An education in Science Class 8 Wind Chimes: This is an extract from Stephen Hawking’s Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. Stephen William Hawking (1942-2018) was a renowned scientist and the director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.
Mr Hawking discusses different perceptions about science and its effects. He says that one cannot stop enquiring minds from thinking about basic science. He wishes that changes in science and technology are in the right direction. It is very important for the people to have a basic understanding of science, so that they can make informed decisions and not leave everything in the hands of experts. The public has ambivalent attitude towards science. The public distrusts science because they don’t understand it. We get to see this in the cartoon character of a mad scientist, working in his laboratory to produce a Frankenstein. Somehow, the public also has great interest in science, particularly astronomy. He emphasises that despite all this the public needs to make informed decisions on subjects like acid rain, the greenhouse effect, nuclear weapons and generic engineering. For this he goes back to the school and relates it to the way science is taught in the schools. It is presented in a very dry and uninteresting manner. Most of the children learn it by the rote methods to pass examinations. They hardly see its relevance in the world around them.
It is also because science is usually taught in terms of equations. Though equations are a concise and accurate way, they often frighten people. He himself wrote a popular book, for which he was advised not to include equations because that would reduce the sales. These equations serve good only to the scientists and engineers, but for the rest of the people a qualitative grasp of scientific concepts is sufficient, which could be conveyed by diagrams, without the use of equations. He gives some tips to improve the scientific temperament in people. And here he talks about the role of television that can reach a truly mass audience. Television does have some good programmes. He believes that producers of television science programmes should realise that they have responsibility to educate the public and not just entertain them. He goes further, talking about the East-West tensions and the horrors of nuclear war. Nuclear weapons are still poised to strike all the major cities in the Northern Hemisphere.
He shows his worry that even smaller powers are acquiring nuclear capabilities. Even a small glitch or error or mutiny can jeopardise the world and the people.
- privileged minority – small section of people with more benefits, power and rights than the common people.
- enquiring – questioning
- totalitarian – a type of political system in which state is all powerful in controlling the rights of people.
- ingenuity – skill at inventing things
- ambivalent – divided or undecided as what to do
- Frankenstein – a monster that destruction destroyed its own created
- harness – make use of
- receded – gradually gone, to come or go back or to withdrawal
- rudimentary – simple and in its intifada stage abdomen unsophisticated
- arsenal – attire of am and ammunition
1. T 2. F 3. F 4. T 5. T 6. F 7. T 8. T 9. T 10. T
- a. ‘It’ refers to the public.
b. According to the author most people distrust science because they are unable to understand.
c. That subject is science, particularly astronomy.
- a. They have been responsible about the way they use nuclear power.
b. He refers to powers like Libya or Iraq, Pakistan or even Azerbaijan.
c. He uses the words ‘so far’ because he is not sure that they will continue to do so.
- a. He included the equation in a popular book that he wrote.
b. He was told that including equations in the book would make its sale go down.
c. He feels that the book would have sold twice as many copies if he hadn’t included the equation.
1. They wish to do that so that they can go back to a simpler and purer age.
2. Life was difficult for most people. It was not so bad for a privileged minority, though even they had to do without modern medicine, and childbirth was highly risky for women. But for the vast majority of the population, life was nasty, brutish, and short.
3. The only way to prevent further developments from taking place would be to have a global totalitarian state that suppressed anything new.
4. One cannot stop enquiring minds from thinking about basic science, so development will continue to take place. Also, human initiative and ingenuity would ensure that developments continue to take place.
5. The writer says that the public has a rather ambivalent attitude towards science. It has come to expect the steady increase in the standard of living those new developments in science and technology have brought to continue, but it also distrusts science because it does not understand it.
6. It distrusts science because it does not understand it.
7. Children learn science by rote to pass examinations. They are not shown its relevance to the world around them. Moreover, science is often taught in terms of equations.
8. He would like it to be taught through words and diagrams, without the use of equations. They could also be taught through educative and entertaining science programmes shown on television.
9. The writer would like to see the minimum use of nuclear weapons. He sees them as a great danger. He feels that it would only take a computer error or a mutiny by some of those manning the weapons, to trigger a global war. He feels worried about the fact that even minor nations are acquiring nuclear weapons. He does not trust that countries will use nuclear power in a responsible manner.
10. The public will have to take decisions about global problems, such as food supply or the greenhouse effect. The most urgent problem is that of nuclear weapons. This is because the irresponsible use of these weapons can wipe out humanity.
11. The joke is that the reason humans have not been contacted by an alien civilisation is that civilisations tend to destroy themselves when they reach the stage which we have reached.
12. He ends on an optimistic note, expressing his faith in the ability of humans to use their good judgement.
1. basketball 2. anybody 3. sunrise 4. upstream 5. grasshopper 6. playthings 7. grandfather 8. fireball 9. highrise 10. notebook 11. keyboard
Answers (Answers may differ)
1. ancient 2. minority 3. misinform 4. unsteady
5. destroy 6. slow 7. hide 8. irrelevance
9. create 10. divided
- watching 2. giving 3. reading 4. walking 5. painting
- going 7. Harvesting 8. attending
- She carries an umbrella as it helps to protect her from the rain.
- Raman is not afraid to speak the truth.
- We are happy to hear about his promotion.
- It is his hobby to collect antique paintings.
- Farah has carried her bag to fill it with vegetables.
- Sohail is going to Mumbai to join the management institute.
- The water is too cold to drink.
- The mountain is too high to climb.
- selected 2. resumed 3. been 4. waited 5. bought
- occurred 7. sung 8. eaten 9. dealt 10. attended
- went 12. run