03 MAR 2014 by ideonexus

 Why Carl Sagan Could Explain Things So Well

The adult Sagan always sounded like the smartest person in the room, but in the papers we encounter this interesting note in a 1981 file, right after “Cosmos” hit it big: “I think I’m able to explain things because understanding wasn’t entirely easy for me. Some things that the most brilliant students were able to see instantly I had to work to understand. I can remember what I had to do to figure it out. The very brilliant ones figure it out so fast they never see the mechanics of ...
Folksonomies: understanding explanation
Folksonomies: understanding explanation
  1  notes

Because understanding did not come easy for him.

28 OCT 2013 by ideonexus

 Using Lay Audiences to Force Explanation

In many fields—not just philosophy—there are controversies that seem never-ending and partly artifactual: people are talking past one another and not making the necessary effort to communicate effectively. Tempers flare, and disrespect and derision start creeping in. People on the sidelines take sides, even when they don’t fully understand the issues. It can get ugly, and it can have a very straightforward cause. When experts talk to experts, whether they are in the same discipline or ...
  1  notes

Often when experts debate, they fall into the trap of assuming one another's expertise and fail to explain basic concepts, with the result that they beging talking past one anothers. An inventive solution to this is to have a group of non-experts be the audience and have the debaters address them instead.

07 OCT 2013 by ideonexus

 Understanding Heat and Temperature

Our sense of touch tells us quite definitely that one body is hot and another cold. But this is a purely quali- tative criterion, not sufficient for a quantitative descrip- tion and sometimes even ambiguous. This is shown by a well-known experiment: we have three vessels con- taining, respectively, cold, warm and hot water. If we dip one hand into the cold water and the other into the hot, we receive a message from the first that it is cold and from the second that it is hot. If we th...
  1  notes

An excellent description of the distinction between the two.

13 APR 2012 by ideonexus

 St. Augustine on Christian Explanations for Origins

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, t...
  1  notes

Remarkably insightful statement from 426 AD about how Christians look foolish when they try to apply the literal interpretation of Genesis to the natural world.