Novel Research: Google Earth


I have done a lot of research for the novel I’m writing, and it is especially difficult since I care about scientific details. That means I’m doing a lot of research about Mars. At the moment I am sorting through a collection of factoids about atmospheric pressure, soil toxicity, static electricity, and calendar systems for a 685-day year.

On top of all that, I’m trying to map the cities and research installations I’ve created.  Designing cities a world away could have been really complicated, but I found a handy tool to make it easy.

In case you didn’t know, Google Earth allows you to look at maps and satellite pictures all over the world. It’s very cool and definitely worth the download. You can even use a flight simulator to fly around the earth if you please.What does this have to do with my novel? Well, Google Earth decided to be even more awesome and added Mars to their maps. That means you can click on an icon and change your screen to a globe of Mars. It’s marked with the main important landmarks, touchdown points for the rovers, and cool pictures taken by the satellite orbiting the planet.

Currently I use it to mark locations for cities and research installations on my fictionalized Mars. It allows me to calculate distance with reasonable accuracy and determine how long it would take to get from say, the capital city to a geological research station in the desert (approximately 3 hours.) I’m also noting locations within the main cities, airports, shuttle points, and favorite hangouts.

You can do this with Earth maps just as easily. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the program. There are so many things Google Earth is capable of. For now I am content to enjoy tagging places where my heroine likes to hang out, her favorite restaurant, and the research installation where she interns. Has anyone else messed around with Google Earth? Let me know what I’m missing!


Novel Research: The Results of the Soymilk Adventure


I promised photos of the results of my homemade soymilk attempt, so here they are.

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

A better view of step one. I wont lie: it smelled horrible.

A better view of step one from above. Lovely texture, isn't it?

It smelled pretty bad raw, but then I had to cook it.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the milk.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the "milk."

It was on step two that I decided soymilk should be called “Soy juice.” It did not look like milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Sorry, folks. Forgot to take a picture of the actual straining process, but this is what resulted from it. Ugh. I stuck it in the refrigerator to chill for awhile.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

By the way, I chickened out on actually trying it. The stuff smelled so horrible that I couldn’t bring myself to taste it. Perhaps that defeats the purpose of the experiment, but I just couldn’t. I consider it very valuable research anyway. Why? I could never live on Mars because I’d have to drink that stuff, and I can’t. So now I know what kind of people couldn’t tolerate immigrating to Mars: people like me.

How ironic.

Novel Research: Soymilk


I like accuracy and authenticity in writing. When a writer gets the details right about science or technology, I notice. When a writer does not, it makes me grumpy. For this reason, I am going to great lengths to maintain a high level of accuracy in my current sci-fi novel about Mars. This weekend, it has resulted in a science experiment in my kitchen.

A Martian colony would be mostly vegan. Colonists would need to grow much of their own food in order to survive. There would be some meat and dairy, but it would be freeze-dried, packaged, or powdered. Why? Try convincing a cow to take an interplanetary trip in zero-gravity.  I doubt a goat would like it either. Anyway, colonists would eat lots of soy for protein, and if they had milk, it would probably be soy or rice milk.

Hence my latest adventure in making homemade soymilk.

In my imagining of a future Mars, it would be normal for a colonist to know how to make soymilk, tofu, and okara.  Okara is the baked, dried, or frozen leftovers from soymilk, and tofu is essentially cheese made from soymilk. You can make okara flour and put it in baked goods. And you can water plants from the whey that comes off of tofu.  And I didn’t mention edamame, fresh soy beans. Soy would a very useful little plant on Mars which means I need to know about it.

I will post a picture of the results. They will probably be entertaining.