Need a scientist?

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Elizabeth Bent, Jul 25, 2010.

  1.  
    Elizabeth Bent

    Elizabeth Bent Canadian superspy

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    79
    Hi there- I'm new to these forums, and thought I would mention that I work as a scientist (specifically, a molecular biologist/ microbiologist). If you have a specific question, I might be able to answer it for you.
    :)
  2.  
    chopper

    chopper still alive

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2005
    Messages:
    1,901
    welcome aboard!

    kinda makes me wish i did have a question that needed answering, but you can't have everything...

    please feel free to post a general introduction in the Introductions section as well - and i note you're also looking for agents, so thus you must be a perspiring writer yourself - anything in particular?
  3.  
    Elizabeth Bent

    Elizabeth Bent Canadian superspy

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    79
    Thanks for the welcome. I'm currently working on a science fiction story I started maybe 20 years ago (!) and which has grown from a short piece of fiction to a full length novel. The bits of it which I've shown to people (including people that don't know me) have gotten encouraging responses.

    I've actually self-published another, sillier novel (which I wrote while finishing my PhD and which sorely needs revision), but I want to try to sell my current work.
  4.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2007
    Messages:
    1,596
    Hullo Elizabeth,

    What an excellent idea to offer your expertise! I wonder if we should perhaps ask the Mods if there is any mileage in making this thread a sticky, calling it something whizzy like Specialist Subjects (or in my case, WILTTIKA -What I Like to Think I Know About) and then inviting those of us who would be happy to share any specialist or professional knowledge they may have to set out their areas of knowledge?

    I'll volunteer for beekeeping, brewing, early medieval British history (400-900 in particular) and the English legal system.

    Regards,

    Peter
  5.  
    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    6,138
    I can cover sound engineering, roofing and maintenance of French mediaeval châteaux, particle accelerators and their big brothers, linear accelerators.
    Hm, looking at the list it doesn't seem to have much of any interest either to F or SF. Mind you, I'll have a shot at blacksmithing, early mountain climbing, video recording from two inch to digital – quite a lot of things, really.
  6.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Messages:
    5,464
    Well, I used to know a fair bit about accountancy, and, er ...

    *nervously hopes he doesn't get involved in any real-life balloon debates*
  7.  
    Elizabeth Bent

    Elizabeth Bent Canadian superspy

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    79
    You never know what subjects might come up in a story. In my current book, one of my characters is a potter and I've had to learn a fair bit about ceramics and kiln firing to give her any semblance of reality.

    There are a bunch of folks with varied expertise here- nice to know that if I have a strange question (perhaps about ballooning?) it may be answered here.
    :)
  8.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Messages:
    5,464
    I've posted threads asking technical questions related to my WIP in the Aspiring Writers forum before (such as one about corrosion of various metals in sea water). But I wonder if it would be a good idea to have a single "ask an expert" thread, for questions that just require a factual answer rather than opinion or discussion?
  9.  
    The Bloated One

    The Bloated One New Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2007
    Messages:
    409
    Got any cool 'sciency' type words for rotting flesh?

    TBO
  10.  
    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae Why?

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    3,848

    How about "necrosis"? :p
  11.  
    elfdragonlord

    elfdragonlord New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2010
    Messages:
    31
    I studied philosophy and history at university.

    So if anyone needs information about European Philosophy (Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Sartre), Philosophy of Mind, Early Modern European History (roughly Rennaisance to mid eighteenth Century), Indian Philosophy or Indian History - these are all things I enjoyed studying at Uni.

    I also have layman's interest in evolution/animal classification and astronomy - but I'm sure there are others here with more expert knowledge than my 'I read a lot of books' knowledge.
  12.  
    BookStop

    BookStop If you see a stranger...

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2006
    Messages:
    2,405
    Oh, wow, Elizabeth. You seem to have started something here :) Wish I had knowledge to contribute. I do know very little about a great many things; certainly something handy in there.

    And welcome to the Chronicles.
  13.  
    dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2005
    Messages:
    3,699
    I know how to change diapers, burp babies, and be awesome.

    Welcome Elizabeth!
  14.  
    bulldogwings

    bulldogwings New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Hi Elizabeth!

    How very serendipitous to find your post and generous offer at the same time I am working on a story about a scientist whose love of animals leads him into employing some proscribed procedures in order to create the miniature elephant that his wife has always dreamed about having. My specific question is what types of self imposed rules might a scientist integrate into his/her work ethic if they chose to pursue this type of work? I would think that the cute little beasts would need to be created sterile so no one could start a 'tiny elephant mill'. Any ideas on other self policing guidelines?

