How to pick up where I left off?

37


Discussion by: Bixelate

I am 28 years old, I can not afford to go to classes so my only option at this point is the internet and books as far as learning goes. With that said, here is some background:

In 7th grade I made friends (finally) with people who loved and accepted me, they also happened to be christian. So I began attending church almost 5 days a week. This was at great cost to my education. I refused to attend science classes because they went against everything I believed in. So, embarassingly, I don't know a lot of fundamental scientific theory. I am currently reading The God Delusion. Before this I read "A brief history of time" by Stephen Hawking. Equally as embarassing (and altogether enlightening) I have to stop mulitple times to google the meaning of something.

So, how do I pick up where I left off? Are there websites for children aged 12 and up I can go to to learn these things? Ive considered purchasing tutoring books for jr. high children. I live in an are where this is only one book store which is very expensive, and a few used book stores, so the internet is my friend!

Thank you for any response!

37 COMMENTS

  1. Bixelate,
    I do not know if this helps, but, if you’d like to spend a few minutes (which might become hours, days, weeks…) checking out iTunesU, this may be just the ticket you are searching for. There are podcasts of entire high level university courses, lectures, animations, movies…. etc…. If you have iTunes, go to the iTunes store and then click on iTunesU. There are so many items, it is delightful!!! I’d also recommend watching some of the TED talks that spark your interest. (TED.com).

  2. I assume from your use of “junior high” & there being only one book store in your area that you live in rural or very small town USA/Canada

    You don’t mention libraries so I assume that your nearest one is inconvenient. According to the U.S. Amazon site:- ” More than 11,000 libraries in the United States offer Public Library Books for Kindle. You can check out eBooks through the website of your local library and have them sent directly to your Kindle device or reading app. Kindle books that you borrow from a public library are available to you for a specific period of time, just like with library books. These books are offered through a digital service called OverDrive.” Note that you don’t need a Kindle device ~ a reading app on your MAC/PC will suffice, but Kindles are very cheap with the newish “Paperwhite” selling at $119 USD on Amazon. I find the Kindle friendlier than a computer screen.

    How is your maths? I think it’s important to be able to understand percentages, probability, graphs & basic equations to make any headway in science. Maths is a subject that you can easily tackle on your own, but it must be interactive where you are able to test your knowledge at key points. Most 12yo textbooks of my youth [waaay back] were very strong on worked examples & I assume that is true today. I think maths up to basic calculus should be your immediate goal. Mastering the basics of calculus is very satisfying ~ when it “clicks” it’s like a burst of light in the head ~ a joyful moment!

    Grasping basic physical science concepts such as…
    how to balance different weights on a beam
    the difference between weight & mass
    the difference between speed & velocity
    travelling in a circle at constant speed is actually acceleration
    and so on are much easier to “grok” if you have the maths I’ve mentioned above

    You can’t master maths without pen, paper & loads of mistakes on the way. Its fun ~ honest !

  3. Adding to comment 2 :)

    Number theory

    Set notation

    Whole numbers

    Rounding and estimating

    Fractions

    Decimals

    Ratio and proportion

    Percentage

    Order of operations

    Number properties

    Perimeter

    Areas of shapes

    Geometry formulas

    The circle

    Volume of solids

    Surface area of solids

    Pythagorean theorem

    Straight edge and compass construction

    Congruent shapes

    Geometry proofs

    Types of graphs

    Graphing Slope

    Probability and statistics

    Sequences and patterns

    Exponents

    Rational numbers

    Polynomials Factoring

    Algebra proofs

    brain explodes

    • awesome- In reply to #4 by Michael Fisher:

      Adding to comment 2 :)

