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June 2, 2012 / amess02

How My Mind Works: A look into Point of View

The protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is Christopher, a teenage boy straddling the autistic spectrum. The story itself is revealed through the narrative point of view of young Christopher- not necessarily every reader’s cup of tea as we are given a view of the world through his logic-driven eyes.

His calculated narration is particularly helpful when trying to convey fairly complex problems, Christopher uses statistical knowledge, visual representation and mathematical solutions. The range of solutions allows people to gain a richer understanding as well as being able to choose a version that they are most likely to understand. A great example is how he explains the The Monty Hall Problem.

We are told the story of Marilyn vos Savant, a woman with the highest IQ that solved problems sent in via a magazine column. One problem involved having three doors, one in which had a car behind it that you could win and the other two had goats. Marilyn states that one should always pick the last door as the chances were much higher in winning the car- a statement that was highly criticized by the mathematical community.

Christopher goes on to explain that she is in fact true, providing two solutions, shown here: monty hall problem.
Each version appeals to a different audience, one who works with a more mathematical mind and one who responds better to a more visual-based method.
Christopher’s point of view comes off as logical and well thought out. The idea that he is autistic allows the reader to accept his point of view because it seems more objective.

Personally I respond to more visual cues but I appreciate his manner of appealing to two types of people, it definitely validates his opinion.

The fact that he is on the autistic spectrum anchors his reasoning more for the reader as we are shown how he deals with the confusion of the world through his eyes.

It isn’t necessarily a book I would read and enjoy however I can appreciate the unique point of view.

Reference: Haddon, M. (2004). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (pp 78- 82). London: Red Fox.

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May 25, 2012 / elenav90

TALK TO ME !!

Dialogue is largely what distinguishes humans from other species. It represents the foundation of our social and political organisation. I bet that even you were engaged in some form of dialogue during the last half hour (yes, Facebook chat counts). But aside from chatting to attract potential mates, dialogue can make a piece of writing much livelier!

Image                                       image 1.

The reading: Blow Fly

Author Patricia Cornwell incorporates a great deal of direct speech between characters in her novel to produce an entertaining and impressive style of writing. Dialogue allows the characters to distinguish themselves and express their own perspectives. This is particularly useful in a suspenseful story like this one, which develops to discover who committed the murder investigated, and how blow-fly larvae were used to decompose the cadaver, getting rid of the evidence.

 Image                                      image 2.


A morphological, syntactical, and semantic exercise

Direct speech in a text appeals to readers from three aspects of linguistics.

Linguistic morphology includes sentence shape, structure, and wording; these tend to be more varied and eye-catching in reported speech than in a standard paragraph of text.

Syntax refers to sentence construction; phrases can be shorter and punchier in dialogue, might contain grammatical errors, slangs and other dynamic aspects of language.

Finally, speech is important for the purpose of semantics, or the study of the meaning of words, phrases, signs and symbols. Dialogue not only provides much contextualisation, but can also be more effective than third person narration in the speaker’s character, motivations, intentions, and values.

Image                          image3.

So, we enjoy reading dialogue not only because it is a visually stimulating exercise, but also because we are interested in the development of a narrative through the characters’ ideas and interactions.


Education by dialogue

Much like we’ve observed before the efficiency of teaching science through narration, we can assess the usefulness of dialogue in conveying information.

Back in 1981, Don Norman argued that in the field of education, we should remember the sociality of human beings and the significant influence that emotion can have their behaviour. Therefore, considering individuals as purely intellectual, logical, and reasoning can prove ineffective when one aims to persuade, educate, or provoke action (Patraglia, 2009). Hear, hear, scientists! And indeed, few recent studies confirm the value of direct interpersonal exchanges in education: I’ll link to them below.

I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. When having to skim-read a long text, we are happy to hover a little longer over parts reporting dialogue. Or perhaps we’ve been motivated to do something we normally wouldn’t have, after being personally approached on the street.

Written speech reminds us social creatures of the direct interpersonal interaction we thrive on. Hence, writers can attain more attention and interest from readers by including some dialogue in their texts. This is not always easy, however. Can you think of examples of some science writing which would result more engaging if dialogue was included, as opposed to some others where it might prove ineffective and/or inappropriate?

——————————-


References:

Cornwell, P. D. (2003). Blow Fly. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

* Doyle-Jones, C. (2006). Story Dialogue: Creating Community Through Storytelling (M. A. Thesis). Retrieved from Simon Fraser University Summit.

