This week’s text: TL; DR

Posted: April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

Our reading today discussed scientific visuals.  A look at their effectiveness and accuracy.


I disagree that these ideas must be equally represented and feel it depends on the larger purpose of the text.  In his research on influence and reason, neuroscientist Sam Harris discusses the importance of metaphor in creating a genuine understanding.  Whilst I understand the importance of having accurate models, concepts are more important.  My favourite example of this is that of the atom.  We know how an atom functions, its parts, and its shape is iconic…


An atom... right?

An atom… right?

… except it’s not.  Electrons don’t circle the nucleus of an atom.  They move around it in a cloud.


Enjoy atoms

Enjoy atoms

That’s the sound of you unlearning the model you’ve always known.


But that doesn’t make a difference.  Why? Because it doesn’t change your understanding of how the atom works and how the parts function.


Now I should take time to note the importance of clarity in specific fields.  You don’t want to go in for heart surgery and notice a game of operation sitting by your bed and tell yourself, “wait… his degree was from Mlton Bradley University? Nnnnnnnnoo….” Those would be horrible final thoughts.  The context of the image and what it’s trying to convey set the stage for the effectiveness of the material.


  1. thebungerlow says:

    I think your quantification about “importance” being subjective was important. Your first visual representation of an atom might make the concept easier to communicate to a layperson, but your second visual might be more appropriate and important for scientific research.

  2. violentparty says:

    I like how you challenge the norm of what we know. Although they move around in a cloud (instead of rotating around individually) it doesn’t uproot previous knowledge of an atom, but instead redirects to new information (supplement). Good post on the relationship between visuals and knowledge.

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