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Science Book Errors

Twelve of the most popular science textbooks used at middle schools nationwide are riddled with errors, a new study has found.

The Unlearning of Science Education:
The Story of SC200 Speaker: Andrew Read, Professor, University Park Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology

Nobel Prize Winner Was Dissed By His Biology Teacher
There's no better revenge than living well. That, and winning a Nobel Prize. Let’s hear it for the late bloomers: the great thinkers and statesmen who for years struggled to overcome the impression that they would never amount to anything
Woodrow Wilson — governor of New Jersey, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and President of the United States — couldn’t read until he was more than 10 years old; his teachers lumped him in with the slower children in class. Nikola Tesla, a revolutionary scientist whose work on alternating currents is often overlooked in favor of the accomplishments of his mentor Thomas Edison, was accused of cheating after he performed integral calculus in his head.

British scientist wins Nobel Prize for Stem Cell work

British scientist Sir John Gurdon, along with Shinya Yamanaka from Japan, have jointly been awarded the Nobel prize for medicine for their work on stem cell research. Their research has uncovered a way to transform adult cells to an embryonic-like stage, that could lead in the future to damaged body tissue being able to be regrown. Gurdon held a news conference in London to discuss the research he has been working on for over 50 years. "In the 1950's we really didn't know whether all your different cells had the same genes or they don't and that was the purpose of the experiments I was doing. And the outcome was that they do. So that means that in principle you should be able to derive any one kind of cell from another, because they have all got the same genes, that was I think the contribution I made at that time," he said. Gurdon also joked that at school he was told by his teachers to stop studying science. He said, "I was at a school where you did no science until the age of 15, and then I did one term of science and then the schoolmaster wrote the report, the details of which I can't quite remember, but the main gist of it was that he had heard that Gurdon was interested in doing science and that this was a completely ridiculous idea, because there was no hope whatever of my doing science and anytime spent on it would be a total waste of time, both on my part and the part of the person having to teach him. So that completely terminated my science at school." Gurdon was the first scientist to clone an animal in 1958, when he produced a healthy tadpole from the egg of a frog with DNA from another tadpole's intestinal cell. The 79-year-old will share the $1.2m worth of prize money from winning the Nobel prize with fellow scientist Yamanaka. ~ Alfred Joyner


Science Based Learning

Researchers compiled 500 pages of errors, ranging from maps depicting the equator passing through the southern United States to a photo of singer Linda Ronstadt labeled as a silicon crystal.
None of the 12 textbooks has an acceptable level of accuracy, said John Hubisz, a North Carolina State University physics professor who led the two-year survey, released earlier this month.
"These are terrible books, and they're probably a strong component of why we do so poorly in science,'' he said. Hubisz estimated about 85 percent of children in the United States use the textbooks examined. "The books have a very large number of errors, many irrelevant photographs, complicated illustrations, experiments that could not possibly work, and drawings that represented impossible situations," he told The Charlotte Observer.
The study was financed with a $64,000 grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. A team of researchers, including middle school teachers and college professors, reviewed the 12 textbooks for factual errors.
"These are basic errors," Hubisz said. "It's stuff that anyone who had taken a science class would be able to catch.''
One textbook even misstates Newton's first law of physics, a staple of physical science for centuries.
Errors in the multi-volume Prentice Hall "Science"' series included an incorrect depiction of what happens to light when it passes through a prism and the Ronstadt photo. Hubisz said the Prentice Hall series was probably the most error-filled.
Prentice Hall acknowledged some errors, partly because states alter standards at the last minute and publishers have to rush to make changes.

Read the truth about why the errors exist in the textbook publishing industry.

"We may have to change a photograph because of a new content objection, and the caption isn't changed with the photograph," Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Prentice Hall's parent company, Pearson Education, told the Observer. "But we believe we have the best practices to ensure accuracy."
Last year, the company launched a thorough audit of its textbooks for accuracy and posted corrections on a Web site, she said.
Textbooks are generally reviewed by teachers, administrators, parents and curriculum specialists before the books are used in a classroom. But Hubisz, president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, said many middle-school science teachers have little physical science training and may not recognize errors.
The study's reviewers tried to contact textbook authors with questions, Hubisz said, but in many cases the people listed said they didn't write the book, and some didn't even know their names had been listed. Some of the authors of a physical science book, for example, were biologists.
Hubisz said educators need to pressure publishers to get ``real authors'' for textbooks. "They get people to check for political correctness ... they try to get in as much cultural diversity as possible," he said. "They just don't seem to understand what science is about." Hubisz said the researchers contacted publishers, who for the most part either dismissed the panel's findings or promised corrections in subsequent editions. Reviews of later editions turned up more errors than corrections, the report said.

