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Science Communication

What do you guys think about the state of science communication today? In my opinion, I think that things are being oversimplified. The science communicators seem to not realize that we have something in our pockets capable of looking up the terms that they're using. A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity, which has become my new favorite science book. Don't get me wrong, if a science communicator is speaking to a 5 year old then yes, it is necessary to oversimplify the science, but people above the age of 5 should know how to use a phone or a computer to look up terms. In my opinion, making your audience think is a great way to have them understand what you're talking about even better than if you oversimplify it.
 

ChristineM

"Be strong", I whispered to my coffee.
Premium Member
What do you guys think about the state of science communication today? In my opinion, I think that things are being oversimplified. The science communicators seem to not realize that we have something in our pockets capable of looking up the terms that they're using. A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity, which has become my new favorite science book. Don't get me wrong, if a science communicator is speaking to a 5 year old then yes, it is necessary to oversimplify the science, but people above the age of 5 should know how to use a phone or a computer to look up terms. In my opinion, making your audience think is a great way to have them understand what you're talking about even better than if you oversimplify it.

There is a happy medium, you cannot expect some people to run for a dictionary every time they come across a word they don't understand. But targeting the deliberately ignorant is a fools game?
The trick is make it interesting so those with some willingness to learn will be motivated.
 
There is a happy medium, you cannot expect some people to run for a dictionary every time they come across a word they don't understand. But targeting the deliberately ignorant is a fools game?
The trick is make it interesting so those with some willingness to learn will be motivated.
To quote Feynman, "the truth is so much more remarkable." And I never mentioned the deliberately ignorant/called targeting them a "fool's game."

In my opinion, they try too much to make it interesting so it sounds a bit odd. Yes, there is a place where you can make it interesting, but science communicators seem to rarely ever get there because they're blinded by trying to.
 

PureX

Veteran Member
What do you guys think about the state of science communication today? In my opinion, I think that things are being oversimplified. The science communicators seem to not realize that we have something in our pockets capable of looking up the terms that they're using. A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity, which has become my new favorite science book. Don't get me wrong, if a science communicator is speaking to a 5 year old then yes, it is necessary to oversimplify the science, but people above the age of 5 should know how to use a phone or a computer to look up terms. In my opinion, making your audience think is a great way to have them understand what you're talking about even better than if you oversimplify it.
I recently watched a lecture series on Netflix by Neil Degrasse-Tyson that I thought was excellent. But it was not always easy for me to understand. I was grateful for the ability to replay certain segments so as to help me wrap my mind around the information being presented. It was certainly not "over-simplistic". (Unfortunately, that series has expired on Netflix.) I especially appreciated that the subject of the series was how much science does NOT know about the universe. I think the series was called, "The Inexplicable Universe", or something akin to that.
 

ChristineM

"Be strong", I whispered to my coffee.
Premium Member
To quote Feynman, "the truth is so much more remarkable." And I never mentioned the deliberately ignorant/called targeting them a "fool's game."

In my opinion, they try too much to make it interesting so it sounds a bit odd. Yes, there is a place where you can make it interesting, but science communicators seem to rarely ever get there because they're blinded by trying to.

You posted a OP, i responded to it, whether you specifically mentioned deliberate ignorance or not does not really matter, it was relevant to my response. Or do you not want people to think for themselves?

Your opinion is noted however todays science communicators are responsible for a huge upswing in students taking science subjects.

You may not like it but its working.
 

Terry Sampson

Well-Known Member
A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity

Really?
  • A "sphere" is defined as a three-dimensional object, every point on the surface of which is equidistant from its center.
  • If a light has a source, it has a point of origin.
    • In the reference frame of a given light's source, the light's point of origin is fixed and the light travels away from that point of origin at a constant velocity.
  • Theoretically, a sphere of light expands at a constant velocity from it's point of origin in all unobstructed directions.
  • According to Einstein, a light's point of origin is fixed with respect to each and every observer, whether any two or more observers are at rest with respect to each other or in motion with respect to each other.
  • In other words, light travels away from its source at a constant velocity and it doesn't, but never in the same reference frame at the same time.
 
