Physics & Biology Helped Us Evolve #science #cancer #NASA #Earth #Mars @MarsOneProject

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

For three billion years, life on Earth consisted of single celled organisms. That was so soon after the planet cooled, it leads some scientists to believe life may be common in the universe. Then 800 million years ago, multicellular life burst on the scene and rapidly evolved. Since it took so long to make the multicellular leap, some scientists believe this sort of advanced life may be rare.

Individual cells started grouping up. They collaborated, differentiated, grew in size and ability. Some sacrificed themselves for the good of the many. Compared to the long, dull years of single-celled living, the resulting diversification barely took any time at all. Before long the world was full of trilobites and anenomes, then fish, ferns, pterodactyls, tyrannosaurs, bees, whales, cacti, kangaroos, not to mention us.

Biology: why did life change? How?

A single gene, called RB, studied in a sixteen-cell species of green algae may explain cells banding together into more complex creatures – and may also explain why some cancers grow in us today. Thanks to mutations in the gene, RB can cause cells to clump together into altruistic colonies, or cells in us to selfishly run wild.

Ironically, cancer may be the price we pay for existing at all.

But complex life needed more than variations of RB to evolve.

Physics: life needed Earth to change
RB may have launched complex creatures more than once before our ancestors lasted long enough to evolve.

Scientists think that until 500 million years ago, life on Earth fell victim to high-energy blasts from the sun, [the early sun produced a lot more cell-killing gamma, ultraviolet and x-rays than it does today.] The atmosphere then was too thin to fully protect our single-celled ancestors, whose DNA would have been damaged by such powerful rays. That kept them from becoming more complex.

As the early Earth cooled, heavy metals sunk to the center. Still very hot but now under extreme pressure, the inner core solidified and spun inside the still-molten outer core.

Bingo! A strong magnetic field was generated, deflecting radiation and protecting the atmosphere from being stripped away. Combined with an aging, more-sedate sun, cells were no longer regularly smashed back to their simplest forms.

The details are hard to pin down and studies will continue. “The origin of life remains one of most challenging themes in science.” And, I might add, one of the most fascinating.

Poor dead Mars
The failure to form a proper dynamo of solid inner core and molten outer core may help explain why Mars lost its early atmosphere and has essentially no magnetic field. Perhaps the planet was just too small to manage the trick – Mars is only half the diameter of Earth. The combination makes Mars a hostile planet for life. Whether life ever started there is unknown, and the chance life persists if it did once gain a toehold is unlikely, but NASA and others are working to find out.

Colonize Mars with scifi
The combination also makes Mars a difficult place for us to consider GLORY Ebook 300 dpi (200x300)colonizing, but from NASA to Mars One, people are ready to go. For now, you can only travel to Mars in your imagination – or in mine! Check out my scifi On Mars series at Amazon or your favorite on-line retailer. Tragedy and despair follow the first colonists to Mars, but exploration, optimism, and love await them too. With a clue to survival from a cat! Read today. Or, as we say on Mars, tosol.

Thanks to Washington Post here and here for stories and quotations.

Mars Inspiration on Earth #NationalPark #nature #travel #usa #scifi

That's me

That’s me

I just returned from a week traveling to National Park sites across the American southwest. There are amazing public lands for hiking and camping – and it’s a great way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks.

I was especially inspired by the Mojave Preserve’s huge cliffs of tuff – volcanic ash compressed into rock. The way it weathers is awesome.

The pale pocked cliffs make me think about Mars – in particular, the colony in my On Mars series. Colonists live in habitats of stone, 3-D printed from sand and meters thick to shield them from cosmic radiation inside a bubble of earthly environment.

Maybe it’s time for a habitat to be carved into the actual rock of Mars. I think I’ll do that in the third book in my series:

Misfits from the Martian colony live in the Tartarus Mountains of

Volcanic tuff - on Earth? or Mars?

Volcanic tuff – on Earth? or Mars?

Elysium, in a cavern dug by a legendary Hermit. The Hermit has always provided life support, but something’s gone wrong, and it’s up to a roboticist in the midst of a mid-life crisis to save the day (sol as they say on Mars.)

