Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Kim Todd’s “Curious”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Cynthia A. Campbell

Kim Todd’s “Curious” focuses on how complex and of what value curiosity is. Todd highlights the phenomena of the Surinam toad and the fascination/curiosity associated with it. Ultimately, this article speaks to the human condition of wanting to know “how” and “why” and how that curiosity is piqued.

Todd’s discussion of the breeding habits of the Surinam toad is especially enlightening. At one point, Todd notes that “knowledge of…toad has little practical application” (274). This point indicates that while our curiosity can reveal new and unexpected knowledge, oftentimes that knowledge is limited as it has no value to our everyday life experiences.

After reading Todd’s article, what one point concerning curiosity did you find most interesting? Please provide a page number citation.

23 comments:

Caleb Abernathy said...

One of the more intriguing parts of the passage to me was when it stated, "the complex, the ambiguous, the uncertain, compatible are harnessed together - a juxtaposition - the curiosity goes stronger." He then goes on to discuss how the more closely related the subject matter to our lives, the more intense our need is to figure out what is going on.

I think this is extremely true. There is a multitude of things going on in the world that people hear about, and don't seem to care about because it isn't presently impacting them. Now, of course, it is impossible to be curious about everything, but maybe if we were the world wouldn't be in its current position.

Linda H. said...

Linda H.

One of the parts of this reading that really stuck with me was the experiment done on rats to test curiosity. The question was if the rats would cross over from a cage to a new area given that the passageway would deliver an electric shock. The passage states "The rats investigated even at the price of pain" (pg.275). When I put myself in the place of the rats I completely understood why they would pay the price of an electric shock in exchange for a new place with new smells and experiences. I read this article and was able to reflect on my own general level of curiosity, and found that I am a very curious person as long as the cost of discovery isn't too severe.

Unknown said...

Alexis H.

At the end of Todd’s article (pg. 280) he talks about how he saw something pop it’s head out of the water. He says that he cannot make out what the creature is. He goes further to explain how he tried to see what it was, but he later didn’t feel a need to figure out what it was. This stood out to me because I get curious sometimes.

I know that curiosity is important, but it can also geg you in trouble as Todd has said as well. Because he did not want to continue to search what the creature was shows him having self control, which is something that is important to me. He was unsure and could’ve thought that whatever it was could have been dangerous if it was not a toad. He just proceeded down the trail to do what he was doing at first.

Brian Green said...

The most interesting part of “The Curious” to me was something stated by Benedict. Benedict says, “Curiosity is the mark of discontent” and “curiosity is seeing your way out of your place” (279). We become more curious about the world and how things are situated.

This is interesting because it is in fact true because our minds want answers to questions that will alter our view. Also, the curiosity creeps in when more suggestions are made that change what your mind was thinking.

Brian G.

LaTrina B said...

The most interesting part of the passage to me was the experiment done by Henry Nissen in the late 1920s. "Nissen put male albinos in a cage linked to a passageway that would give the rats an electric shock when they crossed it." The rats would cross the shock just to see what was on the other side of the linked passageway.


This was interesting to me because of how relatable it is to humans. It does not matter whether something is painful or undesirable to look at, we will still proceed to either touch or look at it. There have been times when I knew that something would hurt, but I was so curious to see what it was. This particular passage was very intriguing to me because it did not only relate to animals.

Anonymous said...

In Kim Todd's, "Curious", the most interesting part was learning about how Surinam toads reproduce as the female toad had "ragged holes that left her looking mutilated"(278). It piqued my curiosity, which captivated me into researching videos of Surinam toads reproducing. It was remarkable to see how one female toad can produce up to 100 off-springs at a time, but it left me curious to see if the mother dies after birth.

Samantha A.

Anonymous said...

Jason Alexander

The most interesting point concerning curiosity I noted in this story is that so many people saw it as such a bad thing throughout history.Charles Darwin, the famous scientist of all people was apparently against it. "Saint Augustine defined it as "ocular lust"(Page 274). I've never in my life heard of curiosity being such a bad thing. It makes very little sense. Unless you're doing very irrational things because of your curiosity, I don't feel like there is much bad to it at all. Curiosity killed the cat, not the human.

