Ideas for Lesson Plans and Discussion Topics
Star Trails contains various lessons which are likely to be missed by casual readers. If used as part of a learning module those lessons can be pointed out and used as discussion points. Everyone makes mistakes, even adults, and it is much more effective to learn vicariously from those made by others, particularly fictitious characters, than make the same mistake yourself. This is also an opportunity to explore the science aspects in greater detail as part of science class curriculum or even explore the world of metaphysics. What follows is a summary of lessons contained in various chapters with suggested discussion topics that can prompt assignment ideas.
- What motivates research?
- Importance of innovation.
- Perseverance in the face of difficulties.
- Benefits of thinking “outside the box.”
- Complexities of personal relationships.
- Dealing with grief and loss.
- Importance of optimism.
- Relationship between thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Printable version (PDF format)
1. What would you do if you really wanted to know something? Are you willing to research it, even if it’s difficult or boring? Why is it important to be able to persist if uncovering information is essential to a situation?
2. What are some professions where research abilities are important? (Science of all varieties, forensics for criminal investigations, law interpretation.)
Chapter 1 (Answers)
1. Why is electrical power important? (We depend on electricity to maintain a civilized and advanced lifestyle. Nearly everything you do all day involves electricity in some way, whether it comes from an electrical outlet or a battery.) Name some things you could no longer do if all of a sudden there was no electricity.
2. How is electrical power generated? (There are several ways to generate electricity but they all ultimately involve a process that results in a flow of electrons. Electrons are part of atoms along with protons and neutrons. The original model of the atom with which many people are most familiar is the one that looks like a mini-solar system with the protons and neutrons clustered in the middle and the electronis orbiting around it. While electrons have been determined to have mass, they are part of the weird world of quantum mechanics and aren’t necessarily a discrete particle but more often part of an energy cloud. Their charge is negative while protons have a positive charge and neutrons, as the name implies are neutral. In their natural state, atoms have an equal number of protons and electrons so their charge is neutral. However, if it loses an electron, then its charge becomes positive.
Metals tend to lose electrons more easily than other materials which makes them good electrical conductors. Metals are also maleable, i.e. flexible, as opposed to crystals which tend to break. This all relates to how the atoms are bonded with one another.
To create an electrical current, electrons need to flow. The trick and challenge is how to get them to move. You have seen this happen on a cold day when you get zapped touching something metal, such as a doorknob. Likewise when it’s cold and dry and your hair is full of static. In this case, your hair stands up and out because it is no longer in a neutral state. But the electrons are not moving, which is why it’s called static electricity. If one hair has the same net charge as the others, they will repel each other.
Sound familiar? Right. It’s the same behavior as the response between like poles of a magnet. And guess what? There’s a strong reciprocal relationship between electricity and magnetism. It’s complex and scientists have only unraveled a small portion of the secrets they contain. But one thing we do know is that we can use electricity to create a magnet and we can use rotating magnets to create electricity. Light, the official name of which is electro-magnetic radiation, is also related. Some have achieved small-scale levitation with magnets and research is ongoing in this fascinating field of study.)
3. What are “fuel cells?” (Fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen which produces water, heat and orphaned electrons which provide an electrical current.)
4. Why is it important for electrical wire to be insulated? (Otherwise if you touch it you can be electrocuted.)
5. What is a semi-conductor? (A conductor carries electrical current while an insulator doesn’t. A semi-conductor has properties of both which provides more options in manipulating electricity such as that used in electronic devices.)
6. How can light influence electricity? (Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his work on the “photoelectric effect.” Light is energy which can stimulate the electrons in an atom to a higher level or sometimes even cause one to be stripped off, changing the atom’s charge from neutral to negative or positive, depending on what it’s natural state is.)
Chapter 2 (Transitions)
1. Why does Dirck think that false hopes are better than none? (When all hope is lost, a person would be more inclined to give up. Even if what is hoped for doesn’t occur, it buys time and something else could come along to help instead.)
