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A single gene grows bigger brains.

Marcos Hernandez Article

A team of scientists from Japan and Germany succeeded in making a bigger neocortex in a marmoset fetus by tweaking a single gene.

The neocortex is the part of the brain involved in spatial reasoning and language.

Let the comparisons to replicating human evolution begin!

First, the ethical consideration: the pregnancy was terminated after 100 days.

The difference between a human and monkey brain is more than just size. There are differences in the relative sizes of brain sections, the number of folds present in the brain, and neurons’ production. All of these increased after the gene-altering.

Fun fact: the larger the brain, the more folds are required to fit inside the skull.

Turning this into a story: what if super-smart monkeys take over the world? Oh wait, that’s already been done.

What about an alternate history where it wasn’t just humans who evolved courtesy of the gene? A fantasy story about an Earth populated by the four types of great apes: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and humans.

The story could start millions of years after the split, in what appears to be a modern world. There are four great civilizations where a specific type of ape is most common. Each of the governments deals with other species in different ways.

Humans keep gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees in designated reserves.

Gorillas allow all species free reign over their lands.

Chimpanzees keep the other apes in separate reserves for each species.

Orangutans subjugate the other species, making them slaves.

The four main characters in the story could be one from each species who discover mental links independent of physical distances. Similar to “Sense8.”

First, they work to find each other. Three then discover that the fourth is held a chimpanzee held in orangutan lands. The first story could revolve around trying to get them free.

Subsequent books could be about running from orangutans trying to recapture the chimpanzee, fighting back against a government organization that wants to recreate their links for their own benefit, and discovering when apes are born with the connection.

A new monkey has been discovered in Myanmar.

Marcos Hernandez Article

The Popa Langur has been confirmed as a new species by a joint effort of scientists from three organizations. The hunt began when bones in a 100-year-old natural history collection were reexamined using modern technology, suggesting the species was separate from other monkeys in Myanmar.

They are named after Myanmar’s Mount Popa, an extinct volcano where the largest group of monkeys live (approx. 100 individuals).

This group makes up nearly half of the existing specimens. Unfortunately, the species is critically endangered–estimates of the total number still in existence range from 200-260.

This got me thinking: what if a human found themselves in a similar situation? Maybe a cohort of 250 is taken into space?

I’m reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the first time and imagine a similar start to the story. A group of people belongs to a cult that just so happened to be correct about a coming apocalypse. An alien saves the entire group, taking them light years away to a habitat built for them.

Humans have to navigate infringements on their environment by outside companies wanting natural resources, hunting, and losing their main food supplies. In short, everything endangered species deal with now.

The main character would be a child who grows up watching the interaction between the humans in charge and the aliens, the primary contact being between those in preservation groups.

I’m imagining a cross between Octavia Butler’s Dawn and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

This could easily be a series where some group members escape and adapt to life in a city and complete destruction and relocation of their habitat. The eventual assimilation with an alien species would end the human race.

Coronavirus variant spreads from minks.

Marcos Hernandez Article

Twelve people in Denmark have been infected by a coronavirus variant from a new animal carrier: minks. It’s a different type than the one responsible for the pandemic.

Officials aren’t taking any chances with a spreading outbreak and plan to cull the entire mink population.

There’s a potential silver lining from this newly discovered transmission vessel. With any luck, this news will kill rumors about the deliberate spread of COVID-19 from Chinese labs.

 A complete culling of minks on Danish farms will result in the death of between 15 and 17 million animals.

What if a more ubiquitous animal was discovered carrying a virus that could spread to humans? Maybe one that was important for US agricultural production?

In a story based on this scenario, we could look back at a more potent form of mad cow disease. With the entire US cattle population’s culling, a new synthetic type of meat and milk created in a lab would dominate the market.

The main character could be a young girl who raises a cow hidden in a cave, similar to stories of secret dragons. Then, when the animal is discovered, a race to save its life begins. First, with locals who try and kill the cow, then with scientists who want to destroy the last remaining specimen of the species.

The cow and the girl are aided by an underground movement that has been able to keep a few of the animals alive, unknown to mainstream society. The bulk of the novel could be the trip out of US borders, taking the cow to a place either in Canada or Mexico where it could live without worry. Similar to “Free Willy.”

