Imagine scientists attempting to describe their work to the public… using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. Well, that is exactly what is happening. A program inspired by Up Goer Five a strip by online comic xkcd (if you do not follow- you need to check it out) is promoting graduate students in science fields to attempt this challenge. Read a blog post HERE to learn more about the challenge and read the outcomes. Below is the winning entry by Yasmeen Hussain- note the scientific conference language versus the 1000 word challenge language:
Yasmeen at a scientific conference: I study the link between sperm chemotaxis and fertilization success. Eggs in animals such as sea urchins release chemicals that act as sperm attractants. Sperm use chemotaxis – that is, orientation towards the source of a chemical gradient – to find the eggs. However, it is unknown whether sperm chemotaxis directly contributes to reproductive success.
Yasmeen’s 1000 entry: I study tiny things that are man and woman parts of an animal. The woman part talks and the man part listens. The tiny things have a conversation so that they can find each other and make babies. Some man things are better at listening than others. I want to know if the man things that are better at listening are also better at making babies.
I think this work has implications for us in science education- How can we take vocabulary-rich and conceptually dense ideas and help students to explain them in everyday language?