotten how chilling was the essence of Vernor’s original technological singularity paper. The abstract reads:

“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

People Aren’t the Only Intelligent Life on Earth, Much Less the Universe

The previous human era may well end and I say “good.” I would like to think that any new superhuman (or nonhuman) intelligence would provide insight which is difficult, challenging or impossible for humans. The intelligence might well have these insights. It might not communicate them at all, or it might communicate them in a way people can’t understand. Like dolphins and whales could probably tell us a thing or two about life and the ocean. But we’re not very good at listening to and communicating with them. Most assume they are “stupid.” Like chimps. Dumb. Like dogs. Idiots. Dogs of course, have been known to diagnose melanoma. This phenomenon inspired the development of technology which uses a nano-sensor to detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to diagnose melanoma. The ready-made “organic technology” (dogs) have also been trained and used in this process.


Which brings us to the human dividend. Vernor’s pricetag of two decades worth of the majority of global economic product in exchange for space exploration would be less daunting if the full potential for human economic and social development were realized. And we are living in a world just transitioning from one where it was not only acceptable, it was lauded to exclude half the population (females) from higher education, business management and, unimportant though it is in the larger scheme of things, voting and political participation. It was also acceptable, and often lauded, to exclude males of different races and ethnicities from higher education, business management, and any meaningful political involvement. In terms of waste, most people understand the concept of wasted food. In 2013, according to a report prepared by BSR for the Food Waste Alliance covering the majority of U.S. food manufacturers and restaurants, more than 44 billion pounds of food were disposed of through landfills or incineration. food waste 2013The big red block isn’t big companies or grocery stores or even restaurants. It’s people at home. energy ROI US 2010


As to energy, there’s a concept called EROI or “Energy Return on Investment” that is probably controversial since it shows that some alternative energy sources have a much better return on investment than others. The EROI is a simple calculation of the ratio of the amount of energy produced by an energy source and the amount of energy required to obtain the energy from that source. So, hydro power is by far #1 with 100% EROI. That’s because it’s actually “free” and requires no investment of energy to “create.” Wind power is also very good, as an alternative energy source as compared to … ethanol and biodiesel. The problems with these two should be evident, since they require growth and processing of crops.


The continued “energy debate” and instant sidetracking of many people to fears of global warming if they use plastic grocery bags is little surprise, in a world that thought for thousands of years that using people as energy sources was a great idea. The “energy slave” concept was discussed by Buckminster Fuller. It refers to the concept of human labor necessary to produce energy and the benefit that people get from “non-human energy slaves” – i.e. they’d have to have that many actual slaves to maintain their lifestyle that’s currently able to be pursued without human slave labor. Of course he made a map. If a society relies upon literal human slaves, when its EROI shrinks too low, the society actually collapses. This problem has been proposed as the reason for the fall of the Roman Empire and the Mayan civilization. In other words, there was too little food to maintain the lifestyle and the slaves that provided the energy and work for these civilizations. Today, we still have plenty of slaves. They are allowed certain amounts of free time, but their minds are still locked in patterns of thinking built in previous centuries. Previous eras. We have women today who still look at life the same way as their great-great-great-great-great grandmothers. We have men with the same attitudes as any number of Victorian manservants.

What Really Frightens People


The Human Dividend and the Choice

Slave – or free? With freedom will come wealth beyond most people’s wildest imaginings. What we have today is beyond the wildest imaginings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The technological revolution didn’t and doesn’t drive human development. It’s the other way around. And our way to the future doesn’t lie in the same people making technology in the same manner as they have in the past. It lies in all of humanity achieving its potential. And those potentials are as unique as each person. The person who makes a new iPhone screen is not intrinsically more valuable than a great massage therapist. The person who develops a new home security system isn’t a more important, valuable person than the person who starts a free range cattle business.

The human dividend, if we allow it to pay off, can be seen in the career of the great chemist Percy Julian. Percy is referred to as “the forgotten genius.” He is noted for being the first African-American chemist (and only the second African-American) inducted into the National Academy of Science. He held over 150 patents. All of the compounds he synthesized were made from natural plant materials. They are all safe, none were ever challenged or found to be ineffective or harmful, and nearly all are still in use today. percy julian in labPercy Julian’s initial breakthrough medication was physostigmine, an alkaloid which has been used to treat glaucoma for over 65 years, and which is showing benefits in treating Alzheimer’s disease. When he worked for Glidden (yes, the paint people), Percy produced sterols from soybean oil and converted the sterols to a variety of medications, including progesterone and other beneficial sex hormones such as estradiol and testosterone. One of his processes continues to be the most widely-used process for producing hydrocortisone and derivatives, used to treat arthritis. In nearly every chemical process he was called upon to work, he reduced cost of manufacture ten-fold or more.

