Why Do People Kiss?


Her eyes are wide as they stare into yours. You wrap your arm around her waist and pull her in close. She touches your face and you lean in, tilt your head — to the right, of course — and your lips connect. The rushing sensation leaves you little room to wonder, “Why the hell am I doing this anyway?”

Of course, the simplest answer is that humans kiss because it just feels good. But there are people for whom this explanation isn’t quite sufficient. They formally study the anatomy and evolutionary history of kissing and call themselves philematologists.

So far, these kiss scientists haven’t conclusively explained how human smooching originated, but they’ve come up with a few theories, and they’ve mapped out how our biology is affected by a passionate lip-lock.

A big question is whether kissing is learned or instinctual. Some say it is a learned behavior, dating back to the days of our early human ancestors. Back then, mothers may have chewed food and passed it from their mouths into those of their toothless infants. Even after babies cut their teeth, mothers would continue to press their lips against their toddlers’ cheeks to comfort them.

Supporting the idea that kissing is learned rather than instinctual is the fact that not all humans kiss. Certain tribes around the world just don’t make out, anthropologists say. While 90 percent of humans actually do kiss, 10 percent have no idea what they’re missing.

Others believe kissing is indeed an instinctive behavior, and cite animals’ kissing-like behaviors as proof. While most animals rub noses with each other as a gesture of affection, others like to pucker up just like humans. Bonobos, for example, make up tons of excuses to swap some spit. They do it to make up after fights, to comfort each other, to develop social bonds, and sometimes for no clear reason at all — just like us.

Today, the most widely accepted theory of kissing is that humans do it because it helps us sniff out a quality mate. When our faces are close together, our pheromones “talk” — exchanging biological information about whether or not two people will make strong offspring. Women, for example, subconsciously prefer the scent of men whose genes for certain immune system proteins are different from their own. This kind of match could yield offspring with stronger immune systems, and better chances for survival.

Still, most people are satisfied with the explanation that humans kiss because it feels good. Our lips and tongues are packed with nerve endings, which help intensify all those dizzying sensations of being in love when we press our mouths to someone else’s. Experiencing such feelings doesn’t usually make us think too hard about why we kiss — instead, it drives us to find ways to do it more often.

This answer is provided by Scienceline, a project of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program.

 

Heart Attacks Deadliest for Young Women, Study Finds.


Heart attacks can be deadliest for young women, according to a new study. Researchers found that not only were young women more likely to be sicker than young men once they arrived at a hospital – they were also more likely to die there. Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz and colleagues found that anywhere between 2 percent and 3 percent of young women, aged 30-54, who were hospitalized for a heart attack died over the years 2001 to 2010. That compares to 1.7 percent to 2 percent of men the same age, they reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Young women are commonly thought not to be at risk for heart attacks,” Krumholz said. “The point here is that young women should not ignore symptoms that could suggest a heart attack.” The symptoms – which range from chest pain and shortness of breath to fatigue and nausea – can vary between men and women. “While the medical community has focused on educating more women on heart disease, it hasn’t yet customized its message for young women,” says cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Mieres of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “All of these things lead to a delay in recognizing symptoms, a delayed diagnosis, and a delay in treatment strategies because women are coming in to the hospital later.”

Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies


Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution—specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops.

A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

The study looked in detail at global production of four leading food crops—rice, wheat, corn, and soy—that account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide. It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors: For example, wheat is very sensitive to , while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

The research was carried out by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, former CEE postdoc Amos Tai, and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University. Their work is described this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Heald explains that while it’s known that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and reduce , “nobody has looked at these together.” And while rising temperatures are widely discussed, the impact of air quality on crops is less recognized.

The effects are likely to vary widely by region, the study predicts. In the United States, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops. But in other regions, the outcome “will depend on domestic air-pollution policies,” Heald says. “An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields.”

Overall, with all other factors being equal, warming may reduce crop yields globally by about 10 percent by 2050, the study found. But the effects of ozone pollution are more complex—some crops are more strongly affected by it than others—which suggests that pollution-control measures could play a major role in determining outcomes.

Ozone pollution can also be tricky to identify, Heald says, because its damage can resemble other plant illnesses, producing flecks on leaves and discoloration.

Potential reductions in crop yields are worrisome: The world is expected to need about 50 percent more food by 2050, the authors say, due to population growth and changing dietary trends in the developing world. So any yield reductions come against a backdrop of an overall need to increase production significantly through improved crop selections and farming methods, as well as expansion of farmland.

While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact. For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 percent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following . For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 percent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an alternate scenario reduce that drop to 9 percent.

Air pollution is even more decisive in shaping undernourishment in the developing world, the researchers found: Under the more pessimistic air-quality scenario, rates of malnourishment might increase from 18 to 27 percent by 2050—about a 50 percent jump; under the more optimistic scenario, the rate would still increase, but that increase would almost be cut in half, they found.

