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Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Research => Topic started by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 12:58 PM

Title: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 12:58 PM
...for the planets orbiting the sun.  At first I used horses on a merry-go-round, but one reader was confused because the horses also go up and down.  Then I thought of cars on a race track, but my husband says that doesn't work because the race track isn't really circular.

Any other ideas?  Thanks!
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: AuntyBooks on September 11, 2011, 02:06 PM
Tell your husband that neither are the orbits of planets.  :-) They are elliptical.

eab
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: rab on September 11, 2011, 02:13 PM
Would electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom be too complicated of an analogy? (Also elliptical orbits, I think?)I don't know what the context is here, but would it work to describe a child twirling with a ball on a string that goes around her like a planet around the sun? Probably not so good, either, but maybe it will give you an idea.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: jeffman on September 11, 2011, 02:18 PM
If it's the right kind of story, you could get some humor out of people trying and failing miserably to come up with an analogy.

rab, you totally need to review electrons. Not even close.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: rab on September 11, 2011, 02:31 PM
Really, Jeff? I know I'm an idiot, but I did look up the picture of an atom in the American Heritage Dictionary, and there are these protons and electrons going round and round the nucleus. Are you telling me I need a new dictionary?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 02:32 PM
Rab--I need something along the lines of merry-go-round, a simple everyday object.  Probably not a good idea to use a more complicated analogy.  And electrons don't really "go around" anything, in spite of what the dictionary says.  (It's much weirder than that--electrons don't actually have a position until measured.)

AB--My husband took physics from Richard Feynman, so I'm guessing he knows that.  Anyway, the orbits of the planets are only slightly elliptical.  

But there must be something.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: rab on September 11, 2011, 02:35 PM
Could you use an archery target, with all those rings around the bull's eye? (This will be my last attempt at this analogy, because of the risk of embarrassing myself even further. Besides, I'm just avoiding class preparation for tomorrow.)
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 02:39 PM
Hey rab, please don't be embarrassed!  I really, REALLY appreciate your help.  It's only natural that you'd think that about electrons because that's based on a diagram you frequently see.  Obviously even the dictionary people got it wrong.

If you're interested, here's the real situation:

http://www.jimloy.com/physics/electron.htm

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: valeriek on September 11, 2011, 03:02 PM
If not a carousel, what about another theme park ride, like those swings that hang from chains and spin around the pole in the center, or the Tea Cups at Disney which spin around the center but also each can spin themselves like planets. (sort of, lol.) also, a ferris wheel, although it's vertical, so probably not what you're looking for.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 03:07 PM
Omigosh, those teacups!  I lost my lunch after a session with those teacups when I was about 11.  But I'm not sure kids all over the U.S. would have had that experience (and also kids in Canada or Europe).  Also, I seem to remember that they don't actually go around a common center.  Don't they whip you across every once in awhile?

Thanks Valerie!
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: mariwho on September 11, 2011, 03:13 PM
What about a bunch of pets leashed to a single pole? Each leash is a different length, just as the planets are at different distances from the sun. Each pet is a different size...

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: EAD on September 11, 2011, 03:33 PM
How about bees around a hive?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Joni on September 11, 2011, 03:39 PM
I think the objection to race cars/tracks is specious, so I was going to suggest racers at a track meet (or running around the gym, which is somewhat rounder), because:

1. A lot of kids have visceral experience with the idea that the kid on the outside lane goes the farthest, and with the outward inertia
2. It's intuititive that some are going faster than others.

But I'll keep thinking! :)
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Jeanne Ryan (Serenissima) on September 11, 2011, 03:41 PM
The first thing that comes to mind is a poi ball, but most folks probably don't know what they are. Maybe a cowboy swinging a lasso? I realize it's a length of rope carving a circle through space, but just thought I'd throw that out there.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Joni on September 11, 2011, 03:42 PM
Satellites around the earth? I guess that's too similar to even qualify as an analogy.

Hoola hoops around a body?

Tetherball around a post? (Do kids still play tetherball?)

Food on a lazy susan? (I guess not enough kids will know what a lazy susan is)

The more I think, the more I think your merry-go-round analogy might be the best! Tough luck for the up and down person... ;)
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: jeffman on September 11, 2011, 03:49 PM
Sorry, rab, if that came off snarky. I keep forgetting no one here knows me yet. Here's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orbital_s1.png) an even better illustration of one kind of electron orbital. This one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hydrogen_Density_Plots.png) is more complete, but you have to squint your eyes to picture all the orbitals in 3-D.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: JennaWren on September 11, 2011, 03:58 PM
I thought of tetherball too!  But I don't know if kids still play it or not. :biggrin:  My 8 yo son knows, but we don't have one and I've never seen one anywhere I've taken him!

