How much do you know about science?
How is your knowledge of basic science? How does your knowledge compare to the knowledge of the general population or segments of the American public?
Well, take this quick twelve question quiz, then come back to read the article.
Here's the quiz: How much do you know about science topics?
How'd you do? In interests of full disclosure, I scored eleven of twelve. (Drat.)
Here's how you compare:
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Snapshot of Americans' knowledge of science
Knowledge varies widely based on differences in education levels, other demographics
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There are substantial differences among Americans when it comes to knowledge and understanding of science topics, especially by educational levels as well as by gender, age, race and ethnicity, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
The representative survey of more than 3,200 U.S. adults finds that, on the 12 multiple-choice questions asked, Americans gave more correct than incorrect answers. The median was eight correct answers out of 12 (mean 7.9). Some 27% answered eight or nine questions correctly, while another 26% answered 10 or 11 items correctly. Just 6% of respondents got a perfect score.
- Most Americans (86%) correctly identify Earth's inner layer, the core, as its hottest part, and nearly as many (82%) know uranium is needed to make nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
- Americans fare well as a whole when it comes to one aspect of science history: Fully 74% of Americans correctly identify Jonas Salk as the person who developed the polio vaccine from among a list of other scientists that included Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
- And most Americans can distinguish between astronomy and astrology. Seventy-three percent of adults recognize the definition of astrology as the study of how the position of the stars and planets can influence human behavior. By comparison, 22% of adults incorrectly associate this definition with astronomy, while another 5% give some other incorrect response.
"As science issues become ever-more tied to policy questions, there are important insights that come from exploring how much Americans know about science," said lead author Cary Funk, an associate director of research at Pew Research Center. "Science encompasses a vast array of fields and information. These data provide a fresh snapshot of what the public knows about some new and some older scientific developments -- a mixture of textbook principles covered in K-12 education and topics discussed in the news."
The data show that adults with higher education levels are more likely to answer questions about science correctly. In this survey, education proves to be a major factor distinguishing higher performers. While the questions asked relate to a small slice of science topics, there are sizeable differences by education on all 12 multiple-choice questions. This pattern is consistent with a 2013 Pew Research Center report on this topic and with analysis of the factual knowledge index in the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators.
- Adults with a college or postgraduate degree are more than twice as likely to get at least eight out of 12 questions right, compared with adults with a high school diploma or less (82% vs. 40%). Those with a postgraduate degree score an average of 9.5 correct answers out of 12, while those with a high school education or less get an average of 6.8 correct.
- Fully 57% of adults with a postgraduate degree get 10 to 12 correct answers, whereas this is true for 18% of those with a high school diploma or less.
- A 62% majority of those with a postgraduate degree correctly identify the amplitude (height) of the sound wave as determining its loudness, as do 52% of those with a four-year college degree. By contrast, 20% of those with a high school education or less answer this question correctly.
- In addition to educational differences, gender gaps are evident on these science topics. The survey also finds differences in science knowledge between men and women on these questions, most of which connect to physical sciences. Men, on average, are more likely to give correct answers, even when comparing men and women with similar levels of education.
- Men score an average of 8.6 out of 12 correct answers, compared with women's 7.3 correct answers. Some 24% of women answer 10 or more questions correctly, compared with 43% of men who did this.
- Men (73%) and women (72%) are equally likely to identify the definition of astrology from a set of four options, however. And on the question about which layer of Earth is hottest, there are only modest differences, with 89% of men and 84% of women selecting the correct response.
- Past Pew Research Center studies found women were at least equally likely than men to answer several biomedical questions correctly such as that resistant bacteria is the major concern about overuse of antibiotics. And, women were slightly more likely than men to recognize a more effective way to test a drug treatment in one previous Pew Research Center survey.
- One of the largest differences between blacks and whites occurs on a question about the ocean tides: 83% of whites compared with 46% of blacks correctly identify the gravitational pull of the moon as one factor in ocean tides. (Hispanics fall in between these two groups, with 70% answering this question correctly.)
- On one of the more difficult questions, a roughly equal share of whites (36%) and blacks (33%) correctly identify a difference found in cooking at higher altitudes: that water boils at a lower temperature. A quarter (25%) of Hispanics answered this question correctly.
- Fully eight-in-ten (80%) adults ages 18 to 29 correctly identify radio waves as the technology underlying cell phone calls. By contrast, 57% of those ages 65 and older know this.
The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 3,278 randomly-selected adults that participate in Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel. The survey was conducted Aug. 11-Sept. 3, 2014 and included 12 questions, some of which included images as part of the questions or answer options.
These findings are available at: A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About Science
Story Source: Reprinted from materials provided by Pew Research Center, original written by Cary Funk and Sara Kehaulani Goo. Pew Research Center. "Snapshot of Americans' knowledge of science: Knowledge varies widely based on differences in education levels, other demographics." ScienceDaily, 10 September 2015