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joe1776

Well-Known Member
When specialists write for the general public, they should define jargon for their readers so that the reader can focus on understanding the message without breaks in concentration to look up words in the dictionary. Good science writers do that.
 

beenherebeforeagain

Rogue Animist
Premium Member
What do you guys think about the state of science communication today? In my opinion, I think that things are being oversimplified. The science communicators seem to not realize that we have something in our pockets capable of looking up the terms that they're using. A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity, which has become my new favorite science book. Don't get me wrong, if a science communicator is speaking to a 5 year old then yes, it is necessary to oversimplify the science, but people above the age of 5 should know how to use a phone or a computer to look up terms. In my opinion, making your audience think is a great way to have them understand what you're talking about even better than if you oversimplify it.
If you want to communicate with someone, write (or speak, or use pictures) at a level they are comfortable with...for most people, it's short, simple sentences, with few uncommon large words, and including the explanation of any uncommon large words or new concepts. Most people in America are most comfortable reading at a seventh-grade level. That's the level I wrote at as a newspaper reporter.

As a writer/editor for a technical state agency, I went round and round with scientists, engineers, administrators and lawyers on this. They'd stuff comprehensible only by people with their level of education (masters and doctorate degrees) and the special training in their fields. They would insist on including technical details for 'accuracy,' but which only clouded what they were saying for anyone without high levels of education and/or experience...some literally blamed the readers if the readers couldn't understand--the READERS had to make the effort to understand, not the other way around.

THAT is NOT communication.

If YOU want to communicate, put in the effort yourself. Some science communicators are better at this than others, and some are really good only with limited portions of the non-scientist population...elementary school students and those who only have that level of education, for instance, or high schoolers, undergraduates, non-specialist adults, and so on...

Just because the internet is available does not mean that an interested non-scientist will have the time, inclination or access to find GOOD science communication aimed at his or her appropriate level because there is so much out there, and it ranges from very good to very, very poor to antiscience. The nonscientist is faced with having to know how to research and judge between good and poor from that mass of information...and mostly, the education systems of the world do not teach this very well...

Science communication needs to understand this about their audience, perhaps even more than they need to be completely accurate in what they are trying to present.

In my opinion, at least...
 

It Aint Necessarily So

Veteran Member
Premium Member
What do you guys think about the state of science communication today?

I think that science communication is just what it needs to be. Sources range from the relatively simple to in depth, and are available through a number of print and graphic media. Some people aren't too interested in science in detail, and can't find much use for it in their lives. Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Carl Sagan before them, were/are effective science communicators. The remake of Cosmos, for example, was perfect for such people.

If you want to know more, there are several good science writers writing for the general public. Or internet sites that report science news or teach science like Talk Origins. Or magazines like Scientific American or Sky and Telescope. For those looking for more, there are universities and textbooks. So a little something for whoever you are.
 

Skwim

Veteran Member
What do you guys think about the state of science communication today? In my opinion, I think that things are being oversimplified. The science communicators seem to not realize that we have something in our pockets capable of looking up the terms that they're using. A great example of someone actually using terms in a way you can learn is Albert Einstein in his book on Special & General Relativity, which has become my new favorite science book. Don't get me wrong, if a science communicator is speaking to a 5 year old then yes, it is necessary to oversimplify the science, but people above the age of 5 should know how to use a phone or a computer to look up terms. In my opinion, making your audience think is a great way to have them understand what you're talking about even better than if you oversimplify it.
Yeah, I just hate it when they dumb down things such as the solution to the non-relativistic time-dependent Schrödinger equation of one dimension with n particles where the position of particle n is xn.

\hat{H} = \sum_{n=1}^{N}\frac{\hat{p}_n^2}{2m_n} + V(x_1,x_2,\cdots x_N,t) = -\frac{\hbar^2}{2}\sum_{n=1}^{N}\frac{1}{m_n}\frac{\partial^2}{\partial x_n^2} + V(x_1,x_2,\cdots x_N,t)




.

