12 October 2011

Imagery can take us to the frontiers of science - via scissors, generals and sentinels

People sometimes tell me that it's all very well to bang on about the power of using imagery to get messages across (as in 'Painting Pictures with Words', Lend Me Your Ears, Ch. 7 and various other posts on this blog), but that it won't help much if you're speaking about technical subjects, let alone taking an audience to the frontiers of science.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as can be seen in this clip from a TED talk by Professor Peter Donnelly, FRS, telling us about "chemical scissors which cut DNA whenever they see particular patterns":

A few days ago BBC Radio 4's Material World (listen again HERE) included a discussion of the contribution made by Professor Ralph Steinman who died just before being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology. In this sequence, we're told that T cells act "as the generals of the army" and dendritic cells which "instruct T cells who to attack".

Interviewer Quentin Cooper picks up on "the generals in the army" analogy and suggests that dendritic cells are "almost like military intelligence". "Precisely", agrees the interviewee, before dubbing them as "sentinels for the immune system" and developing the point further...

1 comment:

Conor Neill said...

Metaphor is so powerful to help us understand. Thanks for the great, specific video examples ;-)