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What's the Big Idea? Scientific Literacy at the San Antonio Public Library.   Tags: adult programs, environmental quality, evolution, science  

Last Updated: Aug 27, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

General Science Resources @ SAPL Print Page

Science Books at SAPL

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Deep - James Nestor
ISBN: 9780547985527
Publication Date: 2014-06-24

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The Norm Chronicles - Michael Blastland; David Spiegelhalter
ISBN: 9780465085705
Publication Date: 2014-06-03

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The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons - Sam Kean
ISBN: 9780316182348
Publication Date: 2014-05-06

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Zoom - Bob Berman
ISBN: 9780316217408
Publication Date: 2014-06-24

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Cured - Nathalia Holt
ISBN: 9780525953920
Publication Date: 2014-02-27

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The Sound Book - Trevor Cox
ISBN: 9780393239799
Publication Date: 2014-02-10

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Colliding Worlds - Arthur I. Miller
ISBN: 9780393083361
Publication Date: 2014-06-16

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Louis Agassiz - Christoph Irmscher
ISBN: 9780547577678
Publication Date: 2013-02-05

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Pieces of Light - Charles Fernyhough
ISBN: 9780062237897
Publication Date: 2013-03-19

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Everest - The First Ascent - Harriet Tuckey
ISBN: 9780762791927
Publication Date: 2013-05-21

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The Perfect Theory - Pedro G. Ferreira
ISBN: 9780547554891
Publication Date: 2014-02-04

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Murderous Minds - Dean Haycock
ISBN: 9781605984988
Publication Date: 2014-03-06

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Consciousness and the Brain - Stanislas Dehaene
ISBN: 9780670025435
Publication Date: 2014-01-30

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Starlight Detectives - Alan Hirshfeld
ISBN: 9781934137789
Publication Date: 2014-07-08

Featured Databases

Search our databases to help with research or other important science information

  • Science & Technology Collection
    Over 800 leading full-text journals covering relevant aspects of the scientific and technical community. In addition to full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 1,700 publications.
  • Health Source - Consumer Edition
    Provides access to nearly 300 full text, consumer health periodicals, including American Fitness, Better Nutrition, Fit Pregnancy, Harvard Health Letter, HealthFacts, Men's Health, Muscle & Fitness, Prevention, Vegetarian Times, and many others

More Databases

Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete is the world's most valuable and comprehensive scholarly, multi- disciplinary full-text database, with more than 5,300 full-text periodicals, including 4,400 peer-reviewed journals. In addition to full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 9,300 journals and a total of 9,810 publications including monographs, reports, conference proceedings, etc.

Computer Source

This database contains nearly 300 full text journals and magazines covering topics such as computer science, programming, artificial intelligence, cybernetics, information systems, robotics, and software. Computer Source provides a balance of full text technical journals and full text consumer computer titles.

Medline Plus

Authoritative health information from the National Library of Medicine. Contains directories, a medical encyclopedia and a medical dictionary, easy-to-understand tutorials on common conditions, tests, and treatments, health information in Spanish, extensive information on prescription and nonprescription drugs, health information from the media, and links to thousands of clinical trials.

Psychology & Behavioral Sciences

Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection is a comprehensive database covering information concerning topics in emotional and behavioral characteristics, psychiatry & psychology, mental processes, anthropology, and observational & experimental methods.


What You'll Find Here

Become engaged in science for adults. Browse our selected science resources and attend one of our presentations by experts in various science fields.

Discover a BIG IDEA in science at the

San Antonio Public Library. 


There's real poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality.

                                                                                         Richard Dawkins 


What is Scientific Literacy Anyway?

Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived  from curiosity about everyday experiences.

It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural  phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and   to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.

(National Science Education Standards, page 22)


National Science Education Standards:



SciShow discusses science news and history and concepts.

With equal parts skepticism and enthusiasm, they go a little deeper...without going off the deep end.

Most of the time, anyway.



Our World is Amazing.

Vsauce was created by Michael Stevens in the summer of 2010.




Minute Physics

Simply put: cool physics and other sweet science.

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

~Rutherford via Einstein? (wikiquote)

Created by Henry Reich


Minute Physics



TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.


Dance Your Ph.D

The top prize for the 2013 “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest goes to … Cedric Tan, a biologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who finished his Ph.D. there last year with a thesis titled “Sperm competition between brothers and female choice.” His dance interpretation of that research illustrates the chicken mating process using a range of styles, from swing and water ballet—yes, in actual water—to modern jazz and what can only be described as cockfighting.

The contest, now in its 6th year, is sponsored by Science magazine and AAAS (publisher of ScienceNOW). Based on votes from previous winners and an independent panel of artists and scientists, Tan won both the Biology category and the overall prize: $1000 and a trip—sponsored by HighWire Press—to screen his video at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. 

