The science of Wordle
Plus: interesting links, a science dance, a book, music
May I distract you from your Wordle games with a newsletter issue about the science of Wordle? (And if you’re one of the people who doesn’t play, maybe this will help you understand why people are so hooked on it.)
In Discover, Alex Orlando interviewed psychologist Matt Baldwin to find out why everyone was suddenly so interested in this word puzzle game. Baldwin pointed to a few reasons: First, people crave the rush of the “aha” moment when they get it right. But Wordle also drew people in because the game mechanics only allow you to play once a day. That lowered the barrier to play for busy people. And of course people love to compare themselves to others. The more people play and share their scores, the more other people want to play. This creates a shared reality - you can talk about the game with others.
Another expert, Penny Pexman, wrote about the science of Wordle for The Conversation. She has researched Scrabble players, and notes a lot of similarities between the games. What they learned from studying competitive Scrabble players was that they thought about words in a different way: They didn’t necessarily process the meaning of a word when they were puzzling with it, but just thought of the letters in the words. Pexman believes that this is similar for Wordle players.
I feel the music in my bones: A new study shows how sound can rebuild bones. By Mathew Rozsa for Salon
Illusions of faces in inanimate objects are often male. By me for Forbes.com (I had a lot of fun looking for images for this piece!)
Researchers analyzed folk music like it was DNA. By Karen Hopkin for Scientific American.
Scientists want to create a library of every sound in the ocean. By Tess Joosse for Science.
In ‘Glass Microbiology,’ sculptures explore the science Behind modeling viruses and bacteria. By Grace Ebert for Colossal
In “Islands of Abandonment”, Cal Flyn visits several locations that were abandoned by humans only to be taken over by nature over the course of time. (The chapter about Chernobyl takes on a whole new meaning now, though.) When I bought this, the bookshop staff was very excited by my choice and described it as “part journalism, part nature writing”.
Dance Your PhD
The winner of Science’s annual Dance Your PhD contest is Povilas Šimonis, from Lithuania’s Center for Physical Sciences and Technology and Vilnius University, who created this music video for his PhD thesis “Investigation of yeast cell responses to pulsed electric field treatment”
When not creating this newsletter or otherwise writing about science, I also play violin and although I only perform a few times per year, I happen to be on three very different stages this month, so I thought I’d mention it in case anyone is in London and wants to see some music.
March 6 - #PlayForUkraine. Large orchestra performing Ukrainian music to protest the war. 3PM, Trafalgar Square (free)
March 13 - Buswell + Nyberg’s Orchestra VS Xtra Mile Recordings. With Frank Turner, Mull Historical Society, Johnny Lloyd, PET NEEDS, Guise, BERRIES, Deux Furieuses plus more. 7PM, EartH Hackney (tickets)
March 26 - London Euphonia Orchestra. Beethoven, Borodin, Dvorak. 7:30PM, St Paul’s Knightsbridge (tickets)