This is what is important about Percy Julian. For his race, he performed untold services and gave tirelessly. The world in general, is an immeasurably better place, because Percy Julian lived in it. And it was no surprise to me that Percy Julian understood what it meant to be fully-human, and what the human dividend really was, and how it could be earned and achieved. When he received the Honor Scroll given by the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Chemists, he addressed the audience with issues of humanity, God and nature.

Historians of tomorrow may well ask why scientists did not join the human race in our time when the opportunities were so great and the means at hand so magnificent. (Hesberg, qtd. in Julian)

What does all this mean to you and me of the world of chemistry? To begin with, I cannot, and I hope you cannot, accept the blank statement that “Science is Amoral.” While this may be said of its methodology and specific aims at a given time, Science is something more than methodologies, symbolisms, and technological devices; it is vastly more than the creation of mere things; computers and mechanical robots are only incidental by-products of its spirit of inquiry. Science, like all man’s noble endeavors, involves the whole personality of those who pursue it. To say flatly that Science is amoral is to separate this man-made discipline from man himself and from the destiny of man. . . .

The challenge to us in the great debate with Humanists is clear. Too many of us have been satisfied to seek Truth only through the medium of certain facets of our discipline. We should have been the strong right arm of the humanist, but for the most part, we have not carved a basic social philosophy out of our endeavors. And yet where would one find more appropriate experience for such a philosophy than ours, where we live amidst the incomparable beauty of Nature’s truth, Nature’s objectivity, Nature’s solemn and honest justice, Nature’s grand nobility and bigness where no smallness can prevail in either mind or matter, Nature’s understanding and tolerance where even the lowliest creation — whether it be the bee or the lilies of the field — performs its functions with dignity and glory, Nature’s understanding and delicate balance, where on the one hand microorganisms can bring about the most dreaded disease, and on the other, bequeath to us the wonders of penicillin and aureomycin.

In terms of waste, the man who spoke those words, made those many beneficial compounds and medicines, and who contributed vastly to our economy, could well have stopped school in 8th grade. He in fact completed only the 8th grade before going to DePauw University and successfully graduating, eventually becoming one of the first African-Americans to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry. Percy Julian, as a young boy on his grandfather’s farm, accidentally came upon a young man who had been lynched, hanging from a tree. Percy himself could have been lynched, if he’d been unlucky. Percy Julian’s work didn’t just heal people with safe medicines made from plants. His work drove the development of soybean crop production in the United States. The U.S. has led the world in soybean production for well over two decades. China is the major importer of US-grown soybeans, and soybeans are responsible for 75% of US oil and fat consumption.

I have questioned for years: how many Percy Julians are there out there who never get the education he fought so fiercely to achieve and the job opportunities he pursued with a vigor the average job candidate cannot imagine? The human waste we are comfortable with is beyond calculation.

Economically, we are many hundreds of billions richer because of Percy Julian’s work. I believe it is fairly said that we have cost ourselves many hundreds of billions because of all the Percy Julians out there who were never able to make it into the fields of endeavor where their talents and abilities could produce new work, new insight and new endeavor.



Let’s give an average of $10 billion increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the lifetime of work of a significant scientist, engineer, entrepreneur or other creator. And let’s compare this with the social net cost of someone who could have that capacity, but who instead, never achieves it because they never receive the opportunity. The average high school graduate (not dropout) can expect to earn $1.2 million over the course of their lifetime. So, the human dividend potential for each Percy Julian-like creator is $9.99 billion. If we have a thousand such individuals in the United States alone (not remotely unrealistic), then that is a trillion dollars. If we have more – say 5,000 – Well.

That’s the 40 cents off every dollar our government is presently borrowing to pay to keep people in lousy schools, eating lousy corporate food and getting fat and sick, so they can use our government-semi-sponsored health care and “vote the right way.” Yes, this does feel like the energy slave concept. How many people are required to be kept away from that which they are born to do, are brilliant at, and can contribute to, just so some people can feel good and spend time with their pals telling each other stuff they already know? Like this and this. My thinking here is far from original. All while I was growing up, there was a commercial on television, often aired during “Wide World of Sports.”

Stop Judging and Start Listening

I’m not arguing for higher taxes to continue the current educational system. I’m arguing for people to open their eyes and ears and minds to something new, and above all, to accept that while we recognize and value the past and contributions of others, we should also make room for new voices and new contributions.

I watched the final episode of “How the Universe Works,” which was a dumbed-down version of information I learned at LaunchPad this past summer. With one exception. The show covered astroseismology, or the “music of the stars.” This is the development of audio technology to listen to various stars, thereby determining their size and placement on the sequence of stars. Young astronomer Keivan Stassun explained how simple, quick and affordable the technique, using an unconventional (for astronomy) sense was: hearing.

What We Can Hear

I hear the difference between the “old” scientists and the “new” on such shows. The “new” scientists like Keivan are soft-spoken and talk about possibilities and potentials. The “old” ones … well, we grew up with those. They continue to hold court. For a time. Oh, such expensive dates they are! I think next time, perhaps we should make them pay for their own dinners.