Showing posts from August, 2014

The Killing Advantage of Stone-tipped Spears

Writing believable fiction requires having your background facts straight and developing a basic understanding of how they lived and why they did they things the did to survive.  

If your character in a pre-history novel lives in a hunter-gatherer society, you know that these people didn't do anything unless is paid an immediate reward.  For thousands of years our ancestors did quite well hunting even the largest animals with sharpened, fire-hardened spear points.  Rarely did they kill an animal with one direct thrust.  Usually, after wounding an animal, hunters would track it while it bled out, weakening it until it either collapsed and died or they could swoop in for the finish.

Hunting and gathering is time consuming, leaving little time to develop and try an untested technology such as manufacturing stone or flint blades before the time-consuming process of attaching it to a spear.  There had to be pay an advantage that paid immediate dividends.

Not only did a stone technology re…

Two thousand years of intellectual freedom mapped

I find this fascinating.  The graphic looks like one of those maps that airlines publish to show their flights, which in truth, this is.  Only it's not airline flights, it the flights of intellectuals over the past 2,000 years in their search for intellectual freedom and support.  

If you're writing historical fiction or non-fiction, you can use this research to understand what cities and cultures over the past two millennia were the most accepting and offered the most freedom to thinkers.  This is not who ruled the world, but who allowed people to explore and think and create.  Interesting stuff.

New research from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has mapped the intel­lec­tual migra­tion net­work in North America and Europe over a 2,000-year span. The team of net­work sci­en­tists used the birth and death loca­tions of more than 150,000 intel­lec­tuals to map their mobility pat­terns in order to iden­tify the major cul­tural cen­ters on the two con­ti­nents over two millennia.


FRIDAY FACTOIDS: Flying Rocks, Dopers are Less Violent, A Hippo Chases a Man, and Other, Uh, Stuff.

Okay, here we go with another edition of Friday Factoids, a quick review of research guaranteed to make any sentient being say, "WTF?  They really spent our money to figure that out?"

Human milk fat improves growth in premature infants I'm sure you find this surprising, but researchers at the Baylor School of Medicine have now successfully incorporated a human milk fat cream supplement into premature infants' diets that improved their growth in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit.

Really?  Fat from human breast milk helps an infant grow.  Who'd a thunk. Now if they can only discover the secret of preventing some physicians milking the health insurance system - now, that would be a breakthrough.
*  *  *  *  *

'Sailing stones' of Death Valley Seen Ice Skating Since the 1940s researchers have been trying to figure out how these rocks move leaving behind trails in the mud.  What powerful force could be moving them? Theories including UFO-Federal Government conspirac…

STORY SETTING: Over 50% Chance of Mega-drought In Southwest U.S.

Establishing the setting for your story and characters is a choice.  You obviously can go with the way the way things are.  Or, you can opt for a world of your own making.  Or, you can put your characters into a world science predicts we may be experiencing in the future.

With the certainty of global warming on the horizon, the predicted changes to our environment will impact people, giving you the opportunity to explore how we all may be living, in this case, in the year or two.  

Choice of setting applies to any genre' of fiction from science fiction to romance to young adult to history.  "History," I hear you ask.  Sure.  A novel set in the distant future that looks back at the past - a past we have yet to experience. 

The options are unlimited.  The key is putting your characters into a setting to see how they respond.  And from my experience, they will take over their lives and their stories pretty freaking quickly, leaving you to try to keep up with them.

So what's…

Self-deceived people are good at deceiving others

"People don't always reward the most accomplished, but rather the most self-deceived."
This may seem obvious, but researchers have confirmed that overconfident people can fool others into believing they are more talented than they actually are.  Ever noticed this before? What's interesting is that the researchers use the words overconfident and self-deceived as synonyms.

Self-deceived individuals are more likely to
get promotions and reach influential positions in banks and other organizations, andare likely to overestimate other people's abilities and take greater risks, creating problems for their organizations.  Or in the case of your story, cause problems in a relationship or across your story arc.

And those that are under-confident ~
The study by researchers from Newcastle University and the University of Exeter, has also found that those who are under confident in their own abilities are viewed as less able by their colleagues.

The findings are the first time…

Nurture or Nature? Are we hard-wired to take risks?

The old Nurture or Nature debate is making a course change in favor of nature.

It appears that a significant part of our behavior is programmed into us genetically such as a belief in a supreme being, conservative and liberal preferences, and more.

Yet, we're still in the early days of the scientific revolution.  As has been pointed out many times by many people, of all the scientists who have ever lived or worked almost all are living and working today.  The wealth of knowledge we're gaining now is just the leading edge of a tidal wave that will completely change the way we live over the next few generations.

Getting back to the Nature or Nurture debate: for years it was a debate without evidence until just the very recent past.  As revolutionary new techniques are applied to this age old question, we're finding that more and more of our behavior is genetically programmed. 

Taking risks appears to be one of these "programs."  Have you ever wondered why some people d…

The very real risks to women of 50 Shades of Grey

The success of the book Fifty Shades of Grey is something of a mixed achievement in the eyes of most serious writers despite the tremendous sales and being optioned for a movie -- every author's dream.

Most writers covet the success, but shudder at the poor workmanship of the books.  For a serious writer, who does all he or she can to write with skill, this success is a little bewildering and certainly frustrating.  Personally, I've not been able to read much because of the sloppy work and find it to be an embarrassment and a challenge.  

What is most concerning is the blatant underlying mysogyny of the work.  These books showcase an overt sexism that is alarming, reinforcing the observation that mysogynistic women are attracted to sexist men.  Here's a link to an earlier post on this subject:

Men with negative, sexist attitudes towards  women use assertive courtship strategies
But what about the effects Fifty Shades has on readers?  Is the book harmless fun as some assert?  Or…

Are social media making us less able to read emotions?

Much research has been published in the past year about the effect of video games and social media on children and adults.  Some of our worst fears, especially that violent video games make people more violent, have been calmed, but there still is an effect. 

This research documents a new concern, that using social media lessens out ability to read emotions and relate to others.  According to this research, we should be concerned as social media does have an impact on people based on the results of a study of a group of sixth grade students.

Here's the report.

In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

Are young people losing the ability to read emotions in our digital world?

Scientists report that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other screen did substantially better at reading emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who, as usual, spent hours each day looking at their smartphones and othe…

Did an exceptional iceberg sink the Titanic?

One of the most popular disasters of the early 20th Century is the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic, a story featured in books, movies and real life.  Here's a little additional information about the probable cause with a warning of similar disasters to come.

The suggested reading below is a book that details nine disasters - a source of possible stories to develop similar to the Titanic sinking.

While the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 is typically blamed on human, design and construction errors, a new Significance paper points to two other unfavorable factors outside human control: there were a greater number of icebergs than normal that year, and weather conditions had driven them further south, and earlier in the year, than was usual.

The paper also notes that iceberg discharge from glaciers is increasing, with more heavy iceberg years since the 1980s than before, and increasing global warming will likely cause this trend to continue.

"As use of the Arctic increases in the…

CRIME: The perfect, 95%+ accurate witness interrogation technique

Determining deception is a tool of the trade for law enforcement. The Good Cop/Bad Cop routine is etched in our minds as an effective method of finding out the truth. But prior research has shown that lie detecting is a 50/50 shot for experts and non-experts alike.

So what exactly can we do to find out the truth? A recent study published in Human Communication Research by researchers at Korea University, Michigan State University, and Texas State University -- San Marcos found that using active questioning of individuals yielded near-perfect results, 97.8%, in detecting deception.

The researchers conducted three studies based on sets of participants who were asked to play a trivia game. Unbeknownst to the participants, a confederate was placed with them offering an incentive and opportunity to cheat at the game, since cash prizes were involved. In the first experiment 12% of the subjects cheated; in the second experiment 44.9% cheated.

An expert using Truth Default Theory interrogated…

The spiritual person: Alcohol releases the "beast within"

In many cases the more religious someone is, the more aggressive they become after drinking alcohol.
Often, research findings reflect the scientist's and the public's expectations.

Sometimes, they come close. Other times, research results simply astound everyone.
Case in point is the recent research of Professor Peter R. Giancola of the psychology department of the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences. He, and his former graduate student, Aaron Duke, have found an unexpected relation between spiritual beliefs, alcohol consumption and violence.
"Oversimplifying -- in many cases the more religious someone is, the more aggressive they will become after drinking alcohol," Giancola said. The researcher defined religiosity as someone who "finds meaning in the sacred," regardless of the doctrine they follow.

Pointing out that his findings are preliminary and require more study, Giancola said that he was originally trying to create a profile of risk …

Does reading fiction make readers more empathetic?

I assume that what a writer hopes is that the stories or movies they create have an impact on the reader or viewer, perhaps showing them something about themselves or the people and world around them.  Recently, at the 122nd American Psychological Association convention, psychologist Raymond Mar of York University in Canada discussed how exposure to narrative fiction may improve our ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling. 

According to Mar, exposure to narrative fiction works to improve our ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling.  In other words, to become more empathetic to those around us.  Now, this may seem obvious, but the purpose of research is often to validate the obvious as well as to show the flaws in what people think they know. 

Here's the report:

Exposure to stories
Many stories are about people--their mental states, their relationships -- even stories with inanimate objects, may have human-like characteristics. Mar exp…

People with extreme views feel most superior about their beliefs

The next to last part of this blog's series on conservative vs. liberals.  What excites me most is how many hits this series has had.  Getting back to the basics, the purpose of these posts is to help authors and screenwriters understand what drives differences between groups of people. As more than one of these studies has pointed out, people inherit their political views genetically more than people make rational decisions.  How the human mind works is a marvel.  As part of today's scientific revolution it is becoming more and more clear, to paraphrase Lady Gaga, we're born this way.  I'm coming to the conclusion that when someone says, I made a decision to be a conservative or liberal, they are probably, at least to a degree, fooling themselves. The same is true of the characters you create.  To be true to life, you need to understand the role of genetics in many of the life decisions human beings make.  *  *  *  *  * "Any time people hold an extreme position, ev…