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Follow Me on Google+!

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not sure on the grammatical rules associated with an exclamation point following a ‘plus’ sign, but that is a topic perhaps for The Oatmeal.

I’ve just joined Google+!!! I’m enjoying it so far, though I still have to explore a lot that it has to offer.

YOU should add me to one of your Circles, ’cause as you can see on my Google+ counter on the right hand side, I’m currently showing a big fat goose-egg :(

(Note: If you are still on the old website, you won’t see this counter. Just one of the few perks of updating your subscriptions to my new website!)

So check me out. I’ll be posting news stories and stuff that I find interesting. For the full experience, remember to follow me on Twitter as well!

______________________________________________________________________

REMINDER: This blog is moving! The new location is http://www.aquantumofknowledge.com/ 

The new RSS Feed is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AQuantumOfKnowledge

Remember to update your subscriptions! This site will no longer be supported after September 30, 2011. 

Thanks! 

Ryan

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5 Things I’ve Learned From One Year of Blogging

May 30, 2011 3 comments

Happy Anniversary! A Quantum of Knowledge went online one year ago today!

It seems like the older you get, the shorter the years get. Because it certainly doesn’t seem like a year since I started blogging.

But it has been. 312 posts. 63,000 hits. Not to shabby :)

From what I’ve read, the majority of blogs die out in the first few months after creation. So how do you keep it going?

There are a few tidbits I’ve picked up over the past year that have not only kept me blogging, but kept me loving blogging.

1. Write about what YOU find interesting.

Too often I find myself trolling the news trying to find stories that I think others might be interested in. But this inevitably causes problems.

First, if I don’t find the subject interesting, I’m not going to do a good job writing about it.

Second, you never know what people will find interesting. If you try to pick topics based on what you think people will like, you are just playing a guessing game.

Stick with what you know. Because if you write about things you like and you find fascinating, you will write great posts that people will want to read and share with their friends.

2. Post OFTEN!

It doesn’t have to be a long post. If you are busy, treat your blog like a Twitter feed. Or just post a video you thought was funny. Just post SOMETHING!

Regular posts not only keep your readers coming back, but they keep you in the habit. Just like an exercise routine, you need to keep it up regularly in order to make it a habit.

After you keep a regular schedule for a few weeks, it will be a cinch to continue posting all the time!

3. Talk about yourself

Even if you write your blog anonymously, you should still talk about yourself.

What are your personal feelings on an issue? Have you been happy or sad lately? Did you just go on vacation? If so, where to?

In my case, even though I blog about science, I’ve found that some of my most popular posts were actually about me and not science news.

Whether it be where I spent my weekend, or my Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies, people seem to like hearing about my life. And I’m happy to oblige them.

Not only that, but I’ve found that personal anecdotes do wonders when trying to explain a complicated subject. Inserting a funny personal story into a technical post makes it much more readable.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a break now and then

If you haven’t blogged in a while, it can feel like a weight on your shoulders. You start to think,

“I haven’t posted in a while. I really should…but Dancing with the Stars is on…”

And the more days you miss, you more you feel like you should blog. But when you start feeling like you should, you really don’t want to.

So my advice? It’s ok to miss a few days of blogging. It’s even ok to miss a week or two. In fact, you should probably put the blog aside on purpose every now and then so you don’t get burned out!

And if you’ve intentionally taken a break from blogging, you will soon find that you miss it. You will want to blog again.

5. Do it because you love it

“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
— Richard P. Feynman

The same goes for blogging. In my case, spreading the word about good science or disparaging pseudoscience may be in the best interest of the public; but that’s not why I do it.

I do it because I love writing. I love writing about other things that I love. Science, video games and other geekery, it’s all good.

And if you enjoy the fact that you are blogging, it will show through in your posts. People will be drawn to come back and keep reading your stuff.

So that’s it. That’s what I’ve learned. I hope you all have enjoyed the blog so far, and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

My Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books: #10 – Watership Down

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

So yes, I am away on vacation.

You can hear about how things are going by checking my Twitter feed. I’ve never driven across British Columbia before so I’m sure I’ll have lots to tweet about.

But in the meantime, you are getting a special treat. My second Top 10 list! This time it’s my top 10 sci-fi/fantasy novels. (The first was my Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies)

A quick caveat. These are my favourite novels. Not necessarily the most well written, well crafted, though provoking, social commentating sci-fi books of all time. They are simply the books I can read over and over and over again and never get tired of them.

If you disagree, let me know! I’d love to hear about your favourites, and I really enjoy getting book recommendations too, so don’t be shy.

Ok, let’s get started with…

#10 – Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)


Watership Down

Image via Wikipedia

You might think that a group of rabbits trying to find a new home sounds like a Disney movie. But Richard Adams turns this mundane idea into an enthralling heroic fantasy story.

Engaging characters and a surprising amount of creepiness (the strange rabbits in Cowslip’s warren gave me the heebie-jeebies) set this novel apart from other, more childish stories.

A good deal of violence and religious overtones make this book a grown-up fantasy that anybody would find entertaining. There was also an animated version that follows the novel quite closely, though I would not recommend it for young children. (Apparently there is a Facebook support group for those who were traumatized by the movie as a child)

So this book is a great start to my Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. And there is a lot more yet to come!

