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Too 'Kewl' for School: Making Science Click

May 5, 2007 (All Things Considered)

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Who says science can't be, like, cool?

Natalie Angier certainly thinks so, and in her new book The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times refutes the idea that science is impossible, impenetrable, and above all, uncool.

Taking the advice of string theorist Brian Greene who says that "Every equation can be expressed in English as a sentence," Angier uses stories, ideas, and metaphors to make the basic sciences understandable — even the dreaded subjects of physics and chemistry.

Angier says that teenage "science block" kicks in early, when parents stop taking their kids to science museums.

"Science appreciation," she writes, "is for the young, the restless, the Ritalined. It's the holding-pattern fun you have while your gonads are busy ripening."

Then, as adults — even as reasonably well-informed adults — many people remain ignorant about science. Angier relays the story of one copy editor who, going over her story on whale genetics, asked Angier to confirm that a) whales are mammals, and b) mammals are animals.

So Angier, fed up, started asking scientists: what one scientific idea can people not afford not to know?

The question led her to hundreds of the world's top scientists and an adventure in scientific literacy.

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