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A group of scientists and science teachers has produced a chart that could be for physics what the periodic table of the elements is for chemistry: a handy synthesis of the basics of the field.

The new "Standard Model of Fundamental Particles and Interactions" presents in readable form the characteristics of fundamental subatomic particles--such as fermions, bosons, and hadrons--and properties of strong and weak interactions.

The model represents the major results of research in particle physics over the last 30 years, according to R. Michael Barnett, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and a member of the panel that produced the chart. Many textbooks lack such data, he noted.

To help provide more detailed information about particles and interactions, the panel--which also includes representatives from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the American Association of Physics Teachers--has also produced a booklet and computer software.

Copies of the chart were included in the December 1988 issue of The Physics Teacher, the aapt's journal. The booklet and software are available free of charge from the Particle Data Group, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Building 50-308, Berkeley, Calif. 94720.

Gilbert T. Sewall, the author of a harsh critique of the literary quality of history textbooks, has created a new group that he says will aim to "become something of an arbiter of textbook quality."

Funded by a $300,000 grant from the William H. Donner Foundation, the American Textbook Council will publish a quarterly journal reviewing new social-studies materials.

The group also plans to commission research and to provide consultation on curricular materials in history, geography, economics, and civics.

In a 1987 report, "American History Textbooks: An Assessment of Quality," Mr. Sewall, then co-director of the Educational Excellence Network, concluded that most texts "strive for simple, inoffensive prose that often lacks the qualities of good literature and fine history."

Science-fiction films are useful in teaching science fact, a new book published by Teachers College Press concludes.

The book, Science in Cinema, is based on a study of 2,000 high-school students. It says that most students who viewed films for up to 5 percent of class time outperformed those who did not in attitudes toward science, understanding of science as a process, and cognitive development.

Among the films the book cites as particularly useful teaching tools are "Them!", "Forbidden Planet," and "The Andromeda Strain."--rr

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