1 Apr 2007 reenoo   » (Observer)

Dear author,

if you happen to be writing a scientific book and want me to enjoy reading it, the following hints might be helpful:

Get to the point. If you write a book on neural science and want to teach me about neurobiology, concentrate on the physical and/or bio chemistry involved. "equivalent electrical circuits" are nice and perhaps useful as a separate chapter but intermingled with the relevant content that just gets in the way. I need to finish reading the book in finite time after all.

Don't try to be funny. A scientific book is not a lecture, you don't need to add jokes or pull other stunts to keep your audience awake. Of course there are authors who manage to write entertaining books that still get the content across without wasting the reader's time, but that is a rare achievement.

Don't present guesswork as hard facts. Clearly stating that you "don't know" does not make your work look bad. Quite the opposite is the case. Readers will spot weak logic.

Try to anticipate the reader's doubts and address them. Often this involves doing the math involved. E.g., stating that complex behaviours are encoded in the genome of vertebrates makes me wonder whether the genome can hold that much information. I don't have the answer. In a similar case, however, it was long believed that cortical maps in the human brain (which sensory information is represented on which part of the cortex) were encoded in the human genome which later turned out to be fully explainable by self-organization of certain neural network structures (cf. Kohonen networks).



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