Talking about the brain very simply. Very, very simply.

January 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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I’ve just come across, as perhaps you already have, the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

It tests what you type in the box (in English) against a list of the most commonly-used words. The ‘ten hundred’ most common — presumably described that way because ‘thousand’ isn’t a common enough word.

Now, I’m not altogether in favour of this. What’s the point of having all those gorgeous words to play with if you don’t use them and, by using them, encourage other people to use them too? The connection between language and thought is, shall we say, contested — philosophers have been arguing over it for ages and show no signs of desisting any time soon — but I’m tempted by George Orwell’s 1984 view here: simplify and restrict language, and you risk restricting the minds that express themselves through it.

On the other hand, I am in favour of clarity, and using language carefully. And it’s a fun challenge.

So here’s my off-the-cuff attempt to explain why neuroscience is hard.

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The brain is a very hard thing to understand. It’s full of very many bits and pieces, such as cells and the things inside them, which talk to each other in very many ways. That makes for a problem: how do we get a grip on all those conversations inside the cells and between cells? Understanding has to be done bit by bit, and there are lots and lots of bits. Too many for any one person to get their head around. Together, those bits make up us. They allow us to think, feel, act, believe and be the amazing humans we are.

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If you’d like to try it yourself, the link is here.

 

 

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4 Comments »

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  1. Hi, being understood is something I’ve strived to achieve for some time. Projects like the Up-Goer Five Text Editor might be really useful for writing for children (but hang on most people are adults!). Let’s celebrate linguistic diversity within the language and not only between languages.

    On this note, here is a list of pleasing (to me) words:

    http://wjgs.net/2013/01/16/pleasing-words/

  2. I agree that we shouldn’t discard the wonderful diversity of words in English – but I think something like this serves a really important role. An astonishing percentage of Americans are functionally illiterate, and many more have very, very low reading aptitude. One of the perennial problems that science has is being seen as elite, and a lot of that is probably because we can seem to be purposefully opaque to those who can’t afford a college (and further) education. We develop terms to explain things clearly to each other, but don’t remember to also have a version for those with small vocabularies. Then we get huge grants for research that people can’t understand, and of course there’s some skepticism. If we all had to write a version of each paper abstract using only common words, many more people would be able to understand the work, and that could only be a good thing.

  3. [...] via Talking about the brain very simply. Very, very simply. « neurotaylor. [...]

  4. great post, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector don’t understand this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!


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