Present to your Audience

As this video from 5secondfilms.com so concisely points out, know your audience when planning a presentation!

No one would use a power point at a school for the blind. So, why would you explain basic theories to a group of experts, even worse, explain it then ask if they understand what was said. Mistakes like this are small but can be devastating to your presentation: people might stop listening or take offense.

Just finding some background information is problematic in itself. So, where is it? and what is it?

Resources for the resourceful:
  • Venue publications: find any booklet or pamphlet the event planners have published
  • Themes: what is the conference about. all science topics or is it specific to your field
  • Pole: ask at the beginning of the presentation that will revel key audience-characteristics
  • Talk to everyone: mingle before you present
  • Common sense: intuition can be a powerful tool
  • Event website: the event planners will often have a forum, blog or list of previous attendees accessible from the website
Who's Who:
  • Experience level: do they know your topic and how easily can they grasp what you are saying
  • Compliance: disagree or agree with what you will say
  • Geographics/demographics: where are they from and are there any language or cultural barriers
  • Girth: know the size of the audience
All you will know about your listeners can give you ideas to become more captivating, clear, understood and memorable; and, all you will know can limit the chances of an embarrassing or offensive mix-up.

If you have any interesting presentations online, please send me a link. If I or my readers can benefit from your strong presentation, I will post it to my blog.


Science Blog: Why?

I don't have time for it! Other things have higher priority! I just don't want to! There are numerous other reasons not to blog. But what are the reasons to take time out of your day or a few hours a week to keep write about your field.

My favorite, and one of my reasons for self-publishing these posts, is meeting others who have similar interest and provoking feedback on my ideas. Once you've published online, everyone has access to the article. I admit, you won't get readers overnight, but if you create fabulous content you will get quality readers.

Are you already published in a journal or magazine? Well, creating a “funnel” from your blog to these articles is a popular topic to increase readership. This technique is called funneling, and is very useful.

Establishing yourself as an expert is no new desire. Scientists have been chasing this dream since before the first observational study (I think it is was an observation of the girl next door). Well, despite my historically inaccurate lesson, one axiom of becoming an expert is certainly publishing. People need to read what you're saying. And, if your content is well written and well planned, people will notice.

One less common reason is getting grants. If a philanthropist or a private granter finds your research interesting, you might gain their attention. Of course, this isn't a simple put-an-article-online-and-get-a-grant, but it can bring some much needed attention your way.

Not having time or it's a low priority is usually a cop-out for bad time-management. So, get out there and consider your goals as researcher.


Teleological Reasoning in Science

Language suggestive of teleological reasoning appears in the scientific literature about evolution. Such language is entrenched in the very formulation of evolutionary theory. It is dangerous to allow any trace of teleological reasoning when doing evolutionary science. Therefore, such language ought to be eliminated.

Consider these statements about the fringes on Salamander toes:
  1. The fringes on Salamander toes evolved in order to enable Salamander's to run faster in sandy environments.
  2. In sandy environments, Salamander's with fringed toes run faster than Salamander's without fringed toes.
If you were writing a scientific paper about fringed Salamander toes, which statement would you use? In Not By Design: Retiring Darwin's Watchmaker (2009), John O. Reiss argues that undertones of teleological reasoning makes the first statement unacceptable in scientific writing. He champions statements like the second.

Teleological reasoning, to very briefly summarize, is reasoning that explains an effect (such as the existence of Salamander toes) by citing a goal, or a purpose, as a cause of that effect.

Though it is not immediately clear how the first sentence is suggestive of teleological reasoning - it would take careful work to de-construct the sentence and show just where teleological reasoning enters the equation - I think that the phrase in order to is where we should focus our attention.

Consider these sentences which also use the phrase in order to.
  1. John turned off all the lights before he left in order to save electricity.
  2. John does push-ups every day in order to stay in shape.
It is clear that a goal, or desire, is playing a key role in causing John's actions. In certain contexts, such as the every day context of explaining John's actions, it is acceptable to cite desires or goals as causal factors.

However, when writing for the scientific community about non-conscious processes, such as evolution, it is important to exclude any trace of teleological reasoning. It is difficult to do this at times because, as Reiss argues in his book, teleological reasoning has entered into scientific discussions about evolution partially by way of word choices that are highly entrenched in the language of evolution, such as the term adapt.

It is important to exclude teleological reasoning from science because it is bad science to explain, for example, a non-conscious process such as the evolution of Salamander toes by citing goals or desires as a causal factor. Fortunately, this is not the problem at hand. The problem at hand is one of good scientists doing good science, but who, in the communication of their ideas, use careless language that is suggestive of teleological reasoning. This problem is, according to Reiss, ubiquitous within scientific literature.

One danger of using such careless language is that a door is opened for scientists doing poor science, and whose bad theories may be difficult to discredit just because they share the same language as the good theories.

Evolution, in theory, is a non-conscious process. It ought to be formulated, written about, and discussed as such.


Reiss, J. O. (2009). Not by Design: Retiring Darwin's Watchmaker. University of California Press, Berkeley. Amazon link.


Opportunity for Educating Teens Online

This video contains interviews with several youths about how they spend time on the net.

I certainly multitask while page skimming, but not like these kids. How can an average internet advertisement reach this market, even if these kids are almost always interacting with the media. Advergames might hold their attention long enough to create a meaningful interaction.


Science Blog: Increase Blog Traffic With Keywords

Science writing for a science blog greatly differs from science writing for a journal or magazine. This might be tough to take down, but in some ways blogs requires more stringent adherence to sentence structure and word placement than a peer-reviewed paper. However, editors you've never met won't set these limitations, but your own ambitions to increase blog traffic will. I'm referring to
"keywords" , and their unequivocal importance for search engine ranking.


Dynamic Chart imporves Data Presentation: Motion Charting

This presentation by Hans Rosling utilizes Motion Charting, presenting quantitative data so that it's dynamic and captivating.



Education for the Internet: Lynda.com

A friend of a friend has a project and needs a specialist to oversee its implementation. You haven’t worked on the exact type of project before. Are you going to turn it down this opportunity to make some extra cash? Of course not! You’ll say “Hell yea I can do it,” and then teach yourself what needs to be done.

So, now you’ve got the job and need to figure it out. You jump on the net and go to Lynda.com, a subscription based infomediary site, offering learning tools for software and design topics.