K. Ceres Wright

Balticon 53

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May 23, 2019

I’ll be appearing on a few panels, conducting an interview, and helping to host a meet-and-greet for the writers support group, Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction at Balticon 53. Here’s my schedule:

Black Femininity in Afrofuturism: Saturday, May 25, 11:00 a.m.

African American women have been early adopters of national and international initiatives, such as abolitionism, civil rights, women’s rights, space travel, and hip hop—from Maria W. Stewart’s anti-slavery and women’s rights speeches in the 1830s, to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement in the 2000s. This panel will discuss the contributions of Black women to the progression of the underpinnings of Afrofuturism.

Representation vs. Tokenism: Saturday, May 25, Noon

There is a long tradition of including diversity for diversity’s sake without making it part of the story. What is the difference between shallow and real inclusion? Does it have to be integral to feel like it’s not tokenism? How does this play out in the far future, in the past, or in original worlds?

Cyberpunk Remastered: Saturday, May 25, 2:00 p.m.

With Netflix’s adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Pat Cadigan’s adaptation of the manga-turned-Hollywood-movie Alita: Battle Angel, cyberpunk is alive and well after having first been declared dead in the 90s. Elements of cyberpunk have been subsumed into pop culture and can be found everywhere now—movies, music videos, video games, and more. How have the older tropes evolved in the last few years and how do we expect to see them incorporated in future works?

Muse on This Podcast with Sue Baiman: Saturday, May 25, 4:00 p.m.

Muse On This is a podcast focusing on interviews with creative people, and their inspirations and thought processes. Sue Baiman asks the questions to find out what makes the creativity flow. Featuring author K. Ceres Wright.

Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction Meet-and-Greet, Saturday, May 25, 5:00 p.m.

Come out and meet the members of Diverse Writers And Artists of Speculative Fiction (DWASF). Food, fun, and giveaways! There will also be a free screening of the award-winning short film, Rumination. The writer/director will be on hand to answer questions.

Baltimore Book Festival

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Sep 4, 2015

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I’ll be appearing at the Baltimore Book Festival on two panels:

Future: Charming? Baltimore City as a template for futurism
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 4PM-5PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

What does Baltimore look like in the future? SFWA Guest of Honor Tobias Buckell and a panel of writers, futurists and social designers discuss Charm City’s future through the lens of the engineer, the writer, and the activist. Panel led by Jason Harris (“Redlines: Baltimore 2028”).

Panelists: Anatoly Belilovsky, Tobias S. Buckell, Jason Harris, Nia Johnson, K Ceres Wright

Earl Grey, Hot: Future Food, Fantastical Food
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 5PM-6PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

From food pills to food printers to the latest in Elven lembas bread, our experts will whet your appetite for fictional food.

Panelists: Diana Peterfreund, Cat Rambo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Bud Sparhawk, Fran Wilde, K Ceres Wright Signing Table: Cinda Williams Chima

StarShipSofa Interview

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May 4, 2015

Link to interview:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2013/09/11/starshipsofa-no-304-m-bennardo/

Interview with Matthew Dowling at FCTV’s Going Live

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Nov 12, 2014

Heidi Ruby Miller, Matt Betts, and I were interviewed in the Going Live studio in Pennsylvania:

Interview with FCTV’s Going Live at Seton Hill University

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Nov 12, 2014

I was interviewed by Matthew Dowling at Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind workshop:

The Future of Energy

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Apr 19, 2014

The Anti-Atkins Method: Carbs!

zhangProfessor Percival Zhang thinks he has the answer to the world’s energy problems: Carbohydrates. According to Zhang, carbs are ideal for storing energy as they already serve that function in nature. Living organisms break down carbs in order to perform daily activities. However, most of today’s technology runs on energy that comes from breaking down hydrocarbons, found in gas, oil, and coal. In fact, Zhang and fellow researchers introduced a prototype battery that runs on maltodextrin, a carb often found in processed foods.

