What the Dung Beetle Can Teach Us about Transforming Research into Captivating Writing

Reading a research paper can be dull. Ask any STEM major in college about peer reviewed research articles and a great majority would groan about the endless hours spend reading dense papers that could easily bore you to sleep. And that is not to say that these papers and the research behind them are not interesting or important, they just aren’t very engaging to read. This brings us to a dilemma: how do we make scientific research – work that is actually interesting once you understand it – sound interesting without all the extra work for our readers. This is where a New York Times article by Douglas Emlen comes into play. In Emlen’s article about the weaponry of dung beetles, he takes a fascinating topic of research and makes it engaging, first by explaining it, how it came to be and then what it can tell us about ourselves, demonstrating along the way practices that can be used to strengthen any research based piece. More

Are You a Good Person? How About a Good Writer?

We have all likely wondered in our lives what makes someone good or evil. “Am I a good person?” we ask, trying to set ourselves apart from all of the bad people we have met in our lives, saying we are different because we do this or don’t do that. In reality, it may not be that simple. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee tackles this question in a National Geographic piece about what makes people good or bad scientifically, while at the same time giving us an exemplary online magazine feature.

Yudhijit starts us off with an example, a woman who saved a man from being hit by a train. He then contrasts this with depictions of mass shooters and serial killers. Both sets of real world examples, all too familiar. Here readers are introduced to the age-old topic of good and evil and the question of “what makes one good or evil?” But this article is more than just a glorified research paper attempting to answer this question and this is a key aspect of the essential magazine feature: it is research based but tells a larger and more relatable story. More

Combining Machine Learning and Web Design for an Immersive Experience: A Website Review

What makes a website catch your attention? How about two massive company names, large numbers and a unique idea. This is what the dynamic duo of The New York Times and Google accomplish with their promotional website for their new photo archiving system. As you open the page, you are greeted with a bold claim: that millions of photos will be revived using new cloud technology. Intrigued, the reader will click forward to find a myriad of black and white photos slowly scrolling across the screen. Clicking on any single one presents you with an option: what story do you want this picture to tell? None of this is explained to you, yet the reader is guided by their own curiosity down a hole of unique pictures, each with three unique stories. Here is where things get interesting. Given the slickness of the page, the black and white aesthetic with subtle pops of color, the smooth continuous movement, it is so easy to get lost in reading the stories attached to the pictures of the site that its true ingenuity is concealed. A machine made all of these stories.

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