Agricultural production is “very sensitive to ,” Heald says, adding that these findings “show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations. Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.”

Marijuana poses more risks than many realize


Doctors say they’re increasingly fielding questions about the safety of marijuana, as use of the drug rises and more communities consider legalizing it. Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational marijuana, and medical use is allowed in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

USA TODAY’s Liz Szabo talked to experts about what scientists know and don’t know about marijuana’s risks and benefits.

Q. How common is marijuana use?
A. About 12% of people of Americans over age 12 have used it in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Use of marijuana among high school students has been increasing since the 1990s. If current trends continue, marijuana use among high school seniors could soon become more common than cigarette smoking, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Q. Is marijuana addictive?
A. Sometimes. About 9% of those who experiment with marijuana overall — and nearly 17% of those who use it as teenagers — will become addicted, according to the definition of addiction used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volkow says. Up to half of people who smoke marijuana daily become addicted.
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.7 million people over age 12 meet criteria for addiction to marijuana.

Q. What are the potential medical uses of marijuana?
A. Smoking marijuana may stimulate appetite, especially in patients with AIDS, according to an Institute of Medicine report.
Smoking pot also may alleviate the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatments for cancer. It also may relieve severe pain and spasticity, when muscles become overly tight and rigid. Marijuana also could potentially help treat glaucoma, by decreasing pressure in the eye.
But marijuana also may make the cognitive problems associated with HIV even worse, according to a 2004 study.
“If an individual comes in with severe pain and I haven’t been able to manage it with any other means, I am willing to consider it, but with a lot of precaution,” says Steven Wright, a pain and addiction medicine specialist in Denver. “But unless you are really severely affected by pain, it’s not in your favor in the long term.”

Q. Is medical marijuana approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration?
A. No. But the FDA has approved two drugs made with cannabinoids – active ingredients in marijuana – called dronabinol and nabilone. Both are approved to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in patients who aren’t helped by other therapies.
The FDA is reviewing an unapproved drug, called Sativex, to treat multiple sclerosis. It’s already approved in Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries. And researchers are testing an experimental drug called Epidiolex to treat childhood epilepsy.

Q. How have the risks of marijuana changed in recent years?
A. Marijuana products today are far stronger than in the past, which may explain why more people are overdosing or getting into car accidents, Volkow says.
The concentration of the main active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – has quadrupled since the 1980s, increasing to about 12% today, according to a June article by Volkow in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Some of the new, edible marijuana products – from cookies to chocolates – can be 10 times stronger than traditional joints, Wright says.
Because smoked marijuana affects people so quickly — reaching the brain in only 7 seconds – users often feel satisfied after a few drags, so that they don’t actually smoke very much, Wright says.
But because a cookie’s full effects may not set in for an hour or more, people may end up consuming far more THC than they intended to, Wright says.

Q. What are the risks to children?
A. Emergency room doctors are treating more small children for accidental overdoses of marijuana, says Kathryn Wells, president of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora have treated 12 children for marijuana overdoses just since January, when recreational use became legal in Colorado. Doctors treated eight children in all of 2013.
Of those treated this year, seven needed intensive care, says hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Whitehead.
Children also may be exposed when their mothers use pot during pregnancy or breastfeeding, Wells says. She says a number of women now tell her that they’re trying marijuana for morning sickness or other uses while pregnant. Other parents bring their children to the doctor, reeking of marijuana smoke. Wells says parents tell her, “it’s legal, so there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Q. Why are young people more vulnerable to the risks of smoking marijuana?
A. Their brains are still developing, Volkow says.
The brain isn’t fully mature until about age 25, Wright says.
That may help explain why people who use pot frequently, beginning as teens, often have significant declines in their IQ as adults, Volkow wrote in a June article in The New England Journal of Medicine. Marijuana impairs critical thinking skills for days after people sober up. That means that teens who use marijuana on weekends may not be able to learn properly when they return to school. Like alcohol, marijuana impairs judgment, so that teens may take more risks – from speeding to sex – that can endanger their lives.

Q. Is marijuana a “gateway drug” that leads to use of more dangerous substances?
A. It’s unclear. Studies show that people who use marijuana are more likely to later abuse other drugs. But scientists aren’t sure of the reason. It’s possible that marijuana, like alcohol and nicotine, “prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs,” Volkow wrote. But it’s also possible that people who are susceptible to drug abuse simply start with marijuana because it’s more accessible.

Q. How is marijuana related to mental illness?
A. Marijuana increases the risk of psychosis, in which people lose touch with reality and may experience delusions, hallucinations and paranoia, Volkow says. Marijuana is also associated with chronic psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, in people who are genetically susceptible. Heavy marijuana use can lead these people to experience a psychotic episode two to six years earlier than otherwise.
Colorado police have reported two deaths this year related to psychosis-like episodes in pot users. In March, a 19-year-old African exchange student jumped off a hotel balcony after eating a marijuana cookie. The next month, a Denver man who had purchased marijuana, including an edible form called “Karma Kandy,” began hallucinating and fatally shot his wife.

