Field of Science

“Cause the fog’s getting thicker”

A colleague who discovered that her collaborator had an alter ego as the Phytophactor asked a fundamental question, which is, why blog? A bit of contemplation brought into focus an answer that may seem narcissistic even though a nice enough botanical appellation, but the simple fact remains that the Phactor blogs because after so many years of lecturing students, of dispensing botanical nougats, it seems only natural to spread upon the WWW, albeit rather thinly, this accumulated wealth of knowledge, not to mention very well founded opinions that any reasonable person would agree with.
This brings up the apply named Fog index, a measure of readability. Any writing that seeks a close-to-universal understanding generally requires a Fog index of less than 8. According to some sources the Bible, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain all have Fog Indexes of about 6, and this surprises me greatly as the Bible has never seemed very readable, probably a translational problem, or thinking too much, and the index undoubtedly was based on the Hebrew original that any learned person would prefer. Time, Newsweek, and the Wall St. Journal average about 11, 12 being a high school reading level. You can understand the WSJ being written rather simplistically given the target audience, and weekly new magazines sold out when they started writing them for high school students to use in current events classes. But what about something smart people read like The Economist or Scientific American or The Phytophactor?
Is my purpose to be easily read by a large segment of the population? Clearly with a mighty 18 followers (up date, 19 followers as of today, a 5.6% increase!) of which somewhat over 10% are blood relatives checking for utter foolishness on the author’s part, my blog readership falls just short of being a large segment of the population, and this is well because the Fog index of the 1st paragraph above is a 24.4. Did it seem clear enough to you? The very misguided folks at Nature blogs say The Phytophactor is the 13th most popular among science blogs they list, meaning that they probably rank exactly 13 science related blogs, but certainly suggesting something more akin to a “larger segment” of readers, but what is relevant here was they claim the Fog index of my blog is 61.5! Take that Samuel Clemens! This certainly speaks well of 19 followers, and not well of a large segment of the population, but one wonders if nature blog people confused readability with the author’s age? However least you worry about inflating my ego, the more popular and up to date Nature Blogs Network ranks the Phytophactor at a very modest 448th out of 1118, but since that includes all those birdy picture blogs, a much more respectable 21st ranking among plant related blogs.
So how the sam hill can you write with a Fog index of less than 8? Darn, a two syllable (double darn, double double darn) word snuck in there and maybe sam hill was a cheat. No way me can do; Shakespeare he safe. Keep up the good work people. Eschew those blogs with Fog indexes of less than 20; they’re for everyone else.

1 comment:

Mrs Phactor said...

Thank goodness PP doesn't speak like he writes (at least at home) or I'd be lost.