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November 22, 2008

When Fact Meets Fiction – Learning Science the Fun Way

Books
iStockphoto / Ugur Evirgen

I don’t normally read science fiction, but Michael Crichton is an entirely different story. I fell in love with his work even before he gained a greater degree of fame with Jurassic Park and its sequels. Right from Andromeda Strain to the Sphere, I’ve enjoyed the way he combines a little bit of fact and a whole lot of fiction to spin a believable yarn about worlds of both the future and the past.

Another author who qualifies for such bouquets in my book is Dan Brown, not for The Da Vinci Code, the famous (notorious) bestseller that caused a ton of controversy, but for its sequel, Angels and Demons, which in book, was a better book than the Code. I particularly took a great deal of interest in the Large Hadron Collider and the way antimatter was explained and used to cause great mayhem and potential destruction. And when I saw the fine print that said that this fact was indeed fact and that fiction had been woven around it, I looked up the project on the Internet and read all I could about it. I admit I was a bit smug when I could tell all my friends that I knew all about this project more than a year ago, and even though they initially thought that I had turned into some kind of science junkie (which I definitely am not), they were surprised to learn that good fiction can have fact as its basis.

Science is a subject that not everyone understands easily; but when it is couched in fiction, when a compelling yarn is woven using the slightest thread of truth, it’s then that people want to learn more and discover more. That’s the best part of books, the fictional kind, because they teach you more than their subject-specific counterparts ever will. Just ask any aficionado of medical and legal mysteries – they’re bound to be familiar with a whole lot of facts, processes and procedures that relate to hospitals and the courtrooms respectively.

And that’s because they don’t consider the process as one of learning, but one of enjoyment. Reading these books are leisure activities for them, while slogging over textbooks is drab, routine work that must be done to achieve good grades. There’s a vast difference in the results achieved when a task is done just for the sake of it and when it’s really enjoyed wholeheartedly. And this delineating line is where fact meets fiction!

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of web learning versus class learning. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

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