I'm a purist when it comes to pop science. However, I agree with the general consensus among science educators that it may be the only way forward if we are to keep kids interested enough to take science classes in high school and beyond. Why do y'all think?
Hey Nicole. I agree that the Mythbusters play an important role in helping people learn to think along scientific lines. They popularize some of the basic rules of science and do a great job designing experiments and such. Also, Adam Savage is an active member of the skeptics community, so thats cool.
However, sometimes I'd be watching and start flipping out at some obvious design flaw or dubious extrapolation of results. I guess I'm a tad elitist when it comes to the kind of pop science I'm into.
I'll take Nova over the Mythbusters, but thats just me. But like I said before, the latter probably works better on kids. Heck, I would've preferred the Mythbusters over Nova when I was 10.
I also agree with you that there is a need for good science writers, but there are plenty of great science writers out there right now! Even a few pop-science writers- Danica McKellar (Winnie from 'The Wonder Years') just put out her second book on math for kids. Good stuff!
I think it's great and frankly I don't think it's important if pop science makes methodological mistakes. The job of pop science is a very different one from either teaching or research. If any student of science makes a serious attempt to replicate one of the Mythbusters' experiments, and don't ensure it's more stringently controlled than we ever see on TV, then their teachers have failed them.
And well, basic science education regularly glosses over important pieces of information (like the limits of a specific theory) because that level of detail isn't appropriate for the level of teaching. I see pop science the same way; it's a basic level of science and so it only needs a basic degree of depth and accuracy. As Nicole said, getting it blatantly wrong is unacceptable, but minor mistakes are ok.
The only problem for me is when pop science is made to appear as a solid foundation for firm, scientific conclusions. If that ever is the case it's only because the pop science is a simpler and more interesting version of well established but less accessible science.
I guess you can split pop science into at least 2 categories: pop science for entertainment and pop science for education. PZ tends to be more entertainment than education, Phil tends to be a mix of both, Hawking, Dawkins, Pinker, Sagan and Attenborough tend to be more education than entertainment. Don't know about Bronowski. All are a lot more engaging than most text books :)
If anyone has hung out with a couple of 8-10 year olds, they will see that those little pups are ripe for science education. Most of them just thrive on the wonders of the natural world.
I personally practically lived at the natural history museum in SF until my son was 4 when we moved out of the area. Also, we don't watch TV, only dvds, and my kids favorite dvds are the ones from the BBC, like walking with dinosaurs, blue planet and planet earth. Those are definitely entertainment, but very informative, too.
It really is about exposure. I get around the 5th graders at my kid's school and they are so excited to hear about how viruses infect and how vascular flow goes through the human body. If the person delivering the information is excited about it, usually the audience is, too.
Dude, thanks for putting the link up. Just checked out the site to see if my son would like the books and he went nuts after reading about them. Guess I'm about to make an order... Are there any more books you can recommend?
Well I talked to my Son (just turned 9) and asked him what he'd recommend, and he came up with:
- The Beginning a beautifully illustrated book that covers the birth of the Universe through the to the formation of the planets, evolution and the origins of man. It looks like there's a whole series of books by the same author. I find this book interesting because - particularly at the start - it uses the language of wonder and awe (so often abused by religious books to make their fantasies sound interesting) but with the obvious virtue of not being a lie.
- Pick Me Up, and Do Not Open are encyclopaedias of sorts, but with a content and style that's very accessible and fun, and with very interesting packaging. What I like about these books is the jumbled nature of the fascinating content. If you're reading a science article you'll finish and get sidetracked by something on art, history, philosophy etc. and suddenly the evening has gone.
- If your son likes the Horrible Science series he'll probably enjoy the Horrible History series too - not science but written in the same style.
- I'd also include the Guinness Book Of Records. Doesn't every child love this? While it's not a science book as such, it's full of facts that helps a child calibrate their credulity. It details the limits of what's possible making it easier for them to identify what isn't.