One small, handwritten letter

Sent from a dark, remote corner of the planet

And lost in the system for sixty years

Is about to change the entire human race.

 

Outside Denver, Colorado, Joe Rickards stands over a small aircraft wreckage, studying burnt remains still smoldering in a field of freshly fallen snow.  An investigator for the NTSB, working to carefully roll back the last several hours and identify the cause of the accident. 

 

But this time, he can’t. 

 

The details behind this tragedy don’t add up.  Unlike every other investigation of Joe’s career, the facts make no sense.  Each new piece of information only makes the accident more mysterious, and more baffling.

 

Why would a person receive an age-old letter and suddenly disappear into the thick of night?  Paying to be flown out of a closed airport in the worst possible weather conditions, by a pilot who hadn’t had his hand on the stick in years.

 

With the only surviving relative insisting her grandfather would never have climbed into a small airplane in the first place, even in perfect weather.

 

A bizarre string of events culminating in a horrible accident unlike anything Rickards has experienced.  Leaving his only hope at understanding it, in the hands of the victim’s sole remaining relative.  Beginning with how a mysterious letter could turn up after being lost in the system for sixty years.  Sent by someone who should have already been long dead. 

 

A single letter, Joe Rickards is about to discover, with a secret that will change the entire world.

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GENESIS: When a young marine biologist discovers that she’s the victim of a deceptive US Navy research group, her world is suddenly turned upside down. Together Alison Shaw and her colleague Chris Ramirez, are left trying to pick up the pieces of their professional lives.

But those pieces are about to put Alison on a path with two creatures that are destined to change everything.  Beginning with one of the greatest technological achievements in human history.  And an extraordinary computer system known as IMIS.

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Fact vs. Fiction

Is there actual research currently underway to break the human/dolphin language barrier?

Yes!  There are many different teams around the world working on this.  All using slightly different approaches.  One of the most popular, and longest running, is The Wild Dolphin Project, run by well-known researcher Denise Herzing.  You can find her all over the internet if you search for her.

How much of the gorilla’s character Dulce is real?

Quite a bit actually.  Dulce’s character is drawn largely from the progress made with Koko, the female gorilla living at the Gorilla Foundation in California.  Unfortunately, Koko passed away recently, but she was the first of multiple gorillas at the foundation to dramatically advance the level of real cognitive communication between humans and apes.  In fact, the human character in the book named DeeAnn Draper is a real person, who worked at the foundation for ten years with those very same gorillas.  And every Breakthrough book published has been read and scrutinized by DeeAnn Draper to ensure accuracy and consistency in how both Dulce and Dexter would likely behave under these circumstances.

Are modern computer systems like IMIS really that powerful?

Yes.  As a matter of fact, the processing power of today’s supercomputers is understated in the Breakthrough books more than anything else.  In Mosaic, I briefly mentioned one of Google’s new supercomputers completely mastering the game of chess in mere hours, which is 100% true.  The system, called AlphaZero, not only mastered the entire game without any human input but it then promptly beat what was then the world’s top chess-champion program.  This is just a small example of not only what the systems are capable of today, but also their speed!

Where did the idea for Breakthrough first come from?

The core idea for the story was born many years ago when I was reading a book by famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.  At the end of one of his books, he posited an interesting thought which was: how could human beings ever hope to communicate with an extraterrestrial race if we haven’t even yet managed to communicate with the second-most intelligent species on the planet, or dolphins.   I thought about that question for a long time, wondering how that might be possible.  And given my background in Information Technology, I began forming an idea on how it might realistically happen, and what we might learn.  This eventually led to the writing of my first book Breakthrough.  Ironically, one of the newest teams to enter the field of dolphin language research is in Sweden, and they’re planning to use a powerful computer as their primary tool.  I wonder where they got that idea.  ;)

How accurate are the DNA aspects of the story?

Very accurate.  The DNA research in breakthrough is deep and painstaking, as is much of the other information in the series.  More specifically, when speaking about common DNA between species, the data is both accurate and well-established within the scientific community.  For example, humans and apes sharing 95% or more of our genes is completely true, as is the same overlap, though to lesser degrees with other animals, such as mice, cats, and even cows.  This is one of the primary reasons mice are so useful in medical research.  Therefore, DNA overlap with dolphins is not at all surprising.

Is the Big Brain Trio theory real?

Yes, it is.  The commonalities between human, dolphin, and elephant brains were established by a researcher named Michael McGowen at the Center for Molecular Medicine.  You can read an article on that discovery using this link:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/47970801/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/dolphins-humans-share-brainy-genes/#.XEdOdM2IZPY

Is it possible that extraterrestrials really do exist, and could have come here?

This is perhaps one of the most-debated ideas of all the questions I receive.  Stories have abounded for decades about alien visitors from outside our solar system.  But rather than discuss the possibility, I think it’s more appropriate here to discuss likelihood.  In Mosaic, book five of the Breakthrough saga, Will Borger explains to Lee Kenwood the famed “Drake Equation.”  This was a calculation put forward by Frank Drake, in an attempt to actually quantify not just the likelihood but the actual number of possible alien races in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.  The number, even by conservative estimates is quite startling.  So, the question then becomes: if they do exist, how many are there, and is it possible that even one of them has already visited Earth?  And when you consider just how new our own technical abilities really are, and our deeply, almost instinctual desire to explore, it’s not all that hard to believe another species, or several of them, have had the same desire.

Are the Breakthrough books part of an effort to deliver a deeper, environmental message?

Believe it or not, I get asked this, or accused of this quite often.  The truth is, neither Breakthrough nor its sequels are intended as a subtle, or not-so-subtle, political soapbox.  It is not, and has never been my intention to sway people’s opinions on the subject of environmentalism.  We all have our own beliefs on what we are and should be doing, and the last thing I want the books to feel like is a debate.  Any environmental themes from the books stem solely from my belief that we live on a pretty amazing planet, and there are likely many things and relationships around us, which are beyond our current level of understanding.

Are wormholes like the one in Breakthrough real?

Wormholes are a fascinating topic.  Described as a tunnel “through” time and space, wormholes are not only possible but predicted by the theory of general relativity.  Tunnels that could provide shortcuts for otherwise long journeys through space.  However, wormholes would also require extraordinary amounts of energy to be created.  So the questions for humans, given our current level of technical sophistication, is how do we do it, and when will be we able to?

How is Steve Caesare's name pronounced?

Ha.  Believe it or not, I get this question a lot.  Steve Caesare's name is pronounced "Ceasare", like the salad.  And what very few people know is that he is based on a real person.

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