Science for All

1000 Word Challenge

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?