More Friday fun – Harry Potter in the medical literature

Following on from last Friday’s post about Monty Python references in medical articles, I thought I’d have a look to see if other pop culture phenomena have been discussed in the literature. Today I found a few articles in PubMed Central (which means everyone should be able to access the full text) which discuss Harry Potter.

One study in Germany used functional MRI to compare brain activity when reading “supra-natural” passages in Harry Potter to passages which didn’t deal with supra-natural content. It turns out that there was a difference, with the supra-natural passages evoking greater response in the areas of the brain responsible for feelings of surprise and reading pleasure. These passages also required more cognitive processing due to the “world knowledge violations” which occur in supra-natural content.

A study by staff working in a British hospital found that there was a significant decrease in the number of children attending the emergency department for musculoskeletal injuries on the weekends when two of the Harry Potter books were released. They conclude that “Harry Potter books seem to protect children from traumatic injuries”, and hypothesise that “there is a place for a committee of safety conscious, talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention.”

On a slightly difference tack, one study conducted social network analysis of the seven Harry Potter novels (as well as other fantasy series) to see if the authors had managed to recreate the features of real-life social networks. The authors argue that the social networks within novels needs to be similar to those in real life in order for readers to feel engaged with the story. They found that indeed there were similarities between the fictional and real-life social networks.

There were 183 articles retrieved by my simple search, so there is some interest in Harry Potter in the medical literature. Are there any requests for books/films/characters that I should search for next Friday?

A geocaching roadtrip

Well, it’s not actually a real roadtrip. The company which runs the website have come up with the idea of a “Geocaching Roadtrip“, which will run for the next few months. The idea is to find a cache in the various categories that they’ve nominated to earn a “souvenir“. There are six different quests that they’ve created, and I think I’m going to try to complete them all. The trickiest one will be the quest to find a cache with either a difficulty rating of 5 or a terrain rating of 5. Difficulty 5 geocaches are usually very hard puzzle caches, which can take quite a bit of time to solve. I’m working on one at the moment, and I think I’ve nearly cracked it. The terrain 5 geocaches usually require special equipment e.g. scuba diving, abseiling, and seeing that I don’t have any of that sort of equipment I don’t think I’ll be tackling one of those. However there are some caches with this rating that don’t actually need any special equipment (such as this one, which I’ve found which more like a 3), so if I don’t solve the difficulty 5 puzzle I might try and find one of these mis-categorised caches.

We managed to complete the “7 Souvenirs of August” challenge last year, so hopefully we can add to our souvenir collection by finishing the roadtrip.

Cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes!

One of the things that I’ve noticed about working in a hospital is that there are plenty of opportunities to purchase a cupcake (or two) to assist with raising funds for a department or ward. Yesterday a staff member from another department brought us some yellow cupcakes which she’d purchased, and this morning there was a cupcake stall set up downstairs. Morning tea – sorted.


I’m sure the cupcakes are healthier if they’re for a good cause, right?

Scientists in the making

Our eldest son was quite excited last week, as the science kit he’d ordered through his school Book Club had arrived. The kit has instructions for 12 simple experiments which use basic household ingredients, most of which end as some sort of slime/gloop/goo. We’d promised him that we’d do a couple of the experiments on the weekend, so we cleared the kitchen bench and got to it.

The first experiment involved creating a “goo” by adding water to the “diaper dust” provided in the kit. This is the stuff in nappies that absorbs fluid, and it swells up quite a bit. It was interesting stuff once it had absorbed the water – it looked wet but didn’t feel wet at all. The second experiment involved reversing the absorption by sprinkling salt over the goo. This bit didn’t work as drastically as the instructions showed. After leaving it for 10 minutes as instructed, there was a little bit of water visible and the goo felt wetter than before, but there was no puddle as shown in the instructions. This was a good lesson for the boys to learn – that sometimes experiments don’t work out as planned.


Just add water!

Just add water!

We have goo

We have goo

The third and final experiment we carried out was to make “sticky slime” out of cornflour and water. This was another experiment which didn’t really turn out as I expected. I had to keep adding cornflour to try and get the mixture to be sticky, and even then it was still pretty runny. Another lesson learnt.

Sticky slime

Sticky slime

I’m glad that the boys have an interest in science. When they learned that I’m a scientist (due to my undergraduate degree in chemistry) they were very impressed. At the moment their interest is wide-ranging, taking in astronomy, palaeontology, zoology, and botany, as well as being generally creative and inventive. Thomas wants to be an inventor when he grows up, and will come up with very detailed description of the amazing inventions that he’ll come up with. Hopefully we can nurture that inquiring, creative, and inventive spirit as they grow up.

Brisbane bound!

Early next month I’ll be heading to Brisbane to attend the 8th International Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Conference (EBLIP8). It looks like a great program, with a good mixture of researchers and practitioners speaking. I’ll be presenting a poster titled “How do library and information professionals use Twitter to engage with conferences in Australasia? (or, “A little birdie told me …”)“. It’s taken a while to get it together, but I emailed it off tonight. If you can’t make it to the conference to check it out, I’ll probably be writing it up as a journal article.

