Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Story of Science

The Story of Science
By Jamie Hale

One night while watching TV I stumbled across a program that featured Joy Hakim.
Hakim is an award winning writer who has written a series of book on US History and Science. After a couple of months of email exchanges I decided it was time to do an interview with Joy Hakim.

What does a day in the life of Joy Hakim look like?

When I'm writing (which is most of the time) I read the NYTimes with breakfast and then get to my desk (usually about 8:30 a.m.). I work until noon, trying to remember to get up every hour and stretch. Then lunch and--this is where my schedule varies--sometimes I do errands, or swim, or go to a yoga class, or go back to work. Sometimes I write into the evening, sometimes I play.

Of the books you have written do you have a favorite?

The book I'm currently working on is always my favorite. But I'm perhaps most proud of "Einstein Adds A New Dimension." It stretched my head and gave me a chance to get to know a wonderful MIT author/physicist, Edwin Taylor.

Was it harder to write the US History books or the science books?

The science books were harder to write because I had little background in the subject. I was trained as a journalist, so no subject intimidates me, still, quantum theory and relativity were tough. I'd like teachers to feel they can tackle any subject by being willing to learn along with their students. The old model of teacher as ultimate expert is out-of-date. Knowledge is increasing at exponential rates, no one can keep up. Teaching students how to find information and process it needs to become the ultimate school goal. If we can create real learning communities in our classrooms we can handle the abundance of information that is now available to all of us everywhere.

Did you have a team of researchers working with you on the history and science series?

I don't have any researchers helping me, I do contact lots of experts and have them read copy and answer questions. It's wonderful, when you are writing for young readers the best people are willing to help

What can we do to improve America’s History and Science programs in our schools?

We need to stop thinking of history and science as isolated stand-alone subjects. History is a great mother discipline. Everything that happens today will be history tomorrow. So history can tie all subjects together. It should be central to curricula. As to science, we live in the greatest scientific era ever. The scientific discoveries of recent times underlie and guide our society. And yet we keep today's most exciting science as an elite subject for a small percentage of our population. No wonder school seems irrelevant to many kids. Black holes, dark matter, dark energy are all out there ready to entice young minds. For heavens sake, why aren't we teaching physics and genetics to all our children? Teachers aren't trained in those subjects? Then they can learn with their students and tie the subject to history and literature too

Why is there such a huge lack of critical thinking courses offered in most school systems?

I don't think much of critical thinking courses. You learn to think critically by researching and writing. I have some experience in those disciplines. I promise--demand more research-based writing and critical thinking scores will soar.

What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author?

I'm an eclectic reader and love to mix the ancients with 19th century fiction, but mostly I read current books for information, so it is in nonfiction that I spend much of my reading time. We have a group of science writers today who are astonishingly eloquent--they include Hans Christian von Baeyer, Alan Lightman, Richard Feynman, Marcia Bartusiak, and Brian Greene--for starters. Stephen Hawking and his daughter have written adventure books for young readers on space exploration, and they are page-turners. Among historians, David McCullough and Joseph Ellis are favorites. Christopher Buckley's recent book about his parents is a writer's gem. I just finished Jenny Uglow's wonderful book The Lunar Society, about a group of outrageous and amazing 18th century thinkers and doers.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

Yes, right now I am working on two books that are complementary approaches to biology and its process of change. I'm learning a lot.

Visit Joy Hakim's site at www.joyhakim.com

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quotes that Matter

A few of my favorite quotes

Carl Sagan

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.

From Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit
Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities")

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts

Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours

Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?


A friend to all is a friend to none.

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

Karl Popper

In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality


If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it.


Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty

Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men

The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light

Thomas Edison

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration

Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure

There is no substitute for hard work

To have a great idea, have a lot of them

We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything

Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have

Noam Chomsky

Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune

The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control - "indoctrination," we might say - exercised through the mass media.


All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Ben Franklin

Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else

It is the eye of other people that ruin us. If I were blind I would want, neither fine clothes, fine houses or fine furniture

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Albert Einstein

Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters

George Washington

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one

Rene Descartes

It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.

Jean Pigaet

Scientific knowledge is in perpetual evolution; it finds itself changed from one day to the next. Scientific thought, then, is not momentary; it is not a static instance; it is a process

George Carlin

Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man – living in the sky – who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if yu do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ‘til the end of time. . . But He loves you