Multimedia Abstraction

I want to call out something neat I saw on astro-ph the other day. Linda Watson and collaborators posted a paper, Properties of Bulgeless Disk Galaxies II. Star Formation as a Function of Circular Velocity, with the following comment:

23 pages, 13 figures, 4 tables. Accepted for publication in ApJ. For a brief video explaining the main results of this paper, see this http URL

Indeed, if you follow the link, you can see a nice 5-minute video of Linda explaining the gist of the work, a sort of video abstract.

I like to think that my reading comprehension skills are pretty OK but I often scan abstracts on interesting-sounding but unfamiliar topics only to later realize that I’ve absorbed absolutely nothing from them. I think the video alternative is great for this situation, for the same reason that we’ve got lectures as well as textbooks: there’s something about watching a person talk out an idea that’s evidently a lot easier for the brain to follow, even if reading is more efficient.

It’s also nice to put a human face on the work. Even for those topics that I know more about, where the written abstract doesn’t go in one ear (eye?) and out the other, I think it’d be fun to see the author’s body language and maybe glean a bit about their approach to the topic. Hopefully Linda’s paper will be the start of a trend!