"At one time cannibals in New Guinea believed they could absorb the skills and knowledge of their enemies by eating their brains."
Believe it or not, in the 1950s and 1960s competent scientists actually tested an "edible memory theory." Only through the time-honored tradition of scientists cross-checking one another's results did the theory get discarded.
Science is everywhere! It's astonishing to what extent it pervades our lives, influencing us on a daily basis. But there is a lot of faulty and phony research, and it's difficult for the public to discern what science is good and what is false or misleading. Nibbling on Einstein's Brain takes a fun yet informative look at the scientific facts that constantly bombard us.
How can we equip ourselves to better judge what is good and what is suspect? First we must examine how good science works. And don't worry, there is plenty of good science out there. You'll learn how to follow a "scientific method" for developing theories, designing research to test those theories, and analyzing the results in order to reach conclusions. You'll be amazed at how fascinating the process can be. Now go back: is the initial theory still sound? Good science is always checked and rechecked, both by the original scientist and by others in the field.
Plenty of tips are offered on how to be discerning when it comes to science. Chapters are organized into specific themes to help the reader become a skilled scientific watchdog:
The engaging text is perfectly geared to middle readers and is complemented by amusing illustrations and a lively design. Numerous sidebars throughout feature intriguing facts, examples of experiments, humorous tales, and provocative quotes from scientists, astronomers, and philosophers. Kids are encouraged to question the process of science so they can separate the good from the bad. A list of recommended books, magazines, and Internet sites as well as a glossary of terms complete this illuminating exploration of science and how it enters our everyday world.close this panel
From Chapter 2, Science Watch
Baloney Buster 12: Questioning Questionable Questions
Beside wording question carefully, good researchers avoid asking poor questions through pretesting -- trying out the questions on a sample of people similar to the test subjects. After a pretest, the researchers discuss the questions with the people who answered them. The object is to learn which questions were too hard, too confusing, or too limiting. That information helps the researchers pinpoint questions that should be reworded, dropped, or added.
Here are some examples of questions before pretesting and the changes that might result. Unfortunately, poor researchers seldom pretest their questions, so they don't catch problems before they carry out their studies.
Before Pretest: Do you ever watch hockey and soccer on TV? Problem: Combining two questions. After Pretest: Do you ever watch hockey on TV?
Do you ever watch soccer on TV?
Before Pretest: Like most people your age, do you watch TV documentaries only rarely? Problem: Biased After Pretest: How often do you watch TV documentaries?
- frequently? - occasionally? - rarely? - never?
Before Pretest: About how much time do you spend watching TV in a normal week? Problem: No problem After Pretest: No change is needed
Before Pretest: What impact has TV had on your family? Problem: Unanswerable. Respondent can't say how TV affects each individual After Pretest: Drop the question.
ALWAYS ASK: Were the questions pretested? YOUR TURN: Try your own question pretest. Ask some of your friends the unanswerable question and the vague question in Baloney Buster #11, and see what kinds of responses you get. Then ask your friends why they had a tough time answering.
Diane Swanson is a successful, award-winning writer of non-fiction for children. She is the author of over 35 books for children, including The Doctor and You (2000), Animals Eat the Weirdest Things and Safari Beneath the Sea. Diane lives in Victoria, B.C.
Warren Clark studied at the Michael's School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa. He has spent his career working as a graphic and book designer, first in England and then in Alberta. Warren now lives in the wilds of British Columbia.close this panel
An engaging combination of accuracy and humor ... After reading this book students should have a clear understanding of the differences between sound and unsound scientific inquiry.
Teachers, parents, librarians, and other adults who want to make science attractive to young people will snap up Nibbling on Einstein's Brain with gusto. Highly recommended.
Fascinating and kid-friendly ... an introduction to the tools and strategies needed to evaluate and understand scientific information.
Challenges the reader to be a critical thinker ... funny illustrations make this brain-booster book worth nibbling on.
An extremely useful introduction to a subject that is rarely broached effectively.
This humorous and useful book attempts to help students learn to analyze the "science" that's reported in the news.
A good introduction to bad science ... a highly readable text and jaunty line illustrations, the book encourages critical thinking and skepticism when evaluating science reporting and media hype.
A lighthearted but reliable explanation of the scientific method of research ... written for children 8 to 12, but even high school students or college students assigned a science project would find this simple explanation of the scientific method useful.
EDITOR'S CHOICE: 'A great resource for K-12 teachers and students about how to perform, analyze and assess research, but also on how to look critically at data generated by the various types of media ... Anyone who is trying to get their students to question facts should get their hands on this book. The chapter summaries are an invaluable resource in themselves.'