jlm-blog
~jlm

19-Sep-2012

Foray into short science fiction

Filed under: fiction, science — jlm @ 18:58

“So, what’s the news?”

“Nothing much. The ship with Bob Ritchie and Lori Walton’s bodies arrived on Earth, so they’ll be getting put to rest.”

“Ah hah! I had my fingers crossed this whole time. We’re saved then!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you know I have the secret battle station plans, and I performed Bob and Lori’s autopsies…”

“So, what good is that? This may be the most advanced bio lab this side of Tau Ceti, but even you can’t grow a hypernode transmitter in a vat, and you can’t smuggle 100 exabytes of secret plans in a pair of corpses–”

“– I can and did.”

“What? They put those bodies through a full nanometer scan before letting them through. If there were a single molecule which didn’t belong in a human, or even the right molecules in the wrong place, that’d pick it up. And even if you get a few through, the holographic encoding of the plans means you have to smuggle all 100 exabytes or it’s useless as none of it.”

“But the scanners don’t check the DNA.”

“Sure they do. If the body’s cells don’t have the right amount of DNA in the right place, or if there’s extra DNA in the wrong place, that’ll cause a red light.”

“I meant they don’t check the DNA sequences.”

“Well, no. Everyone’s is different, and no one is going to smuggle DNA, it’s thousands of times cheaper to make it yourself, even if you have only the most rudimentary equipment.”

“The makers of the scanners weren’t thinking about smuggling information. After all, hypernode is going to be faster and cheaper than any ship. But when your enemy has control of all the hypernodes… Well, there are 3 billion base pairs in the human genome. Each cell has a copy of that genome. And there are 50 trillion cells in the body. And this equipment can replace each cell’s DNA with a unique sequence. Those plans are written into their nuclei, redundantly many many times over. And when Earth checks their DNA against the stored records for identity verification, they’ll discover sequences which aren’t human, and don’t even match any lifeform whatsoever.”

“So, we’re going to be rescued by a pair of corpses, which you turned into digital media…”

“Yes, we’re saved by the stateful dead.”

25-May-2011

Hand grenade primer for writers

Filed under: fiction — jlm @ 17:41

When I read about someone putting the pin in a dropped grenade, I think “Why is he doing that? He’s going to die! No, this didn’t happen, it’s just made up by a hack who doesn’t know how grenades work.” Congratulations, you just destroyed the immersion in your story. Similarly for a grenade exploding while still held pending the throw, or a thrown grenade with the spoon still against it (for graphical media).

No need to trek through the snow to the library, research is now as simple as visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_grenade from the comfort of home, yet curiously, this seems to be a disease of newer works, despite older works having hand grenades in their stories if anything more often.

So, evidently there’s a need for a primer for writers. Here goes:
Anatomy of a hand grenade: The body of a grenade is a shell containing explosives and a timed fuze. Against the shell is a lever called the spoon, which is connected to a spring-loaded trigger called the striker, which starts the fuze. A safety pin holds the spoon in place.
Operation: Hold the grenade in your throwing arm, pressing the spoon against the body. Pull the pin. Throw the grenade at the enemy. With the pin removed, the spring will now push the spoon away and the striker starts the fuze, which in a short time will detonate the explosive.

Note that the fuze can’t be stopped, and it’s the spoon which triggers the grenade, not the pin. So a held grenade can be re-safed by replacing the pin, which might be the seed of the myth that the pin will deactivate a cooking grenade.

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