Your Brain on Fiction

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on February 26, 2015 @ 4:11 pm

A writer friend on a mailing list linked to an article called Your Brain on Fiction, which talks about how the brain responds when one is reading fiction.

It seems that reading vivid adjectives or active verbs stimulates the same parts of your brain that activate when you’re actually experiencing the adjective or doing the verb. For example:

Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.

In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. When subjects looked at the Spanish words for “perfume” and “coffee,” their primary olfactory cortex lit up; when they saw the words that mean “chair” and “key,” this region remained dark.

This also works with social interactions. Reading about characters going through emotional experiences and relationships makes readers more able to understand other people, empathize with them, and navigate social situations.

It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests. Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)

Although that last bit made me wonder. It sounds weird that kids would pick up more about social interaction from movies than from television, and I don’t really buy the “going to the movies with parents” thing. When a little kid is really into a TV show, they’re going to want to talk about it, whether or not Mom or Dad knows who all Spongebob’s friends are. And what about watching movies on TV? Maybe they meant to differentiate between watching television and going to a movie theater, rather than between TV shows and movies. It still sounds iffy; I’d have liked to get more info on that.

Still, this is pretty cool. Definitely click through and read the whole thing.


How Not to Be Awkward Around People With Disabilities

Filed under:chat,Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on February 9, 2015 @ 3:43 am

This is a fun video, with lots of great info and some laughs. Thanks to Lee Wind for the link!


Amazing Historical Archery

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on January 23, 2015 @ 11:36 am

Like most people, I grew up thinking that the ultimate display of archery skill was the stationary shooter aiming at a target. When I was in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism — a sort of learn-by-doing history club) I learned about war archers, who massed behind the infantry and shot arrows in volleys, aiming high shoot their arrows in parabolic arcs over the heads of their own fighters to come down onto the enemy. War archers in the SCA counted on the massing of arrows for effectiveness, to make them difficult or impossible to dodge.

Lars Andersen studied historical documents and illustrations and has learned to shoot the way combat archers shot in pre-gunpowder days. This guy is amazingly fast, accurate, versatile and mobile. Watching this video makes me want to dive into historical fantasy just so I can write about a serious archer. :) Check it out:

Thanks to BoingBoing for sharing this.


Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Cover

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on December 3, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthology successfully funded its Kickstarter, so the ball is rolling. We have the final cover, with my name on it, yay. :)

 photo YoungExplorers2015Cover.jpg

I don’t have a publication date yet, but I’ll definitely be posting when it’s released.

I love this cover. The art is great — genre-specific enough to communicate “Hey, this is SF!” without focusing on a particular subgenre that’d let out a lot of stories, or trying too hard to be too many things and thus likely failing at everything. Good stuff.


“Mine, All Mine!” Said the Octopus

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on November 24, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

So my husband volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium. They’ve had two octopuses there for a while, in adjacent tanks. The tanks are connected by a tube about eighteen inches or so across, but since octopuses can be territorial, a screen is in place so the animals are aware of each other, but can’t, say, try to kill or eat one another. Which they will sometimes do if they have the opportunity.

One of the octopuses recently started displaying reproductive behavior, pulling eggs out of her mantle and braiding them together. There are no male octopuses in the vicinity, so the eggs aren’t fertile, but policy is that when an octopus looks like she wants to breed, she’s released out into the sound. So Octopus Number One has moved on.

The screen between the two tanks was removed, and Octopus Number Two now has access to both tanks.

According to my husband, Number Two was positively gleeful today. She was much more active than she’s usually been, exploring, spreading her legs out, jetting a time or two, spending some time up at the glass looking at people — while he described it I could picture in my mind a cartoon octopus dancing around the newly-huge space and cackling, “Mine, all mine!” with a huge, cartoony grin.

Aquarium visitors spent a lot of time around the octopus tanks today, for obvious reasons. One pair got a surprise when they turned away for a few moments, then turned back to find that the octopus was Right There In Front Of Their Faces, legs fanned out. The animal’s web (the skin between its legs, like the webbing between your thumb and forefinger) is about six feet across, then add several more feet on either side for the legs themselves. That’s a lot of octopus underside to suddenly find spread out a few inches away from your head, and there were a couple of squeaks and jumps right before the cameras came up and started clicking. I’ll bet those pictures are great. :)

I assume the aquarium will acquire another octopus eventually, but until then Number Two will doubtless revel in her newly expanded territory. Sounds like she’s having fun with it.