Go-kart races?

Salad spinner?

The outer edges of a pinwheel?  Or a similar glow-in-the-dark contraption kids get at fairs/festivals/etc.?

Sorry -- just a few off the top of my head while I wrangle kids for bedtime....
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 04:13 PM
Honestly, I'm so out of it these days.  Excuse me for asking a dumb question, but do kids still do go-kart racing?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: JennaWren on September 11, 2011, 04:55 PM
LOL, Besty, I thought of it just because one of my son's friends mentioned today that that's what they'd be doing at his upcoming b-day party!  There are a few courses around here -- for kids and grownups too! Who knew??   But, there is also the video game connection -- Mario Kart for DS and Wii (and others, I presume) are popular games with the 8-and-under set...
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: KatyD on September 11, 2011, 04:59 PM
All I can say, Ellen, is that you have one PICKY reader. <ducking and running>  ;-)

 :run4hills :run4hills :run4hills

Katy
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Artemesia on September 11, 2011, 06:24 PM
what about a maypole? similar to a tetherball, but you can have the right number of kids holding ribbons? only, I guess the orbits would shorten as the kids go around...  :shame

dude...this is hard.





Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 11, 2011, 06:31 PM
You better run, Katy, or I'll pelt you with a snowball!

(It wasn't just you.)

Thanks everyone.  What a variety of responses!  I really appreciate it--and I think there are some that might work in this list.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: jenklein on September 11, 2011, 07:06 PM
How about the hands around a clock?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: steph on September 11, 2011, 07:23 PM
What about a roller coaster ?

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Pons on September 11, 2011, 07:48 PM
I was thinking of an old fashioned record being played. The sun would be the spindle in the center and the planets would be placed a different distances on the record going out towards the rim. Of course, children today aren't going to know what a record is, but would the same idea work with a CD or a DVD? If they could imagine a very large CD with the sun in the middle and planets orbiting father out, it might work.

Laurel
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 11, 2011, 09:31 PM
How about a reference to celestial spheres?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 11, 2011, 09:34 PM
Why not just say something like "The planets orbit the sun like balls being swung around on the end of a string/rope"?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: AuntyBooks on September 11, 2011, 09:41 PM
Actually, I meant that the racetrack analogy was good enough.  :yup No analogy is going to be perfect. BUT a racetrack has different bodies in different lanes (orbits) traveling different distances around the center.  I'd just say 'imagine the planets on a racetrack around the sun. Some run faster and some run slower. Some have further to go to make it all the way around.'

eab
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: ecb on September 12, 2011, 12:07 PM
I'm with Kersten (ie, racetrack is probably your best bet). Since the entire *point* of an analogy is to make something hard-to-understand more approachable by comparison to something familiar (or, in the case of literary analogies, to spark insight through fresh and unique comparisons), it's essential that the analogy be simple, clear, familiar, and easily pictured. "Only slightly elliptical" is still elliptical, and a racetrack is something kids all over will be familiar with. You don't want something so tortured you actually make the analogy MORE difficult than the thing you're describing.

And for whatever it's worth, to me there's a difference between a playground merry-go-round (http://www.ocmodshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/merry-go-round.jpg), and a carousel (http://www.wisdomportal.com/Poems2009/Carousel(750x510).jpg) at an amusement park... and if you give the context (playground), kids will know which one you mean.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: AdamV on September 12, 2011, 01:13 PM
How about musical chairs? It has multiple bodies orbiting a fixed center.

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 12, 2011, 06:11 PM
I'm with Kersten (ie, racetrack is probably your best bet). Since the entire *point* of an analogy is to make something hard-to-understand more approachable by comparison to something familiar (or, in the case of literary analogies, to spark insight through fresh and unique comparisons), it's essential that the analogy be simple, clear, familiar, and easily pictured. "Only slightly elliptical" is still elliptical, and a racetrack is something kids all over will be familiar with. You don't want something so tortured you actually make the analogy MORE difficult than the thing you're describing.

