My DragonCon Schedule

Hi all,

I’m looking forward to seeing you guys at DragonCon this upcoming weekend on Labor Day! For those who are interested, here’s the stuff I’ll be speaking at. Come say hi! :)


Title: Protagonist Professions in UF

Description: Authors share how the daytime/mundane jobs their characters hold impact their supernatural existence.

Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)


Title: Science Fiction 101

Description: A discussion of books and stories that can make for a good grounding in the genre.

Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)


Title: Reading: Alex Hughes

Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Edgewood – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)

(Tentative Panelists: Alex Hughes)


Title: After the Post-Apocalypse

Description: Post-apocalyptic fiction is popular, but what comes next?

Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)


Title: Autograph Sessions

Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: International Hall South – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)

(Tentative Panelists: Travis Walton, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Milton J Davis, Laurell K. Hamilton, Alex Hughes)


Title: Supernatural Thrillers: Mystery & Suspense in UF

Description: Authors discuss the importance of the elements of mystery and suspense in their work.

Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

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“We need stories. Stories help us make sense of the world.” – Stephanie, the amazing Sunday lunch speaker at Willamette Writers Convention this year.


So I’ve been traveling. Not the simple A to B traveling—no, that would be far too simple. I’ve been traveling between cities for awhile now, short stops with big things happening. First San Diego Comic Con with panels and signings (oh my!), then home for a day or two, then Willamette Writers Convention where I taught a class on POV. Then, of course, a stop with my aunt and uncle, and now in St. Louis for the annual writers retreat I do with my Odyssey folks, the Even Odders. It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. But some cool stuff sticks out in my mind.

The dinosaurs at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry—the museum had both bones and life-sized moving models that roared and had feathers. Yes, feathers on a dinosaur. Because science and why the hell not.

Thai food for lunch with my uncle, and another Thai lunch with writer friends. Apparently Thai is big in Portland. Also, happy conversations.

Brainstorming sessions galore with writer friends of every stripe. Thrillers and science fiction and writing ideas all alike. Solving creative problems—and I have many.

A kid with a boat in the OMSI boat-building interactive area. He’s going to be an engineer someday, you can tell.

Teaching my first big class to a large audience at Willamette. Got a lot of great feedback and wonderful questions asked of me. Will be doing that again.

Staying up way too late at night getting my handouts done.

Sitting in the exit seat on the airplane with extra legroom reading an Agatha Christie novel.

Sitting in front of a line of people there to get my book at San Diego Comic Con. Blown away to find a fan came out specifically to ask me a question about the series. I’m a real person! I have fans. I must giggle now.

Standing in line to see the Mythbusters’s panel, and finding they were exactly the same in person as they were on TV. A ton of fun in all accounts.

Emailing with my editor from the airport on public WiFi—so totally not a thing in Atlanta.

Meeting so many cool industry people at Willamette, and finding them incredibly helpful and kind. So kind.

Fighting jet lag as a constant companion. Having no solid idea what time it is.

Calls to Sam at strange hours because of the time change.

Talking to writer friends about crazy projects while eating amazing food we cooked ourselves. Wondering what ideas will make it past the chrysalis to the full-blown adult stage. Feeding them good research while I chip away at more creative problems with the help of friends.

Critiquing other writers’ works. Giving feedback.

Sleeping. Thinking and reading. More sleeping. Petting my aunt and uncle’s cats. Riding on airplane after airplane, and sleeping some more.

Typing on the computer, words and more words, and more words. Because being a writer is writing, in the end. Words and more words.

Our lives are diffuse, but our stories are finite. It’s the details we choose to tell ourselves and the meaning that makes the story. For me, today, that’s St. Louis and friends. Tomorrow—or next week, or whenever the story turns—it will be Atlanta and everyday life. At least until DragonCon.

In the meantime, I do need to get my words written.

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Rabbit Trick now $0.99

Hi All,

Just to let everyone know, I’ve lowered the price of Rabbit Trick, my short story in the Mindspace Investigations series, to just $0.99 on Amazon and Smashwords. The other retailers are in process, but should be at the same level within the week.

