Pew pew pew!

By Phil Plait | September 21, 2009 10:06 am

Of course I scored 100%. Can you?

The bigger question is, how do the statistics play out? A lot of people scored far less than what I would consider acceptable, given that the questions relate to practical science that is getting a lot of attention in the news, and people are voting on these issues. I’d like to see these stats broken down by age and education level. I’d also like to see them by state, by voting party, and by religious affiliation (or lack thereof). All of those categories, I suspect, would make for interesting inspection.


Comments (229)

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  1. What does your gut say? « A Man With A Ph.D. | September 21, 2009
  1. dhtroy
  2. Phew! 100%, the last panel almost had me.

  3. Mark Hansen

    Another 100%er! But I may be skewing the results because I’m not in or from the US.

  4. Brian Schlosser

    100% as well… Am I an elitist snob for thinking this quiz was amazingly easy? I guess I understimate the general publics science literacy, even though I really should know better… I need to turn in my Cynics Guild card…

  5. Engen514

    Scary to look at the numbers and see that only 52% know what stem cells are, seeing as it is such a hot button issue

  6. Brian Schlosser

    Oh, and @Dr. Plait, it does give a breakdown by age and education level… on the score page, there is a link to “Demographic Breakdown by Question” Sadly, two of the worst questions, across the board, were the stemcell and antibiotic questions… :-/

  7. Sarah

    100%, and yeah, the questions were “Jaywalking with Jay Leno” easy. Breakdowns showed a discouraging dip for young adults and women. ( They should have had a breakdown by “primary political news source: internet/DailyShow vs. FoxNews ).

  8. MJBUtah

    100% here too, but I think that most readers of Phil’s blog will do as well.

    However, I think I am going to make my husband and both of my kids take it tonight as well. The kids are in 9th and 12th grade, so I hope they could get most of them right. I hope.

  9. Rift

    No Brian, I scored 100% too (although I wobbled briefly on the virus/antibiotic question, but I studied astronomy not biology, and as soon as I realized how easy it was I was embarrassed I even hesitated at first. :p) I thought it was amazingly simple too, you’re not being elitist. Looking at how the general population did on these question by question on these easy ones is really quiet depressing. Like Phil, I’m amazed at how many people scored wrong on the ones that have been big news lately.

  10. TheBlackCat

    100% here too. I agree it was disturbingly easy. The only question I was a bit concerned with was was the one on mars, because we have known there was solid water (ice) on mars for a long time, and last I heard the evidence for liquid water is still controversial, so I thought maybe they had found something else (finding platinum would be plausible but also possibly noteworthy, since it is rare in the crusts of planets).

  11. Eskil

    Missed the first one, never heard about any of them preventing heart attacks. So 11/12 for me :)

  12. Anthony

    I find it funny that the laser question seemed to be about hardest one and the place is Pew Research. Even funnier when you see the actual question too.

  13. Hey, did you take that from my Facebook link? I think this is the second time I posted that.

    Yeah, the science on this thing is like 6th grade level isn’t it? My daughter aced it too. But then, we supplement her science education all the time, so I can honsetly see her being smarter than 90% of Americans when it comes to science!

    And yes, a breakdown as you suggest would be quite fun to have. Does Pew keep that sort of data? (Thanks yy2bggggs, didn’t see all that before. Lots of reading there. Wonder how many in America would actually slog through the entire report?)

  14. Rift

    Brian, Lasers and Electrons were worse than stem cells and antibiotics at 47 and 46%. Sad… How low the Pluto question was also flabbergasted me.

  15. Mike

    Heh, this has been around a while. =)

  16. Sili

    I actually hesitated over the first one, but managed to get twelve right, too. So obviously it must have been easy.

  17. yy2bggggs

    100%, and as for: “I’d like to see these stats broken down by age and education level” …just click the link on the left–“Demographic breakdowns by question”.

  18. 100%

    I wish there was a way to actually link to your score instead of having to take people’s word on it.

  19. 100%, thankfully, that would have been embarrassing otherwise.

    I’m just shocked people can get ANY of these wrong.

  20. flynjack

    100 percent…..mostly common knowledge I would think, but the results are surprisingly bad based on the bar graph shown after taking the quiz.

