Archive for August 7, 2012

Best Science Photos of the Week

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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Best Science Photos of the Week

LiveScience Staff
Date: 04 August 2012 Time: 12:11 PM ET
Black Holes Still Mystify

Black Holes Still Mystify

Credit: NASAIf most people know one thing about black holes, they probably know that nothing can escape from them, not even light.

Yet this most basic tenet about black holes has actually been disproven by the theory of quantum mechanics, explains theoretical physicist Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, in an essay published online today (Aug. 2) in the journal Science.

[Full Story: Black Holes: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong]

Now That's Fast!

Now That’s Fast!

Credit: Ken Geiger/National Geographic MagazineThe fastest cheetah on Earth has done it again, breaking her previous world record for the 100-meter dash and setting a new best time of 5.95 seconds.

This feat surpasses the fastest of all human 100-meter sprinters by almost four seconds. Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter now competing at the 2012 London Olympics, holds the human world record at 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash.

[Full Story: Wow! 11-Year-Old Cheetah Breaks Land Speed Record]

Fickle Glaciers

Fickle Glaciers

Credit: Niels J. Korsgaard, Natural History Museum of Denmark.More than a dozen glaciers that dot Greenland’s desolate northwest coastline appear to move in fits and starts, according to new research, sliding into the sea and bleeding ice with sudden vigor for years at a time, then mysteriously slowing, only to swing back into action up to a decade later.

The research, published today (Aug. 2) in the journal Science, used aerial photographs taken in the 1980s to peer back beyond the advent of satellite records of glacier activity in the region. The study shows that in the last 25 years the area has suffered two prolonged periods of sudden ice loss, separated by 10 years of relative quiet.

[Full Story: Old Photos of Glaciers Show Their Fickle Speed]

Glowing Global Earthquakes

Glowing Global Earthquakes

Credit: John Nelson, IDV Solutions. The cluster of major earthquakes that struck the globe during the past decade can be explained by nothing more than random chance, researchers say in a new study.

Since 2004, devastating quakes have rocked Sumatra, Chile, Haiti and Japan, leading to speculation that we might be living in an age of great earthquakes, similar to a global cluster of temblors seen in the 1960s. Some researchers have even suggested that large quakes are linked across the globe, possibly triggering each other.

[Full Story: Major Quakes in Last Decade Not Linked, Study Finds]

Unlikely Pals? Sharks and …

Unlikely Pals? Sharks and …

Credit: Tim Wong, California Academy of Sciences. On Tuesday (July 31), aquarium biologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco introduced the nocturnal sharks (four females and two males) to their neighbors in nature, as both species live in the wild off the South African coast.

The 2-year-old pyjama sharks, which the biologists say are docile and mild-mannered, are expected to spend much of their time in the exhibit’s man-made underwater caves; since the two species rub shoulders in the wild, they should pose no threat to each other.

[Full Story: African Penguins Get New Shark ‘Roommates’ At California Aquarium]

… Their African Penguin Pals

… Their African Penguin Pals

Credit: California Academy of SciencesA group of African penguins that live on an indoor beach in California greeted some toothy new neighbors this week: six striped pyjama sharks.

“During yesterday’s event, the sharks were let into the tank two at a time, which piqued the interest of the penguins,” biologists at the California Academy told LiveScience, collectively, in an email. “The penguins reacted with curiosity, some diving into the water to get a closer look at and feel for their new neighbors. Overall, the penguins reacted quite positively.”

[Full Story: African Penguins Get New Shark ‘Roommates’ At California Aquarium]

Fire Rainbow Over Florida

Fire Rainbow Over Florida

Credit: Ken Rotberg / WPTVSo-called “fire rainbows” are neither on fire nor are they rainbows, but they sure are stunning.

They are technically known as iridescent clouds, a relatively rare phenomenon caused by clouds of water droplets of nearly uniform size, according to a release by NASA. These clouds diffract, or bend, light in a similar manner, which separates out light into different wavelengths, or colors.

