Hooking the Reader Right From the Start: The Times Trilobites Column

Hooking the Reader Right From the Start: The Times Trilobites Column

Now let’s look at how the professionals do it.

Here are those same four strategies, as used in first paragraphs by various science journalists who write for The Times’s Trilobites column, Science News and Science News for Students.

Via Trilobites:

From “Swimming With the Mysterious Sardine Disco Balls of the Philippines”:

Thousands to millions of sardines emerge from a coral wall in cobalt waters just a few yards from the shores of Cebu Island in the Philippines. They move in a single undulating cloud of silver that twists, turns, shrinks, expands and wraps itself around any object that gets in its way. At times, it becomes a thundercloud, blocking out the sun or clapping violently as it suddenly flips its formation to evade a predator.

From “Your Phone Carries Chemical Clues About You, but There Are Limits to Using Them”:

Your phone is pretty much a high-tech bucket of germs. Thousands of microscopic bugs crawl around on its surface. Remnants of dirty, old skin cells smudge its cover. Tiny hairs stick inside its buttons. And your hands have smeared hundreds of chemicals across its surface. The foundation on your face, the antidepressants you take, the shampoo in your shower and even the hard-core mosquito repellent you applied down in Panama four months ago: All of these things leave traces on your hands and phone. That’s why scientists say they can use your phone to learn a lot about your lifestyle.

From “The Mucus-Shooting Worm-Snail That Turned Up in the Florida Keys”:

It’s bright orange and yellow and about as long as your finger. It lives underwater in a limestone tube with an opening at the tip about as wide as a pencil eraser. It glues its home to hard surfaces and stays for the rest of its life. It’s a species of worm-snail that may never have been seen before, and somehow it turned up in an artificial reef in the Florida Keys.

From “Eight Crossings and 192 Atoms Long: the Tightest Knot Ever Tied”:

British scientists have tied the tightest knot ever tied and, as unlikely as it may seem, this is important.

From “A Dolphin’s Recipe for Octopus”:

Try having no arms and eating a live octopus that’s crawling around on your head with its tentacles. Failure could mean it’s your last supper. But a population of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Australia has found a way to do it.

From “Searching for a Rectangular Sun Above the Arctic Circle”:

Low on the horizon, the sun casts an eerie light on the icy sea. For several hours, the glow transforms the colorless terrain into shades of pink as the sun does not rise or set, but edges to the side — traveling in a semicircle before slowly sinking one last time.

I am far north in the Arctic Ocean, and polar winter has just begun.

Via Science News for Students:

From “NASA’s Parker probe spots rogue waves and magnetic islands on the sun”:

Rogue waves. Floating magnetic islands. Charged particle showers. These are just some of the things NASA’s Parker Solar Probe witnessed during its first two close encounters with the sun.

From “Science is helping kids become math masters”:

Math is one four-letter word that leaves many teens anxious and sweaty. The idea of an impending math test might send shivers down their spines. Some kids avoid their homework — or at least delay starting it — because they find math so daunting. Their minds might even go blank at the sight of test questions, no matter how well they have studied. If this is you, there’s some comfort knowing that you’re not alone.

From “Viewing virtual reality of icy landscapes may relieve pain:

Wearing a headset to play a virtual-reality game is fun. As you move your head around, you can see the scene from different angles. You’re immersed in a fake environment that seems so real. But the power of VR may go well beyond entertainment. It just might help people who suffer from long bouts of pain, a new study finds.

Via Trilobites:

From “Watch Bees Surf to Safety on Waves They Create”:

If their honey-making and pollination prowess weren’t enough, there’s a new reason to appreciate honeybees: They’re world-class surfers.

Beyond pollinating flowers, worker bees — which are all females — are given the job of searching for water to cool their hives. But if they fall into ponds, their wings get wet and can’t be used to fly. A team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology found that when bees drop into bodies of water, they can use their wings to generate ripples and glide toward land — like surfers who create and then ride their own waves.

Gnarly, right?

From “It’s a Dirty Job, but Someone Has to Do It and Not Get Eaten”:

If you want to run a successful business, it’s important to provide a valuable service, advertise it well and do your best to get out what you put in. You should also try to make sure your customers don’t eat you.

This is especially true if you’re a cleaner shrimp. These industrious crustaceans set up cleaning stations — grooves in rocks in which they can retreat — in tropical coral reefs, where they pick parasites and dead skin off the fish, eels and turtles that seek them out for this purpose.

From “Trilobite Fossils Show Conga Line Frozen for 480 Million Years”:

You probably don’t think twice when you queue up at the grocery store or join a conga line at a wedding. But this type of single-file organization is a sophisticated form of collective social behavior. And as suggested by the children’s song “The Ants Go Marching One-By-One,” humans are not the only animals that appreciate the value of orderly lines.

But how far back in the history of living things on Earth does this behavior go?

From “How to Talk to Fireflies”:

As Earth rotates in the summer, fireflies whisper sweet nothings to each other in the most beautiful language never heard. For millions of years the insects have called to one another secretly, using flashes of light like a romantic morse code. With some rather simple technology — a light and a battery — scientists have been decoding their love notes for years. But recently I learned that you don’t have to be an entomologist to try to talk to fireflies.

