Ten Great Ideas

Been thinking about my previous posting.

What are the ten great ideas in Science that we don’t emphasise?

The average student remembers bugger-all about science, but if we were told there were ten things that a student had to remember, what would they be?

1. Kinetic Theory – Everything is made up of atoms and vibrate at temperatures above -273 degrees Celsius.

2. Evolution

 3. Global Warming

4. Each atom is 99.9999% empty, and so therefore all objects which appear solid are almost completely empty space.

5. Deep Time: The age of the universe, the age of the Earth, the age of first life, and the age of humans

6. Science does not offer Absolute Proof

7. Fundamental Attribution Theory: Humans are genetically hard-wired to apportion blame for our own mistakes to others while wishing to take the credit for achievements which are outside our control.

8. Quantum Theory

9. What Science doesn’t know

10. Mass Extinctions



  1. Ten things are too many to remember. If you weren’t looking at your list, I’d bet you couldn’t get them all and put them in order.

    I think it was H.L. Mencken who said the best thing about the 10 commandments is that there are only 10 of them.

    To make a memorable list, try coming up with three things every student should now about science.

    I’d say number 1 is Scientific Method. The idea of how to set up an experiment to prove something is the most central part of all science.

    Some of the things on your list can’t be explained without knowing a lot of other things. To be remembered I think you need to narrow them down. Quantum Theory is pretty big and complex.

    Just remember, there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who understand the second law of thermodynamics and those who don’t.

  2. “To make a memorable list, try coming up with three things every student should now about science.”

    Hello Steve, I thought that’s what I was doing, and given that many of these students spend seven years at second level studying science, I don’t think that ten is too many.
    I don’t expect them to be able to recite them; it’s just that if I was designing a syllabus there would be some key elements in there, and this was a just quick stab at what these might be.

    You’re right; scientific method should be there (I didn’t rank them in any specific order), but not, obviously, that there is any one true method.

    I would be interested to find out what percentage of students come out of their schooling still not knowing the importance of controlling variables, because almost all of their experiments involve following a cookbook receipe rather than designing their own.

    I threw in Quantum Theory partly because of its fascinating appeal with the public, and given that Science has a boring reputation as it is, why not try to spice it up?
    But you’re right; the tricky thing would be to have it pitched correctly.

  3. I have you answer to the memory issue. This is a clip from “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” All contestants are college graduates who usually did really well on the SATs.

    The clip speaks for itself.

  4. I really do agree with your entry: “Science does not offer absolute proof”. Science convinces, through evidence, and advances through consensus.

    As regards the ten principles, I love a tee shirt that I saw which read: “There are 10 types of people… Those that understand Binary and those who don’t!”

    Quantum Mechanics has to be in there. Its the law (or the best ones found yet). They’re the dreams that stuff is made from.

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