Here’s all the info:




When the cops call me in the middle of the night, I know it’s bad. One of their own is dead, strangled in her car by a professional killer, and it’s up to me, telepath consultant extraordinaire, to pull the rabbit out of my hat and solve the case. Only this time I’m not so sure I can.

Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino is breathing down my neck. The dead cop’s partner is too. And now, the worst—there was a five-year-old kid in the car, a kid no one can find.


“Great urban fantasy crime story.” Sharon Stogner, I Smell Sheep book blogger

“I love Mindspace–the stories are fantastically fun to read, well-crafted, and well-plotted. They pull you in and keep you engaged from start to finish.” Book Person reviewer



Thanks for reading!


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I’m going to San Diego ComicCon

Hi all,

I have just confirmed my travel plans for San Diego ComicCon at the end of the month! I will be there on Friday and Saturday (July 26th and 27th) and am looking forward to the awesome geekdom, fun costumes, and amazing experience of it all.

I am tentatively scheduled for a panel on Friday (I’ll let you know more details when I can) and will for sure be having a signing at the Penguin Booth (#1028) at 4:00 pm on Saturday. Did I mention there will be copies of Clean available? Rumor is a few might be free, so stop by and send your friends.

This is my very first ComicCon in San Diego, and I’m told it’s a huge one. I’m nervous and excited all at once. Any advice from those who have been before?


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So I Asked My Readers for Three Words

Early last week, I asked my readers for three words via my email newsletter list. I knew that I owed them short stories, you see, but all of my ideas were turning into longer pieces. What was a girl to do? Well, ask for help of course!

The email newsletter folks responded with over 35 sets of three words for me to play with, and in return I’ll be sending out a new flash short story every Friday for the next two months or so based on those three words. It will be epic.

(If you want to get a copy of the stories, you have to join the newsletter! Either put your information in the form on the right or go here.)

But in the meantime, I had to brag on my newsletter readers. They picked some amazing words. Not to mention sending me to the dictionary! My readers are obviously smart people.

Here’s some words I had to look up:

  • Moribund
  • Psychobabble
  • Perspicacious
  • Omicron
  • Polymorphic
  • Calliope
  • Elephantine
  • Punctilious

Some of my favorites from the rest of the list:

  • Dour
  • Revenge
  • Pineapple
  • Crow’s feather
  • Stave
  • Explosion
  • Hellfire
  • Epiphany
  • Ticklish
  • Ferret
  • Sorcery
  • Laudanum

And the big winner, a word that was not only new to me, but not in the dictionary: amplituhedron, which reader Marcin K. sent. According to him (and Wikipedia), it’s basically a theory of the underlying structure of the quantum universe, a shape to define it like the string in string theory. Quantum physics! I am delighted. Hopefully I can figure out a way to use it in a story.

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Cover Reveal

Well, it looks like I got scooped by a few bloggers (and Amazon) with the cover of Book Four. But! For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the amazing cover of Vacant, due out first week of December this year.

Isn’t it gorgeous? You’ll notice the buildings and cobblestone streets are from River Street in Savannah, GA.

Vacant cover

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Trading Questions with Rachel Aaron (Bach)

Hi all,

Recently I asked Rachel Aaron (penname: Rachel Bach) to stop by my blog for an interview. Instead, she offered to trade questions so we’d both stop by each others’ blogs for an awesome event. Of course, I agreed. My questions on her site are here (oops! Link added). Hers on mine are below.


Fortune's Pawn CoverA: Hi Rachel, thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

R: Thank you so much for having me! Let’s answer some questions :D

A:  I *love* your Paradox trilogy starring Devi Morris. She’s such an active character, and there are so many secrets and threads running throughout the trilogy. How did you build Devi’s character? What’s her biggest strength and weakness? How much would you say you have in common with her?

R: Thank you! Devi has been my most popular character by far, which was a lucky break for me because she’s also the easiest for me to write (we think a lot alike). Just like Eli Monpress before her, there wasn’t much development on my end with Devi. She just walked into my head one day and was like “LET’S ROCK” and I was like “OKAY!” Honestly, the biggest challenge of the series was structuring the plot so that she couldn’t just shoot her way through every problem.

