Fascinating lists!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Five Ideas for Research Reports

Copyright 2018 by Gary L. Pullman

1. Fonts

I use Open office, a free word processor that works as well as the Microsoft Office word processor. Open office provides hundreds of fonts, including a few fancy or exotic ones, such as Ar Decode, Ar Delaney, Blackladder ITC, Chiller, Comic Sans MS, Curlz MT, Edwardian Script ITC, Goudy Stout, Matura MT Script Capitals, Jokerman, Kristen ITC, MS Outlook, Ravie, and Wingdings (Wingdings).

One day, while searching for a topic for a Listverse article, I thought there might be one at my fingertips. Literally, there was one: what is the origin of ten unusual fonts? (Listverse requires a list of 10 related items.) The result was that, with a bit of research, I earned $100 for my article, “Top 10 Origins of Famous Fonts” (http://listverse.com/2017/05/23/top-10-origins-of-famous-fonts/). (See? Research can pay!)

2. U. S. State Boundaries

We've all seen political maps of the United States. We've noticed how bizarre state boundaries are. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why the states have the shapes and sizes they do. Texas is HUGE, Rhode Island is tiny. Michigan resembles a mitten; Virginia, a lopsided triangle; Oklahoma, a cooking pot; and Colorado, a giant rectangle.

The boundaries of the states look as though they were determined by a madman or madwoman.

I thought, somebody should write a book about this!

Somebody (Mark Unger) did: How the States Got Their Shapes: https://amzn.to/2nR0fjp

He even turned it into a television show broadcast on the History channel.

3. Mythological Creatures

Centaurs. Cyclopes. Gorgons. Lamia. Mermaids. Minotaurs. Satyrs. How did they come to be? What made someone imagine such combinations as humans and horses, one-eye giants, women with snakes for hair, snake women, fish women, men and bulls, and goat men?

Scientists and historians claim to know—about some of the origins of these fantastic mythological creatures, at least. Centaurs were created by people who'd never seen mounted horsemen; cyclopes were invented to account for a mastodon skull; and mermaids were inspired by manatees. Or so they say. But what about the other fantastic creatures of Greek and Roman, Teutonic, and other mythologies?

4. Maps That Show Monsters

I have also long been intrigued by the monsters that appear on ancient and medieval maps. Why this creature and not another? Why is the wind (personified as a man blowing air) blowing on this area of the world and not another? How did the cartographers, or mapmakers, know the coordinates of this mysterious island or this particular sea monster?

Once again, someone else (Edward Brooke-Hitching) wondered the same thing, did some research, and wrote The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders of Maps: https://amzn.to/2w01zEX

5. Sketchy Dinosaurs

Originally, paleontologists believed that dinosaurs were dim-witted, cold-blooded, slow-moving creatures. A few decades later, these same dinosaur doctors reconsidered. Now, the same dinosaurs were thought to be intelligent, warm-blooded, fast-moving creatures. Oh! And, the new school opinion was that dinosaurs descended from birds; previously, paleontologists had supposed them to have evolved from reptiles.

These weren't just changes of thought; they were completely opposite views. If dinosaur doctors could change their minds completely about such “facts” as these, how sound were their theories, overall? How sketchy were dinosaurs, anyway?

As it turns out, very. One only has to take note of the multitude of qualifications in The Scientific American's Book of Dinosaurs: The Best Minds in Paleontology Create a Portrait of the Prehistoric Era, edited by Gregory S. Paul (https://amzn.to/2nOSMRM), to get an idea just how shaky the whole “scientific” construct of dinosaurs' appearances, behaviors, and, well, reality truly is. As Mark Twain observed, “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

What worked for me (and Mark Unger and Edward Brooke-Hitching and “the best minds in paleontology”) can work for you, too, if you're writing a report based on research:
  1. Think about a topic of interest to you that contains a mystery.
  2. Using a variety of reliable sources, investigate the mystery.
  3. Report your findings in a clear, well-organized, grammatically correct, and readable fashion, citing your sources, and providing plenty of substantiating details.

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