20 January 2017

Earth, 2223

[Space-time rift opens]
Alien Leader: Salutations, citizens of Earth.
Human Leader: Sup.
AL: We have been observing you for more than 2,000 of your years, and looking at the advances you have made, we are considering finally inviting you into the Coalition of Advanced Civilizations (CAC).
HL: Sounds amazing.
AL: But first we would like to ask you some questions, as there are some aspects of your culture we do not fully understand.
HL: Shoot.
AL: What is lying?
HL: Not telling the truth.
AL: What is the truth?
HL: Emm... something you know for a fact. For example, two plus two equals four is true, and two plus two equals five is false, or a lie.
AL: Why would you do something like that?
HL: Because when your competitors are better than you, you can only best them by using deception.
AL: But, you are a cooperative species, are you not?
HL: Yes.
AL: Are you lying now?
HL: No.
AL: How a species that is using a concept as counterproductive an infuriating as lying have attained terraformation? We do not understand.
HL: Terraformation?
AL: Yes, the technology to change a planet according to the needs of their people. You used CO2 to increase the temperature in the polar caps to raise sea level so you could reduce the land mass by a 97.6% and raised the temperature by 12C in 100 years, removing 80% of the species in the planet, we presumed, in order to reduce competition for resources and gain more habitable space for your aquatic species.
HL: Ha! we have done no such thing. And we are not aquatic. We just screwed our planet because we did not care or we were blind.
AL: Impossible. We have never made a misjudgment of this magnitude. You must be lying now, are you not?
HL: No.
AL: It is impossible to know when you do. This concept makes no sense whatsoever, how do you tell the truth from the lies when you interact with your own?
HL: We really don't. That's why we screwed in the first place.
AL: I think we have made a mistake.
HL: You bet.
AL: Farewell.
[Space-time rift closes]

17 January 2017

Random Genome Facts

So, the human genome. Property of our species as a whole and each one his or her own individually. twenty-three pairs of macromolecules (chromosomes) made of smaller covalently attached molecules (nucleotides) in the nucleus of most of your cells; that, when unraveled (it is very well packed) is about three meters long. In an average human body there are almost 4 trillion cells, and a very conservative reasoning would be that around 3/4 of them have nuclei (and thus, DNA), so in your body you are carrying some twelve billion kilometers of DNA (among other things), which is enough to go to the sun and back. EIGHTY times.



Nucleotides, as I said, are the basic building block of DNA, or letters, and our genome is a three billion letters long book that tell our biological story at many levels (and you have around six trillion almost prefect copies of that in you). But books need structure, don't they? well, sort of. these letters make sentences (or genes, counting some 20,000 of those), which are (obviously) made of words and spaces (exons and introns). An average sentence (gene) has eight words (exons), and that makes your book around 160,000 words long (Tolkien's Silmarillion is 130,000 words strong for comparison).

You think those are not too many words? think of this. In an actual book, words are in an specific order forming sentences, paragraphs and chapters which would not make any sense of you scramble the order of the words. In the genome this happens all the time though, there are words (exons) that can be removed or added and modify the meaning of the sentence while making sense in the context of the story. Also, the sentences (genes) are not arranged linearly, but are scattered throughout the book, and you have to know in which order you can read them to make chapters (biological pathways) for the story to make sense. Plenty of those sentences (genes) can be found in different chapters, making perfect sense as they are in two or more places, or maybe just removing or adding a word. FYI, each variation of a sentence (gene) caused by the removal or addition of one word (exon) is called isoform (no equivalency here with literature, that I know of).

So we all have all these three billion nucleotides (or letters) in our genome, then what makes each of us a special snowflake? Genetic variation, as a very simplified explanation, the letter in each of those position (and there are four possible letters: A, T, C and G) can change for different reasons, and that is called a mutation. even though all of the three billion letters can change, only some of them (80 million) have been described to actually change in human beings.