Anonymous said...

After reading the article, I found the point about curiosity being a bad thing to be interesting. The article says “Charles Darwin, who you might think would value the trait, saw it as the enemy to substantive inquiry” (274). He writes in a letter that experimenting on animals for real investigation is okay, but its not okay just to satisfy curiosity (274). I think it is interesting how curiosity can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how far people take it.
Alyria B.

Rachael Gray said...

Kim Todd’s writing has a fantasy feel to it. He is not writing about fantasy, but when I am reading it, the writing style seems like it is used in a book about fantasy. The level of impact curiosity has on our brains was a big surprise to me. I always say that I am not a very curious person when I am responding to personality assessments, but I think everyone must be very curious since our brain responds to curiosity the way it does.
I thought it was interesting that women are more curious than men due to their oppression in society. It makes a lot of sense. I think I am curious about certain things, but, unlike the women the author mentioned, I can control my curiosity if something bad could happen.
Rachael G.

Gabrielle H. said...

The most interesting part of this article by Kim Todd was the experiment tested on the albino rats. On page 275 they explained how the researcher, Henry Nissen, wanted to test how far white rats would venture out of curiosity. The researcher placed white rats on one side of a cage and on the other side of the cage he displayed to them an intriguing setting. If the rats choose to cross the path connected to the more intriguing side, then they would receive a harmful shock. He concluded that despite the shock, the white rats continued to explore the other side out of curiosity. I found this experiment interesting because it displayed how far animals or people may be willing to go in order to discover new things and ideas. It helped me understand that we have an insatiable need to explore out of curiosity. Benedict put this well when he told Kim, "Curiosity is the mark of discontent" (pg. 279).

lulu127491 said...

To me, the most curious thing about his article is that he says we are endlessly curious about animals. He says this on page 276, where he also states on page 277, the curiosity about a Surinam toad. To me it is interesting that animals are one of the most common things for we as humans to be curious about. They're so common in my opinion, that it is weird we find it so curious. And that most of the curiosity is prompted by the fact that someone wanted to know what animal didn't get sunburn.

Caulder Brantley said...

Caulder B.

The piece of information I found the most interesting while reading Kim Todd's curious is when Todd quoted Barbara Benedict "Curiousity is the mark of discontentand curiosity is seeing your way out of your place."(279). I found this iteresting because it's not the most common interpertation of curiosity that you hear. More often than not you here curiosity described as a healthy and valued attribute but the way Bnendict described it was quite the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Kami Douglas
While I learned very interesting information regarding the nature of curiosity, I was especially interested in the beliefs of Loewenstein. The text states that Loewenstein noticed," the closer the subject matter is to the observer's life, the more intense the need was to stare, to figure it out" (Todd, 276) .
This part of the passage was especially interesting to me because there is much truth behind it and you can simply look around you and notice it. For instance, humans are typically interested in the lives of celebrities of which provide no benefits to them personally. However, when we see them at concerts, we are compelled to stare and focus directly on them because they harvest the traits that spark our curiosity such as surprising and complexity. This is merely a prime example of how even though the subject matter may not provide any benefit directly, we still continue to be intrigued by the matter as long as it continues to have these "violating expectations" (Todd,276) traits that draws our focus the closer the subject matter gets.

Anonymous said...

Fatima B.

While reading this I found some interesting information on the topic of curiosity. The piece of information that I found most interesting was when Benedict told Kim, "Curiosity is the mark of discontent" (pg. 279). I interpreted this as curiosity being the beginning of unhappiness. Curiosity has lead to the discovery of many great things such as the light bulb. Most people tend to consider curiosity a good thing which sparks creativity and wonder rather than a bad thing as Loewenstein describes.

Anonymous said...

I think it is interesting how they say that people need to keep their curiosity under control on page 274. I think this is interesting because you see that young grade school children are now having their recess taken away from them because the educators don't want the children to have time to explore and have their imaginations run wild. I think that having curiosity is a normal part of life that some people in the higher ups- such as the government, are scared that we will find out things that they have worked so hard to keep from us. We are no longer encouraged to think outside the box, instead we are forced to sit at desks and do things the way the educators want us to do them, and no other way.
-Jasmine D.

