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How one drawing helped people explain hard ideas in easy words

A student reacts to the camera as a teacher teaches the 2013 curriculum inside a classroom at Cempaka Putih district in Jakarta, October 15, 2014.
Reuters/Beawiharta Beawiharta
Even hard things can be made easy enough for kids to understand.
  • Nikhil Sonnad
By Nikhil Sonnad

Reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Many things in the world are hard to understand. That’s why it’s important to explain them simply.

This was the thought behind one well-known drawing guy’s Up-Goer Five picture. It shows a big and hard-to-understand thing and explains what that thing is, using only the ten hundred most-used words in his tongue! Now he has a book coming out that will explain all kinds of things this way.

But he’s not the only one. Many people who study hard things about our world are using the drawing guy’s idea to help us understand what they do. There’s a place you can find on your computer where these people write down the things they study and think about. One person wrote about studying water:

I study how city people use water, often too much, and what that means for other living things who also live in cities. I study how many flying animals and green living things are able to live in the cities of the world. I find that fewer living things may be found inside cities than outside, but more than people expect. Many living things have found surprising ways to live, and do well, in cities besides people. I look for new and old ways for people to share the world with other living things.

There are lots more things you can learn about our world there. Like how kids are just like their moms and dads:

Mothers and fathers pass their body plan to their children. These plans are written in a large number of letters, and tell each kid’s body how to live. Every person has a different set of letters.

Or how animals stay warm:

In the coldest time of the year many animals must find a way to live without getting so cold that they will die. Some animals have a thick hair all over their bodies. Some animals leave town and go on a long walk or fly far away to a warm place. Some small animals, the kind that jump and have no hair, live through the coldest part of the year by turning themselves into an ice block. They do this by having stuff in their blood that knows when the the air is getting warmer.

Other people use the ten hundred most-used words to explain what happens in movies like The Boy Who Didn’t Die and the Thinking Man’s Rock. Not many people do the ones about movies any more, but they are still fun to read.

A nice person helped others to write simply by making something that will tell you when you use a word that is not allowed. In fact, the story you are reading right now was made with it! Try for yourself, it’s not as easy as you might think.

Maybe using only these words is not the best way to explain hard things, but it does force people to really think about what they are saying.

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