Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weird Science Wednesday

First, a few things...

I'm a winner!

And a complete moron.  Late last night, I was sitting with Fluffy reading MATCHED, by Ally Condie when the phone rang.  

"Hello?" I said.

"Emily, this is your very great, very awesome writing buddy."

"Oh, hi!" I say enthusiastically.

"You do realize you need to validate your NaNo novel in order to win, right?"


I rush onto the computer to paste in my novel to get credit for all that writing I did when I see another very great, very awesome writing buddy emailed me, worried that I might not get credit for winning NaNo.  Yeah, I have great friends.  People like me need them.

So thanks, my wonderful writing buddies!  You're awesome!  And congratulations to all those winners out there!  And if you didn't win, you're still awesome because some of those word counts were REALLY high even if they didn't quite hit the 50,000 mark.

Feel free to give yourself a shout-out in the comments if you're exceptionally proud of your achievements!  :D

Now, on to Weeeeiiiiirrrrrd Sciiiiieeeence Weeeeednsdaaaaay!

You'd think that for someone who likes to write so much science fiction, I should probably know a thing or two about science.  Well!  I do!  And I thought, "Hey!  Why not have a day designated for nifty scientific facts I've come across over the years?!"  So that's just what I'm going to do.  There's some technology and scientific facts that I've learned about that most (if not all) of you have never even heard of before.  How?  Well, I've developed a lot of interesting contacts since joining the military.  One particular tech is something I've used in both ELEMENTAL and HANSEL AND GRETEL.  I'm not going to tell you about that one yet, because it's pretty pivotal to the plot of H&G.

However!  I will teach you all about a little tidbit I picked up that is pretty important to TALES OF MORCAH.  

Oh the wonders of melanin!  

What is it?  Well, the simple explanation is that it is the thing which gives us our skin color.  Lots of melanin leads to very dark, black skin, while very little melanin leads to extremely pale, white skin.  Most of you may already know this, but did you know that two dark-skinned parents could actually produce a white child?

It's true!  And not only is it true, I've seen it in action.  But how? you ask!

Well, let's get all scientific about this with visuals!

Let's say this is how genetic code (in regards to melanin) looks:

Mm: Medium-dark to Medium-light skin
MM: Very dark, black skin
mm: Very light, pale skin

Let's say two parents carry the information for medium-toned skin, which would look like this:

momma            dadda
                                                                    Mm                 Mm

They have three children (sissy, brother, moe)

When momma and dadda came together to make sissy's code, the M from momma and the M from dadda came together to construct her melanin levels.  Sissy's genetic code would then look like MM (i.e. very dark--sissy's genetic code is now limited to only dark skin for her future children)

They come together again for brother bringing along an M from momma and an m from dadda.  Thus giving brother Mm (i.e. medium--also notice that brother carries the genetic information to pass on dark, medium, and light skin to his children)

Finally it's Moe's turn and momma brings an m while dadda also brings over an m.  Moe's genetic code of mm gives him the lowest levels of melanin.  Also, now Moe lacks the information to give his future children dark skin.

Momma and dadda now have a dark-skinned child, a medium-skinned child, and a white child (though both the parents are medium, aka, brown-skinned)

I met a family like this in Iraq and from what they said, it happens often enough there to not be a surprise.

Why doesn't it happen in the U.S?  Well, the answer is simple.  Most white Americans are Northern European while most black Americans are African.  These continents offer extreme lighting conditions.  Pale-skinned people (i.e. low melanin levels) absorb vitamin D very easily, while darker-skinned not-so-much.  Too much or too little vitamin D can make a man impotent and a woman infertile.  After enough years, the genetic pool became limited in certain areas because people with both information died out, leaving only those who could survive the conditions.  

Of course, you may notice that with some white and black parents, their children's melanin levels vary just as widely as the example I gave above.  This is because all the available information is being blended again.

I use all this information to explain Lilly's particular condition.  An albino has the least melanin, giving them the appearance of pink skin and pink eyes.  It's all due to a lack of genetic information as far as melanin is concerned.

So, are you fascinated??  Or are you just rolling your eyes at me saying, "Emily, we learned all this in biology, and it is boring."  Well, I think it's fascinating!  And I hope you did too.  :D


  1. I've always liked biology/science, oddly enough, along with my reading/writing/art and more right-brained interests. Fascinating!

    And then there's people like me, who have NO melanin in certain spots on my skin, called vitiligo (Michael Jackson had it on his face). Just do a Google image search for vitiligo and you'll see--it looks like someone took acid or something and splashed the color right off the skin! Luckily mine is minimal, and none on my face.

  2. I think the science is fascinating . . . great post!

  3. Congrats on the win!

    As for weird science, yes, I love it! I do occasional "Science of Science Fiction" posts on my own blog. I think this example here may be a bit simplified, though, as my understanding is that there are several genes involved in skin color. The underlying concept still applies, however.

  4. Weird science is still fun science. Even when I know that stuff from biology class. But then that was my major. I better know it. ;D

    And you are super welcome. I couldn't let my very awesome writing buddy miss out on her award. Hehe.

  5. ooh la la EM!!! i adore the new look!!! :)
    and i'm a big science fan!
    AND the WIERDER the BETTER!!!! :)
    Congrats on Nano!!! :)


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