Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Posts tagged “english

“Fewer is More”

If I have a mini-passion inspired by my life experiences, its that scientists need to learn to communicate more effectively. We learn all these amazing things about the world around us: in just the past week, scientists have made discoveries as large as ancient ice on Pluto and as small as the existence of pentaquarks.

While images of Pluto are breathtaking and inspirational, a significant amount of discussion has been had in recent days regarding how to justify to the public the importance of visiting the outer edges of our solar system. An entire generation of scientists – the generation of scientists who are making these incredible discoveries today – were inspired to be where they are now by the Apollo explorations of yesteryear. And yet, they have no idea how to convince the general public that the next generation of scientists are being created today by the very same thing: inspirational trips to discover the unknown.

For someone like me, who already knows and loves physics, the announcement of the pentaquarks is even cooler. We know protons and neutrons, which combine to form the nucleus of every atom of every element, consist of three quarks. Scientists have discovered two different particles composed of five quarks each, and though we don’t know what they create, we know they contribute to explaining the Standard Model. Beyond that, who knows what this discovery will mean? Perhaps the next generation of scientists, the kids in classrooms who watched the images New Horizons sent home last week, will figure it out for us.

And herein lies the problem: the current generation of scientists doesn’t know how to talk to the next generation of scientists (or their parents). We barely even know how to talk to ourselves. Regardless of what I decide to study when I move to the next phase of my schooling, I’m absolutely not going to be studying anywhere unless they have courses in science communication. I want to learn how to speak to other scientists, especially scientists in other fields, and explain what I’ve learned. But most importantly, I want to be able to speak to non-scientists. Scientists need to be able to speak to non-scientists.

We can’t just assume that science journalists will do our job for us, because the journalists are easily duped by false science (case in point: the chocolate is good for you study) and the reality is that you can only truly explain what you understand. So if a journalist can understand 50% of the significance of a discovery, then the public will, at best, get 50% of its importance. But if scientists could learn to express the significance themselves, then the public has a better chance of understanding the fundamental beauty of whatever has just been added to the body of human knowledge.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just that scientists don’t know what to say, they also don’t know how to say it. The number of times I’ve bitten my tongue to not correct “fewer” or “less” over the past five weeks is innumerable. And its not just to my fellow students; professors, lecturers, and lab techs have all said “less data points support this conclusion than that” or “something has fewer probability.” (Don’t remember which to use? Just remember: your grocery store is probably wrong.)

We have a 1,500 word research report due in a few days, and everyone is stressing because they don’t know how to put their thoughts and understanding down on paper. They’re more worried about the paper than the presentation that will require standing in front of ~20 people, not because they’re comfortable speaking in front of groups, but because they’re terrified of writing a paper.  (For reference, this post in total is 704 words; I wrote it in about 20 minutes.) Now, I’m not saying that I am always grammatically correct, or that I have perfect English. But scientists are the people who have discovered the world, and so many have no way to express it. How many incredible discoveries have been lost to history because the report manuscript was rejected for poor clarity? How many were lost because the research proposal was indecipherable? How much time and energy is wasted because nobody bothered to teach the scientist how to teach the world?


Český Čtvrtek – Eifelovka

Eifelovka je krasná. Všichni jsme viděli fotky, a viděli jsme filmy v každou film v Pařiži. Ale, pro mě, Eifelovka je dobrá protože je opravdu úžasnou techniku. Býla nejvyšší stavba pro 41 roky. Je silná, ale vypáda to křehká. Tady jsou moje fotky o Eifelovka.


