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Old 10-06-2008, 06:57 AM   #18
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I read this recently and when I saw this thread thought it might be relevant. Doctor Judith Woolf, a lecturer of English and Italian literature, had this to say on the importance of being clear:

A striking illustration of the importance of clarity in conveying complex ideas is given by the materials scientist J.E. Gordon, writing about Young's Modulus, a fundamental concept in engineering which enables the elasticity of materials to be precisely measured, helping to prevent ships from sinking and buildings and bridges from falling down. Thomas Young, who published the first definition of the modulus in 1807, was a polymath and a genius. However:
It was said of Young by one of his contemporaries that 'His words were not those in familiar use, and the arrangement of his ideas seldom the same as those he conversed with. He was therefore worse calculated than any man I ever knew for the communication of knowledge'
The truth of this is only too evident in his own definition of the modulus, which reads as follows:
The modulus of the elasticity of any substance is a column of the same substance, capable of producing a pressure on its base which is to the weight causing a certain degree of compression as the length of the substance is to the diminuation of its length
Not surprisingly, the Admiralty responded, 'Though science is much respected by their Lordships and your paper is much esteemed, it is too learned... in short it is not understood'; and ships went on sinking and buildings and bridges went on falling down until the engagingly named French engineer Claude-Louis-Marie-Henri Navier found a better way of putting it in 1826:

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