[Full Story: Amazing Photo: ‘Fire Rainbow’ Over South Florida]

150 Feet in 40 Seconds

150 Feet in 40 Seconds

Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society (One-Time Use only)A camera attached to a South American seabird allowed scientists to directly watch its deep-diving feeding techniques for the first time.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society fitted a small camera to the back of an imperial cormorant in Punta León, a coastal protected area in Argentine Patagonia.

[Full Story: Camera-Toting Seabird Captures Own Deep Dive]

Record-Breaking Tornado

Record-Breaking Tornado

Credit: Meg MacDonaldMost of the time, Chris Kirby chases storms, but sometimes they come to him. During a drive through the mountains this Saturday afternoon (July 28) near his home in Aurora, Colo., to photograph mountain goats and test radio equipment, he got quite a surprise: a rare, high-elevation tornado.

Kirby, who’s a registered storm-spotter with the National Weather Service (NWS), took a photo of the thin twister as it briefly touched down on the side of Mount Evans, he told OurAmazingPlanet. He sent his picture to weather service staff, who used maps and line-of-sight analysis to determine that the twister touched down at 11,900 feet (3,627 meters), making it the second-highest tornado ever recorded in American history, said David Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the NWS in Boulder.

[Full Story: Rare Colorado Tornado Is Second-Highest in US History]

Spiral Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/STScI/K.Long et al., Optical: NASA/STScI A new, extremely deep photo of the site of a supernova explosion that was observed in 1957 has revealed X-rays emanating from the source.

The photo, taken by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray space telescope, is the first to spot X-ray light coming from the remains of the dead star that sparked the explosion, and indicates that the supernova likely transformed the star into a pulsar. Pulsars are super-dense, fast-rotating objects that have been compressed so tightly they are composed only of neutrons.

[Full Story: Spiral Galaxy Photo Sheds New Light on Recent Star Explosion]

Martian Laser

Martian Laser

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/J.-L. Lacour, CEAWhen NASA’s newest rover arrives on Mars Sunday night (Aug. 5), it will be carrying a host of state-of-the-art instruments, including the head-mounted, rock-zapping laser called ChemCam.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover aims to determine if its landing site, the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater, can or ever could support microbial life. ChemCam will play a vital role in this quest by allowing the rolling robot to study the composition of rocks from afar.

[Full Story: Why NASA’s Big Mars Rover Has a Laser to Zap Rocks]

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Ill teenager misses her family cat, so the internet builds her a virtual cathedral of felines

Posted in News on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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Ill teenager misses her family cat, so the internet builds her a virtual cathedral of felines

By Cyriaque Lamar

Ill teenager misses her family cat, so the internet builds her a virtual cathedral of felinesBecause of her weakened immune system, 16-year-old cancer patient Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem has spent many months over the past year recovering in isolation at the Seattle Children’s Hospital. While waiting for a suitable bone marrow donor and receiving subsequent treatments, Maga found herself missing her beloved cat Merry.

The hospital stepped in and created “The Cat Immersion Project” for Maga, which allowed her to meet thousands of cats from all around the internet from her hospital bed. It’s absolutely heartwarming, even if you happen to be allergic or feline averse.

To help Maga through this trying time, the Seattle staff first crowdsourced approximately 3,000 cat photographs through their Facebook page. The staff then built the immersion chamber in her room and projected this sizable army of cats above her bed. A grateful Maga had this to say to those pet owners who volunteered their kittens for this “virtual feline cocoon”:

You guys remind me that there is so much good in the world, and its just makes me feel so much better, and connected. I can’t tell you how it feels sometimes, feeling disconnected and cut off from the world, and then with something like cat pictures bringing me back.

We at io9 wish Maga a speedy, uncomplicated recovery and impart a collective pat on the back to the Seattle staff and an avuncular “Good hustle, internet” to all of the cat photo donors out there.

