Sci­ence: It’s po­etry in mo­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

In 1990, the premier sci­ence or­ga­ni­za­tion in the United States, the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence (AAAS), pub­lished a book about sci­ence lit­er­acy ti­tled “Sci­ence for All Amer­i­cans.”

The book con­tained “a set of rec­om­men­da­tions on what un­der­stand­ings and ways of think­ing are es­sen­tial for all cit­i­zens in a world shaped by sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.”

Re­gard­ing in­struc­tional ma­te­rial, the AAAS pub­li­ca­tion rec­om­mended that for teach­ers to “be able to bring all stu­dents to the level of un­der­stand­ing and skill pro­posed [by the AAAS], they will need a new gen­er­a­tion of books and other in­struc­tional tools.”

En­ter “The Sci­ence Book: Every­thing You Need to Know About the World and How It Works,” which aims to ex­cite stu­dents of all ages about the world of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and math­e­mat­ics.

To be­gin, note that “The Sci­ence Book,” pub­lished by the National Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety, is es­sen­tially a rather com­pre­hen­sive, en­cy­clo­pe­dic-style ref­er­ence book.

It is by no means daunt­ing or in­ac­ces­si­ble, how­ever. In­stead, this con­cise full-color work is pleas­ing, invit­ing and ob­vi­ously in­tended by the so­ci­ety to at­tract both those cu­ri­ous about “the world and how it works” and those other­wise un­in­ter­ested.

“The Sci­ence Book” be­gins with an en­gag­ing fore­word ti­tled “Sci­ence: The Essence of Cool” by Mar­shall Brain, founder of How­Stuff­

Like the book he in­tro­duces, Mr. Brain has a flare for cap­ti­vat­ing, con­cise prose and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

For in­stance, he does a mas­ter­ful job of sum­ma­riz­ing the cur­rent sci­ence on the uni­verse from its be­gin­ning to the mun­dane present in just two para­graphs.

“The Sci­ence Book” con­tains six gen­eral sec­tions.

The sec­tions are writ­ten by topic spe­cial­ists on the uni­verse, earth, bi­ol­ogy, chem­istry, physics and tech­nol­ogy, and math­e­mat­ics.

Each sec­tion is re­plete with di- agrams and pho­tographs that com­mand about as much space as the text.

A num­ber of col­or­ful fold-out pages de­pict­ing con­cepts in evo­lu­tion and hu­man anatomy are in­cluded.

If, say, a quick un­der­stand­ing of moun­tain build­ing is re­quired, by the reader, boom, there it is in the “Earth: Ori­gins and Ge­ol­ogy” sec­tion un­der “Moun­tains”:

“The most sig­nif­i­cant moun­tain ranges are not sim­ply scat­tered across the Earth at ran­dom. In­stead, most lie along ac­tive plate bound­aries and be­long to one of the Earth’s two large moun­tain sys­tems. The Cir­cum-Pa­cific sys­tem . . . [and] the Alpine-Hi­malaya sys­tem.”

What if your in­ter­est is in lac­tose in­tol­er­ance? Or he­mophilia? Or poly­dactylism (ex­tra fin­gers)?

Turn to the “Bi­ol­ogy: Ge­net­ics and Hered­ity” sec­tion un­der “Ge­net­i­cally In­duced Dis­eases.”

There you’ll find side­bars, fig­ures and pho­tographs with suc­cinct in­for­ma­tion on the cu­ri­ous sub­jects.

You say you have a han­ker­ing for en­light­en­ment on the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity? Or chaos the­ory? Or even the the­ory of every­thing?

You can see the light and get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of it in the “Physics and Tech­nol­ogy” sec­tion.

To­day, if stu­dents are seek­ing in­for­ma­tion on just about any topic, they can down­load it from the In­ter­net.

But it’s good to know that the tra­di­tional tried-and-true man­ual search method in­volv­ing pag­ing through a ref­er­ence vol­ume is more alive than ever with “The Sci­ence Book.”

Sim­ply flip­ping through it will have you stop­ping fre­quently to dis­cover new vis­tas of knowl­edge.

Be­sides, “The Sci­ence Book” ad­dresses in­for­ma­tion-search tech­nol­ogy — just ac­cess “The Google Al­go­rithm” in the “Math­e­mat­ics” sec­tion.

Clar­ity, con­cise­ness and color de­scribe “The Sci­ence Book” as a whole.

Not only sec­ondary school li­braries and class­rooms can ben­e­fit from it, but also a stu­dent’s en­tire fam­ily. Af­ter all, the home is ide­ally where the love of learn­ing about the world around us and the skillful use of in­struc­tional tools are in­stilled.

An­thony J. Sadar is a cer­ti­fied con­sult­ing me­te­o­rol­o­gist and pri­mary author of “En­vi­ron­men­tal Risk Com­mu­ni­ca­tion: Prin­ci­ples and Prac­tices for In­dus­try” (CRC Press/Lewis Pub­lish­ers, 2000).

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