Geeking Science: P is for Psychopath

Image from Dreamtime (paid for)

In “Hope for the Future” (1/28/2024), I created a small slice of the future run by psychopath. And if I continue the Gas Station Killer (first post appearing at 2/7/2021) series far enough, the serial killer(s) posing and modus operandi will lead the police to their doorstep(s). Unlike ADHD and autism, the killer versions of neuro-spicy have little benefit in a healthy society, hunter-gatherer or modern, but they do provide a ton of fun material for writers of thrillers and mysteries. The challenge is to present them realistically without reminding people (too much) that these types are monsters are real.

Psychopath and sociopath are used interchangeably by non-specialists, but neither are defined in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders.” There the diagnosis becomes defined as “antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)”. Under 18, the diagnose is “conduct disorder”.  In either case, going against societies standards, even quantified ones like laws, without remorse, is standard. Lying, tricking, and endangering others is done without empathy. Some going against society restrictions is expected, especially during teenage years, but people with ASPD have it in unhealthy levels. (Baby)

But when psychopathy is added to the mix, it takes ASPD to another level. About 1% of the population has psychopathy, and 25-30% of people with ASPD have these traits. Psychopathy isn’t a disorder or a diagnosis, but more like introvert or extrovert – just a set of traits some people have. Few of these traits are good … just saying: insincere charm, easily bored, manipulation of others, no guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and usually many sexual relations, likely because of the inability to connect emotionally but the brain’s neuro-spicy bonus of immediate rewards administered at a higher priority than “average”. Given the lack of guilt, failure to accept responsibility, and the manipulation of others, if this combo is found in someone with average intelligence (and 50% of all humans are at or below average – statistics being what they are over a population), crime and getting caught doing the crime is common. 15-25% of people in prisons display psychopathy traits. (Baby)

The upside of psychopathy is little-to-no imposture syndrome and virtually no anxiety issues. Helps not to care. Hey, not all traits personality need to be negative, even in a group package like psychopathy.

Not every person with psychopathy or ASPD is a serial killer, or even a criminal. Some function in society fine, and there are even jobs tailor-made for them. For example, repossession (of cars), foreclosures (of homes), and dunning (of credit) are all necessary in a capitalistic society for a lending system to function. I had a sister who worked in a dunning call center for about two months, but it destroyed her emotionally – people in that position needed a good helping of psychopathy to survive long-term. Sure we all hate people in these positions, especially when we are on the receiving end of life raining lemons on us after covering our bodies in papercuts, and being unable to pay back loans. But if a lending system is to exist, recourse on collecting the loans are needed too. (Not sure which is worse, not having a lending system or having a lending system.)

But back to the FUN part of psychopaths for writing. Serial killers – thank goodness there is not as many of these monsters in reality as show up in fiction but aren’t they fun in a fictional setting?

There are “organized” and “disorganized.” Organized creating premeditated crimes (which mysteries love so much), and the other creating crimes of passion (perfect for thrillers).

The organized are sane, not healthy but they are sane, an important distinction. They are aware they are killing people and society will punish them for this behavior if it is discovered. To stay unfound they are usually charming and have a “normal” life, even with spouses and children. A good job is necessary to get time off and travel money. Police hate organized killers as they don’t make many mistakes and stringing together enough of the mistakes for the police to actually find them could mean a long line of bodies. Readers love a good organized psychopath for murder mysteries.

The especially fun parts for readers are Modus Operandi (MO) and the signature. In romances, a reader loves how far-flung locations change up love stories; for mystery readers, a good MO makes all the difference between their “book candy” hauls. The method of operation combines things like the type of victim, where the victim is acquired, and the weapon used. All the things that make up the crime. The signature is something the perpetrator does not have to do to commit the crime, such as leaving a riddle with the body or redressing the person in a red gown. The signature comes from the fantasies driving the un-aliving. (Bonn)

Staging and Posing may be part of the signature. For the “Gas Station Killer”, the body(s) was found posed in a gas station bathroom. This particular killer does not stage to confuse the police, although moving the body away from the kill site means a lot of evidence is missing, and the amount of people using gas station bathrooms means any evidence missed during the transfer is highly compromised. The killer is driven by their fantasy to pose the victims.

Have you even written a serial killer with an MO and signature? Comment below what parts of the science of psychology you drew from to create your antagonist (or anti-hero) below. As I indicated, I used posing for the “Gas Station Killer” signature and their MO was the type of person they chose to kill and how they drained the blood from the body. In “Hope for the Future,” I played off organized and disorganized killers on a prisons ship interacting – using their different strengths to create a functional society which could (hopefully) perpetuate itself for the members to survive. Hard to do when most of the ship has the antisocial personality disorder and the inability to follow laws. But if the convicts do not figure it out, death will be long and uncomfortable to the last few left standing at the end.


