The Moby-Dick variations

I think we, as read­ers, are able to sense the shape of a par­tic­u­lar Branch Library of Babel built around a par­tic­u­lar sto­ry, with its par­tic­u­lar set of images and themes. Even though this Branch Library is an abstract thing, to say the least, I think we, as read­ers, can trace its perime­ter with sur­pris­ing accu­ra­cy. Collectively—and maybe only collectively—we can deter­mine which ele­ments a work of fic­tion depends on, and which it doesn’t.

Found: The First Metal-Plated Syringe in a Living Creature

This hor­ri­fy­ing par­a­sitic fig wasp is no new discovery—in fact, it’s com­mon­ly found in many regions across India. But a research team at the Indi­an Insti­tute of Sci­ence in Ban­ga­lore has just pub­lished the first sci­en­tif­ic break­down of the wasp’s strange tool. As they report today in The Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Biol­o­gy, the insect’s strange ovipositor—its egg-lay­ing syringe—is par­tial­ly met­al-plat­ed with zinc.

Ultra-thin fault caused gravity-distorting Japan quake

An ultra-thin fault zone packed with slip­pery clay was behind the mas­sive seis­mic slip dur­ing Japan’s dev­as­tat­ing Tohoku earth­quake of 2011. The quake was so great that it per­ma­nent­ly changed the region’s grav­i­ta­tion­al field, and was “heard” from space.

Game of Thrones

The mod­ern air­craft-seat­ing indus­try is high­ly spe­cial­ized. The num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers is small, in part because cre­at­ing new seats is so com­plex that mov­ing from con­cep­tion to instal­la­tion takes years and entails large finan­cial risks. It also pos­es unique design chal­lenges, since a pre­mi­um-class seat has to cre­ate an impres­sion of opu­lence in what is actu­al­ly a noisy and poten­tial­ly nau­sea-induc­ing met­al tube filled with strangers.

Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities

My not-so-flu­ent French “self” is most com­fort­able talk­ing about class­room sup­plies. It’s sur­pris­ing, though, that peo­ple who are actu­al­ly flu­ent in two lan­guages also feel their per­son­al­i­ty shift­ing as they switch between lan­guages. Yet researchers have con­firmed this: Between 2001 and 2003, lin­guists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Ane­ta Pavlenko asked over a thou­sand bilin­guals whether they “feel like a dif­fer­ent per­son” when they speak dif­fer­ent lan­gauges. Near­ly two-thirds said they did.