The process involves the use of an enzyme pathway that can cull 24 electrons per glucose molecule to convert to electricity, which can then be used to power devices. In the future, the team hopes to engineer enzymes according to more detailed specifications to maximize efficiency. And excess energy will be stored as sugar, since it can be kept for a long time. When electricity is needed, the sugar can be converted via a sugar battery.

Oh, so sweet!

Surrender, Dorothy: Artificial Tornadoes

mbtornado03-640x960In the real world, tornadoes begin to form when the air closest to the ground is at least 20 degrees Celsius warmer than the air above it. The ground air rises and begins to spin until it forms a vortex. To capture that energy on a smaller scale, Louis Michaud, a former ExxonMobile engineer, has developed a specially designed chamber that allows hot air to enter and rise in a circular pattern until it creates a vortex. In a larger chamber, the tornado would spin turbines in order to generate energy.

To help create larger tornadoes, Michaud suggests using power plants. They create waste energy in heat, which can be used by an atmospheric vortex engine to generate 10 to 20 percent more energy.

Michaud says that the total energy potential of this process is 52,000 terawatts (TW), of which 12 percent could be harnessed, which equals 6,000 TW, and is 3,000 times the 2 TW currently generated worldwide.

I think Dorothy would be pleased.

Surf’s Up! Wave Energy

scotland-approves-installation-worlds-largest-wave-farm-1369846528You may have heard of fish farms, but wave farms?

Wave farms use large machines that float in the water that convert the up-and-down movements of the ocean into energy that homes use. The process still needs perfecting, especially regarding durability and methods of transferring the energy from the machines in the ocean to land.

The Scottish government has approved plans for the world’s largest wave farm, which will generate enough energy to power 70,000 homes, more than twice the number of homes in the targeted area (Western Isles).

Sadly, the United States is lagging in wave energy research. Oregon has sponsored several wave energy tests over the past few years, however, regulatory and financial issues have delayed installation.

Stay tuned on that front.

So…which energy-producing method do you think has the most promise?

Genetic Breakthroughs—From Growing Livers and Brains to Editing Genes

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Apr 19, 2014

dr_moreauWith continuing groundbreaking research occurring in the field of genetics, promising results have come from several projects.

Given the worldwide critical shortage of donor organs, scientists are desperately trying to find alternative means of treating patients with organ failure. Recently, Japanese scientists have demonstrated that a functional human liver can be created from stem cells derived from skin and blood. Cells derived from these sources, as opposed to embryos, are known as induced pluripotent stems cells, which can be programmed to grow into any other cell type in the body, such as heart cells or neurons. To make liver cells, scientists combined three different cell types of a human liver—endoderm, mesenchymal, and endothelial. When mixed, the cells grew and began to form liver buds, a group of liver cells that have the potential to grow into a full liver.

isllost1Once these buds were transplanted into mice, the buds matured, connecting with the mice’s blood vessels and performing many of the functions of liver cells. Even if a full liver could not be grown from a patient’s cells, a smaller liver could be transplanted to assist a failing liver. Similar approaches are now planned for other organs.

Using induced pluripotent stem cells from skin, researchers have also grown clumps of brain-like tissue. They started with stem cells on a synthetic gel that mimicked connective tissues in the brain, then placed the cells into a centrifugal bath to mix in nutrients and oxygen. Even though the cell clumps lacked blood vessels and only grew to pea size, the resulting tissue can be useful for research on neurological disorders, such as microcephaly, a condition that stunts brain growth and impairs cognitive development.

ISLAND_OF_LOST_SOULS_MoC_003Another development in the field of genetics is the most promising. Scientists have been able to “edit” the human genome with a heretofore unattainable level of precision. The technique is called Crispr and is so accurate, it may oon be used in gene-therapy trials to treat disorders such as Huntington’s disease. Instead of using current unreliable methods of re-engineering the human genome, scientists will be able to change any part of the DNA molecule, including nucleotides. It may even be used to “correct” the DNA of an embryo to eliminate genetic diseases in families that are prone to particular genetic defects.