Subject Guide

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Sandra Carreon Griffin
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Poetry, Science

Science Magazines @ SAPL

Title Popular science

Central Holdings May 1873-Current
Branch Holdings current 12 months held by Forest Hills, Bazan, Brook Hollow, Cody, Collins Garden, Great Northwest, Igo, Johnston, Landa, Las Palmas, Maverick, Memorial, Mission, Parman, San Pedro, Semmes, Thousand Oaks, Tobin

Title Discover


Central Holdings July 1981-Current
Branch Holdings current 12 months held by Forest Hills, Brook Hollow, Cody, Cortez, Great Northwest, Igo, Las Palmas, Maverick, McCreless, Memorial, Mission, Pan American, Parman, Semmes, Thousand Oaks, Tobin, Westfall


Title New scientist


Central Holdings January 1989-Current
Branch Holdings None


Title Science news


Central Holdings June 4, 2005-Current
Branch Holdings current 6 months held by Brook Hollow, Carver, Cody, Igo, Maverick, Memorial, Mission, Parman, San Pedro, Thousand Oaks, Westfall


Title Scientific American


Central Holdings July 2005-Current
Branch Holdings current 12 months held by Guerra, Johnston, Maverick, Parman, Semmes, Thousand Oaks


Science Videos @ SAPL

Title Impossible: Physics Beyond the Edge

Call number DVD 530 IMPOSSIBLE 4 videodiscs (ca. 720 min.) Pub date 2010

Title The Sacred Science

Call number DVD 610.98 SACRED 1 videodisc (77 min.) Pub date 2011

Title Can Science Stop Crime?

Call number DVD 364.2 CAN, 1 videodisc (60 min.) Pub date 2012

Title Blast!

Call number DVD 522 BLAST, 1 videodisc (ca. 74 min.) Pub date 2011

Title Brave new world

Call number DVD 500.2 Brave, 2 videodiscs (ca. 231 min.) Pub date 2012

Title What will the future be like?

Call number DVD 600 WHAT, 1 videodisc (60 min.) Pub date 2013

Title Birth of civilization

Call number DVD 599.938 BIRTH, 1 videodisc (90 min.) Pub date 2008

Title What's the next big thing?

Call number DVD 601.12 WHAT'S, 1 videodisc (60 min.) Pub date 2011

Title Can I eat that?

Call number DVD 641.3 CAN Description, 1 videodisc (60 min.) Pub date 2012

Title Brave new world with Stephen Hawking

Call number DVD 500.2 BRAVE, 2 videodiscs (ca. 231 min.) Pub date 2012

Title Can science stop crime?

Call number DVD 364.CAN, 1 videodisc (60 min.) Pub date 2012

Title What are the animals thinking?

Call number DVD 591.513 WHAT, 1 videodisc (ca. 60 min.) Pub date 2012

Title Hunting the elements

Call number DVD 546 HUNTING, 1 videodisc (120 min.) Pub date 2012




How Many Dimensions Does the Universe Really Have?

By Paul Halpern on Thu, 03 Apr 2014

Paul Halpern is Professor of Physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. A prolific author, he has written thirteen science books and dozens of articles. His interests range from space, time and higher dimensions to cultural aspects of science.

An engineer, a mathematician and a physicist walk into a universe. How many dimensions do they find?

The engineer whips out a protractor and straightedge. That’s easy, she says. With her instruments she demonstrates the trio of directions at right angles to each other: length, width and height. “Three,” she reports.

The mathematician gets out his notepad and creates a list of regular, symmetric geometric shapes with perpendicular sides. Squares have four linear edges, he notes. Cubes have six square sides. By extrapolation, hypercubes have eight cubic sides. Continuing the pattern, he realizes that he could keep going forever. “Infinity,” he says.

Finally it is the physicist’s turn. She gazes at the stars and carefully records their behavior. She determines that they attract each other through gravity, which drops off as the square of their mutual distances—an indication, she thinks, of three dimensions. However, once she derives the equation for how their light moves through space, she finds that it is best expressed in four dimensions. Then, after much thought, she tries to think of ways to describe gravity and light in a common theory, which seems to require at least ten dimensions. “Three, four, or maybe even more,” she chimes in.

Let’s see how she reached her conclusions.

In 1917, Austrian physicist Paul Ehrenfest wrote a thought-provoking piece, “In what way does it become manifest in the fundamental laws of physics that space has three dimensions?” (pdf). In the article he enumerated evidence that three dimensions are perfect for describing our world.

He noted, for example, that the stable orbits of planets in the solar system and the stationary states of electrons in atoms require inverse-squared force laws. If gravity, for instance, dropped off with the cube instead of the square of distance from the Sun, the planets would not follow steady, elliptical paths.

Let’s think of what an inverse-squared law means. Imagine a bubble that roughly encompasses a planet’s orbit. The strength of the Sun’s gravitational field at that distance is diluted over the bubble’s surface area. Surface area is proportional to radial distance squared, explaining why gravity drops off by that factor. Because a bubble, including its interior, is three-dimensional, space itself must be as well. In short, the fact that gravity tapers off with distance squared—the amount of a bubble’s surface area—implies three-dimensionality.

The universe is not just space, though. As Russian-German mathematician Hermann Minkowski demonstrated, Einstein’s special theory of relativity, postulated to explain how light moves at a constant speed relative to all observers, can best be expressed in four dimensions. Instead of considering space and time independently, he proposed a unified vision of spacetime. In his general theory of relativity, Einstein made use of the concept and described gravity using a dynamic four-dimensional model.

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