Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Large & Small (But Really Long) Newspaper Articles

Carl Zimmer’s three long newspaper articles are on very different topics: “Now: The Rest of the Genome”, “10 Genes, Furiously Evolving”, and “Blink Twice If You Like Me”.

Zimmer’s “Now: The Rest of the Genome” is about Encode (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) and what they are doing. It is full of scientific language referring to terminology that I have heard many times but never fully comprehended. Altough Zimmer does explain it, the It is full of very long sentences and paragraphs compared to the small newspaper article “’One mother loses five of her kids in ‘worst-case scenario’, which is full of short, informative sentences and paragraphs.

It’s main focus is providing a reformative definition for ‘gene’:

‘”These new concepts are moving the gene away from a physical snippet of DNA and back to a more abstract definition. “It’s almost a recapture of what the term was originally meant to convey,’ Dr. Gingeras said.”

This is all I really retained from this article. I got bored many times throughout and can’t imagine someone who is not interested in science finding this interesting or sitting down to read the article in its entirety.

“10 Genes, Furiously Evolving” is about the evolutionary biology of viruses. Virologists study the complexity and mystery surrounding the evolution of viruses. Viruses are described in scientific language, filled with quotes from doctors, etc.

Zimmer includes interesting trivia such as "Virologists have estimated that there are a million trillion viruses in the world's oceans." Further, Zimmer explains that birds are constantly mixing up the constellation of viruses.

This is certainly a relevant article considering the recent swine flu outbreak that has caused everyone to panic. It does a good job explaining how swine flu has evolved and it flows well. Its length was not as daunting as “Now: The Rest of the Genome.”

“Blink Twice if You Like Me” is the most interesting article Zimmer wrote. Although the other two are arguably more important and impactful than cannibal butterflies, they didn’t interest me nearly as much.

Zimmer again used very long paragraphs with very long sentences. However, multimedia such as audio recordings, photos, and videos on the left side of the page add some color and life and detract from the massive wall of text going down the page.

The article is interesting because everyone loves fireflies. Hating fireflies is like hating rainbows. Who hates rainbows? The science was interesting enough and Zimmer explained the observable traits and practices of firefly mating.

However, I found the end of the article the most fascinating: when the author talked about Photuris predators, their deceitful flashes, and how evolution and natural selection came into play. It seemed to be disconnected from the rest of the article, and I’d like to read an expanded article on this topic.

“Lethal Legacy” by Amie Thompson may be from a small newspaper, but it is a long, long, long, long, long article. It’s so long that it needs a few headings: “Merciless Killer”, “Road to Montana”, etc. as well as includes pictures throughout. Long narrative of history of family. There is not much science. It is a sad story and seems to have TONS of information that is just thrown at the paper.

This may be harsh, but I got bored listening to the stories of more and more people getting sick and dying. Compared to ‘One mother loses five of her kids in ‘worst-case scenario’, it bores me and seems to just tell a story of everyone dying. It was all over the place and I didn’t like it one bit. The pictures on the right were the same pictures every new page (and there were six long pages).

“One mother loses five of her kids in 'worst-case scenario'” is on the contrary a short article with short paragraphs that does the job. It doesn’t ad tons of detail or take a long time explaining the science, but gets straight to the point and briefly portrays the tragic events.

This article does not have too much science in it, but it is also far shorter. I think this article would be the article most likely to be completely read by the average reader (including me) because it is not intimidating, unlike the others.

In my opinion, “Disease leads neurologist on research odyssey” is the best article about Pallido-Ponto-Nigral-Degenration (PPND). It is medium in length and I feel its readability and flow are the best. It focused on Wszolek’s research and path instead of jumping around to a bunch of different people and stories like “Lethal Legacy” seemed to do. It seems to be a step up from the shortest article, and step down from the longest article, but still explains all needed information.

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