Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy

ISBN: 038526108X
ISBN 13: 9780385261081
By: Robert M. Hazen James Trefil

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About this book

Easily one of the finest available single-volume introductions to science."-- "Kirkus Review" "Comprehensible and carefully paced."-- "Booklist

Reader's Thoughts


For me this book didn't live up to its title. As I started reading I quickly switched off and went into skim mode. There was way too much information to absorb for someone with my appalling lack of science education. By page seventy-three I realised that of course I must stop reading it in this silly beginning-to-end fashion, and instead keep it as a reference book – a function it will fulfil extremely well. And now I am going to damn the poor book with faint praise....It is fairly well written. In truth I have been totally spoilt. I recently read Richard Dawkins’s book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True, and that was the science primer to end all science primers. It was so fantastically written that I was utterly and totally caught up in it. I took copious notes and learnt tons. It blew my socks off.Science Matters is fine, and will find a well-deserved place on my bookshelf . It will be a great reference book, but there is no way I am going to read it the way I read The Magic of Reality. It just doesn't generate the same excitement. On the other hand it is a lot more detailed than the latter, so very useful in that respect.My one real criticism is that it could have done with more diagrams and illustrations. Interestingly the Dawkins book had none, but was so beautifully and inspiringly written that it didn’t matter.I'm sure this will be a useful reference book.


This book was a nice refresher on basic science. Took me forever to get through, kind of glad I'm done.


This is the stuff you might have learned in school, but forgot, made interesting, clear and relevant to everyday life. It's the science background everyone should have.


If we can send this book several hundred years back in time, we'd be so scientifically advanced as a species, that we probably would be colonizing a couple more planets of the solar system and voyaging in interstellar space.The premise of the book is that US voters get to vote on policies that need some scientific background that they don't usually have (issues like stem cell research, climate change, evolution...etc). The book's goal is to help the reader become scientifically literate.To this end, the book contains 17 chapters that talk about all different scientific domains, it extract the absolutely essential core of these domains, and present them in a way that is clearly understandable.If you didn't study or read much about science, this is likely the perfect introduction that will make you cover most of your bases.If you did study science and do read about, this will introduce you to new domains you probably didn't know much about before, and will serve you a perfect revision for all the principles of the various domains.It talks about physics, biology, chemistry, and geology. Spanning topics like gravity, electromagnetism, radiation, thermodynamics, nuclear power, atomic interaction, nuclear interaction, subatomic particles, solar power, plate tectonics, cells, dna, evolution... and the list goes on.I give it 5/5 because I absolutely can't understand how they were able to squeeze the most central thoughts of each of those scientific domains and present it in such a clear manner. Just incredible.


Used as a quick refresher for my middle school science MTEL last fall; definitely easy to read without being "dumbed down"

Dan Gilbert

Great introduction to all the major branches of science and the fundamental concepts of each one. The explanations are well done and understandable. The information contained in this book should be read and understood by everyone, especially those who affect national policy.


I purchased this book as part of a study set for a CLEP test. If I had known then what I know now... I would have just read this one to begin with. This book is packed with the most useful information and explains concepts in a fascinating and comprehensible way. While I may not feel completely scientifically literate, I do not feel like a scientific idiot.


It explains in layman's terms scientific concepts everyone should know about. The edition I read was the first edition, since I got my copy from a pile of old free books, and, accordingly, some of the gaps in knowledge where the authors said "we don't know yet" have since been answered, such as the shape of the universe and more about the nature of black holes.All in all, a worthwhile read.


Picked this book up while visiting the McDonald Observatory in far West Texas. Very very good overview of many aspects of science. As one interested in science myself, the daughter of a scientist and medical man fascinated with all facets of science, I agree with the premise of the authors. It is important for lay people to develop a basic scientific literacy. Too many people leave the hard sciences alone, and thus miss out on some of the most fascinating adventures being lived out right now! Or people hear about science only from sensational news headlines or political talking heads. How sad to be cut off from such a vibrant branch of the world.So, read the book. Do I agree with all of it? No. The authors, who are not Christians, demonstrate an understandable confusion about Christians who do not agree with evolution. As a Christian with many scientist friends, I find this easy to see. Scientists do not throw out a theory or model until there is another theory or model to use in its stead. So the section on "Evolution" I have disagreements with, primarily because the authors lump all Christians into the category of believing in a "young earth" (which I do not). This categorization is not valid because not all Christians are young-earthers, but I do not blame the authors because they don't know.An excellent book to read in companion to this is "Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to end the creation / evolution wars" by Hugh Ross. Dr. Ross is a scientist (an astro-physicist) and a strong Christian and pastor. He demonstrates in his book that providing a testable model for creation theories is the way to pave the way for understanding. So, read "Science Matters", and then read "Creation as Science" together!

Chris Brownell

I am digging this book. The organization, and breadth of the content are astute. These guys have written what ought to be everybody's text for Freshman Science in College. Use this book in a two semester sequence and colleges will serve the general student in a far greater way than the present practice of science requirements.I have several friends and colleagues who have phd's in various sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, ... Any of them who have read this book have also said that they learned a great deal about the other sciences they did not choose to study. So being a NASA expert on the Pitzer telescope (one honking cool device let me tell you) does not mean you have a depth of knowledge in the geo or bio sciences, and you can learn a great deal in this book.Anxious to finish it.


A very good book which gives detailed overviews of different scientific disciplines. Not having a solid scientific background, I found the book challenging. More visuals of the scientific principles would have been beneficial to me. Overall, the book is very informative, detailed, and the authors make good analogies to describe scientific principles. I do feel more scientifically literate than before.


My 11-year grandson is doing better than Harvard graduates on everyday science! He knows why it is warmer in summer and the difference between atoms and molecules.

Faizal Aziz

literasi sains untuk orang awam..mudah dan senang dihadam, meliputi pelbagai topik, dari atom hinggalah mekanik kuantum


I read this in hopes of clear explanations of current scientific issues. The book started out very promising. I enjoyed the explanations, yet somewhere in the beginning, the explanations were a bit fuzzy - not clarifying what they were talking about exactly. Of course, like most practical teaching, it would best be paired with an interactive section like a partner website to demonstrate motion of particles, molecules, etc. I thought the authors had a lovely sense of humor, adding in charming metaphors or side commentary. I looked forward to the end of the chapter summaries, or "frontiers" that explained current research or hopes for future outcomes. It would be a great textbook or reference book. I would put this on my shelf to review the most important science theories when in need.

John Robertson

Does what it says on the cover, very good overview- I particularly liked the sub-atomic chapters and a good summary of DNA and RNA of which I knew squit. Highly recommended.

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