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Showing posts from March, 2014

Why we miss subtle visual changes; why it keeps us sane

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"Casablanca" is one of my favorite movies, though it contains one noticeable discontinuity that I didn't catch until the tenth or twelfth time I watched it.  Why don't we see these things?  Here's research  that explains why.  (If you need to know what the visual goof is in Casablanca, email me, and I'll tell you.)

Ever notice how Harry Potter's T-shirt abruptly changes from a crew neck to a Henley shirt in 'The Order of the Phoenix,' or how in 'Pretty Woman,' Julia Roberts' croissant inexplicably morphs into a pancake? Don't worry if you missed those continuity bloopers. Vision scientists have discovered an upside to the brain mechanism that can blind us to subtle changes in movies and in the real world.

They've discovered a "continuity field" in which we visually merge together similar objects seen within a 15-second time frame, hence the previously mentioned jump from crew neck to Henley goes largely unnoticed. Unlik…

Attitude is Success, Success, Attitude.

In any endeavor you take on, your success comes down to attitude, your attitude.
Choice of attitude is your ultimate freedom according to Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.  Even in the degradation and abject misery of a concentration camp, Frankl was able to exercise his freedom to determine his own attitude and survive World War Two then go on to become one of the most influential professionals in his field.

This simple life truth applies in business as in life.  If you are to succeed in a business of your own, you must develop the attitude of the successful entrepreneur as well as the basic skills of business success. Think about this:
Henry Ford failed in business three times before finding success with the Model T.  For 25 years Mary Kay Ash worked at Stanley Home Products only to resign as the company repeatedly promoted those she trained over her.  She started writing a book on her experiences only to realize that she had the makings of a business in…

How to Create Your Perfect Dream.

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Psychologists have announced the results of a two-year study into dream control. The experiment shows that it is now possible for people to create their perfect dream, and so wake up feeling especially happy and refreshed. (Researchers also discovered that people's dreams were especially bizarre around the time of a full moon.)

Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire announced the results of a two-year study into dream control. The experiment shows that it is now possible for people to create their perfect dream, and so wake up feeling especially happy and refreshed.

In 2010, Professor Wiseman teamed-up with app developers YUZA to create 'Dream:ON' -- an iPhone app that monitors a person during sleep and plays a carefully crafted 'soundscape' when they dream. Each soundscape was carefully designed to evoke a pleasant scenario, such as a walk in the woods, or lying on a beach, and the team hoped that these sounds would influence p…

Do "Gamers" Have Social Skills?

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A concern of parents and educators world-wide is whether "gamers" have what can be described as normal social skills.  Or is an obsession with computer and on-line games stunting their social growth and skills?  While many decry gaming, according to this study it appears that gamers have normal inter-personal skills, and perhaps even a well-developed ability to multi-task.

While this goes against the common stereotype of gamers, this could be an important consideration for your fiction. The story from  North Carolina State University follows ~


Online gaming augments players' social lives
"Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm." Online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community, new research shows. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. "Gamers aren't the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they're highly social people," says the lead author of a paper. &…

Egyptians May Have Domesticated Cats Earlier Than Thought

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At the ancient Egyptian site of Hierakonopolis, in a cemetery containing the remains of humans, baboons, leopards, and hippopotamuses, archaeologists have found the skeletons of six cats, buried together near the wall of the cemetery, that could push the date of cat domestication in Egypt back to 6,000 years ago. 

An examination of the cats’ teeth and bones showed that there were two young adults of about a year old, and four kittens from at least two litters, all probably of the species Felis silvestris, a small wildcat found in Africa, Europe, and central Asia. One litter of kittens was only slightly older than the other, suggesting that the natural reproductive cycle had been interrupted, perhaps with food and human care. 

“The last word on cat domestication (when and where) is not yet said,” bioarchaeologist Wim Van Neer of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Catholic University, Leuven, told Live Science. “We want to investigate whether there was only one domesticat…

SciFi: Introducing "Technofossils" the legacy of modern humans for future generations to explore

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Daniel Fiorda's "Nostalgic Hardware" Techno-Fossil Art
Imagine what a future archaeologist would think finding any of the myriad bits and pieces of technology we bury in modern middens, aka garbage dumps.  So now we have a name for it:  Technofossils, coined recently to describe the stuff humanity tosses out.


The fossil impact humans make on the planet is vast and unprecedented in nature -- there's been nothing remotely like it since the Earth formed over four and half billion years ago. The researchers argue that, like dinosaurs, who left their bones and footprints behind for future generations to discover, humans will also leave a footprint behind -- one made up of material goods unique to humankind that are so different from anything else produced by animals in the history of Earth that they deserve their own name: technofossils.

Dr Zalasiewicz said: "Palaeontologists call preserved animal-made structures trace fossils. Most animal species make only one -- or at…

How to Access Ancient Egyptian Papyri Records for Your Fiction

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What?  Historical fiction again?

Yep.  What appears here depends on who publishes what article when then issues a press release.  

Sometimes finding just the right source of information can make all the difference - especially if the source not only conveys accurate historical information, the information is translated in such a way as idiom and structure are included.  Such is the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.  The following is a sample of what you will find there.  A link to the ASP Bulletin follows at the end of this post.

