The Neuroscience Of “Harry Potter” or, What Happens to Your Brain When You’re Lost in a Book

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Let’s do a casual experiment. Here’s a brief passage from the first book in some obscure fiction series called Harry Potter:

A bush on the edge of the clearing quivered. … Then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast. Harry, Malfoy, and Fang stood transfixed. The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side, and began to drink its blood.

And here’s another passage from the final book of the series:

He got up off the floor, stretched and moved across to his desk. Hedwig made no movement as he began to flick through the newspapers, throwing them on to the rubbish pile one by one; the owl was asleep, or else faking; she was angry with Harry about the limited amount of time she was allowed out of her cage at the moment.

Which passage did you find more engaging? Chances are it was the first. While the second passage might advance the plot, the first passage has drama, tension, and irresistible vampire-like behavior stuffed into a matter of four lines. It’s the type of action that helps readers get lost in a book. And it’s precisely this ability to immerse readers that helps sell hundreds of millions of copies.

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8 Tips for Creating Great Stories from George R. R. Martin, Junot Diaz, and Other Top Storytellers

Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction is jammed with storytelling wisdom from some of world’s top fantasy writers. Here’s some of it.

What the hell is a Story Lizard? In Wonderbook: The Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Abrams Books, October 15), Story Lizards join Prologue Fish and other infographic helpmates designed to banish dry textual analysis in favor of a kicking, screaming, slithering approach to storytelling creativity.

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Fade to ‘Vantablack’: Scientists Invent a Material So Black Your Eyes Can’t See It

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Black leather jacket, Eerie black, Outer space, Licorice, Onyx and plain old Black. These are the names of Crayola’s blackest of black crayons. Sure, they’re all jet black, but none of them have anything on “Vantablack,” an extraordinary new nanofiber believed to be the darkest black on Earth, even darker than NASA’s “super-black.”

Not to beat this unusually dark horse dead, but Vantablack is actually so deeply black that your eyes can’t really see it at all, only the area surrounding it. And we’re not kidding when we say looking at this “strange, alien” stuff is like gazing into a black hole. Not a deep, dark cave kind of hole. Think darker. The kind of black hole found in outer space. Continue reading…

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How to make things “Koselig”?

Love this…. “So how to make things koselig? According to my experience in Norway, a koselig evening involves candles, good music and as least awkward silences as possible (Norwegians are very sensitive to awkward silences, more than any people I’ve lived with). Warm colors around you, a fire in the chimney, good food on the table, wine and people you like and feel comfortable with. Chatting away the evening and the night with a little drunkness and inner warmth.”

A Frog in the Fjord

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There is an important concept one needs to understand and embrace when living in Norway: being “koselig”. Most English speakers translate it by “cosy” but that term doesn’t even begin to cover everything that “koselig” can express. This concept is difficult to translate to those who do not live here, but basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting. And just for the fun ask a Norwegian what is his/her definition of koselig and you will realise it is not only hard to translate but also hard to explain for them. Then ask what is the difference between “hyggelig” and “koselig” and you might have lit an evening-long discussion. (By the way it seems to me…

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This New Wearable Device Says It Helps Lower Stress At Work–We Put It To The Test

A wearable device that tracks us where we actually are most of the time: In front of the computer and forgetting to breathe correctly.

You’re at work, and you’ve been glued to your computer for the last three hours, jumping between chat and email and tabs on your browser. When was the last time you took a deep breath?

It’s the kind of thing most of us don’t pay much attention to, which is exactly why a tiny new wearable device called Spire is useful. By tracking your breathing, Spire can figure out how stressed out you are, and help you adapt to better focus or relax.

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How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting The Day You Begin

Reminding myself why I need to practice… :)

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The Eastern practice of yoga has become a modern-day symbol of peace, serenity and well-being in the West. More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, according to the 2012 Yoga in America study, with practitioners spending more than $10 billion a year on yoga-related products and classes.

The mind-body practice is frequently touted for its ability to reduce stress and boost well-being, but it also offers wide-ranging physical health benefits that rival other forms of exercise. While thescientific research on yoga’s health benefits is still young, here’s what we know so far about its potential effects on the body. Continue reading…

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Earth in True Perspective

Everything is relative. You don’t need to be Einstein to understand that. A human is as big to an ant as a building may be to him. However, the world always seems such a huge place; so many countries, cities, forests, oceans, lakes, icebergs. So many animals and species. So much history. But ever since we developed the ability to look beyond our atmosphere, it became more and more apparent that our blue marble is tiny. Too tiny to even comprehend, when compared to other planets, stars, galaxies and the universe itself. So just to give you an idea of how tiny we really are here on planet earth, here are some visual aids.
size of earth
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Disney rendered its new animated film on a 55,000-core supercomputer

Disney’s upcoming animated film Big Hero 6, about a boy and his soft robot (and a gang of super-powered friends), is perhaps the largest big-budget mash-up you’ll ever see. Every aspect of the film’s production represents a virtual collision of worlds. The story, something co-director Don Hall calls “one of the more obscure titles in the Marvel universe,” has been completely re-imagined for parent company Disney. Then, there’s the city of San Fransokyo it’s set in — an obvious marriage of two of the most tech-centric cities in the world. And, of course, there’s the real-world technology that not only takes center stage as the basis for characters in the film, but also powered the onscreen visuals. It’s undoubtedly a herculean effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and one that’s likely to go unnoticed by audiences. Continue reading…

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