Taking science too seriously

Real science can’t compete at the movies with bad science. So writes my erstwhile colleague, the estimable Philip Ball, at news at nature.com.

" "I’m arresting you for breaking the laws of physics," says the policeman to the levitating man, in a cartoon that speaks volumes about the curiously legalistic terminology that science sometimes adopts. In this spirit, two physicists [Efthimiou and Llewellyn] at the University of Central Florida in Orlando seem intent on making a citizen’s arrest of all of Hollywood. In a preprint, they examine some egregious physical errors in recent blockbusters."

In the article discussed by Phil, the authors explain (with equations) why the bus in Speed couldn’t jump the gap, why the Green Goblin in Spiderman couldn’t hold up the cable in the New York tramway, and so on. The words "point" and "missing" come to mind.

As Phil more eloquently puts it: "Should we endorse the violations of physics routinely perpetrated by Hollywood? Efthimiou and Llewellyn clearly think not. I would argue that you might as well complain about ‘errors’ in the Greek myths or fairy tales, or Warner Brothers cartoons."

 

Out of date with myself

Euro Crime and I are now meta-out of date. She’s late with last week’s update, and I’m even later because I haven’t bought you news of the week before.

No more messing about, here we go. I review the most wonderful book, The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill: sheer perfection, which I urge you all to read. However, I have to admit that I gave it to Malcolm (aka the M(ad) P(rofessor)) to read on his latest trip to a Harvard Business School course for UK institutional leaders (very appropriate reading choice I thought) but he did not get into it and bought Robert Harris’s Imperium at the airport instead. (Breaking news, he says it is excellent: better than Robert Harris’s previous few, which he has enjoyed more than I’ve done — does this make them "boy’s books"?). But, never mind what these leaders of academic institutions think, please do read The Coroner’s Lunch for a beautiful exposition of humanity under the most extreme conditions of privation, and for a crackingly good mystery. (For another view on the same book, see here.)

Other Euro Crime reviews last week include Uriah (Norm) Robinson (Price) enthusing about The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo (Scandinavian noir); Karen M enjoying Hakan Nessar’s The Return (more Scandinavian noir), Sunnie Gill basically positive about The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw and Declan Burke not enjoying Time to Pay by Lyndon Strachey as much as the week’s other reviewers ranked their assignments. I would read Declan Burke writing about the gas bill, though: I now fully understand the term "the charm of the Irish".

Search terms that bring traffic

"About me" is the search term that brings Problogger most traffic.

"What’s the funniest search term that brings you most traffic?" he asks. Here are some of the answers:

“writing is easy hit your forehead”

Kayak fishing

“Britney’s exposed v****" (Asterisks to discourage p**n spam)

"youtute" (misspelled)

‘virtual assistant’

‘Win an iPhone’

"John Chow"

"1st – class c motor homes
2nd – fifth wheel campers
3rd – 5th wheel campers
4th – motorcycle tent trailer
5th – motorcycle tent trailers"

free blog templates”, “free blogger templates” and “free blog template”

"haunted lighthouses"

These and other examples, except possibly the last, indicate to me why I am quite happy to let the wisdom of the crowds stay with the crowds, to let them pass money to and from each other, and why I shall continue in my profitless but pleasant niche, to which none of the above search terms will bring you.

The Three Little Blogs

Via Problogger, Bloggrrl writes:  The Three Little Blogs: A Cautionary Tale.

Which little blog are you? Or are you the big bad blog? Or, frankly my dear, do you not give a damn about making money from your blog (so long as you don’t end up working at WalMart or Starbucks)?

Some crime questions

The crime section of the blogopshere is in interrogatory mode tonight.

Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders asks for examples of "crime-fiction scenes, tricks, devices or tactics that are clever but don’t quite work?"

Glenn Harper at International Noir Fiction asks whether anyone has read any good noir or policier novels recently. (That word "policier" sounds very sophisticated.)