  21. Mchl

    And I am not an American, let alone an average one 😀

    I only hesitated over Aspirine question, as I don’t know any of the other two drugs.

  22. mus

    Whaaat?!!! 11/12 :(

    That mars question was tricky. It depends on what you consider “water” and “recently” to mean.

  23. murci3lag0

    yes!! 12 /12 !!! great!! Thanks to 3rd world country education I’m doing a lot better than the average american!!

  24. Phillip M

    I can’t believe about 45% of the people who took the quiz would fail on a ten point scale.

  25. Zyggy

    100% for me.

    @flynjack: Agreed, this stuff should be common knowledge. However, there is a saying that goes: “Common knowledge is unfortunately not that common”

    I’ve also heard the same thing said about “common” courtesy and “common” sense.

  26. Thorne

    100% here as well. Easy.

  27. Chris G

    Well, 100% for me, too, although like Mark (#4 above) I am located outside the Excited States, so that may skew results!

    Of course, all the most attractive and intelligent people read this blog, don’t we? 😀

  28. JoeSmithCA

    That was rediculously easy :) I was expecting something even moderatly challenging. :)

  29. 100% at 33 and merely ‘some college’. Doesn’t seem that tough.

  30. robinelaine


    That test was pretty easy. There was only 1 that I wasn’t positive about.

  31. LtStorm

    100%, but, then, I’m a scientist (a chemist, given) by trade.

  32. I’m nothing but a lowly science-fiction writer, and even I thought that was laughably easy.

    There should have been at least a few tough ones thrown in, to help separate the wannabes from the stalwarts from the 90th percentile upwards.

  33. 100% here too. The questions were pretty easy. Kinda scary that about 1/2 of the population got only 7 questions right.

  34. kelin

    100%, with only a high school education. woot!

  35. PAN

    100%. Can you imagine what the scores would be like if they had questions such as the age of the earth , or if it is round or flat? Sherri Shepherd would miss those….

  36. Max Fagin

    “True: Electron’s are smaller than atoms”

    Cue the cringing and shuddering from the particle physicists…

  37. 100% baby, yeah! I’m just as good as the BA! LOL! In all seriousness, it is disturbing that almost half the folks got 5 of these questions wrong!

  38. moopet

    But wait! What’s this? The site doesn’t say you need to be American to take the quiz, but the results compare you against “other Americans”. So if they’re taking a national average and adding their results to skew it then who knows what those numbers mean.
    What’s trivial to a non-American-educated person may not be to an American. And vice-versa, for fairity, I guess.

  39. 100% here too.

    This is yet another thing that makes me ashamed of my country. I mean after all of the press that Pluto being demoted got, only 60% responded correctly?!?!

    Like someone said before this is disturbingly easy.

  40. Plutonium being from Pluto

    100% correct – although I disagree with the premise that most astronomers discount Pluto as a full planet. 😉

    (Given the alternative options in the multiple choice there I couldn’t say anything like :

    “Well actually a dwarf planet should still be every bit as much a full planet as a dwarf star is still a full star.”

    Or that a better definition of planet is simply:
    “a non-fusing, gravitationally rounded body that isn’t a moon.”)

    Oh & I’m NOT a Yank either. 😉

    I wonder how an Aussie version would go & how we’d compare nation to nation?

    My guess is that Aussies drunk would know better & more science than Americans sober but I’d guess we’d need to test that & see… 😛

  41. Chris

    I was surprised that only one question (that I noticed) is of the problematic type where there is an obvious conventional answer but a more knowledgeable answer has wrinkles. That is the electron question. What is the size of an electron? People disagree on what the correct answer is, but there are three choices. There is the classical electron radius, which is really only a dimensionally correct combination of constants. There is the size of the electron cloud. The last choice is zero. If you use the second definition, then electrons can be larger than atoms. Was Pew thinking of the first or third definition, or were they using the second definition but only considering electrons bound to atoms (if so, then their answer is wrong!).

  42. “Electrons are smaller than atoms” ranks lowest.

    We really need to bring back WKRP reruns (with the original music, please).

    click above if you’ve never seen Venus explain the atom.

