• Bill Clinton, Johnnie Cochran, and a London Hooker

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The Science of Successful Presentation

In the introduction to Physics for Poets, Robert March writes:

A scientist . . . is supposed to be looking for the truth about nature. But not all truths are equal. Some we call deep truths, and these are the ones that are also beautiful. An idea must be more than right—it must also be pretty if it is to create much excitement in the world of science. For the search for truth is not simply a matter of discovering facts. You must also understand their significance, and then persuade others that your way of looking at them is valid. It is always easier to persuade people to believe in something new when they find it beautiful, especially if it runs counter to their established beliefs.

Truth. Beauty. Excitement. Significance. Persuasion.

I was fascinated to see words such as these being used to describe the process of “selling” new scientific ideas. First, because it had never occurred to me that significant scientific breakthroughs needed to be sold at all, and second, because my own experience of science was that it was more fact-filled, analytical, and process-driven than it was beautiful. The only scientific excitement I ever experienced was back in the heady days before health and safety legislation, when 12-year-old grammar ...

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