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Professor Astronomy

Why you should be literate in science

19 Jul 2010, 19:29 UTC
Why you should be literate in science
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The above video is of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, speaking at the World Science Festival earlier this year. In the video, Dr. Tyson talks about the need for us, as a society and as individuals, to be scientifically literate. Events over the past few years have shown both how important scientific literacy is and how we suffer (individually and as a group) from the growing lack of scientific literacy. First, let's define what I mean by "scientific literacy", and then I'll give a few (and by no means exhaustive) examples of its importance to each one of us.

The term scientific literacy can be defined in many ways, but I think most scientists would agree that it includes both some basic knowledge about science, an understanding about how science works, and the ability to apply scientific thinking in appropriate situations. For example, let's take black holes. One of the most-asked questions we astronomers get about black holes is, "If not even light can escape a black hole, how do you know it is there?" This question actually shows that the asker has some scientific literacy. They know a fact about black holes (the strong gravity ...

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