The Science of Writing and Reading

By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a while since I’ve written any posts related to science on here. There are some really cool articles that have come out, specifically about books. (Hint: Books are good for your health, and can even improve your memory, according to Bustle.)

Reading and Your Brain

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have found that reading a novel can affect your brain for days afterwards. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia gave people sections of a novel described as a “page turner” to read each day, and then went through a fMRI scan each morning after. They found heightened connectivity in parts of the brain, which may mean that your favorite books could have lasting impacts and possibly actually change your life.

According to Bustle, “According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents.”

Life Hacker gives some tips on how to read a book in just one day. The gist is to mix it up between ebook, print book, and audiobook, read in intervals, take notes, and find a good spot to do your reading.

And on a related note, Test Tube shared an interesting article explaining why people go deaf when reading. I’ve noticed this a lot with myself, when I’m really into a book, I tend to lose track of everything else around me. According to the article, it’s called “inattentional deafness,” and it means “when our brain is immersed in an intense task, the time it takes the brain to convey information to our consciousness is delayed. This process is known as the P3 Response. The team found that our auditory and visual senses share a limited neural resource. This partially explains how we tend to “zone out” from time to time.”

Writing Good Books

The Telegraph reported on scientists who came up with an algorithm that analyzes books and predicts if they will become bestsellers. A team from Stony Brook University in New York used books from Project Gutenberg and found that their algorithm matched the success of the public domain books 84% of the time. Some insights: books with lots of conjunctions, nouns and verbs did well compared to books with more adverbs.

Teleread reported on Typedrummer, which makes drum sounds out of text. Every letter has a particular sound, and according to the article, “actual sentences yield more complex and actually attractive sounds.”

Content Sharing

The Next Web shared that combining neuroscience and psychology can help us create content that people actually want to share. Emotion often makes people want to share, so it’s important to know why people want to share and what kind of content is shareable. Examples include being entertaining, inspiring, or useful, expressing ourselves, or nurturing our relationships with close friends. In general, positive messages are more likely to be shared, as well as practical information.

Machine learning can help readers find the content/books they’re looking for, according to an article in Digital Book World. A company called “Intellogo is able to recognize ideas and literary concepts, such as the mood of a text or a style of writing, with the software’s algorithms interpreting excerpts from any variety of sources (ebooks, Internet articles, Wikipedia, etc.) and can then connect, predict and recommend content based on user criteria.”



Looking for Innovative Stories? Here’s a List of Ebooks, Apps, Websites, Games, and More

Ebooks, or maybe I should say stories, come in all shapes and sizes: EPUB, apps, virtual reality, games, and more. If you want to see some exciting, innovative new forms of storytelling, check out this list (sure devices have some limitations and enhanced ebooks haven’t exactly taken off yet, but there are ways to make ebooks great): Continue reading

In the Name of Science

Photo by Josh Landis, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Turns out that the bands scientists have been attaching to penguins for 50 years to study them has been doing more harm than good. Because of the bands, penguins are producing fewer offspring and have a lower survival rate–probably because the bands impede their swimming abilities, which makes it harder to gather food. Still, the success of the penguins help indicate climate change, so it’s important for scientists to continue to study them. How? They may switch to microchips.

Penguins Harmed By Tracking Bands, Study Finds

Paleontologists have discovered a new dinosaur! Discovered in northeastern Argentine, its name is Eodromaeus, and at four feet long and 10-14 pounds, it would have made for a cute pet. This dinosaur lived around 230 million years ago, just a couple million years before theropods such as the T-rex existed (it probably evolved into a T-rex). Eodromaeus is similar to another dinosaur that lived around the same time, called Eoraptor. Both could run on two legs and were small in stature, but Eoraptor was probably an ancestor to sauropods (like Apatosaurus).

Pet-Size Dinosaur Was Early Ancestor to T.-Rex, Researchers Say

Thousands of birds have been dropping dead out of the sky lately, and many of those deaths were caused by the birds colliding with buildings. A 2009 study found that at least 9,000 birds crash into buildings in New York City each year.

A Bird Collision in Our Midst

In the Name of Science

Science is constantly changing and scientists are always learning new things. This week, my focus is on the prehistoric, unsolved deaths, and green tech.

Recently, researchers have reported that an extinct Jamaican bird, from the ibis family (but flightless), used its handbone as a clublike weapons. The fossil was discovered in 1997, and the bird became extinct around 12,000 years ago, but scientists still have many unanswered questions.

Prehistoric Bird Used Wings as Weapon, Study Says

Going with the prehistoric theme, I also recently posted about the new research that shows Triceratops was never a species of dinosaur.

Triceratops Never Existed

Time Magazine has published some interesting lists. Inspired by the sudden death of thousands of red-winged blackbirds in Arkansas and 500 blackbirds in Louisiana last weekend, Time has compiled a list of ten of the strangest mass animal deaths.

Top 10 Strange Mass Animal Deaths

Lastly, Time also has looked at creative environmental solutions by modern companies.

Top 20 Green Tech Ideas

Science Rules!

Kristianstad, Sweden does not use oil, natural gas, or coal to heat its homes and businesses. Instead, it uses gas extracted from biomass like farm and food waste. This is not uncommon in European cities, but Kristianstad harnesses “biogas for an across-the-board regional energy makeover that has halved its fossil fuel use and reduced the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by one-quarter in the last decade.”

Using Waste, Swedish City Shrinks Its Fossil Fuel Use

A patient, known as the “Berlin patient” may have been cured of HIV via stem cells. The patient was an HIV-positive man with myeloid leukemia, which he managed to beat, but then relapsed in 2007. After his relapse, according to the article, “the man received bone marrow from a donor who had natural resistance to HIV infection; this was due to a genetic profile which led to the CCR5 co-receptor being absent from his cells. The most common variety of HIV uses CCR5 as its ‘docking station’, attaching to it in order to enter and infect CD4 cells, and people with this mutation are almost completely protected against infection.” The case was reported in 2008, but there has recently been a follow-up report. The whole process is incredibly significant, because “if a cure has been achieved in this patient, it points the way towards attempts to develop a cure for HIV infection through genetically engineered stem cells.”

Stem cell transplant has cured HIV infection in ‘Berlin patient’, say doctors

Science Rules! Week 2

All kinds of good science news this week.

First, late night Dec. 13 and early morning Dec. 14, there will be a “dazzling Geminid meteor shower” that is “expected to be the best display of so-called ‘shooting stars’ of the year.” The Geminid meteor shower occurs every year, and they are a source of mystery to scientists. Meteor showers come about when “Earth passes through a stream of small space rocks,” but astronomers can’t figure out where Geminid picks up its rocks. December’s Geminid Meteor Shower Mystifies Scientists

In other astronomy news, North Americans will be able to enjoy a total lunar eclipse on Dec. 20.–the only one this year. Actually, the eclipse will be visible to parts of four different continents. For more information, read Meteor Shower and Total Lunar Eclipse to Wow Skywatchers This Month

I mentioned this one in an earlier blog post but it seems significant enough to mention again. A recent report stated that scientists have been able to create baby mice from two male mice, by using stem cell technology. This may lead to preventing extinction and in the future, same-sex human couples may be able to procreate. The scientists, led by Dr. Richard R. Berhringer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, said, “Our study exploits iPS cell technologies to combine the alleles from two males to generate male and female progeny, i.e. a new form of mammalian reproduction.” Reproductive scientists create mice from 2 fathers

In 2019, the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor in New Jersey will be shut down–10 years earlier than expected. The owner of Oyster Creek, Exelon Nuclear, has been negotiating with the current governor, Chris Christie, but the plant is becoming too expensive to run. Oyster Creek Reactor to Close by 2019

Lastly, here’s the first of an occasional series by Jeff Vervoort, an associate professor of Washington State University who is conducting a field study in Antarctica. The first challenge is to try “to understand what is buried under thousands of feet of ice at the core of the Antarctic continent.” In the meantime, he’s getting used to the massiveness of Antartica. According to him, “This is an awe-inspiring place.” For First-Timer, an Icy Challenge

Science Rules!

I used to write science articles, and I miss it. So I’m going to start blogging about it. You’re welcome.

Lots of interesting stuff going on today. For one, NASA had some exciting but also disappointing news. Yesterday they announced they would hold a press conference, which address how we’re going to change the way we look at extraterrestrial life. Of course, everyone thought this meant they found some aliens. But actually, they discovered bacterium that lives on arsenic. Still cool. This means that life could function in areas previously thought uninhabitable, such as Saturn’s moon, Titan. Dimitar Sasselov, an astronomer of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, says, “It goes back to the basic question of what is life, really?”

NASA scientists find bacteria that can live on arsenic

Arsenic-loving bacteria may help in hunt for alien life

NPR posted a story today about how parasitic worms can actually help people heal from infections. One man spent years treating his bowel disease with worms. Not out of the realm of possibility. Anyone else watch that one Futurama episode, “Parasites Lost“?

Eat Your Worms: The Upside Of Parasites

And lastly, here’s some interesting tidbits about edible foam.

The Science Behind Foam You Can Eat