Baby, Dany P. (reviewer). “How Sociopathy and Psychopaths are Different.” WebMD. 16 March 2023. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Bonn, Scott A. “Serial Killers: Modus Operandi, Signature, Staging & Posing – Understanding and classifying serial killer crime scenes.” Psychology Today. 29 June 2015. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Lampley, Steven. “The Psychological Phases of Serial Killers.” Psychology Today. 25 August 2020. ( – last viewed 11/16/2023)

Geeking Science: In space they can’t hear you burp

Photo 172161164 | Burp © Andrej Privizer |

An often quoted piece of science fiction wisdom is “In space they can’t hear you scream.” Since vacuum doesn’t carry noise, if the bad guy shoves you out of an air lock, no one will hear the protest. Screaming into the void does nothing.

A lesser know piece of knowledge is “In space they can’t hear you burp.” Not exactly for the same reason as the screaming thing … well, yes, the vacuum does not carry the burp sound. But, and this will be important as we move into space, microgravity prevents the gas from glomming together into bubbles large enough for the body muscles to push out. In other words, you can’t burp in space.

Soda, beer, and all those lovely bubbly drinks can’t be taken into space – or made there. Many science fiction stories talk about how the engineers make a little distillery back in the engine room. Whiskey-in-the-jaro will be fine, beer, not so much. Enough to make one dive into a gravity well, if that is the only way to crack a cold one. (Hey, I should make a flash for that. —Done, hang around for 1/21/2024 “Memory of a Kiss”.)

Science fiction often explores mankind adapting to space as settlers. That means reproduction, and babies need burping. Humans gulp air as part of the eating process (it is actually necessary to taste food and aids in digestion), babies more than most. Until they develop the skill set to burp themselves, parents spend hours patting backs with babies draped over shoulders and legs, then changing clothes from the escaping curds. Can you imagine the pain the little babies will be in if burping isn’t possible?

If microgravity isn’t possible to raise children, how will humans settle space?

Specifically Can’t Burp In Space science:

  1. Instead of gases rising up through the esophagus, there is no “up” in microgravity and the gases get distributed throughout the digestive system.
  2. If you do manage to work a burb “up” to the mouth, instead of “out” the back, it comes with gifts because the liquid and gas haven’t separated. A burp is usually have vomit bits.
  3. Astronauts use special air suction systems to keep airflow away from the mouth, to prevent vomit or-bits. (Microgravity means anything that comes up will orbit the nearest large mass, which is the person. New meaning to whoever smelt it, dealt it.)
  4. Astronauts have a specific low-gas food diet – no carbonated beverages, but also no beans and broccoli, no yeast (risen) bread. That food in a bag is two-fold. One, it doesn’t fly away in the microgravity, but two, as much of the air has been removed as possible.


Planetary Society. “Fact Worth Sharing.” The Downlink. 6 October 2023. (This is an email magazine

Project Archinaut. “Can burp in space? 7 Reasons why you can’t.” Undated. (last viewed 11/14/2023 – Note 4/26/2024 link is no longer working)

Ungar, Eugene K. “Two-Phase Behavior in Mircorgravity.” Nasa. August 2021. ( – last viewed 11/14/2023 – This is a PDF slide show.)

Other Cool Blogs: The Smithsonian

1918-1919. An epidemic of Spanish Flu spread around the world. At least 20 million died, although some estimates put the final toll at 50 million. It`s estimated that between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of the entire world`s population became sick

I recently ran across a Smithsonian blog created in 2017 for a special report “The Next Pandemic”. It’s an interesting lookback to “How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health“. Points brought up included realizing that disease does not respect borders, so WHO was created; and creating disease reporting systems. The impact of 2% of the planet dying to disease left holes, and passions to make sure those holes did not reoccur for future generations.

COVID has killed about 1%, although the hidden damage left behind from COVID likely is claiming a lot of people before their time, but not officially from COVID.

How will COVID change society? Studying the 1918 Flu Pandemic and it’s society impact can help indicate changes we might see in psychology, medical fields, political, and sociological. Besides, the Smithsonian Magazine is always a cool blog to follow.

Spinney, Laura. “How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health.” Smithsonian Magazine. 9/27/2017 – – last viewed 1/2/2023.

Geeking Science: The DNA of Political Science

Twisted science happens when politics drives the results. Makes the truth go to the dark side.

But what is a scientist to do when their funding comes from a corporation, person, or political organization?

Fiddle with the statistics, of course. Because if you fiddle enough, maybe, you get the results your benefactor/captor wants.