Thinking about the idea further, it could actually be a dragon story and explain why dragons are so rare in the first place. I’ve never written a fantasy story before, but this could be my chance to pay homage to the numerous fantasy movies and novels I read as a child.

The first footage of a ram’s horn squid in the wild!

Marcos Hernandez Article

Scientists have filmed a ram’s horn squid in its natural habitat using a remote-controlled camera. The squid is tiny, just 7cm long.

Ram’s horn shells are commonly found on beaches throughout the world. The squid uses the internal shell to maintain buoyancy­; the cuttlefish is the only other animal with the shell inside their bodies.

The only movement in the video is the fins at the squid’s base. With its tentacles and head above and fins below, the creature’s position in the video has scientists questioning their beliefs about how the animal moves throughout the ocean. In aquariums, the tiny squids orient themselves with the tentacles down.

Turning this into a story, what if a conservationist discovers a rare, endangered animal in an area about to be destroyed by developers? They could have to fight to save the animal, then their lives when the developers see their future profits torn away.

The story would be a thriller, complete with a Rambo-like sidekick who takes up the cause. It was supposed to be one of his final jobs, but instead, he’s pulled into a fight to keep the scientist alive.

The story could end with the delivery of documents to a government official, who shuts down the development firm.

The second book in the series would be about a pharmaceutical company that isn’t interested in the property but the creature itself after discovering properties that could revolutionize medicine. A thriller in the wilderness would turn into a thriller in the city, fighting to stay alive while uncovering the pharma company’s illegal business practices.

This duo, the scientist and the mercenary, could go on to save endangered plants and animals all over the world. Each time, they take a stand against large corporations that not only want control of nature but want to kill the two people standing in their way.

Why did the building cross the street?

Marcos Hernandez Article

Construction workers in Shanghai moved a building in a way never seen before: they walked it down the block. (Watch the video. It’s incredible.)

The building, a primary school built in 1935, was in the way of the development of a commercial center. Traditional methods of moving a building wouldn’t work because of the school’s shape.

Workers raised the building on two hundred small, slidable pistoned platforms, attaching each to the building’s bottom. These were synced up to move the building down the street over eighteen days.

An interesting story could be about the building itself–a cross between The Giving Tree and One Hundred Years of Solitude. It would cover the entire lifetime of the building, starting with the first students and culminating with the near-future students, using technology the building deems as futuristic novelties.

The movement of the school down the street could be the crisis towards the end of the novel. The person who comes up with the idea is a former student. They watched the building–which has a life of its own–save a trespassing squirrel by performing the same step-wise action with the floor tiles, depositing the animal outside.

The story doesn’t have to take place in China. It could take place in any country, showing the unique history of different locales. The key would be including the vast history between 1935 to present-day, showing the changing culture through the building’s eyes and the students’ changing demographics.

This particular story could have a sequel set in the far future with hovercrafts and advanced wearable tech. A more reasonable way to turn this concept into a series could be this type of story with other ignored buildings. For example, the story of a factory in a midwestern town or a post office in California during the Gold Rush could be worth telling. Each story would provide the opportunity to witness history through a more local lens.

Will robots replace captive dolphins?

Marcos Hernandez Article

Edge Innovations has designed an animatronic dolphin that can pass for the real thing. The U.S. engineering company used its experience creating life-like animals for movies to help relieve the reliance on captive animals to entertain crowds.

If you want one, prepare to spend $3-5 million.

Dolphins are common in theme parks throughout the world. A life-like robotic version would have a massive impact and go a long way with conservationist groups. In the future, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine every animal in a theme park, including zoos, is a robotic version. Would you visit a mechanical Jurassic park island?

What if robotic animals were the initial taste of advanced technology that paves the way for life-like human robots? It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the people accepting tickets into the theme parks to see robotic dolphins could one day be robots themselves.

If you’ve read The Hysteria of Bodalís, you know my affinity for androids. This could be another treatment of the issue.

The story could revolve around a tinkerer who’s responsible for fixing the robots. He’s a solitary man, working at night to fix the robots for the theme park visitors. Over time, he takes decommissioned robots, both animals and humans, and creates a private utopia in an abandoned warehouse—everything changes when someone starts breaking into the theme park and kills the robotic animals.

