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Planets, Twitter, and Creative Constraint

Posted by Samuel Arbesman  October 14, 2010 09:53 AM

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Everyone's talking about the recent (possible) discovery of the first potentially habitable extrasolar planet Gliese 581g. But now, Gliese 581g is talking back. Witness, the twitter account of Gliese 581g @gliese581_g:

Some sample tweets:

Clearly somewhat hit-or-miss, but an intriguing idea. And in fact, there are other similar Twitter accounts. For example, interested in what the laws of the universe have to say? See @physicallaws

Of course, these accounts have the potential for their jokes to get old really fast, but perhaps there is something to be said for such single-minded dedication to a topic. This is essentially the argument of creative constraint. Work within some well-defined boundaries or conventions, and it can actually make you more innovative. All of Twitter, with its 140-character limitation, has this feature and is also essentially the idea behind sonnets or haikus. And LOLcats.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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