Anonymous said...

Dylan B
The most intriguing part in this read, was learning about how the toads reproducing from the females back. "Surinam toads reproduce as the female toad had "ragged holes that left her looking mutilated"(278). It reminds me of how a human's face has pores and how acne can appear from them, then imagined giving birthed from these pores around the body and how alien this seemed.

Anonymous said...

The piece of information that I found interesting was the fact that women are more curious due to their history of being oppressed. This interested me to hear because, the result of oppression didn't seem like an outlet to become more curious about the world. Oppression has been portrayed as a means of keeping people down. After reading this article, I can relate to this phenomenon because I am a female. I do, because of this, find a natural curiosity within myself to find and analyze the history of, not only women's oppression, but oppression of other cultural and racial groups in the world. Hannah C.

Unknown said...

I found the experiment with the rags by Henry Nissen to be interesting because the rats were willong yo keep in searching even if it lead to being in pain(275) i found this to be easily present in humans curiosity has lead to both knowledge and death for ud whether it was diacorbing the use of make shift tools to learning what us dangerous to us and what isn't. Even on minor scopes uve seen friends of mine do questionable things from curiosity or rather the lack of care that comes with trying certain things because the curiosity of the feeling. Sure we may not blindly go after somethung we deem obviously dangerous but sometimes we want to know more then we can take.
Andrew H

Anonymous said...

I thought the article was very intriguing cause it did catch my curiosity cause its something I really thought about. The thing that stood out the most to me is when they started to talk about why humans are curious or what make it curious. " 'What is the only type of animal besides a human that can get a sunburn?' Animals make us endlessly curious". I haven't really thought about it like that before but animals do make me want to more into them like, the reading over the remains of a species that was ancestors of us and decedents of apes or monkeys really caught my interest. So I liked this reading a lot probably one of my favorites.

- Patrick G.

Mara Bracken said...

One thing I found interesting was the quote "Curiosity can be as obsessive as hunger or lechery, swamping the senses and intellectual curiosity sparks science, art, and all kinds of innovation"(274) In English class, we watched a video about a guy who talked about all the great innovators of past generations. However, he explained that once these brilliant scientists reached a point when they were met with many roadblocks they passed it on to God. They said that it was only something God knew, which later was disproven because these things were later figured out. All this to say that humans are curious by nature but are also comfortable with not knowing.

-Mara Bracken

Anonymous said...

Considering that I have read all about the naturalist Charles Darwin, I was surprised to read that he was not too fond of curiosity. He didn’t come right out and say it but he didn’t think curiosity was important enough to have animals as test subjects even if we would acquire some new information in the end. He says, “Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity” (274). I strongly agree that curiosity is not enough fuel for unethical experimentation on animals. I also found it interesting to find that people found the toads to be engrossing so they kept them in jars. This is the case when I think curiosity is a very bad thing and should not be entertained any longer because on a larger scale this can be seen as imperialism. Ronald A.

Anonymous said...

I found Todd's assertion, "Religious and worldly contemplation were at odds. Thomas Brooks, an English nonconformist preacher of the early 1600s, warned, “Curiosity is the spiritual adultery of the soul. Curiosity is spiritual drunkenness,”" (p. 275) to be the most interesting thing in the article. This is basically saying that curiosity was frowned upon until the modern age, where it still isn't fully appreciated. This completely blew my mind! It explains why we took so long to get rid of archaic ideas and stop with pointless practices. It also shows that curiosity, acting to its own nature, will always creep its way into people's brains and lead them to discovery.

- Joshua Coleman

CausalNexus said...

I found Todd's assertion, "Religious and worldly contemplation were at odds. Thomas Brooks, an English nonconformist preacher of the early 1600s, warned, “Curiosity is the spiritual adultery of the soul. Curiosity is spiritual drunkenness,”" (p. 275) to be the most interesting thing in the article. This is basically saying that curiosity was frowned upon until the modern age, where it still isn't fully appreciated. This completely blew my mind! It explains why we took so long to get rid of archaic ideas and stop with pointless practices. It also shows that curiosity, acting to its own nature, will always creep its way into people's brains and lead them to discovery.

- Joshua Coleman