The Eiffel Tower is beautiful.  We’ve all seen the pictures, we’ve all seen it featured in every single movie set in Paris. Every. single. one. And yet, what really struck me every time I walked by it, but especially as I was walking up it, is that is truly a feat of engineering. It was the tallest structure in the world when it was built, and held that position for an amazing 41 years. It is phenomenally strong and yet appears artistically fragile. Perhaps it was the white clouds on the day I really looked at the structure that made it stand out so well, or maybe the colored elevators going up the otherwise grayish black structure. Regardless, here are some pictures I took over the weekend that showcase what an amazing structure Eiffel gave to us.

elevator wheel


Český Čtvrtek – Káča

Můj tatinek jednou řikal, “všichni musí sbírat něco.” On sbíral známky v dětsví, a dnes sbírá knihy o fotbalových rozhodčích. S mojí rodinou, sbírame mince z celého světa, proto máme mince z Japonsko, z Kanad’y, České Republicky, a mnoho dalších. Ale, sbírám něco sama taky. Sbírám káči. Proč? Tady je podvika.

Když mi bylo 13 let, cestovali jsme do České Republiky s mými prarodiči. Potom jsme cestovali do Italie, ale to jenom já, můj bratr, a moji rodiče. V Praze, jsem založila moc krasnou káču v trh a moje babička ji koupila pro mě. Byla to moje vzpominka z České Republiky.

Potom, jsme cestovali do Italie vlakem a ve vlaku, můj tatinek pověděl mě o sbíraní. Když můžeme koupit něco káču v Italii, budeme. V celé Italii, jsme hledali. Hledali jsme v Římě, hledali jsme v Milaně, hledali jsme v Benátkách. Nakonec, jsme v Benátkách, viděli jeden káču v obchodě oken. Ale tento obchod byl zavřeny, a museli jsme jet vrzo ráno. Můj tatinek klepal a klepal a někdo otevřel dveře. Tato káča byla opravdu poslední káča skla v obchodě, možna v celých Benátkách. Ale koupili jsme. A měla jsem dvě káči ze dvou zemí.

Když jsem cestovala do Japonsko, koupila jsem káču tam. a Ted’, zkusím koupit káču v každé zemi. Je legrace, protože mám něco dělat všude. Musím hledat, proto mus=im zkoumat místa. Nemůžu jenot jet na proslulá místa když chci koupit káču z této země. Ale, nemůžu koupit všude, protože ěasto nemůžu hledat nebo nemůžu najít káči.

Myslím nejlepší důvod pro sbíraní je podviky. Když cestuju s někým, můžeme hledat dohromady. Je to legrace a trochu jiný než normalní cestování. V Listopadu, jsme cestovali s dvěma kamaradkamí do Turecka. Tam, jsem šly na trhy. Nemyslely jsme, že koupíme něco, protože všechno bylo velké nebo drahé. Ale, řikala jsem, když někdo bude vidět káči, prosim řekněte mi to. Asi za dvacet metrů, jsem viděla něco a křičela jsem “káěi!” Pravda, byl tučety káči. Koupila jsem jednu krásnou.

Mám dvě káči z Polska, protože jsem koupila jendu na trhu a naše výlet vůdce koupila jeden v Židovském muzeu. Je dreidel a nevím když opravdu káču, ale ona je opravdu hezká a děkovala jsem jí. Koupila jsem moji káča z Francie, z Švýcarska, a z Islandu v dětském obchodě, ale na Islandu jsem hledala jeden v kuchynském ochodu taky.

Moje kamarady někdy koupily káči pro mě v nové zemi, nebo pomohy mě s hledat někde. Nemám káči ze všech zemí kam jsem cestovala, ale mám jich mnoho. Mám káči z Japonska, ze Švýcarska, z Turecka, z Polska, z České Republiky, z Italie, z Francie, a možna ješte ale nemůžu vzponenout ted’protože jsem tady a jsou v Americe. Ale mám jednu otázku: když cestuju někam dvakrat nebo už, měla bych koupit jeden na každý výlet nebo ne?


My dad once told me, “everyone should collect something.” He collected stamps as a kid, and now he collects books about soccer referees. With my family, we collect coins from countries around the world, so we have coins from Japan, Canada, the Czech Republic, and many others. But, I also collect something myself. I collect tops. Why? Here is the story.

When I was 13 years old, we traveled to the Czech Republic with my grandparents. And then we traveled to Italy, but it was only me, my brother, and my parents. In Prague, I found a beautiful top in a market and my grandmother bought it for me. It was my souvenir from the Czech Republic.

