Showing posts from February, 2014

Three on Crime: Lone Wolf Terrorism; Solitary Confinement; Mental Illness & Violence

Decline in far-right, lone-wolf homicide since Sept. 11
Fatal incidents of far-right “lone-wolf” terrorism have been fewer in the past 10 years, according a new study. Scientists have examined characteristics of far-right, extremist homicides in the United States over the past decade. Relying on the Extremist Crime Database, the most comprehensive database of far-right homicides in the United States, the researchers identified three types of far-right, lone-actor terrorists.
Far-right "lone wolves" and "wolf packs" are terrorists who are affiliated with hate groups but execute their attacks alone or in small cells, respectively. Far-right "loner" terrorists are self-radicalized and do not associate with other extremists. Loner terrorists plan and execute their attacks on their own accord."Overall, our findings indicate that the frequency of far-right violence -- in this case, homicides -- committed by so-called lone wolves has not experienced a recent …

Conjunctions & Pronouns are the Language of Love

According to new research out of Texas Tech, conjunctions and pronouns are more effective in predicting a love match than good looks and fast cars.  Which is good, because if there's two things I lack it's good looks and a fast car.  In fact, I don't have a car at all.  Nor much of that other thing, either.

Here's the gist of this research in one declarative sentence:  "People who use the same kinds of function words are more likely to find a match."  To wit:
After analyzing speed dating results, researchers discovered a positive correlation of function-word similarity with speed-daters’ odds of going on a second date and long-term couples’ odds of still being together three months after the study. Language similarity became an even better predictor of relationship stability when compared to other related variables, such as the perceived similarity with one’s date, perceived relationship quality, and how many words people spoke to each other during each convers…

FACTOIDS: Why is belly button lint blue, How to survive a Mosh Pit, and more

I read 'em so you don't gotta.
This batch of science factoids starts with research on the physiology of, uh, a "number two" and progresses pretty much steadily downhill from there.

Long-held secret of bowel movement now understood
A research team has found a segmentation motion occurs when not one but two sets of pacemakers interact with each other to create a specific rhythm. Then they work together with nerves and muscle to generate the movement that allows for nutrient absorption inside the human digestive system. The discovery is important as it gives direction for development of drugs or nutrients which will combat diarrhea, constipation, bloating or malabsorption of nutrients from food.
~ Source: Nature Communications, 2014, from  McMaster University
Wanted: Students willing to be wired to beeping machines to measure brain and muscle activity while, uh, going number two.  Pays $50 per. What is belly button fluff and why is it always blue?
Belly button fluff, eh? The m…

Out of Africa: The Malaria Parasite

This is a somewhat more technical post following up on yesterday's article about a world wide epidemic warning system.  This research identifies the source of malaria, and points out that malaria world wide in the result of a single individual carrying the parasite out of Africa, creating a global health problem.  AIDS started this way with a single infected carrier, now we know it was the same with malaria, a disease that kills thousands annually.

An international team of scientists has traced the origin of Plasmodium vivax, the second-worst malaria parasite of humans, to Africa, according to a study published this week in Nature Communications. Until recently, the closest genetic relatives of human P. vivax were found only in Asian macaques, leading researchers to believe that P. vivax originated in Asia.

The study, led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found that wild-living apes in central Africa are widely infected with paras…

New Early Warning System for Epidemics Announced

Books such as The Andromeda Strain (1969), by Michael Crichton have built a plausible story based on scientific reality and possibility - The Andromeda Strain is still in print, and still sells well.  It was the second of Dr. Crichton's book I read, the first being his non-fiction work, Five Patients (which he wrote while still in medical training.  And you think you have trouble finding time to write.)

Of course, this is but one of many books, movies, and tele-dramas to explore the possibility of an epidemic and how people react and respond to such emergencies.  In real life, the AIDS epidemic is a bitter reminder of what can happen.  It's a fertile field offering many opportunities for dramatic development. 

Here's a late report on efforts to identify and respond  to possible wild-fire spread of an infectious disease world-wide.

Early warning system for epidemics:  Risk map correlates environmental, health data
The environment has an impact on our health. Preventing epidemics…

How Job Focus Affects Relationships

Discord in a relationship due to the differing goals and a focus on job and career by one partner is grist for the mill in every genre'.  So understanding this phenomena will help your character development and your story arcs whether in a short story or a screenplay.

Here's a report from the University of Illinois that may provide you with additional insight into this all too common stressor in relationships.

Pay attention to your relationship work ethic, experts urgeIs a date with your partner as important to you as a meeting at work?  A University of Illinois study recommends that couples develop a relationship work ethic that rivals — or at least equals — their professional work ethic.

“When people enter the workplace, they make an effort to arrive on time, be productive throughout the day, listen attentively to co-workers and supervisors, try to get along with others, and dress and groom themselves to make a good impression,” said Jill R. Bowers, a researcher in the U of I’s…

Oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America

Okay, writers of historical fiction.   Here's a BIG one, the one you've been waiting for, the one with tremendous potential as a story source.

Here's the story:

. . .wait for it. . . 

Oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America In an announcement likely to rewrite the book on early colonization of the New World, two researchers today said they have discovered the oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America. Speaking at an international conference on France at Florida State University, the pair announced that they have located Fort Caroline, a long-sought fort built by the French in 1564.

"This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States," said historian Fletcher Crowe. "This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It's older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pil…

The Sun Orbits the Earth, Crocodiles Climb Trees, and Other Scientific Oddities

OH, REALLY?  One in four Americans think the Sun orbits the Earth.  
Not in the way the Flat Earth Society satarises strange beliefs.  But for real in a Michigan State University survey of basic scientific knowledge and attitudes toward scientists.  Researchers conclude that while Americans struggle with science they do respect scientists

Out of nine questions asked that covered the physical and biological sciences, the average score was 6.5 correct answers.  For example:
74 percent of those queried knew that Earth revolved around the sun, while 48 percent knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.  Compare this to research published some ten years ago that concluded that one third of human adults are incapable of learning from experience, and 24 percent having the relationship between the Earth and Sun confused isn't all that surprising. What scares me is the result that 33.3% of all adults are complete idiots keeps me up many nights - and is part of the reaso…

Truth is Stranger than (Science) Fiction

From warp drives to hyperspace, science fiction has continuously borrowed from, and sometimes anticipated, the state of the art in scientific progress. This has resulted in the perception that science and science fiction have a causal relationship, one finding direction from and fulfilling the science fantasy laid out before it.
Does Science Fiction Lead to Science?
But that is rarely the case, according to Lawrence Krauss, a Foundation professor in the School of Space and Earth Exploration and the Department of Physics at Arizona State University. No doubt, science fiction has taken inspiration from the cutting edge science of its day. And, as Stephen Hawking reaffirmed in the preface of Krauss's bestselling book, the Physics of Star Trek, science fiction helps inspire our imaginations. But Krauss believes science fiction is not a match for reality.

"Truth is stranger than fiction," Krauss said at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of S…

LGB Individuals Living in Anti-gay Communities Die Early - 12 Years Early

In itself, this study has a shocking result: LGB people have a life expectancy twelve years less when living in anti-gay communities as opposed to living in a more accepting environment.  

For a writer, this creates a situation rife with character and story possibilities.  How would a character react to living day to day having to hide their real selves, afraid of exposure, yet probably unaware how their circumstance will shorten their lives by a significant number of years.  We think we live in a progressive society, yet this data reveals that anti-gay sentiment as with racism is still rampant and a major health risk to those that endure it.

Here's the study report:

In the first study to look at the consequences of anti-gay prejudice for mortality, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals who lived in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice have a shorter life expectancy of 12 years on…