Really, though, I think me writing Devi was inevitable. As a kid, I used to get so frustrated with all the self sacrificing nice girls in fiction. Why did she have to be nice? Why couldn’t she just punch the bad guy and take the power?! That’s what I would do. I also really wanted my chance to play Space Marine like all the action heroes I saw in movies. This combination of longings is the primordial soup that produced Devi Morris. She’s pretty much my FU to the idea that leading ladies in fiction can’t be angry or violent or assertive if they want to be heroines worthy of our admiration. Devi is a deeply flawed character. She’s impulsive and stubborn and makes snap judgments and has serious anger management and trust issues, but she’s also loyal, highly skilled, incredibly brave, and the sort of person you can count on to do the right thing no matter the cost. I think there’s something very noble in that.

A:  Your space armor kicks ass. Tell me more about it, and how you built its capabilities into the culture and world.

R: I have always been in love with the idea of powered armor. Who wouldn’t want an amazing suit that basically makes you super human, a la Iron Man? That said, I actually wrote Fortune’s Pawn before I became aware of Iron Man (I was a DC girl growing up and didn’t really get into the Marvel movies until Thor), but if you’ve seen the Iron Man movies, Devi’s Verdemont Armor is a lot like a space age version Stark’s powered armor without the repulsors in the hands and feet (so no flight or laser palms). That said, the Paradox armor was actually inspired by the armor in the Star Craft video game series, the Starship Troopers movie, Aliens, and the Battle Angel Alita manga series (which is totally awesome, btw).

When I was designing Devi’s armor, my #1 priority was that this must be a professional’s suit. Paradox is a planet that’s obsessed with powered armor. All of their sports are armor based from racing to the gladiatorial games, and their military (which every Paradoxian is required to serve at least 2 years in) is entirely armor based. Because of this emphasis, there are tons of different kinds of suits available. Devi could have had armor nothing could crush, or a suit that could punch through ship hulls. But for all her bluster, Devi isn’t a brute force kind of girl. She’s a smart, clever fighter who loves her tools and tricks, and her armor needed to reflect that. I put a high emphasis on mobility and powerful cooldowns, to use a video game term. I also wanted to make sure her suit had plenty of limitations, because super powers without flaws are dull dull dull. With all this in mind, I built the Lady Grey to be Devi’s partner. A suit of powered armor full of features that other mercs might scratch their heads at, but Devi could use in new and clever ways to devastating advantage. Most important of all, though, I wanted the fights to be interesting and fun, and a lot of Devi’s tools were chosen just for coolness factor.

A:  And they are super cool! Thanks for sharing. In your book 2k to 10k, you talked about the experience of writing the trilogy, which was very different from writing your Eli books. Now that you have a little distance from both, what were some of the joys and challenges involved in writing this series specifically? How have other projects gone since?

R: Writing Devi herself was easy and an absolute joy. Writing her story was another matter entirely. From the very beginning of the Paradox series, I’d set myself the challenge of writing a story with no villain. Everyone in the books thinks they’re the good guys, and the question of who is or isn’t right really depends on perspective, just like in real life. This was a very delicate balance to write that required a lot of thought in terms of how and when information is revealed. Reveal too much and you give the game away, reveal too little and readers can’t see the subtle shades of gray that make this balance work. It was a tricky, delicate card-house of a meta plot right from the get go, and into this delicate balance, I drop the charging bull known as Devi Morris.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge of the series was structuring the plot so Devi couldn’t just bust her way through. HONOR’S KNIGHT (book 2) was particularly difficult. I actually rewrote the second half 3 times before I was satisfied with the overall tone and pacing. I was sure people would hate it, but most of my reviewers say HONOR’S KNIGHT was the strongest of the series, so what do I know? (For the record, the final book, HEAVEN’S QUEEN, is my favorite because I finally got to let Devi run wild and bust up all the secrets, though FORTUNE’S PAWN was the easiest and most fun to write.)

