Call My Bluff, Science edition

You might think that the biggest challenge in scientific research is the research itself. But communicating science can be just as difficult. The words that a researcher might use to describe something might be unintelligible to a member of the general public, or someone from another research field.

Even worse, one word might have multiple meanings, which one you use will depend on which area of science you specialize in. This is often the case in the Blast research group at Imperial College London. In a previous post, which introduced members of the lab through their personal ‘ingredient lists’, we showed that the group as diverse as the number of toppings you could put on a pizza ”. Because of this, a new language, universal to the group, has to be learnt by all. Engineers must learn the precise words to describe the regenerative medicine aspect of the groups’ research while the shock physicists must understand the military phrasings.

1/365 [dazed & confused] By PhotoJonny,

We wanted to find a fun way to illustrate the potential confusion that might result from using highly specialized terms. We turned to a popular British radio, turned television, show Call My Bluff. This is a game where two three-person teams take it in turn to give three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then has to guess which is the correct definition, the other two being “bluffs”.

See if you can have a go at our Blast lab adapted version. Here are three words used in the group’s research – can you guess which is the real definition?

Word 1: mesenchymal

So which definition do you think it is?



Word 2: friedlander

So which definition do you think it is?



Word 3: Shock

So which definition do you think it is?


Coming up with fake definitions and recording them saw us reduced to hysterical laughter more than once, but there is a more serious side. Clear communication is essential in making knowledge accessible to all – for scientists and science communicators out there the correct choice of words is essential.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Creative Commons License
Call My Bluff, Science edition by The Student Blog, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This entry was posted in Inside Knowledge and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Call My Bluff, Science edition

  1. Pingback: The crucial – and amusing – importance of words | David Robertson

  2. Will says:

    I agree. Another issue to point out is that there are many foreign scientists in the US and sometimes there is the language barrier when they are explaining something. It’s not that they don’t speak English, but usually the words chosen don’t translate correctly and can cause confusion. I studied language in college and I’m no exception. I’m sure there have been many times that I use the wrong words or use direct translations instead of the actual meaning. The English language is by far the hardest as we have many different meanings for words.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>