Neurodiversity and Science Fiction Fandom

Frankenstein (1931) film poster

“School is starting up soon… It has brought up a whole childhood can of worms regarding my less-than-lovely educational experience, and makes me reflect on issues of social acceptance for neurologically atypical people overall. That leads me to fandom. I can’t help but think neurodiveristy is an area in which science fiction and fantasy fans are a long, long ways ahead of society in general.

A few years ago I attended a panel at Norwescon that was supposed to be about the future of psychology but quickly became a discussion of the neurological make-up of fandom. The lively and engaged discussion covered dyslexia, Asperger’s, ADHD, autism, sensory integration dysfunction, and related topics. The general consensus was that among convention-goers, the percentage of people with such atypical neurology ranged around 60 to 70 percent. Almost all the audience members who spoke identified with one or more of the above, or mentioned a close relative that did.” (Tor.com)

Dissertations — in 17 syllables

Grave of YosaBuson (与謝蕪村墓)

“The Web site Dissertation Haikus has been around for a few years, but it’s enjoying a late-summer surge in popularity. The concept is irresistible. As its creator explains, “Dissertations are long and boring. By contrast, everybody likes haiku. So why not write your dissertation as a haiku?” Why not, indeed! For the writer, the site provides a way to dramatically expand the universe of people with a loose grasp on how you spent several or 10 or 12 years of your life. For the reader, it provides a way to painlessly survey what passes for the cutting edge of knowledge, without having to negotiate precious, colon-hobbled titles or scientific jargon.” (Boston Globe via laurie)

A Taste for Flesh

After seeing more than 60 zombie films, Johnathon Williams explains: “If civilization is ever overrun by zombies — which for the purposes of this essay shall be defined as reanimated corpses who feed on the living until they’re dispatched by a gunshot to the head — I know exactly what I will do. I will gather my family and I will take them to Wal-Mart.” (The Morning News)

Physicist Proposes Solution to Arrow-of-Time Paradox

“Entropy can decrease, according to a new proposal – but the process would destroy any evidence of its existence, and erase any memory an observer might have of it. It sounds like the plot to a weird sci-fi movie, but the idea has recently been suggested by theoretical physicist Lorenzo Maccone, currently a visiting scientist at MIT, in an attempt to solve a longstanding paradox in physics.” (Phys.Org)

In other words, time flows both ‘forwards’ and ‘backwards’ but we can only remember one of those unfoldings?

Depression’s Evolutionary Roots

Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibit...

“Two scientists suggest that depression is not a malfunction, but a mental adaptation that brings certain cognitive advantages”. (Scientific American) Evolutionary explanations are appealing, for if depression were not adaptive then why would it be so prevalent across cultures and epochs? Estimates are that between one quarter and one half of the public are clinically depressed at some point in their life.

The suggestion here is that the depressive state, with ruminative thinking, social isolation, and loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, etc. promotes periods of uninterrupted analytical thinking. This turns some of the therapeutic approaches to depression on their head. Interventions which discourage ruminative thinking might prolong the resolution of a depressive episode. Patients encouraged to amplify on their ruminating, such as journalling, might do better. Perhaps even antidepressant medications might interfere in constructive problem-solving?

I have thought there might be a different evolutionary advantage to depression. After a loss or setback, the depressed person’s lack of energy, motivation and activity act to conserve resources. Their way of thinking about the world, with pessimism and a helpless sense of lack of control over what befalls one, might be more realistic, at least at such a time.

The Chart of Fantasy Art

“Never let it be said that publishers don’t research their market. Having surveyed all the fantasy books published by the leading SFF imprints in the US, we are now one step closer to unlocking the greatest mysteries of fantasy cover design. Behold, the legendary Chart of Fantasy Art!” (The Publisher Files)

(A visual survey of the frequency of various cover art elements from all fantasy books published in 2008 by major fantasy publishing houses)

New meth formula avoids anti-drug laws


Here’s the crucial part, for me:

The new formula does away with the clutter of typical meth labs, and it can turn the back seat of a car or a bathroom stall into a makeshift drug factory. Some addicts have even made the drug while driving.

The pills are crushed, combined with some common household chemicals and then shaken in the soda bottle. No flame is required.