On the Net:
American Association of Physics Teachers

Don't Know Much About a Science Book
Wednesday May 23, 2001 12:15 AM EDT
By John L. Hubisz (The Industry Standard)

American students' grasp of math and science pales in comparison to other countries. Why? Because our textbooks are so inaccurate that the Earth might as well be flat.
Why do our eighth-graders do so poorly in math and science compared with students around the world? Why is it that 80 percent of U.S. high-school graduates never go on to take a college physics course? Why do so many American graduate schools attract more foreign students than U.S. citizens to their science and engineering programs?
One reason is that the science textbooks found in most American classrooms are, in a word, atrocious. They are riddled with errors, sloppy thinking and glitzy illustrations that illustrate little in the way of actual science. We shouldn't be surprised that American children are turning away from science when their introduction to it is at best incoherent.
I say this not as a curmudgeon, but as the author of a recent study of the 12 physical science textbooks most commonly used in middle schools around the country. What I found was horrifying: None of the books - not a single one - was deemed adequate by nine primary reviewers and a host of other experts who offered comments. Each contained hundreds of factual errors, as well as experiments that couldn't possibly work and diagrams and drawings that represented impossible situations.
One can laugh at the silly mistakes - the equator going through Texas, say. Far more serious are the routine garblings of basic science: misstating Newton's laws; claiming that no solid substance can contain a plasma; and on and on. Full text:,1902,24576,00.html

Texas educator: Forget books, let's buy computers
Sep 18, 1997
With the state facing a possible $1.8 billion bill over the next six years for school textbooks, the head of the Texas Board of Education says it might be cheaper and more innovative to buy the kids laptop computers and CD-ROMs.
"We're talking big numbers there, and the price of this technology is coming to where it approaches that level," said board Chairman Jack Christie. "Why wait for the rest of the nation?"
Christie said computer companies would likely be willing to give the state discounts and donated services for the chance to serve 410 million children. Once the investment is made, computer software could be easily and cheaply updated, he said.
"Why wait for six, seven, eight years to update history (textbooks)? They (students) need it today,"he said. Christie's comments come as the board prepares to vote in November on funding for textbooks for the years 2000-2001. In that budget period, state budget officials say textbooks will cost the state $602 million in subjects such as English, U.S. history, science, health and mathematics. In the current two-year period, textbooks cost about $361 million.
Some officials were more cautious about jumping into the realm of high technology, questioning whether it's necessary to constantly be updating subject material.
"When I was in school, we never got past World War II. How much change do you make in a history textbook?" said Robert Junell, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Apple Computer officials said their laptops are already used in a number of Texas school districts. "Apple has always partnered with schools," said Ann Pittman, a regional saleswoman for Apple's educational division, SchoolVision Inc., "and SchoolVision has joined in those partnerships to create affordable ways for schools to procure technology.


Nobel Prize for 3 who know how world Ends.

THREE US-born scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics yesterday for overturning a fundamental assumption in their field by showing that the expansion of the universe is constantly accelerating. Their discovery created a new portrait of the eventual fate of the universe: a place of super-low temperatures and black skies unbroken by the light of galaxies moving away from each other at incredible speed.
Physicists had assumed for decades that the expansion of the universe was getting ever-slower, meaning that in billions of years it would resemble today's universe in many important ways.
Then, working in separate research teams during the 1990s, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess found that the light from more than 50 distant exploding stars was far weaker than they expected, meaning that galaxies had to be racing away from each other at increasing speed. The acceleration is driven by what scientists call dark energy, a cosmic force that is one of the great mysteries of the universe.
The Nobel-winning discovery implies instead that the universe will get increasingly colder as matter spreads across ever-vaster distances in space, said Lars Bergstrom, secretary of the Nobel physics committee. He said galaxies that are 3 million light years away from Earth move at a speed of around 70 kilometers per second. Galaxies 6 million light years away move twice as fast.
The research implies that billions of years from now, the universe will become "a very, very large, but very cold and lonely place," said Charles Blue, spokesman for the American Institute of Physics. In contrast to the big bang, that fate has been called the "big rip" to indicate how galaxies would be torn apart, he said. Galaxies will be flying away so quickly that their light could not travel across the universe to distant observers as it does today, making the sky appear black, he said. "For almost a century the universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago," the citation said. "However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the universe will end in ice."
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Perlmutter would receive half the 10 million kronor (US$1.5 million) award, with Riess and Schmidt, a US-born Australian, splitting the other half. Perlmutter, 52, heads the Supernova Cosmology Project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley.

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