[CBS via Geekologie]

 

 

 

 

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Arrives Safely on Mars

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Arrives Safely on Mars

Robert T. Gonzalez
https://i1.wp.com/img.gawkerassets.com/img/17v51f1bi3apjjpg/original.jpg

NASA has done it. The largest and most sophisticated spacecraft ever sent to another planet has landed safely on the surface of Mars. We live-blogged Curiosity’s arrival, but for those of you who couldn’t watch it live, here’s what we saw during the most remarkable Mars landing in history.

That’s not exaggeration, by the way. Curiosity’s arrival was epic, and — by pretty much all accounts — flawless.

In the days and hours leading up to the landing, the rover was described as being in excellent shape. Last night, at 21:12 PT, a little more than an hour before entering Mars’ atmosphere, the uplink transmitter between Curiosity and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena was intentionally switched off. The crew at JPL had guided Curiosity along its journey for as long as it could, but given that it takes light 14 minutes to make the trip from Earth to Mars, controlling the spacecraft directly from Earth was out of the question; Curiosity had been programmed to perform all of its entry, descent and landing maneuvers autonomously. Having no input from JPL meant that If the rover was going to land safely, it was going to have to do so entirely on its own.

Robert T. Gonzalez

NASA has done it. The largest and most sophisticated spacecraft ever sent to another planet has landed safely on the surface of Mars. We live-blogged Curiosity’s arrival, but for those of you who couldn’t watch it live, here’s what we saw during the most remarkable Mars landing in history.

That’s not exaggeration, by the way. Curiosity’s arrival was epic, and — by pretty much all accounts — flawless.

In the days and hours leading up to the landing, the rover was described as being in excellent shape. Last night, at 21:12 PT, a little more than an hour before entering Mars’ atmosphere, the uplink transmitter between Curiosity and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena was intentionally switched off. The crew at JPL had guided Curiosity along its journey for as long as it could, but given that it takes light 14 minutes to make the trip from Earth to Mars, controlling the spacecraft directly from Earth was out of the question; Curiosity had been programmed to perform all of its entry, descent and landing maneuvers autonomously. Having no input from JPL meant that If the rover was going to land safely, it was going to have to do so entirely on its own.

All that was left to do was watch and wait, so the crew members at JPL turned to hand-wringing and munching on peanuts.

The snack is a NASA/JPL good luck tradition, and dates all the way back to the Ranger 7 mission in 1964. This screenshot, taken from NASA’s livefeed, was captured around 23 minutes before atmospheric entry. The tension at JPL, which had been building steadily for the better part of two hours, was approaching heart-attack inducing levels.

Even Curiosity seemed anxious to arrive. After traveling through space for over eight months at around 8,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft began to pick up speed as it approached the planet, egged on by the ever-increasing pull of Mars’ gravitational forces. By the time it hit Mars atmo at 22:25 PT, Curiosity had reached a blazing 13,200 miles per hour. The rover’s seven-minute trip from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of the planet (the so-called “seven minutes of terror”) had begun.

https://i0.wp.com/img.gawkerassets.com/img/17v4xlmt0iw7ajpg/original.jpg

Events began unfolding rapidly. Less than two minutes after atmospheric entry, JPL confirmed that Curiosity had established a connection with NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, and that the satellite was, in fact, relaying data to Earth. Direct contact between Curiosity and Earth is dependent upon line of sight communication (depicted here with pink dashes). Curiosity was scheduled to lose sight of Earth over the Martian horizon a few minutes after entering the atmosphere, but before landing on the surface of Mars. Odyssey would therefore play a crucial role in relaying real-time signals (depicted here in blue) to Earth. There had been doubts over whether Odyssey would be a) in the right position, and b) able to relay communications to Earth during Curiosity’s landing. The fact that it had managed to accomplish both was a huge success.

Things only got better from there. Another two minutes passed, and NASA received word that Curiosity’s supersonic parachute had deployed successfully, and that the rover was decelerating toward its target, Mars’ Gale crater. At 22:30 PT, NASA confirmed that Curiosity had made radar contact with the ground and was traveling at 86 meters per second.

At 22:32, JPL erupted. “Touchdown confirmed,” said engineer Alan Chen. “We’re safe on Mars.”
NASA's Curiosity Rover Arrives Safely on Mars

Our favorite sideburn-sporting rockabilly engineer Adam Steltzner, leader of Curiosity’s descent and landing team, was understandably excited:

Minutes later, even more good news arrived when Curiosity beamed back its very first black and white photos of the Martian surface, including these awesome shots showing the shadow of Curiosity in the Mars afternoon sun (on the left), and a view of one of the rover’s wheels (on the right). The images appear dusty because the HazCams that captured these photos still had their lens caps on.

In the days ahead, Curiosity will begin unpacking its various scientific systems, and verifying that they’re all in good shape. It is then that we will receive even bigger, color pictures from Mars. If Curiosity’s Mastcam instrument is successfully deployed and in working order, NASA predicts we’ll have our first 360-degree color panoramas of Curiosity’s landing site as early as Wednesday or Thursday. Once curiosity is all unpacked and has a good feel for its surroundings, it will set out on its scheduled two year mission, in search of the building blocks of life.

A lot has been said about the overwhelming success of the mission thus far. According to Steltzner, “we landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful, really beautiful.” President Obama weighted in as well, describing the landing as “an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.”

But one of our favorite summaries of the night’s accomplishments came from JPL director Charles Elachi shortly after touchdown.

“Tonight was a great drama,” he explained matter-of-factly. “Tomorrow we’re going to start exploring Mars… And next week and next month and next year, we’ll be bringing new discoveries every day, every week, to all of you.

“Our Curiosity has no limits, and we will explore the solar system.”

Celebration photos via AP; all other images via NASA

What the hell is on this mysterious-looking piece of seaweed?

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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What the hell is on this mysterious-looking piece of seaweed?

One look and you’ll notice it immediately: beautiful floral patterns, resembling white stencil tracings, seem etched on the outer surface of this piece of seaweed. It looks so out of place, you’d swear it was artificial. What is it? We’ve found the answer.

The algae was originally spotted by redditor gyo80, who described the find, quite simply, as a “really fucking weird piece of seaweed.” Fair enough.

The thread soon erupted with responses, but one quickly worked its way to the top. According to redditor Brrrtje, the seaweed is “is carrying a colony of Botryllus schlosseri,” a small marine invertebrate commonly found clinging to slow-moving objects in cold, saltwater environments.

A little digging reveals that Brrrtje is spot on. B. schlosseri, also known as “star tunicates” are very distinctive looking, and are readily distinguished from other Botrylloides by the unmistakable floral pattern that they form in the presence of other members of their species. Stanford researchers Heather Boyd, Irving Weissman and Yasunori Saito describe the peculiar organism in a June, 1990 issue of The Biological Bulletin:

A colony [Fig. 1a, pictured here] is composed of many zooids called blastozooids [a zooid is a single animal in a group of colonial organisms], which are arranged in oval or star-shaped systems. These systems are connected to one another, as are the zooids within any system itself, by a common vascular network… Each system is composed fo 5—15 blastozooids, which share a common cloacal aperture in the center of the system.

You can check out more pictures of gyo80′s find over on imgur.

Is Reddit going to replace college for people who can’t afford higher education?

Posted in EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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Is Reddit going to replace college for people who can’t afford higher education?

In the United States, many people can no longer afford to get a four-year college degree — even though most jobs that pay a middle-class salary require it. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

A March 2012 study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 60% of American adults viewed universities as having a positive effect on how things are going in the country and 84% of college graduates say that the expense of going to college was a good investment for them.2 Yet another Pew Research Center survey in 2011 found that 75% of adults say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.3 Moreover, 57% said that the higher education system in the U.S. fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend.

So what will replace college for recent high school graduates who want or need more education before getting jobs?

Pew researchers asked over 1,000 education experts and professors what they thought would happen to higher education, and 60% agreed with the following scenario:

By 2020, higher education will be quite different from the way it is today. There will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources. Significant numbers of learning activities will move to individualized, just-in-time learning approaches. There will be a transition to “hybrid” classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings. Most universities’ assessment of learning will take into account more individually-oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery. Requirements for graduation will be significantly shifted to customized outcomes.

So the future might be something like what Ernest Cline predicts in his novel Ready Player One, where the main character, an impoverished teenager who lives in a vast trailer park, logs into school every day from a computer he’s hidden in an abandoned van.

The question is whether college is just about going to classes and taking tests. Or is what learn there something that can only happen if a bunch of people come together in one place from a variety of backgrounds? Certainly one of the best parts of college and graduate school for me was what happened outside the classroom. I learned more about life and the topics I was studying from friends, from colleagues in study groups, and from events on the UC Berkeley campus where I could do things like personally ask Barbara Ehrenreich and Slavoj Zizek questions about their work. Would it possible to still have experiences like that if you didn’t actually attend college, and instead just took distance learning courses?

It’s tempting to take the “get off my lawn, you cyber-whippersnappers” perspective, and say no. But to return to Ready Player One for a moment, what we learn in that novel is that the kids who do distance learning also figure out ways to meet each other “off campus” as it were, in virtual worlds where they forge lasting friendships and learn from each other. I wonder if a place like Reddit, where people have conversations that range from goofing off to learning serious science, might take on the role that my study groups did in grad school. Certainly the “ask me anything” threads on Reddit, where famous and interesting people come in to answer any question you like, mirror my experience of going to special lectures at Berkeley.

What’s interesting is that Reddit already has many characteristics of college social life, both good and bad. People go there to learn from each other and make friends; but there are also places on Reddit that are dangerous and rapey. Just like college life.

As we move into a future where distance learning becomes the norm because almost nobody can afford a full-time, four-year education away from home, we need to be thinking about what will replace our college social lives as well as our classroom experiences. Reddit is one possibility. Another might be real-life study groups that form out of online discussion boards on specific topics. Maybe colleges will realize that socializing is a crucial part of the university experience, and build Reddit-like social spaces into their distance learning services.

Still another possibility, which I’m surprised nobody talks about more often, is that fewer people will go to college. Vocational schools might become more popular. People who want technical jobs might demonstrate their proficiency by going out and doing scientific or technical experiments, then posting them online. The next generation may prove that they never needed four years of breadth requirements to do professional work the first place.

Illustration by Palto via Shutterstock

Pupil dilation could be “a subconscious indicator of sexuality”

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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Pupil dilation could be “a subconscious indicator of sexuality”

Your pupils tend to dilate, or widen, when eyeing somebody that you find particularly attractive. Now, newly published research suggests that measuring pupil responses may be an effective way of assessing a person’s sexual orientation.

Cornell Researchers Gerulf Fieger and Ritch C. Savin Williams summarize their findings in the latest issue of PLoS ONE:

In general, self-reported sexual orientation corresponded with pupil dilation to men and women. Among men, substantial dilation to both sexes was most common in bisexual-identified men. In contrast, among women, substantial dilation to both sexes was most common in heterosexual-identified women.

“The pupil reacts very quickly, and it is unconscious,” explains Rieger, “so it’s a method that gives us a subconscious indicator of sexuality.”

As L.A. Times’ Thomas H. Maugh points out, the findings aren’t exactly revelatory, but they do confirm a belief among sexual researchers “that has apparently not been studied in any depth before.” But what is perhaps most interesting about the study is the insight it provides into the evolutionary development of sexual responses, and the evolutionary explanation for the differences in arousal that we see between genders. Maugh explains:

The findings support the idea that sexual response has different biological functions in men and women. For men, an important function is to facilitate erection and penetration. For women, the function is to stimulate lubrication and prevent genital injury in case of penetration — a response that may have developed early in evolutionary history in response to episodes of rape by males.

