Sience News Update: Bisphenol A

SFFaudio Online Audio

Uvula AudioStarShipSofa’s Aural Delights podcast features terrific fiction, funny poems and fantastic scholarly research in nearly every episode. Once a month the podcast features a segment by James J. Campanella. Besides being an excellent audiobook narrator, he’s a university professor (of Biology and Molecular Biology) and a genuine Ph’D scientist. His segment is called “Science News Update.” In each episode Campanella talks about the latest research that’s hitting the journals, explains the cool implications of each, and he answers listeners questions. In a recent show, for example, Campanella discussed a cool experiment that demonstrates a previously unknown taste receptor – we can taste the flavour of carbonation! More on that later.

But, it’s something else in the most recent two segments (the October and November 2009 shows) that I really want to draw your attention to. See Jim answered one of my questions. I’d been wondering about the ‘BPA and plastics threat’ that I’d be hearing about (from my mom).

In his answer to my query Campanella discussed the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol A (BPA), and its distribution in the human ecosystem.

It seems that BPA does pose a threat, a kind of bodily pollution that threatens to ‘impurify our precious bodily fluids!’ Or as Jim put it in his email to me:

“This stuff just scares the hell out of me– all I can think of is that book and movie The Children Of Men.”

Yikes! Is it truly possible that in all the H1N1 hysteria that a more insidious threat can be found in the likes of household plastics and store receipts?

Campanella thinks so. He refers, in the November show, to some research conducted by Bruce Lanphear, a Health Sciences Professor at Simon Fraser University (my old school).

Because of this research Canada has banned plastics containing BPA from use in baby products. But there’s not yet been a ban imposed on BPA lined cash register receipts or number 7 (and some number 3) recyclable plastics. Other plastics, containing other non-Bishpenol A plastics may or may not pose a risk. But given the known leech-rate of glass containers (virtually nil) I’d be willing to stick with glass were it available for reasonable prices (which it mostly isn’t, damn it).

Campanella also reports that not only are some plastics embedded with this dangerous endocrine disruptor but that a larger threat may be looming in the form of the receipt I got when I bought all that plastic crap! Sez Campanella:

carbonless copy paper credit card and store receipts have a reported average of 50-100mg of free BPA. That is receipts using this bisphenol A technology have a loose coating of unbound BPA ready for uptake on the fingers or even possibly through direct skin absorption!’

So, mom, I guess you were right? Except that it’s not so much the plastics now that I’m worried about!

Listen to the October |MP3| and November |MP3| Science News Update shows.

Podcast feed:

http://www.uvulaaudio.com/Podcasts/Podcasts.xml


My solutions BTW:

-Avoid plastics (especially number 7 and number 3)

-Avoid receipts

-And given the news about carbonation and plastics, I’ll try to be more like this guy…

Posted by Jesse Willis

Hi-Sci-Fi: interview with Robert Burns

SFFaudio Online Audio

Hi-Sci-Fi The August 20th 2009 episode of Hi-Sci-Fi (a podcast radio show out of CJSF 90.1FM in Burnaby, British Columbia) features a very interesting interview with the author of The Unselfish Gene Sez host Irma Arkus:

“This week we have one of my new favorite authors, Robert Burns, who not only has the touch for the undead, but writes most beautiful adventure sci-fi pulp I’ve read in a long, long time. And together with Burns, we bring you his new novel, The Unselfish Gene.

The premise of the novel is genuinely un-boring: colonists on moon are the last of humans as we know it, because the rest of the Earth’s populous has been affected by a Zombie virus.

But that is only where the fun starts, as moon colonists seem to suffer from endless complications and health issues of their own: they are not the best choice for human propagation due to long-term radiation exposure, and mental illnesses, including clinical depression, are quite common.

Worst of all, they are the only and best candidates for survival of humanity, because they have the runaway vehicle: Anita, an Orion-like ship, propelled by nuclear-bombs, is a way out, as Earth also faces a run-in with a comet.

The premise of the novel simply spells disaster, which is AWESOME.”

In the interview Irma gushes over the cool illustrations.

The interview proper starts at about 22 minutes in |MP3|.