The Crispr process developed from a discovery by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, that bacteria used a specific immune defense against viruses. Using a DNA-cutting enzyme called CAS9, researchers were able to make changes to DNA without unwanted other changes.

download (1)If this process is successful, it could lead to the elimination of many types of human diseases, such as HIV and cancer.

Of course, Dr. Moreau might have other ideas for these procedures, but the future of eliminating diseases and genetic disorders looks bright indeed.

The Future of Farming

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Apr 19, 2014

Robert A Heinlein_Farmer in the Sky_DELREY_Lee Rosenblatt

We’re not quite yet up to Heinlein’s alternative – terra-forming and farming Jupiter’s moons.

The United Nations expects the world’s population to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. And, of course, feeding this population will be a daunting challenge. We all know about the advent of genetic manipulation of plants to yield hardier crops, but many stakeholders have both explored and invested in other farming alternatives, which range from farming underwater to farming in the desert. Let’s take a look at some of these options:

Farming in the Desert

British designer, Charlie Paton, traveled frequently to Morocco and was struck with the idea of converting nearby sea water into fresh water to irrigate plants. He set about designing just such a method, and came up with Seawater Greenhouse. The greenhouse is inexpensive to produce, about $5 a square foot, and works by collecting water from the sea, allowing it to trickle down to honeycomb-shaped lattices where it evaporates, cooling and humidifying the air inside. The air warms up as it travels across the greenhouse and is fed into a second evaporator, which supersaturates it. From there, the air quickly moves to a condenser, which pulls out freshwater and moves it to an underground storage tank for plant irrigation.

Interconnected Energy and Food Production System

Alltech envisions a farm that uses an interconnected system of algae production, aquaculture, a biorefinery, solid state fermentation, and a cogeneration plant. In this system, fibrous materials such as corn cobs, rice bran, and wheat bran would be recycled into nutrient-rich feed at the solid state fermentation plant, which in turn, produces enzyme-activated fiber, a key ingredient for the biorefinery’s ethanol production.

Ethanol production creates carbon dioxide, which is recycled in the algae field, and is converted to oxygen. The aquaculture center sends nitrogen from fish waste to the algae field where it enhances algae growth. In return, the algae provides feed for cattle. The fish waste also provides fertilizer for the crops.

At the cogeneration plant, the biorefinery’s yeast byproducts are used to produce bio-gas that generates heat and electricity, which is given to the biorefinery and the SSF plant. The cogeneration plan also recycles water for irrigation. Little to no waste is envisioned within this self-sustaining system.

Large-scale Urban Farming

Some big news that recently hit concerned Whole Foods contracting with Gotham Greens to develop a 60,000 square-foot greenhouse on the top of its store under construction in the Gowanus Canal district of Brooklyn. Greens and herbs grown in the greenhouse will be sold in the store below and at other Whole Foods New York locations. This distribution system will cut down on transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions, and the production cycle will include sustainable technologies such as solar-generated power and an irrigation system that uses 20 times less water than traditional farming.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) also recently launched the Red Hook Urban Farm, a 1-acre urban agriculture installation and the first-ever large-scale community farm on NYCHA property. The farm will provide fresh produce for the community as well as a center for education, job training, and community engagement for residents. Within this self-sustaining system, produce will be sold at farmers’ markets or donated to families in need, and revenue from sales will fund members of the Green City Force Clean Energy Corps, which combines national service and workforce development to lower energy consumption and provide urban youth with training and leadership opportunities related to greening the economy.

In another project, in Bedford Park, Illinois, the organization called Farmed Here renovated an abandoned warehouse with the intent of converting the building into a vertical farm with 150,000 square feet of growing space. Farmed Here will hire newly released non-violent offenders and train them for work inside their facility. The farm uses a soil-free, aquaponic process to grow organic greens in a mineral-rich water solution derived from tanks of tilapia. The facility plans to provide 1 million pounds of chemical-, herbicide- and pesticide-free greens such as basil and arugula to the Chicago area once full production is reached.

