Posts Tagged: science
For centuries the study of flowers and the cultivation of gardens were deemed to be safe pursuits for genteel young ladies – providing they did not aspire to become professional botanists…Carl Linnaeus’s sexual system for the classification of plants, based on stamens and pistils and expressed in overtly sexual terms, changed all that.
Powerful writing might be just as moving for the writer as for the reader. New research is demonstrating that the old advice about writing through your problems might actually be based in science. Researchers in various studies are gauging how writing about situations can help improve them, like students writing essays about the difficulty adjusting to college....more
(v.); to prophesy or foretell the future; from the Latin vati- (“seer”) + -cin-, combining form of canere (“to sing, prophesy”)
“Louisiana, Louisiana, They’re tryin’ to wash us away. They’re tryin’ to wash us away.”
—Randy Newman, from “Louisiana 1927.”
Much has been written on the subject of the human race’s fear of the unknown: from speculating on what happens after we die to relentless attempts to predict the future, from the impact of technology to whether it’s going to rain tomorrow....more
Neuroscientists are examining metaphors and finding that they’re essential to language. Modern brain scanning has allowed scientists to look at brain activity as the brain employs metaphors from language. What has been found is that the brain interprets metaphors literally. For instance, metaphors based on actions involving the body activate areas of the brain that normally activate when the body is in motion....more
Writers Rivka Galchen and Zoë Heller, over at The New York Times, discuss the question that will never go away: can writing be taught? They raise valid points about whether teaching writing is fundamentally different from teaching something like science and the rigid way American high schools teach essay writing....more
Writer Michael Harris discusses digital distraction and reading War and Peace at Salon:
But there’s a religious certainty required in order to devote yourself to one thing while cutting off the rest of the world. We don’t know that the inbox is emergency-free, we don’t know that the work we’re doing is the work we ought to be doing.
The question, “why fiction?” has very much been on my mind lately, and it’s one of these things that, again, is so big, and so obvious that most people just don’t think about it. It seems obvious to people that human beings love stories.
For the Atlantic, Cody C. Delistrarty ponders whether a person can learn to be creative, or if he or she is simply born with the trait. Framing his essay on Mary Shelley and her writing process for Frankenstein, Delistrarty presents several prevailing theories, among them that an “openness to experience” is often crucial for an artist’s work....more
Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova talks with cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz about her new book On Looking, which is about the way sensory awareness impacts our perception of reality. The two discuss how “a writer is a professional observer” and how when you look at things more closely, you see—and imagine—them differently:
When you look closely at anything familiar, it kind of transmogrifies into something unfamiliar — the sort of cognitive version of saying your name again and again and again, or a word again and again and again, and getting a different sound of it after you’ve repeated it forty times.
Lord Byron’s estranged daughter, Lady Ada Lovelace, was just as swashbuckling and as tragic as her father. She was also a card shark, drug addict, and computer genius....more
Whether or not we like the contents, most of us agree: books smell pretty good. (For the truly devoted, there’s even a paper-scented perfume you can wear.) The chemistry blog Compound Interest explores what exactly makes books smell so good and what that smell can tell us about a book’s age and condition....more
What role can a knowledge of scientific concepts play in understanding literature? It comes as no surprise that “biological science remains more-or-less completely un-talked about in English seminar,” as M.M. Owen writes in a piece featured on The Millions, but does this mean that science should be ignored in discussions of literature?...more
…“grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.”…“What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”
An actor’s notes for a role? A writer’s sketch of a character for a novel? Actually, these are observations by the communications manager of agribusiness giant Syngenta, as she and her colleagues try to figure out how to discredit the scientist who found one of their herbicides to cause “birth defects in humans as well as in animals.”
For the New Yorker, Rachel Aviv tells the story of the corporation’s relentless campaign against one biology professor—and his increasingly desperate attempts to fight back....more
It’s impossible to predict what will make a book sell well, but scientists at Stony Brook University think they might be on the right track.
After conducting statistical analyses of novels from several genres, they were able to predict with 84% accuracy whether a book was “highly successful” based on certain elements of style such as “discourse connectives” and “verbs that describe thought-processing.”
Of course, there’s a pretty large degree of subjectivity inherent in any study of this nature, but it’s still interesting stuff to think about....more
A degree in English may make your job search harder, but it makes empathy and social interaction easier, according to a study conducted by some people who had more practical majors.
The study, published in Science, found that literary fiction like Dostoevsky or Louise Erdrich enhanced subjects’ ability to read others’ emotions more than did popular fiction or “nonfiction that was well-written, but not literary or about people.”
Erdrich’s take on the matter: “This is why I love science….[They] found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction….Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries.”...more
When I think of sitting at the kitchen table as a child eating dinner, I don’t have memories of luscious homemade foods....more
Perrin Ireland’s work combines art with science, using shape and color to tell visual stories about cerebral subjects like microbiomes and the Higgs-Boson particle....more
Some scientific experiments can sound ridiculous, especially to us writerly types—like, for instance, a study measuring mosquitoes’ attraction to limburger cheese.
There’s even a fake prize dedicated to mocking such studies: the “Ig Nobel,” which the aforementioned mosquito story won several years back....more
What happens when you put a well-regarded social psychologist fixated on order in an academic system that rewards breakthrough experiments over failed ones?
You get one of the biggest con jobs in academic history.
The New York Times Magazine profiles Diederik Stapel, whose experiments on behavioral issues like racism and greed were completely faked....more