I finished the Paradox series last year. Since then, projects have been hit or miss. On the hit side, I’ve got NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST, an urban fantasy about dragons in the same vein as my Eli Monpress fantasy series, which I’m going to be self publishing in July under my Rachel Aaron name. On the miss side, I’ve got a few failed attempts to write a full blown Romance. I’m an avid Romance reader and I’ve got several great ideas, but I just can’t seem to make the genre work for me. All my Romances balloon out into Fantasies or UF or SF or whatever, and the main couple gets lost in the shuffle. I’ve tried and flopped three times now to write one, and I think it’s time to throw in the towel. I’m just going to stick to romantic elements in my genre books from now on.

For the record, that last paragraph is an excellent example of the less rosy side of life as a full time writer. Sometimes you work for months on a book that just doesn’t work. When that happens, you have to make a decision: do I put out something I’m not proud of, or do I take the loss, trunk the book, and chalk up those months to a learning experience? Personally, I always take the loss. My quality is my brand, and I’d rather eat the lost time than put out something I can’t stand behind. That really sucks in the short term because I don’t get paid for the months I spend on projects I can’t sell. But writing is a long game, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in this business is that you always have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

A: That’s wise advice. In a recent interview, you talked about how you deliberately put a romantic thread into the series, and that some of your readers have reacted negatively to Devi’s perceived weakness as a result. (For the record, I enjoyed the messy romance very much, especially as it changed characters’ loyalties.) What do you feel the romantic thread gained you in the trilogy? Will you be adding romantic threads to future series as well? Why or why not?

R: I’m so glad you enjoyed the love story! I absolutely adored it. Devi and Rupert’s scenes were some of my personal favorites in the whole series. That said, the romantic issue was a tricky one for me. As I mentioned just above, I really like Romance, but writing it seems to be a real challenge for me. Also, there are people who really dislike it. Part of the challenge of straddling genres (in this case, SF and Romance) is that you’re going to get people from one side who can’t stand elements of the other. But on the other hand, there are plenty of people like myself who love mixing it up, and that audience was very happy with the books. A lot of people actually told me that FORTUNE’S PAWN was their first Science Fiction book, which is super exciting. I’m always thrilled to hook more people into a genre I love!

As for if I’ll be doing this again, Devi is by far the most romantic story I’ve ever attempted, and it was a definite learning curve for me as a writer. So many people brush off Romance as formulaic, but it’s actually really hard to create honest, believable romantic tension between two characters, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the writers who excel at it. Given my recent troubles, I don’t have plans to write anything as overtly romantic as Paradox in the near future (at least, not until my next Paradox series, which I will totally be writing), but that’s not to say there won’t be romantic subplots in future books. I still like Romance, and stuff I like always worms its way into my novels. Some kissing, at least, seems inevitable.

A: (Does happy dance for additional Paradox series. With armor, hopefully!) I’m going to shamelessly steal this last question from the ones you sent me: It’s not exactly a radical statement to put forth that the publishing world has changed dramatically over the last few years. If you were starting fresh as a new author today, would you do anything differently? And on that note, do you have any advice for someone just beginning the publishing process?

R: I sold my first book to Orbit back in 2008. That was six years ago, and a LOT has changed since then. Even so, if I was starting fresh today, I would probably still do what I did then. As much as I disagree with some of the tenants of traditional publishing–the archaic accounting schemes, reserve against returns, world rights, basket accounting and so forth–the feedback I got from my editor and agent on those early books was absolutely priceless. You simply can not buy that level of investment from an editor you hire, and I would not be the writer I am today without it. Also, the platform I got from being traditionally published first can not be discounted.

That said, however, my situation is unique. As you said in your answer to this question, every writer is their own CEO. What works for me, my career, and my brand might not work for yours, and that’s okay. Just as every writer writes differently, we all publish differently as well. The most important thing is to always keep your eyes on your long term career goals, whatever you decide they are. For me right now, that means being a hybrid author. For others, it might mean going full on Indie, or publishing through a major house. All I can say is that you should do your own research, apply your own values to what you find, and make the decision that will you the most happy. I know that seems like a cop out answer, but when every writer’s career is so different, it’s the only truthful one I can give.

