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Spellbook of Science

Make a Science Book Appear like a Spell Book
  (+13, -1)(+13, -1)
(+13, -1)
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All the kids just love Harry Potter these days, don't they? Dreaming about going to Hogwarts or whatever it is, learning magic and such. What they might not pick up on until later in life is that this is in fact what science is all about: Mystical writings in huge tomes that take years to study so you can learn to make magical things happen. Why not package it into a format the kids will get excited about?

So basically take fundamental science and/or mathematics material and package it in a simulated-leatherbound moldy old parchment paged spellbook format, complete with illuminated writing or whatever. All the material would be presented in a way that would allow the child of the appropriate age group to understand it, complete with fun home experiments, etc., but of course the running theme throughout would be to make it seem like ancient mystical knowledge. It would take some clever writing to make it sound all mystic and ancient and yet still deliver on the practical learning, but I think it could be done. Illustrations of a DaVincian type would probably add to the effect.

Size_Mick, Dec 19 2010

The Science of Harry Potter http://www.simonsin...f_Harry_Potter.html
Admittedly not quite the same as this idea. [Wrongfellow, Dec 19 2010]

HMX http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMX
Amorphous detonates at 9100 m/s, monocrystaline even faster ... [8th of 7, Dec 19 2010]

Philosopher's stone http://www.stavacad...ir/quintessence.htm
That is to say: the book of Quintescence. [2 fries shy of a happy meal, Dec 19 2010]

[link]






       P.S. Maybe they could repackage a chemistry set and sell it as a supplement to the book, and put all the chemicals in ancient-looking bottles or fake leather pouches, or at very least print really old looking labels on the bottles.
Size_Mick, Dec 19 2010
  

       I like this!
pocmloc, Dec 19 2010
  

       No turning things into other things this time around.
rcarty, Dec 19 2010
  

       In a sense this already exists in the form of older works of natural philosophy and the like, for instance the symbolic language of alchemy is chemistry expressed differently.
nineteenthly, Dec 19 2010
  

       I'm all for anything that makes learning interesting. I'm not 100% sure of the faux magic approach:- As a kid I got in to engineering because it involved *science* and *making stuff*. Magic shmagic. I didn't want 'magic', I wanted stuff to *work*.
Jinbish, Dec 19 2010
  

       "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Arthur C. Clarke)
8th of 7, Dec 19 2010
  

       I don't like this. Why is it not possible to teach science as science? It is difficult, and it needs focus and attention to learn it.   

       It's not the responsibility of science to dumb down to the level where everyone thinks it's fun - it's the responsibility of people who want to learn it to put in the effort.   

       And yes, I am having a grumpy and pissed-off day.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 19 2010
  

       I think that it starts as fun and becomes an obsession. I wish I'd had more fun in maths, art, and sport.
po, Dec 19 2010
  

       What [MaxwellBuchanan] said. Also, Arthur C. Clarke was wrong. Recent accounts of magic (in Western fantasy literature) are influenced by technology but, if you read accounts of magic from societies where people believed in magic, then it is quite different from technology in a way which I can't easily explain. {waves vaguely in the direction of The Golden Bough}
pertinax, Dec 19 2010
  

       //it starts as fun and becomes an obsession.//   

       Yes, it does, absolutely. But I don't think it helps to start by pretending that it's all Hogwarts Fun 'n' Games. You'll just get a bunch of kids who think J.K. Rowling is a physicist, and who then recoil as soon as they see any of the *real* fun which involves *real* science. If someone is going to become obsessed by science, then show them the real deal. It's fun enough, just not dumb.   

       Moreover, the most fundamental and important aspect of science is one which needs to be learned very early, and which is completely destroyed by this kind of approach. It is the idea that things can be understood, and that the universe plays by a set of simple rules, albeit in complex combinations. That is the complete antithesis of Rowling's world, which works according to an arbitrary set of rules in simple and simplistic combinations.   

       I don't play sport. However, as far as I'm aware, children who show a leaning towards football, basketball, baseball, whatever, appreciate from the outset that it is difficult, involves huge amounts of skill, dedication and practice, and is not something that everyone can do well. The kids who are drawn to sport are attracted, not repelled, by that challenge, and they have fun as a result.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 19 2010
  

       // show them the real deal. It's fun enough, just not dumb. //   

       Show them hypersonic detonation of monocyrstalline HMX, and they'll follow you anywhere (out of a mixture of fear and morbid curiosity).
8th of 7, Dec 19 2010
  

       I find the idea a bit rebarbative, but I can't object to the idea of luring kids into science with a gimmick. I trace my own interest to a teacher who did so many demonstrations in class that he subsequently became embarrassed at the high level of "entertainment" in his teaching. He was dead wrong (to be embarrassed).   

       I fault this idea not for gimmickry, but because the gimmick seems superficial and faddish. Why would children work hard for a watered-down version of Harry Potter, when they can mainline the stuff more easily by reading a book or watching a movie?   

       [MaxwellBuchannan] JK Rowling resembled Hermione more than the other wizard children; Hogwarts seems to be a fantastic version of the education she'd have liked to receive, had her family been wealthier and more supportive. Is not the wizard children's detestation for all that swotting supposed to be a bit of a pearls-before- swine joke? If so, her fictional world isn't an antithesis of real science, but, really, a much subtler version of [Size_Mick]'s idea.
mouseposture, Dec 19 2010
  

       Science is perceived in at least two different ways. One is as a system or list of propositions often regarded as facts. The other is in terms of the method used. Magic is sometimes an attempt at science, or rather technology, which however differs from current scientific culture. I think the problem with such a book would be that while it would work as a way of imparting the alleged facts of science, it wouldn't be easy to learn the method in that way.   

       There are early modern and pre-modern ways of imparting information akin to specific beliefs through the medium of grimoires, obvious examples being works of alchemy, astrology/astronomy (there being no distinction at the time), herbals and bestiaries. It would probably be feasible to construct a system on which to hang stuff in a magical way. For instance, a contemporary bestiary could use entrenched zoological beliefs allegorically. I have mixed alchemy/astrology and chemistry occasionally for mnemonic purposes. The idea that mercury moves fast applies to the planet and the element and the idea that Venus is about surfaces and that Saturn has rings and is limited by something all work as ways of fixing ideas in the mind, but the trouble is that science as an approach is more open-ended than that. Saturn's limiting quality is problematic for conceiving that there are planets orbiting beyond it, for example.
nineteenthly, Dec 19 2010
  

       [nineteenthly] yes, Science as either "product" or "process." I consider the "product" view as strictly for rubes because it handles poorly the constant change which is so central to real science.   

       Have you read Crowley's _Little Big_? In it, he offers the suggestion that a memory palace may serve more than a mnemonic function: that it is a way to *reason* about facts and ideas, revealing hidden or unsuspected relationships among them. (In the book, this is a form of magic, and I'm not sure he meant to imply that the technique actually worked. But I found it a charming idea.)
mouseposture, Dec 19 2010
  

       I found Little Big to be a bit hard going myself.

I quite like the idea. After all, it's only substituting out the outward appearance and inward terminology of science books for something that some people might find more interesting; the basics are still the same. +
DrBob, Dec 20 2010
  

       [Mouseposture], no i haven't and that sounds interesting. It relates to the earlier discussion about numerical notation, in that place-value systems reveal mathematical truths about their own structure and Roman numerals have their own features which are themselves mathematical, but are part of the system.   

       [MB], just want to reply to a point i've just seen next to this box. // It's not the responsibility of science to dumb down to the level where everyone thinks it's fun - it's the responsibility of people who want to learn it to put in the effort.//   

       Well, probably, but the thing is that with a relatively uneducated population, things like governmental policy can be passed in the face of the evidence, advertising and marketing can get away with ridiculous and harmful claims, and there's a whole load of other stuff, and we all suffer from that.
nineteenthly, Dec 20 2010
  

       //It's not the responsibility of science to dumb down//   

       Nope, that's for us engineers!   

       (By that I actually mean making assumptions and practical approximations etc. not actual dumbing down...
Like e^x = 1 + x + (x^2)/2! + (x^3)/3! + .... (x^n)/n!
approx= 1 + x for small values of x)
Jinbish, Dec 20 2010
  

       Ooh, i like those, i've never seen them before!
nineteenthly, Dec 20 2010
  

       That approximation for 'e' is an example of a "Taylor Series". It is something that I barely remembered from my maths class in undergrad (where we got series after seires of examples of series... etc.).
I only understood how useful it was when I looked at basic transistor theory (where approximation and 'convenience' is rife).
Jinbish, Dec 20 2010
  

       // [MB], just want to reply to a point i've just seen next to this box. // It's not the responsibility of science to dumb down to the level where everyone thinks it's fun - it's the responsibility of people who want to learn it to put in the effort.//   

       Well, probably, but the thing is that with a relatively uneducated population, things like governmental policy can be passed in the face of the evidence, advertising and marketing can get away with ridiculous and harmful claims, and there's a whole load of other stuff, and we all suffer from that.//   

       Yes, I agree with that. But I think it's a different topic. The idea here was to sort of suck people into science by pretending it's like Harry Potter, and I just think that's bad - like trying to encourage kids to take up sport by pretending that [insert name of currently famous footballer] has magical powers. It's not true, and it's a cul- de-sac approach to science (or football).   

       As to your point about the public needing to know enough science to avoid being hoodwinked....Well, advertisers have always told people lies cloaked in science, and always will, and the credulous will buy and keep the advertisers and manufacturers happy. Governments have a responsibility to explain what and why, but they of course never do and never will. I'm pretty sure that we're no more uneducated now than we were 50 years ago.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 20 2010
  

       //The idea here was to sort of suck people into science//

Well that's true enough and I take the point, but I interpreted it as a way of interesting kids in science who had already rejected it as boring. A bit like putting a dollop of strawberry jam in your porridge.

dollop:[definition]. A dollop is related to the standard spoon sizes. It is defined as a standard spoon size plus as much extra stuff as you can heap onto it until it all starts to fall over the edges. The term is generally applied when using mid- to high viscosity ingredients.
DrBob, Dec 20 2010
  

       //I interpreted it as a way of interesting kids in science who had already rejected it as boring//   

       Yes, that's my interpretation. But, for the aforementioned reasons, I think it's a bad idea. Real science is much more fun than magic, but only to geeks - and what's wrong with that?   

       Non-geeks drawn in by this will be disillusioned as soon as they try to make the transition from "ferro vertu" to ferrofluid, and realize that science itself is still as difficult (or boring - to them) as it was before.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 20 2010
  

       Fair enough, [MB]. I think we probably agree that the process isn't going to be imparted this way and that it needs to be.
nineteenthly, Dec 20 2010
  

       // rejected it as boring //   

       At least you then know which ones to cull ...
8th of 7, Dec 20 2010
  

       Science converted into the supernatural (specifically, religion, but I don't want to tip the discussion into that bog) was a means of repression used in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation", the first book of the Foundation trilogy.   

       I find it fairly frightening, myself - I see a lot of supposedly heavy-science types, doctors in particular, who have only rote-learned the motions; they have no clue as to why they get the results they get, and are completely lost (or in denial) when they don't get the results they expected.
lurch, Dec 20 2010
  

       Just like everyone else, then.
8th of 7, Dec 20 2010
  
      
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