The Rap Sheet features an interview of Reed Farrel Coleman by Megan Abbott, in which a key question is: "Why do you think it’s still the exception to have a married PI?"

The seven stages of blogging

It only took Dave of Dave’s Fiction Warehouse a couple of weeks to nail blogging in a clever post entitled The seven stages of blogging. Yes, we recreate our work environments round our blogs, unless we are careful enough to keep the blog as a sort of extra child, a cat, or weekly tennis-lesson equivalent.

I had a similar moment of epiphany after I had been blogging for a while, but it took me longer to get there and I didn’t put it as well as Dave. Similar message, though.

Regroup, regroup.

Reviews of Keeping the House

Reviews of Keeping the House by Ellen Baker are pouring in, courtesy of the ever-vigilant Dave Lull. Here are some links:

Local author writes about World War II era (Duluth News Tribune).

Not so desperate (The Stanford Daily)

Writers matter — to each other, especially (Road to Random House blog)

Keeping the House is more rewarding than it seems (Livinggirlread blog)

For your reading pleasure (Not Afraid of the F Word blog)

"Ellen Baker and her fabulous debut novel KEEPING THE HOUSE recently kept me from doing too many things I should have been doing, but I loved every minute of it. In these pages you’ll meet the Mickelsons–a sad, fascinating, resilient family. Their story spans from the late 1890s to 1950 and it’s full of family secrets and regrets and characters you’ll carry around with you long after the final line."

War Stories – a post from Ellen Baker’s Keeping the House blog. Ellen’s website is here.

View from the country club

Here’s a "different" view of blogging, expressed recently by a publishing industry analyst: "We are losing valuable dialogue, debate and fresh perspectives in this world of shrinking personal horizons, where the new technologies facilitate tunneling deeper and narrower. Professional, and personal discourse is the weaker for it and we all suffer the loss of challenges to our internal biases, and spark and stimulation from voices far outside our normal communications and chatter."

So, according to this view, blogging enables one to dig a safe little hole and stick in it with a few other like-minded types, reinforcing each other’s prejudices and disincentivising one from seeking fresh stimuli. And, as the writer is lamenting, making it hard for the salesperson to break in.

…"bloggers routinely refer to others with first names only, a snobbish practice signaling how "in" they are. Blogrolls, useful to some degree, are double-edged, in that bloggers cluster into groups that link to each other. The same speakers appear again and again on panels, setting up cliques as narrow as any country club set."

Well, it’s a view. Although I’ve found blogging to be a mind-expanding activity, so are lots of other things. And it is true that the interactions one has while blogging are tightly controlled. On the other hand, it adds an enormous efficiency to finding topics of interest, and to being able to interact at all (for me in my situation when I started blogging, the alternative was usually "no interaction"). The writer is looking at the issues from the perspective of publishing challenges: how a publisher can break into these "tight little communities" and get their members to branch out into new, networky-style products. But this is just another way of saying that everyone is too busy doing what they are doing and struggling with the information overload, to be as interested as they might be in trying new things (more power to those silver surfers!).

The Broken Shore

I am too daunted to attempt a proper review of The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, which I have just read. I have read many reviews of this book over the past months on various blogs, I’ve bought it, but have not read it — until the announcement that it has won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for this year made me do so out of shame.

Every blog post I’ve read about the award has lauded the book. Now that I’ve finished it, I can only add my admiration to everyone else’s. It is a wonderful book, with many layers. The crime fiction element only really kicks in for the last quarter, and at this stage you just have to sit down and read it all because it is intense. The main, earlier part of the book is slow-burn character study, beautiful placeism and mysterious back story, all creating an atmospheric world that is a pleasure to sink into each time you open the pages. There is drama, sadness and insight. The everyday casual brutalities of racism and ruination of the beautiful, grand environment of this most wonderful continent are compellingly conveyed. It is a book that will repay a second read, that’s for sure.