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In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

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The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and similes to descriptive science writing. It even gets hot and bothered over the use of that most practical parent of metaphors – the analogy. For example, in my 2012 book, Gravity’s Engines, I presented a discussion of some of the most extreme and complex astrophysical phenomena in the known universe – black holes – by deploying a whole battleship’s worth of analogy, metaphor, simile, and just about anything else I could lay my hands on (just as I did there). In some quarters this went down a treat, in others not so much.

Of course it’s easy to get carried away, slathering on a few too many layers of metaphorical comparison until the poor reader doesn’t know whether to imagine falling off a cosmological cliff or diving into a collapsing souffle of intergalactic gas (yeah, sorry, that was me). But sometimes you really have no choice.

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