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Processes

To make scientific and technical processes sufficiently simple to appeal to the layman, is another problem for the writer of popular articles

To make scientific and technical processes sufficiently simple to appeal to the layman, is another problem for the writer of popular articles. A narrative-descriptive presentation that enables the reader to visualize and follow the process, step by step, as though it were taking place before his eyes, is usually the best means of making it both understandable and interesting.

In a special feature story on methods of exterminating mosquitoes, a writer in the Detroit News undertook to trace the life history of a mosquito. In order to popularize these scientific details, he describes a "baby mosquito" in a concrete, informal manner, and, as he tells the story of its life, suggests or points out specifically its likeness to a human being.

The baby mosquito is a regular little water bug. You call him a "wiggler" when you see him swimming about in a puddle. His head is wide and flat and his eyes are set well out at the sides, while in front of them he has a pair of cute little horns or feelers. While the baby mosquito is brought up in the water, he is an air-breather and comes to the top to breathe as do frogs and musk-rats and many other water creatures of a higher order.

Like most babies the mosquito larva believes that his mission is to eat as much as he can and grow up very fast. This he does, and if the weather is warm and the food abundant, he soon outgrows his skin.

He proceeds to grow a new skin underneath the old one, and when he finds himself protected, he bursts out of his old clothes and comes out in a spring suit. This molting process occurs several times within a week or two, but the last time he takes on another form. He is then called a pupa, and is in a strange transition period during which he does not eat. He now slowly takes on the form of a true mosquito within his pupal skin or shell.

After two or three days, or perhaps five or six, if conditions are not altogether favorable, he feels a great longing within him to rise to something higher. His tiny shell is floating upon the water with his now winged body closely packed within. The skin begins to split along the back and the true baby mosquito starts to work himself out. It is a strenuous task for him and consumes many minutes.

At last he appears and sits dazed and exhausted, floating on his old skin as on a little boat, and slowly working his new wings in the sunlight, as if to try them out before essaying flight. It is a moment of great peril. A passing ripple may swamp his tiny craft and shipwreck him to become the prey of any passing fish or vagrant frog. A swallow sweeping close to the water's surface may gobble him down. Some ruthless city employe may have flooded the surface of the pond with kerosene, the merest touch of which means death to a mosquito. Escaping all of the thousand and one accidents that may befall, he soon rises and hums away seeking whom he may devour.

A mechanical process, that of handling milk at a model dairy farm, was effectively presented by Constance D. Leupp in an article entitled, "The Fight for Clean Milk," printed in the Outlook. By leading "you," the reader, to the spot, as it were, by picturing in detail what "you" would see there, and then by following in story form the course of the milk from one place to another, she succeeded in making the process clear and interesting.

Here at five in the afternoon you may see long lines of sleek, wellgroomed cows standing in their cement-floored, perfectly drained sheds. The walls and ceilings are spotless from constant applications of whitewash, ventilation is scientifically arranged, doors and windows are screened against the flies. Here the white-clad, smoothshaven milkers do their work with scrubbed and manicured hands.

You will note that all these men are studiously low-voiced and gentle in movement; for a cow, notwithstanding her outward placidity, is the most sensitive creature on earth, and there is an old superstition that if you speak roughly to your cow she will earn no money for you that day.

As each pail is filled it is carried directly into the milk-house; not into the bottling-room, for in that sterilized sanctum nobody except the bottler is admitted, but into the room above, where the pails are emptied into the strainer of a huge receptacle. From the base of this receptacle it flows over the radiator in the bottling-room, which reduces it at once to the required temperature, thence into the mechanical bottler. The white-clad attendant places a tray containing several dozen empty bottles underneath, presses a lever, and, presto! they are full and not a drop spilled. He caps the bottles with another twist of the lever, sprays the whole with a hose, picks up the load and pushes it through the horizontal dumb-waiter, where another attendant receives it in the packing-room. The second man clamps a metal cover over the pasteboard caps and packs the bottles in ice.

Less than half an hour is consumed in the milking of each cow, the straining, chilling, bottling, and storing of her product.

Reference book: How To Write Special Feature Articles

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