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Science
Literacy Resources
This is the index page for a diverse range of WeirdWildWeb resources
for students seeking basic literacy in the sciences and mathematics. This
is not popular science, which skips the mathematics. Rather, it is
pitched at the level necessary to gain access to a variety of literatures,
including the philosophy of science, science and religion, and basic
science journals. It is, if you like, the science and mathematics you need
to begin to understand what scientists really do.
In addition to these resources local to the WeirdWildWeb, there are
many World Wide Web resources useful for those seeking science literacy. A
sampling of relevant links can be found here.
We make use of several novel techniques to help learners grasp the
material needed for science literacy. Here is a brief introduction to
three of them.
 Narrative methods for building familiarity with complex ideas.
In the present context, there is no time to build familiarity with
mathematical and physical concepts in the usual wayby repetition of
calculation in problem set after problem set. There is also no need in
most cases for sophisticated calculation abilities. When science
literacy is the goal, understanding the equations is more important
that being able to derive them and grasping theorems is more important
that being able to prove them. Narratives can be extraordinarily
effective as a substitute for the triedandtested (and actually
grossly overrated) familiaritythroughcalculation approach of
traditional mathematics and physics teaching.
 Deliberately confronting the problem of varying disciplinary
perspectives. Biochemistry and quantum chemistry conceive of
energy in molecular interactions in related but rather different ways.
Physicists and organic chemists don't think about van der Waal's
forces the same way. These kinds of conflicts are due to a combination
of traditions of thinking that suit individual disciplinary needs and
lack of communication across disciplinary boundaries. The goal of
science literacy requires coming to terms with these differences in
disciplinary perspectives because they are immediately obvious and
quite confusing to the alert student whose scientific knowledge spans
disciplines. We try to confront these differences of perspectives head
on, which leads to some deep discussions even when the other science
being covered is not advanced. While this may seem incongruous, the
overall effect of this approach is greater learner satisfaction and a
deeper appreciation for the social character of scientific activity.
 Noticing and discussing boundary questions when they arise.
This doesn't happen in most science and mathematics classes, but it
should. Boundary questions are questions that emerge from within a
discipline but that cannot be answered within that discipline.
Sometimes another science is capable of answering such boundary
questions, in which case the contrast of disciplinary capacities is
fascinating to study. Most often, however, boundary questions have
metaphysical, theological, or existential dimensions. Students find
such questions engaging so the failure of teachers to address them is
arguably evidence of a kind of ideological insistence on maintaining
either somewhat artificial disciplinary boundaries or else
proscriptions against certain kinds of nonscientific inquiries. The
result is confusing and frustrating for students, particularly those
who strive for an overarching understanding of science and mathematics
rather than technical proficiency in a single area of scientific
research. But there is no harm in pointing out such boundary
questions, in linking them with classical philosophical debates, and
in inviting students to regard the presence of boundary questions in
the sciences and mathematics as one of the very important reasons why
these enterprises are so exciting and important.
Contents
Analytical Chemistry
Biochemistry
Cell Biology
Neurophysiology
Evolutionary Biology
Immunology
Electromagnetism [There is something
under this heading!]
Special Theory of Relativity
General Theory of Relativity
Cosmology
Quantum Mechanics
Mathematics:
OneDimensional Calculus
Mathematics:
MultiDimensional Calculus
Mathematics: Linear Algebra
Mathematics:
Complex Analysis
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Maxwell's Equations of Electromagnetism
(HTML format; imperfect)
Maxwell's Equations of
Electromagnetism (MSWord 2000 format; better)
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The information on this page is copyright ©19942010, Wesley
Wildman (basic information here), unless otherwise
noted.
If you want to use ideas that you find here, please be careful to acknowledge this site as
your source, and remember also to credit the original author of what you use,
where that is applicable. If you want to use text or stories from these pages, please contact me at
the feedback address for permission.
