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Mar 06

Explaining neuroscience

I ran across this link referenced by its title:

A neuroscientist explains a concept at five different levels

http://kottke.org/17/03/a-neuroscientist-explains-a-concept-at-five-different-levels

I was initially worried it would annoy me, but eventually decided to take a look at it anyway, figuring it would be interesting at the level of thinking about your audience when describing a complex scientific concept.  On one hand, parts of it are better than expected.  On the other, some of the interactions were a bit odd (the college & graduate student — but maybe it was hard to edit it for the time allowed).

Overall, it’s a good micro example of choosing your language to be appropriate to what you expect your audience to know.  I also noted that for the two youngest explainees, the scientist presented things to get a nice ‘wow’ response, which is probably a good memory aid (and generally good in teaching or explaining).  For the other audiences, he did a lot more listening, which seems natural since there are a lot of different possible backgrounds for undergraduates and graduate students.

It was advertised as similar in spirit to the Feynman descriptions of how everyday things work.  I don’t think it reaches that level, but those are pretty extraordinary, so it’s not really a fair standard.

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