Q. How is marijuana related to car accidents?
A. Marijuana doubles the risk of a car accident when people try to drive soon after using it. Marijuana causes more car accidents than any other illicit drug, a 2013 study shows. In comparison, being legally drunk — with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% — increases the risk of an accident by five times.
In a study released earlier this year, Columbia University researchers found that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010, triple the rate from a decade earlier.

Q. Does marijuana cause cancer?
A. Although some studies have linked heavy marijuana smoking to lung cancer, the link isn’t totally clear. But marijuana is associated with a variety of lung problems, including inflammation of the airways, symptoms of chronic bronchitis and an increased risk of pneumonia and respiratory infections, according to the New England Journal review.

Q. Does marijuana cause heart disease?
A. People who smoke marijuana have changes in their blood vessels that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, the New England Journal review shows.

Q. What don’t researchers know about marijuana?
A. Most research is based on heavy use of marijuana and daily smoking, Volkow says. Scientists know much less about the effects of using marijuana once a week or once a month.
Older studies also may not be as relevant to the more potent marijuana products sold today, Volkow says. Doctors at the National Institute of Health are prioritizing research in young people, and hope to better understand the effects of marijuana in real-world situations, in which teens often combine it with alcohol. It’s possible that some of the side effects of marijuana relate to impurities found in illegal products, says Jahan Marcu, a senior scientist at Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. As marijuana becomes better regulated, it also may become safer.

Eid Mubarak.


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Wishing all my blog followers, subscribers and readers a very happy festivel of Eid.
EID MUBARAK TO ALL.

From the desk of Zedie.

Scientists clone male calf from dead bull’s semen


Scientists in Karnal have successfully cloned a male calf from the frozen semen of a Murrah bull which died 10 years ago.

“We have for the first time produced a male cloned calf from the somatic cell of progeny-tested bull which died 10 years ago,” director of National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) Dr AK Srivastava said on Sunday.

The calf, who has been given name of Rajat, was born on July 23 by using “hand-guided cloning” technique and its weight at the time of the birth was 32 kg, a release from NDRI said.

The Murrah bull, whose frozen semen was used to produce male calf, had been ranked first in the 5th set of all-India progeny-testing programme.

A progeny test is performed by mating the male with a number of females to produce many progenies and the average performance of the offspring is then found, giving a measure of the male’s respective value, and it takes years to evaluate its superiority, an NDRI release said.

The NDRI Director said there was an acute shortage of good-quality bulls and the technology of “hand-guided cloning” could decrease this gap and supply elite bulls in the shortest possible time.

“We do not have progeny-tested bulls and moreover, there is a shortage of 80-90 million doses of semen in the country. We have frozen semen of progeny-tested bulls and we can produce good quality of bulls by this cloning technique,” Srivastava said.

The male cloned calf is named ‘RAJAT’

Cloning, which helps in faster multiplication of superior germplasm, can be done through males by producing clones of progeny-tested bulls and through females by producing clone of high-yielding lactating females.

A team of seven scientists — SK Singla, MS Chauhan, RS Manik, P Palta, Shiv Parsad, Anuj Raja and Amol Sahare — was involved in the production of cloned calf.

S Ayyappan, secretary, department of agricultural research and education (DARE) and director general, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), congratulated the team and said this achievement of producing cloned calf from progeny-tested bull by hand-guided cloning technique will facilitate faster multiplication of elite germplasm and help face the challenges of increasing demands of milk, said the release.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever.


Speculative fiction is the literature of change and discovery. But every now and then, a book comes along that changes the rules of science fiction and fantasy for everybody. Certain greatbooks inspire scores of authors to create something new. Here are 21 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books.

Top image: Magrathea from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, art by Microbot 23 on Deviant Art.

These are books which clearly inspired a generation of authors, and made a huge splash either in publishing success or critical acclaim. Or both. And these are in no particular order.

1) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The first (maybe only) science-fiction-comedy-multimedia phenomenon, Hitchhiker’s was a radio drama before it was a book, and the book sold 250,000 copies in its first three months.The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

Ted Gioia comments on Adams’ hilarious book about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, the survivor of a destroyed Earth, across the universe:

No book better epitomizes the post-heroic tone of sci-fi than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As the name indicates, a certain louche bohemianism permeates its pages. This is star-hopping on the cheap, pursued by those aiming not to conquer the universe, but merely sample its richeson fewer than thirty Altairian dollars per day. You can trace the lineage of many later science fictions books, with their hip and irreverent tone, back to this influential and much beloved predecessor.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Verne’s whole career is full of works that have inspired generations of authors — but this tale ofthe underwater adventure of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus has also had a profound effect on science, and inspired real scientific advancement.

