Tiny Things that Live in Little Bottles

As I mentioned in my previous post, it can be a fun challenge to explain your scientific research to people who aren’t scientists.

A week or so ago I came across a website that challenges you to explain something complicated using only the thousand most commonly used words.

So here’s my effort about our long-term evolution experiment with E. coli:

My team works with really tiny things that live in little bottles. We watch the tiny things change over time – over a really long time. The tiny things that do the best have learned to eat their food faster and faster, before the other guys can eat their lunch, so to say.  Well, the tiny things don’t really learn, but it’s kind of like learning – and even better, the best ones pass along what they learned to their kids.  A really cool guy came up with the idea of how this works more than a hundred years ago. My team’s work shows he got it pretty much right. But there’s a lot of stuff he didn’t know, and we’re figuring that out, too.

Several other biologists followed up including Nicole King, Graham Coop, and Josie Chandler (the links are to the simple-words-only descriptions of their own research).

Give it a try, and add your contributions in the comments below!

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3 Comments

Filed under Education, Humor, Science

3 responses to “Tiny Things that Live in Little Bottles

  1. Jitka Polechova

    Why do living things live where they do and not settle yet a little bit further? Living things slowly change both over time and space. To settle a little bit further in space, they often need to change a little, in a way that is (almost) always passed from parents to kids. (Kids of all living things have parents – well, at least one.) I study how living things slowly become different from before and from each other and why sometimes such change that would be passed from parents to kids, and would allow the living things to settle a bit further, does not happen even over very long times. When the living things need to change too much to settle just a little further and there is too few of them, they may have to stay where they are for very long times.

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  3. Here is my attempt to explain the work for my PhD (it involves crowd simulation for virtual archaeology, using artificial intelligence in virtual worlds):

    Teachers of the past, these days, use computers to show how cities looked like. But those teachers are not good with computers, especially when it’s not just showing cities, but also showing how people looked like in the past. My work is to give those teachers a simple way to place those people around in a city built in a computer without needing to be good at working with computers. It looks pretty much as a game but allows teachers to learn by themselves without needing to ask for help from guys who are really good with computers.

    Whew! It’s harder than I thought! I hope it makes sense 🙂