* Labonte, R., Feather, J., & Hills, M. (1999) A story/dialogue method for health promotion knowledge development and evaluation. Health Education Research 14(1), 29-50. Retrieved from Oxford Journals.

Norman, D. A. (1981). Perspectives on cognitive science. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

* Patraglia, J. (2009). The importance of being authentic: persuasion, narration, and dialogue in health communication and education. Health communication 24(2), 176-185. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Online.

* Refer to these studies if you’re interested in how they assessed the effectiveness of dialogue in education and persuasion.

Image references:

Image 1 modified from: Yarra Plenty. (n.d.). Chat [Image]. Retrieved from http://yprl.wordpress.com/chat/

Image 2 from: Hora por Hora. (2010) Taller de asertividad [Image]. Retrieved from http://horaporhora.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/taller-de-asertividad.html

Image 3 created by Elena Vettorel. (2012).

May 25, 2012 / elenav90

TALK TO ME!!!


DIALOGUE
 is largely what distinguishes humans from other species. It represents the foundation of our social and political organisation. I bet that even you were engaged in some form of dialogue during the last half hour (yes, Facebook chat counts). But aside from chatting to attract potential mates, dialogue can make a piece of writing much livelier!

Image

The reading: Blow Fly

Author Patricia Cornwell incorporates a great deal of direct speech between characters in her novel to produce an entertaining and impressive style of writing. Dialogue allows the characters to distinguish themselves and express their own perspectives. This is particularly useful in a suspenseful story like this one, which develops to discover who committed the murder investigated, and how blow-fly larvae were used to decompose the cadaver, getting rid of the evidence.

 

A morphological, syntactical, and semantic exercise

Direct speech in a text appeals to readers from three aspects of linguistics.

Linguistic morphology includes sentence shape, structure, and wording; these tend to be more varied and eye-catching in reported speech than in a standard paragraph of text.

Syntax refers to sentence construction; phrases can be shorter and punchier in dialogue, might contain grammatical errors, slangs and other dynamic aspects of language.

Finally, speech is important for the purpose of semantics, or the study of the meaning of words, phrases, signs and symbols. Dialogue not only provides much contextualisation, but can also be more effective than third person narration in the speaker’s character, motivations, intentions, and values.

Image

So, we enjoy reading dialogue not only because it is a visually stimulating exercise, but also because we are interested in the development of a narrative through the characters’ ideas and interactions.


Education by dialogue

Much like we’ve observed before the efficiency of teaching science through narration, we can assess the usefulness of dialogue in conveying information.

Back in 1981, Don Norman argued that in the field of education, we should remember the sociality of human beings and the significant influence that emotion can have their behaviour. Therefore, considering individuals as purely intellectual, logical, and reasoning can prove ineffective when one aims to persuade, educate, or provoke action (Patraglia, 2009). Hear, hear, scientists! And indeed, few recent studies confirm the value of direct interpersonal exchanges in education: I’ll link to them below.

I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. When having to skim-read a long text, we are happy to hover a little longer over parts reporting dialogue. Or perhaps we’ve been motivated to do something we normally wouldn’t have, after being personally approached on the street.

Written speech reminds us social creatures of the direct interpersonal interaction we thrive on. Hence, writers can attain more attention and interest from readers by including some dialogue in their texts. This is not always easy, however. Can you think of examples of some science writing which would result more engaging if dialogue was included, as opposed to some others where it might prove ineffective and/or inappropriate?

 

Image

References:

Cornwell, P. D. (2003). Blow Fly. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

* Doyle-Jones, C. (2006). Story Dialogue: Creating Community Through Storytelling (M. A. Thesis). Retrieved from Simon Fraser University Summit.

* Labonte, R., Feather, J., & Hills, M. (1999) A story/dialogue method for health promotion knowledge development and evaluation. Health Education Research 14(1), 29-50. Retrieved from Oxford Journals.

Norman, D. A. (1981). Perspectives on cognitive science. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

* Patraglia, J. (2009). The importance of being authentic: persuasion, narration, and dialogue in health communication and education. Health communication 24(2), 176-185. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Online.

* Refer to these studies if you’re interested in how they assessed the effectiveness of dialogue in education and persuasion.


Image references:

Image 1 modified from: Yarra Plenty. (n.d.). Chat [Image]. Retrieved from http://yprl.wordpress.com/chat/

Image 2 created by Elena Vettorel. (2012).