In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

Verne translator and scholar F.P. Walter added:

For many, then, this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveler Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favorite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

3) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney

Sam Anderson prefaced his interview with Samuel R. Delany with this praise for Dhalgren‘s impact:

In the 35 years since its publication, Dhalgren has been adored and reviled with roughly equal vigor. It has been cited as the downfall of science fiction (Philip K. Dick once called it “the worst trash I’ve ever read”), turned into a rock opera, dropped by its publisher, and reissued by others. These days, it seems to have settled into the groove of a cult classic. In a foreword in the current edition, William Gibson describes the book as “a literary singularity” and Delany as “the most remarkable prose stylist to have emerged from the culture of American science fiction.” Jonathan Lethem called it “the secret masterpiece, the city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive.

Dhalgren has remained popular through the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. It was also dropped by Bantam, the original publisher, because of its willingness to tackle LGBT themes despite the fact that the Bantam version sold over a million copies and went through 19 printings.

And most of all, this is one of the books most often mentioned when authors mention works that spurred them to invention and boldness of experimentation with form.

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4) Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Author Terry Brooks explains why this book made a whole genre possible:

I think I can safely assert that virtually every writer of fantasy working in the field today who began writing after the publication of the RINGS trilogy owes a debt to Tolkien. He may not have invented the form, but he provided it with its most important model in modern times and every writer is aware of its various components. Ask them. Few will dispute me. Moreover, the material has impacted writers working in other categories of fiction as well, not so much by its content as by its form and style. Not a month goes by that I don’t read at least one interview or review that credits J.R.R. Tolkien with contributing to a writer’s current work.

Cover art by Barbara Remington.

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5) War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

In his book about The War of the Worlds, a seminal look at an invasion of Earth by Martians, author Brian Holmsten states:

Since 1898 the War of the Worlds has been translated into countless languages, adapted by comic books, radio, film, stage, and even computer games, and has inspired a wide range of alien invasion tales in every medium. Few ideas have captured the imagination of so many people all over the world in the last century so well. It is a tribute to H.G. Wells that his story of alien conquest was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of the best.

The 1927 American reprint, it can be argued, was one of the touching-off points for the Golden Age of science fiction. It inspired John W. Campbell to write and commission invasion stories — which also prompted authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein andJohn Wyndham to do the same.

Image by My Reckless Creation

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6) Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation is a sweeping tale of pyschohistory and the battle for the intellectual soul of a civilization. and According to the BBC:

The Foundation series helped to launch the careers of three notable science fiction authors of the succeeding generation. Janet Asimov sanctioned these novels, which were published in the late 1990s: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin.” And without a doubt it launched the imaginations of countless other writers.

It is also worth mentioning that the Foundation series won the 1966 Hugo for best all-time series. An award that has not been given out since.

And this book’s influence goes beyond science fiction: Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky classified Asimov “among the finest of modern philosophers,” and Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman describesFoundation as his version of Atlas Shrugged, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.”

Cover art by Don Ivan Punchatz.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

7) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

The first science-fiction work to enter the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list,Stranger sold 100,000 copies in hardcover and over five million in paperback. Kurt Vonnegutgloated on Heinlein’s behalf, on the occasion of the novel’s 30th “birthday,” calling it “a wonderfully humanizing artifact for those who can enjoy thinking about the place of human beings not at a dinner table but in the universe.”

And this book’s influence (and that of Heinlein’s other books) can’t be overstated. Arthur D. Hlavaty refers to Heinlein as a prototypical science-fiction author, saying:

One of the ways human beings organize the world is by prototypes. We define a set as a typical example and a bunch of other things that are like it. For instance, when I was growing up, the prototype Writer was Shakespeare, the Artist was Rembrandt, and the Composer was Beethoven.In that way, Robert A. Heinlein has been often been taken as the prototype Science Fiction Writer, and as changes and new paradigms shake the field, he still sometimes represents the science fiction of the past.

Writer Ted Gioia looks at Stranger in a Strange Land‘s main character as a prototype for other similar characters in SF, saying: “Smith is more than a character. He is prototype of an alternative personality structure. The question of whether we can remake the human personality from the ground up.” To date, there have been 28 editions of this book.

Cover art by James Warhola.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

8) Dangerous Visions, Edited by Harlan Ellison

This series helped launch the careers of almost every major author of the New Wave. The first volume included Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard. In his introduction to the 2002 reissue of Ellison’s anthology, contributor Michael Moorcock wrote of Ellison’s collections:

He changed our world forever. And ironically, it is usually the mark of a world so fundamentally altered—be it by Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson, or Kate Millet—that nobody remembers what it was like before things got better. That’s the real measure of Ellison’s success.

“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best novelette. Philip K. Dick’s “Faith of Our Fathers” was also nominated for best novelette. “Riders of the Purple Wage” a novella by Philip José Farmer tied for the Hugo Award. Samuel R. Delany got the Nebula for Best Short Story for “Aye, and Gomorrah…” Harlan Ellison was given a commendation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing “the most significant and controversial SF book” published in 1967.

