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Friends, I’d like to share a new writing project I’ve started, called Better Know a Fish!
Ever since my very first pet fish (two swordtails and tiger barbs in a large jar… no they did not live long), I’ve been a huge fan of our finned friends. I admire the freedom that fish have as they swim and maneuver underwater, as if weightless. I’m fascinated by their tremendous diversity, and their contributions to our own species and society — even if they are frequently overlooked in favor of things feathered and furred.
As I write in the blog’s introduction, “Why Get to Know a Fish?”:
At a workshop today on communicating science to government audiences, my colleague talked about the importance of avoiding technical measurements when talking to lay audiences.
That is, avoiding sentences like “this needle is 50 microns in diameter” or “this fossil whale is 20 meters in length”.
The measurement simply isn’t as amazing as you think it is, if your audience has no idea or no context of what that measurement means.
One tip I have on this is to use the semantic search engine Wolfram Alpha to translate measurements into more relatable scales.
Here is a screenshot of my query for “50 microns”:
Who ever says scientists are the only people prone to speak in dense, uninterrupted prose, do remind them that thinkers and pundits of all fields are equally guilty.
Skip to the 1:45 mark:
Guerrieri admitted to being a little nervous ahead of the interview — though really, who wouldn’t be facing an interviewer like Colbert? And I don’t mean to criticize Guerrieri’s performance nor his expertise as an arts critic.
But I did smile as I watched Guerrieri’s nearly two-minute, mega-soundbite explaining the thrust of his new book, First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination, and how the German Romantic movement embraced Beethoven and his Symphony No. 5 as the embodiment of their ethos.