Have you tried explaining stuff like divorce, death or sex to a child?
When a new audience is involved, it’s really tough communicating material which is complicated and has a language of its own.
This is a battle scientists often face when trying to talk to people outside their field of expertise. For this reason, the UpGoerFive project has been embraced by many scientists and those working in science communication.
UpGoerFive asks the writer to communicate a complex idea using only the 1000 most common English words. I had a go at describing the broad subject matter of my PhD studies:
Babies grow inside women. The problem is, half the building blocks which make up a baby have come from the father. How is it that a living thing which is 50% not ‘self’ is allowed to grow inside a woman? It’s not that the woman doesn’t know the baby is there – her cells ‘see’ it is present. What actually happens is, when a man and a woman share a bed the man’s little white present to the woman acts like a sign. The sign lets the woman know that some building blocks might be on the way which she should allow to stay. And then if the building blocks show up in a couple of days, they are allowed to set up shop and grow. That’s how babies manage to make it in a strange new land.
I wonder if that made any sense to those of you who don’t know the field? I’d love to hear back with your interpretations.
Some better science examples written by others have been assembled at tenhundredwordsofscience.
You can have a shot as well! It doesn’t have to be a scientific idea either. Just go here and start typing away – and post to twitter using #upgoerfive to add it to the global discussion.
[image thanks to PhotoJonny on flickr]