2. Laren Brightstar is a “terralogist” or planetary engineer. His expertise was converting planets that had the basic characteristics needed to sustain life, like an atmosphere and liquid water, into habitable domains. He ponders how tomography could manipulate weather and provide information regarding what was beneath a planet’s surface, which was important for changing a planet as required to sustain life. However, the military and aggressive entities such as the Integrator could also use this capability in a devious way. What are some of the things they could do? (Create weather disturbances, droughts, floods, and massive storms or earthquakes in enemy territory which would give them a tactical and strategic advantage.)
Chapter 3 (Departing)
1. What were some of the reasons that Dirck and Creena didn’t get along? (He was intimidated by her because she thought differently than he did and made him feel stupid.)
2. Why was Dirck so impressed with Apoca Canyon? (He was surprised it was so sophisticated and massive in contrast to how they’d been operating with old equipment out of the Caverns. He was also impressed that his father had been so involved in its development and the amount of respect he was given by everyone there. It is often difficult for children to see their parents as others do.)
3. Why would TBAs (Technical Breakthrough Advisories) be issued? Who would receive them? Why? (Most research projects are being pursued with a definite goal and purpose in mind which is being funded by someone. Thus, reporting progress is important to the person paying the bills to make sure that things are progressing as they should. They can also be important for determined whether or not a project is on schedule, which also has financial implications because paying people their salaries is often one of the biggest expenses in such an endeavor.)
Chapter 4 (Apoca Canyon)
1. Why is Dirck surprised that the “Intelligence Processing and Synthesis” group was less effective than he and Win had been? (They had more people and more sophisticated equipment but lacked leadership and procedures that flushed out the information.)
2. Why is it important to deal with emotional situations rather than suppress them? (Because they can be a distraction and cause additional problems such as poor judgment.)
Chapter 5 (Psicom)
1. Deven has a knack for coming up with ideas, information, and in this case, a new crystal, that has tremendous promise for Creena’s research. Why is this ironic? (Deven usually makes such discoveries when he’s doing something or going somewhere that he shouldn’t. Yet, the family probably wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for his exploits and what he learns.)
2. What do you think of Deven’s idea that it doesn’t matter how something works, only that it does? What are the pros and cons of this approach? (Pro: Discovering how something works could be revealed by experiments related to its properties and behavior. Con: Without knowing exactly why something behaves the way it does can be dangerous and have unexpected effects.)
3. Would you like to have the ability to communicate telepathically? Why or why not?
4. How would you feel about someone being able to read your thoughts?
Chapter 6 (Devenite)
1. Have you ever been around someone where you could feel what they were feeling, such as anger or love?
2. What are the advantages of being able to feel someone else’s emotions? What are the disadvantages? (Feeling another’s emotions can help promote understanding. However, there are times when a person is reacting in an inappropriate way which they will eventually get under control and change. Being privy to them before they’re processed could actually cause additional misunderstandings.)
Chapter 7 (A Knick of Time)
1. What do you think it would be like on a blackhole where gravity is so strong that atoms collapse? Are you aware of how much empty space is inside of an atom?
2. When Creena, her mother, Deven, Aggie and Thyron left the caverns, where did the psitenna combined with the Think Tank take them? (Universal Time where the past, present and future are all mixed together.) Could there be such a place? Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity tell us that time is relative and changes near the speed of light or in a gravitational field. What do you think that time actually is?
3. Why does Laren think that time won’t exist in either of his possible destinations? (It’s likely that time does not exist on a blackhole or when a person is dead.)
Chapter 8 (Purple Haze)
1. Why do extreme temperatures affect electronic devices? (Semiconductors are inhibited by cold while conductors are more efficient, which changes how they operate.)
2. Dirck’s feelings toward Creena have started to change. Why? (He’s beginning to realize how much he misjudged her.)
3. How would you feel is someone gave you an assignment or project that you felt was entirely beyond your ability? Would you refuse or accept the challenge?
Chapter 9 (Vortices)
1. Do you ever feel as if you never do anything right the first time? What do you think of the saying “Good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decision?” Do you think that making mistakes is a part of life that you’re supposed to learn from? Is this a good or bad way to learn? Why or why not?
2. Laren thinks that finances are “seldom a driver for a dictatorship.” Why? (Dictators can muster free labor from their populace which saves money in wages and salaries and they can direct what resources they have in whatever direction they choose without any input or protest from their citizenry.)