Image 3 from: Hora por Hora. (2010) Taller de asertividad [Image]. Retrieved from http://horaporhora.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/taller-de-asertividad.html 

 

May 25, 2012 / gracerussell1

“You had me at hello”

Where would we be without “You had me at hello” or “You can’t handle the truth”? I find one of the most important and memorable aspects of telling a story is dialogue. We use it everyday, we use it to communicate and express ourselves, so why should it be any different when writing it?

In “My Little Brother On Drugs” by Jenny Everett [1], dialogue is used to communicate with the readers. Everett infuses dialogue, description and science to re-tell her experience of her 9-year-old brother taking prescribed growth hormones.

“…Keep the skin dimpled, otherwise all the medicine wont go in me. When you take out the needle, do it straight up and fast. And, Jenny, please don’t hit a vein. That huwts me.”

This short piece of dialogue from Everett’s story expresses her brother’s personality and allows the reader to sympathize with his position and admire his bravery. Everett takes the readers on her own journey; she wants them to experience her world and her personal feelings. Everett uses dialogue as a platform to engage her readers.

‘I pierce the fatty tissue and wince…’

Descriptive sentences like the one above forces the reader to attach feelings to pictures in their mind. It connects the reader to the story. Everett has no lack of descriptive sentences in her story, and thus it allows her to pass her own feelings and emotions onto the reader, cleverly enabling me to relate to her story, even though I don’t even have a brother.

I think Jenny’s story could strike a cord with most of her readers. Her use of dialogue makes you familiar with her characters, while her descriptive work enables you to relate to her own emotions.

Dialogue and description make Everett’s story memorable.

What other aspects do you think make a story memorable?

1. Everett, J. (2005). My little brother on drugs. In  J. Weiner &  T. Folger (Eds), The Best American Science and Nature Writing (pp 53-63). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

May 23, 2012 / tobiasgrey

The Sexy Side of Science

The animal kingdom is filled with more variation and uniqueness than anything else on earth. This variation allows both the heights of beauty as well as the bizarre and absurd. It is this absurdity that the article ‘World’s most bizarre mating rituals’ celebrates. Written by Mara Flannery for Cosmos Online, it is about exactly what the title entails – the lewd and uncanny sexual behaviour of various members of the animal kingdom. The article outlines seven general behaviours that are repeated in different species worldwide and give a few examples of species in which they occur. It’s all there, too, from female angler fish dissolving and assimilating the, dozens of male spoon worms living inside the womb of the female, and something terrifyingly referred to as ‘traumatic penetration’ in the bedbug boudoirs.

The first thing that struck me about this article was the surprising dryness with which it was written. I had assumed, given the absurd and juicy nature of the topic matter, some humour would be injected, but little to none can be found. What I had anticipated to be a riotous journey full of double-entendre, hilarious puns and tacky sex jokes turned out to be simply a reeling off of a list of the crazy things animals do. It wasn’t that it wasn’t enjoyable by virtue of that alone; I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. This article could’ve made so much more of an impact if it had used humour – as it was, reciting a list is not involving nor is it really enjoyable. This article will pull your through more by content than style, and while the content is very interesting – who doesn’t like reading about ‘sexual cannibalism? – it just lacked the punch and pizzazz that I wanted this article to have.

One benefit of this style, though, is that it communicates the science, and this article has done that very well. The behaviours are explained well through the individual examples that are given. The descriptions of these are short and sweet – they tell you everything you need to know in as short a time as possible. It even includes quotes from two experts – Zuk and Johnson, both behavioural ecologists – which serve to illustrate the context of these behaviours and how they came about through natural selection. The prescriptive style, for its lack in effect, made up for this with its simplicity, descriptiveness and ease of understanding.

Had I written this article, I would definitely have tried to interject some comedy; anything! A tacky pun here and a cheeky, Benny Hill-esque double-entendre there, just to add some more fun and draw the reader in more. Something to capitalize on the potential of the subject matter. It’s like I always say, the day you start taking sex too seriously is the day that you die. And, come on, who doesn’t find the idea of a female fish with dozens of testicles funny?

Nobody. That’s who.

The article can be found here, at Cosmos Online.

Up for discussion: do you think comedy can be an aspect which can improve and embellish science writing in particular subject areas? Or it dryness and humourlessness the way to go?

May 18, 2012 / thomaschadwick20245886

Sex, Drugs and… Fruit Flies?

The article “Sexually deprived flies turn to alcohol”[1] summarizes a paper[2] published in Science that correlates the act of sex and the consumption of alcoholic food in fruit flies. It was found that both the act of sex and the act of consuming alcohol were linked to the levels of a certain neurotransmitter, neuropeptide F (NPF), present in the fruit flies. Flies that had recently had sex showed high levels of NPF, while flies that had their sexual advances denied showed low levels of NPF. The flies that were spurned (and therefore had low levels of NPF) then tended to consume significantly more alcohol more than the sexually gratified flies.