The Safety Vid of the Ring

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on October 24, 2014 @ 12:42 am

An airline safety vid you’ll actually want to watch. Air New Zealand made a Middle Earth themed safety video starting Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Richard Taylor, and a bunch of other Rings/Hobbit actors. It’s great fun, and worth a watch even if you’re not planning on flying any time soon.


Fiction River

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on September 9, 2014 @ 10:59 pm

The Fiction River anthology series is doing a subscription drive on Kickstarter, and they’re already into stretch goals. They’re offering various subscription levels at various prices, including a single electronic issue for $5, some multi-issue genre packages, up through a year’s subscription in electronic or print or audio. Some packages come with extra stories — electronic or print — by anthology authors, and one lets you choose a character for each of three anthology stories Dean will write for up-coming issues.

There are also special packages left for writers that bundle some online lectures in with your Fiction River subscription. One that lets you choose a future anthology theme and co-edit it with Dean has already been snapped up, as have all the subscription-plus-online-workshop bundles.

If you’re looking for a new tablet anyway, there’s a Kobo special package that comes with a Kobo tablet, codes to download the previous ten volumes of Fiction River, plus ARCs to the two Kobo special edition issues coming up (with extra stories), plus three up-coming issues.

And like I mentioned above, they’re already into stretch goals.

Since they passed $7500, everyone who supports the Fiction River subscription drive at the $5 level or higher will receive one additional electronic copy of Fiction River from the second year.

They hit $10,000 recently, so they’ll create a special edition of Fiction River called Debut Writers’ Showcase. This will be a separate ebook of Fiction River authors who were published first with us. Plus, we’ll extend their biographies and ask them really cool questions such as, “Since you’ve been published in Fiction River, what’s happened in your writing career?” One of the goals of Fiction River is to bring you fresh voices in storytelling. We’ll send this edition to everyone who supports the Fiction River subscription drive at the $5 level or higher. (I’m one of their debut writers, so that’ll be fun to do. :) )

This is a great project, with a lot of awesome writers. It’s well worth supporting, especially since you’re already getting a couple of extras. Check it out.


Combat Juggling

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on September 2, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

So you’ve got a couple of characters who have a dispute, and you need a way for them to resolve it. They could shout at each other, or start beating on each other, or go old-school and settle it with pistols or even swords. Or you could do something different and let them have a juggling fight.

No, seriously, this is a thing. :)

Two guys, each has three juggling pins. They start juggling, then approach and try to mess each other up while still keeping their own pins going. There’s quite an audience watching, too, and they’re having a great time. First to seven points wins. Check it out.

This Woman Rocks!

Filed under:Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on August 27, 2014 @ 11:47 pm

I’ve said a few times that I don’t have any age issues. This video is a great example of why.

This woman is 86 and can still do that. O_O I couldn’t have done that at twenty. Health and fitness often vary with age, but if you’re unhealthy or out of shape it’s not necessarily because you’re old. You might not even be old. And you can be old and still be able to do a pretty darned impressive gymnastics routine, if you work at it and have good genes. Being healthy is great and being unhealthy sucks, and you can be either one at any age.

Okay, maybe the lady wouldn’t win any Olympic medals with that routine, but damn! She still rocks! :D


Who Owns the Selfie?

Filed under:Business,Cool Stuff — posted by Angie on August 7, 2014 @ 6:57 am

So this monkey stole a wildlife photographer’s camera, dashed away with it and took a bunch of pictures, including this really great selfie.

The story went around about three years ago (and I missed it somehow) but more recently David Slater, the photographer whose camera was swiped, requested Wikipedia to take the photo down, that it was violating his copyright. Wikipedia said no, it doesn’t, the photo is in the public domain because a monkey took it.

According to David Post,

If the monkey took the photo — and Slater is himself the source of the story that the monkey snapped the photo using his (Slater’s) camera — nobody owns the copyright; nonhumans cannot own copyright (or, as far as I know, personal property of any kind). Slater has no copyright claim, because the photo was not his original work – it was the monkey’s. But monkeys can’t own copyright. Furnishing the monkey with a camera no more gives him a copyright claim in the work than Microsoft’s furnishing me with a word processing program gives them copyright in what I write.

It makes sense to me. If, say, a friend of mine sees something awesome happening right that minute and grabs my camera to take a picture, do I own the copyright to that picture? I wouldn’t think so. If he ends up selling the photo for $10K, I might want to have a discussion about rental of the camera [cough] but I wouldn’t expect to argue over actual ownership of the copyright.

What do you think?

Thanks to Passive Guy for the link.


next page

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace