News: My thoughts are clouds I cannot fathom into pastries.

--1 June 2018--

Quote: Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest of hearts. --Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

The Fellowship

May 27, 2016

Hard-Core Science & Bookish Fantasy - How Two Very Different Worlds Can Exist Together

Salutations to my loyal readers! I'm going to talk about something today that is very dear to my heart (wot with being a scientist who's simultaneously obsessed with books and writing and high fantasy realms). Before I get started, though, let me just quickly bring up the small wonder that prompted me to write this post :)


Cait over at Paper Fury (yes, that's her pretty button above; also, go wish her a very happy 5th blogversary!! & she has giveaways running!! [how jolly-well kind of her!]) recently wrote a post entitled "10 DREADFUL THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU READ TOO MUCH". It is wonderful, witty, and sassy - I think you'll enjoy reading it. In any case, after digesting her words myself, I got around to thinking about how a lot of people say that it is seemingly (and I use 'seemingly' with much salt here) antithetical to love both literature (of the fictional, dragons-ate-my-pet-moose kind) and science.

So first I'll point out that, as Cait says in her blog post, the average number of books read by one person of the General Public is purportedly 6 per year, and a large number of people that have voiced such aforementioned statements to me tend to fall on the shadowed side of that 6. Therefore, such voiced opinions really are inadequately supported by experience or even (might I go so far to say) understanding.

I am a wide reading individual. I love science, I love a wide variety of literature, I rather enjoy driving down dirt roads, swimming in creeks, and applying warpaint in preparation for a violent game of paintball. Perhaps I'm an enigma (although I really don't think so - I often see myself as a rather boring slump of neural tissue that regularly squawks for peanut butter). In any case, let me introduce you to some of the reading material I enjoy - let's have two examples.

First we've got the science-y side of things. I can often be found devouring (or slowly chewing through) primary research articles. These are the ones chock-full of puzzling terminology and mind-numbing instructions on how to elicit, say, a Hoffman's reflex in the tibialis anterior muscle. Let me just show you.

Lévénez et al. (2008) J. Neurophysiol
Ah yes, Lévénez here gives us the low-down on how they went about recording electromyographic activity for their study entitled, "Cortical and spinal modulation of antagonist coactivation during a submaximal fatiguing contraction in humans". How riveting. I might be pressed to make some sassy remark about the boring nature of most, if not all, primary research papers. HOWEVER, let me be 10000% straight with you - if it weren't for the glorious detail, time, and effort put into writing these often-times dry articles, I would be utterly lost and my research would have like a 10% chance of actually making a difference in the community. It's the dry, boring bits (like EVERY methodology section EVER written in the ENTIRE universe) that makes it possible for people like me to come along, fresh out of the Dante's Inferno that is undergrad, and run a research project. I can't tell you how many times I've rushed to read the methodology section of papers to find out what the anatomical landmarks are for basing electrode placement off of, or what pulse-width I need to set my electrical stimulator at - etc. These dry, boring bits that I thought people could do without are actually really really really important!

Ok, so I've ranted a bit (but oh I could go on for an age and a half) on research articles, now let me turn to my FAVOURITE pastime in the history of all hobbies. Fiction. Ah yes, here's another example:

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind - prologue excerpt
My darlings, let me introduce you to one of the best fantasy writers since Tolkien *sighs*. Whenever I'm not science-ing or running after shrieking chickens (literal chickens, I promise), I'm usually immersing myself in some realm or other where magic exists and dragons plague the northern reaches and eggs talk. Death, destruction, dystopia, giant talking trees, never-ending cupcakes, plot twists, etc. What a relief and what a contrast. When one is so strictly adhering to ethically approved research methodology and writing papers with the most succinct, professional English one can muster out of their brain, it is sometimes a breath of fresh air to read a little logical-defying fiction.

This is one of the reasons I keep my literary diet approximately half and half - sensible, factual literature paired with nonsensical, fictitious literature makes for a healthy heart (ok, I don't know if it's healthy but I have a very very deep love for reading all things and so let's just say it's healthy for me).

I suppose what I'm getting at is that no matter what your occupation is, it is 100% entirely fine to be a book-fanatic. Just because I do research doesn't mean I'm some white-coated scientist with the intense desire to cure cancer (I could be.... but I'm not - I wear jeans to work, haven't worn a lab coat since 2nd yr undergrad, and spend most of my days reading papers and writing ethics applications). And just because I love books doesn't mean I can't try my hand at solving a couple neuromuscular physiology puzzles in my lifetime. I love what I do and I do what I love; I'm a bookwyrm and a scientist and it. is. awesome.

In conclusion, I bring you the novel (or not-so-novel) idea that hard-core science and bookish fantasy can both exist together in your life - very happily I tell you. If you want to do research for NASA or become a physician or study the mechanisms of Ebola's effects on the human body - do it! If that's something you've always dreamed of then pursue it! because books are always going to be around when you need some downtime or want reprieve from the crazy push and pull of everyday living. Science and fantasy can exist hand-in-hand; go forth and conquer!

Signed with banana chips,

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