I don’t know if the eastern Elysium Plain is buried under hundreds of meters of tuff – maybe someday (some sol) we’ll find out. Until then, subscribe to my occasional emails to track my writing progress and receive special offers and a piece of flash fiction, too.

Scifi colonists may not survive on the real planet Mars

Travel with my colonists, and find out if their fellow humans are a bigger danger than the hostile planet.

The On Mars series is available from Amazon and all the major online retailers. Visit your favorite site or check here.

Mars Odyssey 15th Birthday #NASA #science #space #Mars

Not what Odyssey found on Mars - those must be tattoos on the princess - no way they'd stay in place as she moves

Not what Odyssey found on Mars – those must be tattoos on the princess – no way they’d stay in place as she moves

Odyssey launched on April 7 fifteen years ago. It was NASA’s 2001 space odyssey, named for the classic scifi novel, and became the longest-lived Mars spacecraft in history. It still has fuel for several more years.

There was a lot we wanted Odyssey to accomplish: study geology and radiation, and hunt for water. Water is important to humanity’s future on Mars, and understanding the planet’s radiation environment is vital to keeping explorers and (maybe?) colonists alive. Geology may determine where the first human explorers touch down. Odyssey became a relay station for surface craft that followed it, so it’s part of many missions.

We know so much more about Mars than before Odyssey, even if there are

Scifi colonists may not survive on the real planet Mars

Scifi colonists may not survive on the real planet Mars

still plenty of mysteries. Mars has become a real place rather than a backdrop for fantasy and serious efforts are underway to send people to Mars – to explore, to learn, and perhaps to colonize. But not to rescue scantily clad princesses. Today we need black holes or warp drive to reach such space creatures.

Happy Birthday Odyssey.

Thanks to

Glory on #Mars excerpt Chapter One: Incident #amwriting #scifi #amreading #books

The seaside resort of Noordwijk was a strange place to train for a mission to the barren deserts of Mars, but Colony Mars had its tidy headquarters north of the Dutch city, inland from the deep dunes of the beach. Sightseers hurried through the visitors’ center to join guided tours of a Martian colony mockup and settler-candidates stopped between austere buildings to admire the summer flowers that replaced spring tulips.

Noordwijk-DunesEmma was about to start her last English-language tour when her link beeped an incoming message – the tone for “urgent”. One family was still coming up the ramp, two young boys ricocheting among signs diagramming the mockup of the colony. Emma turned discreetly to one side and tapped her headset.

“There’s a mission problem.” Emma didn’t check her contact lens for metadata – that was the mission lead’s voice in her ear. “Come to the control room as soon as duties allow.”

A chill ran through Emma. Maybe her launch date had slipped. Maybe they’d miss the window entirely and she’d remain on Earth, temporarily reprieved. Why was that the first thought that came to her? Must be pre-launch jitters.

Emma was about to fly on Settler Mission Three and her journey depended on a narrow launch window. Balancing the planets’ orbital dance with fuel requirements, Colony Mars could launch a mission every twenty-six months. If they missed it, there’d be a twenty-six month delay. But Emma excelled at focusing on the task at hand, so she turned her attention back to her tour group.

“If we’re all ready? My name is Emma Winters and I’m a Martian settler. In twelve days, Colony Mars will launch me and three crewmates into orbit to board our transport ship. I’ll be your guide today through this replica of the Kamp Kans colony habitat or nederzetting, as our Dutch founders call it.”

“Wow,” one of the bouncy boys said. He was clearly a fan, dressed in a rugby shirt from the gift shop, striped in rusty red and sky blue just like Emma’s uniform. “Are you really going to Mars and never coming back?”

“Yup. This is my last day in Holland.”

She watched everyone’s eyes widen at that. Public outreach, like this tour, was part of every settler’s training, right up to their final day at headquarters. Personal contact kept public interest and donations high.

The urgent message tugged at her thoughts and she pushed it away again.

“Why don’t one of you young men open the door and we’ll begin.” She gestured towards the white metal hatchway. The younger boy hopped forward, stopping just before he ran into the door.


“You have to open it manually, dummy,” his brother said. He looked back at Emma proudly. “All the nederzetting’s doors are manual.”

“That’s right,” Emma said with a practiced smile. The tour always started with the surprise of a manual door.

