Going a bit of a different way with Science Affliction this week. All of the posts will be related to handedness and interesting scientific discoveries regarding the anomaly that left-handers make up such a relatively small portion of the population (about 10%). I’m afraid this post will come out a bit more like a research paper than “cool science news” so you may want to back away slowly and then run like hell.
The idea for the topic of this post came from a video from a few years back from one of my science heroes, James Watson. He did a TEDTalk where he talked mostly about his group’s discovery of DNA, but he also talks a bit at the end about what he’s interested in now, which is the genetic pre-disposition for diseases and disorders. That part of his talk starts at about 15 minutes, if you want to skip ahead. (I do recommend watching the whole video because Watson is a great example of a non-stereotypical scientist. He’s humble and funny, and very approachable.)
So, his point about the link between schizophrenia and left-handedness has support from more recent studies. Like most cutting edge science, there’s a lot of disagreement on that point. That got me thinking about the genetics of handedness in general, and why only 10% of the human population is left-left handed.
1) Here’s an article that talks about the genetics of handedness. Basically, there’s one gene with two possible options, one says you’re right-handed and the other says you have a 50/50 chance of being either left or handed. Only approximately 10% of humans are left-handed. This would tend to say that the heritability of left-handedness would be around 25%, which the numbers support.
2) In the interest of fair and balanced reporting: A study in the UK couldn’t find a genetic link to handedness.
3) One study went to the world of sports for an answer and determined that the reason for the left and right-handed balance in humans has to do with how much cooperation and competition we require in our society. In sports were competition is favored, the number of left-handers is larger than the population average. Their model accurately predicted percentages in many sports, but does that mean it works as an indicator for the population at large?
4) I’ve saved the best for last. This article from 2008 is probably the most balanced of the bunch, and proposes that the predisposition for right-handedness may have evolved along with our capability for speech. To me, this makes the most sense. Our brains have obviously adapted for some reason to favor one side of the brain over the other (more so than other animals like chimps that have so much genetic similarity to us) and there has to be an evolutionary reason for it that goes beyond our use of hands.
That’s all the left-handed links I have for you today. Hope you learned something interesting! I sure did.
As of this writing I have four stories out on submission to various markets. I don’t mind telling you, I feel like a bit of a badass. A year ago I had only submitted two stories ever, and those only to one market each, and promptly locked my form rejections away where no one would ever see them. These days I have a different philosophy about the rejection carousel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terrified of rejection and I likely always will be, but each time I send a story out I feel a little less like the entirety of who I am is being judged based on a few words on a page.
Steven Gould had a great piece of advice for us at Viable Paradise that has really stuck with me. As a writer one of the most important things you can do is tie your self-worth to something, anything else besides your writing. I’ve thought about this advice since October, and decided that it’s absolutely true. If every story is an integral part of who I am and I send it out to the world where it is summarily rejected and/or ignored, how can I expect to feel good about myself at the end of that process? It’s a struggle for me to dissociate myself from my work, but hopefully it will get a bit easier with time. I also have to find another hobby to pour myself into to take the place of writing, now that it’s become more of a ‘job’.
On the writing front I’ve been making good progress, but not much that I can share here if I want to send them at some point. I did have a germ of an idea for a new character over the weekend and wrote a little bit of a profile story for her that I thought I’d share.
Mikaela slipped out of the gauzy black dress with her back to the only mirror in her bedroom. She’d envied the women in the orchestra their beautiful gowns once, but not anymore. She couldn’t point to the exact moment when that had changed for her, but part of her wished she still wanted the black tie charity events and their careless elegance. More and more, the gorgeous dresses felt like a yoke holding her to a life she despised.
Despised was perhaps too strong a word. She still loved the music. When the rising and falling notes surrounded her, the charade made sense. The rest of the time, she hardly felt like a person at all. She was a work of art: a damsel in a lovely dress with her knees wrapped around an expensive musical instrument.
As she walked into the bathroom, she let her hair down from the intricate braid atop her head; the gemmed comb just another adornment that made her faceless amid the other captured, beautiful things. She couldn’t look at herself in the mirror until she’d washed off her makeup. Under the decorations, she was the woman she recognized after all.