After, we traveled to Italy by train and on the train, my dad told me about collecting. If we could find a top in Italy, we would buy it. Throughout Italy, we searched. We searched in Rome, we searched in Milan, we searched in Venice. At the end of our time in Venice, we saw one top in a shop window. But the shop was closed and we had to leave early in the morning. My dad knocked and knocked and someone opened the door. That top was truly the last glass top in the store, and maybe in all of Venice. But we bought it. And I had two tops from two countries.

When I travelled to Japan, I bought a top there. And now, I buy a top in every country I visit. It is fun, because I have something to do everywhere. I have to look, so I have to go to different places. I cannot only go to the tourist places if I want to buy a top in that country. but I can’t always buy one, because often I can’t search or I can’t find a top.

I think the best reason for collecting is the stories. If I travel with someone, we can search together. It is fun, and a bit different than normal travel. In November, I went to Turkey with two friends. There, we went to the outdoor market. We didn’t think we would buy anything, because everything was big or expensive. But I said if anyone sees tops, please let me know. From about twenty meters, I saw something and yelled “Tops!” It was true – they were dozens of tops. I bought a pretty one.

I have two tops from Poland, because I bought one at a market and our trip leaders bought one at the Jewish museum. It is a dreidel, and I don’t know if it is truly a top, but the woman is so nice and I thank her. I bought my tops in France, in Switzerland, and in Iceland from children’s stores, although I also found one in Iceland in a kitchenware store.

My friends sometimes buy me tops from new countries, or help me look for them somewhere. I don’t have tops from every country I’ve been to, but I have tops from many of them. I have tops from Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and maybe more but I can’t remember because I am here and they are in America. But I have a question: If I travel somewhere twice or more, should I buy one for each trip, or not?


Loděnice

Loděnice is a little town about 30 minutes outside of Prague, with nothing particularly interesting. It is, however, home to a school with an English teacher who has a friend who went to CIEE. Aka, a perfect place for an exchange. So that’s exactly what we did.

On Friday, my Czech class took an all-day excursion to Lodenice, where we went to English classes with four different grades, taught some English, practiced some Czech, and played some games.

When we first arrived, the sixth graders were standing at the bus stop waiting for us, with a giant sign that said „Welcome to Lodenice!“ It was absolutely adorable. As we walked from the bus stop to the school, we were supposed to introduce ourselves. Most of the kids were too shy, but a few were adventurous enough to talk to us in twos or threes. I met a very cute girl, Maria, who was 11 years old. Her favorite animal is a dog and she has two sisters. We also discovered that there is a pair of twins in their class. (Who knew that knowing dvojčata means twins would be useful?) They also kept stopping to tell us things about the city – the kids were all in pairs, with a few sentences each about random things – the city, the history of the school, their cloakroom, their classroom, etc.

It was funny to me to see how surprised the Americans were by the cloakroom. Perhaps because I’ve been to Japan and seen students taking their shoes off at the school entrance, perhaps because I wore slippers myself in middle school, perhaps because I’ve already been to Emma’s school many times, I was not surprised to see the cloakroom. Kids show up to school, take off their jackets and outdoor shoes, put on indoor shoes, and their stuff gets locked during the school day so it doesn’t get stolen. It makes a lot of sense, actually. Less dirt tracked through the building. No bulky jackets to deal with in the classroom.  Plus, the kids have to keep it tidy or they get extra homework (that there is some of the best incentive I’ve ever heard of…)

After the 6th graders gave us our tour, we met the 4th graders. They were, unsurprisingly, excited to meet us. I was in a group with two girls, one of whom was full of questions, and one of whom was extremely shy. We were given a sheet of paper with categories, and our task was to fill it in with words in English and Czech. For example, one category was Rodina – Family. We had to write as many words as we could think of that had to do with family. Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. Part of our oral exam on Tuesday is like this – we get a category and have to give at least 8 words in the category. Our teacher was shamelessly getting us to study, but it was actually quite fun and I learned some new words. Plus, they made copies of the sheets, so all the kids will get the lists with some new words for them too.