Read more at the L.A. Times.

Top image via Shutterstock

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and Fantasy

Posted in EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER on August 7, 2012 by 2eyeswatching

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Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and Fantasy

When it comes to discovering strange new worlds, there’s nothing like a young protagonist venturing out into a world where it feels like absolutely anything can happen. Many of science fiction and fantasy’s coolest stories are about coming of age — but coming of age, in the end, means losing your innocence and confronting the terrible truth about the world.

Here are some of the darkest coming of age stories from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy.

Top image: Luke’s vision of Vader on Dagobah, by Jason Eden [Link NSFW]

In many of the best stories about growing up, there is a confrontation with existential horror — the hero comes face to face with something unthinkable. In many cases, it’s facing up to the terrors of the larger world, or the fact that society lies to everybody. But often, in the best stories, it’s more about the hero confronting his or her own inner monster. The loss of innocence comes from the hero realizing the evil that he or she is actually capable of. The classic example of this is probably Lord of the Flies, although it’s not strictly SF.

So here are some coming-of-age stories where the hero confronts real darkness… With spoilers for old books and movies.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the first book of the trilogy, Katniss is a fairly innocent hero who’s trying to avoid being turned into too much of a monster by the Games — but by the third book, she’s pretty comfortable with killing people. And meanwhile, she’s discovering that all authority figures lie, even the ones on her own side, and then there’s the transformation that Peeta goes through.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling
I’m mostly thinking of the death of Dumbledore and the subsequent long stretch of being stranded in the woods — but also the whole stretch in Order of the Phoenix where Dolores Umbridge is forcing Harry to write with the blood quill, carving words into his own hand.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyA Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
In the first Earthsea book, Ged confronts one of the most literal manifestations of a personal shadow — a nameless force that he summoned in his hubris, and must defeat somehow. In the second book, Tenar is raised as a priestess of the Nameless Ones, but must slowly learn that they are not what she believed.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasySpeaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Sure, Ender’s Game is the one in which Ender realizes that he’s been used as the instrument of xenocide by the military establishment — but Speaker is darker, and it’s the book where Ender really grows up and deals with the lasting consequences. The descolada, a deadly plague, is a universal horror, the unraveling of life.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyRiddley Walker by Russell Hoban
In a post-apocalyptic world, long after a nuclear war, 12-year-old Riddley Walker has the ultimate horrendous coming-of-age experience: his father dies, he’s befriended by the forbidden pack of wild dogs, and he’s embroiled in a plot to rediscover the secret of nuclear weapons.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and Fantasy“The Professor’s Teddy Bear” by Theodore Sturgeon
You can read this story about a boy and a monster that teaches him that “the agony of death was to be promoted and enjoyed” in its entirety here.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyRoderick, or the Education of a Young Machine by John Sladek
Roderick is a young robot who’s educated about humanity entirely by watching television — until he’s sold off to become a fake fortune teller, and discovers just how ugly humanity actually is.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyUglies by Scott Westerfeld
This is one of the classic stories about a false utopia, where everybody is made “pretty” around their 16th birthday — and in particular, it has a great example of a hero (Tally) discovering that everything she’s grown up believing is false, and the world is broken.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasySomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Two 13-year-old boys, Jim and Will, confront an evil traveling carnival, with the terrible Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch, in this nightmarish fable about facing up to evil.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
John Savage confronts the “civilized” world of Soma and orgies, but in the end he and this decadant society both corrupt each other.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This novel about clone kids who are raised to be spare parts is notable for two losses of innocence — first, the kids realize that the story of an exemption from the donations for any couple who are truly in love is fake. And second, Kathy winds up become complicit in the system that destroys her and her friends.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasySwastika Night by Katherine Burdekin