Podcast feed:
http://www.hiscifi.com/podcast.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[via the Science Fiction In Biology blog]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

SFFaudio Review

Random House Audio - Terminal Freeze by Lincoln ChildTerminal Freeze
By Lincoln Child; Read by Scott Brick
9 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: February 2009
ISBN: 9780739382028
Themes: / Horror / Thriller / Techno-thriller / Science / Biology / Evolution / Paleoecology / Alaska / Ice / Ice Road Trucking /

Four hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle lies Alaska’s Federal Wilderness Zone, one of the most remote places on Earth. But for paleoecologist Evan Marshall and a small group of fellow scientists, an expedition to the Zone represents the opportunity of a lifetime to study the effects of global warming. The expedition changes suddenly, however, with an astonishing find. On a routine exploration of a glacial ice cave, the group discovers an enormous ancient animal encased in solid ice. The media conglomerate sponsoring their research immediately intervenes and arranges the ultimate spectacle—the animal will be cut from the ice, thawed, and revealed live on television. Despite dire warnings of a local Native American village, and the scientific concerns of Marshall and his team, the “docudrama” plows ahead—until the scientists make one more horrifying discovery. The beast is no regular specimen…it may be an ancient killing machine. And they may be wrong in presuming it dead.

Lincoln child begins Terminal Freeze by quoting all but the last couple sentences of THIS. It’s not exactly a scholarly article, more of a “fun science facts” story. But like Child there are plenty of other folks willing to proffer their own answers to this “mystery.” AboveTopSecret.com (a forum devoted to “conspiracies, UFO’s, paranormal, secret societies, political scandals, new world order, terrorism”) and AnswersInGenesis.org (a site about Young Earth creationism and a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis) both have explanations for the seemingly flash frozen mammoth that fit into other “theories.” If Child’s solution to the mystery, this novel, wasn’t presented as fiction it’d be just as ridiculous.

So, this isn’t really a Science Fiction novel. At first I had a hard time figuring out what it was. I clued in about the time I started hearing the scientists protags talking about something called “the Callisto Effect” – it sounded like utter bunk – so I looked it up. Yup it is bunk, it’s a fictional theory first invented for the Lincon Child/Douglas Preston novel The Relic (which got turned into a pretty good horror movie). The Callisto Effect is a Child/Preston invention, a kind of a fictional spin-off of the saltation hypothesis. As one other reviewer of this book noted the Callisto Effect can be summed up like this:

“…when a species becomes too numerous or starts to lose evolutionary vigor a monstrous superpredator suddenly appears and kills until it can kill no more.”

So ya, like I was saying, there are scientists in Terminal Freeze, and they talk about pseudo-scientific ideas, but this is just window dressing for the plot of a monster hunt.

We might think of the “techno-thriller” as a kind of a modern gothic novel. Even as far back as the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne, were setting their “fantastic tales in the remaining unexplored regions of the world. By the early 20th the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, and John W. Campbell only had one unexplored continent: Antarctica. The same would be true for a modern audience but now that even Antarctica has been laregly de-mystified we’re having to place our monster horror stories in inaccessible caves and hidden military bases (at least that’s the route Terminal Freeze takes).

The story is rather drawn out, with a number of blandish stock characters brought in seemingly only to be picked off one by one (which surpringly both does and doesn’t happen). The scientists, none of whom are particularly interesting, end up working with a local native, who was also co-incidentally a former soldier at Fear Base, and also a former junior scientist there, and also a co-discoverer of the original monster (back in the 1950s). Given those credentials you’d think then that he’d be absolutely instrumental in solving the mystery of what the frozen monster is and how it escaped. But no, he just gives a highly ineffectual and unrealistically cryptic warning (at the beginning of the novel) is promptly ignored – shuffles off the stage only to be brought back later, like Chekhov’s gun, jumbling around a bag of religious artifacts – which do nothing. Apparently the gun on the mantle was just a prop. Child added in an absolutely unnecessary batch of TV documentary people. The only reason I can think they’re there for is that it’d make for some good visuals should they make a movie of this novel. They’re all there when the monster in the ice escapes from the mysteriously melted ice. And of course their there when people start dying grizzly deaths as they wander off alone. But they don’t do much with those cameras and they end up leaving before the end.

After finishing the novel I was kind of interested in finding out if any of the locations in this novel were real. In the book there is a mountain called “Mount Fear,” a glacier called “Fear Glacier,” and a “Fear Base” (a D.E.W. Line style military facility). It turns out that they all don’t really exist, they are all made up.

One thing I did like about the novel was the discussion about the different types of ice. When the scientist are sitting around trying to explain how the creature in the ice escaped they briefly discuss different ways water crystallizes into ice, how these different types of ice are formed, and their differing properties. This briefly re-invigorates the mystery – but it is ultimately thrown away – discarded and replaced with a less than satisfactory explanation.

