Monday, August 7, 2017

Irreview, Book Review: Science Matters

After having read Robert M. Hazen's The Story of Earth (review here), I wanted to check out more from Mr. Hazen.  I love science and I like his style, so I perused his catalogue and picked out one I thought would be appropriate as I delve deeper into physics and geoscience.

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy

It is, as its name implies, a book for those whose experiences and grasps of science are limited.  It is not, however, a textbook.  There are no problems to solve, no review questions to prove that one is making progress, and no math to muddle up your basic understanding.

Covering the basics of physics, chemistry, Earth science, and biology, Science Matters is nothing more than a book that introduces basic concepts and discusses how they apply to your every day life and to science itself.

And it's a book that everyone should read.  Yes.  Everyone.

Now, that's not stating it's the best science book out there (indeed, Hazen's The Story of Earth is far superior, both in style and substance), but it's importance, combined with its egalitarian and modest presentation, cannot be denied.  In today's climate of science deniers and religious fundamentalists, something this effective in communicating basic principles and foundations of science would go a long way to eliminating stupidity.

Now, that's not stating that eliminating stupidity is even possible, but... well... yeah... never mind.

I found much of this book to be boring, but that's mostly because I am already familiar with many of the concepts found within.  Of the portions I found fascinating, I was not as familiar and many times learned something I simply hadn't known before (in all of my readings and science classes, the Miller-Urey experiments somehow completely slipped by me).  And, still, even the "boring parts" were effective refreshers.

I must admit that I found the style itself to be somewhat banal, even if friendly and easily-accessible.  This could be because it's more of an introduction book than The Story of Earth is.  It could also be due to the co-writing arrangement between Hazen and Trefil (I am debating grabbing another of their books to see if this is the case).

Anyway... if you have any interest in science, or feel that you should at least come to a discussion about science having some sort of clue, you should read this book.  EVERYONE should read this book.

Rating: 12 (Style: 3 stars; Substance: 4 stars)

New Words:
  • ex cathedra - by virtue of or in the exercise of one's office or position 
  • retrodiction - to utilize present information or ideas to infer or explain (a past event or state of affairs)
The Profound:
  • "If you can get used to the idea that the universe is what it is, regardless of what we think it should be, then you'll have no problem with relativity." - Hazen & Trefil

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