How do we succeed in putting our ideas into words, so that another person can understand them? This complex undertaking involves translating an idea into a one-dimensional sequence, a string of words to be read or spoken one after the other. Of course the person on the receiving end might not get the intended point: The effective expression of ones ideas is considered an art, or at least a desirable and important skill.
A team of scientists that included physicists and language researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science recently investigated this process by applying scientific methods to some of our cultures most successful models for effective transfer of ideas – classic writings that, by common agreement, get their messages across well. They created mathematical tools that allowed them to trace the development of ideas throughout a book.
The international team included Prof. Elisha Moses of the Weizmann Institutes Physics of Complex Systems Department and Prof. Jean-Pierre Eckmann, a frequent visitor from the University of Geneva, as well as postdoctoral fellow Enrique Alvarez Lacalle and research student Beate Dorow from the University of Stuttgart. The paper describing their research was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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