“Colony Mars uses the latest technology for some things, like construction, communications, and power generation. But technology requires lots of support – spare parts and maintenance. There are only eight people on Mars now; twelve when my mission gets there. Human beings are flexible – our hands can replace dozens of servomechanisms.”

The boy scowled at her skeptically.

Emma held up a pencil she carried especially for this bit.

“Even simple tools are complex to manufacture. The wood for this pencil is logged in Oregon, in America. The graphite in the center is mined in Sri Lanka. Zinc and copper from Africa for the cap, and the eraser combines Italian pumice with Canadian rapeseed oil.” She waggled the pencil at the crowd.

“I haven’t mentioned the machines needed to produce it, or the thousands of workers and piles of parts at every step. On Mars, we use low tech wherever we can.” Emma spun the wheel-shaped handle, and stepped to one side as she heaved the door open.

“Even ‘no tech’. These hinges will still be working a hundred years from now.”

She pushed the urgent message firmly out of her mind as the group stepped and stumbled over the door frame.


The quickest route to Mission Control was through the visitors’ center. From the lobby, tourists turned right to enter the museum and gift shop under a banner in four languages.

Mars is ons geschenk aan de toekomst
estas nia donaco al la estonteco
Mars est notre cadeau pour l’avenir
Mars is our gift to the future

Instead, Emma stepped behind the lobby’s welcome desk. Rather than the Very_large_array_cloudsusual cheery greeting, the attendant nodded grimly. Alarmed, Emma laid her hand on the scanner, a door concealed in the wall clicked open, and she hopped on the walkalator to the Mars-Earth Exchange building.

She could see the MEX antenna farm from the glass corridor. Today a group from the nearby European Space Agency’s Technology Center stood at the base of the main dish – their visit had been the day’s news at breakfast – but she was too distracted to wonder if they’d award another grant to Colony Mars.

She entered at the back of a stadium-style control room, behind two dozen stations, each arranged like an individual cockpit, and scanned the room for Filip Krast, the stocky MEX mission control lead. The front row, on the lowest level, was fully occupied as always by controllers running the satellite systems that orbited Mars – communications, tracking, weather, and solar power. On the second level technicians were installing upgrades for Emma’s Settler Three mission.

Filip hurried across the top level, past the special projects stations, and ushered Emma to a glass-walled cubicle against the back wall.

“There’s been a… an incident at Kamp. This isn’t easy to watch.” He steered her to a video console in the corner and hit playback. “There’s been a death.”

Emma sat up straight and felt her fingers go cold.

On the vid, the colony’s doctor, Ingra, was stepping through a door in the habitat module. The lights were dimmed and the audio feed was silent except for the hum of life support systems – it was pre-dawn at the settlement. She crossed to the airlock, slowly rotated the door handle, and hopped through.

Filip tapped the console, switching to the playback from inside the airlock. Ingra sealed the door and looked up at the imager.

“By the time this transmission reaches Earth, I’ll be gone. I can’t stay here any longer. There’s a huge old oak tree beyond that little crater. No one can see it, but I know it’s there. I’m going home. Forgive me.” She walked past the surface survival suits hanging on the wall and reached for the airlock control panel.

Emma felt a knot tighten in her stomach.

“She can’t get out without a suit, can she? The airlock pumps are slow; she’ll pass out before the pressure is low enough for her to open the outer door, right?”

view out airlock (500x375)Filip pointed back to the screen.

Ingra stepped to the outer door. With a pull and twist, she opened the emergency decompression valve. Red lights began to flash and ice fog clouded the imager lens. Ingra fumbled with the outer door and it opened. With her last lungful of air, she pulled the door open and disappeared into the darkness.

Glory on Mars is available here or see more options.

GLORY Ebook 300 dpi

If Destiny Takes You to Mars, Beware – the Planet is Deadly #poetry #science #space #Mars

Spirit Rover views rocks on Mars

Spirit Rover views rocks on Mars

There could be solar flares
on the journey there,
Don’t forget crash landings
could happen, to be fair.

Water’s on the surface
but in a frozen brine.
Assume that you can boil out
enough to drink in time.

The atmosphere is toxic
but there is more to heed.
It’s less than one percent
of the pressure that you need.