3. Why did Rhodus’ demand for an audit and recount for the election that brought Integration to his territory get him arrested? (Integrated leadership didn’t want everyone to know that they’d cheated to obtain power of the territory.)
Chapter 10 (Many Happy Returns)
1. What finally motivated Dirck to solve the turbine problem once and for all? Why did he succeed this time when previously he had no idea what to do? (He accepted the others were gone and decided that he would honor their memory by doing something to help the cause they cared about. Stress and grief fog the thought process so when he got past his emotional turmoil he was able to finally think clearly and find the solution.)
2. Which trait of Creena’s did Dirck change his mind about? (That she refused to give up when she was committed to something, in this case bringing back their father.)
Chapter 11 (R&D)
1. R&D stands for “research” and “development.” How are the two related? (Before a new technology can be developed, it needs to be researched and thoroughly understood.)
2. The most expensive part of any endeavor can be the research phase. Why? (It’s difficult if not impossible to predict how long it will take to make a scientific breakthrough. Meanwhile, scientists and engineers need to be paid for their services while their sponsor isn’t receiving any income from their efforts. This is why something that may seem like a relatively inexpensive device as far as its parts are concerned may be expensive as the company tries to make up for its investment developing it.)
3. What are the advantages of using a table to record what you know or don’t know about something? (It helps you organize your thoughts and recognize what you know and what you don’t. It also helps you set goals and define the tasks which need to be done.)
4. What is “synergy?” (Synergy refers to the ability derived from two or more substances which none could achieve individually. It can relate to people working together as a team or physical or chemical substances.)
5. How do you think telepathy and other psychic phenomena work?
Scientist, Dean Radin, PhD, has done a substantial amount of work on these subjects which he has reported in his books “The Conscious Universe” and “Entangled Minds.”
While science still cannot explain exactly how it works, they are beginning to finally accept it along with other paranormal phenomena as worthy of legitimate research. In what may appear to be psi, much progress has been made toward such devices as prosthetic limbs (artificial arms, hands, legs, etc.) which are operated seemingly by the user’s thoughts while they are actually driven by electrical impulses to their muscles driven by their brain and consciously thinking about making the device respond.
Chapter 12 (Discoveries)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to do something, even if it was wrong? How did you decide what to do?
2. Why did it get warmer as Deven went deeper into the cavern? (Geothermal energy, possibly the planet’s molten core heating the aquifers, i.e. underground rivers.)
3. What is Deven’s most important trait? (Optimism. He always sees the positive side of any situation and believes that unfortunate ones will turn around. He never stops believing in a favorable outcome.)
Chapter 13 (Contact)
Why is it important that Creena, Dirck and Win figure out the communication abilities of the crystals before the Integrator does? (If the Integrator solves the problem first they will use those capabilities against them. Whichever side has them first is nearly assured of victory.)
Chapter 14 (Ethics)
1. Why did Laren tell them to abandon the crystal research related to time travel? (He considered it immoral.)
2. Why didn’t Laren tell them what he was trying to do onboard the Bezarna Express? (He wasn’t entirely sure their conversation wasn’t being monitored and he didn’t want them to get their hopes up in case his efforts failed.)
3. Troy and Spoigan have entirely different opinions regarding the incident where several test subjects were killed by Integration’s research. Which claim do you think is more valid, that people are important resources or that the trouble makers will be too much of a problem? Why? Is there a compromise that incorporates both arguments?
4. What is the advantage of having opposing views? (Seeing a problem from different sides fully defines the issue which often helps find the best solution.)
Chapter 15 (Connecting)
1. What do you think of the concept of connecting with some people mentally and others emotionally? Paul Pearsall, M.D. is a cardiology who has written “The Heart’s Code” based us his experience with heart transplant patients. There were numerous instances where the recipient mysteriously acquired memories of the donor, particularly such things as favorite foods. Do you think there are some things you remember with your brain and others with your heart? What type of memories would you store in your heart?
2. Would you like to have a c-com? Which feature would you like the most? Do you think that “smart phones” will eventually evolve to have the same capabilities?