  43. 100% as well.
    I agree about the Martian water/ice question. Badly written.
    It -IS- shocking how scientifically illiterate the general populace is. We must redouble our efforts to educate them. I’ll do just that Friday night at McCormick Observatory, so y’all come!

  44. Mena

    The stem cells one was a trick question! Technically cells that form stems aren’t too common in non-plants.
    They should have used “totipotent” to make it more fun. ;^)

  45. LMR

    Another 100% … but I think taking the results from the types of folks who read a science blog out of their own volition are likely going to skew the outcome some. I wonder how big their sample size was.

    I’m disturbed by the middle three of the last five questions (the T/F ones). The results there aren’t any better than random chance.

  46. Nomen Publicus

    100% Easy. It’s all stuff people should know. But no geography? No maths? No biology? No astronomy!! (and no, the mars question doesn’t count.)

    Also, the aspirin question is a bit dubious. It may be available over the counter but UK doctors now recommend that people don’t self medicate with it against potential heart problems. Far too many people were getting stomach bleeding problems.

  47. Joe Bogus

    EVERYONE reading this blog BETTER score 100% !!

    “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?”
    “When was the War of 1812?”
    “What color was George Washington’s Great White Horse?”

    The truly telling part, assuming this has any credibility (which is highly doubtful), is that only 10% get a perfect score.

    Perhaps it’s only Texans taking this quiz.

  48. drewski

    Only 10% get them all right? That’s truly depressing.

  49. SMo

    100%! Not that the questions were in the least bit hard… makes me worry about the education system; those questions should have been easy for anyone over twelve years old.

  50. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @33. PAN Says:

    100%. Can you imagine what the scores would be like if they had questions such as the age of the earth , or if it is round or flat? Sherri Shepherd would miss those

    The continental drift question implied that the Earth is millions or billions of years old. Wonder how many failed that?

    A simple question like is “evolution scientific fact?” or even just Creationism / Intelligent Design is NOT proper science : True / False may have been … interesting.

    @ 43. Nomen Publicus Says:

    100% Easy. It’s all stuff people should know. But no geography? No maths? No biology? No astronomy!! (and no, the mars question doesn’t count.)

    The Pluto one OTOH I would say should count as an astronomy one – even though I disagree with the premise. If you want to stretch a point, I guess you could call that Pluto issue politics instead but that *is* quite a stretch.

    So it was easy for you then Nomens but unmemorable maybe? 😉

    (BTW. Grammar fail there too NP. Your ‘and’ there should be in capitals for two reasons – one its after the exclaimation marks so caps req. for starting a new sentence & two you really shouldn’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Mind you, that latter “rule” is generally more ignored than adhered to these days – mea culpa on occassion.)

    As for maths well that’s a different area from general science knowledge again.

    But they did have some biology (stem cells remember & arguably the aspirin one also) & geography too – if you count the drifting continents qu. (& again that’s a somewhat separate subject) as that area.

  51. I’m surprised that #1 is the most correctly answered question. I suppose it is the one most likely to be taught to you by a television commercial, though.

  52. BJN

    100%, but the test is extremely easy so I’m not gloating. What’s sad is that 12/12 is a 90th percentile performance for such general interest, current events science questions.

  53. Rory Kent

    I’m the same as Eskil. :-( 11/12. I never knew Aspirin had an affect on heart attacks.
    Caught out on the easy question, hehe.

    Of course, if Phil DIDN’T get 100%, I’d unsubscribe. :p

  54. Josh K

    100% as well. What a smart group of commentators we all are…

  55. BethK

    Another 100% here. Some of these questions are not directly relevant to some people’s lives. The aspirin question was answered correctly by over 90% of the people over 30 including 92% of the people 65 and up. I was impressed by that. People under 30 only got it 78% of the time.

    Does the average person 65 and up need to know how lasers work? Maybe sound *is* involved.

    But I would expect more people to know about stem cells.

    And what about the electrons vs. atoms? That’s so easy and probably missed the most.

  56. Bas K

    100% here too.

    I have to say though, I can see how some of these questions can trip people up. Especially when they’re not particularly interested in science (news). Not necessarily active science deniers (you know the kind), just people who have little interest in science.

