Why has TV storytelling become so complex?

Jason Mittell, Middlebury If you watch the season finale of The Walking Dead this Sunday, the story will likely evoke events from previous episodes, while making references to an array of minor and major characters. Such storytelling devices belie the show’s simplistic scenario of zombie survival, but are consistent with a major trend in televisionContinue reading “Why has TV storytelling become so complex?”

Should movie studios be worried about Netflix’s first feature film?

Matthew Jordan, Pennsylvania State University Summer is always important for the movie business, and this past one was the second-biggest ever for ticket sales. Studios succeeded by doing what they do best: recombinant franchise films featuring superheroes and beasts. Jurassic World helped Universal dominate box office totals, gobbling up US$1.65 billion worldwide. Meanwhile, the latestContinue reading “Should movie studios be worried about Netflix’s first feature film?”

Brain research shows the arts promote mental health

Brittany Harker Martin, University of Calgary During self-isolation due to coronavirus, many are turning to the arts. Perhaps they seek a creative outlet or opportunity for expression; but it’s also possible that their attraction may be driven by an innate desire to use their brains in ways that make them feel good. As a professorContinue reading “Brain research shows the arts promote mental health”

As the climate changes, architects and engineers need to design buildings differently

Nicholas Rajkovich, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York In the past seven years, four major disasters have caused serious disruptions in the Northeast and Midwest United States. Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York City in 2012, inflicting nearly US$11 billion in damage to buildings. In 2014, a storm dubbed “Snowvember” dropped moreContinue reading “As the climate changes, architects and engineers need to design buildings differently”

Yes, websites really are starting to look more similar

Sam Goree, Indiana University Over the past few years, articles and blog posts have started to ask some version of the same question: “Why are all websites starting to look the same?” These posts usually point out some common design elements, from large images with superimposed text, to hamburger menus, which are those three horizontalContinue reading “Yes, websites really are starting to look more similar”

Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos

J. Xavier Prochaska, University of California, Santa Cruz and Jean-Pierre Macquart, Curtin University In the late 1990s, cosmologists made a prediction about how much ordinary matter there should be in the universe. About 5%, they estimated, should be regular stuff with the rest a mixture of dark matter and dark energy. But when cosmologists countedContinue reading “Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos”

The dirty history of soap

Judith Ridner, Mississippi State University “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.” That’s what the CDC has advised all Americans to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this pandemic. It’s common-sense advice. The surfactants found in soap lift germs from the skin, and water then washes themContinue reading “The dirty history of soap”

Five things that happen to your body in space

Naomi Brooks, University of Stirling Tim Peake is the first official British astronaut to walk in space. The former Army Air Corps officer has spent a month in space, after blasting off on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station on December 15 last year, but the spacewalk will doubtless be his mostContinue reading “Five things that happen to your body in space”

Life on Earth is used to gravity – so what happens to our cells and tissues in space?

Andy Tay, University of California, Los Angeles There’s one force whose effects are so deeply entrenched in our everyday lives that we probably don’t think much about it at all: gravity. Gravity is the force that causes attraction between masses. It’s why when you drop a pen, it falls to the ground. But because gravitationalContinue reading “Life on Earth is used to gravity – so what happens to our cells and tissues in space?”

The next big discovery in astronomy? Scientists probably found it years ago – but they don’t know it yet

Eileen Meyer, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Earlier this year, astronomers stumbled upon a fascinating finding: Thousands of black holes likely exist near the center of our galaxy. The X-ray images that enabled this discovery weren’t from some state-of-the-art new telescope. Nor were they even recently taken – some of the data was collected nearlyContinue reading “The next big discovery in astronomy? Scientists probably found it years ago – but they don’t know it yet”

Why do people look into space with telescopes but not binoculars?

Silas Laycock, University of Massachusetts Lowell Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com. Why do people use telescopes to look into space but not binoculars? – Niraj, age 6, Arlington, Massachusetts Go outside right now. What’s theContinue reading “Why do people look into space with telescopes but not binoculars?”

What is the ‘zero gravity’ that people experience in the vomit comet or space flight?

Steven Collicott, Purdue University Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com. In the zero-gravity airplanes or vomit comet, why does stuff behave like there is no gravity when it is just falling? – Austin B., 11, Scranton,Continue reading “What is the ‘zero gravity’ that people experience in the vomit comet or space flight?”

Fun sex is healthy sex: Why isn’t that on the curriculum?

Lucia O’Sullivan, University of New Brunswick Damn — we forgot to teach our kids how to have fun sex. Most news covers the sex lives of young people in terms of hookups, raunch culture, booty calls and friends with benefits. You might think that young people have it all figured out, equating sex with full-on,Continue reading “Fun sex is healthy sex: Why isn’t that on the curriculum?”

Why sexting must be on the curriculum

Sheri Madigan, University of Calgary; Camille Mori, University of Calgary, and Jeff Temple, The University of Texas Medical Branch Sex education remains a fiercely debated topic, both in the media and among politicians. A recent controversial segment on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle discussed whether schools should teach students about “sexting” (sharing sexually explicit imagesContinue reading “Why sexting must be on the curriculum”

The future of psychiatry promises to be digital — from apps that track your mood to smartphone therapy

David Gratzer, University of Toronto Ella, who is in her early 20s, has depression. When her sleep started to fall away after a stressful term at school, her smartphone was programmed to note the late-night texts and phone conversations indicating her insomnia. It made suggestions to improve her sleep. When her social media posts grewContinue reading “The future of psychiatry promises to be digital — from apps that track your mood to smartphone therapy”

Fairy-tale social media fantasies can demolish your confidence, but it’s not all bad

Eleftherios Soleas, Queen’s University, Ontario and Jen McConnel, Queen’s University, Ontario If social media was a person, you’d probably avoid them. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are loaded with pictures of people going to exotic places, looking like they are about to be on the cover of Vogue, and otherwise living a fairy-tale existence. And, likeContinue reading “Fairy-tale social media fantasies can demolish your confidence, but it’s not all bad”

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Anna Rudkovska, Western University and Danica Facca, Western University Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can’t get enough. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve come to rely even more on our digital devices, including to help manage our emotions. There are approximately 2.57 million apps available for Android users to downloadContinue reading “Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that”

What is the slowest thing on Earth?

Katie McCormick, University of Washington Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com. What is the slowest thing on Earth? – Jiwon, Brookline, Massachusetts In the words of the infamous villain, Dr. Evil: “Lasers.” Lasers focus a narrow,Continue reading “What is the slowest thing on Earth?”

‘Digital twins’ can help monitor infrastructure and save us billions

Mojtaba Mahmoodian, RMIT University; Kevin Zhang, RMIT University, and Sujeeva Setunge, RMIT University Urban infrastructure – bridges, roads, railways, pipelines, power transmission towers and so on – must be inspected regularly to operate safely. Imagine if we used advanced technologies available to us, such as wireless sensors, mobile apps and machine learning, to remotely inspectContinue reading “‘Digital twins’ can help monitor infrastructure and save us billions”

It’s not just the isolation. Working from home has surprising downsides

Libby Sander, Bond University What if you never had to return to work? Never had to return to work at the office, that is. You’d be able to juggle kids on school holidays. You wouldn’t need to navigate traffic jams. Your employer might gain increased productivity, lower turnover and lower lease costs. But there areContinue reading “It’s not just the isolation. Working from home has surprising downsides”

How the Hubble Space Telescope opened our eyes to the first galaxies of the universe

Rodger I. Thompson, University of Arizona The Hubble Space Telescope launched on the 24th of April, 30 years ago. It’s an impressive milestone especially as its expected lifespan was just 10 years. One of the primary reasons for the Hubble telescope’s longevity is that it can be serviced and improved with new observational instruments throughContinue reading “How the Hubble Space Telescope opened our eyes to the first galaxies of the universe”

Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers

Esther Jones, Clark University Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19Continue reading “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”

Trials of Portnoy: when Penguin fought for literature and liberty

Patrick Mullins, University of Canberra One grey morning in October 1970, in a crowded, tizzy-pink courtroom on the corner of Melbourne’s Russell and La Trobe Streets, crown prosecutor Leonard Flanagan began denouncing a novel in terms that were strident and ringing. “When taken as a whole, it is lewd,” he declared. “As to a largeContinue reading “Trials of Portnoy: when Penguin fought for literature and liberty”