Chapter 16 (News)
Have you ever tried to protect someone’s feelings by not telling them something they really needed to know? How did it turn out? Why is it difficult to give a person unfortunate news? Is it to protect them or because you fear dealing with their reaction?
Chapter 17 (Orders)
Have you ever been in a position where you had conflicting directives from two people? How did you decide what to do? Sometimes it’s a matter of deciding which one needs to be done immediately and which one can wait but other times it’s like one person telling you to turn left at the stop sign while another tells you to go right. How do you solve the dilemma?
Chapter 18 (Motives)
1. Do you think Sharra’s suspicions are accurate? Have you ever suspected someone of doing something that turned out to be untrue? Did your incorrect thoughts cause any problems which could have been avoided if you’d discussed the matter with the person involved?
2. Why is Spoigan so intrigued by Antara? (She is not intimidated by him.)
3. Do you think that Antara did the right thing by making her c-com disappear? Or could it cause additional problems? What would you have done?
Chapter 19 (A Matter of Time)
Have you ever misunderstood a concept which resulted in coming to an incorrect conclusion? It’s also easy to make mistakes and miscalculations. Even computers can make mistakes if they’re programmed incorrectly. What mistakes have you made because you didn’t understand something?
Chapter 20 (Waves)
1. How do you think devenite would react to negative energy? Would it respond to a person’s intent if it were selfish or would harm another person? Or would it take them back to the point where the negative energy originated and give the person an opportunity to see things differently?
2. Sharra has a dilemma. She wants her bondling back. Yet, if he returns, she’s afraid she’ll have to share him with Bryl. How (if at all) could she resolve the situation?
3. Scientist Roger Nelson has conducted experiments using a random number generator (RNG), a device that does as its name implies, i.e. picking numbers at random. He has these devices placed in various cities where they are monitored. When an event occurs which affects a large number of people, the random character of the numbers changes. Before the World Trade Center Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001, the RNGs indicated something was going to happen even before it occurred. The RNGs also registered effects for such things as a sports event held in a massive stadium. What do you think the RNGs are picking up?
Chapter 21 (A Bit of a Break)
Aggie stated that the c-com was “a communication device that operates by connecting and synching with the encephalographic glial cells of the brain via quantum photon entanglement.” This concept has been explored scientifically as part of quantum theory and states that when a photon is split the parts are nonetheless forever tied together. Thus, when something affects one of the parts, all of the others are likewise influenced. Communication occurs instantaneously between them, i.e. faster than the speed of light, which suggests time does not exist. Dean Radin, PhD (mentioned previously in the questions for Chapter 11) has found this to be the case for psychic phenomena as well. When science figures out how this works, what do you think is one application it could be used for besides communicating with other people?
Chapter 22 (Actions)
“Action Items” are often assigned at meetings like the ones I attended when I worked for NASA. They consist of a specific assignment given to a person with a deadline as well as instruction regarding to whom they should report the information. Keeping track of actions as well as when they’re completed holds the assignees accountable.
This relates indirectly to whether or not a person is dependable. How many times have you been let down by someone you counted on to help? How many times have you let someone down by not doing what you were expected to do? Why is being a reliable person important?
Chapter 23 – 24 (Customer Service and Charging)
1. Bernie and Antara communicate in code which comprises certain phrases which sound one way but mean something entirely different. Have you ever been in a situation where you used some form of a code? What other means of communication can convey a message without saying it directly? Body language and your facial expression are two of the obvious ones, but if you didn’t want someone to know what you were saying what are some other means to do so? Would it require making arrangements beforehand for the person to understand or not?
2. Why do you think Spoigan was bothered by Friar Johann’s prayer? Do you think he felt guilty for his intent or was more worried about his own well-being?
Chapter 25 (Intrusions)
1. Why do you think Sharra was defensive about Zahra’s message?
2. What does it mean, “Sometimes it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission?” (Doing something you’re not supposed to for a good reason may result in not being in trouble with whomever you defied.)
