Apr 6 2015

She scores!


I made it into the Schrodinger Sessions after all!  So pleased.

It turns out that they were unavoidably delayed in finalizing their selections, and just sent out notifications today.

I have some prep to do between now and then… mainly, to review what I actually do know (or think I know) about quantum physics, so that it’s all fresh in my mind, preparatory to adding actual knowledge from actual scientists whilst being disabused of previous erroneous notions.

Also, I want to identify my areas of least understanding, so that I can formulate coherent questions.   I’m pretty sure that “WTF???”, while accurately expressing one’s internal state, would not be the most useful starting point.

On the application form, one of the questions was: What is your interest in attending this workshop? How do you hope it will affect your writing?

They didn’t put a word-count limit on the answer (ha!) so this is what I said:

There are three reasons any science fiction writer would want to attend this workshop — and it’s the third reason that most interests me.

First reason: To get it right. When we mention quantum physics — even if it merely serves as background to a story — it would be good if we knew what we were talking about. There’s already enough bad science fiction in the world, and we don’t need to make more. For this, we need to get the facts right.

Second reason: To generate story ideas. Science fiction is famous for the idea-driven story. If we want to write stories inspired by quantum physics, then we have to become familiar with both its facts and its underlying principles. And more: we need to know where the edges are, where the limit lies between what is known so far, and what remains to be discovered. Within what’s known, we’ll find ideas to drive our stories; at the edges, we’ll find scope for intelligent speculation.

And the third reason: To understand how discovery happens. What type of thinking brought physicists to our current understanding of quantum physics? Why do we think what we think about it, and how do we know what we know? What were the steps, what guided the explorations? To what degree are we sure of our knowledge, to what degree uncertain? In what frame of mind were the researchers operating? How did we figure this out? These are all questions that help reveal how humans go about learning the nature of the universe… which, actually, is the biggest adventure of them all.

So, all three reasons (accuracy, inspiration, and understanding) are important, and each will help me be a better writer. But I feel that the third reason — understanding the nature of discovery — is one that particularly needs to be communicated. And possibly because quantum physics is so famously weird, it seems to me that it might be especially illuminating on the subject.

I can’t wait to hear more about it.



Mar 19 2015

The Shrodinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction


(I almost left mentioning this until too late — but there’s still time to get in!)

The Schrodinger Sessions is a three-day workshop in modern physics, specifically for creators of science fiction in all its forms (print, movies, television, gaming, etc.)

It’s organized by Chad Orzel (of Dog Physics and Eureka! fame), and Emily Edwards and Steve Rolston of the Joint Quantum Institute, and will be held right there at JQI.

The whole idea is to help us writers to actually know what we’re talking about when we reference quantum mechanics in our work.

Come on, there’s a lot of bad science being promulgated out there, folks — don’t you want to get it right? Here’s your chance — a workshop with actual experts telling us exactly what we most need to know.

It’s not too late to apply — appplications are being accepted through March 20th — that’s tomorrow.

So, read about it. Fill out the form. Let’s see how many of us can get there this year.

(I really ought to have mentioned this weeks ago — there are exactly two days left to apply! I blame a sudden influx of Mundane Life Crap for distracting me…)

Jul 19 2010

Asleep at the wheel again


Hey, look what I missed.


I missed applying to attend Launchpad last year from finding out about it too late, when I’d used up all my vacation days.

I missed it this year from completely forgetting that it existed at all, and making other plans that used up most of my vacation days. Admittedly, I used those days to work on Book 5, which is a good thing. But had I freakin’ REMEMBERED about Launchpad, I could have taken those days earlier or later, and shifted some things around and tried to sign up.

Because — hello — it’s NASA.

Plus: FREE!

On the other hand, I’m certain there are writers whose need was far greater than mine… But I could have used some uplift and inspiration.

Okay. Next. Year.

Chad Orzel just now suggested that someone do something similar to Launchpad, but for quantum physics. A great idea…

Catherynne Valente has referred to the Internet as a “terrifying wish engine” — this after she voiced a desire for an accordion and a teacher, and both appeared.

So, let’s give it a try:

Ahem. ‘Scuse me? People on the internet — hello? Yes, you, the hive-mind.

We could really use a workshop on quantum physics for science fiction writers.

Because, you know, it would be good if we didn’t look like idiots when we write about it. As we so often do.

Plus: If we wrote about it compellingly, young persons would be inspired to study it, and advance the field even further, to the betterment of all mankind. No, really.

Also: after I finish the current series, I have a couple of projects in mind, and one actually involves quantum physics. If I had a workshop about quantum physics, I’d gravitate toward that project instead of the other one.

I’m just sayin’.

Thank you for your time.

nothing to do with quantum physics, just a cool picture