30 April 2012

Zeitgeber

For this year's A-Z challenge, I'm posting juicy tidbits of researchy goodness for your interest and edification. I intend to use these as story prompts for the terrifying writing challenge Story a Day in May. You may use them however you wish.


Nice "z" word, right? I was tempted, also, to go with "zelatrix," which is the title of an older nun in charge of disciplining younger nuns, according to the much abridged definition at The Phrontistery. However, that just reminded me of this post by E.J. Wesley (scroll down for the nun in question) and I began to feel quite unoriginal.

Zeitgeber: from the German for "time giver," meaning "synchronizer," this word refers to external cues that help an organism sync up its internal clock to the earth's dark / light cycle. The process of synchronization is called entrainment.

Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple notes that "The master mammalian circadian pacemaker is located in the hypothalamus, in a section known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)." The mechanisms by which the SCN takes cues from the environment are three-fold:
the retino-hypothalamic tract, which directly delivers photic (light-derived) information; the geniculo-hypothalamic tract, which indirectly delivers photic information; and the raphe-hypothalamic tract, which uses serotonin to deliver non-photic information to the SCN. The SCN tells the pineal gland to secrete melatonin. Both photic information (like blue light) and non-photic information (like temperature, social cues, food availability, to name a few) act as zeitgebers with the ability to entrain (circadian synchronization in accordance with an outside cue is called entrainment) internal clocks.
I like the idea of an alien race that takes subtle cues in through new and unexpected organ systems; or, equally, the potential for the discovery of larger, extra-circadian rhythms we had no idea existed.

19 comments:

Deborah Walker said...

That's a wonderful prompt for ET physiology, and biology influences culture. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Also I like the word entrainment.

You've done a wonderful a-z. One of the best I've seen.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thank you! I hope you get some prompts out of it, Debs. If you do use any of this, let me know!

Deborah Walker said...

So generous of you, Elizabeth. I'm on a poetry jag at the moment. I'll let you know if anything sells. (It could take a while).

Amanda Heitler said...

And yet another great imagination jolter.

Like Deborah, I'm loved your A-Z and will be back frequently to see how May goes for you. I am absolutely not ready for a Story a Day. Yet.

Pish Posh said...

Wow new word, thanks! And wowsers on the video!!

Mark K said...

Elizabeth - loved your A-Z. I can now lovingly call you a nerd :) - btw, what is a 'nogfest'? Do we keep our clothes on for it?

A nogfest! A nogfest!
We all want a nogfest!

A wonderous thing,
to be seen with our Queen!

Queen Elizabeth of Nogfest!

;) x

J Andrew Jansen said...

Wow... My eyes were kind of glazing over with the physiology (completely not my thing) until the last paragraph.

That sounds like a cool idea.

Congratz on your A-Z month. It was awesome.

--j--

Catherine Stine said...

I love your idea of an alien who takes in cycles in a very different method than that circadian. How cool. I've enjoyed your A to Z posts and will keep on visiting!

Catherine Stine said...

BTW, just bought One Buck Horror, and looking forward to reading your tale. Also, following you now! Cheers, Catherine

Gina said...

Wow, I knew neither word! It is a very interesting thought about alien races. I see lots of potential for stories to come. =)

Thanks for visiting Diary of a Writer in Progress

Mark K said...

That little poem was just for you for finishing the A-Z :) Pop over to my blog as I've created a 'survivors' badge for anyone completing the A-Z Challenge ;)

Elizabeth Twist said...

Awesome poem. Thank you!

Maybe I hallucinated a conversation where we were talking about a blogfest based on our broken pates, i.e., our head injuries (which have not impaired us at all but have clearly made us more fabulous).

Did I hallucinate that?

Elizabeth Twist said...

Yeah...I like physiology, biology, and other related squishy -ologies.

Thanks for stopping by, and yeah, I'm already looking forward to using this story prompt. You should write a story based on it too. We all should!

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks! Feel free to borrow it. I'm sure we would all come up with radically different stories based on this concept.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Oh, neat! It's a fun little zine. I was pretty proud of that story.

Elizabeth Twist said...

You should write one too, Gina! I'm so happy to have met you this month.

Mark K said...

Ahhhh... now I recall! Doh! My apologies, no, you are right. Nogfest it is :) Just say where and when - I'm your man :)

Jan said...

Great how you have maneged to post all letters, I see a new link in the beginning of your post, I'm gonna take a look at it and see what it contains.

Have a pleasant week Elizabeth... and all readers too ofcourse.

Teresa Cypher said...

Hi, Elizabeth. Wonderful Z post, and the video is awesome! I came here from Jan's post (he commented here next to my comment). Good luck on the story a day challenge. :-)

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