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Publisher's Summary

These 18 lucid essays on chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy and biology will help listeners comprehend today's science news.
©2009 James Trefil and Robert M. Hazen; (P)2009 Random House

Critic Reviews

"Lucid and lively. Hazen and Trefil have a particular genius for picturing even formidably abstract ideas in concrete images.... Science Mattersis as good as they get." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Hazen and Trefil are unpretentious, good, down-to-earth, we-can-explain-anything science teachers, the kind you wish you had but never did." (The New York Times)
"Easily one of the finest available single-volume introductions to science." (Kirkus Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Joshua
  • Sacramento, CA, USA
  • 09-18-09

Everything I thought I knew, brilliantly told.

When I graduated MIT in 1984 with a degree in Biology, mine was the first class to be offered a laboratory course in genetic engineering. The rest, as they say, is history. This is the best, most fascinating intro and review of the highlights of all branchs of modern sciences since Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Compared to that wonderful book, this one has less history and more theory - and is more current and succinct, but never dry. This is the book for the curious mind, whether or not you've every studied the laws of thermodynamics or plate tectonics. As the authors point out, even professional scientists rarely know the latest theories that are outside their own narrow field of study. Here's the chance for layman and scientist to get up to speed. C'mon, now, its the 21st century, and with this book there's no excuse not to be up-to-date.

32 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • Lighthouse Point, FL, USA
  • 10-14-09


You won't believe how interesting science is until you're introduced to it by the likes of Trefil and Hazen! If you want to inspire someone in the area of the sciences, or even of the great potential and value of learning and education, convince them to just give this a try! You'll be doing them a real favor.

I've given away 4-5 copies of the book and everyone has been surprised by how much they like it. I have both the audio and paperback for myself.

The narration fits the book perfectly.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Science For Everyone 101

A great book! I read lots of non-fiction and several science/nature magazines regularly. While I was listening to Science Matters, the topics presented kept coming up in book after book and article after article. It was almost uncanny. Further, even though I felt I was literate on most of the topics I found that the authors added depth and clarity to my understanding. So whether you are a total novice or a well read person I recommend this book. It is more than worth the time to listen to it.

Next, the book is well written. It is easy to follow and easy to understand.

Lastly, the narration was very good.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Gail
  • Merrimac, MA, United States
  • 06-18-10

A useful and intersting skim over important info

There are three kinds of knowledge: what we know; what we know that we don't know; and, what we don't know that we don't know. It's the last kind that will bite you where it hurts. Science Matters is an extremely useful tool for finding out what we don't know about the massively complex world we live in. It's well written, easy to understand, and covers a broad array of subjects just deeply enough to give us a plausible shot at coming to sound conclusions about where we are and where we are headed, ready or not...

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Easy listening, good leanings!

I wish I had a physics teacher like the ones in the book! My university and later professional life would have been much easier; I really enjoyed listening things that I already know explained in such an easy and clear way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 05-26-12

Detailed survey science book

This probably shouldn't be your introductory survey science book ("The History of Nearly Everything" would be a better intro). If you had read other science books recently and want to know more of the fundamentals, this would be a good intro to give you a good foundation. Some sections are hard to follow if it is the first time in years you've come across that bit of science.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Margaret
  • San Francisco, CA USA
  • 09-10-10

Excellent clarity

This is a great book to refresh some concepts that I thought I knew, but had gotten a little fuzzy on. I'm recommending this for everyone who considers themselves "scientifically literate" or would like to be.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Lucas
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 11-24-11

dry, dry, dry

The authors obviously know their stuff and the concepts are written clearly but it's much like reading a textbook. I think this would be a good book to have as a reference on your shelf but as far as something to listen to while driving, you better make sure you have a strong cup of coffee on hand or you may wake up in the hospital.

I started this one in September and, two moths later, I'm still listening in small chunks. With about 30% still to go, I'll finish it eventually but I've heard enough to make my opinion

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Required Reading

I have read so many books recently in the realm of physics. And all the books I have read have there highlights. Usually those highlights come in the form of an explaination of something that I previously read and even found fascinating but couldn't grasp which finally becomes something I can wrap my head around. Well that said, I believe this book "Science Matters" does that very thing for me more than many other books!
The section I found most educational is the chemistry. Fasinating how you can still see correlations between atomic shapes and macro-affects. So much in here to enjoy! The segways from section to section are smooth making everything seem just as important as the next.
I greatly appreciate what these two fellows have done here. I am sure many others are responsible for such a great work, but I would like to thank James Trefil and Robert M. Hazen for there contribution to the furtherance of mankind. It all starts with education.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great place to start

I found this book to be a great starting place for anyone who is interested in both getting up to date with current understandings and for those of use who have strugled with more specific scientific explinations. This book provides a great foundation for almost any branch of science interest.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Darren
  • 08-27-09

Good book for understanding general science.

Got this book as I am interested in some areas of Science but did not feel my school education had left me with a good base on which to build on. I would often be reading about a subject and then a concept would be thrown in to which I was not familiar. Funnily enough the book introduction talks about how some experts in one field of science can often be near clueless on subjects outside their own field of study! So it seems I'm not the only one!

The book is reasonably easy to follow and explains everything you'd need to know to get by in reading most scientific articles.

The only minor criticism I have with it is that it frequently uses imperial measurements, which is something that I feel should be avoided. The reason they have done this is that the book is targeted towards an American audience who will be more familiar with imperial measures.

The above aside I would recommend this to anyone looking to brush up on their knowledge of science in general.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful