Science Terms You Should Know

At least once a year every news site will run a story about how Americans are falling behind in scientific knowledge compared to other countries. This has come to be measured as scientific literacy and there are numerous tests on the web that can give you a score as to how scientifically savvy you are compared to the rest of the population.

Scientific literacy is important because an understanding of basic scientific words and concepts can inform everything from job success to community participation to the making of decisions in your personal life.

The United States National Center for Education Statistics has outlined seven characteristics of the scientifically literate person. These include things like being able to read and discuss scientific articles in the popular press and recognizing specific scientific issues that are involved in the decisions made at the local, state, and national levels of government.

A number of organizations and websites have published their own lists of basic science. These include scientific facts, terms, concepts and currently established theories. There is even a book listing 100 terms every college graduate should know about science.

A quick perusal of these lists reveals many words that people use in everyday conversation: zero, photon, big bang, pheromone, placebo, sex. But there are also words that people use without knowing what they mean. When you talk about how many gigabytes of data a memory card holds, do you know exactly how many bytes that is? (1 gigabyte equals 1024x1024x1024).

Here are some of the tech and science terms that you may want to brush up on in 2014:

cloud storage
cognitive dissonance
cyber security
game theory
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
radiometric dating
logic gate
junk DNA
big data
solar wind
protein folding
dark energy
string theory

watch popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discuss the importance of scientific literacy in the video below:

Margie Zellweller is an educational blogger who spent 15 years working in elementary education.  In addition to writing about the importance of science education, she has addressed topics like computers, e-learning, and even helped develop lessons plans for everything from grammar to math to vocabulary lists (similar to this one).

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