1. Question about education and superconductivity

One day I speak with american journalist. He said that when you writing an article for a newspaper or magazine you should imagine your small brother-schoolchild who will read the paper and should understand it. After that he asked me how would I write about «superconductivity». I answered that I would write something like this: «superconductivity — is a phenomenon occuring is some materials at low temperatures characterized by zero electrical resistance». He said that nobody will understand that and you should write this: «Imagine that you have a pipe with water running in it. The pipe in nearly closed by a valve. And then you open the valve at full to let the water go at full stream. That is superconductivity!»

I argued with him that it is not obvious how «water in the pipe» is connected to «superconductivity», I said «everybody knows what is electrical resistance». After that journalist revealed me a secret: the american children does not learn such things as «electrical resistance» in schools!!!

It was a shock to me! Is it true?

P.S. The example with a pipe seems to be incorrect to me. Water has viscosity: if you close the tube with water in a ring then water will stop promptly without a pump. The relaxation time of electrical current in the conductive ring will be T=L/R, where L is the ring electrical inductance, R — its elecrtical resistance (L is analogous to water mass in the pipe, R is analogous to the water viscosity). On the other hand, if you make a ring from superconducting material, the electrical current will never stop! This is because the resistance R is exactly equal to zero in the case of superconductivity! It is quantum effect. It is impossible to imagine it given an example of water in a pipe. That is what I remeber from school...

2. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

The journalist you have mentioned is absolutely right concerning your small brother schoolchild. You should always take in your mind to whom your explanation is addressed. Not all the people who will read your paper devote all their time to study the tricky aspects of superconductivity. Not all the people in Russia know what electrical resistance is. Even more, not all the highly graduated people in Russia know what electricity is. Even for people who are experts in superconductivity it would be more easy to read your paper if make your thoughts clear, as clear as for your small brother.

As for the water pipe, at least this explanation addresses to some physical resemblance (maybe even quite wrong resemblance). But your explanation gives nothing but the statement that water is wet. Conductivity is the quantity opposite to resistance. The more conductivity, the less resistance. So, if you explain that superconductivity is zero-resistance, you say nothing but that the black color is that color which is extremely nonwhite. You even did not mention Cooper pairs and Bose–Einstein condensate . The best thing to do is not to beat but to catch the water pipe idea and rearrange it for proper explanation of the superconductivity phenomenon.

There was a really nice explanation what radio is: Lets get a dog, a very long dog which's tail is in Paris and the Head is in Moscow. If we shook the tail in Paris, the head in Moscow will say "bow-wow". So, the radio is the same, but without the dog .

3. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

I must put your mind at rest. In Russia, not everybody knows about electric resistance either. It especially true about young people who went to school after 1991.
Ask women about it I doubt half of them would know of such thing or they would say they had heard something about it at some physics lesson in some dim past, but that would be about all.

A crowd is as stupid as is the stupidest individual in that crowd, so your journalist is right. I wouldn't use the example with the pipe though - hell, I'm not even sure whether he should write about superconductivity for such an audience. What's the point? Must be some futile attempt to justify some obscure budget spendings, no doubt.

4. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by SAn
One day I wаs talking to an American journalist. He said that when you're writing an article for a newspaper or magazine you should imagine your small schoolkid brother reading the paper and he should be able to understand it. After that he asked me how would I write about «superconductivity». I answered that I would write something like this: «superconductivity _ is a phenomenon occurring in some materials at low temperatures characterized by zero electrical resistance». He said that nobody will understand that and you should write this: «Imagine that you have a pipe with water running in it. The pipe in nearly closed by a valve. And then you open the valve _ all the way to let the water go at full stream. That is superconductivity!»
Я думаю, что это довольно плохая идея, если мальчик не знает, что такое электрическое сопротивление, то в чем смысл говорить с ним о сверхпроводимости? Не надо так упрощать науку, особенно в пользу тех, кто скорее всего даже не будет читать статью. Человек, ничего не знающий о простых научных понятиях, даже если читает статью, не обратит внимания на такие подробности.

По-моему, лучший вариант - небольшое введение, в котором основные понятия описываются простым языком, а потом более подробная информация. Так, те, кто не интересуется деталями может просто пропустить эту часту статьи.

Originally Posted by SAn
I argued with him that it is not obvious how «water in the pipe» is connected to «superconductivity», I said «everybody knows what is electrical resistance». After that the journalist revealed me a secret to me: _ American children do_ not learn about such things as «electrical resistance» in schools!!!

