About the Livermore Science & Society Center

Mission and Approach

Our mission is to enhance scientific literacy in our region by providing facilities and resources to advance STEM education for everyone.

Our stakeholders include:

  • Parents and educators who want tools to improve STEM education
  • Employers who need a qualified high-tech workforce
  • Students who want to learn skills needed to succeed in our technological society
  • All citizens who want to understand how technology affects their daily lives and societal decisions

Scientific literacy has several aspects:

  • Understand, experiment, reason, and interpret scientific facts and their meaning
  • Ask, find, or determine answers to curiosity about everyday experiences
  • Describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena
  • Read articles involving science in the popular press and discuss the validity of the conclusions
  • Identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions, and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed
  • Evaluate the quality of scientific information based on its source and the methods used to generate it
  • Pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately

One aspect of scientific literacy is attained through the Next Generation Science Standards.  Each scientific topic contains three components:

  • Discipline specific content
  • Science and Engineering practices
  • Cross-cutting concepts—concepts applicable to all fields science

Our interactive exhibits will adopt this three-dimensional approach to science education.

Before opening our permanent facility, we will establish a robust educational outreach program in 2019.  We will create pop-up displays on a range of topics and show them at fairs and schools. In addition, we will explore the implications of science in our lives through guest speakers, and our lecture series will start this year at appropriate venues.

Science and Society

The Impact of Science on Social Change
It is important to understand the difference between science and social action. Pure science is the pursuit of knowledge about how nature works, including life, our earth, and our universe. Social action is based on changing or preserving the natural world as motivated by a particular value system.

Science can be beneficially applied to social action, but different people will be motivated to achieve different, and sometimes conflicting, goals based on differences in value systems. As we as individuals and society decide how to change or preserve nature, we must understand both components. This is important not only to ensure we advocate the correct course of action for our own values but also to understand how and why others may disagree.

The Livermore Science and Society Center does not advocate any particular course of action for individuals or society. It does aim to educate all about the science that affects our lives, both individually and collectively, so we can chose the best course consistent with our values.

Understanding the underlying science can also help mitigate unforeseen consequences of our actions. Along the way, we get to enjoy the great excitement and wonder of science. Nature is a giant puzzle just waiting for us to figure it out. We all start out as scientists, for example, by dropping food and utensils from our high chair to explore Newton’s Law of Gravity. We should never lose that curiosity.

The Livermore Science and Society Center aims to pick topics that are interesting and important to us all. These topics will be explored in both width and depth in ways that all ages and educational backgrounds can enjoy. These topics all draw upon a wide range of science and technology, including physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. In fact, accomplishing any new scientific or technological feat often requires advances at the interfaces between of these sciences—the great interdisciplinary challenge.

We are currently a vision of what could be.

Example Topics to Explore

Farming and ranching, origin and structure of soil, water needs for various foods, hydroponics, genetics and hybrids, genetically modified organisms, pest control—natural and chemical, soils and fertilization, plant diseases, grape varieties, fermentation, good and bad yeast, tartness and acids, tannins and aging.

Convection, ocean currents, jet stream, low and high pressure, tornados and hurricanes, deserts and rainforests, variation of rainfall in time and space, greenhouse effect and climate change, temperature history from trees, sediments, and ice cores; solar irradiance and albedo, ice ages and glaciation; effect of continental drift.

Earthquakes and continental drift, volcanoes, evolution of life forms, what DNA sequencing has revealed, extinction events, dinosaurs, origin of petroleum and coal, geothermal energy, geysers

History of energy, economic benefits and side effects, promise and challenges for renewable energy sources, timescales for energy source transformation, electricity storage, superconducting transmission lines, types of heat and electrical engines, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, fusion—will it ever be a player?  Fission—past and future.

Joint replacement material science, artificial vision, implanted computer chips, artificial organs, teasing cells into growing new organs, vaccinations, drug mechanisms, brain zones and function, neurons and transmitters, chemistry of moods and stress, mental illness, creativity and logic, fight or flight, how we decide.

Chemistry and history of pigments, how the eye works, physics of sound, standing waves and instruments, how the ear works, new technology such as lasers, forensics of art history and fraud.

Transition from petroleum to electricity, future and impacts of self-driving systems (cars, trucks, mass transit, airplanes, personal drone transport), magnetic levitation, wind resistance and hyperloop.

Rainfall statistics, usage statistics, interaction of water, CO2, and temperature on plant growth, potential effects of climate change, ground water, dams and reservoirs (including evaporation losses), water treatment, desalination (reverse osmosis and chemical potential, ion exchange purification, capacitive deionization).