    Like the GPS question. For some people it’s just that “magic box thingy that gets me where I need to go” and pay no further mind to exactly how it works. A shame maybe, but entirely understandable I think.

    I look at my computer and, like most people here I imagine, can understand a lot of what’s happening in there. But there comes a point, if I keep asking “why” long enough, where I don’t have an answer anymore and just go with the fact that it works (most of the time; it still runs windows).

    Some questions weren’t really science questions though, were they? Just some “have you seen the news lately?”
    And that aspirin question, is that really common knowledge? It isn’t in Holland, as far as I know. But then again, I’m 24 years old and have no congenital heart defects, so I suppose I may be out of that particular loop. (I just knew because of an episode of House :) )

  57. Chanelle

    Also scored a 100%, although #3 caught me for a second. While the primary answer is obvious, for a second I looked for a “both x & y” type answer.

  58. shawmutt

    How did so many folks get the laser question wrong…

  59. MartyM

    100% and no cheating (i.e. Googling the answers before continuing to the next question). I wonder how many missed the Pluto or Mars questions. (oops never mind. Found it!)

  60. Kevin

    11/12 – Water on Mars got me.

    25, (Truly) Non-denominational Christian, BSBA: Management Information Systems, Fiscal/Social Conservative Libertarian-ish, Pennsylvania temporarily trapped in Virginia/DC

  61. I got tripped up on the electron/atom question. So, 11 out of 12 for me!

  62. Scott Romanowski

    100% here on these very easy questions.

  63. Jimmy

    100% here too

    @44 The questions aren’t QUITE that easy. BTW, U.S. Grant AND his wife are buried in Grant’s Tomb…trick question.

  64. Andy Beaton

    100%. I also rock.

  65. I found it very easy. I am surprised that the spread was so large according to the site. I was nervous at first, thinking that there might be hard questions, but there were none.

  66. jonathan

    100%. What’s great is some people probably missed questions like the carbon dioxide one, and probably think the quiz is wrong.

    Random guesses should give a score of about 4 on this quiz…

  67. The only question that made me stop and think was the one about lasers, but I got it in the end, for a 100%. But I suppose those of us reading this blog know a whole lot more about science than some other people.

    Still, it’s interesting to look at the breakdown and see what different age ranges know. For example, education appears to be working when it comes to knowing that an electron is smaller than an atom. Most people over 30 know that aspirin helps during a heart attack, while more young’ns know that GPS is powered by satellites.

  68. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @44. Joe Bogus Says:

    Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?”
    “When was the War of 1812?”
    “What color was George Washington’s Great White Horse?”

    Would I be right in thinking these are trick questions? 😉

    Just guessing but for

    1) Nobody – his body was buried elsewhere maybe on a battlefield or lost & the tomb is just a monument instead?

    (Editing addition : D’oh! If Jimmy # 59 is right that’s one I’ve got wrong already. 2/3?)

    & for

    2) Hmm … by which calendar – the Muslim one? The old European Gregorian /Julian one? Maybe from 1811 to 1813? Or something like that?

    & finally for

    3) Probably any colour but white & I’m guessing we’re not talking *real* horsies here but rather metaphorical ones? Red white & blue perhaps? 😉

    Of course, I could be totally mistaken here & also please note I’m NOT a Yank so not that familiar with US history…

    @56. Kevin Says:

    11/12 – Water on Mars got me.

    I wondered about that one too. I thought & eventually answered ‘water’ thinking of the ice found by Phoenix but I was tossing up as to whether they’d found platinum the other day which I hadn’t heard of too. Saying “recently” is always a subjective & vague term to use in such a quiz too.

    BTW. Is there platinum on Mars that we know of?

  69. blf

    >>I’d like to see these stats broken down by age and education level. I’d also like to see them by >>state, by voting party, and by religious affiliation (or lack thereof).

    36 years old.
    Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science
    Agnostic (raised Southern Baptist).

    But what does all that have to do with whether or not someone knows the answer to a few easy science questions?

  70. Brian Schlosser

    @Rift” Yeah, the stem cell and antibiotics questions weren’t THE worst, but they were AMONG the worst, and unlike the electron and laser questions, those are questions about things that are pressing social and medical issues right now… So, still scary.

    Oh, and @59 and 44: NO ONE is “buried” in Grants Tomb… US and Julia are ENTOMBED there… their bodies are above ground… 😀

  71. HokieLefty

    For all practical purposes, the “size” of an atom is the size of the valence electron’s orbital. If you want to view “electron” from the wave side of wave-particle duality, then the size of any atom is precisely the same as the size of one of its electrons, and the correct answer to “atoms are bigger” is therefore false.

    If you want to argue about metals and free-electron theory, you might even claim that valence electrons are bigger than atoms.

  72. Easy for most of your blog readers I suspect. I have a book I keep in my bathroom called something like: 1000 Things Everyone Should Know About Science. It should be reqired bathroom reading. I have learned and re-learned many interesting things from that book.

  73. Matt

    11/12. Stupid water on Mars question. We know there is ice, but I’m not aware of any discovery of liquid water currently on Mars. There’s evidence of past water. Very poorly worded.

  74. Steve Semanki

    I can’t believe more than 50% of the responders believe that lasers involve sound wave…yikes!..

  75. fos

    Pretty easy test. With the liberals dumbing down our education system, I’m not surprised.

    PS. I’m a conservative Republican for demographics. My score was 100%

  76. JSW

    I got 11/12. The Mars one tripped me up because the discovery of water ice on Mars was not recent, and while there have been a few somewhat promising leads no one has, to my knowledge, discovered liquid water on Mars. Instead, I picked platinum, since I figured that discovering something like platinum on Mars wouldn’t be much of an event so it would make sense that I wouldn’t have heard about it.

  77. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @ 66 Matt : Well water is ice and vice versa. But I agree the question was poorly worded – &, thinking of my first sentence here, you can of course get other ices as well as water ice eg. Co2 “dry” ice, methane ice, etc …

    Maybe we should set our own – perhaps the BA could do a poll here with a few harder questions or a specifically astronomical / Skeptical version? Could make a good end of IYA special – what do you think Dr Plait?

    Yeah, I love quizzes! 😀

  78. Kevin


    I dunno about Platinum. I said mold thinking they found some ancient mold spores in a rock on Mars or something like that.

  79. Brent

    100%, however I have some questions
    The global positioning system, or GPS, relies on which of these to work?

    Don’t the GPS satellites have star trackers on them for determining their position?

  80. JefFlyingV

    I was actually hoping for a follow up test/quiz that would have had deeper questions on science instead of the headline general news science. Yes, I scored 100%. But then again, if a large proportion of American high school students don’t know who our first president was…we have real troubles here with education.

  81. Plutonium being from Pluto

    @14. Rift Says:

    Brian, Lasers and Electrons were worse than stem cells and antibiotics at 47 and 46%. Sad… How low the Pluto question was also flabbergasted me.

    Well maybe a lot of people simply don’t respect or agree with the IAU’s logically inconsistent, anti-democratic, unscientific, dubiously motivated and outright dumb anti-Pluto definition? 😉 😛

    Protest vote factor in that there poll anyone?

    How many agree or disagree with the IAU’s anti-Pluto diktat may make an interesting poll topic in itself.

  82. Adrian Lopez

    I got the first one wrong (the one about which over-the-counter drug can help prevent heart attacks). I didn’t know the answer, so I took a guess and I guessed incorrectly. All the others I knew without guessing.

  83. TomF

    The breakdown of male/female was interesting – there was a 100% perfect split – any question to do with health or biology was won by the women, the others were won by men. Especially if the question had the word “laser” in it (questions 4 and 9). The question is whether men just know more about lasers, or whether the simple mention of the word is enough to stimulate blood-flow to the thinking regions. I think we need more research. And lasers.

  84. Grizzly

    Okay, I don’t have any university level science or math courses, so guys don’t go feeling all elitist on getting 100%. Those questions should be easy for anyone with even a passing interest in science.

  85. overtoke

    @7. Sarah Says: “They should have had a breakdown by “primary political news source: internet/DailyShow vs. FoxNews”



  86. Kitty'sBitch

    Dear “god”.
    Only 10% get all the questions, but it seems like most of us got them all.
    Your blog is apparently drawing the cream of the crop.

