(via Flowingdata)

Here we have another exercise in storytelling that helps users “get it.” Moreover, we are presented with an analogy that demonstrates quite well just how powerful metaphorical extension of concepts can be. The communication power tool that is the metaphor bridges the gap between a schema that you are familiar with and a schema that you are unfamiliar with.

A schema is a systematic knowledge representation you store in your minds, by the way. Very roughly speaking it consists of a set of pieces of information that are linked together. When a schema of walking the dog is invoked in your mind, you automatically activate information like owner and leash among other things that all pertain to your knowledge of what walking the dog means.

In this video your knowledge of walking the dog is juxtaposed with a concept where your knowledge may be less substantial. Your mind is then able to piece together the gaps in your schema of climate change with information from the familiar schema of walking the dog. How cool is that!

Well, the problem is that when you use a bad metaphor, the minds of your audience fill in the blanks of their knowledge with erroneous information. That’s why metaphors can be a powerful tool of misinformation and deceit. Promise you’ll use your powers for good, will you?

Storytelling is one of the most powerful devices to convey even highly complex material. Granted, to fit some of the most baffling questions mankind could come up with in a frame of just 60 seconds there is some amount of simplification involved. But that is a good thing in many respects: it allows those of us who are not accomplished physicists to appreciate the mind boggling scope of relativity (the scientific theory).

Case in point: Open University’s 6x60 seconds worth of famous thought experiments.