A: Thanks again for coming on the blog :)


Rachel’s Bio

Rachel Bach author photoRachel Bach is the author of FORTUNE’S PAWN, a fast paced, romantic adventure starring Devi Morris, a powered armor mercenary who signs on with the galaxy’s most trouble-prone space freighter in an attempt to jumpstart her career. But while Devi expected the firefights and aliens, this ship holds secrets she never could have imagined, and the greatest danger for this ship guard might just be the very people she was hired to protect.

Other books by Rachel include The Legend of Eli Monpress fantasy series (under the name Rachel Aaron) and the bestselling fast writing guide, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. You can find out more about Rachel, her multiple pen names, and read samples of all her books at!

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As most of you guys know, I’ve been working on a collaboration project with friend and critique partner Kerry Schafer. It (hopefully) will turn into a suspense novel about a hotel ghost. This is both of our first co-writing experience, and it’s been an interesting one, with ups and downs.

It’s been a pleasure to work with Kerry on the prewriting / planning stage. She’s got such an eye for character and setting that our little town in Kansas (with a marble factory!) took shape in just a few conversations. Our hotel, based on some cool pictures from the 70s, ended up just as completely built. Then it came to characters, and the two of us working on a common file for about two months in dribs and drabs.

Then the time came in both of our schedules to work on it as our main focus. I don’t think either of us was quite prepared for what that meant emotionally. Instead of the dribs and drabs “fun project” now we’re serious about crafting a novel, a real novel we’re proud of. We both care intensely about our work, and having that passion sometimes work at odds has been a huge learning experience. We had to learn how to fight! But Kerry was absolutely right–better to fight than to hold back from making the work the best it could possibly be. With a first collaboration, though, it’s a learning curve and stressful when it’s not working. Fortunately, it works at least as often as it doesn’t.

When it came time to get serious, we both had things we wanted to change to make the novel “feel right” to our inner ears. After a kerfuffle or two about direction, we tore out a large portion of the already-written first third, and she reworked her main character Clay nearly from scratch. That meant I had to step up to the plate with Avery and rework her character to be as interesting and layered as the new Clay’s. Her backstory changed totally, and she got a stronger character arc. I also reworked a bit of the structure as well, and our setting started to come alive. We’ve mostly finished that round of changes now, and when I read back over our first 20k yesterday, I was pleased beyond words. It’s really starting to become a true collaboration, with pieces of both of our styles and characters that aren’t quite what either of us would do on our own. It’s working, and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m getting excited.

Here’s hoping the rest of the novel ends up as working just as well, even if we have to tear out and rework. It’s my first collaboration. There’s no real way to tell how it’s going to work or how long it’s going to take. But I’m hugely hopeful. Here’s to learning, growing, and fighting for a great book.

And here’s to Kerry, for writing this journey with me.

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A Reflection on Process

A friend asked me yesterday how to face the blank page without getting frustrated that it’s going to take time and many rewrites to get it right. I told her that the process itself is comforting.

She laughed, and asked if I had any advice on how to learn to love the process. Here’s what I told her:

Most of the great writers out there talk about “writing is rewriting.” C.J. Cherryh (one of my favorite writers of all time) says “it’s perfectly acceptable to write crap, provided you revise brillantly” or learn to. Knowing it’s a process takes away the need for perfection right away! Plus when you can’t make it any better you can send it to beta readers who will tell you where it’s unclear and how to make it better. Process means it can be a team effort. Process means you don’t have to run the whole marathon at once, you get to walk a little each day. Process takes the pressure off, because once you’ve been through it a few times and been happy with the result (as I have) you realize you don’t have to see the end result perfectly, you just have to see and understand (and do) the next step. The next step is doable. The next step is easy. Then you figure out the next one.

Perfectionism is the enemy of the creative self, and process is its friend. Hope that helped.