  87. Doug Little

    I’ll join your 100%er club. It would have been nice to see some questions in there that reflect incorrect common knowledge about say vaccination or evolution or a question on the scientific method.

    The laser question was mind blowing as to how anybody could have got that wrong.

  88. kurt_eh

    Okay, admit it! Who else thought of the Star Wars blasters sound effects when they read this post title?

    Oh yeah. Got 100%

    What’s frightening about the Pluto question is that the other choices are Neptune Saturn and Mercury. I want to know which of those were picked in place of Pluto!

  89. drow

    100%. from the comments, i’d say you just skewed their results pretty heavily, phil. :)

  90. 100% like nearly everyone else. 26 and college grad.

  91. Kevin


    Which begs the question… since lasers are light, do they even make a noise? The Star Wars blasters shouldn’t have made any sounds, right? The sun isn’t making noise…

  92. Sarah

    I watched the Emmys briefly last night, and one of the presenters were the stars of a science-nerd comedy called ( I think ) “Big Bang Theory” …

    Their schtick was a question to the blonde in the trio, “Ok then, tell us the difference between a hadron and a baryon”…




    I had to google it, college physics was a long long time ago.

    So you don’t have to, baryons are the heavy 3-quark particles ( protons, neutrons ) but are included in the class of hadrons, which are all particles interacting with a strong force, both hadrons & mesons. Kind of a trick question, if I’m recollecting it correctly.

  93. Dan I.

    100% Although I have a minor issue with the Tsunami question. Couldn’t a melting glacier cause a Tsunami if the melt causes a substantial portion of it to break off and fall into the ocean?

    Granted that would have to be a HUGE chunk, but is that plausible?

  94. 100% as well. Pretty easy, really. I’m surprised that so many people managed to get so many questions wrong.

    I would also be very interested in how the statistics break down.

  95. Tim G

    Another 100%.

    However, I wonder how many fifth graders would get a perfect score as well.

  96. Jdhuey

    This is an Internet poll ===> results almost meaningless. The only thing we should conclude from this data is that we might be interested in the results from a valid poll. My guess is that the results here are skewed to the right compared with the US population as a whole.

  97. Hedgie

    100% but as mentioned by some people earlier, I’m not American and out here we have better education systems 😛

  98. kevbo

    What else is disturbing? The selection bias of internet-savvy geeknerds like all of us skewing the results higher than they would otherwise be (do they HAVE the Internets down in Texas?)

  99. Actually Jdhuey, this is a PEW Poll. The RESULTS are posted on the internet, and they also let folks take the test for fun, but the internet testers do not add any more data to the poll. That has already been taken and published.

  100. mike burkhart

    Dose this relly suprise any one? more than half the nation has lost interest in science it is hardly supriseing given the educational system in this country . In fact Phill always complains about antiscience I think he should watch some horror and sci-fi movies and he would discover the cause some movies portray sciencetists in a good light but most portray them as : imoral they are shown kidnaping people and performing horable exparimants on them in the Thing the sciencetist trys to save the thing ingoring the fact the thing is a killer (in the remake the scientist gos crazy and wants to kill the thing and everybody else only to be turned into one) in Alien the science officer is an android sent to bring back the alien and kill anyone who finds out . thes are just two examples of a bad rap science gets in fact the frist scifi novle Frankenstine was an attack upon science

  101. Charlie Young

    Of course! 100%! I was surprised at how few knew an electron was smaller than an atom. The only group scoring over 50% were college grads. We have a long way to go.

  102. Technofreak


    I may be wrong here but the Sun makes lost of noise. If it were possible for you to sit on the suface within the suns atmosphere it would be a very noisy place not counting the radio noise it emits. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Oh Yea I got 100% but to my surprise my ten year old also scored 100%

  103. jkoch

    I got 100% too, so let me join in the back patting! We’re so smart and everyone else is so stupid!

  104. Brian Schlosser

    @97 Jdhuey: The poll results aren’t based on the internet poll… thats just a “check yourself” quiz. The actual poll was done on a random sample. So, sadly, the poll results are probably pretty accurate.

  105. Meh. That was simple.

    100%, what else?!

