Kahn, a former gynecologist, ran with the man-as-machine analogy like nobody else. That analogy has some problems, of course, but it makes a good foundation for beginners learning about human anatomy (you know, for kids).
Learn more about Kahn here and more about Lederer’s piece here.
“Because” makes any explanation rational. In a line to Kinko’s copy machine a researcher asked to jump the line by presenting a reason “Can I jump the line, because I am in a rush?” 94% of people complied. Good reason, right? Okay, let’s change the reason. “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” Excuse me? That’s why everybody is in the line to begin with. Yet 93% of people complied. A request without “because” in it (”Can I jump the line, please?”) generated 24% compliance.
This tidy site promoting alternative approaches to fishing exemplifies how to get a political message across: explaining the issue clearly and fully trumps hot air rhetoric every time. Nearly all the text on the site is integrated into crisp infographics, which gets you over the hurdle of making sense of a complex set of problems.
I’m not sure how else to describe these animated videos on tumor angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels leading to a tumor. The biotechnology company Amgen put the stunning mini-site together to explain new approaches to Cancer treatment.
While the animation and interface are wonderful, the site doesn’t do a great job explaining what’s actually going on, at least not for a general audience. In fact, the caliber of the animation actually makes it harder to absorb any details. Show me beautiful imagery set to soothing space music, and it’s nearly impossible not to tune out a British narrator spouting 10-syllable terminology.
The secret lives of invisible magnetic fields are revealed as chaotic ever-changing geometries . All action takes place around NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories, UC Berkeley, to recordings of space scientists describing their discoveries . Actual VLF [very low frequency] audio recordings control the evolution of the fields as they delve into our inaudible surroundings, revealing recurrent ‘whistlers’ produced by fleeting electrons .
This type of animation is a welcome bridge between scientists and the rest of us. From the article:
An unexpected side effect of Berry’s work has been that when laypeople view the animations, they intuitively grasp the cutting-edge science. Berry says, with some amazement, “The more hard-core it is, and the more complicated visually it is, the more people respond.” Seeing the cell’s activities conveys something fundamental to viewers, something that Berry sees in his mind as he digests the journal articles that contribute to each animation.
What I’d love to see now is a biological video game series.
… according to a new study from two psychologists at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, anyway.
This Scientific American article describes their elegant experiment to see how people react when something “feels” difficult. They presented two different groups of college students with printed instructions for a regular exercise routine. While the wording was the same in both sets of instructions, one group received instructions printed in a hard-to-read Brush font (a font that looks like brush strokes) while the other group received instructions printed in good ol’ fashioned Arial.
The results were crystal clear. People who received Arial instructions were more enthusiastic about the exercise routine than the Brush font folks, and predicted it would be much easier. The psychologists tried the experiment again using a sushi roll recipe and saw similar results.
From the article:
Apparently the students’ brains mistook the ease of reading about exercise for the ease of actually doing push-ups and crunches, and this misunderstanding motivated them to think about a life change. Those who struggled through the Japanese brushstrokes had no intention of heading to the gym; the reading alone tired them out.
There you have it — scientific evidence that when you’re explaining something, even peripheral confusion can make the content of your message seem more complicated.