Benjamin C. Kinney Profile picture
SFF writer, neuroscientist, Hugo/Ignyte-finalist Assistant Editor @escapepodcast. SFWA, VP. Short stories @analog_sf @FantasyMagazine etc. On query. He/him
Jonathan Hale Profile picture 1 subscribed
Jul 8, 2021 10 tweets 2 min read
Welcome to this week's edition of, "I'm a neuroscientist, and this thread is spot on."

Physical limits, including strength, are a brain game. A classic (apocryphal?) study: tell people to bike as fast as they can. Let them see their RPM meter.

Make 'em do it again - but tweak the RPM meter so it reads low. And they'll blow past their original "as fast as they can" to make the (apparent) RPM match.
Jul 1, 2021 15 tweets 4 min read
As a neuroscientist who studies handedness: this is spot on.

Handedness is congenital, not learned. But the frequency of left-handedness varies between cultures - in a way that almost certainly reflects social acceptance, not heredity. The most interesting data on this come from China. Most East Asian cultures have a lower prevalence of left-handedness than Europeans. But, again, this is not genetic. How do we know? Hong Kong.
Dec 14, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
In case anyone had doubts that @/longshotpress was a bad actor, they doxxed me today.

I'm not afraid of them. My boss knows I do this. But do you think ANYONE should submit to a publisher who'll track down your real name & address, and publish it online, if you criticize them? Screenshot of Longshot Pres... If you're new to this whole disaster, I've tracked Longshot's asshattery via this post here, ever since it started in February. Feel free to report 'em, of course. (And let me ping @victoriastrauss for this new round of misbehavior.)…
Oct 19, 2019 75 tweets 13 min read
Alright, #sciencefiction #neuroscience fans: this is the content you’re here for! In ~30 minutes, I will livetweet this #sfn19 “Dialogues Between Neuroscience & Society” talk on the future of AI and machine learning in human society. Bio of speaker Fei-Fei Li for “dialogues between neruoscience & society” talk Any minute now we should be underway with the #SfN19 Dialogues Between Neuroscience and Society talk by @drfeifei on how AI can - and should - change the human experience. Stay turned for livetweeting!
Jun 20, 2019 28 tweets 7 min read
Inhale deeply, and enjoy the aroma of #NeuroThursday, because this week I want to talk about smell, taste, and emotion – inspired by @tinaconnolly's Nebula- and Hugo-finalist novelette, "The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections." A perfume bottle, labeled If you haven't read it, it's a wonderful story about memory, food, cruelty, and empathy. But you don't need to read it for this thread. I'm here to talk about neuroscience, not pastry-magic.…
Jun 15, 2019 6 tweets 2 min read
Let me know if y’all want a neuroscience on this! So a very quick #neuroscience on this: initial visual processing in the brain (and retina) works through contrasts. Your brain sharpens differences/edges because that’s where information is...
May 22, 2019 23 tweets 7 min read
I dread to inform you all of this, but "impending doom" is a very common symptom. Not just from living in 2019, either: from pretty much anything that will kill you.

