There may be variants of this hole-to-China story but I used the one I was told as a kid on the playground*, scooter and all. That’s actually the part that really stuck in my craw. Forget the ridiculousness of the hole through the Earth, I could wrap my head around that with a bit of effort. But why on Earth was there a scooter? What manner of scooter was it and where did it come from? Why would you ride a scooter in free fall? Why are little kids such blatant liars?
Whether you caught on to it above or not, the point is if you go too far with ridiculous ideas you’ll lose your audience. But if you find that sweet-spot** and only throw in a little departure from what is known or expected, your story instantly becomes much more memorable. Minimally counterintuitive ideas (MCIs) are cognitive candy and a partial driving force behind almost all tales that survive and thrive in a culture. Mythology, fables, folk tales and obviously religions. A story with only intuitive elements is, well, boring. Or at least not as memorable. A story with too many out of whack ideas is confusing and fails to easily repeat itself in your brain which means you’re less likely to spread it around. But throw in just a little something unexpected, a little supernatural, a little counterintuitive while retaining a mostly intuitive whole, and you get: “a resurrected who-what now?”–BAM! Memory burn. We’re all susceptible.
This post was brought to you by Rutherfordium (Rf).
*I didn’t even remember it until I was thinking up the text–and then there it was, this odd memory that somehow successfully hid in my brain, unused, unneeded, unwanted, for the past 25 odd years.
1Andy Thomson talking about MCIs.
2Say you want to find out what lies exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from a given location, but you don’t own a globe or the ability to use a search engine. What do you do? You click this.-
3The above mentioned superdeep borehole.