My friend @major_clanger has pointed me to the Up-Goer 5 challenge. This emerged from an xkcd strip which tried to explain how the Saturn 5 worked using only the thousand most common words in the english language. Someone took this idea and ran with it to produce the Up-Goer 5 text editor, which restricts you to using those thousand most common words (or should I say the ten-hundred most common words). The challenge is to explain something complicated using just those words.
Here’s my attempt to explain the day job:
My job is about looking up at the sky and then telling people what we see there. We find out how all the stars in the sky formed and how the groups of stars came together over all of time. I do this using big things on tall places that have clear skies and in space that get away from seeing in the air. That is the finding out part of my job. The other is to tell young people about the way things work. I do this at a big school for people who have left school but still want to learn things. We have big rooms where we tell big classes, and smaller rooms where they get to try things for themselves.
I was actually surprised that it wasn’t harder. Of course I was helped by ‘seeing’ having a more mundane meaning than that used by astronomers. I’d be interested to see someone try to explain the Higgs boson or quantum mechanics with Up-Goer 5 speak.
I also suspect that some version of the Up-Goer 5 editor has been in use at certain tabloid newspapers for a long time. Perhaps it will soon be adopted as a requirement for grant proposals and press releases.