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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Scientifically literate Americans and my new favorite author

Yes!  I won't do all the talking on this one as I found this on another blog (Gene Expression via Science blogs--and check out Razib's breakdown of this in another post), but I can tell you I am super thrilled to find this information, even if it is probably incomplete or inaccurate, as many of these studies relying on "quizzing" people might be (and some of the questions leave something to be desired, as well). The data is from 2003 and compares only the US and the EU.

 

Basically, adults in the US are only superceded by the Swedes in scientific literacy!  Oh joy!!! I hope this means that means the educational system works well, or that science TV and the media's dissemination of information has been effective.  I will have to check out the actual paper to see if there are any conclusions along those lines.


If you can define what a stem cell is, tell someone that it is "false" that an ordinary tomato has no genes and genetically modified ones do, and a few other things, you might be considered scientifically literate! As I live in a university town, I find that most people here are scientifically literate, and if they aren't, they will readily admit their shortcomings or their general lack of enthusiasm for the subject, which I admire. A little humility goes a long way with me.

 

Speaking of science outreach, I am FINALLY reading the first book by Mary Roach, called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  The first one I read (her third book) was Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, which I just enjoyed with every cell in my body.  Her humor is so awesome "Again with the pyrex tubes."---read the book to find out what this means!  WAIT! First, a disclaimer! This book is not for everyone.  You know who you are, and if you don't know, I will tell you: if you are a middle schooler or maybe even a high schooler with a parent who would not approve, or your religious affiliation will not approve--DON"T READ IT or I will personally come snatch that book right out of your hands and give you a disapproving look and ground you from emailing or texting anyone for at least a week! 

 

Mary Roach is now officially on my list of people I most want to invite to dinner. I'll add her to Reza Aslan (author of No god but God-a great book describing Islam--while I'm not a Muslim, I like how he expressed himself) and Brian Greene (author of The Elegant Universe--about string theory) and Alan Alda.  They don't have to come all at once as I'm not necessarily the "hostess with the mostess", but I'd certainly try and definitely hope wonderful conversation would be the centerpoint of the evening.

 

I've been reading Stiff during incubation times of some experiments and microscope training I've been doing (sometimes sitting on the mysterious disappearing Beckman Institute couches and sometimes lying on the benches and walls on the engineering quad--yes, that long person stretched out looking like me is really me!).  I found, strangely, that I can read about decomposition and other gruesome things even while eating.  I suppose if it was a "scratch and sniff" book, I probably would not be nearly so stoic about the whole thing!  The full body dissection course I took in grad school with the medical students helped me come to terms with death and dead bodies, at least on one level.  I have no macabre fascination or anything like that....I just stepped a little closer to accepting this as a fact of life, and Mary Roach found a way to make the whole thing respectfully entertaining.  If you have the stomach for this or the curiosity, I highly recommend it!  I think all you pre-meds will especially appreciate it.

 

Next post later this weekend will be about the death of heart surgery pioneer DeBakey and tissue engineering of artificial blood vesselsUntil next post,

Kindly,

 

Joanne

Sat, July 12, 2008 | link 


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