Mikaela pulled her hair back into a pony tail, leaving the shorter pieces to find their own way about her face. She scrubbed her neck and chest with a washcloth, removing the perfume and powder that helped disguise her. When she felt completely like herself again, she was ready. She padded back into the bedroom and dressed again, this time in her own clothes rather than borrowed finery: black jeans, a white button-down shirt, and her favorite leather boots. She spared a glance for her cello case where it rested on the table, then stepped away from that part of her life, for the weekend at least.
That’s all for me. Hearts and puppies and all that jazz,
Science News from around the interwebs!
The featured image of this post is an absolutely breathtaking image of the Earth Rosetta took while slingshotting around us to pick up speed. Go here to see it in all its glory.
Before her long sleep, Rosetta took this awesome picture of the asteroid Lutetia with Saturn in the background:
2) The first plastic cell with a functioning organelle has been made. Don’t get too excited just yet: the faux-cell doesn’t approach the awesome complexity of a real cell, but it did perform a series of chemical reactions.
3) Carl Zimmer wrote an interesting article about X-Chromosome expression that talks about the genetic diversity inherent in women. Really fascinating studies being done now on why/how the cells in our body express or don’t express certain genes.
4) New support for the theory that a healthy gut promotes a healthy life. I’ve been reading up on digestion chemistry lately while trying to correct an increasing problem I’ve had in recent years and in that process I have a new-found respect for the symbiotes living inside all of us. Take care of your gut flora, people!
5) The first black hole orbiting (and feeding from) a neutron star is found. Reading about astrophysics often makes my head hurt, but I just can’t stop doing it!
That’s your science injection for the week. Use it in good health!
(Images from the European Space Agency)
Sometimes the writing life and real life interleave so fluidly that I get the overwhelming sense that I’m doing the right thing. It’s a little scary when that happens, mostly because I’m so used to feeling like a hack all the time. Over the summer I had one of those moments when a series of events occurred and I could see the connection between them. They became an entirely different story in my head, and the poem I’m posting is the result of that experience. I toyed with the idea of submitting it for publication because it’s the best piece of poetry I’ve written, but I decided it was too special to me to put it through the rejection cycle. So I give it to you, bloggies, as a gift because I haven’t posted much writing yet. (Spoiler Alert: I have been doing a lot of writing, but I’m trying to submit more so I’m keeping it mostly to myself.) Without further babbling, here is Old Woman in a Cuban Bakery.
Hearts, and Puppies,
Going to try something new for a few weeks and see how it goes. I’m going to try to post something about writing every Wednesday. It might be links to good advice or exercises, stuff I learned at writer camp, or something else entirely, but always related to writing.
This week I’m going to talk about background music. Some writers are purists. They need to be one hundred percent immersed in their writing world in order for the ink to flow. That’s fine. If you’re one of those folks, more power to you in your cone of silence. Me, I need some music.
Generally I find it best to not use music with words because I tend to sing along, and if I’m singing I can’t write. That limits my choices pretty severely. Aside from the usual classical masters, I’ve found that movie soundtracks work very well for me because they generally last as long as one sitting of writing for me. I’m going to list a few of my favorites and why I love them so much for writing.
If you’ve never watched this movie, you should go out and get a copy right now. I’m not kidding. You can read my review of it here. This isn’t about the movie though, this is about the soundtrack. The music is unique and lovely. There are instruments you don’t hear much anymore, and even an old Victrola playing in the background at one point. Just a great soundtrack that I listen to often, and not just when I’m writing.
Basil Poledouris was the man. He did quite a few awesome soundtracks in his day, and I’d recommend any of them really, but the Original Conan is my favorite. The music is heavy with drums and horns, and just has a powerful, aggressive feeling to it. I love to write fight scenes while listening to this one.
Another great and underrated movie that you should see if you haven’t yet! The soundtrack is very nautical and gives off a great pirate vibe. There are quite a few songs that have words (sea shanties in particular) but they don’t hurt my writing experience much.
This one has melodies that will haunt you. I write faster, more emotional scenes when it’s on.
I had a hard time choosing a fifth soundtrack for inclusion here because there are so many that I love. (I may in fact end up doing a follow-up post with another five selections.) I ended up choosing Firefly because it is the one most dissimilar to the others. A little more western flair and upbeat than my other selections.
That’s all for this episode. I hope I’ve introduced you to some ear candy you didn’t know about. If you’ve got something you love to listen to while writing, please share! I’m always on the hunt for new music to write by.
Hearts and puppies,