CLOSE
Original image

Wacky Sci-Fi "Laws"

Original image

Sci-Fi writers seem to enjoy coining Laws: adages bearing their own names that live on past their appearances in Sci-Fi stories. Here are five of my favorites, plus one bonus law (actually a Principle) from the world of cartoons.

1. Hanlon's Razor (aka Hanlon's Law)

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Ascribed to various authors, including Robert Heinlein. (Or perhaps it was Napoleon, or another candidate.) This law's name is also a take-off on Occam's Razor.

2. Sturgeon's Law

Theodore Sturgeon"Ninety percent of everything is crap." This adage came after a less successful "first law" by Sturgeon, "Nothing is always absolutely so." Read more on this bit of wisdom.

3. O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle's Law

Finagle's Law is a variant of Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will -- at the worst possible moment. It was popularized by John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science Fiction and Analog, as well as Larry Niven. But the much wackier O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle's Law is:

"The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum."

See also: the second law of thermodynamics.

4. Clarke's Three Laws

Arthur C. ClarkeArthur C. Clarke postulated three laws over his illustrious career. The third is by far the most famous:

  • First law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  • Second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  • Third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

5. Asimov's Laws of Robotics

Isaac AsimovForming the basis for Isaac Asimov's fictional universe, these laws for robotic behavior have been the source of much Sci-Fi drama (I, Robot anyone?):

  • First law: A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • Second law: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • Third law: A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

There's also a Zeroth Law.

6. The Dilbert Principle

DilbertAlthough Scott Adams isn't a Sci-Fi writer, his Dilbert Principle is worthy of an honorable mention: the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.. (See also: the Peter principle.)

If that's not enough for you, check out Wikipedia's list of eponymous laws. (I'm particularly fond of Hofstadter's Law.)

saleimage1.jpg

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
The Delicious Chemistry of Sushi
Original image
iStock

The secret to sushi's delicious taste is invisible to the human eye. Chefs spend years training to properly prepare the Japanese culinary staple, which consists of fresh fish and seasoned rice, either served together or wrapped in seaweed. At its most elemental, as the American Chemistry Society's latest Reactions video explains below, the bite-sized morsels contain an assortment of compounds that, together, combine to form a perfectly balanced mix of savory and sweet. They include mannitol, iodine, and bromophenol, all of which provide a distinctive tang; and glutamate, which adds a savory, rich umami flavor (and turns into MSG when it's combined with a sodium ion).

Take a bite of science, and learn more fun facts about the Japanese culinary staple's long history and unique preparation method by watching the video below.

Original image
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder
arrow
science
Fossilized Poop Shows Some Herbivorous Dinosaurs Loved a Good Crab Dinner
Original image
Lead author Karen Chin of the University of Colorado Boulder
Courtesy the University of Colorado Boulder

Scientists can learn a lot about the prehistoric world through very, very old poop. Just recently, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Kent State University studying fossilized dinosaur poop discovered that some herbivores weren't as picky about their diets as we thought. Though they mostly ate plants, large dinosaurs living in Utah 75 million years ago also seem to have eaten prehistoric crustaceans, as Nature News reports.

The new study, published in Scientific Reports, finds that large dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period seem to have eaten crabs, along with rotting wood, based on the content of their coprolites (the more scientific term for prehistoric No. 2). The fossilized remains of dinos' bathroom activities were found in the Kaiparowits rock formation in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a known hotspot for pristine Late Cretaceous fossils.

"The large size and woody contents" of the poop suggest that they were created by dinosaurs that were well-equipped to process fiber in their diets, as the study puts it, leading the researchers to suggest that the poop came from big herbivores like hadrosaurs, whose remains have been found in the area before.

Close up scientific images of evidence of crustaceans in fossilized poop.
Chin et al., Scientific Reports (2017)

While scientists previously thought that plant-eating dinosaurs like hadrosaurs only ate vegetation, these findings suggest otherwise. "The diet represented by the Kaiparowits coprolites would have provided a woody stew of plant, fungal, and invertebrate tissues," the researchers write, including crabs (Yum.) These crustaceans would have provided a big source of calcium for the dinosaurs, and the other invertebrates that no doubt lived in the rotting logs would have provided a good source of protein.

But they probably didn't eat the rotting wood all year, instead munching on dead trees seasonally or during times when other food sources weren’t available. Another hypothesis is that these "ancient fecal producers," as the researchers call them, might have eaten the rotting wood, with its calcium-rich crustaceans and protein-laden invertebrates, during egg production, similar to the feeding patterns of modern birds during breeding season.

Regardless of the reason, these findings could change how we think about what big dinosaurs ate.

[h/t Nature News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios