New Writing Challange: A Surprise Announcement

Hello loyal readers! This week I am pleased to announce the latest writing challenge that I will be taking on. Translating A Scientific Paper. It is my hope, dear readers, that I can condense and translate this incredibly long and complicated journal article so that you may read it with ease and free of jargon. The article is from the ever popular Nature, and deals with a longtime passion of mine: electronics.

Now I know what you must be thinking; “Johnny don’t you normally write about health and rhetorical devices?” And to that I say “yes”, but this article is about an electronic stamp-sized stress monitor. It excellently combines my interests in health and electronics (and while not rhetorical, it most certainly is a device). I am very excited to share my translation of this piece with you in three forms with varying complexity levels: a press release, an abstract, and (the one I’m actually slightly worried about) a tweet. It will be nice to dig up my electronics knowledge and use it for something other than building projects.

And finally, I want you all to know that for my press release I hope to translate this piece into the style of a popular science news website that I am a big fan of. I enjoy the way their articles are written and often use that site to get my daily dose of science news. The name of this website is omitted for the sake of my younger readers, but those of you old enough to go on without your parents’ permission can find the website I am referring to HERE.

Great, now even scientific journals are making me feel bad about the way I eat.

Hello again dear readers. This week I took a look at two pieces cut from the same cloth: a scientific journal article, and a health news article about that scientific paper. The topic discussed was the health of Victorian diets compared to what modern Americans and Europeans eat. The general conclusion was that the Victorian diet was much healthier primarily because it contained much more fruits and vegetables (which don’t technically exist scientifically speaking), but that’s not what I’m here to discuss. What I want to talk about is the way both of these pieces are written.

At first glance, you’ll notice that the news article is much shorter than the scientific paper. It also uses more common and succinct language, while the scientific paper is filled with technical details and uses some specific terminology (read: jargon) that probably require a mild science background (I definitely didn’t know what phytonutrients were). The news article cites a few very general facts about Victorians to help convince people that they’re not just making information up, while the scientific paper has a veritable laundry list of historical citations. It references everything from starvation rates to necessary calorie intake just to prove that people in that time weren’t malnourished. The journal article is certainly more robust.

Now, I’m not trying to turn everyone off to the scientific article (in fact, chances are if you’re reading this you’re my English professor, in which case I hope you’ve already read both papers), but I am saying that it is much more ‘meaty’ than the news article. That’s not to say that the two are entirely different. Both papers attempt to refute myths about widespread Victorian malnourishment, both use factual information to try and convince their readers of the points they make (*cough* logos), and both attempt to prove that the Victorian diet is significantly healthier than what is considered a modern day western diet. They use many of the same techniques to make these points, but the major difference is the ‘barrier to entry’ so to speak. I think scientific papers are written very much under the assumption that they will be read exclusively by those with a background, or at least significant interest, in the topic (and their English students). And the news articles are more of a succinct way to share information with the general public, in this case, maybe those who are looking to try a new diet. As long as the news articles don’t become too sensationalist, I think the two forms of writing complement each other nicely and can allow anyone to get the level of information they desire (provided they have access to the journal, but that’s a completely separate issue).


Kicking Cancer’s Antigens


Cancer sucks. It comes in many forms, turns a body against itself, and our current treatment methods (namely chemo and radiation therapy) consist of trying to poison all the cells in the area of the cancer: too much poison and you internal systems can’t function, too little and the cancer doesn’t die. It’s a loose loose situation. One of the reasons we have to treat cancer so differently than other health problems, like disease and infection, is that our healthy cells have a very hard time fighting the cancer cells. This is mainly due to the fact that cancer evolves so quickly and in so many different ways. By the time our white blood cells identify what a cancerous tumor ‘looks like’ there are already numerous other parts of the tumor that ‘look’ completely different. Our immune system just can’t keep up. But what if there were a way for our own cells to identify and fight every part of a tumor, no matter how much it evolved?

Enter Professor Charlie Swanton and Dr. Sergio Quezada from the Francis Crick Institute and University College London respectively. They and their team previously discovered a method of identifying early faults in a tumor’s DNA that they thought would persist to later stages of that tumor. They have finally proven that this occurs in tumors and discovered “immune cells inside tumors that can recognize these early shared features” (Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Discovery Could Lead To New Cancer Treatments). The researchers hope to artificially multiply more of these cells and inject them back into the patient’s body. In theory, these cells would then be able to identify and destroy the entire tumor.

This is an extremely significant discovery and, even though there are various practical limitations at the moment, could lead the way to revolutionizing how we treat cancer. Instead of poisoning your body, this method would essentially just provide reinforcements of more of your own cells to combat the cancer.

The article itself was written in iflscience by Kristy Hamilton. It is a news story intended to present the findings of a research paper to the general population (or at least the gen. pop. that’s interested in science). Hamilton uses common language to explain the very complex biological processes at work but the writing is never dumbed down. She uses a lot of analogies to better explain herself, such as comparing the various evolutionary branches of the cancer cells to a tree with many different branches sprouting off.

I believe the article is very legitimate. It comes from a reputable source for science related news, and the article quotes the original researchers multiple times.

Dharma Discussion and Darjeeling

jian_sou_shifuSo last week I was sitting in English class wondering what event I could blog about. Then, as she was going through a list of health related events at Emory, my English professor offhandedly mentioned that we could write a blog post about attending a guided meditation session with the Emory Buddhist Club. I had been interested in attending one of their weekly sessions for a while, and they just so happened to be meeting that evening right after my English class ended. The timing worked out perfectly so I decided to go.

Now, the description for the event that I saw was little more than ‘guided meditation with tea at the end.’ I assumed people showed up to meditate for an hour and then drank tea. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the session consisted of a 45 minute lecture and discussion on Buddhism and meditation, followed by 15 minutes of guided compassion meditation. And yes, there was complimentary tea at the end.

For the most part we listened to the (for lack of a more accurate word) lecturer speak about Buddhism and what various aspects of the dharma (loosely translated as teachings in this context) meant. We also discussed things such as the positive effects of meditation on the body like reduced stress levels.

I was surprised about how informative this event was. I have a moderate amount of experience with Buddhism myself (mainly Tibetan), and a solid background in the history of Buddhism from a comparative religious class I took in high school. Yet I still walked away from this discussion/lecture having learned many new things about Buddhism and various Buddhist philosophies. I also learned that most of my Buddhism knowledge was technical and historical, but the Emory Buddhist Club taught me about many of the same things I already knew about from a religious perspective. It also made me realize that learning about a religion on a technical level is very different from seeing individuals discuss and practice it.

Please don’t in any way think that this is an attempt to indoctrinate anyone. I am not a Buddhist myself, I just enjoy learning about various religions. Most of the people who attended were not Buddhists and at no point did anyone try to convert me. It really is an open environment.

If this sounds like your kind of place then I highly recommend that you check out one of the weekly sessions. Everyone I spoke to was very welcoming, and these sessions are open to anyone of any or no faith. And if you end up not enjoying it, at least you got some free tea out of it.

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