Benjamin C. Kinney (mostly on Bluesky & Mastodon) Profile picture
SFF writer, neuroscientist, Hugo finalist. Formerly Escape Pod. Short fic @analog_sf @FantasyMagazine @MorningTransprt etc. Rep @marisacleveland. He/him.
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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...
Apr 14, 2018 35 tweets 4 min read
At the #SoCIA18 panel discussion on space settlement. Based on room setup, I might be too busy engaging in discussion to livetweet, but we'll see! Begins with everyone around the table summarizing their positions. 16 of us. Nice mix of "humans not worth saving" to "yes let's do it (sensibly)" to "will interfere with science" or "too muddled with Earth politics/elites."
Apr 14, 2018 22 tweets 3 min read
Last talk of this block: "Neo-Liberal Space Ethics" with Linda Billings. AKA "Yet Another Thing to Fret About: The Neoliberal Ideology of Space Exploration" #SoCIA18 Speaker is a science communication professional, blogs at
Apr 14, 2018 21 tweets 3 min read
Next up, a talk I've been eagerly waiting for: "Cops on Mars: Policing & Weaponization of Space – In the Imagination & Beyond" by Lucianne Walkowicz (@shaka_lulu). #SoCIA18 Looking at the real-world implications of how we imagine space settlement. Specifically today, the placement of law enforcement in future space scenarios.
Apr 14, 2018 15 tweets 2 min read
My next #SoCIA18 talk will be "Being Here: The Significance of Human Place in the Light of Astrobiology," by Sarah Reynolds! What does "learning about what's out there" teach us about ourselves, here on Earth?
Apr 14, 2018 11 tweets 2 min read
Gonna try to stay focused here at #SoCIA18 with "The Value of Astrobiology with or without Specimens" by Gonzalo Munevar. What can this discipline tell us, even if we never find ETlife? Ex: Earth life favors left-handed amino acids, right-handed sugars. Are these accidents of evolution, or are there reasons? Why does DNA use only 4 bases? Why do proteins use 20 amino acids? All these would be addressed by even N=2 origins of life.
Apr 14, 2018 17 tweets 3 min read
#SoCIA18 is about to go back on with "Thinking like a Red: A Consideration of the Ethics of Terraforming in light of Kim Stanley Robinson's RED MARS," by Roberta Millstein. This talk is focusing on Ann Clayborne, inadvertent founder of Reds anti-terraforming movement in the KSR books. What exactly ARE her views/arguments? They are never stated directly in the book.
Apr 14, 2018 18 tweets 2 min read
Ooh, this looks like part of my Personal Expertise: "Modeling Life on Mars" by Erica Dietlein (@ericadietlein) is my next #SoCIA18 talk! Begins with some fun paradoelia (sp?) examples - humans seeing patterns where there are none.
Apr 14, 2018 19 tweets 2 min read
Next up for me at #SoCIA18 is “The Time of Life” by Jason Howard. Temporal naturalism vs timeless naturalism? We'll explore those terms now. Forward! Timeless Naturalism holds that experience of moments/passage is illusion. Doesn't deny the appearance of time, only its importance. If you unroll a carpet, the pattern is already set, the unrolling is not causative.