Archive for the ‘workshops’ Tag

Poison 101 at LTUE 2020

About a million years ago (actually it was the early 1990s), I worked as an environmental analytical chemist for the State of Idaho. Technically, we were the forensic lab for the Department of Environmental Quality, but we also consulted on criminal cases—the state police’s forensic lab was in the basement for the first few years I worked there.

After I left that job due to certain health effects, I started noticing this weird thing in books, movies, and other entertainment.

People were not portraying poisoning correctly. And over the years it didn’t get any better. So in the early 2000s, I wrote a workshop to teach people the biochemistry of poison, hence Poison 101.

I gave this workshop in my local area for several years, and even at the RWA National convention in 2005 and the Emerald City Writers Conference a few years after that. However, it’s been at least a decade since I last gave it, and the recordings are no longer available.

And then RED 2 did the stupid-stupid-stupid 5-second thing with a knockout drug in 2013. This. Does. Not. Happen. Le Sigh. For dog’s sake, the Bulgarians injected writer Georgi Markov with ricin in 1978 and it took him four horrible days to die. Four. Days. May he rest in peace.

So. It is time for this workshop to be presented again.

On February 14, 2020, at 6 p.m., Poison 101 will be presented at the Life, The Universe, and Everything conference in Provo, Utah. If you’d like to attend, here’s the website: https://www.ltue.net

If my workshop is chosen for video recording, you might be able to find it on the LTUE YouTube channel later. If this happens, I’ll post a link to it.

Writing, writing, writing

Progress report: In two weeks, I have a net gain of three thousand words (which includes rewrites, expansions, and cutting material that is now redundant or no longer part of the story at all). I’m getting there, slowly but surely. I have to get it done by the end of October, because…

I’ve also started plotting work on my “NaNo” book; the story I will be working on in November, as part of National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for the truly lazy). This is going to be something completely different: a historical romance about a duke who isn’t quite a duke and a ruined baron’s daughter who isn’t really ruined.

I never thought I would try to write a historical romance, but the characters popped into my head and wouldn’t go away, so here we are, LOL.

One other thing —

For writers who publish independently: I attended a workshop called the Indie Unconference October 12-13. It was mostly about marketing, but there were also discussions about the latest developments in wide vs. Kindle Unlimited (Amazon exclusive), and the best way to do print-on-demand now that Createspace is no more (may it rest in peace).

Back to the work in progress,


Modern Physics & Magic: A Few Words

This originally appeared on the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal RWA chapter blog.

I’d like to take a few minutes today to talk about modern physics and magic (or magick,  if that’s your preferred spelling).

Now I know you already think I’m crazy, but hang on for a minute. Because I have a few words that I think you might find interesting.

The first one is “Fields”

Specifically, the electromagnetic fields of protons and electrons. They’re why we perceive matter as solid, even though the average atom is mostly empty space.

The not-empty part is a nucleus of protons and neutrons with some number of electrons wandering around at various distances and configurations that can be predicted via quantum mechanics.  The number of electrons depends on the number of protons in the nucleus and the ionic state of the atom.

Molecules are atoms linked together with more empty space between, but they can also merge the fields of their individual atoms to create even stronger fields.

If you’ve ever tried to stick two “North” ends of bar magnets together (or ridden a mag-lev train), you have an idea of what I’m talking about. The closer together you get the magnets, the stronger the fields become.

What happens when you can negate the EM field of matter? You walk through walls and sink though floors, unless you can also negate a gravitational field and fly. Magic.

The second word is “Phase”

When light bounces off a surface, the wave (light is both waves and particle streams), the phase of the wave is shifted by 180 degrees.  Now, if you mix two waves of opposite phases, they cancel each other.  From this we get noise-canceling headphones and the possibility of invisibility.

But wait, there’s more.

If you expand the thought to quantum phases, you can end up with the multiverse – different realities that could exist alongside ours, but instead of having possible electron spins of Up and Down, their quantum phase has electron spins of Left and Right.

What happens when two universes occupying the same space but with different quantum phases experience quantum phase drift? Maybe we start seeing things that aren’t really there. Almost like ghosts.

The third word is “Entanglement”

Say you have a pair of big particles, like electrons (or even as big as microdiamonds, according to some people), that interact and are then separated.

Now the electrons have a description that is indefinite in terms of stuff like position, momentum, spin, and even polarization; when they interact they adopt opposite spins. Until you look at one to determine its spin, you don’t know what it is. And if you change the spin of an electron that is entangled, you can change the spin of the electron it interacted with, even if that other electron is at the other end of the universe. Magic.

Those are only three of the words that link modern physics to magic. If you want to know some of the others, I’m teaching an online workshop in August through FF&P that explains the concepts without going into the math.

Footnote: The math is weird; it doesn’t use numbers because pretty much nobody knows what the numbers are. Einstein, in his general relativity derivation, divided by zero at least once, which was found by someone else. And he still came up with his famous equation relating energy to mass.

In closing, I want to leave you with a few more words, these from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer (which is a bit like calling Einstein the patent clerk). This is Clarke’s Third Law, written as a footnote to Clarke’s Second Law in the essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in the collection Profiles of the Future (added, I believe, in the 1973 edition):  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

And, lastly, the Roberts (that’s me) corollary to the Third Law: “Why choose?”

Online Class Titles

I’m coming up with some very interesting titles for individual lessons.

For example, “The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is 496, Not 42” is about the five different and competing versions of string theory that had developed by the 1980s. A group of physicists got together and solved for the gauge group size, coming up with 496 in more than one of the different theories and laying the groundwork for the idea that they’re all different views of the same thing.

“Turn that Dimension Dial Up to 11” is about how including an 11th dimension in the equations brought together all the flavors of string theory, as well as supergravity, general relativity and quantum mechanics.

I’m not sure what to call the overall course, however. “The Dream that Stuff is Made Of” was my favorite for quite a while.

But now I’m thinking about “The Science of Magic” because there are a lot of things that actually make sense at the scale of theoretical physics (where atoms are huge and galaxies are fairly small) when they just don’t make sense at a human scale.

Which of the titles do you like the best? Or do you have any other suggestions?

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