Science Matters: Achieving Science Literacy

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US hardcover, 1st edition.

Science Matters: Achieving Science Literacy is a popular science book by Robert Hazen and James Trefil, first published in 1991.


I own a first edition hardcover and am currently reading it.



  • I love the basic overview of every major branch of science.


  • Despite the title and introduction implying the book would argue for why a basic science education is important to everyone, the book is really just a primer on various fields of the hard sciences. It ignores the soft sciences, and doesn't go into much depth on what science is or why a good science education is important.
  • Early on in the book, the authors suggest that science isn't the only way to understand something and suggest philosophy and religion as alternate means of understanding. While I agree with philosophy (science is just a category of philosophy after all), religion is not a means to understand anything, but rather a stumbling block that prevents understanding.
  • The books wants more illustrations. There are a lot of science concepts that are very difficult to picture in your head, and basic illustrations would help a lot toward understanding.
  • The authors suggest that atoms are analogous to tiny solar systems, but this model was well out of date even in 1991, and is especially inaccurate today.
  • The authors anthropomorphize too much, suggesting that photons "choose" whether they will reflect, retract, or be absorbed, that "nature created the electron," and so forth.


  • Nothing.