MINIMAL SCIENTIFIC LITERACY


prof vijay singhPublished with kind permission: Prof. VIJAY A. SINGH


I have from time to time raised the following question: what constitutes minimal scienti c literacy? How much science is an average citizen expected to know? I propose the following \bits” of information as a necessary part of the \scienti c arsenal”.

1. Matter is made up of atoms. Feynman had once said that if all the body of scienti c knowledge was destroyed as of today and if one was allowed to pass just one piece of information to the ensuing generation then the atomic hypothesis of matter would be his choice.

2. The earth is old. The sun is older. And the universe is older by several orders of magnitude, being 15 billion years old by current estimates.

3. Our earth is planet revolving around a star, the sun. The sun is part of the Milky Way galaxy which consists of billions of stars. There are tens of billions of galaxies in the vast universe.

4. Nothing is static. Stars are born and will eventually die. So will our sun. Humans have evolved from ape-like ancestors who in turn have evolved from more elementary life forms.

5. All things are related. Atoms do constitute all matter, but it is the interactions between them which yields the rich diversity of nature. The DNA molecule, the silicon chip and superconductivity are examples of this interpeneterating reality.

6. The world is full of surprises. We have only scratched the surface of this wonderful world. An open, enquiring and empirical mind is the hallmark of the scienti c attitude.

I do not expect universal agreement on the above suggestions. Indeed readers would want to add their own important bits of scienti c information to the above suggestions. Others may nd my suggestions woefully inadequate.

Dated: 2015 Signature                              Prof. Vijay A. Singh
Raja Ramana Fellow
National Coordinator, Science Olympiads (2003-2014)
Nationa Coordinator, National Initiative on
Undergraduate Sciece (2004 - 2012)