Posts Tagged: science

An Anti-anti-science Novel

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“It is a comfort to know how swiftly and thoroughly a civilization can crumble when nobody wants it anymore,” Rowan says early in his story…that observation is more than just a wry criticism of our current defunding of space exploration. It’s an indictment of the entire anti-scientific mindset that’s become increasingly, alarmingly prevalent in too many pockets of American society today.

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Writing Helps Writers

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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.

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Jeff VanderMeer author photo by Kyle Cassidy 2014

The Rumpus Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

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Jeff VanderMeer discusses the environment, his childhood, and the conception and conclusion of his Southern Reach Trilogy. ...more

Word of the Day: Vaticinate

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(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.

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From Metaphor to Consciousness

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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.

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The Unteachable Dark

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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.

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The Science of Why You Can’t Read Good Literature

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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.

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The Science of Creativity

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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.

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Learning to Look Closer

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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.

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Man vs. Terrifying Gigantic Agribusiness

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…“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 YorkerRachel Aviv tells the story of the corporation’s relentless campaign against one biology professor—and his increasingly desperate attempts to fight back.

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How to Scientifically Predict a Novel’s Success

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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.

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Reading Makes You Better At Life

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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.”

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