If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

13 Jun

The title is an Einstein quote.

Put on your smarty glasses kids. We’re gonna talk about Research.

Suzzallo library of the University of Washington, Seattle WA

The reading room of the Suzzallo library of the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, was built in 1926 and has a Gothic interieur. Photography by Cap’n Surly Flickr.com

One of my favorite parts about writing a book is doing the research. When I was writing Lizzy I spent hours looking up mythological creatures and Shakespeare in the library. I used books like Barthe’s and the Encyclopedia of Imaginary Places and books on how keys were invented and books about Elizabethan England and it was tons of fun.

So for my new book, Palimpsest (which I’ve talked about a little here and here and here ) I present my currently reading or recently read research list:

There’s probably a few that I’m missing….

And I’ve also branched out into podcasts on topics that I want to include like time travel, and memory, how the universe came into existence and the multiverse and doppelgangers and how our brains are wired and… and… and…

You know, easy stuff.

So I discovered RadioLab which is my new obsession. They define themselves as a show about curiosity and that is without a doubt the simplest way to put it. Here a few of my favorites. All the descriptions are from the Radiolab website. I embedded what I could for your listening pleasure.

Memory and Forgetting  

This hour of Radiolab, a look behind the curtain of how memories are made…and forgotten. Remembering is an unstable and profoundly unreliable process–it’s easy come, easy go as we learn how true memories can be obliterated, and false ones added. And Oliver Sacks joins us to tell the story of an amnesiac whose love for his wife and music transcend his 7-second memory

Memory and Forgetting includes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat, Adding Memory and Clive which are parsed out below.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat

What is a memory? Science writer Jonah Lehrer tells us is it’s a physical thing in the brain… not some ephemeral flash. It’s a concrete thing made of matter. And NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux, who studies fear memories in rats, tells us how with a one shock, one tone, and one drug injection, you can bust up this piece of matter, and prevent a rat from every making a memory. LeDoux’s research goes sci-fi, when he and his colleague Karim Nader start trying to erase memories. And Nader applies this research to humans suffering from PTSD.

(This podcast was what lead me to read Jonah Lehrer’s book, Proust was a Neuroscientist)

Clive

The story of a man who’s lost everything. Clive Wearing has what Oliver Sacks calls “the most severe case of amnesia ever documented.” Clive’s wife, Deborah Wearing, tells us the story along with Oliver Sacks. And they try to understand why, amidst so much forgetting, Clive remembers two things: Music and Love.

(This podcast is what lead me to read her book listed above, Forever Today)

Adding Memory

We start this section off with a question from writer Andrei Codrescu“where do computers get their extra memory from?” And then we take it literally. Can you add memories?Dr. Elizabeth Loftus says yes. She’s a psychologist in the department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California at Irvine, and her research shows that you can implant memories—wholly false memories—pretty easily into the brains of humans. Her work challenges the reliability of eye-witness testimony, and is so controversial that she once had to call the bomb squad. Then, producer Neda Pourangbrings us the story of finding a lost memory. Painter Joe Andoe incessantly paints huge canvasses of seemingly random images: horses, pastures, and – more recently – a girl with a particular about-to-say-something look on her face. He didn’t realize until recently that he’d been painting a day from his past, a fragment of an afternoon 30 years earlier.

The (Mutli) Universe(s)

Robert and Brian Greene discuss what’s beyond the horizon of our universe, what you might wear in infinite universes with finite pairs of designer shoes, and why the Universe and swiss cheese have more in common than you think.

Have you wondered if there is another you out there? Somewhere? Sitting in the same chair, reading the same blog post, wearing the same clothes and thinking the same thoughts? Well, Brian Greene says there must be one. Or two. Or lots and lots and lots and lots and… Why? You ask, well listen to Greene’s argument in this week’s podcast.

We are still furiously working on Season 5, so while you wait we bring you today’s podcast of a conversation between Robert Krulwich and Brian Greene, physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University. The interview is part of a series called ‘Giants of Science‘ hosted by venerable New York institution, the 92nd St Y.

(Brian Greene wrote Elegant Universe from the list above)

And of course never underestimate the power of Wine + Doctor Who = Mind Blown when it comes to ideas. Big ball of wibbley wobbley timey wimey….stuff.

Research is one of my favorite parts because it’s when my books and my desk get covered in post-it notes and ideas are popping up like little delicious bubbles all over the place and I drive my poor husband crazy talking about it. The hard part is mashing it all together. That’s the point when I start to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not clever enough to pull this off!

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One Response to “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hiddles, Links, Books and Rowling (oh my!) | allymalinenko - July 31, 2014

    […] this for research for the sci-fi book, Palimpsest, which I’m working on and it was incredible. I’ve blogged about it before. Also on the Forked Road I do a little reminiscing about NOLA, my favorite second home in the US. […]

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