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Inspirations: The gendered war on coffee

In 1674, a ‘women’s petition’ denounced the craze for coffee in England. It claimed that it lured Englishmen away from ale and rendered them impotent and effeminate. The men’s response declared that Englishmen were so virile that they all had

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: Riding the bomb to Saturn

The nuclear pulse drive would power a spacecraft with a series of nuclear explosions. Project Orion, led by Freeman Dyson, planned a four-year round trip to the moons of Saturn. After Orion was abandoned, pulse drive has led to several

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: Apocalypse at the touch of a button

Shuntaro Hida has been an anti-nuclear advocate since seeing Hiroshima destroyed. Modern nuclear weapons are orders of magnitude more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Carl Sagan, Richard Turco and colleagues described nuclear winter in 1983. A small percentage of the

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: Bringing the science of fear up to date with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder often affects people after traumatic experiences. Assault, sexual or nonsexual, is the trauma most likely to cause PTSD. Men are more likely to have traumatic experiences but more women have PTSD. High oestrogen levels or injections of

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: Can we bomb our readers into euphoria?

We use horror and suspense in fiction because people love to be afraid. JT MacCurdy described psychological responses to being bombed during World War Two. ‘Near misses’ were emotionally devastating, but ‘remote misses’ made people feel invincible. Does reading or

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification, Writing

Inspirations: The psychology of a city under fire

9/11 and the Blitz both showed the fortitude of civilian populations under attack. Both contradicted assumptions that attacks would lead to mass panic. Behaviourist Solly Zuckerman documented civilian resilience during the Hull Blitz. Zuckerman’s work gives a more realistic picture

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: The making of the anti-hero.

Between the hero and the villain lies the anti-hero. The anti-hero is a protagonist who is not a hero. Flashman was a successful anti-hero, if only because he was unapologetic about his villainy. Many villains would become anti-heroes if their

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Inspirations: A world of villainy

Actor Toby Jones narrated an hour-long podcast investigating the fictional villain. Villainous archetypes may be diluted over time in a ‘cycle of adjustment’. The performance of a particular actor may redefine a villain. A villain may be acting out a

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification, Writing

Inspirations: To sail upon a star

Project Breakthrough Starshot plans to send probes to Proxima Centauri powered by lightsails. The lightsail was conceived decades ago, but the IKAROS probe is the only spacecraft to use it. IKAROS is powered by the sun, but Breakthrough Starshot will

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification

Greater Minds: George RR Martin interviews Stephen King

George RR Martin interviewed Stephen King in Albuquerque. Their early influences, particularly HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Stephen King submitted his first story at 12 and got his first acceptance at 19. They both believe that true evil is

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Posted in Inspirations, Wednesday Pontification
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