I’ve just made my flight reservations — I’ll be going to the Big Apple for the New York Comic-Con in a bit over three weeks, October 13-16. I’m not sure yet if there will be a “booth presence” for Star Trek novels; Simon & Schuster will apparently be an exhibitor this year, but I haven’t heard anything about author signings. However, I expect I’ll be spending a fair amount of my time hanging around the booth for Tor Books, who’ll be publishing Only Superhuman in about a year’s time.
It was at last year’s NYCC that I learned freelance editor Greg Cox was acquiring for Tor and got his okay to send him the manuscript for Only Superhuman, and look how far we’ve come since then. I’ve sold the book, it’s a year from hitting the shelves, and my friend and former Star Trek editor Marco Palmieri has gotten a job at Tor and done some assistant editorial work on OS. And while I’m in town, I’m planning to visit the Tor offices in the historic Flatiron Building, one of those Manhattan landmarks I’ve never gotten around to visiting before.
And yeah, I’m flying again. Second round-trip airline flight this year — probably second of three, since the family Thanksgiving is in Maryland again and there’s no way I’m repeating the mistake of driving through the Appalachians in November. I kind of enjoyed the interstate drive to and from New York for last year’s Comic-Con, but it was a little bit longer than I was comfortable with, and I didn’t like the parking situation in NYC. Flying’s more expensive than driving would’ve been, but at least on this trip I can count it as a business expense, and I’m staying with a friend so I don’t have hotel bills to worry about. Unfortunately I have to get up really early in the morning for my flight from home to NYC. The later available flights cost more and require going to places like Atlanta or Detroit and changing planes, which seems silly.
As weird as it may seem, one model describes almost all mammal coloration patterns. All it takes to make an animal a certain color is the interaction of a couple of chemicals with the skin. One chemical stimulates melanin, causing darker coloration in the skin and fur of mammals, while another keeps melanin from being produced. These spread outwards through the body of the animal in the same way in every mammal….
The key to the differences in coloration is the fact that the chemicals spread outward in waves at different phases during the gestation period. Some start their move when the embryo is still tiny. Some start when it’s nearly fully grown. If the animal is tiny, no pattern will form, which is why there aren’t a lot of tiger-striped mice out there. If it’s huge, the chemicals jumble outwards and back, interfering with each other until they form a uniform color. This is why there aren’t any tiger-striped elephants.
And tigers? Their chemical waves move out at just the right time to form a series of peaks and valleys that lead to striped patterns on their fur. Leopards, though smaller than tigers, get hit with the waves at an embryonic stage at which they’re a little bigger than the tigers. The waves interfere enough to form spots on their bodies. Giraffes get hit at a bigger stage and form the large brown patches that we see on them.
Also, it depends on the shape and size of the body part, which is why spotted cats have striped tails. The original report is here:
This is really cool to know, that something as beautiful as the stripes on my beloved cat Tasha are an expression of math and physics, an interference pattern between chemical waves. And it might explain something about her brother Shadow. When he was a very small kitten, he had faint stripes of lighter and darker gray, but as he got older, the stripes vanished and he became a solid (and totally gorgeous) dark gray. Maybe the interference process was still ongoing.
It’s also useful to me as an SF writer and alien-creator to know this. This specific formula only applies to mammals, but the original article says that similar math can explain butterfly wings and striped fish. So maybe if I create some giant alien creature in a future novel or story, I’ll take care not to give it stripes or spots.