By Maria Anna van Driel
Have you ever had this experience? You are having a chat with someone and they are telling you something about a topic they are very interested in or, they know a huge amount about, and it seems that you are following along with ease. Then, out of the blue, you realize you kind of lost the thread of what they are saying. You are just standing there, lost in time, realizing that you have absolutely no clue what they are talking about.
I’m a science journalist, editor, magazine owner and radio host who is working, since 2014, with scientists and citizen scientists who are covering a myriad scientific areas. And so, I have been on both sides of this kind of interaction. I have both been the one explaining very complicated material to people and, I have been on the receiving end of lots of very intense scientific discussions.
And, every now and then, this kind of breakdown in communication happens. During these moments, I have noticed something interesting, which is that, when a people stopped understanding, they feel slightly guilty about not following the stuff that is fired at them. But, if you think about it, this is completely silly. It is the wrong way around because at that point in time, there is literally nothing you can do to understand it better.
No, it is not that people, who are on the receiving end of the conversation, are not able to look over the edge of a sandbox because they lack the educational background knowledge, it is because they are constantly tripping over the complex and technical terms that are so liberally strewn about during explaining scientific research.
Sure, I have experience many moments in where I had to interrupt a scientist because I could not follow him/her anymore. But I found that the only way to…um, well, ‘survive’ the complexity given was having the courage to politely stop the person who was explaining, say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying,” and then go back and start off from where I had lost the thread.
And, yes, it does take a bit of courage to do this because you are, sort of, admitting that you don’t know the subject matter.
But this all perfectly fine, in fact, my fears were completely unwarranted. Generally, people respect you if you care about knowing the right information and willing to understanding the topic properly. So, I am of the opinion that we should never feel bad about not knowing something and, we should never feel bad about asking questions. And, one of these questions is, “What is quantum physics?”
So, let’s briefly explore this amazing scientific field what is, among others, researching those wacky particles which are bouncy and wobbly at the same time.
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