Firstly, I would like to apologise again about the delayed podcast, and general neglect of the blog, this week. My computer broke, and I had a hard time recovering all of my resources despite regular backups; this alongside some epic deadlines in my daytime occupation… excuses excuses.
Now I have been re-united with my machine, and while I re-configure my podcast schedule… are you aware of the Simple English Wikipedia? I think I first heard of it a while ago, but only recently paid a visit. It does what it says on the tin: explains things, but in simple English.
Firstly, yes, I am breaking academic laws by not just referencing wikipedia, but actively pointing you towards it. However, with growing numbers of organisations seeking Wikipedians, i.e. people who tinker with the encyclopaedia to make sure things are right, why not investigate its development?
After all, it seems to fit in well with part of the commonly percepted science communication philosophy: explain complicated things without the jargon, while maintaining the intellectual merits of the topic. Avoiding patronisation and “dumbing down” give added brownie points.
Opting for home turf, I made a beeline for the physics page, aiming to pretentiously cast an opinion and then extrapolate this to the whole project. For your unnecessary information, this is what I thought:
- The “front” page provides a good enough introduction to the subject. Physicists study the behaviour of matter and energy in space and time; they also extensively make use of symmetry and balance in their work.
- Under “Physicists”, they’ve included this Rutherford quote: “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”
- There are a LOT of links to various sub-sections of physics.
- Like the happy wiki-surfer I am, I randomly select Mechanics.
- I am greeted by an animated gif of a Newton’s Cradle in motion.
- There is talk, and more links, about Aristotle, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, leading us on to Newtonian Mechanics.
- There is no link for Newtonian Mechanics.
- I am told that mechanics is a study of forces and movement, and that interactions between bodies are either Strong, Weak, electromagnetic or gravitational.
- More links are offered, to different aspects of mechanics.
- I randomly pick acoustics.
- “Acoustics is the study of sound.” And that’s it.
The tone is very neutral and factual, purely for the purpose of information.
I really like this initiative, and think it could be of great use. At the moment, it provides, in my humble simpleton’s opinion, information for pupils at approximately GCSE level to do their homework (think “distance = velocity x time”), but there is clearly scope for expansion.
Anybody want to shoot me down on this one?