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8) Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke himself had reservations about this novel, yet it sold out its first printing, 200,000 copies, in just two months after publication. Author Jo Walton writes about the first book to feature benevolent aliens who try to help the human race evolve:

Science fiction is a very broad genre, with lots of room for lots of kinds of stories, stories that go all over the place and do all kinds of things. One of the reasons for that is that early on there got to be a lot of wiggle room. Childhood’s End was one of those things that expanded the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to possibility. Clarke was an engineer and he was a solidly scientific writer, but he wasn’t a Campbellian writer. He brought his different experiences to his work, and the field is better for it.

Childhood’s End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

Artwork by Neal Adams.

9) Ringworld by Larry Niven

Sam Jordison of the Guardian had this to say about Ringworld, the masterpiece that is centered around around a theoretical ring-shaped space-habitat:

Larry Niven’s 1970 Hugo award winner, Ringworld, is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels of the past 50 years. As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all subsequent space operas (Iain M Banks’ Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns are just two), the book has helped generate a multi-billion-dollar industry.

To add to this Jonathan Cowie, who wrote Essetial SF: A Concise Guide, called Ringworld “a landmark novel of planetary engineering (for want of a better term) that ranks alongside the late Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville.”

10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Jo Walton, again, comments on this novel about interstellar diplomacy and anthropology:

The Left Hand of Darkness didn’t just change science fiction—it changed feminism, and it was part of the process of change of the concept of what it was to be a man or a woman. The battle may not be over. What I mean is that thanks in part to this book we’re standing in a very different place from the combatants of 1968.

In 1994 literary critic Harold Bloom included it in his Western Canon of Literature, going as far as to say, “Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

11) Neuromancer by William Gibson

By 2007, this cyberpunk classic had sold more than 6.5 million copies. It’s been adapted into almost every genre, and it’s responsible for introducing numerous terms, and, arguably, the idea of the internet. The Encyclopedia of NewMedia calls Neuromancer more important than On the Road in its cultural influence, and credits its formative influence on subsequent media, fromWired magazine to The X-Files, to the internet itself. After the initial inventions of the ARPANET, Paul T. Riddell writes, the internet took shape due to “impressionable students reading [Gibson’s] stories and novels; instead of whining and complaining after reading Robert Anton Wilson, they read Gibson and thought, ‘You know, we can do this.'”

Neuromancer was the first novel to win all three of the major science-fiction awards —- the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K. Dick Award for paperback original.

12) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

According to the New York Times, Stephenson’s look at the way humans interact with digital worlds has a well-earned reputation for prescience:

Snow Crash was published way back in ancient 1992 and laid out many of the attributes of today’s online life, including the Metaverse, a virtual place where people meet, do business and play, presenting themselves as avatars. If you’ve ever played wildly popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, or visited the virtual communities of Second Life, you can get a chill thinking about what he saw back before the popularization of the World Wide Web.”

Despite the reputation of his book, Stephenson is pretty reluctant to take on the title of “Seer”saying in the same article, “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

13) A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

From its first publication in 1996, this book and its sequels helped spur a new, darker revival of epic fantasy that turned the genre’s expectations on their heads. In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords, editor Henry Jacoby, a philosophy professor at East Carolina University, speculates about the series’ popularity:

Readers often cite the moral complexity of the novels as a key part of their enjoyment, alluding to characters painted in “shades of gray.” Previous works of epic fantasy tended to operate with a straightforward moral compass where the antagonist was some variety of evil “Dark Lord” and the protagonists were defined by their opposition to this evil character based on their obvious moral goodness. In contrast, Martin’s series has been written with no dark lord to speak of. …Martin’s choice to keep his eyes on the very human characters, with their very human flaws, was done well enough to win him legions of fans who appreciated the so-called “gritty realism” of the narrative.

Fantasy author Mark Lawrence agrees:

He showed what fantasy could be. Real people who didn’t carry a particular flaw around like an attribute rolled up in a role-playing game, but who were complex, capable of both good and evil, victims of circumstance, heroes of the moment. Heroes in gleaming mail could suffer from corns without it being a joke. That’s a big part of his secret – EVERY ONE IS HUMAN – get behind their eyes and nobody is perfect, nobody is worthless.

14) Kindred by Octavia Butler

John C. Snider, editor at scifidimensions described Octavia Butler’s celebrated novel as:

A dark fantasy novel that drills down into the prickly core of American history: slavery. This novel, in which a young middle-class black woman finds herself shuttled between 1976 California and antebellum Maryland, has become a classic of SF&F and required reading in both women’s and African-American studies. But don’t be fooled – while Butler’s fiction appeals to feminist and minority demographics, it’s not propped up by that appeal. To read Octavia Butler is to read good literature – period.

