• Question: My school has started a short fiction club. May I submit my story, "Piggy", to the club? It will not go into publication outside of my school. - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    That sounds fine!

  • Question: Hey, I'm interested in submitting but I have no idea if this is still active, or if you will be active again. Can you help? Thanks! - pokenatural
  • Answer:

    Hi there. I’ve been very busy lately on account of job interviews, and now having recently gotten a job, so I apologise for the inactivity. The contest will be active again in 2014, so keep an eye out. We will be publishing a combined 2013/2014 anthology later that year!


Greetings all! Today’s post comes to you in one part.

Part one: Anthology news.

I would like to say a big thank you to all the people who have agreed to take part. All twelve people who bought tickets. I’d also like to thank all the people who submitted stories. All five of you. Yes. We had five stories in total this year. And I must admit that I was one of those who didn’t submit, since issues with my Mphil thesis came up, and as usual, life and procrastination got in the way.

But even if we had six stories here, I think you can see the problem. An anthology of so few stories is not really something we could publish. Even if it was sold for a very low price on Amazon, it would seem somewhat redundant.

This, as you can imagine, put me in a quandary. I couldn’t simply cancel the anthology. That would be unfair to all the people who did submit, and it seems too much like a defeat to just pack up and go home. But my wife, being the kind, thoughtful, and helpful person she is, came up with a solution.

We will be merging the 2013 anthology with the 2014 one. A new prompt will be announced in January of 2014 and we will be making a more substantial anthology that we can put out there as something we can really sell to the world as a substantial body of work. If all goes well, we will be releasing that anthology in the middle of next year.

I’m pleased we came to this compromise and look forward to announcing our new direction next year.

See you all then!

Best Wishes, God Bless, and DFTBA

  • Question: Hello. I'm just finishing up my story now, but I was just wondering when the deadline is. I believe you said it was the 14th. But is the deadline today, before the 14th, or is it at some point tomorrow? Thanks again. - thegrimparticulars
  • Answer:

    Its midnight GMT on the 14th. Don’t worry, you’ve still got time!


Dear writers!

You really haven’t got long now! If you are wanting to participate in the DFTBA short story contest, you’ve got just over eight hours left to buy a ticket. Please remember, this isn’t hours to finish your story. You can still send in a story up until the 14th, but unless it comes with a ticket, it won’t be accepted. So please, buy your tickets now and when your story is finished, send the ticket and the story in by e-mail.

This is where you buy your tickets from.

Thank you! God Bless, Best Wishes and DFTBA!


The following is an urgent announcement. You only have one and just under a half days left to buy a ticket for the contest. Let me say that again.


Now to be clear, you do not have to have your story done by this point. If you get your ticket, you can send it to me by the 14th September. That’s right. I’m adding an extension to the deadline on top of the original extension. But you need to have a ticket already. So please, please, please buy your ticket now if you are planning to write a story. You can buy the ticket from the following place.

DFTBA Short Story Contest Ticket Purchase.

Currently, we have eight people who have purchased a ticket, and that’s including me.

If people are interested in taking part in the anthology, and supporting the Project for Awesome, please purchase your tickets from the link above.

Thank you!


The Anglerfish Magazine: The Anglerfish Needs You!


Good Evening Anglerfish!

I am here tonight to bring you an exciting announcement. The Anglerfish, in its continuing mission to increase awesome, is once again opening up the doors for new applicants to the magazine! So, if you are a graphic designer with nothing to spark your creative interests,…

Another Nerdfighterly project wants your involvement!

Source: theanglerfishmagazine
  • Question: Hi, just a quick question. I'm currently writing a story based on host-manipulating parasites (such as hair-worms in grasshoppers mentioned in one of your previous posts) There's an article on the National Geographic website about this, but I was wondering whether this qualifies as the scholarly article you're looking for. It's just two pages about the parasite and it's life cycle etc. I wondered whether that would be ok, or whether you wanted something more high-brow, like a scientific study? - thegrimparticulars
  • Answer:

    I would say that would indeed be sufficient, provided the piece in question was published from 2000 onwards. If you’re specifically interested though in finding some more research materials you could have a look at this, this and this. But don’t feel you have to use those. The National Geographic piece should be fine.



Where Do Dreams Come From?

Until recent years, the study of dreams has mostly been in the dark. With many of the data being inconclusive as it is such an illusive function of the brain to grasp.

But new studies from unexpected places could shed some light on where our dreams are formed, which would in turn explain for such extraordinary visuals when in the act of dreaming.

As some of my old time followers may already be aware of, I have a deep obsession with dreams. So I went and did some personal researching to find out or get some clues on the leading theories of where our dreams may be forged. The following are two separate excerpts one from a Journal of Neurology and another from a Scientific American article on The Science Behind Dreaming:


The term Charcot–Wilbrand syndrome (CWS) denotes dream loss following focal brain damage. We report the first case of CWS, in whom neuropsychological functions, extension of the underlying lesion, and sleep architecture changes were assessed.

A 73-year-old woman reported a total dream loss after acute, bilateral occipital artery infarction (including the right inferior lingual gyrus), which lasted for over 3 months. In the absence of sleep–wake complaints and (other) neuropsychological deficits, polysomnography (sleep study) demonstrated an essentially normal sleep architecture with preservation of REM sleep. Dreaming was denied also after repeated awakenings from REM sleep.

This observation suggests that CWS (1) can represent a distinct and isolated neuropsychological manifestation of deep occipital lobe damage, and (2) may occur in the absence of detectable REM sleep abnormalities. Ann Neurol 2004

In other words:

A very rare clinical condition known as “Charcot-Wilbrand Syndrome” has been known to cause (among other neurological symptoms) loss of the ability to dream. However, it was not until a few years ago that a patient reported to have lost her ability to dream while having virtually no other permanent neurological symptoms.

The patient suffered a lesion in a part of the brain known as the right inferior lingual gyrus (located in the visual cortex). Thus, we know that dreams are generated in, or transmitted through this particular area of the brain, which is associated with visual processing, emotion and visual memories.

Journal ref: Total dream loss: A distinct neuropsychological dysfunction after bilateral PCA stroke

Inspiration waystation

What happens when someone can’t dream…?

(via scinerds)

Source: kenobi-wan-obi



Did you want an amazing story setting…

(via unrepentantauthor)


There is actually a term for NSA agents spying on love interests

If there isn’t a story in this…


Dear all

This post comes to you in two parts, so lets get right to it!

Part one! Inspiration Waystation

So I am frustratingly aware of the fact that I have been really bad when it comes to updating the blog for inspiration waystation. There are plenty of good reasons for this, but the main one is just called “Life”. I’ve been super extra busy of late, for good reasons. I’ve had some job interviews and been sorting out samples to write for other jobs. It’s been crazy, and so I havn’t been as involved here as I would have liked to been.

But you don’t come on here to hear my life story. You come here to get inspired, and so that’s what I’m going to do. Here are six potential points of inspiration for your stories. But please don’t feel limited by them! If you’ve found something better, please, take it away!

Link One - Anti Secrecy Activists

What’s kind of fascinating and also terrifying about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden is that they didn’t act out of a sense of nationalism, or in aid of a specific group or ideology, they acted because they thought that a government simply shouldn’t keep secrets. We know this in part because if Manning had been interested in simply revealing the US’s military wrongs, he would have been much more selective about what he gave to Wikileaks.

This is very much a 21st Century phenomenon. In the information age, people are beginning to take issue with the concept of privacy as a whole. So what does this issue mean? Can you imagine a story about such a thing? A story that delves into the discussion of the rights and wrongs of a government keeping secrets. Is someone a hero for simply letting out information? Even if that information doesn’t compromise anything? So why is it secret? What does the government have to hide?

For another source on this, here is a blog on the subject from the Federation of American Scientists project on Governmental secrecy.

Link Two - Women in Politics. Same old, same old?

There’s an old joke about the etymology of the word “Politics” which I’m sure many of you have heard. Poli - Means many, and tics- tiny blood sucking parasites. Corruption, scandal, abuse of power and people. These are often traits associated with politicians. The question is, is this a trait about power, or is it a trait of men being in power. The article I here link to discusses the question of whether women in power in general behave less dishonourably, and maybe that in general women get into politics for different reasons.

So here’s an idea for a story. What/How/Why would things be different about a corruption scandal involving a woman? Would anything be different? Do women fail in their morality for different reasons? Or are we all subject to the same power-plays? What is it about power that makes us do these things? Look at the article, and maybe some other places, and find out.

Link Three - A trip to the Martian lakes

If you’re watching Sci-Show regularly this may be moderately old news to you. Back in March of 2013, the Curiosity rover made a string of discoveries that confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mars once had liquid water on its surface. In fact, it was liquid water that was good enough to drink!

My question then is, and the question I’d love to see someone try and tackle with a story is, what would have life been like when that lake had water? What if someone travelled back in time and went to see Mars in the days when it had water? Would they see life? Were there aliens on Mars in the past? What would that life be like? And if there was life, why aren’t they there now? And why is there no remnants of their civilisation at all? Or was Mars just empty? If so, what would someone travelling in time use it for.

Here’s Hank’s video on this.

Link Four - The platform of the future

Back in 1997 BP released the following advert for their petrol stations. The idea for cars is somewhat facial, although for planes it has sometimes been a necessity, but what if we could do this with trains, except rather than refuelling, we take passengers on and off. The idea of a moving platform for high speed trains to “dock” with to take passengers on and off, so that the more powerful trains wouldn’t waste energy stopping, allowing smaller ones to take up the slack. How would this change our understanding of how transport functioned? What would chasing a criminal on such a system look like? What if we applied this internationally?

And of course, the future of trains has been very much in the news this week with the discussion of the hyperloop. Elon Musk’s idea, if employed in Britain, would make it possible for you to travel from London to Birmingham in 8 minutes! That’s quicker than it takes me to drive from my house to my university! This is an insane game changer, and what’s more it can be powered entirely by solar (according to Musk’s schematics, but some engineers remain unconvinced). How would this change culture? I’m sure you can imagine a million different ways that a technology like this could change everything about what it means to live somewhere. Suddenly the people you regularly socialise with could be from much much further afield. You could live in Exeter, and have a girlfriend/boyfriend who lives in Abderdeen who you get to see much more than every weekend. But how much would using this transport cost? Would it create a class of people who traversed the entire country in a day, and others left technologically shackled to a much slower form of travel? And what affect would this have on relationships. What would it be like to know that people who you never thought you’d see again are less than an hour away from wherever you live. You can’t seriously tell me that such an idea isn’t ripe for story potential.

Link Five - Gender imbalance writ large

I have talked about this one before, but wanted to re-emphasise it because its something that is not going away, and is something we should all think about. For a variety of reasons, all of them bad, there is wide scale infanticide/sex selective abortions going on in India, China, and many other parts of the world right now. The upshot being, there will be a lot more men in these places than there are women in a few decades. What will that mean for those societies? What will it be like for a man living there? What will it be like for a woman? Will women being in higher demand put more social pressure on men who can’t find a partner? Will the abundance of men for women give them something to be happy about, or something they deeply resent? And what about people outside the hetro norm. How will the QUILTBAG communities in these places respond to these demographic shifts? What will this all mean? Settings like this, the future, look like science fiction, but just because a story is in the future and is speculative, doesn’t mean it is SF. So don’t think “I don’t write SF, I can’t write this”. Because the S in SF isn’t always science. Sometimes people prefer the word “Speculative fiction” as in “If the world was like X, what would it be like”…

Link Six - Digital Aristotle

This is an idea penned together by CGP Gray for this video, but others are working to turn it into reality. Things like project Halo and Wolfram Alpha are steps in this direction. But what would it really be like. There is lots of research out there on the effectiveness of video in learning, and how we can use new technologies to better our education system. So what would be working/learning in such a school be like? Would it make our citizenry more educated, and thus provide us with a better future? Or would it do something to our socialisation? Would it change people if they used interactive but non-interpersonal learning systems? What would our society look like in such a world?

Part Two - Disturbingly low take up.

Here’s a problem I’ve got. We have so far had very very few submissions for this year’s contest. I’m worried that if things don’t pick up soon, there may not be able to be an anthology for this year, and that would suck a lot. If this is about the prompt, if you’re confused or don’t know where to start, or you’re worried about making a mistake, let me just say not to worry. We here at the contest understand the prompt is more complex and so we’re very open to people asking about it. We’re also going to be very lenient in terms of acceptances. You would have to go very very far outside of the prompt before you got disqualified. If you’re feeling befuddled or baffled or bamboozled about any part of the contest, please ask. It would be a monumental shame if we didn’t get an anthology this year.

Thank you all, God Bless, Best Wishes, and DFTBA



Inspiration Waystation

A good place to find something to base a story on! Hope you have fun with this!

