Reading List: LANGUAGE INTELLIGENCE by Joe Romm
I stumbled across a review from John Cook on SkepticalScience.com for this new book written by physicist and Climate Progress blog editor Joe Romm. When the title of a book includes the phrase "Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga," you know there's something intriguing going on inside the covers (and no, I don't mean shenanigans between Lady G. and the three gentlemen).
LANGUAGE INTELLIGENCE is about rhetoric, the art of verbal persuasion. Back in Shakespeare's day, rhetoric was a key part of an education. I've had the good fortune to study Elizabethan rhetoric with master teacher Armin Shimerman. It's amazing how once you start to explore the various rhetorical devices utilized by the Bard, his work comes to life in a completely new way. Incredibly useful for an actor.
While rhetoric is no longer required study, it makes complete sense that a blog dedicated to "getting skeptical about global warming skepticism" would find a book about persuasive communication to be an important read. Understanding how to, as Cook puts it, "[harness] the power of language to craft compelling, memorable and emotionally engaging communication," is a very useful skill. Cook's thoughts on how scientists might apply the information in the book to their work caught my eye, and that's what made me want to call attention to it on ScienceLush:
For science communicators, I believe the most important lesson is the use of metaphors. Scientists are trained to think in the abstract while in general, people think in metaphors. It’s a “Scientists are from Mars, people are from Venus” kind of thing. People conceptualize and make meaning of the world using analogies and metaphors, which transform the abstract into the concrete. Consequently, we take more notice of messages and remember them better when metaphors are used.
I'm a perfect example of an audience that's hungry for good science metaphors. As y'all know, I'm not a scientist, I'm just intensely interested in science, how it affects our understanding of the world around us, and the areas where science and creativity co-mingle. I love plays, art, music, etc. that have been inspired by scientific discovery, and I constantly find myself wanting to dig deeper, to really understand the theories behind the creative work. Therefore, I'm extremely grateful to those who can communicate about science using metaphors in such a way as to help me feel like I've cracked the code and gained some small measure of understanding about the topic at hand.
I'll be adding LANGUAGE INTELLIGENCE to my list o'books to read this summer. In addition to helping one decipher Shakespeare and rebut those who deny climate change, I have a feeling that a better understanding of rhetoric might come in awfully handy during a presidential election year...
Cartoons, Sex and Music
While I'm talking about science communication, I wanted to draw attention to this post from science illustrator Emily Coren on Nature.com's SoapboxScience guest blog. She writes about the connection between the public's understanding of science, their resulting support for it, and the key role that plays in the funding of the work. Her suggestion:
Use mass media to communicate science to the public. We have science research generating vast amounts of new information about our world, and an entertainment industry producing huge volumes of content that is consumed by the public collectively creating our culture. Why not start pairing them to work together?
She includes examples such as "Yakko's Universe" from ANIMANIACS and this totally nutty cartoon about Narwhals, and then calls for "science placement" in television shows, much like product placement. I'm excited about the organizations and creators who are already actively engaged in the fusion of science and entertainment, such as The Science & Entertainment Exchange, which is dedicated building a bridge between science and the Hollywood community. YouTube also provides an outlet for the meshing of science and entertainment, with channels such as SciShow and MinutePhysics.
Curiosity Update: Surface Operations Begin
This update on the Curiosity rover from MSL engineering operations team member Jessica Samuels uses a combination of animations and some of the amazing pictures that have come back to update us on what's gone down so far and what's up next for our favorite rover.
During my NASA Social adventure, Samuels spoke to us about what the first month or so of Curiosity's life on Mars might look like. The first priority would be making sure Curiosity was healthy and that all systems were in order, followed by loading the new software that would turn Curiosity from a flying machine into a surface chemist. Samuels anticipated that they'd really get into the science of the mission about a month after landing.
Samuels also talked with us about the team's plans here on Earth for coping with the sliding Martian day. For the first 90 days, aka "sols" of the mission, the team will be on Mars time, following the Red planet's 24 hour, 40 minute long day. This means that eventually their Earth days and nights will be reversed. In addition to coffee, survival mechanisms include heavy blackout curtains in the surface mission control area. And of course, there's an app to help keep track of the time! Alas, you won't find Mars Time in the iTunes store - it's only for internal mission use.