It was a shock to me! Is it true?
Нет, это совсем не так! Да, есть много тупых американцев, но уровень образования в США сравнительно очень высок.
Originally Posted by SAn
P.S. The example with a pipe seems to be incorrect to me. Water has viscosity: if you close the tube with water in a ring then water will stop promptly without a pump. The relaxation time of electrical current in the conductive ring will be T=L/R, where L is the ring electrical inductance, R — its elecrtical resistance (L is analogous to water mass in the pipe, R is analogous to the water viscosity). On the other hand, if you make a ring from superconducting material, the electrical current will never stop! This is because the resistance R is exactly equal to zero in the case of superconductivity! It is a quantum effect. It is impossible to imagine it given the example of water in a pipe. That is what I remember from school...

5. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

I agree with all of you!

I see that I should not use the term «resistance» when talking about superconductivity to the wide audience. I also think that water in the pipe is not an excellent analogy to the phenomenon, because it missing the key aspect of this: zero resistance. May be I should combine both of the explanations?

In fact, my first post in the topic contains two main questions:
1) What is a best way to explain complicated «scientific» things: precisely, giving enough information for scientists (which make a few percent of audience), or approximately (by analogy, for example), giving non-scientists a chance to understand that, but providing no useful information for scientists?
2) I agree that most of the people do not remember what electrical resistance is, but we have the same situation as in question 1: should the electrical resistance be studied at schools making a few percent of people more clever, or it shouldn't be studied because most of the students will forgot about it?

6. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by SAn
1) What is a best way to explain complicated «scientific» things: precisely, giving enough information for scientists (which make a few percent of audience), or approximately (by analogy, for example), giving non-scientists a chance to understand that, but providing no useful information for scientists?
To explain some "scientific" ideas to common people is a kind of art. One should be really brilliant to be completely correct and understandable at the same time. Still usually it is possible.

As for electric resistance, it is a basic idea and should be explained. Everibody knows what is electric current (if you don't know, put two fingers into the socket and have an experience). Electric resistance is a kind of friction that electric current suffers, it slows down the current and makes some heating. When there is no resistance at all, electric current may be eternal. It is called superconductivity.

7. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

SAn… very long response (and all in English… …)

Originally Posted by SAn
I agree with all of you!

In fact, my first post in the topic contains two main questions:

1) What is a best way to explain complicated «scientific» things: precisely, giving enough information for scientists (which make a few percent of audience), or approximately (by analogy, for example), giving non-scientists a chance to understand that, but providing no useful information for scientists?
SAn, it-ogo is correct. Explaining difficult topics is an "art" and must YOU understand your target audience to be able to determine how to best approach them. It does not matter if they are scientists or not.

I used to give lectures on the stock market, stock options and other sorts of financial information. I gave them to the people all the way at the top of the company, the Board Members, CEO & CFO, all the way down to the employee level who did not even know what stocks were. So, I had three or four different presentations and brochures depending upon who my target audience was. Sometimes, I started off my presentation explaining that there might be people in the room who would know some of the material better than others and to be mindful of that. AND I made it clear that if anyone had questions they could ask me, either there or later on. Many times people feel embarrassed to ask what it is they do not understand. I also made certain when the target audience was not "in the know" I had all of the technical jargon spelled out for them early on and made cheat sheets for common terms and acronyms so they would not have to feel stupid and ask... say in your case, what is AC current or zero resistance?

So, yes, if I had to give a presentation with a target audience of mulit-levels of knowledge base, some people were bored to tears during the start of the presentation or with parts of my brochures; yet, ALL of the information that I needed to get across was in there and understandable and the audience KNEW IN ADVANCE that the presentation would start this way. They knew what to expect. I would gradually work my way up from a starting point that I knew my target audience level was able to comprehend. If you start to high up, you will lose people who might want to learn and are just not at that level yet AND for the people who are on your level or above you....you don’t want to come across as a pompous know-it-all.

Originally Posted by SAn
2) I agree that most of the people do not remember what electrical resistance is, but we have the same situation as in question 1: should the electrical resistance be studied at schools making a few percent of people more clever, or it shouldn't be studied because most of the students will forgot about it?
As for your second question. There are many topics in school which we are taught and then never use again. I dissected that darn frog and have I ever needed to know anything about that for the rest of my life? I don't even eat frogs legs! But then there are things that you think you may not need to know and poof, one day… example:

My sister had to take this fine arts class in college; yet, her major was English. My parents were like why on earth we are paying for you to take this class. Then while on an internship at a television station there was this vase on the set and no one knew anything about the vase and the director was flipping out about was it the correct time period for the set and should it be on the set and somebody bloody well better find out. Well, my sister looked at the vase and remembered it from her class. She knew immediately what era it was and the details about the vase. She spoke up and the entire staff and crew looked at her as she a “mere unpaid intern” had the answer. She was also promptly offered a job after she graduated.

