I am a self-confessed science geek. I had great fun in my high school science classes and devoured science fiction short stories and novels. In college, I found physics and chemistry pretty fascinating. I always zero in on the science articles on the web or in the newspaper (yes, I still read the newspaper). No big surprise that I’m thrilled that my own science fiction book, TANKBORN, will be published in the fall.
No big surprise either that science doesn’t scare me. Yeah, people have done some pretty frightening things with science. Weapons of war come to mind. But the benefits of scientific discoveries so outweighs the negatives (medical advances, computers, cell phones, the Internet), it doesn’t make sense to me to fear it. You might not want to dissect that frog in biology class (yeah, kind of ick), but despite the gross factor, it’s kind of cool seeing what’s inside a frog.
So what nifty science have I learned recently? I learned that babies make a phenomenal number of synaptic connections in their brains. They start with a clean slate, then as they bop around, discovering one new thing after another, they build those connections until they’re a big tangle. That’s pretty intriguing right there, but then when children grow, they start losing some of those connections. By their teens, they have far fewer than they did as a baby. Why? One explanation is that we start to “specialize,” that is, we focus more on certain things of interest. Our preferences and personalities develop, and we lose the extraneous stuff.
As an author, my next question is, how could I use this in a story?
What if scientists developed a virus that kept babies from losing all those thousands of connections they’d formed? What if the virus escapes the lab and sweeps the world? It doesn’t affect grown-ups, but every infected baby (say, under the age of 1) no longer loses any connections formed in their brain. The scientists’ goal was to improve the human thinking process, that with all the extra connections, we’d be able to do a ton more things than the average person. But instead, what if we’re so swamped with knowledge and experience that we’re frozen, incapable of doing anything? Have the scientists created a race of overachievers, or millions who can’t function because of brain overload?
Okay, I’ve ventured into scary science here. But even still, it was fun to learn about baby brain connections (especially since I’m a new grandma) and neat to brainstorm a story idea based on it. That’s one thing I like about science as an author–it activates my imagination.
How about you? Is science scary or fascinating? Did you sleep through high school biology class or fall in love with science in ninth grade? Drop me a comment and let me know.