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Thermodynamics for Geeks

Hi all,

I recently met Abe, a fellow physics nerd, at a board game night with friends. He helped me add to my physics-based Mindspace system (while doing the hard math for me), and generally helped me get excited about physics again. Physics, if you didn’t like that class in high school, is basically the code in which the physical universe is written. Since I think this stuff is awesomely cool, I asked Abe if he’d be willing to stop by the blog and explain Thermodynamics (heat transfer) for the geeks in the crowd. He graciously accepted.

Take it away, Abe.



 Thermodynamics for Geeks

by Abe Abu-Madi

Thermodynamics, in a nutshell, is the transfer of energy between a given object, its surroundings and other objects. The laws of thermodynamics govern everything from the amount of heat given off by a Balrog to the average temperature on Tatooine.  Let us take a look at what happens when Hollywood chooses to mettle in the affairs of physicists:


Tauntaun for Two

Let us pretend for a moment you are the hope of a galactic republic you have to save from an evil empire ran by your father’s boss. However before you can save anyone you are unexpectedly knocked unconscious by a Woompa and ultimately left to die in the frozen waste of Hoth. If this all sounds oddly familiar then I am either eagerly waiting your autobiography or you realize I am referring to the scene from Empire Strikes back.

In the movie Luke of course lives and with help from his father eventually brings balance to the force. How realistic is that though? The temperatures on Hoth supposedly go as low as negative 60° Celsius.  Considering the average human body temperature is 37° Celsius that is very large difference.  How plausible would it be for Luke to live? We’ll use Newton’s formula for heat transfer to get an idea how long it will take Luke’s body to drop to 20° Celsius. Why 20 degrees, you may ask? Anything less than 20° is profound hypothermia at which point Luke is assumed to be dead.

Newton’s equation is this

(1)    T(t) = TA+(TH-TA)e-kt

T(t) = The temperature of the hot body at time t

TA = Temperature of the atmosphere

TH = Temperature of the hot body

t  = time

k =  cooling constant.

The constant k is most often gathered through measurements but we can’t go to Hoth so we’ll have to make a few assumptions. Let us assume on that particular night Hoth was at a crispy negative 45 degrees and that once every three minutes (180 seconds) Luke’s body temperature inside the Tauntaun goes down one degree. The equation then looks like this:

(2)    36 = -45+(37-(-45))e-k*180.

Solving for k then gives us a constant of k=.000068. We now have everything we need to see how long Luke would live under these conditions. Using 20° as the final temperature and our new cooling constant from equation 2, we plug our numbers into our original equation to give us:

(3)    20=-45+(37-(-45))e-.000068*t.

Solving the equation for t gives 3408.27 seconds or 56.8 minutes. Assuming Luke’s body temperature was still at 37°Celsius when Han found him, Han would have less than an hour to prevent Luke’s body temperature from dropping and to warm him back up before he died. Han might prefer a blaster by his side but, for Luke’s sake I hope he is proficient with a shovel!

These are pretty generous conditions. If it is colder outside, Luke’s body temperature would go down faster, if the Tauntaun did not keep him as warm it would go down faster as well and most realistically if Luke’s body temperature was not at 37°Celsius at the time Han put him inside the Tauntaun (if he was already  in a state of hypothermia), Han would have considerably less time.  Han has less than a full hour to dig out a well insulated snow shelter to house two full grown men and begin warming Luke’s body. I hope Leia likes trips to swampy planets inhabited by little green hermits.


Predator or Prey

Well, after a chilling and probably lethal stay in Hoth, let us move to a more tropical location. In the 1987 movie The Predator (starring the Governator), Schwarzenegger’s character hides from  the ultimate hunter in the galaxy, the Predator. The Predator has a type of thermal vision it uses to find its prey. In a flash of “brilliance” a mud covered Arnold hides among trees to hide his heat signature.  Assuming there was no other issue than the his body heating the mud, his body would still heat the mud at such a rate that by the time the Predator was out of the water looking around the mud’s temperature would have changed enough to give off a noticeable heat signature  and the Governator would have been another skull on his trophy wall.

