I used to think I’d find myself in Iceland. That flying across an ocean I had never crossed before, actually seeing the landscapes that were set as my computer background would unlock my insecurities. But then, maybe, I just wanted to hear the language I tried to learn spoken by a barista holding three lemons, who was trying to tell us not to plug our laptops into the outlets on the ceiling, because doing so would short out the entire building.
The food labels in the grocery store in Reykjavik were in Icelandic, which surprised me at first. I mean, a jar of peanut butter looked like a jar of peanut butter regardless of how the jar is labeled. It took a second though—a short time where the jar of peanut butter wasn’t peanut butter anymore. It was hnetusmjör. In that moment, between when I read hnetusmjör and saw the peanut drawn on the jar, I felt like the world and my perception of the world had shifted out of alignment.
As if, you were Schrödinger, lifting up the lid of the thought-experiment box, expecting to find that the cat is either dead or alive, and instead you find that it’s still both and the laws with which you observed the world through were wrong.
An English professor visited my college to give a talk about a volcanic eruption to geologists. I met him in a poetry classroom, where students asked him “how do you write about science?”
And he said, “well, you have to translate it, right? You have to take what the scientists are saying so that the everyday person can understand it and make sense of it.
I asked Nick what he thought of that, and he said that it’s the same way getting new students to understand science. That you have to use analogies, similes, to help students understand topics. You can tell them that the Mid-Atlantic ridge is like a Snickers bar. The crust breaks, while the mantle stretches out forming a caramel rope. Then they learn how to talk about the brittle crust and ductile mantle without the use of similes.