And this takes us to the last curiosity about the genome, or how many different possible people there can be due to genetic variability (or in other words, due to the specific set of mutations that we carry in our genomes; and, yes, we are all mutants, no matter what the x-men comics would have us believe, the thing is each of us are mutants for a different set of changes, which is unique to us). Some big numbers first: there are 10 to the 120 (or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) possible ways in which a chess match can go down; there are 7.5 multiplied by ten to the 18 grains of sand on planet earth  (or 7,500,000,000,000,000,000); there are 100 billion galaxies and 300 billion stars on average on each one of those (not that much of a deal) and around 10 to the 90 atoms in the universe.

Prepare for this.

The combinatory of 80,000,000 (the total number of potential letters that can change, mutate, in our genome) is 2 to the 80,000,000, which is far FAR greater than 10 to the 1,000 (remember there are 10 to the 90 atoms in the universe). 2 to the 80,000,000 possible humans thanks to our genetic code. And that is not taking into account other sources of variation, like CNVs (copy number variation) or structural variation (like the loss of a whole part of a chromosome of the very famous trisomy  of chromosome 21). Think of how unique you are.

Or as Richard Dawkins puts it:

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

Have a nice day snowflake.




30 November 2016

Solar System

I saw some art on the solar system a while ago (I don't quite remember where), and I have been wanting to make a solar system wallpaper for myself. Unlike the one I saw, this one is not artwork, but actual photographs mostly from NASA probes. I hope you like it.


3 June 2016

Warcraft: The Beginning



I have played a lot of World of Warcraft in the past. From vanilla up until Wrath you could say I was almost hardcore. Not anymore anyway: I played most of Pandaria things, but didn't complete any raids and I haven't touched Warlords (even tough I bought it). I love the stories that Chris Metzen and company are telling through the popular MMORPG.

Fast forward to 2016 and we finally get a movie about all these stories. I love the other two movies Duncan Jones directed (Moon and Source Code), and I love Travis Fimmel as Ragnar in Vikings, so I got pretty excited about this one. All the fuzz and news surrounding the premier got me excited. All the trailers got me excited. I effectively was on the hype train. And then the critics came along. 30 and something in meta-critic, less than 30% in rotten tomatoes and countless reviews of hatred and disdain towards Warcraft.

And then came the fans: when the movie finally premiered on the 27th of may in several countries (not including USA, China or UK) first in line fans voted for it on the likes of IMDB for an astounding average of 9. Agreed those were mostly fanboys, but on the other hand, in rotten tomatoes it is only David Lynch and the likes fanboys. As of the writing of this, Warcraft: The Beginning has a 8 of public score and a 3.6 of meta-critic which is the biggest gap to my knowledge on a movie with a score of 8 and up (around 1,000 of those on IMDB). I do not know what happened or what explains this. Maybe this gap will reduce or disappear over time. Or maybe it will increase (who knows).

On my side of things, I saw the movie yesterday with four friends, one of them a WoW player, while the other three have never played any Warcraft games. The thing is we all liked it, scoring it between 7 and 9 over 10 I would say. It could have been better, mostly due to the short duration and some really silly lines in the script. Oh, the script. That scene in which Anduin is in a lot of pain, and he's with Garona. Both Fimmel and Patton are acting it well here. and then Anduin says something like "Right now I am feeling more pain than ever in my life". What the fuck? What the fuck was that? from the events happening and the acting you could already tell that, so why that sentence. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY? dialogue is only for when it is needed, not for exposition of obvious things in this ridiculous manner. For some reason the Orc lines where much less silly across the movie, and Durotan and Gul'dan where awesome.

But it is a highly enjoyable movie, it's fun, it's intense, some of the characters are highly likable and/or memorable, and it has at least two of those moments for which we go to see this kind of epic movies, the kind of 'freeeeeedooooooom' moment from Braveheart that makes your guts twist and turn in a mixed bag of feelings, between anger and exaltation, visceral epicness in its purest form.

