Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘science and lit’

Shop Talk |

Why old books smell so good

You know how you go into a rare books library, or maybe an old used bookstore, and you step between the shelves and take a deep breath and there it is: that incredible old-book smell. To me, it always smells like leather and caramel and dust and sunlight, all blended together. Turns out, there’s a scientific answer (as well as a teleoogical one) for just why old books smell so damn good: This sign might be on to something. Smell is the scent most strongly tied to memory, and in my dreams (the real, I’m-asleep ones) I’m often combing the […]

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More powerful than a locomotive…

Not a poet? Perhaps you are. David Brooks points out that we all use metaphors in our daily speech, all the time, without even knowing it: When talking about relationships, we often use health metaphors. A friend might be involved in a sick relationship. Another might have a healthy marriage. When talking about argument, we use war metaphors. When talking about time, we often use money metaphors. But when talking about money, we rely on liquid metaphors. We dip into savings, sponge off friends or skim funds off the top. Even the job title stockbroker derives from the French word […]

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Shakespeare was a neuroscientist?

Neurolinguist Philip Davis is studying the effects of Shakespeare on the brain. Big Think has more info: In all of his plays, sonnets and narrative poems, Shakespeare used 17,677 words. Of these, he invented approximately 1,700, or nearly 10 percent. Shakespeare did this by changing the part of speech of words, adding prefixes and suffixes, connecting words together, borrowing from a foreign language, or by simply inventing them, the way a rapper like Snoop Dogg has today. […] [Davis] is studying what he calls “functional shifts” that demonstrate how Shakespeare’s creative mistakes “shift mental pathways and open possibilities” for what […]

Interviews |

Stalking the Inner Celestial: An Interview with Michael Byers

Michael Shilling’s interview with Percival’s Planet author Michael Byers delves into the fascinating characters – both historical and imagined – that populate Byers’ novel, which deals with the 1930s discovery of Pluto. Shilling says, “Reminiscent of such lightweights as James and Welty, Byers’ work shines with studied and infuried illuminations of the imperfect spirit; he can map out this process of inner grappling with a lovely, intense, and disciplined artistry.”

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This is your brain on fiction

Can neuroscience help you become a better writer? That’s what YA author Livia Blackburne, a graduate student in neuroscience at MIT, wonders on her blog Narrative and the Brain. …. the scientists used a brain scanner to see what regions lit up during the reading of a story. They watched the brains of volunteers as they read four short narrative passages. […] Motor neurons flashed when characters were grasping objects, and neurons involved in eye movement activated when characters were navigating their world. In summary then, different parts of the brain process different facets of our conscious experience, and those […]