Tag Archives: science

Resurrection

6 Apr

Yesterday was Easter. As someone who know longer identifies strictly as either Catholic or nondenominationally Christian, the day does not hit my life as hard as it used to, back when Easter meant something like bunnies and chocolate and uncomfortable pretty dresses, weeks of waiting and a vague feeling of having made it somewhere when the trumpets played during the very last song, adolescence and jeans and strangled, crying prayers and final, desperate relief at sunrise. There was victory to it, back then.

There is some misgiving around it for me, now. I can look on it as a part of my family history and my life narrative, but not longer a part of my personal legacy. There would be less truth about me, if I went and sat in an Easter pew, now.

I am glad for those who can celebrate Easter with no taint of regret or guilt or hate or distrust lurking in the low notes of those Sunday hymns, whether the tinges be from wider eyes and disillusionment or vision shut down from hatred of the part of the world that isn’t you.

I belong to the former category. It’s a long story, but mostly boils down to my refusal to accept that what a group of arbitrary essentially-white men decided together in a randomly located room before the microscope was anywhere near invented is absolute truth about the universe at every single moment in time.

Call it doubt. Call it skepticism. Call it science. I don’t really care. It is where I am at, and I do not feel the need to try to force anyone else to try to be there. I claim no label because I do not presume that I know enough about the universe to say that yes, I am capable of finding absolutely the right one and yes, you should absolutely use it too.

I am not a god. I am not even a physics nobel laureate.

So instead, I have settled loosely upon allowing Shakespeare to describe my doctrine, with that Hamlet line, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Science revisits and retests and grows and revises itself. Discards and discovers. Describes everything with an ever-expanding vocabulary. And as someone who grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, who grew up writing sci-fi and fantasy, I am willing to clinging to a last little bit of hope that there’s some kind of magic out there, in this very wide place of existence.

Maybe it’s a network of universal consciousness. Maybe it’s a god. Maybe it’s the ridiculous self-trick that is the human mind, the reason that while I claim no religion I will still pray to the God that I muttered tearful little prayers to as a child because sometimes it’s nice to pretend that someone like that is maybe still listening.

Or maybe it’s just gonna be more science being really damn cool.

Whatever the case, yesterday was a day about celebrating resurrection. And even as the lovely little heathen I have become, I too could appreciate that feeling of a breath of fresh* air as a tomb opens and something you thought was dead walked out.

In my case, a character I spent five years writing and whose dead horse I thought I’d thoroughly bludgeoned beyond any future salvageability just up and showed up in the back of my mind and started talking and generating plot and apparently having a story again. And she’s not a character I’d heard from in a loooong time, outside of edits for that infernal manuscript of hers I swear I will finish cleaning up this year and finally send off into the vastly frightening, teeth-gnashing world of oh god please traditional publishing agents take on my book.

This character – Mariasa – she’s the closest analog of me I have in a character. Sort of. I’ve written short stories where the MC’s were also me, in some way, but I tended to be more self-aware about that. I wrote the short story because I needed to fling my emotions or my imagination into some other scenario so they could sort themselves out there. Or I was just playing pretend in words. That’s what we writers do, you know.

But Mariasa – I started writing her story when I was 14. I wasn’t super conscious of what I was doing, within my writing. I was just doing it. So I went along for about five years, pouring dreams and hopes and personality and adventure I couldn’t extract from my own life into this character. She was my soul, out having another life somewhere. And I didn’t realize this until about three years after I’d finished that first draft of her story. There is a line, in my development as a writer. “Before the time I realized that I’d used parts of real humans to shape many of my characters” and “After the time I realized that many of my female MC’s were basically alternate versions of me and that oh god so many of the male protagonists are based off of a certain guy friend and I should probably go smush my face into his and see how that goes.”

Ah, college.

Anyhoo. Mariasa. She lived in my head for so long. I would sit at my windowsill with my notebook in my lap and my dog at my feet and I’d loop the same 40-minute CD for hours and stare out my window at the world beyond it and it was really only a matter of how fast I could move the pencil to keep up with how fast Mariasa was traveling across her own world having adventures. She was the story I could just sit down and write. No writer’s block. No uncertainty. I’d sit down to pick up where I’d left off and suddenly have a backlog of five more scenes in my head that I needed to move Mariasa to. She was my great story.

And then I finished it. And I was 18, and my world and mental health simultaneously started to crack. Probably causative, that. But this meant that for five more years, Mariasa’s story stayed ended. I got stuck in this endless loop of editing. Because of course it was never good enough. Fix it. Fix it. Fix it. Grow into a different person with altered values and more knowledge and greater exposure and fix it again.

Over. And over. And over again.

Locked into a life structure of my own where I come up against the same brick wall again and again and locked into an editing loop where I’ve continually tried to smooth over the same set of passages while repeatedly stalling and not getting any further, I’ve been frustrated with the staleness of the same words and the same sort of life I’m writing them in, and I’ve been at the stage of “I just want to finish the damn thing” for a while now.

And then I went to Europe.

There was a lot of fresh air in Europe.

Mariasa’s story is one of adventures. I went out and had some adventures. Parts of me long quiet woke up again, and the other chatter that’s routinely bounced around in my mind and made it impossible to be properly productive, properly imaginative went silent. There was room for the quiet little voices in my mind that murmur about adventure to wake up again. I guess it makes sense that Mariasa would wake up, too.

And it’s a desperate relief, this resurrection. Because it means a part of me that I thought might be dead forever is coming back to life. Or at least did long enough for Mariasa to come out of whatever tomb in my mind she’d been hiding in.

She’s older now. Which is good, because it means that she’s grown. She’s got the light I build her character from but there’s spark to her now, too. Less worried about “good,” more able to make hard decisions. But still, as always, caring really damn hard.

She’s slipped on her sweater and the first pair of shoes in reach. She’s ready to go into the world again.

I’ve started her story – not sure if it’ll be a short of a full-blown novel as well, but I’m letting her decide that. This isn’t a story with an agenda. This is just a story.

Mariasa woke up. Apparently we’re going somewhere.

———–

*Okay, I know any air coming from a newly unsealed tomb around the time of Jesus would have been anything but fresh. Whatever. Pretend it’s the shiny Hollywood version. We’re talking metaphors here. Deal with it.

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Magic at the Edges

25 Jan

Originally deposited this on my crazy ramblings tumblr, but decided to include it here too. It’s a pretty good narrative of what’s been a large lump of my current frustration.

I wait up for people I shouldn’t.

I flock to artists,

people who breathe stories

and know how to put the

soul back in your eyes.

People with hands and mouths and voices

that mean something.

I like brushing fingers with those.

There’s magic at the edges.

But ours is too pragmatic a world

if you cannot always live at the seams

and I befriend too a more practical sort

with data and trends and facts

and a reality that will crush any of the hope you had

because there is no god anymore.

Not these days.

But I glory in the realness of what they hold,

the light in their hands so tangible

and undyingly right to believe in.

Here is a world of truth, they say.

The magic is in finding it.

Art and reality make such beautiful children.

I wish I weren’t just harboring nightmares.

Monsters, distortions, twisted fact flinging fate

at you like you were dead to begin with.

Even darkness can have opaque eyes.

I wish that I could see again.

A Scientist’s Take on Big Hero 6

24 Nov

So, I finally saw Big Hero 6 last night with my roommates. It was a pretty cool movie! I laughed. I almost got somewhat teary. I laughed some more, because thanks Disney for the innuendo that you slip in for the adult section of the theatre. All in all, pretty enjoyable! Would watch again. But aside from the aesthetic experience of the movie… well… Guys, I went to one of the Nerd Schools. We were even listed in the credits under the “consultation thank you’s.” And having gone to a Nerd School, I’ve seen a whole lot of science (yeah, science!). I’ve seen whole lot of science labs. I’ve worked in them. And, well, because of that, I had some other thoughts on the movie, too. Let me share.