What Schwarzenegger failed to realize about how  heat transfer works is that when a higher energy particle interacts with a lower energy one some of the energy from the higher energy particle is transferred to the lower energy particle. When the type of energy we are talking about is in terms of temperature and heat, then the hotter particle becomes cooler and the cooler one becomes hotter. Arnold’s body would in fact lose heat, however the mud would gain it. The mud does not dissipate heat well and will continue to warm until it is at the same temperature as Arnold’s body. Once the mud and Arnold have reached the same temperature this particular system will be at equilibrium. In this context what equilibrium means is that when the particles from Arnold’s skin collide with the particles from the mud no energy is transferred. Once equilibrium is achieved then the mud and Arnold will share the same temperature and the Predator would see the mud on the outside of his body as him.  A better way to hide from the Predator’s thermal vision would have been to hide Arnold’s body heat from escaping an enclosed area completely, which leads me to the next thermo dynamic movie mishap.


Major Hottie

In the animated Japanese thriller movie Ghost in the Shell, the main character Major Kusanagi wears a type of thermal optic camouflage that comes in play often throughout the movie.  Since the Major is a cyborg (in this case a fully machine body with an organic brain) trying to apply rules of body heat and temperature to her would be an exercise in futility! Instead, let’s talk about the group of full humans that wear the thermal optic camouflage in their riot gear later in the movie. Full humans should obey the laws of physics, right?

Let’s back up and talk about temperature. What does it mean for something to be hot or something else to be cold? In a simplistic case of dealing with matter it usually means how fast the particle is moving.  Take a red rubber ball to be our single particle in question how fast said ball is thrown would determine what temperature it is measured at. More energy is a higher temperature. Keep in mind energy is transferred from a particle with more energy to a particle with less energy. This continues until equilibrium is reached or in other words all particles have the same energy.

So our task is to come up with a suit that makes its wearer invisible to thermal detection. Well from our previous discussion with the mud we know that simply putting something over the body of a person will not work for very long as the body will heat the object.  The next logical step may be to use an object that dissipates heat easily like a copper heat sink. This may seem like a good idea until we realize that if the object dissipates heat at the same rate it is given to it, that the object will heat the surrounding atmosphere at the same rate as if it wasn’t there. Congratulations, your body is invisible however the air around you paints a giant thermal sign that says that says “Here I am!”

Instead let us prevent any energy our body puts out in the form of heat from escaping our newly made suit. We will pretend that our suit does not let any energy from the inside escape and it perfectly reflects energy from the atmosphere back (because otherwise in a warm area the suit would be colder than the surroundings and instantly visible).  Another way to look at it is that we will make a mobile thermos that a person could fit and walk around in. Thermoses have been around for years–the inside stays the temperature of whatever is inside and the outside is (mostly) the temperature of the surroundings.  So we have our working suit based on a concept we know works.

So what is the problem? In this case unlike coffee, a person still produces heat. With hot coffee, it has no way to create more energy so all it can do is transfer energy to its surroundings. A person on the other had will continue to produce body heat as long as they are alive. The air in the suit with the person will go from a comfortable level to unbearably hot in an extremely short amount of time.  Using Newton’s formula for heat transfer, we can tell how long that will take.  Say the temperature in the suit went up a full degree in the first minute and that k = .0645.  Setting T(t) to 41°Celsius (the temperature at which heat stroke occurs), we can determine how long someone could wear the suit before they overcame by heat stroke, fell unconscious  and died.

(1)    T(t) = TA+(TH-TA)e-kt


Rewriting the equation to solve for t gives:

(4)    t= [ln((T(t)-TA)/(TH-TA))]/-k

Putting in the numbers for the equations where:

T(t) = 41

TA = 42

TH = 37.

The solution given then is that t equals 122 minutes. So in just over two hours use of the suit heat stroke, unconsciousness and possible death would occur. For their sake I hope it is a short mission!


An Arab-American born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Abe Abu-Madi is a physics and science fiction enthusiast extraordinaire. He has a Bachelor of Science in both physics and mathematics from Southern Polytechnic State University. He works in the Information Technology industry, and is fluent in both Arabic and math.

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