The science you need to know

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The science you need to know

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Ten examples of the ideas that people in public life should understand

General Relativity: a theory that posits the warping effect of gravity on space-time. In the imagined experiment, left, a signal beamed from a satellite bends round the sun

“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists,” said CP Snow in his celebrated “Two Cultures” lecture of 1959. “Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”

It is hard to believe that Snow would meet with much more comprehension were he to repeat his questions in today’s House of

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Mark Henderson

Mark Henderson is science editor of the Times and the author of “50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know” (Quercus) 

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