One of the reason I like writing speculative fiction is it gives me another reason to learn new things. I’m a naturally inquisitive person to start with—that’s probably why I got into science as my day job—and I like to browse sites like Wikipedia for amusement. Doing research for stories I’m writing helps to focus what might otherwise be aimless reading.
Here’s a few of the interesting things I’ve learned over the past few months while doing research for stories I’m writing:
• Closed timelike curves don’t necessarily violate causality. (Also see the Novikov self-consistency principle).
• You can get an atmospheric diving suits that will keep a diver at one atmosphere of pressure, thus eliminating the potential of decompression sickness, e.g., the bends.
• A keffiyeh is a traditional arabic head scarf to protect the head from the sun. I’d always seen the headwear on people like Yasser Arafat, but I’d never know what it was actually called.
• Molecular gastronomy is a type of cuisine. To make it requires some equipment more common to scientific laboratories than kitchens: centrifuges, distillers, syringes, and liquid nitrogen.
• There are five elements in the Japanese philosophy called Godai: air, earth, fire, water, and void. These are found symbolically in zen gardens and Buddhist architecture.
• The Battle of Huế was one of the longest and deadliest battles of the Vietnam War.
Has anyone else learned anything interesting recently?
I find stuff all the time, but I do find that, for me, ‘research’ can become an excuse to indulge a wikipedia habit without acutally producing any writing.
The discovery that the snapping shrimp lives in eusocial colonies and has a sonic weapon so powerful that it causes air-bubbles to produce a mysterious flash of light as they collapse in its wake was probably the most remarkable thing I’ve recently found on wikipedia.