Scott Brick, who probably reads more books than any other audiobook narrator working today, does his best with what he’s given. The baddies come off badish, the heroes come off goodish, the monster comes off monsterish. The most interesting portion of the novel is actually a bit, almost completely tangential to the monster plot when an “ice road trucker” has to drive the survivors to safety. Brick works hard to make the cracking of the ice and the freezing cold compelling. And that’s the part of the novel is more believable.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect by Michael Reisman

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Simon Bloom The Octopus Effect by Michael ReismanSimon Bloom: The Octopus Effect
By Michael Reisman; Read by Nicholas Hormann
9.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9780739382387
Themes: / Science Fiction / YA / Science / biology /

|LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT|

As another chronicle begins Simon Bloom and his friends are thrust back into mortal peril. This time the gang heads to the Order of Biology’s headquarters. When the gang gets there they find an unexpected surprise – it’s underwater! Simon and his friends must prepare themselves for battle against the evil Sirabetta (unsure on spelling) who somehow has regained her memory. Simon and his friends face enemies from other orders and the Order of Biology’s domain itself!

One of the things I liked most about this story was the author’s use of humor for the oddest things. When something gross or funny is described in the book it is described by using words like “air ripping”, or “vacuum cleaner bag smell”. I think that it is brilliant.

The reader, Nicholas Hormann, makes the experience of listening to this book all the more interesting. The way he reads just makes me laugh, you have to listen to the book to know what I mean. He is excellent with accents. When he reads characters in the story like Flangello (again not sure about spelling) he speaks with a very good Italian accent. Nicholas is not the most emotional reader, but this fact does not detract from the story one bit.

I encourage everyone to listen to this audio book, providing that one has read the first book (Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper), otherwise one might not understand the book in its full context. I absolutely loved this audiobook and I am sure any person that enjoys science will feel the same way.

Posted by DanielsonKid

The SFFaudio Podcast #036

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #036 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Julie of Forgotten Classics to talk with Allan Kaster, the editor of Infinivox’s new audiobook anthology: The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction! We discuss this terrific audiobook, in depth, as well as a few other new releases and recent arrivals.

Talked about on today’s show:
Infinivox (an imprint of Audiotext), biology, study guides, chemistry, Great Science Fiction Stories, Bioware (from medical software to video games), Mass Effect, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction, A Walk In The Sun by Geoffrey A. Landis |READ OUR REVIEW|, Guest Of Honor by Robert Reed, The Shobies’ Story by Ursula K. Le Guin, Hollywood Kremlin by Bruce Sterling, immortality, Hard SF, Robert Reed, vampires are rather liberal (for being immortal), Five Thrillers by Robert Reed, sociopathy, Ted Chiang, StarShipSofa’s (#88) interview with Ted Chiang, Exhalation by Ted Chiang, consciousness, souls, religion, transcendence, Ray Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner, meta-science fictional stories, “ray guns and spaceships”, Adrift by Scott D. Danielson, World Of The Ptavvs by Larry Niven, Star Trek Animated Series (The Slaver Weapon), “The Soft Weapon” by Larry Niven, romance, Galileo’s Children: Tales of Science vs. Superstition edited by Gardner Dozois, The Dream Of Reason by Jeffrey Ford, The Empire Of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford, The Dreaming Wind by Jeffrey Ford (on StarShipSofa AD #75), sense of wonder, 26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss by Kij Johnson, Fantasy vs. Science Fiction, Mini-Masterpieces Of Science Fiction, The Gambler by Paolo Bacigalupi, Fast Forward 2, Fencon 2009 (Dallas, TX), Aliens Rule edited by Alan Kaster, How Music Begins by James Van Pelt, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Laws Of Survival by Nancy Kress, City Of The Dead by Paul McAuley, Shoggoths In Bloom by Elizabeth Bear, H.P. Lovecraft, lovecraftian homage, we need an audio collection of stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, frontier, space western, archaeology, aliens, Ray Bradbury, Mrs. Carstairs And The Merman by Delia Sherman, Dercum Audio, 1930s, 19th century, sea creatures, squids, Greg Egan, Peter Watts, The Art of Alchemy by Ted Kosmatka, industrial espionage, The N Word by Ted Kosmatka, Seeds Of Change edited by John Joseph Adams, future releases from Infinivox, Infinivox on Audible.com, Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga cycle, Guest Law by John C. Wright, Beggars In Spain by Nancy Kress, physics, pirates, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, Charles Stross, Antibodies, Lobsters, A Colder War, The Chief Designer by Andy Duncan |READ OUR REVIEW|, Michael Swanwick, The Edge Of The World by Michael Swanwick, The Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick, the state of the magazine industry, Fast Forward 2, Sidewise In Time, Eclipse 2, Extraordinary Engines, Penguin Audio, Level 26: Dark Origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski, Brilliance Audio, The Beastmaster by Andre Norton, Richard J. Brewer, Audible Frontiers, The Short Victorious War by David Weber, The Rise Of Endymion by Dan Simmons, caterbury tales in space, Luke Burrage’s SFBRP on the Hyperion series, Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas on Simmons’ Hyperion series, Ilium by Dan Simmons, The Terror by Dan Simmons, novella length stories, Escape Route by Peter F. Hamilton, a recent interview with Audible’s founder, The Law Of Nines by Terry Goodkind, Mark Deakins, Rammer by Larry Niven, narrator Pat Bottino, the MP3-CD format vs the CD format, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Gateway by Frederik Pohl, Robert J. Sawyer, Man Plus by Frederik Pohl

