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March 23, 2012 / lodoubt

To Confer Excitement

ImageIs the piece of latin that the word ‘Pheromone’ was assembled from in 1959 by Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher, according to an early anecdote in Wyatt’s piece ’50 Years of Pheromones’. The article intersperses its discussion of the analysis, properties, and implications of pheromones with a number of stories such as these, ensuring that it at remains an engaging read throughout the piece.

Analogies are sparse on the ground however, which seems to increase the precision with which Wyatt communicates his concepts, but at the same time the piece still makes concessions to mainstream readers (and indeed it seems to be written with them as the target), being that it has no unexplained jargon (as far as I can tell at least) and the general tone is quite casual and simple. I feel it might have edged just slightly into the danger zone of a patronising tone at a few points, but taken as a whole body of writing it is a very well written informative piece.

The article begins by talking about the insect species which were initially studied in Pheromone research (as well as an old anecdote about dogs), moves up to mammals, and then begins discussing the barriers to research into human pheromones, such as humans lacking the smell organ that was previously thought to be the sole site of pheromone recognition in mammals (The vomeronasal cavity). It goes to some effort to point out that the implementation of pheromones in all these species is extremely similar, and why that is the case.

Finally, it touches on the implications of human pheromone research, the results that have been seen so far, and their potential benefits to the public. With the latter, it ensures it has its bases covered as a piece of science writing, and the structure of the piece is evocative in and of itself of the evolution of pheromones which it spends some time talking about. Whether or not that is intentional though, I couldn’t say.

I think the science in this essay is definitely aimed at people who haven’t got a major background in science, and it functions in that regard. It’s brief too, ensuring its usefulness as a short educational piece you could refer someone to. There’s a little bit of sensationalism scattered around, but it largely avoids the elephant in the room, namely the picture for this post.

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4 Comments

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  1. caitiedunlap / Mar 24 2012 11:04 am

    I have to start off saying that your first sentance is very hard to read and after going over it a few times and talking about it with a few people, I am still struggling to understand what you’re actually trying to communicate.

    Pheromones are a very interesting topic so I’m sure you enjoyed writing and reading about this topic. I do feel like your post was mainly just a recap of the piece that you read, with four out of the five paragraphs just outlining what you had read. I think you should have spent less time reiterating what you read and more actually discussing the topic and its relevance to todays science. Like your last paragraph could have been expanded to be the majority of the post, but it definitely needs more analysis.

    In saying this I did not read the piece which you did so I am unaware of what you were given and what you had to work with but I feel like you should have done some more analysis of the piece you were given.

    • lodoubt / Mar 24 2012 6:14 pm

      These are pretty close to thoughts on this in hindsight, in that I maybe didn’t necessarily generate as much content on my own here as I should have, rather than just referring back to the article.

      I can’t profess to have much of a qualified opinion on what Wyatt’s article covered though, so I can only really analyse his methods and choices in communicating his scientific information. I could have talked a bit more about human pheromones and the idea that we do in fact have our behaviour significantly influenced by chemical signals, but Wyatt keeps that, the topic which all things considered has the greatest immediate relevance to the average reader, fairly short in his article.

      As I said, he was pretty big on science as storytelling in the article, but short on for analogy, and I tried to touch a little on all of those stories and in doing so might have spread myself too thin.

  2. lachlanpetersen / Mar 26 2012 8:41 am

    I must admit that your first sentence really stumped me for a few minutes before I gave up and read on, and I’m glad I did, because you seem to become a much better writer as the article goes on. I like the way you used the picture of the bottle with “excite” written on it to get peoples attention. Anything with even the slightest innuendo is just an attention magnet. I also liked the way you referred to the bottle as the elephant in the room, I just thought that was really clever when you realize that you were the one who chose the picture. The first sentence from the second paragraph didn’t do its job linking the two paragraphs together, and might have been a bit easier to read if you split it up into two separate sentences instead of stitching it together with commas.
    All in all, if you fix up the odd sentence, a well written and interesting article.

  3. thiarayoanita69 / Mar 27 2012 3:03 pm

    First of all, I agree with caitiedunlap and lachlanpetersen that your first sentence is hard to comprehend. That said, the one thing that makes me drawn to your article is the repetition of the word “Excite”- both in the image and your blog title. This attracts me to find out more about what is so exciting about this particular bottle. However, as I read through your post, I can’t find any relevance to either the word “Excite” or the bottle- which then you explain in your last paragraph. Maybe it would be better to address this point earlier in the post?

    I agree with you in how Wyatt has successfully explained all the jargons he used throughout the article. Wyatt has included human aspect in his article, with the addition of relevant image. Like how you have indicated previously, he provided a “developing stage” – starting from species -> mammals -> and us, humans. As we continue reading, we can relate more to the story.

    This makes me think about our lecture “writing a media-friendly science story”. In my opinion, Wyatt has employed an engaging piece of writing. He has used timeless issue, with high relevance to human aspect (especially towards the end). Another interesting thing that caught my attention is the red, bold quote on the second page – “A compound in women’s armpit extract could potentially open the door to sniffable contraceptives”. Phrases like this just add a light atmosphere to the writing; portraying that the writing is targeted to everyone in general, regardless of their scientific background (again just like what you have mentioned in your post).

    Focusing more on your writing, you have stated good points in your post. Just a suggestion, I guess you could elaborate more on some of the aspects you have stated, and slightly modify the structure of the post-so your points could come across more clearly. (:

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