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Showing posts from December, 2014

Christmas Letters from the Mailbag: How Healthy is Santa Claus? Why Does Rudolph Have a Red Nose? And Other Holiday Minutiea.

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Dear Jim,

Is there a Santa Claus?  Scientifically speaking, that is.

Confused in Duluth

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Dear Confused,

Yes.

Jim

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Dear Jim,

Yes?  Is that all you have to say?

Confused in Duluth

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Dear CID,

Yes.

Jim

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Dear Jim,

Can you give more than a one word answer?

Confused in Duluth.

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Dear CID,

Yes.

Jim

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Okay, dumb a**.  What is it?

Confused in Duluth

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Dear CID,

From personal experience, I know that Santa Claus lives. Probably across the street from me.

The other morning I was lounging on my deck when I spotted an Elf, undoubtedly from Santa's Workshop, putting presents under the Christmas tree in an apartment across the way.  I know she was a elf because she was decked out in nothing but bright red thong panties. How does this make her Santa's Elf?  Who but Santa or his helpers wear bright red this time of year?  (Do you know how hard it is to get fog off the lenses inside binoculars?)

If this is not proof…

Surprise, Confirming or an Uncertain Ending: Which Gets You The Most Readers?

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The most popular mysteries are those with a high degree of uncertainty from the beginning.
The mystery and crime fiction genre draws large audiences, for example, with the “Law & Order” TV franchise or the best-selling novels by John Grisham or Mary Higgins Clark.

Neither writers, editors, publishers nor, as it turns out, researchers knew what makes various forms of crime fiction popular or appealing to consumers. Sure, we might guess, even make an educated guess. But do we really know based on reproducible results?  Now we do.

According to Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, “The mystery genre is one of the more complex genres. Mysteries have multiple suspects, and multiple possible motives, which all add complexity. It is much different than a suspense story which just has a good guy vs. a bad guy.”

Research by Knobloch-Westerwick shows that not everyone enjoys a murder mystery with a surprise ending. People with low levels o…

500,000 year old engraving discovered

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Homo erectus on Java was already using shells of freshwater mussels as tools half a million years ago, and as it turns out, as a 'canvas' for an engraving. An international team of researchers, led by Leiden archaeologist José Joordens, published this discovery on 3 December in Nature.

Not only Homo sapiens made engravings
"Until this discovery, it was assumed that comparable engravings were only made by modern humans (Homo sapiens) in Africa, starting about 100,000 years ago," says lead author José Joordens, researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University.

A team of 21 researchers studied hundreds of fossil shells and associated finds and sediments from the Homo erectus site Trinil, on the Indonesian island of Java. The shells are part of the Dubois Collection that has been held at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center since the end of the 19th century. The shells were excavated by the Dutch physician and researcher Eugène Dubois, the discoverer of Pithecan…

Are We Hard-wired for Chocolate and Hybrid Cars?

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One key to creating successful fiction of any sort is the author's ability to create believable characters and then to put them into situations where their humanity is put to the test. As science continues to provide explanations of how people function it's becoming an easier task, especially on whether our behavior is learned or programmed into our genes.  Simply put, as a writer, the better you understand the human animal, the more likely you are to find success with your work.

The Nurture vs. Nature Debate
There is a long-running debate both in science and with the rest of us over whether our behavior is genetic in origin, or if our behavior is learned through experience. Ask one person, and they'll swear up and down that their love of something, say jazz, is something they chose over the years. Yet there is research that shows that a love of jazz runs in families, and not because of training or exposure. The same thing applies to risk taking, political orientation, cert…

Vampires, Zombies & Horror Stories: Why We Love Them, How to Create Them

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Any author or screenwriter might think that vampires, zombies, ghosts, werewolves and other horrors have been done to death, that any new story twists or cliffhangers aren’t to be found since all have been done, some to the point of exhaustion.  Our exhaustion.


But look at today’s offerings.  Books, films and TV programs about almost every imaginable type of supernatural being are as popular as ever if not more.  Vampires are back big time from Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series to HBO's "True Blood."  Zombies as in Zach Synder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" and Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" or AMC's "The Walking Dead", all big money makers for writers, actors, publishers and studios.

What is it about these characters and these story lines that attract so many readers and viewers?

The Graves of Six Vampires Exhumed in Poland What got me thinking about this is th…