 
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Brickjectivity

Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
Staff member
Premium Member
Yeah, I just hate it when they dumb down things such as the solution to the non-relativistic time-dependent Schrödinger equation of one dimension with n particles.

\hat{H} = \sum_{n=1}^{N}\frac{\hat{p}_n^2}{2m_n} + V(x_1,x_2,\cdots x_N,t) = -\frac{\hbar^2}{2}\sum_{n=1}^{N}\frac{1}{m_n}\frac{\partial^2}{\partial x_n^2} + V(x_1,x_2,\cdots x_N,t)

where the position of particle n is xn.



.

I bet that looks good when you install the proper add on for viewing formulas. I popped it into wolfram's search engine and --- pow! Eat yer heart out!

"The Schrödinger equation describes the motion of particles in nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, and was first written down by Erwin Schrödinger. The time-dependent Schrödinger equation is given by
iℏ(dΨ(x, y, z, t))/(dt) = [-ℏ^2/(2m) del ^2 + V(x)] Ψ(x, y, z, t) = H^~ Ψ(x, y, z, t), where ℏ is the reduced Planck constant ℏ = h/(2π), Ψ is the time-dependent wavefunction, m is the mass of a particle, del ^2 is the Laplacian, V is the potential, and H^~ is the Hamiltonian operator."
-- Got this from the following link --> Graph of the solution to the non-relativistic time-dependent Schrödinger equation - Wolfram|Alpha

They couldn't graph it though for some reason. Probably its tricky to graph without more specific data or 4 dimensional eyesight.
 

Brickjectivity

Turned to Stone. Now I stretch daily.
Staff member
Premium Member
By the way to those who would like some explanation about that equation the left part of the formula with the pitchfork in it means "The speed and direction of". It describes the steps being taken on the right. They're taking a position and time description (where something is at a given time) and turning it into an instantaneous velocity by taking its derivative over time. They eliminate the time from the formula, so it churns out on the right of the right side a three dimensional velocity (how fast its going and where it is pointed when its at a given position) such as what you might see in a description of the motion of any three dimensional object. It is not quite worked out on the right side, so it looks like a jumble of symbols.

Like a recipe the formula is meaningless until you put some meaningful ingredients into it. Whats missing is that they aren't working with a specific object, so the right side is more like a recipe than a dinner. They'd need to substitute some things in (actual flour rather than the word 'Flour'). In this case they'd need something like coordinate or other data and then it would simplify and bake into a meaningful sentence. Currently the right hand side is an abstraction that represents all possible cases, just like a recipe represents all cakes. Its not supposed to be understandable except in an abstract way.
 

exchemist

Veteran Member
By the way to those who would like some explanation about that equation the left part of the formula with the pitchfork in it means "The speed and direction of". They're taking a position and time description (where something is at a given time) and turning it into an instantaneous velocity by taking its derivative over time, making it into . They eliminate the time from the formula, so it churns out on the right of the right side a three dimensional velocity (how fast its going and where it is pointed when its at a given position) such as what you might see in a description of the motion of any three dimensional object. It is not quite worked out on the right side, so it looks like a jumble of symbols.

Like a recipe the formula is meaningless until you put some meaningful ingredients into it. Whats missing is that they aren't working with a specific object, so the right side is more like a recipe than a dinner. They'd need to substitute some things in (actual flour rather than the word 'Flour'). In this case they'd need something like coordinate or other data and then it would simplify and bake into a meaningful sentence. Currently the right hand side is an abstraction that represents all possible cases, just like a recipe represents all cakes. Its not supposed to be understandable except in an abstract way.
Well it is perfectly understandable to the right audience, e.g. undergraduate chemists and physicists. But there is little point digging up mathematical equations like this and expecting them to be explicable in words. If that could be done we would not need the mathematics. ;)

One is better off trying to describe the concepts that flow from the equation rather than trying to put the equation into words, I think. Starting with what ψ is, or rather ∫ψ*ψ dτ, as that has an actual physical significance. :D
 
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