From “This Is What It Looks Like When an Asteroid Gets Destroyed”:

The asteroid belt, hanging out between Mars and Jupiter, is not like the cluttered debris field in “The Empire Strikes Back.” It may contain millions of rocky and metal objects, but the distances separating them are vast, and collisions are rare.

From “In the Race to Live on Land, Lichens Didn’t Beat Plants”:

A lichen is what happens when a fungus hugs an algae and doesn’t let go. It’s a sweet arrangement: The fungus offers shelter, and algae feed the fungus. They’re still separate species, but tear them apart and the fungi typically can’t survive. So they’ve long been studied as a single organism.

Via Science News:

From “A tiny switch could redirect light between computer chips in mere nanoseconds”:

Microscopic switches that route light signals between computer chips like tiny traffic conductors could help make faster, more efficient electronics.

From “Piranhas and their plant-eating relatives, pacus, replace rows of teeth all at once”:

When it comes to scary teeth, piranhas’ bite is among the most fearsome. Their razor-sharp teeth strip prey’s flesh with the ease of a butcher’s knife.

From “How tardigrades protect their DNA to defy death”:

Tardigrades may partly owe their ability to survive outer space to having the molecular equivalent of cotton candy.

Via Trilobites:

From “When Water Balloons Hit a Bed of Nails and Don’t Pop”:

Is it possible to bounce a water balloon off a bed of nails? Surprisingly, yes.

From “Watch a Flower That Seems to Remember When Pollinators Will Come Calling”:

Can you remember what you did yesterday? If not, you might want to take a lesson from Nasa poissoniana, a star-shaped flowering plant from the Peruvian Andes with an unusual skill set.

From “Millions of Ibises Were Mummified. But Where Did Ancient Egypt Get Them?”:

The ancient Egyptians left us with plenty of head scratching. How did they actually build the pyramids? Where is Queen Nefertiti buried? What’s inside that mysterious void in the Great Pyramid of Giza?

From “How Making Chocolate Is Like Mixing Concrete”:

What do chocolate and concrete have in common?

Via Science News:

From “Vampire bat friendships endure from captivity to the wild”:

Are friendships formed with those we truly like? Or do we settle for whoever happens to be around?

Via Trilobites:

From “Fish Depression Is Not a Joke”:

Can a fish be depressed? This question has been floating around my head ever since I spent a night in a hotel across from an excruciatingly sad-looking Siamese fighting fish. His name was Bruce Lee, according to a sign beneath his little bowl.

There we were trying to enjoy a complimentary bloody mary on the last day of our honeymoon and there was Bruce Lee, totally still, his lower fin grazing the clear faux rocks on the bottom of his home. When he did finally move, just slightly, I got the sense that he would prefer to be dead.

From “My Dinosaur’s Jet Lag Helps Explain Why a Time Change Is Hard”:

Good morning. Or confusing morning, really. Come Daylight Saving Time each year, people often complain about how thrown off they feel by the shift of an hour.

I thought they were just whiny. That is, until my dinosaur got jet lag and refused to glow.

Since that’s not an everyday occurrence, let me explain the dinosaur first, and then I’ll get to how my dinosaur’s problems may be connected to your own struggles to function over the next few days. (Hint: It’s not only the loss of sleep that causes problems.)

From “First the Worm Gets in the Bug’s Head. Then the Bug Drowns Itself.”:

A few years back, Ryan Herbison, then a graduate student in parasitology at the University of Otago, painstakingly collected about 1,300 earwigs and more than 2,500 sandhoppers from gardens and a beach in New Zealand.

Then, he dissected and examined the insides of their heads.

From “Taking the Pulse of a Sandstone Tower in Utah”:

In 2013, a mutual friend brought Kat Vollinger and Nathan Richman together as rock climbing partners. Within a few years, they were married, and their shared love of climbing led them on adventures around the world. That’s how, in March 2018, they found themselves scaling Castleton Tower, a nearly 400-foot sandstone spire near Moab, Utah, with a seismometer in tow.

Via Science News for Students:

From “Don’t toss that vape”:

Kristen Lewis is the assistant principal at Boulder High School in Colorado. A large cardboard box sits in her office. It’s where she tosses the spoils of her ongoing battle with the newest student addiction: vaping. “This is what I call the Box of Death,” she explains. Inside it “is everything that we’ve confiscated.”

From “A first: Kids advise hospital researchers on their medical studies”:

Paul Croarkin paces in a conference room as he presents a slideshow. It showcases his latest research on depression.

A psychiatrist, he works at the Mayo Clinic, a hospital in Rochester, Minn. And he’s excited. It’s the first time he’s described his research to the hospital’s newest advisory board. He really wants the board’s opinions and feedback so that he can improve his study.

The board members pay close attention and offer great ideas. After all, that’s their job. But they look a little different from most hospital board members. All are children and teens. They make up the only medical pediatric advisory board in the United States.