Why Children Make the Best Scientists

The intersection of science and play.

We are taught from a young age that authority in any academic realm must be allocated to adults only–or more specifically grey haired men in tweed jackets staring down their noses at us from in front of a chalkboard or behind a cluttered desk. But when we think about the fundamentals of Science, a field that in its research requires constant questioning and experimentation, who better to contribute to its innovation than the naturally curious? In his TED talk above, neuroscientist Beau Lotto tells why children make the best scientists.

Evolution’s solution to uncertainty is play… Play is the only human endeavor where uncertainty is celebrated. When you add rules to play, you have a game. And that’s what an experiment is–a game…

Armed with these two ideas that science is a way of being and experiments are play, we asked, “Can anyone become a scientist?” And who better to ask than twenty-five 8-10 year old children? Because they’re experts in play.

With this idea in mind, Lotto turned to a primary school in Devon, England, to create a program in which children would be given the opportunity to act as scientists. He was granted no funding for this idea, as “scientists said children couldn’t make a strong contribution to science, and teachers said kids couldn’t do it.” Teachers, if you can believe it, had no faith in the capabilities of young people. Lotto went through with it anyway.

His first step in the program was to have the students ask questions. The results?

Five of the questions the students came up with were questions that were the basis of science publication in the last 5-15 years. They were asking questions that were significant to expert scientists.

This gave Lotto and his colleagues the impetus to turn the group of children into full-fledged scientists, an idea that amazingly resulted in the peer-reviewed publication of 10-year old Amy O’Toole’s science paper. She joins Lotto onstage to describe the inspiring journey from early hypothesis to academic acceptance.

I strongly suggest you watch this video, if not to be inspired by the true capabilities of children (despite the misgivings of teachers, scientists, and most adults), then to rethink how good scientific thought requires our embrace of uncertainty.


Through the Ira Glass: Advice on Storytelling From the Host of This American Life

Ira Glass shares advice on how to tell your story across any medium.

Ira Glass of NPR’s This American Life recorded a session about storytelling with Current TV back in 2009. The videos just popped up on my radar again recently, courtesy of the wonderfully animated version of one portion below, which inspired me to share.

I think it’s important to note that Ira’s advice isn’t on writing, but on storytelling, which applies to every creative endeavor imaginable. Whether you’re making music, crafting a radio program, taking a photograph, or engaging in any other artistic medium, you’re essentially telling your audience a story. And anyone who’s ever tried to do that will probably be familiar with the frustration Ira articulates below.

The thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing I would say to you is

everybody goes through that.

So you see, you’re not alone storytellers. The only remedy is to plow through and get your story out there. Your taste will tell you when you’ve got it right.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from the melodic, dulcet, if slightly nasal tones of radio’s favorite curator, Ira Glass.

“I want to be under the sea”: Google Releases Street View of the Ocean Floor

Attention Jacques Cousteau, Steve Zissou, and general oceanographer wannabes: you can now visit the sea beds of the world from your very computer. That’s because this week Google unveiled its latest addition to Google Maps–“street views” of six of the world’s most breathtaking coral reefs.

Via this new addition, you can now view a  sea turtle swimming among a school of fish in the Great Barrier Reef, follow a manta ray, visit an ancient boulder coral near Apo Island in the Philippines,  join snorkelers in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay, and much more.

To capture these amazing images, Google turned to The Catlin Seaview Survey, whose team members occasionally dive into view of some of the photos.

[The divers] used a specialized SVII camera to capture the images. Every three seconds while traveling at about 2.5 miles/hour, the camera captures a 360-degree panorama with geolocation information and a compass heading. Only two of the cameras are in existence worldwide.

We just had to give it up for the amazing science and technology behind this project, which not only reminds us that the world is an awe-inspiring place, but also allows the landlubbers among us to discover every piece of it.

Looking for interesting Science and Marine Biology Q&A? We’ve got that!

What is a “red tide”?

What are some interesting facts about stingrays?

How does oxygen naturally enter an aquatic ecosystem?

What is the significance of the marine ecosystem on world biology?

What is the difference between fresh-water biology and marine biology?

“The Tell-Tale Heart” Animated, But Not for Children

The film that you are about to see is based on a story told a hundred years ago by America’s greatest writer of drama and suspense…

So begins the 1953 animated adaptation of Poe’s sinister masterpiece, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In case its medium suggested at all that this might be one for the kiddies, the British Board of Film Censors was quick to brand this short film as the first X-rated cartoon in Britain’s cinematic history. Watch it in all its antiquated eeriness above. Just try not to hear your heart thump when you hear James Mason read the line

“But why will you say that I am mad?”

Neil Gaiman to Write New Sandman Series

In the first piece of exciting literary news to come out of Comic-Con today, Neil Gaiman has announced that for the first time in ten years he will return to write a new release of his acclaimed graphic novel series The Sandman.

