I don’t have time to write a real post this week, so I’ll just point out that a few weeks ago I wrote a summary of my PhD project using only the 1000 most commonly used words in the English language. This is based on Xkcd’s “Up-Goer 5” comic, which is hilarious. It was fun to do, but also an interesting way to force myself to think about my project from a different angle. I think it actually helped me organize my thoughts. Here’s the full text of what I wrote:
“I am studying how people talk at each other about ways to go places, like cars and trains. It will help us understand how people have word fights about the things that they use to do stuff.
Sometimes when a person makes a new thing that helps people do stuff, it doesn’t get used because there is already a different thing that people use to do that same stuff. This can happen even if the new thing is better than the old thing, because people don’t like to change the things that they use to do stuff. Sometimes, however, really big stuff happens and the old thing doesn’t work anymore. That means that people might start using the new thing, but there will still be word fights between the people who like the new thing and the people who like the old thing. These word fights help to decide which thing gets used in the end.
During the last hundred years, there have been a lot of word fights about what kinds of things we should use to go places. At first people liked to use trains, but then people started making cars. Then there was a big fight where lots of people from lots of different places hid in the ground and shot at each other. Then it happened again. Cars and other things like cars were good for these fights, so people made lots of places to make more cars. When the fights was over, these places made lots of cars for people, and people started using cars to go places and stopped using trains. There was a word fight between people who liked cars and people who liked trains, and the people who liked cars did better, and then lots of people started using cars, and less people started using trains.
A few years ago, people started using a bit less cars, and a bit more trains, and there is another word fight between the people who like cars and the people who like trains. Some people say that too many cars will make the air very hot, but other people say they like their cars too much to stop using them.
I am going to study the word fights between cars, trains, and maybe other ways of going places, to understand how word fights are important when people stop using one thing to do stuff, and start using another thing to do stuff. Maybe this will be important to help us use things that don’t make the air very hot.”
It’s been posted on this blog, where you can find a lot more summaries like it. If you’re working on a PhD or any other big research project, I recommend giving it a try. It’s an illuminating distraction from the daily drudgery of research work.