An introduction

If you missed out on science at school, you’re in good company. Huge numbers of adults feel they did badly in the subject at school and, unfortunately, many put it down to having ‘been no good at it’. These stories aim to change that perception. Narrow syllabuses, shortage of qualified teachers, requirements of universities, dependence on maths – all these contribute to the widespread disenchantment many feel about their science education.

My conviction is that adults who manage to keep up happily with matters of politics, literature and history are also capable of getting to grips with science. The intellectual challenge is not intrinsically harder than for other subjects and the subject matter is not as remote or boring as you may once have thought, as a teenager. This conviction comes from having run discussion groups for ordinary citizens, in which questions and observations about the natural world form the ‘curriculum’. By starting from these real-world interests, rather than an exam syllabus, the basic concepts in science get revealed in a meaningful way.

Starting with everyday questions about cuts and bruises, frying eggs or watching an eclipse, basic concepts are encountered: molecules, neurons, energy and galaxies. Over time, it’s not just that your questions will be answered (google does that) or your fascination that’s aroused (TV documentaries do that) – the aim is to help you build a landscape of powerful ideas to help you understand the world around you. Hopefully it will enable you  to make better sense of the popular science books and documentaries that can take you more deeply into any topic you choose, be it evolution, electricity or the Big Bang.

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