In Gaiman’s video announcement above, aired before a stunned crowd at Vertigo’s Comic-Con panel last night, the author explains his impetus for returning to the series after so long. He says that, dating all the way back to The Sandman‘s first issue, there was always an untold story waiting to be filled in:

When I finished writing The Sandman, there was one tale still untold. The story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war. It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman’s 20th anniversary… but the time got away from us.

The Sandman was first published in November 1988, which marks 2013 as the series’ 25th anniversary. Gaiman notes that this fact makes next year seem “a particularly good year to tell this story.” Much to Gaiman’s fans excitement, the tale will finally have its telling.

In its 25 year lifetime, The Sandman has grown to become one of the most popular comic book series of all time, topping the New York Times bestseller list more than once (one of only three graphic novels to ever do so). This time around, artist JH Williams will provide the story’s artwork, a sneak peek of which is shown above.

The mini-series’ title is as yet unannounced. Print and digital copies will be published on the same day by Vertigo sometime late next year.

eNotes Picks 5 Anticipated Film Adaptations of 2012

Another summer, another parade of blockbusters attempting to keep movie studios in the black. But beside the action adventure films based on board games and comic book heroes, some of the most anticipated films of 2012 are its classic literary adaptations. Here’s a wrap up of five you can expect to see in cinemas over the next six months:

“The Great Gatsby”

High school students rejoice! The Great Gatsby, ever on the list of eNotes’ most popular literature study guides, has made it onto another shortlist. Steering away from the 1974 Mia Farrow, Robert Redford adaptation, you can expect Australian director Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet”, “Moulin Rouge”) to take the story into exciting and modern (albeit 3D) territory. The new trailer, above, provides the first insight into the “Red Curtain”-style director’s take on the classic novel. The Los Angeles Times describes it “jazz age excess with a hip-hop flourish.” Look carefully in the trailer and you’ll spot some of the book’s iconic imagery–the “valley of ashes” and Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s enormous billboard.

“Anna Karenina”

The unexpected Anna Karenina will feature Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as Alexei, and a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, all directed by Joe Wright (“Atonement”, “Pride & Prejudice”). Let’s hope the powerhouse serves Tolstoy’s epic love story well, and that Knightley won’t reincarnate that awful Russian accent she put on for “A Dangerous Method”. Either way, Kleenex and company should at least see profits from the release of this heart-wrenching period drama.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

We couldn’t have a list of anticipated movie adaptations without including the latest enterprise of one of the most popular literary film franchises in the world. “Twilight Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” will be released… Just kidding. It’s that lovable Kiwi Peter Jackson’s first installment of Tolkien’s famous work, titled “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” My fourth-grade Tolkien-obsessed self is giddy with excitement. Martin Freeman of “Sherlock” and “The Office” (UK) plays Bilbo Baggins, while Sir Ian McKellan returns once more to play Gandalf the Grey. Alas, no Aragorn in this tale, though Jackson did work the cult favorite Figwit into the movie.

“On The Road”

Sam Riley plays Kerouac’s alter-ego Sal Paradise in the first adaptation of everyone’s favorite beat culture novel, On The Road. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Walter Salles of “The Motorcyle Diaries” (he must be the go-to man for mind-altering road trip movies),  the film is the first adaptation of the 1957 book. (Or 1951 scroll, if you’re being picky.)

“Life of Pi”

Orangutans, hyenas, and tigers, in a boat and directed by Ang Lee? Oh my! Another 3D flick, this adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 bestseller Life of Pi has been generating a lot of buzz ever since Lee premiered a 10-minute excerpt of the movie at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last month. The film, though still in the works, has already been praised for its aesthetic beauty, dream-like sequences, and Oscar-buzz-worthy special effects. It will be interesting to see the film tackle such fantastical elements in the book as the land of floating algae, not to mention the fact that almost the entire story is set on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with nothing but an Indian teen and a Bengal tiger to provide dialogue.

So, in your opinion which will soar to great heights and which will flop tremendously? In your book, are there certain novels that should just never be adapted to the screen, or will you find yourself heading to the box office for these? What book do you think deserves to be made into a movie, but continues to go without a script deal? We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Bikini Shakespeare? Thanks, YouTube

Ah, YouTube. While it’s undoubtedly a place to be entertained, discover amazing talent, and even learn, it’s also home to pretty much the worst in lowest-common-denominator promotional content of every stripe. Several readers emailed the eNotes tipline to let us know about “Bikini Shakespeare”, a series that combines poor readings of the Bard’s work with, yes, bikini models. It’s all part of a promotional campaign for a popcorn brand. Sadly, these videos have millions of views, while our educational Video Study Guides for Hamlet have less then 50,000. But don’t worry, we won’t resort to bikinis to get more views!