Shorter is better: is shorter better?

Quick post for today. Last night I created my first video for 101qs.com. It wasn’t until after I had edited it and got it uploaded to Vimeo that I realized that in order to submit to 101qs it must be shorter than a minute. So I did some deep cuts and made a minute-long version.

There’s something frustrating, yet probably ultimately good, in being forced to make concise entry events. I generally adhere to Dan’s “ask the shortest question possible” mindset (despite me being terribly long-winded).  I’ll post both versions here for comparison and discussion. Do you feel that the minute-version is a better driver of inquiry? Does it move the narrative along too quickly?

Personally, though I was initially frustrated (how could I possibly chop off nearly half of my incredible videography?!! I’M THE STEVEN SODERBERGH OF MATH VIDEOS.) I ultimately was grateful to have that constraint. I need constraints. So my wonder is did it ultimately force a better product? (There’s probably lots of things that would have led to a better product, but nevertheless.)

Ice Egg

Ice Egg: Act 1 from Geoff Krall on Vimeo.

Ice Egg (Director’s Cut)

Act1 – Ice Egg from Geoff Krall on Vimeo.

Update (1/31)

Christopher makes a great point. I made a couple additional versions (just in case you haven’t heard enough of “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” in the background). One gets rid of the phone call – the narrative, so to speak. The other gets rid of everything and gets right down to brass tax. At this point, I’m curious as to which is the “best” version.

“No phone” cut

Act1 – Ice Egg from Geoff Krall on Vimeo.

“Brass tax” cut

Act1 from Geoff Krall on Vimeo.

 

Update 8/9/2013:

Some folks are confused as to the motivation for having an ice balloon. See here for the details.

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11 Responses to Shorter is better: is shorter better?

  1. Christopher says:

    You can get this down much, much further, I think. The party narrative establishes your motivation, but I didn’t get it on first view. Yet still I wondered how long each would take to melt.

    Here’s what I think you need: (1) a way to convince the viewer it’s the same amount of water in both cases, and (2) pulling from the freezer and putting them in the punch. That’s it. Or so I think.

  2. emergentmath says:

    That’s a good call. Maybe I’ll make a 30 second version. I just wanted to show off my amazing acting skillz.

    Initially I tried using a measuring thing, but, as it turns out: you can’t fill a balloon with water via pouring out of a cup. You need some pressure behind it a la a faucet. That was a huge bummer. There’s probably a whole other problem in there as well…

    Thanks for the feedback!

    — Geoff

    • Eric says:

      You can if you use a funnel.

    • Eric says:

      Shortest version is the best.
      You can fill a balloon from a measuring cup/jug if you use a funnel.
      You want a real time clock imposed on the footage. Then timelapse/speed it up in your editing programme.

  3. Dan Meyer says:

    Fun idea, Geoff.

    “The party narrative establishes your motivation, but I didn’t get it on first view. Yet still I wondered how long each would take to melt.”

    This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night about quote real world math unquote, where we try to add some kind of backstory that is ultimately unnecessary or invalidates the whole exercise. Not saying that’s happening here. Just that I’ve seen it happen often enough that my definition of “real” is quickly sliding over towards “just show the students something they’ll wonder about, given the content of their everyday lives.”

    • emergentmath says:

      Thanks for the comments Dan! Yeah.. I’m not sure this is a particularly compelling narrative for sure (heyyyy high schoolers! do you like parties with PUNCH! whoooooaaa!) – so maybe not the best test case. I’ll probably scrap the silly phone bit. (However, I did want to pay homage to Alton Brown’s “Good Eats”, where I originally got the ice egg idea from).

      However, I think sometimes it can be compelling to set up the scene a little bit. In particular I’m thinking of your hurricane Irene preparedness video (also, ice related). The small bit at the beginning perhaps amps up the importance and/or tension. But, as I indicated, an impending hurricane is more tension-building than a party that involves punch.

      –Geoff

  4. IMO the shorter cut is better. Everything extra seems distracting from the main purpose. I can echo the fact that the phone call threw me off, and is probably a distraction from the question (for my I was trying to figure out what was the point of that, rather than just watching the video).

    My question now becomes, what is act 2? We want to find which will melt faster (or rather for your sake which will stay cold longest), what do we do with that? Kids make experiments? Find optimal ice cube shape? Is there a thermodynamic law about this stuff that I am unaware of that we are trying to motivate?

    I’ve never investigated this before so I feel like I have a mind of a student with it, and I just want to say, “Okay so we time how long it takes to melt, then we know.” Is there more to it than this?

    I like it and I really am curious where you are going with it.

    • emergentmath says:

      So what I’m hearing is we’re all in love with the phone call bit. (/sarcasm) Point taken, everyone. See? This is why you make your work public. 🙂

      Anyway – as for Act 2 I have two potential routes:
      1) Simply giving the dimensions of the ice things.
      2) Showing some time-lapse stuff.

      Tim, I kind of want to indulge your curiosity but basically the thermodynamic gist is this: an ice-object will melt more slowly the lower it’s Surface Area to Volume ratio is. A sphere is the perfect shape for minimal melting. For this reason I’d love to have an actual cubical ice shape as well as a perfect sphere, but alas, stupid real world and non-technical experimental devices.

  5. David Wees says:

    I also think the shortest cut works the best. I had a different initial question rather than the melting though. Obviously the two volumes are equal, so my first question was, what is the volume? Clearly you wouldn’t need to freeze the ice to figure out this, so I followed up with a second question.

    The melting question was the second one I had, and I thought that this was going to be complicated by what looked like cracking in the rectangular prism shaped ice when it was dropped into the hot water. I think that this would be an interesting experiment, but it would be difficult to answer without a wide variety of either different shapes to test, or a single shape in a wide variety of sizes.

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