The Explanatarium

Friday, March 07, 2014

logo for brian lehrer show explanatarium

It's time for another installment in our open-phones series "The Explanatarium" -- where you get one minute to explain something to your fellow WNYC listeners. Do you just "get" something most other people find complicated? Have you done the research and figured things out? If you think you can explain something complicated or often misunderstood - in 60 seconds or less - call in and enlighten us.

In previous installments (listen below) listeners have explained the difference between incandescent and halogen light bulbs; common misconceptions about the Protestant reformation; and how subway air conditioning works.

If you can explain something - anything - clearly and simply, call 212-433-9692 or post below. No heavy opinion, no political rants, just compelling information and succinct clarification.

Comments [8]

Steven Evangelista from Manhattan

Are charter schools public or private, or both?

It may depend on who you ask, but in the eyes of the state legislature, which governs these matters through education law, they are public schools, since they are publicly funded and free for children. They are also subject to all of the same state rules that govern district public schools.

One key "private" aspect of charters is that while they are public from the perspective of parents, they are governed differently than other public schools. Charters are governed not by an elected school board, or a panel appointed by an elected official, like other districts, but by a self-selecting board of trustees of a private, not-for-profit corporation. The trustees, like school board members elsewhere, are volunteers and there are rules against them being compensated.

A little known fact is that each charter school is its own, autonomous school district within New York State. (Hence, each charter has its own board, like each "regular" district.) Before charters, there were about 700 districts across our vast state. Now each of the 250+ charters is a single-school, additional district. That is, a public school district with one charter school in it.

Mar. 07 2014 09:19 PM
Diana Batho Clark from Chatham, New Jersey

TRANSLATOR or INTERPRETER? When a radio or TV interviewee does not speak English, you hear their comments given in English by an INTERPRETER. The media routinely refer to the expert who does this as a "translator", but that's incorrect. A translator turns the PRINTED or written text of one language into another. An interpreter turns the SPOKEN word into SPEECH in another language, either simultaneously - listening and interpreting while the speaker continues to talk - or consecutively, when the speaker pauses to allow the interpreted speech to be given. The natural aptitude, skills and training required are very different, although some interpreters also do written translations (I am one). Many courts in the USA have interpreters to interpret the Q&A of witnesses whose ability to speak and understand English is limited. Translators provide the written or digital text version of books, plays, poetry (a highly skilled specialty), legal briefs, business documents, medical records, etc. And contrary to the Italian saying, we professional translators are not traitors - we make it our business to write the most faithful version possible of the original text. And we interpreters try to speak your words in your meaning, spirit and tone - but in our own language.

Mar. 07 2014 11:00 AM

At Union Square in Manhattan there is a building at 14th and 4th Ave. that has many numbers across it. Some think it is the national debt. Not so, it is the time of day,,e.g.. 1525495867484747 is really 3:25 p.m. Military time.

And day light savings time is interesting tis weekend to see if the time changes on the clock. Because one year the time remained the same and was inaccurate. When an inquiry was made in the building below the clock, the answer was that the repair company was in North Carolina and had not done it yet.

Let's see what happens on Sunday, March 9th. Accurate time or no?

Mar. 07 2014 11:00 AM
Amy from Manhattan

10-second explanation of why this segment's name should be changed: "Explanatarium" sounds too much like "ex-planetarium"! "Explanatorium" (from "explanatory," & like the Exploratorium) makes more sense.

Mar. 07 2014 10:51 AM
bernie from bklyn

wow, that was a dud, huh? would've been more exciting to just have 10 minutes of silence.
who's your call screener? you choose a clown and a cane expert?
we really need the irish woman producer back...

Mar. 07 2014 10:47 AM

How can Gillibrand's motion in the Senate fail though it got 55 votes??

What rule STILL needs to change in order for the Senate to follow the same 'majority rule' as the rest of us? And who do we write to, donate to, vote for to get it changed?

Mar. 07 2014 10:47 AM
Karen Mullen from Manhattan

During the election, your reporter talked about the small "6-point font" on the ballot. It is not a font. A font is a typeface, like Helvetica or Times Roman. It is "6-point type." Type used to be measured in points and picas. A point is what it sounds like: a pencil point; 12 points equals one pica. Now most people use inches instead of point/pica measurements.

Mar. 07 2014 10:42 AM
John A

Have any Requests to Have explained, anyone?

Mar. 07 2014 10:29 AM

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