My reactions while watching movie:

1. Aw, that’s cool, you’ve got such a good lab group atmosphere, how cu- HOLY FUCK HONEY WHY ARE YOU WEARING NO PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT DURING AN EXPLOSION YOU ARE COVERED IN RESIDUE YOU COULD HAVE CAUSTIC BURNS WHY ARE YOU NOT IMMEDIATELY A BIOHAZARD?!?!?! O.O

2. Oh no! Your PI died! That’s so sad! Well, I guess it’s cathartic that you all are just going back to WAIT SHIT YOU HAVE NO PI HOW IS YOUR LAB GOING TO GET FUNDING WHO’S GOING TO TAKE OVER ARE YOU GOING TO GET A NEW PI ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE LABS WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOUR THESIS HOLY SHIT WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT?!?!

3. Oh man! Your PI is alive! Except now he’s an evil man using science for destruction… Yeeeeaaaah, your lab is going to get so many “surprise inspections” now. Have fun having to be ridiiiculously transparent in every single little thing you do. Because you’re going to be under constant scrutiny now. That’s gonna make for a fun scientific career. Enjoy the bureaucratic down-the-neck-breathing!

4. Wait. Shit. Your PI is an EVIL FUCKING VILLAINYOU ARE NEVER GOING TO GET LAB FUNDING EVER AGAIN. WHICH MEANS YOU STILL CAN’T TAKE ON THAT NEW UNDERGRAD GENIUS. WHICH MEANS HIS TUTION WON’T PAY THREE OF YOUR STIPENDS FOR A YEAR. WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT? FUUUUUCK.

*and that concludes the Miceala and Her Brain Show for today*

Yeah. I’ve maybe been applying to grad schools. Ahem.

I Am Pro-Shirt

17 Nov

Aaaalrighty, time for me to join this whole internet yelling thing for a bit.

So. I here there’s this shirt. This shirt, to be specific:

Well, before I start talking about this shirt, let’s get some facts straight about me, your writer here.

1. I am a scientist. (Like I have a real degree in it from a major science school and everything.)

2. I am a feminist. (Eh, just go read my other writing for evidence.)

As a scientist, I will whittle things down to their barest of bones for analysis. I will look at the big picture. I will pin down tiny facts with a sharp and pointy needle. I will check my references, try to look for multiple sides of explanations, and figure out a hypothesis that fits best. I will try really fucking hard not to factor in my own biases, or make the data say what I want it to because I’m so fucking desperate to prove my own point. I will be cool. I will be cold. I will be objective. I will be level.

As a feminist, I will scream the bloody guts out of you if you step on my dignity as a woman (i.e. human).

That man, in that shirt up there? Ya wanna know what I would do if I met him?

1. Babble incoherently because I’m standing in front of a super competent scientist who did a fucking amazing thing.

2. Continue to babble incoherently because while I did take quantum mechanics and special relativity, his is still not my particular field of science.

3. Default to commenting on his super cool tattoos.

4. Blush super red because I’m one of those people.

5. Leave feeling awed at the chance to have met him.

You know what I wouldn’t have done? Give a damn about his shirt. Because it’s his. fucking. shirt. And it has done nothing to harm me.

I mean, maybe the Hawaiian shirt-style colors are a little garish on the eyes, but that’s a different matter entirely.

But seriously, how the fuck did we go from lauding this man as an emblem of scientific progress to tar-and-feathering him as the epitome of misogyny? Has he even done anything misogynistic? Because so far, I’ve not heard any reports of that… I have heard of him making a public apology for wearing a shirt that apparently offended people, which honestly goes up and beyond the dictates of good character. So… why aren’t we telling him that he’s a good guy?

Oh, yeah, the shirt.

Well, let’s pause. What’s so offensive about this shirt again? Did it have hateful words on it? No. Did it depict violence towards women? No. Did it depict a woman being coerced to do something she didn’t want to do? No.

The only thing this shirt did (again, beyond the garish color scheme) was depict a confident-looking woman posing confidently in the clothes that this hypothetical art-woman presumably chose to wear because she liked them. And this scientist-man, Dr. Matt Taylor, saw this shirt of a woman being confident enough to flaunt for the presumed hypothetical camera and thought hey, this is a cool thing. An attractive thing. I’d like to wear a shirt that broadcasts that kind of existence for a woman.

(Well, presumably some sort of thought train like that. I obviously can’t know exactly what he thought. It very likely could also just have been, “Ah, cool shirt brah! Imma wear this!”)