Chapter 26 (Brain Storms)
1. The world has less and less privacy due to the development of electronic surveillance. This applies to devices such as computers and cell phones as well as actual observing using such things as drones which in some cases can mimic the appearance of a flying insect. Is this a good or bad thing? What are the pros and cons of knowing what people are doing?
2. Many believe that “thoughts become things.” This can be viewed in two ways. First of all, before you accomplish anything it starts with a thought followed by action.
The other way that it’s interpreted is that a thought has metaphysical powers. The philosopher Johann von Goethe stated: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
What dream would you like to come true?
Chapter 27 (Anticipation)
1. Your subconscious is aware of numerous things your conscious mind misses. Hypnosis is one way to access your subconscious which is sometimes used so people can remember something they have forgotten or perhaps wasn’t aware of at the time it occurred. You can tell your subconscious to help you solve a problem when you go to sleep and the next day it’s likely you’ll find the solution. Why do you think your subconscious is so powerful? Is it a part of your brain or something else? Do you think your consciousness is strictly linked to your physical body? Why or why not?
2. What would it be like to interact with an intelligent alien species? In this chapter you get a glimpse inside Igni and learn a few things you didn’t before. What would the world be like if each community or even city operated like a colony of ants?
3. What are some of the qualities of Igni’s culture? (Lack of competition in favor of teamwork; Merging thoughts, ideas and ambitions into a single consciousness; No individual was expected to do anything alone; Swarming to assist anyone in trouble; Telepathic communications to name a few.)
Chapter 28 (Ascending)
1. Why did the Quadrumvirate question Troy about his knowledge regarding Spoigan’s visit to Esheron? (They needed to determine if he was involved in any way with his death.)
2. The “truth disk” used to determine whether or not he was telling the truth is a more advanced version of a lie detector which monitors a person’s physical reactions to discern whether or not they are lying. How do you feel when you don’t tell the truth? Are there some people you can never fool with a lie? How do you think they can tell?
Chapter 29 (Light and Dark)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you might die? What was your first thought? Were you at peace or terrified?
2. One thing that technology attempts to do is increase our knowledge and comfort levels. The nanobots in the chairs described in the Star Trails Tetralogy stories sense a person’s tension and then give them targeted massage and trigger point therapy to relax the muscles. A long time ago recliner chairs used to vibrate attempting to do the same thing but they were noisy and ineffective. How do you think they might work with nanobots? Nanobots are microscopic size devices which can be programmed. Considering that your muscles operate with electrical signals from your brain, what do you think the nanobots might do to tell a muscle to relax?
Chapter 30 (Negativity)
1. What would you think if you were driving a car or piloting an airplane and it suddenly took off in a direction other than where you intended it to go? Would you panic? Someday automobiles may be under the control of some government agency where you program in your destination like you do now with a GPS but instead of driving there yourself, your vehicle would automatically go there? What are the pros and cons of such a system? (Pros: Would help avoid collisions and other types of accidents; Individual driver abilities would no longer be an issue in traffic safety as well as distractions. You could sit back, do what you want and enjoy the ride; You wouldn’t have to worry about getting to your destination, getting lost, etc. Cons: If there were any bugs in the system it could be even worse than current traffic issues; If the government wanted you to be somewhere it could take you there whether or not you wanted to go; Knowing where you are and how you got there would be compromised.)
2. If you have a cell phone are you aware of everything it is capable of doing? How long did it take you to figure out how to do everything you wanted? How many things do you think it can do that you haven’t yet discovered? Spend some time exploring its functions and see what handy new app you can find.
3. What do you think of Deven’s insistence that having good on their side is enough? Do you think there are good and bad energies in the Universe? Can you sense when something is good or bad in a moral sense? Do you think that perhaps your conscience is driven by this energy?
Chapter 31 (Attitude)
1. What do you think Deven discovered about Cranium Cavern? What were its walls reflecting back? Why does he think the others have to experience it like he did or they might not believe him?
2. Do you think Bryl was justified not telling everyone of the plans she was putting in place? Is it always good for everyone to know all the facts? Or is leadership sometimes justified in planning for emergencies? Would you panic if you found out something bad was going to happen? What would make you feel better about confronting such a situation?
