Picks

Boyle: Between God and Science

Robert Boyle is known to most chemists solely for his Law relating the pressure and volume of a gas, but this privileged son of the Earl of Cork was not as interested in discovering an equation as he was in determining what his experiments could tell him about his own relationship to God.

Lithium Dreams: Can Bolivia Become the Saudi Arabia of the Electric Car Era?

There was a time when it was possible to estimate the size of the total US thermonuclear arsenal by measuring the ratio of Li-6 to Li-7 in commercial sources and knowing the amount of the metal in the economy. (Li-6 had been removed to make hydrogen bombs.) Now the lightest metal is prominent in other kinds of energy schemes.

Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public

The world has never more needed public understanding of science than it does now, and those of us in science education have a special obligation in this regard. The answers to health care, climate change, conservation of the environment, and so forth are not going to be found in science alone, but if they are to be addressed rationally, science literacy will be necessary.

Mammogram Math (The Way We Live Now)

Imagine a highly reliable cancer test. It detects 95% of a certain type of cancer, and has a "false positive" rate of only 1%. This test is used on a population in which this type of cancer occurs in 0.5%. One day your doctor tells you that you have tested positive. What is the chance that you are actually sick? Surprisingly, it is only about 32 percent!

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives

One part (but only one part) of the decline in science in the US is the growing minority of citizens who semiautomatically adopt positions antagonistic to those of the scientific consensus, regardless of the issue. The "scientific community" is not a monolith, and skepticism and dissent are essential to the process of science.

Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

America's public schools are in trouble, and there are few who would disagree. But despite billions of dollars spent in "reform" efforts, little real progress seems to be occuring. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was a step (or a misstep, perhaps) toward greater accountability by schools for student achievement.