Questions 290: Balancing Science and Story

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Rebecca and Robert both ask:
“How do I do good hard science fiction without overloading on the science and tech?”

This episode sponsored by BundleRabbit

Resources:
Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The Open Source Woman by J. Daniel Sawyer
The Resurrection Junket by J. Daniel Sawyer

2 thoughts on “Questions 290: Balancing Science and Story”

  1. Hi JD,

    Thank you very much for the answers to my questions about balancing science and story (episode 290) and research time management (episode 292). Both were extremely helpful.

    For episode 290, your advice to focus on the science details that are required for the reader to understand the story was super helpful and made a lot of sense. I could tell you really understood what I was asking when you mentioned “thinly veiled technical treatises, polemics, and parables.” Thank you for telling me about the Holistic Detective Agency- it sounds like the author accomplished something that I’d like to accomplish- accurately portraying scientific concepts without hitting the reader over the head. I’ll check out the other resources listed on the show notes, too.

    I had to smile when you mentioned Jurassic Park, because chaos theory wasn’t the only thing that Crichton got wrong. RIP Michael Cricton :o) Maybe “wrong” isn’t the right word. Maybe “futuristic.” Basically, he described DNA sequencers that were far beyond the capability of what was around in the early 90’s. It is neat to go back and read this part of the book, when they were touring the lab. On the one hand, the book mentions how the human genome project is at least 10 years away. On the other, they have computers that are simultaneously genetically modifying AND sequencing the dino DNA, an “operation that would have taken months in a conventional lab, but we can do it in seconds.” This is amusing because the computers were using restriction enzymes to do the genetic engineering, which cannot biologically be done in a matter of seconds and is an archaic method by today’s standards. I must have missed the memo because when I was doing restriction digests in 2012, it was with mere PCR machines (which are physically separate from DNA sequencers) and took at least 4 hours. :o)

    However, we do have DNA sequencers today that are much more powerful and can put out massive amounts of data relatively quickly (a genome can be sequenced in 72 hours, as opposed to weeks). This is because there’s been a revolution in DNA sequencing technology (Next Generation Sequencing), which began around 2006. I know this because I work for a university sequencing facility.

    For episode 292, thank you for sharing some of your go-to’s for research and continuing education, and your reasoning for why a particular podcast or course appeals to you. It was very helpful to hear how you maximize daily learning and research without imposing on writing or exercise time. Thanks also for sharing the breakdown of your day- writing, socializing, recording, etc. I was amazed that you spend over 4 hours recording each day- you have a strong voice!

    “I look like a creature of moderation because I’m extreme about things that generally oppose each other-” I could so relate to this :o)

    Thanks again for your insightful and honest answers. Your podcast is demystifying the creative process and all its hidden “supporting structures,” so to speak.

    Best wishes,

    Rebecca

    1. Oh wow, I can’t believe I missed the boneheaded biology in Jurassic Park. I haven’t read it since I got up on molecular biology–I obviously need to read it again!
      Thanks for the note–I’ll be smiling a mile wide all evening 🙂
      -Dan

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