I can only hope that it performs well in the box office (specially in USA), so we get more of these. Duncan Jones and Blizzard have already expressed their intention to do at least three of them. And there are three Warcraft games (old RTS, not WoW). And that could mean that the end of the third movie is Mount Hyjal. The freaking battle for mount Hyjal. Fuck me hard, and then let me see that before I die. HYJAL. Oh, and I propose Caity Lozt for Tyrande Whisperwind.



And by the way, for me it was a 9/10. Not the prince that was promised, but definitely the best video game movie so far, and a good epic fantasy movie overall (way better than The Two Towers for sure).

30 April 2015

The LilBubome



Disclaimer: I am more in the side of dogs than cats, for one simple reason: if you throw a dog a stick or ball he'll go and fetch it, and he'll play with you, filled with happiness; if you throw a stick or a ball to a cat, most likely he will look at you like saying 'Do you think I am a stupid dog? you go fetch the ball yourself'.

That said, cats are sure a big thing in our lives and our culture. IBM decided to start building an AI some time ago, and while they could try to emulate in silico the computational power and prowess of any animal, they went for a cat brain. Even Google's AI, when it (he, she?) came to life, it decided that of all the things it could possibly want to know, of ALL of them, it wanted to know what the fuck was a cat. And it started watching YouTube cat videos. There have been a number of reasons why cats maybe so dominant in our culture

Nevertheless, there are some of our felid companions that stand out above all their fellows for different reasons. And one of them is Lil Bub, of whom you can learn by yourself if you did not know him already. At a medical level, Lil Bub has several abnormalities that give him his unique looks. And because of this, a group of researchers in the Max Plank Institute in Berlin (among who I count one of my very best friends) are crowdfunding for sequencing the genome of this prominent feline, in hopes not only to learn more of his unique phenotype, but also about the genetics of how limbs develop in general.

If you are a fan of Lil Bub, Science or both, just head to experiment (a crowdfunding for science) and support the LilBubome.






23 April 2015

GATTACA

And I say GATTACA, not Gattaca, for when writing a DNA sequence you do not capitalize as if it was the name of someone, all letters go either upper or lower case. Or maybe TGTAATC in the complementary strand of DNA. Who knows, since this sequence happens hundreds of thousands of times in a single human genome. And to be clear, it does not have a specific function that we know of.



But speaking about the movie GATTACA, we are one step closer to stop being just random humans (meaning genetically random humans whose genetics have been selected across countless rounds of random mutation and natural selection, from long before we were humans, to a time were our many-great grandfathers were tiny bacteria). Some Chinese scientists have made the first modification using the CRISPR/cas9 method in (non-viable polyploid) human embryos.



The cautionary tale in their publication is that we still have to overcome many technical difficulties, but it will be doable in the near future. Applications besides Hollywood making movies? editing the genome of an embryo so it will not have some (or all) genetic diseases, and making kids look more like Scarlett or Brad according to the parents wishes (and budget).

Ethical implications? you name them. There is a current of scientists that pose we should not go down that path (and for several good reasons, as detailed in the article), but still we will do it. Why? Because when we CAN do something, we do it. It is that simple for humans. For anything imaginable (and I mean anything), if (or when) it becomes doable, you'll always find some human clever/stupid/brave/committed/maniac enough to do it. There's is no stopping this kind of things.

So people better stop saying "do not do it" and start regulating it, and preparing for the outcomes. After all, every single new discovery in the history of humanity can be used for good or for bad. Hence, just enforce the proper environment (laws, conscience, education) to avoid as largely as possible the bad outcome of it.

But then again, what is good and what is bad?

31 March 2015

The Coming Kickstarter

A friend of mine has been writing a novel for a while now, a sci-fi story about some endings and some other beginnings, about the story of the red-eyed Io. From the synopsis of his book in Wattpad:

The world had changed since The Coming. It is now an arid desolate place where technology and society failed. A world where each rain drop and even each breath taken could kill, slowly. Each day is a struggle for survival against the Aspects roaming the barren lands feeding on themselves and on people. Mankind has been evicted from the top of the food chain for centuries and is constantly on the brink of extinction. For Io, this world is all she had ever known. For the red-eyed hunter the survival of the Den is all that matters. However; when she abandons the Den pursued by her legacy, the Den’s power-hungry elder and her own mind, she takes the path to exile and to the truth. But when she finally faces her fate she may have to realise that the Aspects are not her only worries. There are events in motion that she can’t possibly know. If she manages to stay alive for a while, she may find an ally and get the chance to learn that The Coming was only the beginning...



He has already written a good deal, and I am still going through it, but liking it a lot so far. So if you want to give it a try, and you want to help him finish his first book, just pop in his kickstarter project and support him

25 March 2015

The One That Was Lost

The fifth chapter of The Void Between Minds, The One That Was Lost, is up for reading in Wattpad. It goes on with what's happening within the Labyrinth to Skar and his new mysterious friend. And below my second character banner from the second story arc: Skar (It is gimped from some drawing I found in the internets, but no longer I remember who was the author, so if you recognise it, please let me know).

Enjoy!


11 March 2015

Darkest Despair

The 4th chapter of my book The Void Between Minds, Darkest Despair, is up for reading on Wattpad. It resumes with the events after Qitzocatl's visit to the All-Father. From the chapter:

“There is the brightest hope, but it can only be felt when inside the heart of the blackest despair”

And the first character banner I have made, of course, for Qitzocatl



10 March 2015

InfoLibre Interview

Last week we (my partner and I) were interviewed by Carmen Valenzuela from infoLibre, one of the few newspapers back in Spain which does not take money from any of the political parties, thus making it a little bit more free on how they do journalism. Since the newspaper is in Spanish and reading the article requires a subscription, I am leaving some of the headlines below in Spanish and in English. Long story short, it just a rage ranting about Spain's scientific policies making all young scientists leave the country.


"En España te tienes que marchar para tener la opción de volver algún día"
"You have to leave Spain now, in order to be able to be back some day"


"Aquí [en UK] tu proyección va en aumento, en España es ninguna"
"Here [in UK] to your professional projection increases with time, in Spain it is none"

"Volveremos si nos hacemos magnates del ladrillo, pero nos quedaremos mientras queramos seguir trabajando en ciencia"
"We will go back if we become brick magnates, but we will stay while we want to work on science"

19 February 2015

The Void Between Minds


Qitzocatl began to nervously groom the coal black feathers on the back of his head when he left behind the great corridor leading to the All-Father chambers. His left wing was stiff and aching, and that could only mean a storm was coming. Few Korakoi knew what was atop the highest nest in Corvus, Vortex Summus. Thinking of it, it was no wonder anybody in Corvus, or the entirety of Korakoa for that matter, knew of Vortex Summus since it was always shrouded in clouds and mist and thunder and only the tall and slender column that supported the metallic cone shaped nest could be seen by the citizens of Corvus. Thousands of such columns rose from the snowy stones, through the redpine forest, towards the clouds, but only Vortex Summus was ever in disguise. It was only appropriate that the house of the All-Father, a figure cloaked in legend and mist, creator of all life, had such setting atop the ceiling of the world. But Qitzocatl knew better.

That is how the story I want to tell begins. That is my first paragraph of an epic and personal science fiction. And I invite you all in. They are all free on Wattpad. In case you do not know it, Wattpad is a free web with android and iOS apps in which to publish and read stories of any kind, for free, you only need to set up account and you are good to go. The first three chapters of my first fiction book, The Void Between Minds, are already in there, and I am hoping to upload one chapter per week or so (although it will probably be slower than that due to the real world scenario unpredictability). 

