Strange Science: Living Chandelier

An EU inventor has come up with a way to craft a chandelier with algae to clean the air while it lights the room.

The chandelier has glass leaves containing algae, which can help to process carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. It’s also absolutely stunning, blending science and art.

You can see the chandelier and read more about it here!

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How Does It Snow When It’s Above Freezing?

Snow is unusual in Seattle, where the staff for MSJ live, because it so rarely gets below freezing here. Sometimes, though, we see snow in the forecast (and actual snowflakes) when the temperature is above freezing. Curious as to how this happens, we looked it up!

The trick has to do with the dryness of the air. The drier (less humid) the air, the more possible it is for snow to survive at above-freezing temperatures. This article explains the science and the equation behind determining if precipitation will fall as snow or rain!

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Awesome Finds: An Ancient Celtic Tree Burial

Archaeologists in Zurich, Switzerland, found the 2,200-year-old remains of a Celtic woman who was buried in a tree. The burial was from roughly the first century B.C., and the woman may have been part of a Celtic community in Switzerland at that time.

Some of the grave goods buried with this women were in a condition that has allowed the archaeologists to learn a good deal about her, including the fact that her teeth still show evidence of a sweet tooth!

You can read more about this here!

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More Stories about Pathogens and Viruses

If you enjoyed yesterday’s story about pathogens, here are a few stories from the MSJ archives you might also enjoy!

Disinhibited” by Myna Chang (a bounty hunter trying to help stop an outbreak)

“Love Bites” by James A. Conan (alien infections) (available in MSJ Summer 2016)

“Futility” by D. J. Tyrer (analyzing the cause of zombies) (available in MSJ Spring 2015)

“Hemingway at Work” by T.J. Tranchell (a rogue employee fights back against a virus-releasing employer (available in MSJ Winter 2014)

“A Bad Case of Rabies” by Jason Bougger (rabies zombies) (available in MSJ Winter 2014)

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Fiction: Do Not Touch

An essay by Professor Caldwell Mook, as provided by Nick Morrish
Art by Luke Spooner


I was recently the recipient of a sizeable bequest from Sir Blumquist Plimpington, a speculative microbiologist with whom I worked during the Manhattan Frog Pox outbreak of the early nineties. Although I was not directly involved with his virus containment efforts, I did assist in the subsequent cover-up when it was unmasked as a hoax, designed to part the good people of Wall Street from their dubiously earned cash.

I was of course delighted to receive such a large sum of money from a man who I remembered with much fondness and suspicion. Somewhat ironically, Sir Blumquist died from Irritable Parrot Fever, which had long been thought to be an imaginary ailment. His will, therefore, specified that this particular bequest should be spent exclusively on research into disease prevention. True to his instructions, I began investigating the major causes of the transmission of infectious disease, which can be broken down into the following categories:

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Strange Science: Oxygen on Mars

One of the Curiosity rover’s tasks was monitoring the atmospheric composition of Mars, and the data collected has revealed unusual changes in the atmosphere over the course of the Martian year–perhaps the Mars equivalent of seasons!

Oxygen, in particular, peaks in the spring and summer. Scientists indicate that “The variation suggests that the oxygen is being created by something, then taken away.” But the scientists have also been unable to discern the cause of this fluctuation. More study and theories are needed to get to the bottom of this.

You can read more about it here!

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More Tales of Xenobiology

If you enjoyed this week’s story, you might also like some of our previous xenobiology stories!

Jehovah’s Feathers” by K. Kitts (relationships between human and non-human species)

Noise” by John A. McColley (investigations by a non-human species into humanity)

Marked” by M A Smith (life as an unusual species)

“Space Cthulhu and the Cosmic Sneeze” by Catherine L. Brooke (a non-human species studies the past) (available in MSJ Winter 2018)

“Belcher’s Sailor: A Remarkable Adaptation to Life on Gas Giants” by E. B. Fischadler (a scientific article on a non-human species) (available in MSJ Winter 2016)

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Awesome Finds: A Couple of Cool Comic Book Projects

There are a couple of cool comic book projects we’ve got our eyes on at Kickstarter right now!

The first is for the first issue of Changa and the Jade Obelisk. This comic book is based on Milton J. Davis’s Changa’s Safari, part of the Sword and Soul book series. The characters and plot both look super awesome, so we’re hoping this project funds and paves the way for many more!