All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

– Richard Adams, Watership Down

All Entries

#10 – Watership Down

#9 – The Harry Potter Series

#8 – The Wheel of Time Series

#7 – The Stars My Destination

#6 – To Say Nothing of the Dog

#5 – Doomsday Book

#4 – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

#3 – The Farseer Trilogy

#2 – Flowers for Algernon

#1 – The Martian Chronicles

Playboy Names My University One of Top 10 Party Schools

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Middlesex college, UWO campus - Photo Credit: Mark Russell

Yes, my alma-mater, the University of Western Ontario, home of world-class scientific research, has been named #4 on Playboy’s annual ranking of the Top 10 Party Schools in North America. [WARNING: Link NSFW]

How is this prestigious list determined?

We gather info from thousands of students from our Playboy on-campus Facebook pages, survey our students reps at schools across North America and interview countless others. We draw up stats (male-female ratio, winning percentage of sports teams, etc) and add bonus points for schools in the vicinity of beaches, ski slopes and music scenes.

In other words, they just kinda pick and choose.

But still…Woooooo! Partaaaay!

My favourite occasions were always Rick McGhie at the Wave on Wednesdays, Friday afternoons at the Grad Club, and Pancake Keggers for St. Patty’s Day.

Let’s see, can I find a picture of my drunk self from University?

Well, that’s the morning after… in a bed other than my own. Close enough.

Party on!

Canadians are the World’s Biggest Net-Nerds

March 9, 2011 2 comments

A report released yesterday by ComScore has found that Canadians spend more time online, about 43.5 hours per month in 2010, than any other country! Hurray!

The United States was second with 35.3 hours per month, followed by the UK with 32.3.

Some other notable statistics were that there was a 12% growth in Canadian users in the age group of 55+ in 2010 compared to 2009. Keeping in touch with the grandkids I guess.

And while traffic to Social Networking sites like Twitter and Facebook went up 13%, visitors to blogs went down by 9%.

C’mon people, close down your TweetDeck and drive up the site stats on my blog would ya?

I’m not really sure if Canadians should be proud of this or not. Does this mean we are the most tech-savvy of all nations, or that we have nothing better to do?

Of course it does get pretty cold up here in the winter time, so I’d rather be watching stuff on YouTube than braving the -25C weather in Calgary. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, right?

Special Oscar Edition!

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

What on earth does a science/skeptical blog have to write about around Oscar time? With all the hype that surrounds the Academy Awards, which air tonight at 8:30 EST, it’s not surprising that coverage spills into areas of science, pseudoscience, technology and awesome. For example:

  • Filling the gap left by the death of Paul the psychic octopus, Heidi the cross-eyed opossum, who lives at a zoo in Leipzig, Germany, made her prediction for Best Actress on the Jimmy Kimmel show. She chose Natalie Portman for her role in ‘Black Swan’. This gave me great pleasure since I’ve had a crush on Natalie Portman ever since she was the only good thing about the Star Wars prequels.

  • The Economist wrote a short article on the science behind some speech impediments in honour of the success of ‘The King’s Speech’

  • 2 of the 5 nominated movies for Best Documentary deal with the environment. One of those films, called ‘Gasland‘, deals with hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and prompted Scientific American to write a feature article about it.

  • By monitoring social media chatter from sites like Twitter and Facebook, the Meltwater Group has made their prediction of Oscar winners based on the number of mentions of a certain movie or actor/actress. Based on this data, the favourites are ‘The King’s Speech’ for Best Picture, James Franco for Best Actor, and Natalie Portman for Best Actress. 

  • And finally, the Best Picture nominees in LEGO form. You can see them all on Gawker, but here are my favourites:

127 Hours

Inception

The Fighter

Need A Valentine’s Date? Act Like You Don’t Like Her…

February 10, 2011 1 comment

This is a pickup trick that guys have used for a while now, but science has now backed it up.

If a guy likes a girl, you will often hear his friends tell him to “act like you don’t like her” or “ignore her” or “subtlety insult her”.

It sounds a bit cruel, but most guys will swear that it works. Of course, anecdotes should not be considered evidence, so let’s stick to real science.

This study appears in this months issue of Psychological Science and is entitled “‘He Loves Me, He Loves me Not…’ Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction”.

The study involved showing a group of women the Facebook profile of 4 guys. The guys were not real, however.

The girls were then told that each of the 4 guys had seen their profile as well, and rated how much they liked them. There were 3 categories:

  1. The guys liked the girl “a lot”
  2. The guys thought she was “average”
  3. The guys were uncertain if they liked her “a lot” or  just “average” (called the ‘uncertain condition’)

And the results?

Participants in the uncertain condition were most attracted to the men—even more attracted than were participants who were told that the men liked them a lot.

Why is this? The authors hypothesize that it is because the women reported thinking about the men in the uncertain condition more than the other men, which ma have led them to be more attracted to them.

I guess we can all relate to this because we’ve all had crushes on people who didn’t reciprocate those feelings. Somehow, that just makes you like them more, doesn’t it?

Stupid feelings.