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Case Of Conscience by James Blish

SFFaudio Review

Audible Frontiers - A Case of Conscience by James BlishSFFaudio EssentialA Case Of Conscience
By James Blish; Read by Jay Snyder
Audible Download – 7 Hours 55 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: November 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Religion / Catholicism / Aliens / Biology / Evolution /

Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man – a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics…until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief. Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy -and risk the futures of both worlds…

A Peruvian priest is a strange enough protagonist for Science Fiction. Add in an essentially bloodless tale of alien human interaction, a token female, and a bowlful of Catholicism on every page, the fact that it’s clearly inspired, at least in part, by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and what you get is a classic SF novel? Yup! A Case Of Conscience is not quite the greatest SF novel of its era, but it holds up quite well. Blish put a good deal of thought into the original novella, and that pays off mid way through the novel (which is really two novellas put-together). The first half of the book is set on Lithia, a recently discovered alien planet teeming with unusual alien life. Lithia and its intelligent inhabitants are being considered for full human contact. There, judging the planet, are Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez a Jesuit biologist, Cleaver, a physicist, Michelis, a chemist, and Agronski, a geologist. Curiously Father Ramon seems to have strong reasons for opposing the opening of Litihia despite the fact that he has befriended one of the intelligent aliens. The fact that the Lithians seem to have an ideal society free of crime, conflict, ignorance and want also seems to worry Ramon. It all comes down to one question: Do the Lithians have souls? Despite his suspicions about the answer, the priest seems to only hold a deep affection for the Lithians.

I was highly impressed with the revelations that Ruiz-Sanchez (and Blish) give for it all. This is excellent idea driven SF. Blish seems to have taken the idea of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) very much to heart in writing the novel. These are/were the priests that were trained to take on the hardest tasks confronting the Catholic church. Blish has done them proud. But, that’s not the end of it. The turning point of the novel comes when the humans leave Lithia carrying with them a fertilized egg of one of the Litihians, an alien child to be raised on Earth and learn the ways of humans. This is where the second half of the novel begins. Earth is a “shelter society” (everyone lives in massive underground fallout shelters – you can see how it was written in the 1950s). There we follow our protagonist, a few other folks including the requisite token female named “Louella” (but called “Lou”) and the alien baby-cum-juvenile alien (who acts rather unlike his species normally does back on Lithia). Highlights here come when Ruiz-Sanchez is requested for a Papal audience! Again, some clever revelations occur in this second half, though they are generally weaker than the first. But, all together, and with the ending quite well done as it is, it’s very solid.

Included in the audiobook edition is the six page appendix, which is a ‘special preliminary report on the planet Lithia’ by Ruiz-Sanchez. As far as I can tell the narrator, Jay Snyder, has completely followed Blish’s own pronunciation guide for the book (which is not actually included in the audiobook). I’ve done a little comparing of the written text in the paperbook with the way Snyder says the alien names in the audiobook. It all sounds pretty accurate to me. Kudos to Audible Frontiers for carefully audiobooking this Hugo Award novel (and Retro Hugo Award winning novella). A Case Of Conscience is an SF classic!

Posted by Jesse Willis