We’re also interested in the Ma’ari series of paranormal LGBTQIA friendly YA comics, also seeking funding (for their third issue) on Kickstarter. This series is about Italian witches investigating a murder and features queer characters.

Both of these Kickstarters end in early February, so check them out soon!

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Interview with Wendy Nikel

Today, we’re chatting with MSJ alum Wendy Nikel, who has her first audiobook out now!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Wendy Nikel: I’m a homeschooling mom who somehow manages to squeeze writing time in between lesson planning, driving kids to extracurricular activities, running the household, and making sure everyone–including our three gerbils–gets fed. I’ve been published in Analog, Nature: Futures, Cricket, and elsewhere and am currently serving as the Publisher Liaison for the 2020 World Fantasy Convention.

DV: You’ve just released the audio version of The Continuum, the first book in your Place in Time series. What are some of the things you learned during the process of getting your printed words into audio format?

WN: I went into this project without really knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had putting together this audiobook.

The Continuum was published by World Weaver Press in January 2018, and the three novellas that follow it in the Place in Time series also involve many of the same characters, so in a way, this project meant re-visiting a story and characters that were very familiar to me, which I’ve spent a lot of time rewriting and revising and reworking and polishing. But I also had to look at it differently than I’d ever done before. I’ve always had some idea of what each of the characters “sounded” like in my head, but figuring out how to describe that to someone else was an interesting challenge.

DV: What advice would you give other authors who are interested in having audio versions of their small-press or self-published books created?

WN: My biggest piece of advice would be to make sure that you know what rights you have and which you’re giving away whenever you sign a contract, whether it’s for a short story, novella, or novel. Even if you don’t currently have plans for producing your work in audio, you may be more open to the idea or have an opportunity present itself later, so it’s good to keep your options open!

DV: Who are some of your favorite audiobook narrators?

WN: I’m going to use this opportunity to give a shout-out to my amazing narrator, Jennifer Stoneking. One of the things I was most concerned about when starting this process was that I wouldn’t find a narrator that was a good fit, so when I heard her audition, it was a huge relief; it was just like I’d imagined my main character Elise’s voice in my head! She was fabulous to work with, and I’m really proud of the finished product!

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

WN: As far as audiobooks go, I’d definitely like to produce the other three books in the series as well, but that’s going to depend on how the first book does–so if you like this one, be sure to leave a review or tell a friend!

I’m also very excited about having a story in a recently announced anthology from Bloomsbury Press, entitled Philosophy through Science Fiction Stories, which also includes stories from Ted Chiang, Ken Liu, Aliette de Bodard, and others.

Thanks, Wendy!

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Fiction: Stars Swimming in the Ether

An essay by Priscilla von Muller, as provided by Genevieve McCluer
Art by Luke Spooner


“Ms. von Muller, I was hoping we could ask you something.” Kirkpatrick, the head scientist of the facility, waved me over. His smug smile as he stood in front of his meaningless little Tesla coil made me feel all the less amicable toward whatever his request might be. I just hoped it wasn’t to fetch him coffee again. Honestly, we were not grad students anymore; there were far more effective stimulants.

“It’s doctor,” I corrected.

The hint of annoyance only flashed on his face for a second, but it was unmistakable. I felt the same every time he opened his mouth. “Of course. Doctor.” He said it almost sarcastically, like the years I had spent studying were all just some big joke. “Well, all of us have been working on that new specimen. So far it’s given us nothing.”

“Have you tried vivisection?”

He groaned. “We’ve cut into its tentacles repeatedly, but they just regrow, and nothing seems capable of piercing its body.”

I cocked an eyebrow at that. We had more than enough tools to do such a simple job. I’d only seen the specimen in passing before, but it didn’t look like it would be a particularly tough nut to crack, as it were. “Have you tried a diamond-tipped scalpel?”

He waved off the comment, giving the distinct impression he had not attempted it. “We’re well past such things, Priscilla. But the creature seems to be learning. It’s already developed as good a grasp at English as you have.” The Brits would never shy at the chance to insult a foreigner’s mastery of their language, no matter how pitiful they themselves may have been at it. “We were hoping you could talk to it?”

That was certainly unusual. “Why me?”

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