And for whatever it's worth, to me there's a difference between a playground merry-go-round (http://www.ocmodshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/merry-go-round.jpg), and a carousel (http://www.wisdomportal.com/Poems2009/Carousel(750x510).jpg) at an amusement park... and if you give the context (playground), kids will know which one you mean.

But with a racetrack, the cars are under their own power. Not so with bodies orbiting the sun.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Joni on September 12, 2011, 09:25 PM
But with a racetrack, the cars are under their own power. Not so with bodies orbiting the sun.

You're joking, I hope. 'Cause the planets don't have drivers, either! There's a size difference. And a speed difference. And no checkered flag...

It's a visual analogy, not an identical parallel. Sheesh. :D

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 12, 2011, 10:37 PM
You're joking, I hope. 'Cause the planets don't have drivers, either! There's a size difference. And a speed difference. And no checkered flag...

It's a visual analogy, not an identical parallel. Sheesh. :D



Sorry, the racetrack thing just doesn't work for me.

It's hard for me to give a good suggestion anyway because I don't know the context Besty is using.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Woods on September 13, 2011, 04:01 AM
How about an umbrella?

Kids know what an umbrella is, and they love spinning around an open umbrella.

--Woods
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: jeffman on September 13, 2011, 05:31 AM
I'd go with ball on the end of the string. It looks better is more factually accurate.

The ball is the planet.
The place where you hold the string is the sun.
The string is the gravitational attraction that keeps the ball from flying away.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Joni on September 13, 2011, 09:08 AM
If there was ever a time for transmedia, this is clearly it.

Tell the editor you need to embed an animation! :) Then you won't need an imperfect analogy in words. You can just SHOW it!
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 13, 2011, 05:27 PM
LOL, Joni.  Well, you're right.  I think eventually this book is going to need embedded animation--when dealing with spatial things like the solar system animation gets the point across so much better.  A picture really is worth 1000 words. BUT, at the moment, I don't have that option.

It's interesting.  I thought of racetrack too, but every guy I've mentioned it to thinks it's a horrible idea.  Must be a gender thing.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 13, 2011, 05:35 PM
LOL, Joni.  Well, you're right.  I think eventually this book is going to need embedded animation--when dealing with spatial things like the solar system animation gets the point across so much better.  A picture really is worth 1000 words. BUT, at the moment, I don't have that option.

It's interesting.  I thought of racetrack too, but every guy I've mentioned it to thinks it's a horrible idea.  Must be a gender thing.

What is this for, if you don't mind me asking? A non-fiction book about astronomy?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 13, 2011, 06:32 PM
Yes.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Tracy Abell / Vinca on September 13, 2011, 06:48 PM
Just to further confuse things, Ellen, my engineer guy thinks the racetrack idea is the best.

You're welcome. HA.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 13, 2011, 07:09 PM
Yes.

I don't like the racetrack idea because of a couple of things. There is nothing that functions as the center point/sun. Racetracks can be just about any shape--kids play a lot of racing games and the tracks go all over the place. This could be the very reason it doesn't sit well with me.

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 13, 2011, 07:16 PM
I think you nailed it, Wonky.  I think guys realize that there are a variety of shapes because they've all played those games.

Oh well...back to the drawing board. 

Thanks, Vinca. 
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 13, 2011, 07:56 PM
I think you nailed it, Wonky.  I think guys realize that there are a variety of shapes because they've all played those games.

Oh well...back to the drawing board. 

Thanks, Vinca. 

You don't like "ball swinging at the end of a string"? The ball is round and swings around a center point (end of stick, hand, etc).
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 13, 2011, 08:22 PM
I like it as a concept, but I need something simpler.  It doesn't work in the context of the sentence.  The sentence is:  "...the planets go around the sun like ________.  I can't stop the narrative and spend a lot of time on this, as I'm trying to get to another point.

What I want to achieve here is a quick visual image.  "Ball swinging at the end of the string" doesn't do it unless you also mention that the person holding the string is swinging the ball around--and that's way too complicated.  (After all, if you don't add that last part, it could be a pendulum.)

Obviously, I'll have to choose between a "cars on a race track" or "horses on a merry-go-round," though neither is perfect.

Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: AuntyBooks on September 13, 2011, 08:52 PM
I like the repetitions of 'c's and 'r's in "cars on a race track"  Makes it fun to read aloud.

