W.O.L.F. Sector
Worlds Of Lesbian Fiction

News Archive for April 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Researching Science for The Trine

Written by Kodi Wolf at 6:27 AM

I feel like I'm going to college. I'm doing a ton of research for one of my characters who's supposed to be a genius scientist, so I'm reading all these books on molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, and physics, as well as watching documentaries and learning DVDs. So far, I seem to be having the best luck with understanding biology, while all the math formulas in chemistry and physics are really throwing me for a loop. I seem to do better with concepts and ideas rather than math. I mean I understand algebra and how formulas work in general, and I can even grasp what certain formulas are trying to solve, but when the "why" isn't explained, I get completely blocked.

For example, in the physics DVD I've been trying to get through, it gives formulas for various things like adding vectors. Now, I understand the whole hypotenuse thing (a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared), but when they throw in that such-and-such is equal to something times the log of the cosine etc., and then just give the answer without explaining how they got the log of the cosine (or even what it is), other than pressing that button on the calculator, I get lost. All I can think is that maybe there's a table somewhere with logs of specific cosines and they just neglected to mention that.

At least I don't need to understand that particular formula for anything (or any of the others I've come across so far), but what I really wish they would spend some time on is why these formulas work, which means explaining what each bit is doing. Since I have no intention of putting formulas directly into the story (other than maybe as a way to show how complicated the science is), in order to get certain bits of information across, I need to be able to explain the concepts behind the formulas. But if all I'm shown is how to get the right answer and not how that answer is arrived at, I'm not going to be able to get across the ideas behind the science because I'm not going to understand them myself.

But at least that DVD tried to walk me through it. One of the chemistry books I found simply said to ask my professor for a complete list of whatever the items were that they were discussing in the first chapter. This wasn't a college textbook, so in my opinion, they shouldn't have been relying on the reader being a college student. Granted, it was supposed to be used as a kind of supplementary handbook I think, but to not include something that's apparently necessary in order to understand the subject is kind of annoying (I put that one back on the shelf). At least I haven't spent any money on the books (just gas), since I'm checking them out of the library. But still.

So that stuff hasn't been a whole lot of fun (neither has the note-taking, which is just tedious when I want to move on to the next topic, but if I don't take notes now, I'm going to forget stuff and I most likely won't remember which book I read it in when I need to look up the information later), but the biology and astrophysics/quantum mechanics concepts have been really cool. I've always been interested in those subjects and have read plenty of books and watched dozens of documentaries on them over the years, but going back to the basics, the foundations, of those fields has helped me understand stuff I really didn't get before. And some of what I've learned has even given me plot ideas and helped me solve at least one plot problem.

But what I think I've really gotten out of doing all this research is a much better handle on my character. I have a much clearer vision of how she sees the world, how she thinks, what her first reactions to things would be, etc., not to mention that she really is a genius to be able to understand all this shit. :)

That was actually my motivation for doing the research in the first place. In my original outline, the scientist character was very roughly drawn. She showed up very late at about halfway through the story, and I had basically only worked out the romance stuff for her with just a few added "she helps here and there" sort of placeholder scenes to keep her part of the story events, which left her rather vague and almost irrelevant to the rest of the story. I realized that was a real problem since she's supposed to be one of the main characters. Her role should not only be important, but indispensable.

So that's what I'm working on, weaving her more securely into the story, so there's no question that she belongs, and I think it's working. With all the new ideas and material I've come up with, she's now one of the driving forces behind events, which puts her much more center stage with the other main characters, which is exactly where she should be.

Now, I just have to write it. :)