This novel, published in 1937, takes place 700 years in the future — in a world where the Nazis have ruled the world for centuries, and Adolf Hitler is revered as a tall blond god who personally piloted a crucial fighter plane. Young Alfred learns the terrible truth about the Nazi regime, shattering everything he’s been brought up to believe.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyDune by Frank Herbert
Young Paul Atreides comes to the planet Arrakis with his family — and is forced to confront terrible tragedy, before he can become the hero he’s destined to be.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
Sybel has been born and raised on the mountain of Eld, and has only known magical creatures for company — until her sixteenth birthday, when she’s given a baby to care for, and has to confront a world torn by war.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyHalfway Human by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Tedla is born on the planet Gammadis, where everybody is born with no gender — until puberty, when people become either male or female. Except for a few “blands,” who remain genderless for life and are treated as simple-minded slaves, fit only for menial work. This is one book where coming of age literally includes the fear of not getting to become a person at all, in the eyes of society.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyMidnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
The young Tan-Tan grows up on the utopian future planet of Toussaint — until her father commits a crime and flees with her in tow, to the shadow world of New Half-Way Tree, where the exiled criminals have created their own society. And Caribbean folklore is real. Tan-Tan must take on the identity of the “midnight robber” to survive and become a woman.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
We recently praised Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale for, among other things, its great portrayal of adolescence. But this book is more focused on male adolescence in all its strangeness and dread — Sam is part of a group of wild boys who go around wreaking havoc in their car-factory town… until the Tooth Fairy appears by his bedside. But the Tooth Fairy is a sinister, sexually ambiguous figure, a manifestation of pure id. Read an excerpt here.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyRite of Passage by Alexi Panshin
This Nebula Award-winning novel is perhaps the most literal example of the “coming of age story” you could imagine — fourteen-year-old Mia Havero is a colonist on board one of the ships that survived Earth’s destruction. And she’s sent out on a ritual test of adulthood: surviving 30 days alone on a colony world, with nothing but her wits. On the planet, she confronts slavery, inhumanity, and the unnaturalness of her own society’s focus on eugenics.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Todd is the last boy in a settlement where all the women are dead — and he’s forced to go on the run with a mysterious girl he meets, discovering in the process that everything he’s known is a lie and the rite of passage he’s been destined for involves terrible murder.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and Fantasy“Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler
In this Nebula- and Hugo-winning story, Gan is a boy on an alien world, who’s been raised to be a carrier for the eggs of the native Tlic species — and he comes to question his role in this ecosystem, before finally being able to make a decision for himself. You can read the story here, and there’s a whole website devoted to it here.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyName of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The first book of the Kingkiller Chronicle tells the story of how Kvothe went from a member of a troupe of traveling players to one of the most notorious wizards of all time — including the murder of a king and his subsequent escape. You can read an excerpt here.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The confrontation between Meg and IT, the evil disembodied brain that has captured her brother Charles Wallace, still gives me goosebumps. It’s one of the best “confronting the evil of the world” sequences ever.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyThe Giver by Lois Lowry
Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories for a community that has banished negative emotions and experiences, and he’s set apart from the others by his awareness of sorrow. When his family fosters a baby that’s later destined to be “Released,” Jonas — like so many others on this list — goes on the run, alone.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyLord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Frodo and Sam confront literal darkness, pursued by the Ringwraiths, but also the darkness of the soul that comes from the One Ring.

Deepest, Darkest Coming of Age Stories from Science Fiction and FantasyStar Wars: The Original Trilogy
Especially in Empire Strikes Back, Luke not only learns that Darth Vader is his father — he symbolically confronts the dread that he will become another Darth Vader himself. And Luke clearly makes the wrong choice, rushing to rescue Han, Leia and his other friends instead of completing his training and trusting the Force — something that brings him right up to the edge of darkness.

Sources: Nursery Realms: Children in the Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, edited by Gary Westfahl and George Slusser. Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Overviews by Robin Anne Reid. SFFWorld discussion. Also thanks to Sheerly Avni, Tim Pratt, Laura Quilter, Lou Anders and Alyssa Rosenberg.