“A good many times I have been presented 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. 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 about the scientific equivalent of: ‘Have you ever read a work of Shakespeare’s?’”
C.P. Snow’s legendary 1959 lament, cited by mathematician Ian Stewart, who argues that understanding the 17 equations that changed the world is form of basic modern literacy. (via explore-blog)
I love the idea behind this because I do believe that scientific literacy is important but does being able to recite the Second Law of Thermodynamics on command really help me? I guess the assumption here is that knowing these 17 equations means that you’ll have received a more fulfilling quality of education but can’t that be said of any field? I doubt to see the relevancy of this knowledge if I’m just trying to get by in life.
Also as someone who has taken several courses on the Second Law of Thermodynamics; I’ve studied thermo and thermo is no Billy Shakespeare.