Very few people are great impedance matches. I was having lunch with one of them today. Jean is great at connecting people and their ideas of one tribe with another with little loss of meaning. Impedance match may not mean very much to you - certainly not if you conjure up the standard dictionary definition of impedance.
In physics and engineering it takes on a special meaning. Impedance is the opposition of the flow of energy by a system to the flow of energy from a source. If the impedance of one system is very different from that of another, power transfer from one to another suffers and there can be other nasty effects. Frequently another system is inserted between the two that matches the impedances thus maximizing power transfer.
This does mean very much to most folks and coming back home I found myself wondering about a better description of what these people do. As luck would have it I overheard a couple talking about the rain last week - "cats and dogs" said one. Now I was thinking about idioms and translations - det regner skomagerdrenge came to mind.1 A good translator would know that it's raining shoemaker's apprentices is equivalent to the American cats and dogs expression.
A good human impedance is something of a universal translator where some deeper meaning of the thoughts of one group are successfully communicated with another. Watching these people you note they are rarely expert in both fields, but are able to encourage a good flow of communication.
A few weeks ago I was at a conference with a few dozen really bright people - people from a variety of fields. One got up and invoked a comparison by saying quantum mechanics invalidated Newtonian physics.2 Later she threw in the phrase skating to where the puck's wave function will collapse. Physically both of these are inaccurate descriptions of the world we mostly live in ... they can have deeper meaning at the edges, but hearing them used like that forced me to pause and think. These are common perceptions and are undoubtedly in wider use than what a physicist would say. Many of you also happen to be "too" specialized and may have the same problem. With me it was bad as I didn't realize how maladroit I was.
It happens there is an area of physics I really want to communicate to people with non-technical backgrounds. I have this notion it may help them make some important decisions. I've worked with someone from a very different walk of life and we made a bit of progress in framing some ideas, but we came to the conclusion this is not the way to communicate to a general audience. I've been trying to learn from others who have had success sorting out this type of communication. How do these impedance matches do their thing? A few are making progress - Neil deGrasse Tyson comes to mind as does Bill Nye, Bob McDonald, Robert Krulwich and others. And there are folks like Alan Alda who are trying to teach scientists to communicate
... but check out the proposal Bill Nye's television proposal
1 I don't know much Danish, but this is such a wonderful idiom
2 Quantum mechanics is a better description of the world at very small scales. Most of the interactions we're familiar with are accurately enough described by Newtonian physics. You can use QM, but its answers are equivalent to Newton's world. It does not invalidate Newton's work.
3 We can talk about the wave function of the puck, but it is hideously complex and using classical mechanics gives us a result we can calculate. It is a cute description, but also one that is mostly useful for a variety of reasons.
No recipe this time, but a bit of kit I can recommend. Michael Rhulman's Badass Spoon. A deep perforated spoon designed for poaching eggs (Sukie loves ours), it is well suited for a variety of dishes where a deep dish perforated spoon works - reasoning with beans for example. Spendy and worth every penny.