On face value this story doesn’t appear to have much value to the average reader. Who cares about alcoholic, sexually frustrated fruit flies? Not many people regularly interact with fruit flies, and they certainly don’t seem to be scientifically equivalent to humans in this case.

What makes this study newsworthy is the link that the author draws between the study of fruit flies and related issue of drug addiction in humans. As lead author of the scientific paper and geneticist Galit Shohat-Ophir is quoted as saying:

“Understanding this system in flies might tell us [why the] human brain perceives social interactions as rewarding, and how systems and situations in which the reward systems don’t function properly like in addiction arise. This may give us more tools in the future to develop better therapies”[1]

By making this link the author ensures that more people will be intrigued by the article, purely because it is about something they can relate to. Without this link the potential audience of this story would be seriously limited.

But is the link between flies and humans really there, or is it just an attempt to make this story more readable at the expense of scientific accuracy?

In my opinion the link is there, and the author accurately and fairly demonstrates that fact. The scientific study doesn’t draw any erroneous conclusions, and neither does the author. The relationship between alcohol, sex and neurotransmitters is fairly represented, and both the study and the Cosmos article explain how other factors were ruled out, and how there is a neurologically similar transmitter (and similar behaviours) found in humans. There is even a brief section near the end of the story in which another scientist encourages the reader to be sceptical about the study and not to draw conclusions that aren’t there. The author never claims overly strong connections between alcohol and sex, and there aren’t any statements that declare unreasonable causations. All in all, the story stays true to the science, and yet manages to make it interesting and easy to read.

And of course any story that contains keywords like ‘sex’, ‘drugs’ and ‘alcohol’ are instantly going to be attention grabbing.

References:

[1] Soppe, R. (2012, 16 March). Sexually deprived flies turn to alcohol. Cosmos Online. Retrieved from http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/5419/full

[2] Shohat-Ophir, G., et. al. (2012) Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila. Science. 335(6074):1351-1355. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6074/1351.abstract?sid=de92f881-a57d-4ced-b34a-531162f2a2a6

Question: What are the attributes of this story that make it news worthy? Does the author portray the scientific research fairly?

May 18, 2012 / michaelpetersen1

Credibility in science communication

Science fiction seems to have a tradition of predicting where science will take us in the future. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein gave an insight into the possibility of modern surgery techniques and transplants, and Jules Verne wrote about submarines and Rockets in his novels, however absurd these things seemed at the time. It’s no surprise then that scientists are now working on an invisibility cloak something we see in fantasy novels like Harry Potter .

Boonsri Dickenson explains the efforts of scientist to come up with a material which is able to bend light and make the person cloaked in it invisible. Making this story credible involves explaining the science of how an invisibility cloak would work and how it is made. This means that Boonsri keeps the popular culture references at the start of the article which at first draws us into reading it, and starts discussing the realities of the technology still in its primitive stage this causes any preconceived notions of what an invisibility cloak would do firmly within the fantasy novels as we learn that invisible materials are only a fraction of a millimetre in length and only work in two dimensions.

Focusing on the scientists the author tries to make the story appear more credible including direct quotes by them. In particular, we are introduced to Ulf Leonhardt who must create a ‘blueprint’ within two years – a small amount of time for something first thought impossible. Much of the article follows the ideas of the scientists involved in making the cloaks and their challenges and opinions on what the technology could be used for. In this way, we are introduced to people who share a similar fascination on the subject while also gaining an insight into their work and the science involved.

While the science in the article has to be accurate for the story to be credible this can be difficult when the science behind it (mainly theoretical physics) is very dry and boring. The author strikes a good balance here by using simple statements to make then science sound simpler:

“light changes its path when it travels through air to water. It’s like looking at a mirage on a hot day.”

This also helps make a fascinating concept like the science of invisibility which captivates our imagination a little more interesting than the reality of the technology.

Boonsri writes a credible science story while still retaining the magic of invisibility, as she points out while an invisibility cloak seems implausible now

“New Scientist predicts that by 2039, invisibility cloaks would be part of our everyday life”.

There’s no telling where the technology could be in the future, anything that has a potential military function like invisibility is sure to receive further development the real challenge will be communicating to people people that these experiments are worthwhile and credible.

Article: http://www.smartplanet.com/technology/blog/science-scope/an-invisibility-cloak-hides-objects-in-visible-light/5750