Science is my nemesis. I never got it. I didn’t get the sparks, the aha! moments, the passion.
My dear friend, however, almost chirps – she waves her hands and rocks up on her toes – she’s that excited about science! When her kids were young they would pulse with recognition: “Look, Mommy! It’s a dicot!”
As a young homeschool mom, I overbought science enrichment materials in an attempt to compensate for my deficiencies. They mostly stayed on the shelf. Fortunately, we had co-op teachers who lived and breathed science, whose heart beat faster when they contemplated quarks.
I wasn’t happy about my Science Idiot status. But it paled in the light of feeding four males, keeping them shod and clothed and breaking three of them of saying, “Me and Josh are going to the park.”
Then I had an epiphany.
I read Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. It was an incredible story, well-written, absorbing page-turner. Not until I was finished did it occur to me that I had just immersed myself in…..science!
And that, my friend, was an AHA! moment. My path to scientific knowledge (a redundancy since science means knowlege, learning) was through literature. What rebounded off my brain in a textbook, had a chance of sticking if it was couched in a story. All-righty, then.
I followed Longitude with another Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, which was wonderful and textured and satisfying and fabulous. (It begins with one of my favorite letters of condolence ever.)
I thought, perhaps, that I was on to something. Paul de Kruig’s Microbe Hunters was an excellent read aloud bit of science history that took us from Antony Leeuwenhoek’s first microscope, Spallanzani and Louis Pasteur (who wanted to learn how to make good beer) to Walter Reed. I also enjoyed The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA.
I tried Kepler’s Witch: An Astronomer’s Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother; I actually raved about the first third of the book. Then I lost interest. There are other books and authors – John Muir for instance – whom I read with such enjoyment that I don’t think about the stuff I am learning along the way. I’ve read several adolescent biographies of scientists like Ernest Rutherford.
My dogpile of books to read includes Lewis Thomas’ Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher and Philip Yancey’s Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.
And that’s the extent of my remedial-science journey. As my responsibilities of teaching my sons are coming to a close and my learning and reading is not curriculum-driven, I want to begin “filling in the potholes” of my learning. I’m making a list of stuff I want to learn and a plan on going about it.
Can you recommend any books along this line?
I would be very grateful. No textbooks. Biographies, narratives, non-fiction. Books that make your eyes light up; books that make you suck in the air and hold it without knowing you are doing it.
Bonus: If you have a title that makes physics even remotely accessible, I would write a post with your name in it forty-five times.