Chapter 32 (Karma)
1. When you are scared or upset can you think clearly? Most people cannot, mostly due to a blast of adrenaline in their system which promotes the “fight or flight” reaction to an emergency. Why would this affect your reasoning? (All your energy needs to be directed toward dealing with the immediate situation. It’s past the time to deal with it logically. However, if it’s something you’ve expected or prepared for you will know what to do. This is one of the reasons that First Aid training is so important. When someone is hurt is not the time to learn what to do, it’s a time for action and time is critical.)
2. Why do you think that after all the time that Laren has had his c-com that it suddenly requests that he give it a name? (The device is intelligent and can read his mind. It suspects that he will be more comfortable with it himself if it’s more personalized. Furthermore, naming something is considered acceptance of responsibility in various cultures. Thus naming the c-com takes his relationship with it to a different, more intimate level, allowing him to access more capabilities than previously.)
3. What is karma? Why is it an appropriate name for the c-com? (Karma is the principle that good and bad deeds will always be reciprocated. In other words, if you do good deeds, you will likewise be the beneficiary of goodness and if you do bad deeds, you will have misfortune of the same degree. It’s an appropriate name for the c-com since it has the ability to execute Laren’s commands which, if good, will bring benefit, and if bad, will bring misfortune.)
Chapter 33 (Refractions)
1. What do you do when you have a big problem? Do you want to be alone or do you prefer to talk it over with someone you trust? Do you address it with your heart or head?
2. They say that pessimists are more realistic but optimists accomplish more. Which one are you? Do you always see the bright side of a situation or are you inclined to lean toward gloom and doom whenever anything goes wrong? Do you ever overreact? One way to gauge the importance of a problem is to consider whether in a day, week, month or year it will matter anymore. How can you improve how you deal with problems and challenges?
3. Can you sense other people’s feelings? Those who can feel other’s emotions are called empaths, which can be challenging because you can’t always tell whether they’re your feelings or someone else’s. What are the pros and cons of such a sensitivity?
Chapter 34 (Results)
1. Have you ever had a dream that came true or other impression that made a difference in your life? What about your conscious dreams, what you want to happen or accomplish? Do you think that they’ll come true just because you want them to or do you think you have to take action and work for them? How would having a plan help?
2. Have you ever thought you’d solved a problem only to find out your solution wouldn’t work? How did you handle the disappointment? Did you give up or try something else?
3. Have you ever been depressed? What did you do to overcome it? Did you turn to anyone for help? If you knew someone was depressed and considering ending their life what would you do?
Chapter 35 (Plans)
1. Who do you go to when you need advice or information? Do you go to someone who is knowledgeable or someone who will simply agree with you? It’s always best when you have a question of a technical nature to talk to an expert. For example, if you were having trouble with your chemistry homework you wouldn’t talk to your English teacher. The internet provides numerous options as well but make what you find is valid. Depending on what you’re trying to research, the information it provides may not be accurate. How do you make sure it is?
2. What does the admonition “Question everything” mean to you? While it’s nice to think that experts in a given subject know everything, this is not always the case. In many cases people do not deliberately lie, but have been given inaccurate information themselves. People at all levels make mistakes. How can you make sure that something is true?
3. Why would someone withhold the truth from others? It has been said that when you want to know the reason someone is lying or not providing important information that you should “follow the money.” This means that it’s likely that someone is profiting from lying. If that’s the case, how can it help you to figure out the truth?
Chapter 36 (Preparations)
Why could it be dangerous for Karma to provide information without being asked? (Sometimes people aren’t ready, either emotionally, mentally or intellectually, to learn something which could cause harm to them or others.)
Chapter 37 – 38 (Frozen Time and Finale)
1. Have you ever shared an intense or even traumatic experience with others? Such things as extreme weather and other natural disasters help people forget their differences and group together to survive. People who have served together in the military often develop close bonds and remain in touch their entire lives. On a less dramatic scale, academic sports teams can achieve a similar bond which lasts for years. Why do you think this occurs?
2. There are some goals that you can’t achieve alone but require the help and support of others. Name some examples, such as becoming a famous actor.
What would the world be like if all negativity and hate were eliminated? What can you do as an individual to help create such a world?