The New York Times Book of Science Literacy: What Everyone Needs to Know from Newton to the Knuckleball.The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times Book of Science Literacy science literacy A general term for the awareness a person or the public has of basic scientific facts, concepts, and theories : What Everyone Needs to Know from Newton to the Knuckleball. Richard Flaste, ed. MacMillan, $24.95. Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy According to the United States National Center for Education Statistics, scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. . Robert Hazen, James Trefil. Doubleday, $19.95. These two volumes join the recent wave of "literacy" books based on the marketing premise that Americans now emerge from school knowing nothing whatsoever.
Most literacy books are the reading equivalent of grazing menus. They contain lots of interesting snippets, brief encapsulations, lists, and so on, all suitable for contemporary short attention spans. The New York Times Book of Science Literacy, written by 21 staffers from the paper's excellent "Science Times" Tuesday section and put together by former "Science Times" editor Richard Flaste, follows this formula. The book is lively and enjoyable, rich in sharp details and clever touches. (One little box asks, "Why don't people who take nitroglycerin nitroglycerin (nī'trōglĭs`ərĭn), C3H5N3O9, colorless, oily, highly explosive liquid. It is the nitric acid triester of glycerol and is more correctly called glycerol trinitrate. for a heart condition explode?") Readers can pretty much dive in anywhere in the volume and skip around at will.
The latter quality, while making for low-input reading, also points to the volume's shortcoming-no controlling thread having to do with science literacy. You'd think a book with a title such as this would begin with a review of basic principles of natural law and the nature of scientific inquiry, and gradually build to advanced notions, Instead we dive right in with five pages on Newton's Principia prin·cip·i·um
n. pl. prin·cip·i·a
A principle, especially a basic one.
[Latin prncipium; see principle.] , then leap immediately to four pages on gravity waves, a speculative concept from astrophysics astrophysics, application of the theories and methods of physics to the study of stellar structure, stellar evolution, the origin of the solar system, and related problems of cosmology. that makes for entertaining ruminations, but which is pretty far afield from "what everyone needs to know" about science. Apparently this book is a compendium of recent interesting "Science Times" articles-a remix, as a record producer would say.