Using Whipped Cream To Top Off Your Key Point

Where’s the whipped cream? That’s what astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wondered. The famed former host of the Cosmos series on PBS and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City had just ordered a nightcap: hot chocolate with whipped cream.

The waiter claimed the dollop of whipped cream had sunk in the cup before he could serve it.

Dr. Tyson saw a teaching opportunity.

He asked the waiter to bring over a dollop of whipped cream so they both could see how fast it would sink.

Of course Dr. Tyson had the laws of physics on his side. He knew that whipped cream has a “low density and floats on all liquids that humans consume,” as Mr. Tyson noted in his book Astrophysics For People In a Hurry. He told the waiter either someone forgot to put the whipped cream on his hot chocolate or the universal laws of physics were different in this restaurant.

“Unconvinced, the waiter defiantly brought over a dollop of whipped cream to demonstrate his claim,” Dr. Tyson writes. “After bobbing once or twice, the whipped cream rose to the top, safely afloat.”

The whipped cream scenario illustrates how leaders use everyday situations to make counter intuitive ideas more readily understood.

For example, in 2015 the Cincinnati Bengals professional football team kicked a winning field goal in overtime. The football careened off the upright and deflected safely to the right. Dr. Tyson, knowing that all football fields are oriented north and south to avoid sun blindness, tweeted a quick science lesson:

“The winning overtime field goal was likely enabled by a 1/3 inch deflection to the right caused by earth’s rotation.

But in 2023 when the Kansas City Chiefs missed afield goal attempt when the ball careened to the left, Dr. Tyson tweeted :

“Can’t blame Earth’s rotation for that missed field goal by the Kansas City @Chiefs. Coriolis forces in the northern hemisphere will shift airborne projectiles only to the right, and the ball boinged off the left upright — for the miss.

For more ideas on how leaders use everyday situations to make counter intuitive ideas more readily understood, consider picking up a copy of SPEAKING Like a Leader, a Leadership Mints Series Book.

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