Octavia Butler was also the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship also known as the Genius Grant. And in 2012, hundreds of thousands of copies of Kindred were given away for World Book Night.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

15) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

The Spotlight Review explains the importance of this epic series of wizards and muggles, beloved by people of all ages:

They are the standard by which every child or teen-oriented book is viewed. Passed on by dozens of publishers, who all have lost billions of dollars in doing so, Harry Potter radically changed the landscape in the publishing industry. Before Harry Potter, children and teen books were considered a worthy area to publish, but it wasn’t a very lucrative one. After Harry’s rise to dominance over the entire publishing world, suddenly every firm began accepting similar book proposals in the hopes that another diamond in the rough could be found. It’s been harder than previously thought. There have been some promising books, but none that have captured the hearts and minds of millions.

Harry Potter has been translated into 57 different languages, even Latin and Ancient Greek.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverEXPAND

16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a YA classic about a young woman who battles for her life and ultimately her civilization’s fuutre in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. NPR reports that, “Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time, but the success of The Hunger Games has spawned a whole new crop of books set in a grim future where an authoritarian regime is just begging to be overthrown. They are aimed straight at a teenage audience.”

Right now, more than 26 million copies are in print in the United States.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverEXPAND

17) Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The growing trend of climate-focused science fiction, and a greater attention to future problems in general, owes a lot to this great book about the very real problem of future food shortages. In this biopunk SF novel, Emiko is a humanoid GM organism, who is enslaved as a prostitute in Thailand. She yearns for an escape. Niall Harrison, judge of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2006 and 2007, writes:

Emiko is a stepping-stone to that future; and by the logic of The Windup Girl, so are we all. From our point of view, it’s hardly an optimistic conclusion but it is, in The Windup Girl’s terms, a very human one, and I can’t recall another novel that has articulated the same vision of what it means to be human in the present moment with the same force. It’s that vision that insists that Emiko is human, and that she remains bound at the end of the novel: because we remain bound, and she is us; because at least for now, science fiction remains bound; and because, quite probably, so does our world.

The Windup Girl tied for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel with China Miéville’s The City & the City. In the same year it also won the Nebula award along with the John W. Campbell award.

Cover art by Raphael Lacoste.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Michael M. Jones explains what makes this book distinct from previous works of military science fiction:

The Forever War is a masterpiece of military science fiction and social observation, applicable on numerous levels. While some aspects might be far-fetched, there’s no denying that it’s a powerful work. William Mandella is no career soldier like many of the military SF heroes out there; certainly not like Johnny Rico in Starship Trooper. He’s just an ordinary guy who gets drafted, and has the bad luck to actually survive the war.

Haldeman won Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards for this book, and along with Heinlein’sStarship Troopers, it helped inspire generations of more realistic military SF authors.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

19) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Salon’s Michael Schmidt writes about the way Vonnegut changed the war novel by using aspects of science-fiction:

Doris Lessing calls him “moral in an old-fashioned way . . . he has made nonsense of the little categories, the unnatural divisions into ‘real’ literature and the rest, because he is comic and sad at once, because his painful seriousness is never solemn.” His acknowledgment and expression of the nuanced nature of experience makes him “unique among us; and these same qualities account for the way a few academics still try to patronize him.” As though what he does is easier than the resolved plotting of more derivatively artful novelists.

After a school tried to ban this novel, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered 150 free copies of the book to students in Rockville, Missouri.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy ForeverEXPAND

20) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ray Walters at geek.com explains why this book was influential on not just literature, but also science:

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely related fictional stories depicting humanities struggle to flee from the potential of nuclear war on Earth to try and find refuge on the Red Planet. Many of the ideas Bradbury put forth in the novels seemed fantastical at the time, but modern day efforts to explore Mars smack of the science fiction writer’s vision of what it would be like to visit there.

While Bradbury is seen primarily as an author who had a profound effect on his literary genre, in reality his reach has been much wider. While his novels may not be required reading in our schools anymore (which blows my mind), his ideas are talked about everyday with the people uttering the words usually not knowing the origins of the topics they are discussing. Ray Bradbury will certainly be missed, not just for his amazing science fiction writing, but also for his visionary foresight into cultural phenomenons.

NASA put a burned DVD containing The Martian Chronicles on the hull of the Phoenix Martian Rover.

21 Books That Changed Science Fiction And Fantasy Forever

21) Dune – Frank Herbert

Scott Timberg at the L.A. Times says Frank Herbert’s epic novel, in which noble houses battle for control of each others’ planets, was not just massive but ground-breaking:

Writers had imagined life on other planets and written of environmental catastrophe. But the scale of Dune was unprecedented, comparable, as Arthur C. Clarke said at the time, only to “The Lord of the Rings.”

It’s not quite New Wave — which developed in the late 1960s — not an antecedent to cyberpunk, nor a precursor to the recent space-opera renaissance. “It’s some kind of singularity,” says Latham.