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Bruce Dern tends his plants and flowers in Silent Running. Hopefully, new farming methods will help us avoid this fate.

Permaculture

The word, permaculture, was developed by Australian authors and farmers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and is a combination of the words, permanent and agriculture. Permaculture is a system of farming that works with, rather than against, nature. Those using permaculture design farms in harmony with nature to provide food and energy in a sustainable manner. For example, instead of having clumps of trees surrounded by open fields, a permaculture farm may include a collection of small clearings within a woodland, each serving a purpose. Each plant also has a purpose, a specific job that contributes to the farm. One plant may produce nitrogen; another could collect potash, salt that contains water-soluble potassium that is used in fertilizers; another plant deters pests; and another with deep roots pulls up nutrients and minerals from deep within the soil. Animals also serve specific purposes. Birds produce phosphate and eat phosphate-rich seeds and insects, and recycle the nutrient through their dung and transfer it to the soil. Ducks eat slugs and other insects to keep down the pests. Farm animals eat willow, lime, and ash branches, in addition to grass, and produce all-natural fertilizer. All of these processes contribute to the cycle of sustainability within permaculture.

Of course, these are just a few of the potential solutions to the food-supply challenges of the near future. And with the future seemingly getting closer every day, it will be interesting to see which of these methods will prove the most efficient.

Robots for Home Care

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Apr 19, 2014

robot and frankA recent study has shown that baby boomers in the United States (ages 49 to 67 in 2013) are less likely to smoke or have a heart attack, but are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity. Each of these conditions has attendant complications, such as stroke, vision loss (everyone over 40 should get a dilated eye exam), or heart disease. And these complications, in turn, can cause disability.

The health care industry is struggling to keep up with seniors’ needs, and one method that has had some success is through the use of home care robots, which was highlighted in the 2012 movie, Robot & Frank. These robots are designed to assist in a variety of tasks, such as helping to ensure patients take their medications, tracking patterns and alerting loved ones when something is amiss, holding simple conversations, and playing games.

Imagine, in 30–40 years’ time, being able to wake up and place your hand on a robot that can take your vitals, scan your body for anomalies, advise you on what to wear, tell you what it’s going to cook for dinner, and argue the finer points of existentialism. Well, you may have to wait a bit longer for Sartre’s views on the ego…but who knows?

In fact, Japan is looking to increase the use of home care robots among its elderly. It plans to give assistance to firms in developing low-cost nursing care robots ($5 to $10/month rental) and will include the use of robots in nursing care insurance coverage. There are four types of robots included in the plan:

  • An assistive robot suit worn by caretakers for lifting or moving elderly and impaired patients.
  • A robot that helps the elderly and others walk by themselves, even on inclines.
  • A self-cleaning robot toilet that can be carried from place to place to make it easier for the elderly to use the bathroom.
  • A robot that can track the movements and locations of dementia patients.

But there will likely be different types of robots for different chores. For example, a Georgia Tech study found that older people prefer humanoid robots for tasks that require intelligence, such as informing them which medication to take. But they prefer a more mechanical-looking robot for tasks that involve manual labor, such as cooking and cleaning, so they won’t feel guilty telling it what to do.

Of course, the topic of ethics comes up when assigning a robot to care for the elderly. People have a tendency to become attached to both people and objects that they interact with on a regular basis. An elderly aunt may begin telling stories about her life to a robot…but is that an acceptable substitute for telling the same story to a daughter or nephew? Part of family tradition is passing on stories of those who went before you. Will that part of our lives be relegated to a recorded message we may or may not listen to once Aunt Sally dies?

There’s no easy or simple solution. I think it comes down to a matter of weighing the benefits and costs involved in helping to ensure that our elderly relatives are safe. What are you willing to give up?

(Ed. Note: Robot & Frank is watchable for free here – this site will open an ad browser window in the background) and on Hulu Plus as well.)