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Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy Paperback – June 2, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0307454584 ISBN-10: 0307454584 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These 18 lucid essays on chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy and biology help readers comprehend today's science news. "Hazen and Trefil . . . demystify many advanced topics with succinct, if often reductive analogies: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle becomes a car wreck in a dark tunnel, for example," said PW. Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.”
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307454584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307454584
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I cannot understand the negative review by the reader from Oakton. I did not find a "condescending tone" or "patronizing attitiude" anywhere in this book. On the contrary, I have great appreciation for the authors' ability to cover essentially all the fundamentals of modern science in a pleasant and stimulating way. What they have done is to produce a kind of "science for poets" course that would be suitable at the high school or college level. They focus each of the 18 chapters on a single great idea of science, e.g., ch.1 ("The Universe is knowable and preditable."), ch.9 ("Everything is made of quarks and leptons."), ch.16 ("All life is based on the same genetic code.").

Of course this is not as detailed as a textbook, but by the same token, it does not wear you out or stuff you to the gills with more than you can digest. Another very pleasant aspect is the absence of the usual arm-twisting you'd get in a course: none of those bloody, in-your-face "learning objectives," no tests, no homework, no lists to memorize. Since the authors are both college teachers, they showed great restraint and wisdom in shunning that assiduous approach, which most teachers (myself included) tend to deploy in their daily work. They give you enough to develop a broad outline, but not so much as to kill your interest. Three cheers for their demonstration of top-quality science teaching.
P.S. I found a smattering of errors in those few chapters where I was knowledgeable, but these are all minor and will hardly be noticed by most readers, let alone detract from the overall learning experience.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding book. It provides an understanding of the basic scientific phenomena that everybody should know. I'd have to say I came away from this book with more knowledge than from all my high school and college science classes.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book contains most basic knowledge and skills that almost any average person needs to get through life. This would make an excellent co-text at the middle school level.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Entertaining and insightfully written, this overview is a must read for the average person. It avoids bogging the reader down in technical jargon, and provides a great practical grasp of each of the major branches of science and how they influence our daily lives. Everything you always wanted to know about "how?" but were afraid to ask!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book gives you as much information as a classroom textbook, but it is a lot more interesting. I felt this was an excellent book because there are not many books that provide as much information as this one and that are actually a good read. I had a hard time putting this book down once I started to read it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MV on August 22, 2011
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.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Regis Schilken on September 14, 2009
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.
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