“Dune” both channeled and stoked a greater environmental consciousness in SF: Important later novels by Ursula Le Guin, John Brunner and Octavia Butler looked at planetary ecology.

Dune won the Hugo award in 1966 as well as the very first Nebula award.

It’s almost impossible to fit all of the most game-changing works of science fiction and fantasy into one article. Which books do you think should be on this list, and why?

12 Things You Need to Remind Yourself of When You Wake Up.


We may not always love everything about our lives, but deep down we do love and appreciate the magic of life itself.  Some part of us believes that everything and anything is possible.

Sadly, though, we don’t always believe these possibilities are within our reach, even when they are.  The problem is we choose to believe otherwise.  We choose to believe we are incapable of living our lives the way we want to live them, at our full potential.  We choose to accept our reality as others have told us it has to be.

12 Things You Need to Remind Yourself of When You Wake Up

Wake up!

We don’t have to do this to ourselves – none of us do.  We have a choice.  We don’t have to be complacent.  We don’t have to fall into line.  Why not stir things up a bit and live by better rules?

It’s time to remind yourself of a few key truths – right now and every morning hereafter:

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  1. Today can be great, but only if you make it so. – Why do we often feel so powerless?  Because we convince ourselves that we are.  We wait for things to be given to us – entitlements.  But in life, there are no true entitlements, and the truth is that if you want something then you need to make it happen for yourself.  You need to work for it.  Whether or not today is a great day doesn’t depend on the weather.  It doesn’t depend on your “mood” (that’s also within your control).  It doesn’t depend on anyone else.  If you want to have a pleasant and productive day then choose to have one.  It’s all about your perception and what you choose to believe and do.
  2. There is a lot you CAN control. – There are plenty of things in life that are out of our control, but don’t let this fool you into believing that your life as a whole is out of your control.  The reality is, the life you are living is almost entirely by your own design.  You have made many little choices along the way that led you down the road you’re currently traveling.  Saying that your life is out of your control is a copout – it’s what other people want you to believe so that they have an easier time getting you to do what they want you to do.
  3. You do not need anyone’s constant approval. – The need for approval is like an addiction.  If you base all your actions on the approval of others, ultimately you find yourself running in place, sacrificing your own happiness.  Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.  Learn how to say “no” to people and obligations that do not add value to your life.  Your time on this planet is precious.  As the saying goes, “What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”  Don’t wait around for someone else to give you permission to live.  (Read Awaken the Giant Within.)
  4. Complaining is useless unless you can suggest a solution. – Do not be a constant complainer.  It doesn’t help you and it certainly doesn’t help your relationships.  If you do not like your current situation, work towards changing it, but don’t just sit around complaining about it.  Complaining will only make others nearby not want to be around you.  Be someone that looks at the positive aspects of situations.  And if you do find a problem that needs to be addressed, be someone that suggests a solution.  The bottom line is that you will never get to where you want to be by complaining about where you are now.  Each step in your life is preparing you for the one that comes after it.
  5. Success is a lifestyle, not a result. – We all want to achieve success, but we need to remember that success in not a specific achievement.  Success is not crossing over some arbitrary finishing line.  It’s the ability to fight the good fight day in and day out.  Success is strength – the strength to keep pushing and to keep living your life on your own terms.  Success isn’t an end result.  It’s a state of being.  You don’t win success.  You are a success every day.
  6. The fact that you haven’t given up is a success in itself. – It may give you little comfort to think about how you’re still waist deep in the struggle, but the truth is you are one of the strong people with the guts to keep at it.  Many people give up before they even begin, but not you.  No, you wake up every day and get things done.  You crawl inch by inch against the current because you refuse to give up.  You refuse to accept mediocrity.  You refuse to listen to others when they tell you that you’re not good enough.  You’re still in it, fighting the good fight.  (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  7. In every tough situation, kindness must be attempted first. – People may make ugly comments.  The airline carrier may lose your baggage.  Another driver may cut you off in rush-hour traffic.  These situations will happen daily.  The question is: How are you going to respond?  Although your first response, like many others, will be to get upset, why not try a different approach?  Anger in these situations never solves problems.  People are far more likely to respond aptly to kindness.  And you can be kind and be firm at the same time.  Get your point across without sacrificing your integrity.  It’s the only response you will not regret later.
  8. Bullies and energy vampires are not worth worrying about. – We sometimes allow the wrong people to take up too much space in our heads and hearts.  We meet energy vampires and bullies regularly – especially when we live in a big city or work in a large, cutthroat corporate environment.  These individuals will try to get to you – they will try to influence you and become a part of your life because they find their own life to be mundane.  They already poisoned their own lives and now they are looking to poison yours.  Don’t let them get to you.
  9. If someone hurts you, don’t take it personally. – Truth be told, if someone hurts you, chances are, they have been hurt themselves.  So do your best to never take anything too personally.  Don’t let compliments get to your head and don’t let insults get to your heart.  Most people can only give others what they have received themselves.  All your actions and words should come from a place of love, but not everyone will be loving in return, and that’s OK.  As Miguel Ruiz explained in his book The Four Agreements, when you do not take anything personally, you liberate yourself.  You can open yourself to the world, freely, and not have to worry about the judgments of others.
  10. Your focused presence matters. – While modern technology can be life-changing in many beneficial ways, there is an aspect of this technology that greatly interferes with our lives and relationships.  Do not be so addicted to a screen that you miss out on the opportunity to enjoy real life unfolding in front of you.  Learn to disconnect.  Learn to slow down.  Give people your full and undivided attention.  Do not seek mindless stimulation on a screen for no reasons, and refocus on nurturing real human connections.
  11. Good things in life end too soon when they aren’t appreciated.– This isn’t to say that appreciating what you have when you have it comes naturally – our minds tend to consider the possibility that the grass on the other side is greener.  But we need to mindfully remind ourselves that life isn’t about constantly upgrading things.  To live a happy, fulfilling life we have to learn to appreciate and love what we have.  If you fall in love then do your sincere best to nurture your love.  Don’t wait for things to end before you start appreciating them.
  12. Today is a blessing. – Think about how many people die every minute of every day and you’ll begin to realize that waking up in the morning is a blessing.  We don’t live in a world of perpetual peace, but one laden with bouts of chaos.  On top of this, accidents do happen and people get severely injured and die because of them.  Getting another day to breathe, to experience life, and to do something meaningful is the greatest gift one can receive.  Make today count!

