Ideas for Reports and Papers

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1. Find the source for the quotation recalled by Trimble, "And Richard Cory one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head." Who wrote it? How does it apply to "All the Myriad Ways"?

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2. What role does cause and effect play in police investigations? Cite examples and explain how cause-and-effect reasoning was used.

3. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was an advocate of the idea of ever-branching timelines and influenced many American writers with his work. Read his "Garden of Forking Paths" and compare it to "All the Myriad Ways." Which is the more sophisticated work? Which story makes the better case for its point of view? Which view do you believe is correct?

4. Is Trimble's point of view culturally biased? Are there cultures that have no cause and effect? Are there cultures that strive to eliminate cause and effect? 5. Niven mentions Murray Leinster's "Sideways in Time" and O. Henry's "Roads of Destiny" as predecessors to "All the Myriad Ways." What are these works about? What do they have in common with "All the Myriad Ways"? Does Niven echo the views of Leinster and O. Henry, or does he part with them in significant ways?

6. How do scientists use the concept of cause and effect in their research? What role does it play in experimentation? How is cause and effect dealt with in the scientific method?

7. Assuming Trimble does not die at the end of "All the Myriad Ways", what do you think happens after his suicide attempt fails?

8. Niven says that although he believes the idea of alternate timelines to be nonsense, he likes writing alternate histories because of the opportunity to play with ideas that they provide. Take advantage of this opportunity yourself and write a story of alternate timelines— one in which you explore ideas you have picked in school or from your reading.

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