The authorities don’t invest too many resources into the case since it involves property damage and not an actual killing.

The stakes rise when human robots are dismembered. The repairman is suspected, and he has to solve the case before he’s fired or found guilty.

The most intense part of the story would be the discovery of his secret world, where both animal and human robots are slaughtered, making his guilt seem all but certain.

The story could end with the tinkerer discovering that the accountant is responsible for the damage; he wanted to recover the insurance payments after losing the theme park’s money. Similar to a Scooby-Doo episode, but darker and written for adults.

A series could revolve around the theme park, tying together the underlying social connections and their interactions with the robotic humans and animals. The theme park could expand to include other parks with dinosaurs or make strides in creating other uses for human robots.

A potential second book could be about their foray into making robotic humans available for humans to kill–an outlet for primal urges. The tinkerer has to solve a different case: why one man orders so many robot humans. His detective work reveals a string of past murders, and he brings the serial killer to justice.

The third book could be animal robot focused, a Jurassic park where someone is killing real human visitors, making it look like the robot dinosaurs are committing the crimes. In the end, it could be a rival company or a spurned former partner.

An extra artery provides evidence humans are evolving.

Marcos Hernandez Article

A study published in the Journal of Anatomy has discovered a statistically significant increase in a forearm artery’s adult occurrence since the late 1800s.

The artery supplies blood to the hand in early fetus development. It is replaced by two arteries later in the womb.

The findings suggest this artery will become commonplace as soon as 80 years from now.

Shada Gray, the main character in Edited Genome Trilogy, has blood that can transport greater levels of oxygen. In the first book, I’ve suggested she’s the next step in human evolution.

There’s another story here, one that includes another passion of mine: olympic weightlifting. What if a scientist discovered people were born with higher-density soft tissues? Specifically, the tendons and ligaments around the knee, hips, and shoulders.

Then, given knowing their own children possessed this trait, they encouraged them to take up olympic weightlifting. In this sport, increased soft tissue quality would be extremely advantageous.

The story could be told from the POV of the athlete, chronicling their rise to the top and subsequent legal fight against people who discover their natural advantage. The final battle could be the international competition, the Olympics or world championships, in a scene reminiscent of Rocky IV.

The questions the scientist parent poses to win the court battle, ensuring their child can go to the highest levels in sport: is it unfair for tall children to be encouraged to take up basketball, or fast children to take up track?

A series based on this idea would have to take a different approach. In a series, the main character is the scientist who discovers emerging physical characteristics and identifies children with these traits, bringing them together in a special school for athletes.

The scientist would be like Professor X, but with athletes.

The stories could then chart the children dealing with typical teenage/young adult issues while training and performing at the highest levels of their respective sports.

Early novels could focus on the local competition, similar to “The Karate Kid.” The stakes get higher as the series progress, like the “Mighty Ducks” movies, but with many different sports represented.

Archaeologists unearth a massacre in Spain.

Marcos Hernandez Article

In Spain, archaeologists recovered an entire town’s worth of remains. The bones were left where they were slaughtered around 300BC.

The town’s inhabitants were killed without regard; skeletons of men, women, and children were scattered throughout the area. Some display traits consistent with fighting back against their attackers, while others were charred, burnt inside their homes.

The bones from a severed arm were found with bracelets still attached.

The Roman empire didn’t conquer Spain until ~200BC, suggesting the attack came from a land-hungry neighboring population.

A story idea, similar to Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield: what if a young man survived the attack by managing to escape, and returns as a Roman soldier?

Of course, nobody could live the required timeline. But with a little research, I’m sure a pillaged town could be found in Spain that fits the requirements.

The young man, maybe early teenager, travels until he encounters Roman settlements. There, he conscripts into the army, working his way up the ranks, never forgetting where he came from.

Eventually, he steers the Roman eye towards Spain and plays an instrumental role in acquiring the land for the empire.

The villain in the story, besides the overarching villain of the opposing Spaniards, would have to be a fellow soldier who stands in the young man’s way. Allies would be easy to come by since the army would be filled with young men his age.

Various battles would set the stage for the upcoming fight against the Spaniards, specifically those orphaned him. The strength of the Spanish forces would need to be significant enough that victory isn’t guaranteed.

This could be a series of historical novels set in the same period, since the technology would be the same. One could take place in Asia, also set up by an orphan event; this time, the main character could be an assassinated nobleman’s son. Another could be in the Germanic lands, the hero forced from his home by the army.

I’ve never written historical fiction before, but at this current moment am about to undertake a fictional account of Diego de Landa’s destruction of the Maya culture in the Yucatan. Writing a story in ~200BC would require research into the technology, fighting styles, and way of life of the people alive in that period.

Ancient Persians made modern steel ~1,000 years ago.

Marcos Hernandez Article

New research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science reveals that Ancient Persians made a rudimentary version of chromium steel in the 11th century.

Chromium steel is also known as stainless steel. The modern version was invented in 1913.

The archaeological site is in southern Iran, at a village called Chahak, which used to be known for its steel production. Their steel had a reputation for being brittle due to the presence of phosphorus in the metals.

This research got me thinking about Valyrian steel in “Game of Thrones.” What about a blacksmith who discovers the process of making the special steel once again?

Who better to star in the spinoff fan-fiction series than Gendry Baratheon? Gendry from the books, not from the show, when he’s following the Lord of Light and doesn’t know he’s Robert’s bastard.

The fifth book in A Song of Ice and Fire leaves Gendry at an inn, working as a blacksmith. If the secret is discovered here, he could use a Valyrian steel blade in self-defense, exposing his secret.

Since the number of Valyrian steel blades is known, the presence of a new on will immediately arouse suspicions.

The story could be about Gendry going to different areas, arming specific lords, and navigating unique political challenges in each location. The backdrop of the entire conflict could be fighting the Lannisters, then the dragons.

If the series were to last for a long time, foreign enemies could enter the fray. Gendry has to fight against time, lack of resources, and deciding who to trust.At least a trilogy, if not an entire long series (~10 books).

Raging wildfires continue in California, Washington, and Oregon.

Marcos Hernandez Article

The United States’ west coast has been dealing with a series of wildfires for weeks. At least 35 people have been killed so far, and that number is expected to climb.

Scientists believe climate change has been the primary factor in the ability of the fires to spread. As of September 17th, California has lost 3.3 million acres, Oregon 940k acres, and Washington 600k acres to fire.

The California fire was notoriously started by a gender reveal.

The smoke released by the wildfires into the atmosphere will reach Europe after crossing the Atlantic. Fires in the United States don’t typically generate enough smoke for any of it to reach Europe, indicating the scale of the current blazes.

My question, which could be the basis of a new story world: what would happen if the fires never went out?

Obviously, there is a limit in the amount of fuel above ground. But what if there was a natural gas seam that caught fire and continued to burn up and down the west coast?

The first issue the people living in this world would have to deal with is the smoke. As of this writing, the air quality in Los Angeles is similar to smoking more than a pack of cigarettes. What if this was the new normal across the United States?

Children couldn’t go outside to play, and exercise would all have to be indoors. It would be a pandemic-style existence over the long haul.

Agriculture would suffer from such a high amount of smoke in the atmosphere. The story could revolve around an immigrant family who comes to the states, assured they could work on a farm to find there isn’t enough work.

They are forced to take on illegal jobs that pay cash, like drug-running and sex work. While I’m wary of painting Hispanic immigrants in a negative light, it could provide context as to why people are forced into lines of work on the wrong side of the law.

With any luck, seeing the plight of migrant workers would create awareness for their precarious situations in our current culture.

Each installment in the potential series could follow different people: firefighters, office workers, and teachers.

Better yet, the story could start at a meeting with people from every group about the best way to support their failing town. The different groups of people contribute something based on their varied life experiences, turning their town into the model for others.

The stakes could be raised when the fire spreads even further in the second book, creating the need to account for the blaze instead of just focusing on the smoke’s second-order effects. They leave, creating new areas towns based on their model, eventually developing alliances and enemies with other towns in their immediate vicinity.

Where’s the Federal government in all this? They’ve got their hands full dealing with the international fallout from the massive amounts of smoke generated on their soil.