Good practice – or How to Get an A on the Blog

Take a look at what the students did in previous years (2010 & 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015); you might even try grading a few yourself using the Rubric in the Syllabus. A lot of student efforts are pretty average (particularly when they are left to the last minute). So make sure you model your efforts on the best. You can see many examples of good practice is you scroll through the enormous amount of stuff I have posted on my blog over the years (Get an A on the Blog). There are some good words of wisdom from the TA’s from previous years (2011 , 2012, 2013, 2014 and especially Abby Kennedy from 2015

Ideas for Blog posts

There are also lots of great science blogs out there.  A good portal to many of them is Science Blogs.  Also good for ideas is Seed MagazineThe New York TimesNational Geographicedge.orgPSU Science and Research Penn State.  But get goggling.  Work the internet. Interview a scientist; there are thousands on campus. And think about your life and your major and what interests you that is science related and look into those things. If the topic doesn’t interest you, its really unlikely you will do a good job. 

Note taking on this course

Andrew gives out very skeletal powerpoint handouts; these are to stop you trying to copy everything down, especially the unimportant or complex bits, and to give you some structure to what is going on. But the handouts are not comprehensive and even the full slides which get posted to Angel after each class still do not cover everything – far from it. Indeed, the handouts are like looking at the party on Instamgram after the event: Better than nothing but certainly not like being there. So you have to take great notes. Great (GREAT) words of wisdom on this are provided in this post from 2015 TA Abby Kennedy.


Why science is civilizing.pdf

An absolutely excellent summary of what science is about and why it civilizes.


There are no set texts for this course.  But I found the following easy-to-read books useful when putting the course together.  They are all excellent, but Bryson is the most fun (although Olson comes a close second*), Sagan is the most important, and Burch is the most shocking. This summer (2016), I read Firestein. It’s a short and fast read and it changed the way I think about science and what I do – despite almost 35 years in the science game. Who knew knowledge could get in the way so much.

Bill Bryson (2003)  A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Black Swan
Druin Burch (2009)  Taking the Medicine.  A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea and Our Difficulty Swallowing It.  Vintage Books.
Cornelia Dean (2009).  Am I Making Myself Clear?  A Scientists Guides to Talking to the Public.  Harvard University Press.
Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (2009)  Unscientific America.  How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.  Basic Books.
Randy Olson (2009)  Don’t be Such a Scientist.  Talking Substance in an Age of Style. Island Press.
Carl Sagan (1996).  The Demon-Haunted World.  Science as a Candle in the Dark. Ballantyne Books.
Sherry Seethaler (2009).  Lies, Damned Lies and Sciene.  How to Sort through the Noise around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies.  FT Press Science.
Stuart Firestein (2012). Ignorance: How it Drives Science. Oxford.


Four excellent lectures from one of Britain’s foremost scientists about the challenges facing science in the 21st century. Bill Bryson being brilliant about what he learned as a non-scientist about science and what it has discovered.*From p. 65: “There is a famous quote by Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, who heard a woman shout to him that all the thinking people in America were with him.  He replied “That’s not going to be enough, Madam: I need a majority of the public.”

Last updated Aug 22, 2016

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