Session B4: How to Communicate Physics to the General Public Using Books and Articles

10:45 AM–12:33 PM, Saturday, April 12, 2008
Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront (formerly Adam's Mark Hotel), Room: Promenade B

Sponsoring Units: FEd FPS
Chair: Andrew Post-Zwicker, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Abstract ID: BAPS.2008.APR.B4.1

Abstract: B4.00001 : Writing about, and teaching, physics for non-scientists

10:45 AM–11:21 AM

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  Art Hobson
    (University of Arkansas)

Physicists must communicate their knowledge to the general public because, as the American Association for the Advancement of Science puts it, ``without a scientifically literate population, the outlook for a better world is not promising.'' I'll discuss what I've learned about writing for non-scientists from my physics textbook for non-science college students, Physics: Concepts and Connections, now in its fourth edition and in use on 130 campuses, and also from my bi-weekly hometown newspaper column. Lessons learned include the process of organizing and writing a textbook, tips for writing effective prose, dos and don'ts when writing for non-scientists, choice of subject matter, being relevant to the needs of non-scientists, and unifying one's book through the use of such general themes as ``the scientific process,'' or ``energy.'' For real-world relevance, I suggest emphasizing physics-related social topics, and modern and contemporary physics. I highly recommend Michael Alley's book The Craft of Scientific Writing, as well as Strunk and White's timeless Elements of Style.

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