Using simple models to explain complicated concepts – the timing of the transit of Venus

Pic: Gestrgangleri. Wikipedia.

It’s a lovely sunny winter’s morning in Melbourne, and we just went outside to view the transit of Venus. (Safely of course – projecting the image onto white paper through a lens).

Afterwards we came back inside with all sorts of questions.  In particular, why is the timing of this so odd and counter intuitive?

Years of transit of Venus: 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, 2004, 2012, 2117, 2125

Fortunately we found a terrific explanation of why this is so, set out by Nick Duckoff,  in a simple 2 minute video.

So clear and understandable.  Especially when compared to the static explanation by Astronomers without Borders on which the video was based, which is accurate but not as compelling or understandable, simply because of the medium.

As evaluators, maybe we need to think more carefully about whether video explanations of complicated concepts might significantly help communicate ideas, engage stakeholders, and help intended users be more prepared to act on the findings.  Especially when there are counter-intuitive concepts they need to understand – such as geometric progression of environmental degradation – in order to be able to use evaluations properly.


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