      Number theory

      Set notation

      Whole numbers

      Rounding and estimating

      Fractions

      Decimals

      Ratio and proportion

      Percentage

      Order of operations

      Number properties

      Perimeter

      Areas of shapes

      Geometry formulas

      The circle

      Volume of solids

      Surface area of solids

      Pythagorean…

  4. Adding to comment 2 :)

    Number theory

    Set notation

    Whole numbers

    Rounding and estimating

    Fractions

    Decimals

    Ratio and proportion

    Percentage

    Order of operations

    Number properties

    Perimeter

    Areas of shapes

    Geometry formulas

    The circle

    Volume of solids

    Surface area of solids

    Pythagorean theorem

    Straight edge and compass construction

    Congruent shapes

    Geometry proofs

    Types of graphs

    Graphing Slope

    Probability and statistics

    Sequences and patterns

    Exponents

    Rational numbers

    Polynomials Factoring

    Algebra proofs

    brain explodes

  5. You don’t need to pick up, feel left out, or need alot of scientific theory to be who you are. Which is amazing btw. If a thirst for information and ideas excites you, indulge. Its free, fun, endless, and without question your right to do so.

  6. A Brief History Of Time is a tough read without some background. Another fun book would be “A Short History Of Everything”. It’s basically what you should have started with, it’s a much easier read :) Or to listen too, love the audiobook version. There’s also a few BBC programs about popular physics, by Jim Al Khalili, Brian Cox, and of course Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

    I think you should start with some popular science, rather than the hardcore academic stuff, unless you feel you need the skills.

    More general subjects, like cosmology, biology and evolution, genetics, paleonthology (basically, old stuff, how earth’s biosphere evolved), the history of science (chemistry, mechanics, fundamental physics), maths, and its history.

    The subject is vast… Whatever interests you first (biology, cosmology), you’ll have plenty of material.

    A few fun videos to pass the time, in the neamwhile

    the secret life of the cell

    the secret life of chaos

    Order And Disorder: Energy

    Order and Disorder – Information

    To Infinity and Beyond

    Horizon: Black Holes

    a universe from nothing

    Infinity

  7. TED talks can be a really good way to become acquainted with science, as well. I watched one from TEDx Sydney 2013 by Andrew Clark (?) last night. Excellent content and a painless way to learn.

  8. Can I suggest It’s Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller. He’s a British actor and comedian who also happens to be a particle physicist. The book covers a lot in 280 pages, is very easy to follow and should give you an idea of which areas interest you. I see it’s available on Amazon.com.

  9. I’ve hears some good things about the Khan academy although I’ve never looked at it. I agree with Crooked Shoes there are some great free classes available in iTunes U. One thing to keep in mind is that the quality of the classes are not all the same. If you find one with a boring teacher I would recommend trying others rather than sticking with a bad one. There are lots of offerings and I’m sure especially at the intro level.

    Another thing to consider is how good the supporting materials are. The class is so much more useful if things like board notes, homework with answers, tests with answers, are provided. The best iTunes U class I’ve taken was from Yale, the professor from that one did everything right and he was a fantastic speaker.

    I would recommend The Magic of Reality, The Selfish Gene, and The Devil’s Chaplain as the next Dawkins books to read. The Magic of Reality is geared towards younger readers but I bought a copy and read it, its still interesting for adults. The Selfish Gene is a prerequisite for any of Dawkins’ other books on biology such as The Ancestor’s Tale. And The Devil’s Chaplain consists of essays on the process and people involved with science and pseudoscience.

  10. Evolution is a great unifying theory, touches on many of the sciences. Get yourself a book on that. Jerry Coyne’s book is good , Why Evolution is True, as is Richard’s , The Greatest Show on earth.

    Prior to that get a quick introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology , The ‘Dummies’ has a book edition of this.

    Also get a quick introduction to Genetics. Sherri Lyons wrote a nice compact book on this.

    I’m currently reading The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan. Don’t worry, the name suggests that it could be weird , but it’s a book that stresses reason in the face of Bunk. Check it out.

  11. Locally, a friend is a retired Maths professor. He has been tutoring young people for years and loves it. He usually works with 8-15 yr olds, but a retired professor in your own part of the country might love to take you on, if you truly commit to the process (which may be the only reward he or she seeks).

  12. Just a quick warning to stay away from the mathematical definitions on Wikipedia. They appear to have been written by professionals using water-tight mathematical rigour, which means that even the simplest concepts are described using jargon which can only be described as utterly impenetrable.

