This is probably just a weird facet of my personality, but I’m always surprised at the banal search term people use when they’re teaching someone to use any kind of a data base or search portal.
For instance, in one of my classes, a charming guy was showing us how to use Refworks. Refworks is a service that will take database information and save it for you, as well as creating bibliographies. Very useful. Clearly, he will be a great librarian. He was approachable, happy to help, happy to stop and answer questions, very thorough, and gave good clear instructions.
However, he was showing up how that service applies to a medical databases and he chose the search term “autism.” “Autism?” In a medical database? How dreary! Useful and important, no doubt, but not attention grabbing. Why not “giant tumors” or “bezoar” or “pica” or “Ebola” or “rare parasites?” Any one of those explodes the imagination! Who isn’t interested in bezoars? (Bezoars, if you aren’t familiar, are hard objects that are formed in the stomach, usually around some sort of fibrous material like hair. The stomach works like an oyster making a pearl, adding layer upon layer of hard material. They’re more common in ungulates like goats, but humans have gotten them too. See? You’re already interested!)
Similarly, when we were taught to use Lexus Nexus 58 incarnations ago in high school, I recall the librarian picked something along the line of “The American Revolution.” Dull, dull, dull. In a situation where you’re only showing how the system works, why not “Tiger attacks?” This is common also in school when you have to pick a report topic. The topic is “disease” or something and they teacher usually only suggests “cancer,” “HIV,” or “measles.” There’s hundreds of diseases! Let’s try to get kids a little bit interested! They probably haven’t even heard of Spanish flu, porpheria, polio, , and a host of others. Why not carelessly mention that there are still strains of in the world or that caused people’s noses to drop off?
I suppose there is some sort of interest in good taste. I feel good taste is a poor trait in fields that pride themselves on spreading information. You should be able to ask anything in a library without fear of appearing in bad taste. If you want to know what they do with the bodies when cemeteries are moved, dang gum, you ought to be able to find out! This is a trait that is all too common, I’m afraid, in venerable institutions. For instance, the in Chicago is very tasteful. It has lovely models of the planets, many beautiful antique compasses, and several displays on gravity. It is also exceedingly boring. Unfortunately, many of the questions most of us have about space are in poor taste, so they really aren’t answered. Here’s a short list of things I know people would like to know about space:
Is there a toilet on the space shuttle?
What would happen if you got trapped outside the ? Would you implode or dehydrate or boil or what?
What do astronauts do with their garbage?
What do we think would happen if a person was sucked in a ?
Is it possible to get busy in zero gravity? Has anyone tried?
Is Lika still floating around somewhere?
Can you grow food in space?
What’s up with those Hubble telescope photos with the smiley faces?
There are probably countless others, too, but not a one of them was answered last time I attended the museum. However, I did have an extremely nice chicken salad.