But seriously, why are we yelling about this shirt? Because a woman is being sexy on it? WOMEN ARE BEING SEXY ON EVERYTHING. Coca cola cans, internet window advertising side bars, stripper poles, art work, the streets because remember how it’s supposed to be okay for a woman to dress however she wants and not be judged for it? Well, a hypothetical not even real woman was dressing how she wanted on a shirt. Consensually. And a man wore it. Woooo male support of feminism. Right?

As someone who’s also done a fair amount of vocalizing on the eating disorder awareness front, I could see how some people might start yelling about how the woman on the shirt is thin, thus perpetuating unrealistic expectations and suppressing the idea that other body shapes are beautiful and blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure Dr. Taylor didn’t pick up this shirt and go, “Oh hey, I could perpetuate thin culture with this. Yeah, Imma do that.” And even if he did have a thought train along the line of, “Oh, skinny woman. Skinny woman pretty. Yes wear.” WHATEVER. THAT’S HIS FUCKING PREROGATIVE. He’s allowed to have aesthetic preferences. That’s okay. Besides, he’s kinda busy doing cool science shit. The battle against fat shaming is not his responsibility. And again, it’s not like his shirt specifically says “only skinny women are pretty.” It doesn’t. It doesn’t.

So, what do we have about all of this? A scientist wore a garishly colored but otherwise non-content-offensive shirt. And then the world yelled at him, because apparently the world likes to make assumptions and project thought processes instead of slowing down to actually get facts and analyze.

Seriously, guys. It’s just a shirt. I went to a university with more males than females. All of us were scientists. You wanna know what we wore? Our pajamas. Actually. I have a friend who almost never wore anything other than his pajamas. Yes, he even wore them to job interviews. I have never seen this man in a suit. Except for the people who were adding a second business major to their science one, the people at my school, if you saw us in fancy clothes, it’s because it was laundry day and we’d run out of everything else.

And furthermore, I do not joke: World, this is a male scientist not working in a wet lab. Stop giving a shit about the not-actually-offensive shirt, and just be gratefully he was wearing pants.

The Omniscience Chronicles: Dari and Micah

21 Feb

She shuffled uncomfortably. “Sometimes people have a hard time with me.”

Micah looked at her curiously. “Why?”

“I’m blazingly honest.” She hopped down from the side of his bed. “If you ask me a question, I’m not going to skirt around with niceties. You’re going to get the real answer, whether you wanted it or not.”

“Isn’t that what everybody does?”

Dari burst out laughing. “You actually think that? Micah, wake up. People don’t really want to know what you have to say these days. They want some nice gloss of a response that imparts absolutely no information whatsoever so they can feel good about acknowledging you and then move on with their life with as little disruption as possible.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry,” Dari’s voice softened. She put a hand on Micah’s shoulder. “It’s that blazingly honest thing again. I don’t know how to how to account for people’s sensitivities. I kind of just bowl you right over.”

Micah shook his head. “My fault for being so naïve,” he said gruffly.

Dari looked away. Her eyes dropped to the ground. “Naïveté isn’t so regrettable,” she said quietly. “Better than knowing everything and just walking around jaded all the time.”

Micah helped her snap her bra back on. “Life’s ruined for you, isn’t it?”

She pulled up her skirt and tugged at the snagged zipper. “Pretty much. Humans aren’t supposed to know all things, Micah. Takes the wonder out of everything. Well, just about everything…” She slipped her t-shirt over her head and tugged it down around her waist.

Micah paused where he was buttoning his jeans back together. “That’s why you do this, isn’t it? It’s the only thing you have left. Raw experience.”

Dari nodded silently. “Even then, knowing exactly how my biology is going to respond to each manipulation… there’s no element of surprise. Expectation reduced down to an algorithm… takes the intimacy out of it. And my body knows it, too. My senses are starting to dull. My dopamine receptors are slowly being pruned away, never being able to register more reward than anticipated, because my anticipations are always correct. I’m slowly being stripped of my ability to register pleasure.” Dari laughed darkly. “And where will that leave me? A cynical old maid who knows too much for her own good.”

Micah looked at her bashfully. “I’d still like you.”