Buckle in for a thread, there might even be some #neuroscience behind this.
And I know it ain't Tuesday, but let's call this a #NeuroThursday anyways. What happens when a person gets a sense of Impending Doom, from jellyfish or otherwise?
Oct 12, 2018 26 tweets 7 min read
#NeuroThursday is crawling back to life this week to discuss this article: just what, if anything, is important about the role of dopamine in beliefs? More importantly: is this (or any) new knowledge meaningless or meaningful?… Thanks to @oldscout for the topic inspiration! #NeuroThursday has been paused lately while I write a novel on the cold war between AIs who emulate humankind and AIs who reject that bullshit. But this week I take a break from my break.
Aug 13, 2018 4 tweets 2 min read
Handedness comes in two groups, "right handed" and "not right handed." Most people use their right hands for almost all precision movement, but the other group is a broad spectrum from weakly-right to strongly-left. The way we describe and define handedness creates the effect @CStuartHardwick rightly notices. Culture defines how we talk about it - but the behavior is mostly genetic. The % of righties has remained constant across continents and milennia.
Aug 8, 2018 4 tweets 3 min read
Quick heads up on the #BlackSpecFic report: the story counts for @escapepodcast @Pseudopod_org and @PodCastle_org are incomplete, and revisions will be forthcoming. But you should read and learn from the #BlackSpecFic report anyways! The missing data is due to idiosyncrasies of the @EAPodcasts model, and has no impact on any other magazine's numbers.
Jul 23, 2018 4 tweets 1 min read
Regretting organizing my two Worldcon panels this year. It means I'm not free to throw up my hands in frustration and give up on programming. The last 24hrs have been the last worst icing on a bad cake that's long been baking. I mean, my panels will be awesome. But if you're skipping programming because you don't trust the con, you've made a sensible choice.
Jul 13, 2018 14 tweets 4 min read
So glad this one came out! "After Midnight at the Zap Stop" by @ouranosaurus is an awesome story - full of late-night grease, and the luckless & the worthy. But also because it's a #neuroscience teaching opportunity. Might even be a #NeuroThursday! One offhand line explains a technology as "stimulating a particular set of mirror neurons." Which works as a story element just fine. It sounds plausible and authoritative! But as a neuroscientist, I have strong opinions about #mirrorneurons. I don't think they're real.
Jul 8, 2018 14 tweets 2 min read
This Lindsey Sterling + Evanescence concert has been going for 3 minutes and it is already amazing. Update: she is simultaneously dancing, playing violin, and kicking skeletons.
Jul 4, 2018 14 tweets 4 min read
This phenomenon - when you look away from a moving thing, and you briefly see illusory motion in the other direction - is the "Motion Aftereffect," and it comes from some very basic brain maneuvers. Who wants to join me on going full #NeuroThursday here?… Most neurons in the brain (and elsewhere) do this thing called "adaptation," where they accept whatever's going on as the new normal. For example, if you sit down with your laptop on your lap, you'll soon stop noticing the weight.
Jun 23, 2018 6 tweets 1 min read
This morning at #4thStreetFantasy I had an idea about Kill Your Darlings. Let me see if it rings true for anyone else. As many of us on Writing Twitter may know, Kill Your Darlings is an aphorism that has some value, but is easily interpreted in ways that can be harmful. (Like most aphorisms.) But why is this one so sticky?
Jun 15, 2018 4 tweets 1 min read
A great example because color blindness has hidden advantages - colorblind folks tend to be slightly better at detecting non-color differences (e.g. brightness, texture). Most things in evolution (or in any context) are a tradeoff, and that's what makes group selection such a powerful framework. Easy to see how it might be advantageous to have a population with a mix of color-acuity experts and brightness-acuity experts.
Jun 15, 2018 38 tweets 8 min read
#NeuroThursday is back this week to talk about the #neuroscience of #synesthesia. What does it mean for a letter to have an intrinsic color, for a number to have a distance? And why the heck would this trait evolve in humankind? Synesthesia is when "stimulation of one sense automatically provokes a secondary perception in another." The secondary perception can be direct ("9's are red") or associative ("9's make me think of red"), either counts.
May 18, 2018 21 tweets 6 min read
The Madness of Brains™ has been in the news this past week with the Yanny/Laurel effect. Let's use this as a #NeuroThursday peephole into the mysteries of human hearing – via something called the McGurk Effect. First off, if you haven't dug the Yanny/Laurel thing, there's a great explanation and manipulation up at the New York Times.…
May 11, 2018 36 tweets 7 min read
By popular demand, #NeuroThursday will tackle last weekend's big psychological finding in the author world: this study that supposedly claims people read faster with 2 spaces after a period.… The upshot is: some researchers got a group of people who naturally write with 1 space or 2 space, and made them read both kinds of text. The two-spacer people read a tiny bit faster when they saw 2-space text. But.
Apr 27, 2018 29 tweets 6 min read
Hello, friends and lovers of science! #NeuroThursday is gonna lurch back into action with the other side of how you stay balanced: your body's position-sense (proprioception) system. As a reminder, our last #NeuroThursday discussed the vestibular system: the tools your brain uses to maintain your balance. But that stuff is all in your head, so today we go to the rest of your body.
Apr 15, 2018 59 tweets 7 min read
Alright, #SoCIA18 friends and followers. Next up is the conference's final act & second keynote: "Is there a sensible way to say Life is alive?" by Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University! Steps in the logic: 1. Life (capital L) = LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) and her descendents. 2. Life and Life only (not lowercase-l) exists - see my tweets on yesterday's Carlos Mariscal talk...