Ten hundred words to talk about my work

By Nick

So this task has been doing the rounds on a few geology blogs recently and it is a great exercise in trying to explain science as simply as possible. It was all inspired by this XKCD comic, which explains the Saturn V rocket and how it works using only the thousand most common words in the English language. Or rather the ten hundred most common words, because thousand is not one of the top ten hundred!

Now, someone has written a text editor that scans your text for the most common words and tells you which ones you can’t use. So now everyone can have a go!

This is my attempt, I’ve even made an attempt at explaining isotopes:

I study rocks from empty spaces in the land which build up in lines one on top of another from water leaving rock behind when it falls. The rain falls on the land, and goes through the land picking up bits of rock, which become part of the water. When it reaches a big space in the land, the rock and water then comes out from the water to form the lines in the new rock. A new line is formed every few years.

The stuff which makes up the lines can be looked at to see what it is made of. Changes in what the lines are made of are because of changes in the rain that falls on the land above. More rain makes the rock lines be made of lighter water. My job is to look at how heavy the water is in each line and figure out what each line is made of. Together these make a story of how the rain changes over the land through the past. This is important as we need to know how the rain might change tomorrow.

I’d love to hear what others can produce and what they think of this fun exercise.

3 responses to “Ten hundred words to talk about my work

  1. Hello Nick,
    I learned what an isotope is, but found this difficult to read, too many simple words with less meaning. I doubt that anyone who can’t read words more complicated than these, would want to know what an isotope is! I might need help understanding the Saturn V rocked though.
    Thanks.

  2. I gave up explaining my research with these ten hundred words. I can’t even use snow! Or would anyone, who doesn’t know much about science understand any of this: I study the biggest ice layer of the world, using new approaches to check whether we lose ice or if it actually grows. That type of rain that falls when it is too cold for being water lands on ice and changes with time until it becomes ice…
    Well, I wouldn’t ;)

  3. nick@oncirculation

    I think that the idea of using a thousand words is a bit too much of an oversimplification. I am lacking the use of the words cave, layers and mixture, all of which are easily understandable but not part of the list as they are not in everyday usage. Still, its a fun exercise, even if the end result is perhaps no more readable than a more technical explanation.

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