:) eab
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 13, 2011, 09:08 PM
Thanks, Aunty.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Wonky on September 13, 2011, 09:09 PM
I like it as a concept, but I need something simpler.  It doesn't work in the context of the sentence.  The sentence is:  "...the planets go around the sun like ________.  I can't stop the narrative and spend a lot of time on this, as I'm trying to get to another point.

What I want to achieve here is a quick visual image.  "Ball swinging at the end of the string" doesn't do it unless you also mention that the person holding the string is swinging the ball around--and that's way too complicated.  (After all, if you don't add that last part, it could be a pendulum.)

Obviously, I'll have to choose between a "cars on a race track" or "horses on a merry-go-round," though neither is perfect.



Hmmm. Well if you really want to use the race track, how about runners instead of cars?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: ecb on September 14, 2011, 11:57 AM
You don't like "ball swinging at the end of a string"? The ball is round and swings around a center point (end of stick, hand, etc).

My problem is that this isn't a common enough thing to make a good analogy. Do most people have balls-on-strings just lying about, and then stand there and spin them round themselves for fun? It's a more accurate image, maybe, but it's not a good analogy. (You'd also have to explain that the string represents the gravitational pull of the sun, since there's not a physical, material "string" attaching the planets to the center of their orbits, AND you'd need it to be multiple balls-on-strings-of-different-lengths being spun at the same time [without the strings tangling]... which is just getting way more complicated.)

At this point I'm voting "no" on using an analogy altogether! Can you just rework the sentence, Ellen?
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 14, 2011, 12:09 PM
Thanks, ecb.  Runners on a race track is nice--it's got alliteration going for it (as AB pointed out about the whole race track thing).  Have most four-year-olds seen runners on a race track do you think?

I suppose I could re-do the sentence.  

I appreciate all the help everyone's given me, but this is taking up everybody's time. 
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Liz Straw on September 14, 2011, 03:31 PM
This may be way off but if you are talking about four year olds.  They have probably all seen those round kiddie pools.  Kids love to throw things in the pool and so. . .

If you talk about several kids standing at different lengths from the pool, sort of like musical chairs and walking around it, you would have a solar system.

The planets with rings - hula hoops.   :paperbag

Other wise I think most four year olds have seen car races and people jogging.  Many may go to pre-school and have seen a track.  Movies and television show them worlds we aren't even aware of -  I like the people running.


Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: 217mom on September 14, 2011, 04:38 PM
I keep thinking of a roulette game, Betsy. Not a good analogy for kid-lit though. Maybe not a good one all together.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 14, 2011, 04:55 PM
I am SO lucky to know you all guys.  You always come through--no matter what the problem.

Thanks, 217.  And thanks, Liz. 
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Pons on September 16, 2011, 11:20 AM
Quote
At this point I'm voting "no" on using an analogy altogether! Can you just rework the sentence, Ellen?

Maybe it's time for a good illustration to carry the burden.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: CarrieF on September 22, 2011, 06:52 PM
I agree with no analogy. When I did some science writing a few years ago, working closely with scientists from the Museum of Natural History, they were VERY opposed to using analogies. Their feeling was that no analogy is 100% accurate and therefore presents wrong concepts. As a writer, it was frustrating, but I saw their point.

Good luck with this, it's a tough one!

Carrie
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 22, 2011, 07:24 PM
I see your point, ECF.  But without animation, there's just no way to convey some astronomical concepts without using analogies.  But I did check them with a woman astronomer at Yale, and she said my analogies worked fine (even the merry-go-round).

To illustrate with one example--I wanted to get across the fact that Venus is a HOT planet.  I can't really do that unless I can say something like:  "Venus is hotter than the hottest oven you can imagine."  For older kids who understand temperature, I could just give the numbers.  But for young children, analogies help them imagine something that they don't have any reference for.
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: CarrieF on September 22, 2011, 08:03 PM
Oh, I totally agree with you. I just remember the scientists I worked with being very against them. I can definitely see both sides of the argument!

Carrie
Title: Re: Need an analogy...
Post by: Betsy on September 22, 2011, 09:34 PM
My husband has a phd. in applied math and his work requires him to be exact. Obviously, scientists and mathematicians are judged on the rigor of their work.  So I can understand why some dislike analogy and metaphor when writing for a scientific audience.  Also, I think it's true that a metaphor can mislead and take the place of a true explanation. 

But nature can be described poetically as well as precisely.  And I think each writer has to find his or her own way of balancing the two.

Even Einstein used metaphors:

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree."