Cool Science in Discover Magazine

On a more cheerful note, the April and May issues of Discover Magazine have some interesting articles on cool science and technology. (The links below will mostly just get you to teasers, unless you can sign in as a subscriber, though the whole Cow Train article is there.)

In the April issue, a paleontologist named Mary Schweitzer (who happens to be an evangelical Christian) discovered soft tissue inside dinosaur bones. And with it, the possibility of serious DNA analysis. Her findings, according to the article, caused great excitement in the paleontology field, and a firestorm of controversy among the biblical literalists. Great stuff. She doesn’t see Jurassic Park on the horizon, but I can’t help wondering.

Also in the April issue, Anything Into Oil, a long article about a pilot plant that uses thermal conversion to turn turkey offal and all kinds of garbage into oil.

Moving into May, a thematically related story, All Aboard the Cow Train, shows us a train locomotive in Sweden that runs entirely on methane produced from cow manure and organic sludge of various kinds.

Also in the May issue is a story about smart fish, Nemo Goes to College. It seems that even goldfish have more cerebral power than most of us would dream of giving them credit for.

And while we’re on the subject of brainpower, how about Brain Cells Fused with Computer Chip? The stuff of SF, all right, moving toward reality. (This is from, but it seemed a good segue.)

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  1. substandardTim
    | Reply

    the dinosaur thing is particularly cool.

    Does anyone else think that Jurassic Park the movie is way better than the book? The book was quite boring in my opinion.

  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
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    I’m with you on Jurassic Park, Tim. I enjoyed the movie a lot. I thought the book was okay, but not great. (However, by comparison with his novel Sphere, it was a masterpiece.)

  3. substandardTim
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    yeah i’ve never been able to actually finish any of his books. I just get so bored reading them. How do books like that get turned into movies and books that are say…entertaining science fiction not even get noticed.

    Lord of the rings is another one that I feel the movie was way better than the book. Although if you watch movie more than a couple times, it can definitely get dull too.

  4. tsmacro
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    As far as Lord of the Rings goes i’d say the movies were at least “better organized” anway. I think Tolkein had a great story to tell and did an amazing amount of research to give it great depth. I think the only place he lacked was in the delivery. His writing style was anything but smooth and flowing. I think he was more scholar than writer. Personally I give a very slight edge to the books as far as preferrence but the movies were amazing also. Jurassic Park, it’s just one of those things, I mean come on Dinosaurs on the big screen with a surround sound in a big dark theater! As much as i’m a fan of books there are some things that movies do very well. Probably the best thing about the book was just the whole concept of bringing dinosaurs to life in the first place, the story itself was just kinda so-so.

  5. Jeffrey A. Carver
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    Well, now, on the Lord of the Rings, I disagree completely. I think Tolkien was a masterful writer, who brought that world to life in a way that the movies (while I loved them) could only aspire to reproduce. Granted, his style is a little old fashioned by current standards, and he completely lacked a feel for female characters. But the depth, and the way he brought Middle Earth itself to life, is just astounding to me.

    The movies tried, and it was a good effort, but just about every place where Jackson decided to diverge from Tolkien, the results were awful. (Faramir, Saruman, Elrond, Galadriel, Denethor–all were characters that Jackson changed, flattened, made one-dimensional, to the detriment of the story.) On the other hand, the parts that were done well, were done fabulously well. (Gandalf and Gollum, for example.)

  6. substandardTim
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    i think the part of Lord of the Rings that got to me the most was the incessant history he built into everything. “And this book was written by this hobbit on the history of whatever, all copies of which are now lost” everytime i read a sentence like that i was like “so who cares then?”

    I’m all for building amazing depth filled worlds for your stories but allow the story a chance to show the reader that depth.

    At a risk of further diversifying this topic…I’m just about finished reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, which is all 5 of the hitchhiker books put together. This is another one where I feel the movie did better than the book, just the first one obviously. The movie was good but not amazing and the things they changed shouldnt have been changed, but Douglas Adams writing is really hit or miss throughout the books. Sometimes I was laughing out loud at some of the concepts he came up with and other times I found myself angered by yet another plot element that he introduced but never developed.

  7. tsmacro
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    I agree completely on Tolkein being able to convey amazing depth in his writing. Where I had a bit of an issue I guess is that his writing style was anything but polished. Sometimes the disjointed feel of the writing itself I felt distracted from the story at times. But i’m being awfully “nitpicky” here because I did love the books and that’s really the only thing that I thought wasn’t absolutely amazing. I’d read books like that all day if I could!

  8. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    By far the best version of Hitchhiker’s Guide is the original LP recording of the studio adaptation of the radio play. It’s hilarious, much better than the movie, I think. I’ve never read the books all the way through.

  9. substandardTim
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    i’d be interested in hearing that.

  10. tsmacro
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    I remember really enjoying listening to the radio version of Hitchiker’s back in the 1980’s on NPR.

  11. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I believe that the record-version of Hitchhiker is available on CD, though possibly as an import. I remember seeing it on Amazon once, when I was perusing.

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