East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Wizard of Science needed

I am a scientist. Maybe a defrocked, non-practicing scientist, but that’s my culture.
We have a method, we have an ethic, we serve Truth.
It’s hard work, but it’s also way cool – explore the mysteries of the universe and all that.
Science is something that informs my worldview – granted, I can suspend disbelief and read and enjoy (or write, and sell) a fantasy story, but at heart I have a certain set of rational routines and I will never be able to completely dis-install them.

And I’m getting increasingly nervous about the growing backlash against science I see around me.
You can’t correct someone’s wrong notion that you will be billed as an “arrogant know-it-all”.
And I wonder if fiction doesn’t have a part of responsibility.


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Dragon bones

And talking about China and fossils… 50 cents per kg is the price of dinosaur bones used as medicine in central China.

I was researching Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleontologist that in the 1930s found a tooth belonging to a Gigantopithecus in an Hong Kong pharmacy, and I collected a few factoids about the practice of consuming “long gu” (“dragon bones”) for medical purposes – which is still is still going strong in China today.


The most common afflictions cured by boiling or grinding into powder the fossil bones are cramps and dizziness, but the list of possible applications is long and varied.

“… “dragon bones” are crushed to a fine powder, boiled, and mixed with other ingredients to make healing concoctions. According to an ancient Chinese medical text (dating back around 2000 years) pulverized fossils have been used to treat conditions ranging from diarrhea to epilepsy to “manic running about.” Some ancient “medical” conditions were mystical ailments. For example, dragon bone “mainly treats heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual miasma, and old ghosts.”

In 2007, the BBC revealed that one enterprising bone collector had found, dug out and sold about 8.000 kilos of old bones.
According to online sources, today, more than 100 tons of “dragon bones” are consumed each year in China and Southeast Asia.

All of which is great news not only for my Silk Road book (updates, updates!), but is also excellent fodder for stories.