Metaphor & the Art of Science Writing

Lawrence Krauss, author of the forthcoming biography of theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, had this to say in a quirky little column in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago:

” . . . Writing about science poses a fundamental problem right at the outset: You have to lie. I don’t mean lie in the sense of intentionally misleading people. I mean that because math is the language of science, scientists who want to translate their work into popular parlance have to use verbal or pictorial metaphors that are necessarily inexact. Here is where the art of science writing for the public truly lies. Choosing the proper metaphor can make all the difference between distorting science and providing an appropriate context from which nonscientists can appreciate new scientific findings and put them in perspective. . . .”

The Lies of Science Writing – WSJ.com.