Thursday, September 26, 2013

My MOOC Blog, Day 3: Editing Oscar's New Legs

I'm sprinting through the course. It's only Day 3, but I've already watched all the modules for Weeks 1 and 2, taken all the pertinent quizzes, and finished the homework. I'll probably be slowing down, though, because by the end of the Week 2 material, the problems were getting harder. Here's a passage we were asked to make shorter and clearer.

"The lower external joint moments at the knee and hip joints, the lower mechanical work at the knee joint during stance, the lower energy loss in the prosthetic ankle joint, and the lower total body mechanical work in each ground contact leads to the assumption that running with dedicated prostheses allows the double transtibial amputee sprinter to run at the same level of performance as able-bodied controls, albeit, at lower metabolic costs."

That's a 72-word sentence. It's not only opaque, it's built upside down. The point, buried at the end, is that a person with both legs amputated below the knee, like Oscar Pistorius, can with the right prostheses sprint as fast as a person with two intact legs, and in fact, can do it using less energy. How do they do that? With all the advantages created by their new blades, painstakingly enumerated in the first half of the sentence, to a reader who doesn't yet know why he's being told all this stuff.

My version, in only 49 words, was this: "Even after double amputations below the knee, with the right prostheses, a sprinter can run as fast as an able-bodied runner, and use less energy doing so, because these prostheses offer lower moments at knee and hip joints, less mechanical knee work, and less energy consumed by ground contact."

The course, after showing me a model answer but assuring me that I did not have to have matched it exactly, asked if I thought my version had improved upon the original. I said it had.

Two ways this is different from my first time through college: I’m doing all my homework, turning it in early, and then getting to grade my own quizzes. It’s a thrill.

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