Our next class was with some younger kids. I think some were in 3rd grade and some were in 1st grade.  Regardless, we sang some songs and played some games. We sang a colors song in English, and then in Czech to the same tune. (Although it only kinda worked, because the names of colors in Czech are longer than in English). Then we sang „Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes“ in both languages. The Czech version has a different tune, though, which was confusing. But now I know some body parts…

  • Head – hlava
  • Shoulders – romina
  • Knees-kolena
  • Toes –prsty
  • Eyes – oči
  • Ears – uši
  • Mouth – ústa
  • Nose – nos

We finished with a playground game in Czech that loosely translates to “Mr. Stork lost his hat. He’s looking for something colored…” And you say a color, after which everyone has to touch something that is that color.

Our last class was with the 9th graders – the oldest class in the school. As such, their English is actually quite good, and we were working on grammar. We were put into pairs, and each person got a sheet with the beginnings of sentences in their non-native language. For example, “on the weekend, I like to…” or “In five years, I …”. After we filled it out, we checked each other’s grammar, fixing spelling or adding missed articles. We finished with two quizzes – one about the Czech Republic and one about the USA; we again were given the assignment about our non-native country. With a bit of help from my buddy, I got 10/10, and he also got 10/10 with a little help from me. Unsurprisingly, though, the majority of the Czech students knew all 10 answers about the Czech Republic, but the majority of the Americans only knew 7 or 8 questions about the USA. (The youngest president in history, anyone? Was he 40, 43, or 50? Bonus: who was he?)

We finished our day with a late lunch in the cafeteria at the school – real chicken and mashed potatoes. The lunch wasn’t great (nothing compared to dinners at home), but it vastly exceeded anything I’ve seen at an American elementary or middle school.

All in all, the day was pretty awesome. We got to meet a lot of kids who were very excited to speak English and meet real Americans. We got to see a new village that I can’t imagine I would ever have any other reason to visit. And, I got to sleep in! Even though we met at 8:15 on the outskirts of Prague, we met at the end of the metro line closest to my house. Via tram and metro, it would have taken me over 40 minutes to get there, not unlike my daily commute to school. BUT, the buses are not restricted by where the rails are, and it took me just 8 minutes by bus to get there. I literally left my house at 7:55, walked to the bus stop (a little further than my normal tram stop – about a 10 minute walk), waited for the bus, and arrived in Zličin at 8:16. It was great. Anyway, chances are I have the same teacher next semester for Czech, and will thus have the same trip to the same school. It’ll be interesting to see the difference as to how much conversation I can actually have with the kids when I’ve got another four months of Czech classes under my belt.


Ješte Apples

I was going to write a post about a funny thing Emma said the other day, when she combined some Czech and some English into a single sentence. But as I started to write it, it wasn’t funny. When I told the story to Anna, she laughed, as did the CIEE staff and my Czech professor and even some of the people in my class. But they laughed because the sentence needed no explanation. As I was trying to write my post, I realized that the sentence needed to be explained to my friends and family who speak no Czech. And when spelled out, it isn’t funny anymore. Is there anything funny about a 6 year old saying “more apples, please”? No. The combination of Czech and English is both adorable and laughable, but only to those who understand the Czech.

And then I realized that I found it both adorable and laughable, because I understood both parts. (more…)


Barva = Color

So… today was day 1 in Prague, and I moved in with my host family, who are absolutely amazing. But that is a long post, and I am tired. So we will go with just a single snippet, about Emma, age 6, and myself.

I speak basically no Czech. Emma speaks exactly no English. But we sat on her bed with her brand new coloring set, (It was her first day of school, and getting gifts for children on such an occasion is a typical occurrence.) and learned some colors. It was strange at first, because I kind of just went into her room and sat on the bed silently, and she continued lining them up by color, silently. But then, I asked Filip (my host father, who is fluent in English) how to say “color” in Czech. Its barva, by the way.

(more…)