What can you really say with the top ten hundred words?

So far, I’ve described a research paper in 800 words for a competition entry, compressed it into an abstract for ScienceGist and now I’m going to have a look at what you can say with just the top ten hundred words (1000 is not one of them).

 

The UpGoer 5

UpGoer Five - The top ten hundred word description of a Rocket

This attempt verges on the ridiculous, but it does go some way to making you look at information a little differently. The UpGoer 5 text editor is a project that was inspired by an entry on xkcd, a great site of webcomics on ‘romance, sarcams, math(s) and language’. In this particular entry, a scientist describes a rocket, or ‘upgoer’, using the top ten hundred words (1000 is NOT one of them). Instead of hatch, they used ‘door’. Instead of cockpit, you get ‘people box’. You get the idea….

I tried this on my chosen research article and got a version that sounds like I’m trying to explain arthritis treatment to a toddler who doesn’t speak English. If you want to give it a go, and I’d recommend trying it, the editor can be found here. Juts try describing a football match or the plot of a soap opera, it’s much harder than you think. The hard part is not the words you can use, but the words you CAN’T use. I’ve added a selection of the words that I couldn’t use underneath the paragraph below. Whilst the vast majority of people would understand most of the words I tried to use, it’s an interesting challenge not to use words that you think are commonplace but somebody else might not understand.

“Bad things in the body are hard to fix. We would like to be able to fix them and know that this will work before we try to do it. By looking at the water that comes out of a person’s body, it might be possible to know, before time, if the fix is going to work. People who study the body have looked at the water that came out of twenty people’s bodies before they gave them something to eat that might fix their bad thing. They waited to see if the bad thing was fixed and then looked at their water. The things that were the same in the water from the people who were fixed could be used in the next few years to say whether or not a fix will work. This will help save people money, time and pain.”

(Remember I couldn’t use: Disease, illness, drugs, treatment, urine, beforehand liquid, cure, science, scientists, researchers, doctors, analyse, compare, patient, arthritis, similarity, trend, pattern, chemicals, metabolites, future, predict.)

Does this even make sense to you?

What challenges have you come across in trying to explain research in new ways? Have you tried the Upgoer5 Editor? Have you ever had to explain your job to someone who has no idea what you do?

Fred Humphreys

Scientist at University of Portsmouth
I'm a research scientist based in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. My passions include biology, gardening and walking.

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