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What’s something positive you like to remind yourself of every day?  Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.

GENE INHIBITOR, SALMON FIBRIN RESTORE FUNCTION LOST IN SPINAL CORD INJURY IN RODENTS.


A therapy combining salmon fibrin injections into the spinal cord and injections of a gene inhibitor into the brain restored voluntary motor function impaired by spinal cordinjury, scientists at UC Irvine’s Reeve-Irvine Research Center have found.

In a study on rodents, Gail Lewandowski and Oswald Steward achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical to the formation of corticospinal tract nerve connections and providing a scaffold so that neuronal axons at the injury site could grow and link up again.

Results appear in the July 23 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The work expands on previous research at UCI. In 2010, Steward helped discover that axons flourish after the deletion of an enzyme called PTEN, which controls a molecular pathway regulating cell growth. PTEN activity is low during early development, allowing cell proliferation. PTEN subsequently turns on, inhibiting this pathway and precluding any ability to regenerate.

Two years later, a UCI team found that salmon fibrin injected into rats with spinal cord injury filled cavities at the injury site, giving axons a framework in which to reconnect and facilitate recovery. Fibrin is a stringy, insoluble protein produced by the blood clotting process and is used as a surgical glue.

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“This is a major next step in our effort to identify treatments that restore functional losses suffered by those with spinal cord injury,” said Steward, professor of anatomy & neurobiology and director of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, of the current findings. “Paralysis and loss of function from spinal cord injury has been considered irreversible, but our discovery points the way toward a potential therapy to induce regeneration of nerve connections.”

In their study, he and Lewandowski treated rodents with impaired hand movement due to spinal cord injury with a combination of salmon fibrin and a PTEN inhibitor called AAVshPTEN. A separate group of rodents got only AAVshPTEN.

The researchers saw that rats receiving the inhibitor alone did not exhibit improved motor function, whereas those given AAVshPTEN and salmon fibrin recovered forelimb use involving reaching and grasping.

“The data suggest that the combination of PTEN deletion and salmon fibrin injection into the lesion can significantly enhance motor skills by enabling regenerative growth ofcorticospinal tract axons,” Steward said.

According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, about 2 percent of Americans have some form of paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury, due primarily to the interruption of connections between the brain and spinal cord.

An injury the size of a grape can lead to complete loss of function below the site of occurrence. For example, an injury to the neck can cause paralysis of the arms and legs, an absence of sensation below the shoulders, bladder and bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and secondary health risks such as susceptibility to urinary tract infections, pressure sores and blood clots due to an inability to move the legs.

Steward said the next objective is to learn how long after injury the combination treatment can be effectively administered. “It would be a huge step if it could be delivered in the chronic period weeks and months after an injury, but we need to determine this before we can engage in clinical trials,” he said.

Lewandowski is a project scientist in the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. The study received support from the National Institutes of Health (grant R01 NS047718) anddonations from Cure Medical and Unite 2 Fight Paralysis.

NEW HOPE FOR POWDERY MILDEW RESISTANT BARLEY.


New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.

In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes ayear. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.

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Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.

The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of PlantGenetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist (www.newphytologist.com).

Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.

In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore evenmore important.”

The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.

“Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material – a papillae – around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.

“It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.

“It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”

In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.

“We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.

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