Guarding grapes and other tales from papyri
A new article throws light on the perils of produce patrol and more stories from ancient times. The researcher details what he deciphered from a roughly 3-by-5 inch shred of dark brown papyrus dating back to the fourth century. In large, cursive script, the hired guard outlines his labor contract, as well as details from a vineyard guard who was beaten by "violent and rapacious" criminals whil…

Is being a writer a boost your brainpower in old age?

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We all know the answer to this, but still, it's nice to see it documented.

New research suggests that writing, reading books, and participating in brain-stimulating activities at any age may preserve memory.

"Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age," said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

For the study, 294 people were given tests that measured memory and thinking every year for about six years before their deaths at an average age of 89. They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote and participated in other mentally stimulating activities during childhood, adolescence, middle age and at their current age.

After they died, their brains were examined at autopsy for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as lesions, brain plaques and tan…

Factoid Friday: Int'l Happiness Day, How to Spot Phony Laughter, Too Sad for Chocolate, The 5-second Rule, How Emotion Changes Your Eyesight, and More.

Fake laughter doesn't fool the brain, research reveals

As the world celebrates International Day of Happiness (Thursday, 20 March), can we tell whether people are truly happy just from their laugh? "During our study, when participants heard a laugh that was posed, they activated regions of the brain associated with "mentalizing" in an attempt to understand the other person's emotional and mental state," the authors state.

A researcher from Royal Holloway, University of London, has found that there are clear differences between how our brains respond to genuine and fake laughter.

A study led by Dr Carolyn McGettigan, from the Department of Psychology, recorded the brain responses of participants as they listened to the same people produce genuine laughter, caused by watching funny YouTube videos, and forced laughter. The participants, who were unaware the study was about laughter perception, demonstrated different neurological responses when they heard false la…

Historical Fiction: Student deciphers 1,800-year-old letter from Egyptian soldier

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A newly deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe to his family back home shows striking similarities to what some soldiers may be feeling here and now.

Rice Religious Studies graduate student Grant Adamson took up the task in 2011 when he was assigned the papyrus to work on during a summer institute hosted at Brigham Young University (BYU).

The private letter sent home by Roman military recruit Aurelius Polion was originally discovered in 1899 by the expedition team of Grenfell and Hunt in the ancient Egyptian city of Tebtunis. It had been catalogued and described briefly before, but to this point no one had deciphered and published the letter, which was written mostly in Greek.

"This letter was just one of many documents that Grenfell and Hunt unearthed," Adamson said. "And because it was in such bad shape, no one had worked much on it for about 100 years." Even now portions of the letter's contents are unce…

Science Reveals the Secrets of Roman Bridges

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3D model of the roman bridge of Segura, on the border between Spain and Portugal.

Discovering hidden arches, visualizing the sloped outline characteristic of the medieval period, finding a Renaissance engraving on a Roman arch or detecting restorations: these are some of the results that have been obtained by researchers at the University of Vigo (Spain) in their study of more than 80 Roman and medieval bridges. The assessment was carried out with the help of a ground-penetrating radar, a laser scanner and mathematical models, technology that benefit conservation.

In recent years, UNESCO and other organisations concerned with the conservation of cultural heritage have underlined the importance of using non-destructive methods to document monuments´ characteristics and evaluate their state of conservation.

Along these lines, researchers from the Applied Geotechnology Group at the University of Vigo have used laser and radar to study, using light beams and waves, around 85 ancient bridges …

Mongol Empire Grew Because of a Mild Climate.

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For current or prospective writers of historical fiction, or any fiction, how climate impacts story and character is a consideration. 

Historically, one group attacking during a period of bad weather, such as during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII or Washington's 1776 attack on Trenton, is very likely to catch their opponents unprepared.  The British military command in the Colonies of New York and New Jersey were aware that the Colonial Army was moving and issued warnings to the Hessians in Trenton, but the Hessian commander downplayed the threat. It was the dead of winter, in a storm and very cold. So when Washington attacked in a snow storm, well, it was not considered a proper way to fight a war by many.

The research that follows concludes that the Mongols, who were primarily herdsmen on the great prairies of Asia, were given an advantage and impetus to expand by a long term change in weather patterns.  Something to consider in your fiction.


Researchers studying the rings of anci…

Travel into Space for just $90? It's Virtually True.

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Having been alive throughout the entirety of the space age from Telstar and Sputnik (I was nine or ten) to Neil Armstrong to privately funded space travel, I've often day-dreamed about going into space myself.  The closest any of us can get now is to pony up $6 or $7 million and join a Russian crew on the International Space Station, or we could make a deposit of $100,000 or so to join other 530 passengers hoping to fly (briefly) into space on Virgin Galactic.  Once they work the kinks out of the craft and systems.

It appears we may soon be able to pay a mere $90 for the experience of virtual space travel as proposed by researchers from the University of Surrey in England.  I can afford $90, and I'm sure virtual travel is a whole bunch cheaper.

For a writer of science or space fiction, having a personal experience in space would add a nice dimension of description and understanding.  I mean, it's easier to describe being in an avalanche if the writer has been in one, not tha…