(more through post coming tomorrow)

(via procyonvulpecula)

Source: astrodidact






For people who don’t have time to bathe or access to fresh water, a South African college student has a solution: a shower gel users simply rub onto their skin. One small packet replaces one bath, and users never need any water. Ludwick Marishane’s inspiration was a lazy friend, but his invention will be a boon to people who live in areas where clean water is in short supply. 

The gel, called Drybath, kills germs, moisturizes the skin and exudes a pleasant, light smell, unlike hand sanitizers, according to Marishane’s website, Headboy Industries.  [Continue reading.]

Image via Science History and Facts.

love this

Necessity is the mother of invention.

And why hasn’t this blown up yet?


oh yeah

Because it’s not on the retail market yet?

There have been articles about it in science magazines, TIME Magazine, The Huffington Post, AND the student gave a TED Talk. And those are just American news outlets; he’s been getting tons more press if you look at South African search engines.

Just because you haven’t noticed it doesn’t mean it’s not out there. It probably means you just don’t read many Tech and Science blogs. 

Inspiration Waystation

What kinds of impacts would tech like this have? How would it change people’s lives in areas with access to very limited water? There are stories in here! Go with it!

Source: soulbrotherv2


11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About

There was a time when science could be broken down into neat-and-tidy disciplines - straightforward things like biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. But as science advances, these fields are becoming increasingly specialized and interdisciplinary, leading to entirely new avenues of inquiry. Here are 11 emerging scientific fields you should know about.


If you know about Toxoplasma gondii - the cat-spawned parasite that alters both rodent and human behavior - then you know about the work of neuroparasitologists. The fact that these eerie parasites now have their very own scientific discipline devoted to them shows just how prevalent they are in nature.

These parasites typically alter host behavior as a part of their reproductive strategy (often by being consumed and excreted by a third party). Hairworms, which live inside grasshoppers, eventually need to leave their hosts to continue their life cycle. Rather than leave peacefully, however, they release a cocktail of chemicals that makes the grasshoppers commit suicide by leaping into water. The hairworms then swim away from their drowning hosts.

Organic Electronics

Normally, electronics are associated with inert and inorganic conductors and semiconductors. But a new branch of electronics is emerging that uses conductive polymers and conductive small molecules - both of which are carbon-based. It’s a highly interdisciplinary field that involves the design, synthesis, and processing of functional organic and inorganic materials, along with the development of advanced micro- and nanofabrication techniques and circuit design. To be fair, it’s not an entirely new field, as preliminary concepts and devices were first developed in the early 1970s. But it has only been recently that things have picked up, particularly on account of the nanotechnology revolution. Organic electronics introduces the potential for organic solar cells, self-assembling monolayers in functional electronic devices, and chemical circuits that could replace computer chips for human implantation (the cyborg of the future may very well be more organic than synthetic!).

Recombinant Memetics

This one’s quite speculative, and it’s technically speaking still in the proto-science phase. But it’ll only be a matter of time before scientists get a better handle on the human noosphere (the collective body of all human information) and how the proliferation of information within it impacts upon virtually all aspects of human life.

Similar to recombinant DNA (in which different genetic sequences are brought together to create something new), recombinant memetics is the study of how memes (ideas that spread from person to person) can be adjusted and merged with other memes and memeplexes (a cohesive collection of memes, like a religion) for beneficial or ‘socially therapeutic’ purposes (such as combating the spread of radical and violent ideologies). This is similar to the idea of ‘memetic engineering’, which philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested could be used to maintain cultural health. Or what DARPA is currently doing via their ‘narrative control’ program.

Computational Social Science

Similar to cliodynamics, computational social science is the rigorous investigation of social phenomenon and trends over time. The use of computers and related information processing technologies is central to this discipline. Quite obviously, this field has only really been possible since the advent of computing, and most especially since the rise of the internet. Computational social scientists study the copious amounts of information left behind from emails, tweets, Google searches, and on and on. It’s a field of study that’s attracting not just social scientists, but mathematicians and computer scientists as well. Examples of their work include studies into the structure of social networks and how information spreads across them, or how intimate relationships form on the Web.

Quantum Biology

Physicists have known about quantum effects for well over a hundred years, where particles defy our sensibilities by disappearing from one place and reappearing in other, or by being in two places at once. But these effects are not relegated to arcane lab experiments. As scientists are increasingly suspecting, quantum mechanics may also apply to biological processes.

Perhaps the best example is photosynthesis - a remarkably efficient system in which plants (and some bacteria) build the molecules they need by using energy from sunlight. It turns out that photosynthesis may in fact rely on the “superposition” phenomenon, where little packets of energy explore all possible paths, and then settle on the most efficient one. It’s also possible that avian navigationDNA mutations (via quantum tunnelling), and even our sense of smell, relies on quantum effects. Though it’s a highly speculative and controversial field, its practitioners look to the day when insights gleaned may result in new drugs and biomimetic systems.


Like exo-oceanographers and exo-geologists, exo-meteorologists are interested in studying natural processes which occur on planets other than Earth. Now that astronomers are able to peer more closely into the inner-workings of nearby planets and moons, they’re increasingly able to track atmospheric conditions and weather patterns. Jupiter and Saturn, with their impossibly large weather systems, are prime candidates for study. So is Mars, with it’s regularly occurring dust storms. Even planets outside our solar system are being studied by exo-meteorologists. And interestingly, exo-meteorologists may eventually find signs of extraterrestrial life on an exoplanet by detecting organic signatures in atmospheres, or elevated carbon dioxide levels - a possible sign of an industrial-age civilization.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems. It also involves the redesign of existing biological systems for any number of useful purposes. Craig Venter, a leader in this field, shook the biology community in 2008 by announcing that he had manufactured the entire genome of a bacterium by piecing together its chemical components. Two years later his team created “synthetic life” - DNA created digitally, and then printed and inserted into a living bacterium. And last year, synbio scientists created the first complete computational model of an actual organism.

Looking ahead, synthetic biologists will sequence and analyze genomes to create custom-designed bootable organisms and biological robots that can produce chemicals from scratch, like biofuels. There’s also the potential for pollution devouring cyborg bacteria, and the downloading and printing of recently updated vaccines during a pandemic. The possibilities are almost endless.

Quantitative Biology

Quantitative biology, as its name implies, is an effort to understand biological processes through the language of mathematics. But it also applies other quantitative methods, like physics and computer science. The University of Ottawa explains how it came about:

With the advances in biological instrumentation and techniques, and easy access to computing power, biology is generating large amounts of data at an increasing speed. Acquiring the data and making sense of it increasingly requires quantitative approaches. At the same time, coming from a physicist’s or mathematician’s point of view, biology has reached a state of maturity where theoretical models of biological mechanisms can be tested experimentally. This has led to the development of the broad field of quantitative biology.

Scientists working in this field analyze and measure everything from the molecular scale right through to the organismal and ecosystem level.


Cliodynamics is an interdisciplinary area of research that combines historical macrosociology, economic history, the mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the building and analysis of historical databases. It’s basically Asimov’s psychohistory come to life.

The name is a portmanteau of Clio, the muse of history, and dynamics, the study of changes over time. Simply put, it’s an effort to quantify and describe the broad social forces of history, both to study the past, and as a potential way to predict the future. An example of cliodynamics was Turchin’s recent paper forecasting social unrest.

Cognitive Economics

Economics isn’t typically associated with science, but that could change as the field integrates with traditional scientific disciplines. Not to be confused with behavioral economics (the study of our behaviors in the context of economic decision making), cognitive economics is about how we think. Leigh Caldwell, who runs a blog dedicated to the field, puts it this way:

Cognitive economics… looks at what is actually going on within the individual’s mind when they make that choice. What is the internal structure of their decision-making, what are the influences on it, how does information enter the mind and how is it processed, what form do preferences take internally, and then ultimately how are all those processes expressed in our behaviour?

Looking at it another way, cognitive economics is to physics what behavioral economics is to engineering. To that end, cognitive economists begin their analysis at a lower, more reductionist level, and form microfounded models of how people make decisions to devise a model of large-scale economic behaviors. To help them with this, cognitive economists consider the related fields of cognitive science and computational economics, along with theories about rationality and decision making.


Also known as nutritional genomics, this is the study of the complex interplay between food and genetic expression. Scientists working in this field seek to understand the role of genetic variation, dietary response, and the ways in which nutrients affect our genes. And indeed, food has a profound effect on our health - and it starts quite literally at the molecular level. Nutrigenomics works both ways; our genes influence our dietary preferences, and vice-versa. A key goal of nutrigeneticists is to establish personalized nutrition - matching what we eat with our own unique genetic constitutions. More here.

via we-are-star-stuff

Inspiration Waystation 4

If you want to find some of the most cutting edge science research, these fields would be the places to go!

Source: we-are-star-stuff