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Materials Professor Fabricates Sci-fi Thriller

Mayan Mars, a novel by UCSD professor of materials science Marc André Meyers
Mayan Mars, a novel by UCSD professor of materials science Marc André Meyers

The view from materials science professor Gustavo Chen’s office window takes in waves breaking on a sandy La Jolla beach as surfers farther out bob on their boards like strange birds. In Mayan Mars, Chen is the fictional hero and alter ego of the book’s author, UCSD professor of materials science Marc André Meyers, whose real office has a view of a eucalyptus tree and a sand-colored masonry wall. But even professors can dream.

Meyers has written a riveting science fiction tale that includes slavery and human sacrifice in pre-Columbian Maya society. The modern technological twist in Mayan Mars includes an accidental release of a killer microbe that was retrieved from the Red Planet by a NASA space mission. The Maya prophesy that the world will end in 2012 is a central element of Mayan Mars as well as Apocalypto, an action film about the ancient Maya that is being directed by Mel Gibson. The movie is scheduled for release in December 2006.

The tale Meyers wrote is based on his research of scholarly descriptions of sometimes disturbing Mayan myths, and his frequent travels in the Brazilian hinterland where he encountered many vestiges of Maya civilization. Coincidently, Meyers became intrigued as a young man by the beaks of the Toco Toucan that he found in the same jungles. In 2005, Meyers published the first-every analysis of the beak of the fruit-eating bird in Acta Materialia. The unique biocomposite structure is composed of a bone-like foam covered by a keratin shell. Meyers also discovered that the system is optimized for strength and lightness. Stay tuned for Meyers’ next scientific paper and more creative writing exploits.

Materials Professor Fabricates Sci-Fi Thriller