Summary: It’s not uncommon to stumble on a headline about a politician mocking research on flies or worms. You might agree — what could we learn about our brains from a worm that only has a handful of brain cells? Have you ever wondered why scientists spend so much time studying weird, wiggly critters? Good news! It’s time to learn about the superpowers of the often slimy, tiny, and always wonderful animals we call “model organisms,” and what they can teach us about ourselves.
From Terrible Lizards to Giant Birds: A History of the Discovery and Science of Dinosaurs, and their Depictions in Films, TV, and Other Media
Summary: Since the coining of the word “Dinosauria” in 1841, this group of extinct animals has captured the imagination of the public and have become a cornerstone in fantastical media since then. However, since they’re all dead, and we only have their fossils to go off of, their exact depiction has been something of a mystery, often left to the creativity of artists or the budgetary restraints of film makers, rather than the leading theories of scientists. Occasionally, the media hits the mark for paleontological accuracy, and sometimes it doesn’t even try, but do the latest movies and games even get it right?Nicholas Holston
Memoirs of Madness: Creative Genius and Bipolar Disorder in American Culture
Summary: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time…” Who are Kerouac’s “shooting stars”? Is “mad genius” a misnomer? Do mercurial moods beget brilliance? Do some savants inevitably suffer? In the 90s, Kay Jamison wrote that “…poetic or artistic genius, infused with fitful and inconstant moods, is a powerful crucible for imagination and experience.” But Jamison’s artists are only part of the picture.
The inspirational and the innovative. The soaring and the sagacious. Florence Nightingale. Emily Dickinson. Frank Sinatra. Catherine Zeta-Jones. Francis Ford Coppola. Virginia Woolf. Ted Turner. Steve Jobs? And more. Does the generative energy of people with mood disorders have a common flavor, or have society’s conceptualizations led us to indulge in an array of stereotypes? What does research say about creativity and bipolar disorder, and what do biographical accounts of some of popular culture’s most beloved geniuses beg us to ask about mental illness and creativity?Emily Erwin-Frank