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How Kaavya Viswanathan Got a Book Deal, Got a Bad Idea, and Got Caught

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A few years ago, Kaavya Viswanathan, a hard-driving Indian teenage girl who wanted to go to Harvard, scored a huge book deal at age 17 for "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," a sparkling little novel about"¦ a hard-driving Indian teenage girl who wants to go to Harvard. As documented by the Harvard Crimson this week, it seems that K.V., now a sophomore at her beloved university, didn't take her inspiration solely from her own short life "“ she also apparently lifted a good bit of her book from two novels by Megan McCafferty, "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings." My initial reaction was as follows:



Pronunciation: 'shä-d&n-"froi-d&
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy
: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others


But then I realized that I am 27 and have a career that is just fine and therefore shouldn't be jeering at some poor teenage kid who made a dumb mistake, even if her first book deal was way bigger than mine will ever be, aaaaarrrrrrgh.


So, anyway. K.V. may feel a bit friendless right now, but she's in good company:


- Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism as a young girl for a school composition. Mortified, she determined to have all future compositions screened by her friends before submission.


- According to a Boston University investigation into academic misconduct, Martin Luther King, Jr. plagiarized over one third of the chapter of his doctoral thesis that summarizes the concepts of God expressed by Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.


- In 2002, best-selling author Stephen Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing several passages which he footnoted but did not enclose in the customary quotation marks.


- In her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed author Lynne McTaggart and used passages from McTaggart's book about Kathleen Kennedy with permission.

And yes, for those of you who've had your coffee this morning, I did in fact just blatantly plagiarize all that information from three Wikipedia entries.

John, as a novelist with a YA specialty yourself, what are your thoughts on this mini-disaster? Will K.V. write again? Should she?


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Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]


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