Using the new formula, batches of meth are much smaller but just as dangerous as the old system, which sometimes produces powerful explosions, touches off intense fires and releases drug ingredients that must be handled as toxic waste.

“If there is any oxygen at all in the bottle, it has a propensity to make a giant fireball,” said Sgt. Jason Clark of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control. “You're not dealing with rocket scientists here anyway. If they get unlucky at all, it can have a very devastating reaction.”

One little mistake, such as unscrewing the bottle cap too fast, can result in a huge blast, and police in Alabama, Oklahoma and other states have linked dozens of flash fires this year — some of them fatal — to meth manufacturing.

“Every meth recipe is dangerous, but in this one, if you don't shake it just right, you can build up too much pressure, and the container can pop,” Woodward said.

When fire broke out in older labs, “it was usually on a stove in a back room or garage and people would just run, but when these things pop, you see more extreme burns because they are holding it. There are more fires and more burns because of the close proximity, whether it's on a couch or driving down the road.” ‘(MSNBC via pam)

Let there be night

‘The public's “right to starlight” is steadily being eroded by urban illumination that is the bane of astronomers everywhere, says the International Astronomical Union.

The body, which wrapped up an 11-day general assembly in Rio de Janeiro that attracted galaxy-gazers from around the world, argues that authorities should use more unobtrusive lighting in cities and towns.

Such moves would not only free up the night skies to make for easier viewing, but also promote environmental protection, energy savings and tourism, it said in a resolution.’ (ABC Science).

Like a Complete Unknown…

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup...
‘ “How does it feel?” Bob Dylan wondered back in 1965, to be on your own, “like a complete unknown.” Now he knows. Two police officers in their 20s asked Mr. Dylan, 68, to provide identification as he took a stroll through Long Branch, N.J., last month, The Associated Press reported.

The officers were responding to a report from residents that an “eccentric-looking old man” had wandered into their yard, according to ABC News. Mr. Dylan, right, who said he was looking at houses to pass some time before that night’s show with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, was not carrying identification, so the officers accompanied him back to his hotel, where concert workers vouched for him. “I’ve seen pictures of Bob Dylan from a long time ago, and he didn’t look like Bob Dylan to me at all,” Officer Kristie Buble told ABC News. “We see a lot of people on our beat, and I wasn’t sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something. He was acting very suspicious. Not delusional, just suspicious.” ‘ (New York Times via abby)

Too good to pass up posting this anecdote, although I also find it sad. Already, with the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock this weekend, preoccupied with the passage of time and the transience of so much of what I found important in my youth. Of course, another take on this story is to wonder why in the world they were playing Long Branch NJ.

Are Stupid Teenagers Ruining American Films?

“The two best movies I've seen this summer, District 9 (which I reviewed for Reason here) and The Hurt Locker are both smart, inventive, relatively low budget action films. Both are clearly products of directors with strong, clear, and unusual visions that somehow snuck through the Hollywood production pipeline largely intact. That this is a rarity in American studio filmmaking and even more so in summer action films hardly needs to be said. And as a sometime-critic, regular moviegoer, and devotee of summer movies, both small and large, I rather obviously wish that this weren't true.

Yet I can't agree with Roger Ebert's contention that, essentially, dumb Americans—and in particular, dumb teenagers—are ruining the U.S. film industry. His evidence basically boils down to the box office scores for three films—Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe, which critics hated but made big bucks, and The Hurt Locker, which critics loved but has been comparatively little seen.

Granted, he also complains about the dearth of good satire, the general lack of interest in old media, and the perception of movie critics as an out-of-touch elite (which he agrees they are, but doesn't think that's a bad thing). But all in all, it's pretty thin stuff.

Take, for example, his primary gripe, the relative box office failure of The Hurt Locker: Critically beloved films fall through the cracks all the time, and it's not as if audiences are going out of their way to irritate the nation's critics…” — Peter Suderman

via The Atlantic — Andrew Sullivan’s ‘The Daily Dish’ .

I have to agree with him about the two best films of the summer…

Gone Footloose

Image by janusz l via Flickr

My family and I are out of town and away from keyboards for awhile, so don’t expect any posts. Speak to you in a couple of weeks. Don’t forget to watch the Perseids on the night of Aug 11-12.