And if you happen to be a publisher or an editor and you like it, just let me know!

Enjoy!

16 February 2015

The Red Mirror


This is going to be my first review about something on the internet, ever. And it is going to be about Blind Guardian's new album Beyond the Red Mirror. And I'm going to keep it simple:

9/10 (Fucking Awesome)

Here ends my review and begins some random words. I mean, if you have listened to it you know what I'm talking about. It is not Nightfall on the Middle-Earth or Imaginations from the Other Side (which, by the way would be on my top 20 of best albums ever, maybe even top 10). But still is Blind Guardian at its best, and like in the last album, with orchestra, which some people may not like, but for me is the logical evolution for the band.

As I see it, classical music (which has some of the best music that humanity has produced) is a closed period, there is no more classical music coming out, Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven are dead. But the closest we get these days to those classics is metal (or some of it) and soundtracks (some of them). The instruments used or the tempo are not the same in some cases, but indeed in terms of the melodic richness and variety and process of composition. You have that in the fact that everyday more and more metal bands are jumping in using orchestras in their albums and concerts. And no smaller bands for that matter, with the likes of Metallica, Rage, Epica, Nightwish and of course Blind Guardian to name a few.

And Beyond the Red Mirror gets all that right. And is pure Blind Guardian. And Hansi has gone back to some more hoarse voices. It may be too Baroque for some, but I see it the other way around: Pop and Rock are too simplistic nowadays.


27 January 2015

All Chaos

And the last and most dangerous of the monster factions from the classic Heroquest: Chaos (sorry no ogres or weirder things yet).


26 January 2015

All Undead

Now the turn to show all the different undead minions in my approach to Heroquest. Braaaaaaaaaaains!


23 January 2015

All Greenskins

In the coming days I will be posting photos of the three major factions of foes in my Heroquest. Enter the Whaaaaaaaaaaaag. Enjoy.

From left to right: in the upper panel, a snotling, a goblin, an orc and a black orc; and in the lower panel, a goblin boss, an orc boss, a black orc boss and a mighty fimir.

22 January 2015

More Heroquest

And some scenes from my own take on the classic board game.

 Who is stronger?!

Bring it on!

21 January 2015

Long Live Crowd Funding

I think that we are living one of the best times to be a tabletop/RPG fan thanks to crowd funding. Have you seen the new Conan game? did you have the chance to have a look at the Twisting Catacombs a couple of months ago? (there was some serious Heroquest shit in there) And have you noticed that this year is the Heroquest 25th Anniversary (depending on which country you live...). There are some even for the Chibi fans!


And one thing my money would be flying to if someone did a serious crowd funding (for my taste, a much better board game than Space Hulk...):


20 January 2015

Hero Quest in Action

I have been somewhat absent from here in the last months since I've doing a thing I wanted to do for years, of which I will speak at some other time. Now, some Hero Questing from my custom project to leave the rust behind!

The Highborn taking on the legions of the dead

The Elf and the Wizard cornered by a zombie mob

And my own personal version of the four classic Heroquest heroes

10 July 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4

Again, like last year I wanted GoT on my desktop so now that the season finished I have taken the character posters HBO released this year and made my own thing. By the way, I really loved almost everything in this season and everything, but where the Hodor is Lady Stoneheart? (spoilers on the link, you are warned) How did you allow that, Mr. Martin?

27 May 2014

Wildstar

You see, there's this new Scifi MMORPG coming out this Saturday called Wildstar. Nothing new nowadays with everyone trying to steal WoW's crown and everything. I don't think Wildstar will do that, but I'm pretty confident that most hardcore players left in WoW will depart for Wildstar. Why? Just look at the previews out there. I for one will be in Nexus on Saturday. Nonetheless, one thing I was missing is some cool wallpaper of the eight playable races in the game (nice res and so), so I compiled official and fan art from the web and made mine (of course all rights to the authors, no harm intended). Hope you enjoy it!