Thursday, May 16, 2019

Introducing phase transitions to a layperson

I have written a first draft of a chapter introducing phase diagrams and phase transitions to a layperson. I welcome any comments and suggestions. Feel free to try it out on your aunt or uncle!


  1. I showed this to a friend, she couldn't get past the first page where you talk about liquids and gases being hard to distinguish. I think it was a too technical and didn't convince her. In her mind it is "obvious" how to distinguish them, so she complained to me that physicists just sweep things under the rug.

    1. Thanks for the very helpful feedback. Thank your friend too. I will work on simplifying.

  2. I agree with anonymous above. It is not the easiest read.

    I feel like you are trying to be a good physicist and cover all the bases. But, to do that with a limited word count, you are using complex grammar and a dense vocabulary, which is precise to you and me, but is too high level for a layperson. Maybe some hard decisions have to be made to cut out beloved topics? For example, do you absolutely *need* to discuss V vs T here and now in this chapter (or ever)?

    A good scientist might read something two or three or more times to get the full understanding. Lay people definitely don't want to go back over a paragraph. I suggest getting your figures in early to set the stage for them. For example, in the last paragraph on page 1, you could put Figure 2.1 immediately after "One method to detect phase transitions is to measure how the temperature and density of the material changes as heat is added." You will need to do some rewording but it'll put something in their mind's eye early.

    Notice too that your paragraph jumps around. Your figure has a simple chronology: heat is applied over time. Your text has heating and cooling. I think the simple chronology is better because it is like a story.

    I hope that helps!

  3. Unknown,
    Thanks for the very helpful comments and feedback. I will revise/rewrite accordingly.