Sharp Blue: Minor lapses in communication


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My dad was quite a lot worse today. He had to go to the bathroom to vomit a few times and hasn’t had much energy. This came as quite a surprise, because yesterday he was in the loft clattering around trying to scare the squirrels that have decided to move in. Anyway, a little while ago we got to the root of the problem. The phenytoin (his anti-fit medication) had been making him feel sleepy so yesterday our GP advised him to take it in the evening rather than in the morning as he’d been doing till then. Today he didn’t take his regular dose in the morning and he became so worried about having a seizure that he’s been making himself feel sick with anxiety all day. He didn’t think to tell us about this, which is lapse one.

If he had told us, then we could’ve told him that it was nothing to worry about. One of the clinical staff had told us that seizures associated with precision radiotherapy for brain tumours are extremely rare unless the patient had been having such fits before the treatment, which my dad hadn’t been. I clearly remember this and so does my mum, but my dad doesn’t. My mum thinks that perhaps we were told this when he was actually receiving the treatment and we were in the control room watching the monitors. Whether or not this was the case, this is a second lapse in communcation. If one or both of these lapses hadn’t happened, today would’ve been a much less unpleasant day. I think, though, that the amount of information with which cancer patients and their families are bombarded means that such lapses in effective communication must be all too common.

On a more positive note, I got a reply from Alastair Reynolds to my email about various minor scientific errors in his books, which cheered me up a lot.

What were the errors? I picked up Redemption Ark today and am looking forward to devouring it over the weekend.

They won't prevent you from enjoying the book. The first was that he says that configuration space and phase space are the same thing, whereas the latter is the cotangent bundle over the former (and the system he describes is discrete and so doesn't have a phase space at all). The second is that he often says (in this and earlier novels) "topology" when he really means "geometry". For example, he talks about making small changes to drive's containment topologies, which doesn't make sense because you can't make a small change to the topology but only to the geometry.

I've notices another small error since then. He incorrectly describes relativistic aberration as compressing the sky into a band around the equator, whereas it should displace stars from behind the ship and concentrate them in front. This is a common enough error in sf (although Baxter recently got it right).

I have more serious problems with one of the central magical technologies, but I'll have to work through my analysis in more detail before saying anything.

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