    Thanks so much for the kind offer.

    I have ten years of medical imaging experience, fifteen years of IT experience and 40 years of experience making music on several instruments to offer, if anyone has a question around one of those areas

    Cheers !
  15.  
    digs

    digs Thicker than water

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2007
    Messages:
    729
    If anyone needs advice on sleeping in, skipping class and wasting time, I'm your man!

    I have a question: what does a molecular biologist/microbiologist do?
  16.  
    Elizabeth Bent

    Elizabeth Bent Canadian superspy

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    79
    Molecular biology: study of biological questions involving molecules such as DNA, RNA or proteins.

    Microbiology: study of microscopic organisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea.
  17.  
    Elizabeth Bent

    Elizabeth Bent Canadian superspy

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    Messages:
    79
    Well, hi there! I am a fan of this story already, since I myself have thought it would be fun to have a miniature elephant.

    I don't actually clone entire organisms, just pieces of DNA. I know there are laws as to which organisms one can legally clone (humans are forbidden, for example) in most countries. I am not sure what the laws are regarding animal cloning- if, for example, one needs to get permission to do the work the same way one needs permission to conduct any kind of experiment involving live animals. You would need to figure out what the laws are regarding cloning in the time and place where your scientist lives.

    Then you need to figure out if there are rules specific to the institution where your scientist has a laboratory that describe work with animals or with the cloning of animals. This isn't something he can do in his basement (at least, for most people), so wherever the facility is that the work is being conducted has to have rules that permit him to do the work. Most universities, for example, have ethical boards that oversee any work of this nature and make decisions as to whether the work can go ahead at that institution. If this project is something he is doing for personal reasons, he may find either a loophole in the rules or hide the fact that he is working on tiny elephants somehow.

    Self-policing is not something most scientists need to do, actually. There are so many rules and laws about what can and can't be done that all the policing has already been done. Your average scientist, who is not in control of an institution but just works in one, doesn't have ultimate power to do just anything. If we want to keep our jobs and keep getting paid our salaries, we have to work within the rules.

    As for things that can be done to prevent tiny elephants from taking over the world, keeping them sterile would be one option. Creating them so that they have a syndrome of some kind that prevents them from living a long time might be another, though this might not be desirable for pets. Because these elephants are meant to be pets, you probably don't need to worry about ecological effects the same way you would if the elephants were an agricultural crop grown outside in the environment. However, it would be interesting if the elephants did manage to escape (and some weren't sterile) and formed feral bands of wild tiny elephants, plundering gardens for vegetation and fruit.

    Good luck! I'd like to read the story once it's finished, if that's possible. :)
  18.  
    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    6,138
    You can't just scale down an elephant; dozens of the adaptations like the thick legs and the heat shedding ears have developed because of its large size. Pony sized, perhaps. How small did those mammoths on the island get before dying out (actually, a very small mammoth might be a good choice, as the hair would compensate for the lack of body mass in maintaining temperature. Try and get it down to indoor dimensions and you risk ending up with a mouse going on holiday (Sorry. What's grey with a trunk, see?).

    You might be able to do the miniaturisation without genetic manipulation at all, by adjusting growth hormones from – well, not conception, but very early on. I'd do the ground work on some species that's easier (and cheaper) to get hold of, though; there are going to be a lot of failures as irregular growth rates cause deformed specimens.

    They bonsai pachyderms wouldn't breed true, of course; sterilisation would be humane, as I can't see a female surviving the pregnancy of a full-sized elephetus.

    And this is technology that could be handled at a reasonably domestic lab level, if you were thick-skinned enough to accept the 'wastage' (don't ever think of them as living animals with their own feelings). And could be done (probably) much sooner than direct genetic intervention.
  19.  
    digs

    digs Thicker than water

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2007
    Messages:
    729
    I remember hearing about this in an archaeology lecture: that, trapped on an island, small animals tend to get larger (I think) and large animals tend to get smaller. They used dwarf elephants as an example. Dunno how useful it is, but it's pretty interesting!
  20.  
    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,567

    I don't know a great deal about the science of it but I can name you a couple of books that have done similar things.

    In Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl he has Megadonts; elephants bred larger than normal and used essentially as workhorses. He also has "cheshires"; a genetic variation on cats, better at hiding and better at hunting. They go feral and become one of the biggest pests worldwide.

    In Elizabeth Moon's Hunting Party one of the main protagionists has a miniature garden on her spaceship, populated by miniature anaimals.

    In both cases the animals are incidental to the story particularly so in the case of the Hunting Party.

Share This Page