The most recent example of this comes from Florida and is related to COVID, where the Florida Surgeon General released an analysis claiming “an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39” who take the COVID vaccine. To get that result, six different statistical analysis were run, with a lot of relevant information dropped between drafts, until the Florida governor and his Surgeon General got a result of “vaccination bad”. Your Local Epidemiologist released an article on 27 April 2023 on the “Evolution of Florida vaccine analysis.” It’s fascinating and frightening.

A stark reminder that while trusting Science is a good thing, reviewing the behind-the-scenes politics may also be required. From “herbal remedies” to “diet science” to “four out of five…,” truth gets twisted from the basic research. If, indeed, the research was even done according to the scientific peer-review method.

Fear, funding, and freedom all impact what science can reveal.

Bibliography “Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (undated),When%20is%20flu%20season%20in%20the%20United%20States%3F,peaks%20between%20December%20and%20February. – last viewed 4/27/2023.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “The Roses of Success”. (1968)

Jetelina, Katelyn and Kristen Panthagani, MD, PhD. “Evolution of Florida vaccine analysis.” Your Local Epidemiologist. (April, 27, 2023) – last viewed 4/27/2023.

Megan Ciafre. “Sith Lord Transformation”. (2023)

Nickelback. “She Keep Me Up.” (2015) – the words and music for “twisted trickster” sound bite

Geeking Science: Capturing Bubbles in CGI and other Black Matters

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Movie Poster from Internet Hive Mind

Photography has been a white person game for a long time. The film for photos and film was optimized for light skin. When computer special effects came around, CGI illumination of skin likewise concentrated on the melatonin levels found in the layers of Caucasian skin. CGI hair mimicked either clumped animal hair or straight Caucasian hair.

Time for change.

Quick background – really, lighting for film concentrated on making white people to look good. It’s hard to make someone look good when the tools aren’t even on your side. For example

“Shirley cards” used by film-makers to calibrate skin tones and light, only featured Caucasian models until well into the 70s (and only changed because of complaints from photographers trying to advertise chocolate or wood furniture).  (Latif, 2022)

During the creation of Shrek, animators discovered skin looked more real when created with layers of reflection.

If you shine a laser pointer on a wall you’ll see just a small spot of light. But shine it on your hand and you’ll see a blob of red light because the light is spread around,” said Stephen Marschner, a professor of computer graphics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  (Onion, 2005)

To get skin to look real, the CGI character models needed layers to the outer shell replicating light interaction with skin. The programmers in the early oughts (00s) tapped research in the medical community studying skin for cancer and to find the difference between young and old skin to create their algorithms. (Secondary Rabbit Hole: The medical community used light refraction to study the difference between old and young skin, by analyzing “the skin between the thumb and the first finger of 400 Caucasian women ranging in age from 10 to 70.” (Onion) – and some of the discoveries are really cool and will impact makeup and health for decades to come. Note the studies used to create the algorithms were from Caucasian subjects.)

Change was needed when Wakanda Forever wanted to do underwater scenes with people of color, both Mexico-born and African heritage. Not only did they need to redo algorithms to account for different melatonin amounts in different levels of the CGI character model layers, but also deal with the underwater light diffusion.

Then the Wakanda Forever programmers had to start all over with the CGI algorithms for hair. Aquaman came first, and those movie makers said that the CGI effects for hair were tough. (Failes, 2018) Unlike Aquaman, Wakanda Forever did a lot of wet shooting and discovered something. Curly and kinky hair captures air – bubbles happen. Not only does kinky hair flow different underwater, but if reproducing people who recently went underwater, air bubbles need to be taken into account.

The science of filmmaking is worth geeking about, especially as inclusion and representation pushes technology boundaries, even in the CGI algorithms. If you are interested in photograph or filmmaking or CGI animation, I highly recommend diving down this rabbit hole.

Also check out a third rabbit hole on the hair styles for Wakanda Forever (Cummings, 2022)).


Alter, Ethan. “How the ‘Wakanda Forever’ visual effects team evolved the way Black skin and hair are digitally replicated onscreen.” 12/21/2022. – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Cummings, Faith. “The Story Behind the Stunning Array of Hair Looks in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Vogue. 11/21/2022. – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Failes, Ian. “In ‘Aquaman,’ Underwater CG Hair Was Surprisingly One of the Toughest Effect.” Cartoon Brew. 12/30/2018. – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Latif, Nadia. “It’s lit! How film finally learned to light black skin.” The Guardian. 9/21/2017. – last viewed 12/27/2022.

Onion, Amanda. “Shrek Animators, Dermatologists Share Beauty Secret.” ABCnews. 4/4/2005. – last viewed 12/27/2022.