Brisbane has hosted an EBLIP conference previously, back in 2005. It was at this conference that I met a group of health librarians from the Central Coast who called themselves the “Spice Girls”. This name came about because of the title of their presentation – “Adding SPICE to our library intranet site: a recipe to enhance usability“. I didn’t know it at the time, but this conference ended up being a life-changing experience for me, as a couple of years later I married one of the “Spice Girls”. This was written up as a news item for the EBLIP Journal.

The 2005 conference was a great experience for me, as it was where I started forming my professional network. I’m looking forward to catching up with some of the “Spice Girls”, as well as other colleagues that I’ve met in the meantime.

Geocaching with the boys

This morning I went out with the boys for a spot of geocaching. A notification came through for a new geocache which was published not far from home. It was a puzzle cache, and I managed to solve it fairly quickly. It had been available for about half an hour, so there was a chance that no-one had found it yet. We headed off in the car, and as we arrived at the cache location I could see that there were people standing in the area that the GPS arrow was pointing to. We ended up second to find, which was still pretty good.

There were another couple of caches nearby which we hadn’t found, so we went for a walk to find them. The first one we went for proved to be a bit tricky to access with two children in tow (if I was by myself I would have given it a go). Initially we were on the wrong side of the creek with no easy way to cross. Even when we ended up on the other side after finding another cache, the bush seemed too overgrown to be able to easily get to the cache. The cache that we did find was a nice big one, and the boys had fun finding it.

It was a very nice morning to be out for a walk, and the boys had a good time. We might need to do this more often now that the weather has cooled down and the snakes have retired for the winter.

Heading to the cache

Heading to the cache

Found it!

Found it!

Well, we did it again

I posted last #blogjune about our unexpected day trip to the Blue Mountains, and today we did the same thing. Thomas had an early soccer match this morning, and afterwards we initially thought that we’d head to a park not too far away to give the boys a chance to play. We were headed in the direction of the Blue Mountains, and along the ay we decided to keep going and head to Blackheath for lunch.

Last year we were pretty unprepared for the cold mountain weather (poor old Blake was wearing shorts), but this time we stopped off and bought some warm clothes for the boys, which they needed anyway. We headed along Bells Line of Road then the Darling Causeway to Mount Victoria. Our lunch stop was at the New Ivanhoe Hotel in Blackheath, where we managed to arrive just after a busload of tourists, which meant we had to wait a while for our lunch. While we were there we bumped into a couple of library people that we knew.

Our destination for the day was Memorial Park in Blackheath, where the boys had fun playing on the play equipment. It wasn’t as cold as last year, which made it a bit more enjoyable. On the way home we stopped in at Leura, where we visited the Candy Store (which the boys loved) and had a coffee at the Wayzgoose Cafe. All in all it was a very nice day, and a pleasant way to spend a Saturday.

A bit of Friday fun

As part of a literature search that I was conducting for a clinician, I came across an editorial in a medical journal which referenced a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The title of the editorial is What is the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow? and it discusses the importance of defining something that you want to measure so that you can measure it. This got me wondering if there were any other references to Monty Python in the medical literature. A quick search of PubMed turned up a couple of articles: one which uses a sketch from the TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus as an example of “inattentional blindness”, and another which talks about the importance of communication skills by referring to the famous “dead parrot” sketch from And Now For Something Completely Different.

And in case you were wondering, I didn’t send the editorial to the clinician, as it wasn’t especially relevant to their search. It only came up as a “similar article” for an article which was relevant.

Libraries and their communities

Today’s post is in response to Sharon’s post yesterday about libraries as community builders, and how I think academic libraries fit into this space. Academic libraries, particularly for those universities which only have one library and not a series of subject-specific libraries, are a “neutral space” on campus available to everyone. This would make them an ideal hub for community building. Subject-specific libraries could serve the same role, but they would be focused on the staff and students who are working in particular subject areas, rather than the whole university. I’m not sure how well academic libraries do in the community-building role. It would be tricky trying to bring disparate groups together into a single community, I think, if there wasn’t a common purpose. Students studying the same subjects tend to naturally form communities because they all have a common interest. Maybe the academic library’s role is more in facilitating the community-building activities of other groups on campus – for example providing a space for a “Shut up and write” gathering.

There are certainly a range of different communities on a university campus, such as the research community, teaching and learning community, and the internationalisation community, and the library is usually represented in them all. I think a large part of the role of a Liaison or Research Librarian is to try and become part of the community that they support so that they are visible, and people knew the library as being about more than books.

I’m still finding my way around in my new job, so I’m not sure how special libraries fit into the community-building scene. Having a well-defined community of users all with similar interests could be an advantage that special libraries have over academic libraries. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in my new workplace.