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Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy [Paperback]

Robert M. Hazen , James Trefil

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Book Description

June 2 2009 0307454584 978-0307454584 2nd
Knowledge of the basic ideas and principles of science is fundamental to cultural literacy. But most books on science are often too obscure or too specialized to do the general reader much good.

Science Matters is a rare exception-a science book for the general reader that is informative enough to be a popular textbook for introductory courses in high school and college, and yet well-written enough to appeal to general readers uncomfortable with scientific jargon and complicated mathematics. And now, revised and expanded for the first time in nearly two decades, it is up-to-date, so that readers can enjoy Hazen and Trefil's refreshingly accessible explanations of the most recent developments in science, from particle physics to biotechnology.

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Review

“Lucid and lively. Hazen and Trefil have a particular genius for picturing even formidably abstract ideas in concrete images. . . . Science Matters is as good as they get”
The Washington Post Book World

“Hazen and Trefil [are] unpretentious—good, down-to-earth, we-can-explain-anything science teachers, the kind you wish you had but never did.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A book that even scientifically literate readers can consult . . . if they find their recollection of relativity or quantum mechanics getting shaky.”
New Scientist

“Ordered and accessible, never daunting, never jumping ahead of itself. . . . If you've always thought you could never understand science, Hazen and Trefil will show you you're wrong.”
Washington Monthly

“A thoughtful and concise overview of what the citizen needs to know about science.”
—E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

“Science does matter, as this book shows.”
—Isaac Asimov

“A model of clarity and coherence.”
—Leon M. Lederman, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics

“Lucid. . . . Will cause readers to wonder what was so confusing about the Periodic Table of Elements they confronted in their school days.”
Publishers Weekly

“A first rate exposition-thorough, accessible, and entertaining-of the rudiments of scientific knowledge.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A confident overview of the fundamentals of science. . . . Comprehensible and carefully paced.”
Booklist

About the Author

ROBERT M. HAZEN is the author of more than 350 articles and 20 books on earth science, materials science, origins of life, history and music. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he received the Mineralogical Society of America Award, the Ipatief Prize, the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and other awards for his research and writing. Hazen is a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and is Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University. His recent books include Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins and The Sciences: An Integrated Approach (with James Trefil).

JAMES TREFIL, Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University, is the author of over 40 books and 100 articles in professional journals. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Economic Forum. He is the recipient of the Andrew Gemant Award (American institute of Physics), the Westinghouse and Subaru Awards (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and the 2008 Science Writing Award (American Physical Society). His most recent books are Why Science and The Sciences: An Integrated Approach (with Robert Hazen).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great starting point Aug. 22 2011
By MV - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have no science background except my own reading and after struggling through some higher level science books I thought I should try something more basic as a primer. I wanted something that would be particularly good at introducing the basic laws of physics particularly and that also took into account the complexities (Hiesenberg's uncertainty principle, Einstein's spacetime curvature, etc. and didn't water things down so much that I would miss important qualifications).

This book served its purpose. I was more interested in the physics and chemistry chapters than the earth science, which seemed to stick with me from high school. But, I did read through those as well.

Basic, readable primer for science principles. The version I had was published in 1990 but still seems relatively up to date on the controversies in the field. Seemed to provide a very clear cursory view of basic chemistry, fundamental laws and an introduction to quantum physics. Lots of analogy to help readers understand more difficult concepts. One of the best introductions I've seen that is able to take some really complex stuff and make it readable.

Makes a good read before diving into a more complex science book.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science Matters Will Make You Scientifically Literate Sept. 14 2009
By Regis Schilken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Do you believe the hype about UFOs? Do you think it's just a matter of time until some clever inventor builds a machine that will allow us to reach the nearest star and its planetary system? Are you a believer that God created the entire universe in seven precious days?

If you engage in conversation in a cafeteria, or on the bus/subway, or at a PTA meeting, or at an office work conference, or wherever you happen to meet another individual, what you say about these matters may reflect to others a certain naiveté on you part. Or if you choose to remain silent as I sometimes do, you might feel somewhat stupid.

This would also be true if you feel global warming is a myth, or that the natural selection process of evolution isn't for real, or that science should solve the abortion issue once and for all by telling people when a spirit or soul enters the substance we call a fetus.

If any of the issues I just raised perplex, confuse, or annoy you, then Science Matters is the perfect book for you. This volume will explain in terms anyone can understand, the reasons why it is impossible for humans to ever reach the nearest star and improbable that UFOs could reach our planet.

In terms that any lay person could understand, the book reveals what evidence there is for the Big Bang that brought forth the universe. This is not to short-circuit anyone's belief in a Divine Creator-God, but it may support true believers who know that the Holy Bible is meant to be allegory, not science.

Science Matters can explain how two sex cells unite to develop into a fetus, but cannot scientifically tell when that globule becomes a human being.

This book explains such complicated concepts as the relationship between electricity and magnetism; how what we think we see or feel as solids, liquids, and gases, are made of almost infinitely small particles moving at tremendous speeds; how all life itself is made up of a genetic code. Most importantly, it speaks of the precious interrelationship of all life on earth and our responsibility to preserve it.

The authors of this book have an uncanny ability to take the most complicated concepts, explain them in simple, but realistic terms--often with diagrams. I found the section titled "Particle Zoo" rather comical. They say, "There are so many kinds of elementary particles that sometimes it's hard to tell the players without a scorecard."

When one considers the size of some of these particles, it appears they are, for the most part, wiffs of energy moving about in vast quantities of subatomic space. The conclusion can be drawn that what I typically assume is my desk (a solid), or my diet Coke (a liquid), or the air in my room (a gas), is nothing more than empty space.

I would highly recommend Science Matters, to everyone who loves to learn, who seeks to know. It is extremely easy to read and will make your feel comfortable about topics you've avoided when enjoined in conversation with others. You will not be an expert, but you can appear up-to-date and knowledgeable.

I would suggest that educators use Science Matters as a backup text for many formal classroom physics or chemistry books. You will surely find its explanations, definitions, and diagrams helpful. (Another interesting classroom science book: Punk Science: Inside the Mind of God)

Science raw is a puzzle or a maze.
But understood, can wipe away the haze!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading! July 28 2013
By Eric Amberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Education unfortunately had decided that science does not matter. Dr. Hazen provides us with reasons to the contrary. Civilizations would certainly not have advanced to where we are today if science was put on a back shelf. And we run the risk of falling behind if students' curiosity is not perked. Dr. Hazen describing the threads of science clearly should incentivize us all to return to the fore and bring back science to mainstream education.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great review for anyone- teachers too! Oct. 28 2012
By Beth S - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a high school chemistry/ physical science/ math teacher, I found the content of this book to be very approachable. I had the opportunity to read it as part of an online professional development course and am glad I did! I knew the biology/ ecology sections well, but the physical science concepts like quantum mechanics and electromagnetism weren't as familiar and I found the authors were quite knowledgeable on all the subjects. A great read for anyone wanting to know more about scientific concepts and for teachers who want to brush on on content they haven't seen in awhile.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! July 25 2011
By Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Loved this book, for the whole family it can be appreciated. Covering many facets of science that was easily read and flowed from chapter to chapter. Highly recommended!

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