I am pleased that my post last week on ocean acidification received a good deal of attention around the web because this critical subject rarely makes news. I’d also like to point readers to the National Academies latest podcast on the very same topic and encourage everyone to listen and share the episode. Here’s a synopsis:
Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem (Tue, 14 Sep 2010 12:06:39 -0400)
The ocean has absorbed a significant portion of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions. This benefits human society by moderating the rate of climate change, but also causes unprecedented changes to ocean chemistry. Carbon dioxide taken up by the ocean makes the water more acidic and leads to a suite of chemical changes collectively known as ocean acidification. The long term consequences of ocean acidification are not known, but are expected to result in changes to many ecosystems and the services they provide to society. This podcast gives an overview of the current state of knowledge, explores gaps in understanding, and identifies several key findings. Read the Report Online
All of the NAS Sounds of Science podcasts can be found here.
Last week I participated in a three-day course on energy taught by Michael Webber at UTAustin. Very shortly, I’ll have more to say on the subject, but in the meantime, it’s a good opportunity to highlight an interesting new website from the National Academies called What You Need to Know About Energy. It’s a means to help visitors understand the ways we use energy, where it comes from, and how energy efficiency and alternative sources can figure into our energy future. The more we know, the better equipped we’ll be to engage in the ongoing debate about energy policy. Here are the details:
The site provides balanced and reliable information about our energy sources, uses, and options for the future. Take a quiz to see what you already know about energy. Explore “Our Energy System” for a quick and clear overview of the energy sources we depend on in the United States and how they are used, including what each source contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. Learn compelling facts about oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and renewable sources, such as solar and wind, including the pros and cons of each source. Compare a few cars and household appliances in “Understanding Efficiency” to see which use energy more effectively. Then rely on your new understanding of the energy situation as you make decisions about energy in your daily life, or participate in discussions about our nation’s energy options for the future.
Yesterday, we considered the meaning of scientific literacy in America… or lack thereof. So let’s take this discussion one step further as it’s a particularly interesting topic. According to the National Academies:
Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities. In the National Science Education Standards, the content standards define scientific literacy.
Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.
Individuals will display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms, or applying scientific concepts and processes. And individuals often will have differences in literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and words, and less understanding of physical-science concepts and words.
Scientific literacy has different degrees and forms; it expands and deepens over a lifetime, not just during the years in school. But the attitudes and values established toward science in the early years will shape a person’s development of scientific literacy as an adult.
Okay. Now if we assume Monday’s comment thread is representative of Intersection readership at large, most folks agree that quizzing the general populace on a series of facts doesn’t necessarily provide much information. So, let’s continue…
First, are you satisfied with the definition outlined above? Further, how we might more reliably measure the state of scientific literacy in this country?