I thought this was silly at first, but after struggling to do it for my own research, I now think it can be a profound exercise that scientists should attempt before writing their NSF broader impact statements. Here’s the challenge: Explain your research using only the 1000 most common English words. Here’s a tool to keep you honest: http://splasho.nfshost.com/
And here’s my attempt:
The things we use every day are made of very tiny bits. When we put lots of those bits together we get matter. Matter changes how it acts when it gets hot or cold, or when you press on it. We want to know what happens when you get some of the matter hot. Do the bits of hot matter move to where the cold matter is? Does the hot matter touch the cold matter and make the cold matter hot? We use a computer to make pretend bits of matter. We use the computer to study how the hot matter makes cold matter hot.
The task is much harder than you think. Here’s a collection curated by Patrick Donohue (a PhD candidate in lunar petrology right here at Notre Dame): Common words, uncommon jobs
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Note there are also some posts on the challenge at Highly Allochthonous and a growing collection on a new Tumblr at “Ten Hundred Words of Science”