Just in time for college graduations comes a new book, “100 Science words every college graduate should know.” It’s an interesting browse. Others have mentioned it (and Chad even did a pretty nice breakdown of words by discipline); I just thought I’d add my two cents.
From the introduction, they note:
This book presents 100 words in science that every college graduate, regardless of major or specialization, ought to know. The words were selected because they represent the kind of vocabulary that a person who is literate in science should understand. The words are not the most fundamental scientific terms that are the substance of textbooks. Rather, the editors have sought out words that are both essential to understanding science’s powerful explanations and interesting in their own right.
As such, these aren’t the most basic scientific words, but are still “essential” and “interesting.” A big detraction for me as a scientist is that they don’t mention the methodology they used to choose these “essential” and “interesting” words, however. This doesn’t stop the book from being useful, of course, but it does leave me curious as to how they came to some of their choices.
I wonder this because some of the choices seem a bit dubious, and I’m not sure how they made the cut. For example, #52: kwashiorkor, a form of protein malnutrition. Obviously this is something that interests me as an epidemiologist, but I’m not quite sure how it’s one of the top words every college graduate should know. Similarly with #66: pahoehoe: “a type of lava having a smooth, swirled surface.” (I have to admit here that I had no clue what this one was, so perhaps my cluelessness contributes to my confusion as to the inclusion of this word. Geologists, perhaps, would see why it’s more obvious).
Overall, though, the book is interesting, and the definitions provided for the words selected were informative (while brief). A nice little trivia book for the college grad–especially those who could use some boning up on their science.