Want to Be a Good Science Communicator? You Have to Build Bridges


It’s about time that I added to my list of science communication rules. Previously, I described Rule 1:” You can’t be 100 percentage remedy, but you can be 100 percentage wrong .” But clearly there is more to communicating science than this–it has to be about more than merely not being wrong.

Now, I have my next science communication regulation to give you something more to be considered as you build your video or blog post or even a lecture or seminar. Before stating my regulation, let me point out that in my previous post, I called it a Scientific Writing Rule–but here, I’m changing this to merely general communication.

Scientific Communication Rule 2 : You need to build a bridge–a content bridge. This bridge should connect some event or phenomena to an audience. The undertaking of the communicator is to build the best( most appropriate) bridge.

How about an example? Take the Olympics as the event–and in particular let’s say that we want to talk about Simone Biles and how awesome she is at gymnastics. The task for a science communicator is to select the type of content bridge to build that matches your audience. That audience could be scientists, or middle school students, or the general public.

In gymnastics, athletes both flip and twist. How do you explain this? Of course you could choose to go all out and do full force physics on a number of problems like this. You could talk about angular momentum and the moment of inertia tensor. You could even start off with something like this 😛 TAGEND

This is the full relationship between the angular velocity vector and the angular momentum vector. Even this approach attains some premises about a rigid object( else the moment of inertia will not be constant ). A bridge at this altitude probably won’t reach a very large audience–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, depending on your goal.

At a slightly lower level, you could have a nice discussion about these same instant of inertia suggestions, but leave out the complicated math. Here is a great example of that from Quartz including some robot gymnastics. I also like my own visually-based justification( but it’s not as thorough) of twisting and flipping.

But perhaps you crave a slightly lower bridge. Maybe you merely would like to speak about projectile motion for a gymnast in the air. Or it could be something about rotational accelerate for different torso positions. Nonetheless, there is a problem. You still have to remember the first the principles of the rule of science communication–you don’t want to get into stuff that is absolutely wrong. This would be like a bridge that only connects to the audience and the other terminate is only swimming off into space.

Unfortunately, there is also a bridge that is even lower. It’s so low that this bridge could be underwater. I’m not going to use specific instances, but merely try searching for” gymnastics physics” and evaluate what the hell are you find. Some of the biggest wrongdoers are the videos–mostly because it’s really difficult to get a good point into merely a three minute video. But some of these videos aren’t exactly wrong–they just don’t really relate to the content. Here is a partially fictional example.

” Simone Biles is unbelievable and it has to do with kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the quantity an object has when it is moving. Oh, here’s a cool diagram indicating person flipping .”

Seriously, some of the Olympic stuff out there is just random stuff like that. These science communicators are building an underwater bridge. And yes, I have induced these same various kinds of mistakes–that’s how I know you can really take a wrong turn in these cases. It can be quite a challenge to take an event and find one of these content bridges that is accessible to a large audience( but the challenge is what attains it interesting ).

Just for fun, let me share one more Olympic bridge example. Here is a quote from one of my “favorite” science reveals( you can probably guess which one ). They were talking about how awesome it is that a specific archer can hit with such high accuracy, along with some other stuff. It went something like this 😛 TAGEND

” With each hit, this dude draws the string of the bow back with a army of 50 pounds. Over such courses of an event, the dude could hit over 100 arrows for a cumulative army of 2 and a half tons !”

This is pretty close to being 100 percentage wrong. Yes, the computation is remedy but the result is meaningless. It doesn’t really illustrate an impressive accomplishment, it’s just a series of numbers. I could do something similar for myself.

” As Rhett clambers a fixed of stairs, he has to push with a army equal to his weight–approximately 160 pounds! If he clambers 10 floors a day, that is a cumulative army of OVER 7.9 TONS !”

See? It’s just stupid. If you are going to build a content bridge, don’t make it stupid.

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