Besides the lack of atmosphere,
no magnetic force surrounds,
So cosmic radiation
will force you underground.

Orange dust will be the bane
of your solar collectors,
Of moving parts and human lungs,
And of your airlock doors.

If your heating system fails
you will likely freeze,
And if you find your thumb’s not green,
Starvation adds to these.

You better hope you like your fellows
and avoid some fights.
It would be a shame to kill
each other in the night.

Your life’s a tough routine,
Your dangers aren’t a thrill.
Mars is unrelenting.
With its slow motion kill.

You’ve missed the deadline to apply to NASA’s astronaut program for Mars! GLORY eBook COVER OCT2017But, maybe that’s okay.

Join science fiction Mars colonists in my On Mars series. Colonists find all the dangers as they explore and build a home on Mars.

I’m Number 421! Still a strange boast #amwriting #amreading #scifi #Mars colony



Here’s the new cover

I’ve said this before – it may not make much of a bumper sticker, but my new book Glory on Mars is in the top fifth of its Amazon Kindle category. That’s a thrill for me – an unknown author. I’ve been told 90% of the books sold in America are written by 1% of the authors.


It’s so hard to break into writing. Thanks to everyone who read Glory on Mars.

I hope you’ll try Born on Mars, too.

Please consider posting a review – on Amazon, Goodreads, your favorite retailer, or wherever you hang out. That’s how books get noticed.

My books are available from all major retailers – more links here.

Now I’ve got to hurry and post this while it’s still true – things change quickly on Amazon.

Eat Like a Martian, Imagine What Pioneering Will Be – Cassava #space #scifi #Mars #book #paleo #recipe

Settlers on Mars will need to grow their own food. While potatoes may appeal e-born-ebook-267x400to Americans, the Sino-African colony that joins the first settlers in Born on Mars relies on cassava. As one of the most drought-tolerant crops that can grow in marginal soils, it seems like a good candidate for Mars.

You may have heard of cassava as part of popular “paleo” diets.
Two types of cassava are a staple food for over half a billion people in the developing world. Bitter cassava (roots, peels, and leaves) has cyanide based compounds that must be removed via proper cooking, but sweet cassava contains very few such compounds and has a delicate flavor.

cassava Manihot_esculenta_-_cross_section_2One traditional preparation is to mix a thick paste of cassava flour and water, spread it in a thin layer over a basket, and let it stand in the shade for five hours so the cyanide compounds break down. Another is to peel the roots and soak them in water for three days to ferment. The roots then are dried or cooked.

But perhaps settlers on Mars can skip those steps. If I can give my scifi settlers a cool Artificial Intelligence and construction robots, surely I can give them cassava bred to remove cyanides.

Cassava Porridge
1) Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
2) Meanwhile, beat cassava flour into 2 cups of cold water until the mixture is smooth.
3) Add the cassava mixture to the boiling water.
4) Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth.
5) Cover the porridge and place in a 350ºF oven.
6) Bake until the mixture has thickened to a dough-like consistency – about 45 minutes.

I think I’d like to sweeten it with stevia.

Step One:
1) In a large bowl, mix 1 cup cassava flour with 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. If  you’re on Earth, you probably have a couple eggs. Add them and the noodles will hang together better. Add hot water as needed while…
2) Using your hands (don’t burn yourself!) blend and knead the mixture into a ball of dough
3) Lightly dust an area to roll out your ball of dough with a bit of cassava flour
4) Roll out your dough with a rolling pin to desired thickness
5) With a straight edged knife, slice your noodles as fat or thin as you like.
Step Two:
1) Bring 8 cups of water to a boil
2) Transfer the noodles to the boiling water and cook until they float, just a few minutes
3) Remove noodles from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a strainer
4) Shake off excess moisture and dust with finely chopped herbs

For more Eat Like a Martian:
fish supper
mealworm snack
practice for Mars on Earth
Banana beer from Born on Mars
And Liz, in Glory on Mars, tries to make bhang, though she doesn’t have all the ingredients.

Join a scifi colony on Mars - Kate Rauner

I’ve updated Glory on Mars cover. Click to check it out.

Thanks to wikipedia cassava culinary

portuguese recipes cassava porridge

paleo pasta noodles