Friday, January 25, 2013

Complex concepts with very simple vocabulary

The UpGoer5 meme has gone around the Twitter and science blogs lately, so I tried my hand at describing my LED and laser diode research using the 1000 most commonly used words

When something is really, really small --too small to even see-- it acts in very strange ways. This is my work. I study really, really small things and get them to light up. This is a totally new way to make light. My lights are smaller, last longer, and don't get hot when you use them, so we can do many interesting things that we couldn't do with the old way of making light. For my job, not only must I understand how these very small things work and get them to light up, I also need to understand how our eyes see, and then I try lots of different things to make the light better and brighter. I hope that one day, the lights I work on will be used all over the world and am excited to see that start to happen.

It's an interesting exercise that reminds me a lot of trying to come up with an elevator pitch of my research project.  Because the vocabulary is so limited, I felt my description had to get really vague and big picture. For example, I could not come up with a way to describe a laser diode without using words like 'narrow' or even 'shape' or 'beam,' which were not included in the list, so I went with really generic description of solid state lighting "a new way to make light."

The UpGoer5 text editor by Theo Sanderson was inspired by this XKCD comic by Randall Munroe.

Check out Ten Hundred Words of Science for many more descriptions of research science using simple words.

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