Science and Everyday Life

Science and Everyday Life

Science and Everyday Life

Science and Everyday Life

Excerpt

The seventy articles collected in this volume deal with various aspects of science. It is often said that modern science cannot be explained in anything less than a whole volume, and that short articles on it are necessarily worthless. I do not agree. The only subjects which are definitely unsuited are organic chemistry, mathematics, and those branches of science which use a lot of mathematics. These have their own terminology, and one cannot even explain in a thousand words what "β-alanylhistidine" or "an almost periodic function" mean, let alone deal with recent work on them. But a great deal of work in other branches of science is quite easy to follow, at least partially. I can explain that a lot of very small stars called "white dwarfs" are being found fairly close (on an astronomical scale) to our sun. Some astronomers will say that such knowledge is useless and superficial unless I explain about parallaxes, spectroscopic measures of surface temperature, and so on. My answer is that if my critics will tell me just how their boots were made, I will agree. But I don't expect the astronomer to know the details of tanning before he talks of boots, nor need he expect the ordinary man to know the details of astrophysics before he talks about stars.

The ordinary man must know something about various branches of science, for the same reason that the astronomer, even if his eyes are fixed on higher things, must know about boots. The reason is that these matters affect his daily life. In each article of this book I have tried to . . .

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