A Zip to the Marshland: The significance of Tris’s high flying adventure.

When I compared the slide down the Chicago zip line to the swing of the Dauntless faction from stability to instability, it was an afterthought to my previous posts on personality theory. But I have recently had occasion to look through that scene in more depth and I have concluded that the significance of that outing is far greater than I realized.

Usual spoiler warnings apply. But if you haven’t read these books already, you really should! [Read more…]

Life Imitates Art: Hunger Games Pods to Pleasant Parks

If you remember your Hunger Games Trivia well, the arena sites are converted into tourist attractions afterwards. That is apparently also happening in the state park where the Games scenes were filmed.

Elizabeth, have you considered a part time job as a tour guide?

If you can tear yourself away from “Casual Vacancy”…

I’d love to hear some responses to this recent column in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  I expect our Headmaster has a different take on the Twilight series.

I will be the first to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Twilight…  my main motivation for reading it was to appreciate John’s Spotlight book more. And unlike Harry, Hunger Games and Divergent (all of which get a mention in the Chron article as well!) I never felt a need to re-visit Bella’s tale.

But the column is well worth discussing.

JMU Conference postponed

Because of circumstances beyond the control of its organizers, the JMU Harry Potter conference “Emerging from the Pensieve” has been postponed. Dr. Gumnoir says,

Depending on how things develop this fall, I have now developed tentative plans for the spring or early summer 2013. Our theme will remain the same despite the delay, and I hope that all of you will still be interested in presenting your work.
I will keep you posted. Until then, please encourage your friends, colleagues, and students to consider joining our conversations next year and submit their own proposals.

So, consider yourself encouraged. Information about the theme and how to submit an abstract is available here. Please email Dr. Gumnoir with paper proposals and we will look forward to a spring/summer event.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: How mirror neurons are reflected in Tris.

As promised, I hope to eventually get up a few posts about the neuroscience of Divergent.  First up…  mirror neurons.

Jeanine has her faults, of course, but she and her colleagues do a pretty good job of explaining what they are in Insurgent.  First discovered in monkeys in the early 1990’s, mirror neurons are in the motor control areas that fired both when the monkey did a specific action (like reaching for a peanut) and when the monkey saw another monkey (or human reasearcher) perform the task.  The first definitive recordings of mirror neurons in humans were made in 2010. In humans, mirror neurons appear to be both more numerous and more widespread, and have been credited with making everything from imitation, to language, to empathy to civilization itself possible in our species. For a brief overview of their potential importance, I suggest this 8-minute TED talk excerpt from neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran. Elsewhere, Ramachandran has been quoted as saying that the discovery of mirror neurons will do for psychology what cracking the DNA code has done for biology.  A pretty tall order for a bunch of cells.

Spoilers ahead!

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