SAn, it is also not about making people more clever. What if you have that one student who never would have thought about becoming a scientist who is taking the course and they have this marvelous teacher and they start to learn all of this “scientific” stuff and realize, “Wow, I understand this and I like this and can relate to this. I never thought I would.” If these classes and theories are no longer taught just because “What am I ever gonna need them for?” then this student, who may never have known that they were destined to become a great scientist would have been left in the dark.

8. Re: Question about american education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by basurero
Я думаю, что это довольно плохая идея, если мальчик не знает, что такое электрическое сопротивление, то в чем смысл говорить с ним о сверхпроводимости? Не надо так упрощать науку, особенно в пользу тех, кто скорее всего даже не будет читать статью. Человек, ничего не знающий о простых научных понятиях, даже если читает статью, не обратит внимания на такие подробности.

По-моему, лучший вариант - небольшое введение, в котором основные понятия описываются простым языком, а потом более подробная информация. Так, те, кто не интересуется деталями, может просто пропустить эту часть статьи.

Нет, это совсем не так! Да, есть много тупых американцев, но уровень образования в США [s:1gmcv6k6]сравнительно[/s:1gmcv6k6] в среднем / в целом очень высок. (Или просто "сравнительно высок")
Compliments to your Russian, basurero. It's fantastic.

9. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

The thing is... People who do not know what resistance is are scum and are not worth the effort explaining something to them at all.

What do you think of a person who read like 3-5 books in his/her life? This is in no way an educated person. And would you try to talk about classic literature with these people? Would you try to share you impressions from some book? The answear is no!

The same goes here. Those guys can perfectly well do some primitive work without knowing what superconductivity is and there is no need for them to know it. Sure if they realy want to know, well let them go thrugh the school course of elementary physics. But there is no other way.

10. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
The thing is... People who do not know what resistance is are scum and are not worth the effort explaining something to them at all.
I think it's been mentioned a couple of times already, but here we go again... What is the goal of the article? If the article is to be published in a Proceeding Journal, there's no way you could start speaking about the pipes' analogy. So, rockzmom said it all when she asked you to know your target audience. I suppose, the tricky question is how to speak to the general audience.

Do you want to write an article that no one would read? If you start it with something like: "Theoretical models underlying hypothesis involving a broad spectrum of socio-cultural aspects to mimic early pleistocene climate fluctuations to deeper broaden our alternatives to the complex process of the evolutionary characteristics of the ancient social learning and its generic projections over the modern pre-adaptations of a costly capacity to acquire complex traditions," you lost half of your general audience right away. And all I want to say in my article is that the sudden climate change can destroy our modern technical civilization. And, hey, if you didn't learn enough history in school to get my first sentence, then it's worthless speaking to you. So, go on and build another coal-burning power plant for you're scum anyways. How does that sound to you? Very smart and practical, correct? :fool"

11. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
The thing is... People who do not know what resistance is are scum and are not worth the effort explaining something to them at all.

What do you think of a person who read like 3-5 books in his/her life? This is in no way an educated person. And would you try to talk about classic literature with these people? Would you try to share you impressions from some book? The answear is no!
Waterlaz... Your youth is showing dear.

As I mentioned before, many times people are too embarrassed to ask about things they do not know and you my dear just proved my point. I now know that I should never come to you to ask questions about classical literature or physics or electromechanical engineering or probably anything for that matter… because you think I am scum and not worth your time.

While I on the other hand would be honored to speak with ANY person who wants to speak with me on any topic, no matter how much they (or I) know or don't know. And I would not call them names or think ill of them for not knowing something that MAYBE they should have been taught in school or learned in their youth.

12. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
The thing is... People who do not know what resistance is are scum and are not worth the effort explaining something to them at all.
Hmmm... OK, you were a good pupil in a secondary school and "know" what is a resistance: it is a voltage divided by current. But aren't you a "scum" in comparison to someone who can speak about resistance in terms of Brillouin zone, scatterings, phonons and quasiclassical approach?

13. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

I suppose, the tricky question is how to speak to the general audience.
So what is this general audience? Should we consider people who can't read to be a part of this "general audience"?
This is exactly the problem, you can't speak about superconductivity to the general audience. That is you can, but you should introduce them with resistance first. There is no easier way and there shouldn't be any.

Do you want to write an article that no one would read?
That is exactly what I don't want to heapen. And writing about superconductivity without the active use of the term "resistance" is the first step in making such an article.
Don't get me all wrong here. The analogy between electrical circutes and liquid flows is not a bad idea. And such analogies can and probaly shoud be used in scientific and/or general audience articles. But this in no way can substitute the strict and proper way to talk about things.

Waterlaz... Your youth is showing dear.
Yes it is...
As I mentioned before, many times people are too embarrassed to ask about things they do not know and you my dear just proved my point.
There is nothing wrong in asking. But what we see here is people coming with questions about superconductivity and not willing to know anything about resistance.

And I would not call them names or think ill of them for not knowing something that MAYBE they should have been taught in school or learned in their youth.
We are talking about this minimal knowledge. _Minimal_ . It's just like every person should know how to read, write and do primitive calculations. And every person should know at least basic stuff about electrical resistance.

But instead of filling the holes in ones education people protect their ignorance. This is truly pathetic.

14. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Hmmm... OK, you were a good pupil in a secondary school and "know" what is a resistance: it is a voltage divided by current.
I was a bad pupil. Most of the teachers hated me. And that pretty much includes my physics teacher and my math teacher.

But aren't you a "scum" in comparison to someone who can speak about resistance in terms of Brillouin zone, scatterings, phonons and quasiclassical approach?
We are talking about minimal knowledge. And there are people that know a few dozen languages.
But every one of them know how to read, write and count. And btw.. if these people think i'm scum it's ok. They deserve it.

15. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by it-ogo
resistance: it is a voltage divided by current.
current... now it-ogo... that's the one I swim PARALLEL WITH to get out of a riptide right? OR is it the one the Vinni Puh eats without the bread? I just can't remember, you know... being a mechanically inferior female scum and all. :fool"

I guess I'll have to ask my husband... the Master Electrician... when he gets home tonight to explain all this complicated stuff to me. Maybe, he can finally get me to understand how a three switch works... I still don't get that one, you flip on the switch at one end of the hallway and something beams up to a satellite that then makes the light go on and then you can turn it off on the other end and oh no... I am getting lost just thinking about it

16. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
I suppose, the tricky question is how to speak to the general audience.
So what is this general audience?
Here are my definitions:

Definition: The general audience is a finite set of intelligent beings whom you want to convince of something.

Definition: The intelligent beings are individuals who are able to demonstrate intelligent behavior i.e. the ability to analyze (dissect) and synthesise (combine) hierarchical abstractions with respect to their degree of similarity and probability.

P.S. If you don't know what is "the general audience" you're worthless pathetic scum.

17. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Crocodile
Originally Posted by Waterlaz
I suppose, the tricky question is how to speak to the general audience.
So what is this general audience?
Here are my definitions:

Definition: The general audience is a finite set of intelligent beings whom you want to convince of something.

Definition: The intelligent beings are individuals who are able to demonstrate intelligent behavior i.e. the ability to analyze (dissect) and synthesise (combine) hierarchical abstractions with respect to their degree of similarity and probability.

P.S. If you don't know what is "the general audience" you're a pathetic scum.
Very nice =)
"whom you want to convince of something". So if I want to convince people who are competent in some very specific knowledge they immidiatley become the general audience. Which they are not. Or are they?

18. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by rockzmom
Originally Posted by it-ogo
resistance: it is a voltage divided by current.
current... now it-ogo... that's the one I swim PARALLEL WITH to get out of a riptide right? OR is it the one the Vinni Puh eats without the bread? I just can't remember, you know... being a mechanically inferior female scum and all. :fool"
This was not a full definition and was not for you: you have taken it out of context. My variant of electrical resistance definition was a bit above:
http://masterrussian.net/mforum/view...=17602#p212664
Any criticism of that one?

And I feel like you have confused me with someone else in this forum.

19. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
So if I want to convince people who are competent in some very specific knowledge they [s:2j0jemef]immidiatley[/s:2j0jemef] immediately become the general audience. Which they are not. Or are they?
Waterlaz... Who is going to either read this paper or come to the lecture? Target audience wise 90-95% of these people I am talking about. THEY are your target audience.

What do YOU know about them?
What are THEIR demographics?
How much education have THEY had in the area of YOUR topic?
Why are THEY coming to this lecture or reading this paper?
YOU need to know YOUR customer (the audience) BEFORE you can write your paper, speech, presentation whatever.
The other 5-10%, don't worry about. If they get lost, so be it. You can't reach them all, even if you want to try. There will always be people who just won't get it or refuse to get it.

20. Re: Question about education and superconductivity

Originally Posted by Waterlaz
"whom you want to convince of something". So if I want to convince people who are competent in some very specific knowledge they immidiatley become the general audience. Which they are not. Or are they?
They are according to my definition. You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned anything about their specific knowledge, so my definition implies that you can't make any assumptions of what facts or terms they do or do not know.

On the other hand, if you know they possess some specific knowledge, you could base your article on that. In our case, the pipes' analogy is a good example: you still assume your audience would know something about pipes.

So, there's an implied range from the general audience (minimum knowledge assumptions) to the educated audience (the level of knowledge which is the closest to you).

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