Archive for June 5th, 2007

Bad writing in academic circles!

June 5, 2007

Laird lists six reasons for bad writing in academic circles (via which gives a few more links too on the topic):

1st reason for difficult language: Trying to sneak yourself to academic status.

2nd reason for difficult language: Not knowing exactly what you’re saying and hiding behind grand words.

3rd reason for difficult language: Being on a learning curve – still searching for the right words and images to convey your thoughts clearly. (The nice version of the 2nd reason…)

4th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is not specific enough.

5th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is too politicized.

6th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is what is being analysed.

He also thinks that reason 3 is interesting for the following reason:

It conveys to me that when an idea is better understood, it can be expressed more simply. This also explains why cutting-edge research often is difficult to read: No-one has thought these thoughts before, so we are still on the learning curve of making them easier to think and say.

That reminded me of a poem by Bharathiyar:

உள்ளத்தில் உண்மையொளு உண்டாயின்
வாக்கினிலே ஒளியுண்்டாகும்

(If there is true light in the mind, there will be light in the words).

I think he misses one important reason though; sometimes academics do not take enough trouble–they just do the bare minimum needed to convince a referee/journal/editor accept the paper.

Anyway, Laird is planning to do follow-up posts on each of these reasons too; take a look!

The art, mathematics and computation of origami

June 5, 2007

Here is some stuff about some really cool origami (via B-squared which has some more links too):

Lang has created or breathed life into more than 495 intricate new origami models, some requiring hundreds of folds: turtles with patterned shells, raptors with textured feathers, a rattlesnake with 1,000 scales and a tick the size of a popcorn kernel. His masterpiece, first created in 1987, is a life-size, 15-inch-tall Black Forest cuckoo clock, complete with pendulum, pine cones and stag’s head. It is so complex that Lang was asked to demonstrate its folding on Japanese television—a task that took five hours. Most of these works adhere to one deceptively simple requirement—the use of a single sheet of paper with no cuts or tears.

While we are on the topic, I came to know about trisecting an angle using origami too, recently. Have fun!