    • In reply to #19 by Dave H:

      Just a quick warning to stay away from the mathematical definitions on Wikipedia. They appear to have been written by professionals using water-tight mathematical rigour, which means that even the simplest concepts are described using jargon which can only be described as utterly impenetrable.

      I disagree with that. I agree with the premise, the topics on math in Wikipedia I’ve looked at are written with a lot of rigor and professionalism which means they aren’t always the best intro to a math topic, but that’s not what Wikipedia is supposed to be for, its an encyclopedia and I find it to be an excellent resource. And I like a lot of rigor and professionalism when it comes to math.

  13. RD’s The Magic of Reality – which I’ve flicked through not read – might be a good start.

    Maybe see if Amazon / other has second hand school textbooks ie the ones you miss out on?

    I think getting to know science is a wonderful journey, in a way (assuming you know how to live in the practical world eg work computers, heating systems etc) you have time to savour this learning ways you might not have done in school.

    But I’m also reminded of the Buddhist parable of the man struck by a poisoned arrow. He does not need to spend ages thinking what wood it is made of, or who fired it, or what its trajectory was. He urgently needs to find and apply the cure for the poison. Likewise, the vital questions for people beset by illusions – of deism, fears for the soul, etc – is not to ask how old the universe is, or the details of matter, etc. They first need to realise that they are deluded, to counter the ways they became deluded and only then set off on the long journey to find the real nature of themselves and their surrounding world and so finding how best to live.

    You have already seen your previous delusions for what they were. You are already on the right road. The rest is a consequence – a wonderful extra, but a bonus on top of the great prize you have already won.

  14. watch some documentries online if you can. in particular uncle Carl’s “Cosmos” (available on DVD also) and David Attenborough’s “Life on Earth” (which is the documentry that expained evolution to me)

    I’m currently re-reading Richard’s “Unweaving the Rainbow” and think it’s a great source but also “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. These are not aimed at 12 year olds but are definitely easy reading for adults with limited science understanding.

    “A Brief History of Time” is a bit heavyweight if you missed out on science class altogether but an easier read is “The Universe In a Nutshell” by Stephen Hawking.

    I don’t think you need to look for tutoring material for schoolchildren. While it will definitely help it’s most likely syllibus oriented so maybe a bit too focussed whereas reading popular science books for adults will give you freedom to explore the areas of science that excite you most.

    To quote uncle Carl “science is a way of thinking much more than a body of knowledge.”

    for me, the excitement of science is not just observing something in nature and wondering what’s going on but also wondering how one would work out what’s going on. Don’t try to cram knowledge so much as raise your consiousness, you may find in a very short time you’ll need to enrole at university just to remain challenged

  15. First of all, It’s a brave honest question you ask.

    If it’s general expansion of your scientific knowledge you seek, watch some “TED talks” on youtube, in fields of your interest. For betterment of one’s perspective, there are thousands of hours, I would guess, of great speakers giving lectures, posted to youtube.

    Our Idol, for want of a better word, (hehe maybe Idol is fine) Richard Dawkins, appears in countless video recordings as do his friends and peers. Dan Dennett has philosophy covered, Sam Harris some modern perspectives based in neuroscience, And perhaps the sharpest mind ever to grace this pretty little blue rock, the late Christopher Hitchens will grow your mind more fiercely than any fertiliser can grow crops. It’s a disservice to life to go without some Carl Sagan, but otherwise, just explore and have fun learning.

    If your interest in science does lead you to tertiary education in the field, one member already mentioned khanacademy. This site will help any student of nearly any subject pass any exam. Nothing like being able to pause and rewind the lecturer on such specific things.

