A much talked-about book has recently raised an interesting subject: Is there science behind monsters, and our enduring fascination with them? Stories about scary mythical creatures are everywhere and have been around for as long as people have been able to tell stories and create these mythologies. Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s bite: the science of monsters explores not only the history of how monsters were created, but offers explanations of how natural science could have sparked the ideas for some creatures such as the Minotaur, Medusa, dragons and the golem.
The book’s author Matt Kaplan is a science journalist who believes there are concrete reasons why we invent creatures like zombies and aliens. For example, one explanation behind the legend of the Minotaur is that around the time it surfaced in Crete the island was suffering from a series of violent earthquakes, which would have produced formidable growling noises from deep within the earth. This could very well have been imagined as coming from the bull-headed beast. Other amalgamated creatures like the griffin were perhaps inspired by finding bones in tar pits.
The book is written for a popular audience, but it gives an interesting account of the origins and evolution of these monsters. We’d certainly be interested to hear if any Mendeley users have come across this subject in their own research, and what your thoughts are on the relationship between science and myths. Let us know!