Dari laughed again. “No you wouldn’t. You only think you would. Eventually you’d learn to spurn me. You’re a poet, Micah. The flowery kind. You walk around finding lovely images to compose into attempts at truth. And while you get halfway there, you stop short and end up still firmly within the bounds of falsity. You delude yourself into believing in your own constructions, making you one of the billions living on this planet who never really understand anything. And you know that I’d never stop pointing that out to you, either, because you, with your own strange compulsions, can never stop asking me what I think. No, Micah. You’d come to hate me.”

“Gee, thanks for the compliment. Glad you have such faith in people.”

“Faith,” Dari spat out the word as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. “What use have I for faith?”

Micah stared at her closely. Then, slowly, realization dawned on his face. “They didn’t give you a choice, did they?”

Dari plopped back down onto the bed. “No, they didn’t. I was a class-5 citizen, Micah. Experimental stock, only one step above shark bait. And I’m a girl. Our crop was short on females, which made me a valuable commodity. Not to be wasted on just any scientific venture. No, I was allowed no say in what experiment I went to. I was slotted for a top-priority religio-scientific assay from birth.”

“The Omniscience question.”

Dari nodded. “Scientists have long since accepted that humans are made in the image of God. Ultimate goodness, generosity of Optimized Altruism, the ability to tolerate paradoxes – all that shit has already been proven as Enhanceable Qualities of the Almighty.” Micah looked at her quizzically. Dari rolled her eyes. “Characteristics of God present in humans as a result of the whole “made in His image” deal that we can draw out and maximize as a part of our general personalities, idiot. Honestly, don’t you keep up with current events?” Without waiting for answer – given that she already knew it- Dari went on, “Anyways, in recent centuries, the Priesthood of Logical Ends has been getting rather ambitious. The PLE figured that if we could master some of the Almighty’s qualities, then shouldn’t we be able to master all of them, even the ones formerly thought to be reserved only for the Big Guy himself?”

Micah nodded slowly, understanding. “Hence the Omniscience project.”

“The Omnipresence project actually came first,” Dari bubbled, “but most people don’t know about that one because it ended up being a big flop. Turns out we’re too tied to our matter, in this life at least, for us to be too many places at once. Quarks apparently don’t take too kindly to being cut in half, even if only momentarily. I hear the snap that happens when your matter realizes it’s been Twinned and promptly fuses itself back together is highly unpleasant. Test subjects kept dying of pain.” Dari chewed on her lip and looked thoughtful for a moment. “But if they could figure out how to reconcile a few more digits of the Existence Coefficient with the remainder of the Quotient of Perceived Momentum, they might have it… Anyhoo, doesn’t matter,” Dari said brightly. “The PLE never ends up figuring it out. They pray very hard about it for a couple of dedicated decades and then decide that it’s impossible.”

Micah stared at her for a moment, too stunned to say anything. He considered asking another question and then thought the better of it.

Dari giggled. “Anyways,” she said, snatching her sweater off the ground, “I should be going.”

Micah leaned over and kissed her deeply on the neck. “Dari,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around her so she couldn’t leave, “there is a God then?”

Dari leaned into his shoulder. “Of course, stupid.”

Micah thought very hard. He knew he could only keep her there for so long. “Why does he let bad things happen?”

Dari squirmed. “Because.”

“Because why?”

“No,” Dari shifted so she was facing him. “That’s all there is. Just – because.” Micah raised an eyebrow at her, waiting. “Look,” she said, annoyed, “just because I know everything doesn’t mean I understand it.” She wriggled her way out of his arms. “I really have to go now.”

She turned to leave but Micah caught her by the hand. She whipped around, but there was something in the way that Micah was looking at her that stayed her tongue. He met her eyes and held them in his steady gaze.

“Dari,” Micah’s voice broke as he said the word. “Dari, why you?”

Dari didn’t say anything. Instead, she only shook her head sadly, leaned in close and silently kissed Micah on the cheek. Micah let go of her hand. Dari walked quickly towards the door. She was just reaching for the door handle when Micah called out to her again.

“Dari,” he said her name gently, so gently, “what’s the answer?

Dari turned and stared at him. “Micah… there isn’t one.”