    All the best! (that’s what you’ve been given access to by walking out on the reality-starved, shady peddlers of doctrine)

  16. thank you everyone for the responses, i apologize for the grammatical errors in my o.p, my phone is weird. anyway, to answer some questions; i live in northern california behind the redwood curtain, i dont currently have a kindle but am saving up for one. my math is laughable, i understand basic algebra but wouldnt get anywhere without a calculator. my main inspiration for doing this is so i can help my children with their homework when the time comes (my children are in k and 2nd grade, respectively). also, the area of scientific study that has grabbed me so far is cosmology, particularly black holes. i have a list of books i plan to read, carl sagan, neil degrasse tyson, michio kaku, brian greene, and christopher hitchens are on the short list. i also plan to read the origin of species.
    i feel very encouraged, thank you everyone

    • In reply to #24 by Bixelate:

      have a list of books i plan to read, carl sagan, neil degrasse tyson, michio kaku, brian greene, and christopher hitchens are on the short list. i also plan to read the origin of species. i feel very encouraged, thank you everyone

      Don’t forget Asimov! His factual as well as well his hard sci-fi, especially for your children. Hari Seldon is my all time fictional hero!

      BTW am I the only one to draw a comparison between the young Hari Seldon and Sam Harris?

    • In reply to #24 by Bixelate:

      my main inspiration for doing this is so i can help my children with their homework when the time comes.

      You might as well learn with them. And learn some science together as well. Could be fun. There’s no shame in that, really. Just get ahead a little bit :)

  17. A possible maths book for you:

    Jenny Olive – Maths: a Student’s Survival Guide.

    Many kids struggle with maths. And not necessarily because the kids aren’t intellectually talented. Some things in maths really don’t make sense. E.g. Calculus with its pretend it’s OK to divide by zero trick. Which can lead even bright kids think it’s about as interesting as scripture class.

    Kids who find maths homework quite easy are likely to be more interested in doing it and getting it out of the way. And parental assistance can make all the difference in establishing maths as easy and enjoyable problem solving (i.e. fun like crossword puzzles) rather than something the dog ate.

    Jenny Olive’s book was intended for people who’ve struggled with high school maths but need sufficient basic maths to tackle a science or engineering degree. But it’s also proven to be a good outright self-learning guide as well as a refresher at any stage of competency. It provides a complete outline of all the relevant maths topics relevant to science. And should also be good for adults whose maths skills don’t extend beyond basic algebra. (Starts off with basic algebra.)

    • In reply to #28 by Pete H:

      Many kids struggle with maths. And not necessarily because the kids aren’t intellectually talented. Some things in maths really don’t make sense. E.g. Calculus with its pretend it’s OK to divide by zero trick. Which can lead even bright kids think it’s about as interesting as scripture class.

      What is this calculus “pretend its OK to divide by zero trick”? I don’t remember that. I’m one of those people that math does not come to easily but I think a lot of the reasons people find it boring are due to bad teachers not the subject itself. A good teacher can make all the difference and at least in my experience there is a beauty to mathematical learning that can be really quite amazing.

      • I think the fundamentals of calculus is a key opportunity for great teachers, but it’s also a major hurdle other teachers can allow kids to fall at.
        Often it isn’t taught until the kids are expected to have mastered basic algebra. With good algebra skills there’s an opportunity, but many won’t have this – possibly owing to math aversion acquired indirectly from primary teachers. You would need exceptional teachers to overcome both the weak algebra skills, as well as making progress with the concepts of calculus.

        I’ve heard that attempts at quantifying math aversion score high among female primary teachers. There’s some kind of psychological connection with the kinds of people who seek roles working with young children and math aversion. Related to the talking barbie doll ‘math class is tough’ product recall. There’s some research that indicates primary school age children actually prefer maths to english. But that the teachers tend to have the opposite preference ranking. By the time kids leave primary school their preferences are more aligned with the teachers.

        There’s a similar quicksand zone in micro-economic theory: elasticity. Possibly for the same reason. And possibly made even worse by the tradition in economics teaching to chart simple examples with the dependent variable on the opposite axis used in maths classes. Plus there’s some other serious issues with some applications of calculus in economic theory. (Steve Keen wrote an excellent book on this topic.)

        On the other hand there are topics in economics that are completely the opposite: where people will naturally fall into them and take them all the way on their own. Marx’s economics is an example. It was often taught as an example of fundamental errors in classical economics. Many students find it very easy to comprehend essence of Marx’s value theory etc. but miss out on comprehend the more comprehensive neo-classical theory. So the opposite of the teacher’s best intention is achieved. Possibly exacerbated by things like elasticity and the sometimes poor application of calculus in economic analysis. Something similar might happen in math classes where the most accessible examples of the application of calculus are often in physics and chemistry. Which are 2 subjects that many students find utterly uninteresting.

