DEFINITIONS OF BUG USED IN THIS BLOG -
1. Slang verb or noun: concern or annoy (most common use of the word in this blog),
2. Proper noun: best dog I know,
3. Proper noun: name of dog in COMING FLU and MURDER: A NEW WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT,
4. Noun: computer error or flaw, and
5. Noun: an insect
Monday, November 26, 2012
MAKE SCIENCE FUN - READ A NOVEL ON SCIENCE
The U.S.’s rank in
the Global Innovative Index dropped from 7th to 10th this
year. The validity of the survey published by the World Intellectual Property
Organization, an agency of the United Nations, and INSEAD, a business school could
be questioned (Education Week, J. Tomassini blog, July 9, 2012). Reports like this cause many to worry about science
literacy of Americans and to wonder about the U.S.’s public and private
investments in science education. Please
forget politics and just keep reading please.
Making science interesting and fun for kids.
The National Science
Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate on Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
(HHMI), the National Academies of Sciences, NIH Office of Science Education,
and dozens of museums and conservation groups have invested in science
education programs for children and teens (K-12). Most of these programs have
teamed scientists with educators to create innovative and fun science education
modules and curriculum for students. These
programs work but do not reach enough children, especially those in poor school
districts. If you doubt these
generalizations, Google any of these organizations.
What about making science interesting and fun for
Fun depends on the
eyes of the beholders. There are hundreds books on science topics (medicine,
the environment, astronomy, etc) published for the general public every year.
Obviously many adults enjoy these books.
A few of these “science
books” read like action novels, particularly Richard Preston’s The Hot
Zone and The Demon in the Freezer. If you like horror, it’s hard to beat
Preston’s description of the symptoms of smallpox with the skin peeling from
the live bodies. And John Barry really “develops the character” of several of
the dedicated (but quirky) scientists, leading medicine at the time of The
Great Influenza (the early 1900’s).
Okay, you say, but I really like novels better than
Try a novel with a
science theme. These novels are not stodgy textbooks but real mysteries,
thrillers and romances. The science in these novels adds credence and color to
the novel but does not overwhelm the plot.
For example, one reader asked me why I didn’t mention cytokine storms in Coming Flu. I know many severe
flu symptoms are due to a cytokine storm (an over reaction of the body’s immune
system to the flu virus), butI’ve
seen a glazed look in the eyes of too many college biology students when the cytokine
storms were explained. Despite the “short cut,” you’ll learn a bit about
vaccine development and immunology from Coming Flu. More importantly you’ll
think about the wonders and limits of modern biology.
Fun books with tidbits of science written by
scientists or physicians
My medical thriller Coming Flu is the point
of view of an epidemiologist trapped in a quarantined community because of an
unstoppable flu virus. My next novel Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight (due
out in April) is from the point of view of an associate dean in a medical
school investigating charges of scientific misconduct against a “diet” doctor.
I was a professor in nutrition and toxicology.
Robin Cook, a physician, wrote more than
twenty-five medical thrillers, the most famous being Coma.
Kathy Reichs, an anthropology professor,
writes of modern forensic anthropological techniques in her Tempe Brennan
series of crime novels.
Camille Minichino, a retired physicist, writes
mysteries with titles based on the periodic table.
So why not borrow one
of these books from the library or better
still buy one. I think fans of
mysteries and thrillers, will enjoy these books. They may even decide that
science is fun.