        This stuff had a major impact on myself because I grew up in a large family entirely of boys. I went to a large coed high school but because I studies maths, physics, chemistry etc. there were no girls at all in any of my classes after the first couple of years from when science was no longer compulsory. Consequently I have a good understanding of maths etc, but fell short in other areas.

        In reply to #31 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #28 by Pete H:

        Many kids struggle with maths. And not necessarily because the kids aren’t intellectually talented. Some things in maths really don’t make sense. E.g. Calculus with its pretend it’s OK to divide by zero trick. Which can lead even bright kids think it’s about as interestin…

  18. Hi!
    There’s obviously a lot of different science, so my suggestion would be something like searching Google for the curriculum and see what these kids are supposed to know within a given topic (where I live there’s usually very detailed descriptions and recommended reading when looking this up). For biology, for example, I just found this (translated into English) as one of the topics students have to learn:

    “Living organisms and their surroundings:
    – [Students must learn to] use knowledge about selected organisms and their lifecycles in relation to their adaption to their habitat.
    - Be able to explain the lifecycle of selected groups of creatures lifecycle, including that of insects and their development from egg to adult.
    - Know the different type of cells and their functions, including nerve- and muscle cells.
    - Describe in broad terms the cycle of nitrogen in nature and the problems related to nitrogen-based fertilizer in modern agriculture (cross-topic with Chemistry and Physics)
    - Explain reasons and effects for natural and human alterations in ecosystems and their significance in regards to biological diversity.”
    And so on.

    Once you have a curriculum that gives you a structure to work towards. And, if at some point you simply can’t figure something out, you can always ask someone online; no matter how many rude people are on here, that still leaves plenty of perfectly decent people.
    And don’t worry about not knowing this stuff already; none of us are perfect. :)

    Best of luck to you!

  19. And your problem is? You are obviously well enough educated and familiar enough with English to have composed something that is more advanced than what 40% of the general population can produce.
    So, am I misunderstanding or are you complaining that you ONLY have the Internet as a means of self education?
    What more could you ask for?
    Had the Internet existed when I was your age and libraries had offered access to those who couldn’t afford computers, I’d have been very well educated by now. All we had were books and drawers with index cards to search. There was no quick, easy way to reach others on this planet and discuss topics of interest and differing points of view, such as this website and many others provide.
    When I was 28 it was 1975. The good thing was that information was available to the curious, albeit more complicated to obtain, even then.
    Anyone who wants to learn can do it a hundred or more times easier today than ever before. You have Google and complain, or seem to complain that it is all you have. We had huge, heavy volumes of books, alphabetically arranged called encyclopedias! It took longer to remove a volume that MIGHT contain SOME of the information we sought and walk to a table to open it than it takes to ‘Google’ one lousy key word and get a ton of information; seconds to refine a search and mine exactly what we want to know.

    Listen son… you have nothing to complain about and everything for which to be grateful if all you want to do is learn.

  20. I suggest “The Ancestor’s tale” by Dawkins – it is both very thorough description of evolution (in a sort of journey back to the beginnings) and warning that one should not jump to the hasty conclusions about things. And that is what differs scientifically oriented people from believers.

  21. Are there websites for children aged 12 and up I can go to to learn these things?

    Hi Bixelate,

    Yes indeed, there are some excellent websites for children to learn, and enjoy, science:

    [Science for kids] (http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/)

    [Astronomy for kids] (http://www.esa.int/esaKIDSen/StoryoftheUniverse.html)

    Also, don’t be fooled by the titles, but the series of books “For Dummies” is quite an effective way of getting up to speed on certain subjects. Some are available online, or perhaps, in used bookstores:

    [Science for Dummies] (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/education-languages/science.html)

    And some wiki pages are also a great resource:

    [Evolution] (http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution)

    And of course, The Magic of Reality by Richard is tailor-made for you, and should also give you some excellent follow-on resources and references.

    Best of luck.

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