  106. tony J

    Another 100% er.
    I am British though: smug, annoyingly superiour.
    I’m a college grad but with an arts degree, so mildly pleased that I’m not THAT daft.

    One day at the building I work there was a person cleaning the stone floor in the entrance. They complained that the marks would not scrub off after all the effort they had put in to the task. The marks where fossil sea shells in the stone slabs. Incidents like that bring it home how incurious about the world most people are, not caring to see things even when they are right in front of their faces.

  107. John Phillips, FCD

    @Kevin: actually the Sun does make a sound, it is only that we are separated by the vacuum of space so can’t hear it. That and they are usually at too low a frequency for human hearing. Just type sun sound waves into google.

  108. Kevin


    Whoa… very cool. I like listening to sounds like that – heard the ‘Earth’s hum’ a while back, and that was excellent.

  109. Jdhuey

    @Larian & @Brian from 99 & 102,

    Ahh. I stand corrected. I went back and saw the link to the study report. /Emily Litella voice/ “Never mind.”

  110. Charlie Young

    BTW Phil: 40-49, professional school, Washington (state), Moderate Republican, Catholic (but not a “good” Catholic by church standards). Hope I don’t get flamed too bad. 100%.

  111. Lukas

    Got all of them except the Aspirin one. I suspect this is an American thing; I’ve never heard a doctor recommend people self-medicate with Aspirin in Switzerland.

  112. Another perfect 12, but I don’t count since I’m from America’s Hat.

  113. TGAP Dad

    Woo-hoo! 100%

    Independent (but mostly Democratic voting)
    College Graduate (BA)

  114. Mark DeSchepper

    100%, but they were not especially hard questions. I am appalled at the general lack of science knowledge in the US today.

  115. kurt_eh

    @ Dan I. Says:
    Although I have a minor issue with the Tsunami question. Couldn’t a melting glacier cause a Tsunami if the melt causes a substantial portion of it to break off and fall into the ocean?

    Granted that would have to be a HUGE chunk, but is that plausible?

    Locally, you are correct. I recall case studies in Alaska (?) and/or fjords in Norway where a calving glacier caused a local tsunami.

    To have a Sumatra-scale event, the chunk would have to be so enormously large as to make such an event impossible.

  116. JoeAlvord

    Alaska had an enormous tsunami caused by a glacial collapse. It can happen, but the question was either-or and did not have an option for both so I took the most common cause. Poorly worded question.
    My only mistake was to hit the wrong button (I guess). I know about stem cells, but got the wrong answer. Either their correction software is sloppy or I am. I think I am.

  117. Trebuchet

    #81 Brent:

    >100%, however I have some questions
    >The global positioning system, or GPS, relies on which of these to work?

    >Don’t the GPS satellites have star trackers on them for determining their position?

    When I read the question, I wanted to respond “all of the above”, even though the desired answer was obvious.

    Like most of us, I got 100% though I had some doubt on the water/Mars and electron size questions. I’m surprised that the question that seems to have defeated the most BA blog readers was the heart attack one. Perhaps that’s a USA thing.

  118. DemetriusOfPharos


    Score: 100%
    age: 27
    education level: BS in Computer Science
    state: Utah (don’t hold it against me)
    voting party: probably somewhere between Democratic Socialist and Libertarian.
    religious affiliation: Raised Mormon, tried to be Buddhist, currently Confirmed Atheist

    One note:
    The stem cell question – ok, fine, lots of misinformation there. But lasers? The answer is in the freaking acronym for crying out loud!

  119. DrFlimmer

    100%! WOHOO!!!

    But I guess I don’t count, since Germany is not in the US.

  120. Elmar_M

    100%, of course, despite me not being an american and not a native english speaker (not that it made any difference, really)
    I am kinda surprised at those numbers. But then I look at politics and I am not so much anymore.
    I am wondering how many of those other 90% were politicians and how many of those were republican, ggggg.

  121. Anne V

    I think I may have to assign this to my 8th graders 😉 I got 100%, but I’m a science teacher. I would have been embarrassed if I hadn’t.

  122. Philip

    I also fell for the question on “water on mars” because I couldn’t quantify “recently” and wether the water should be vapor, liquid or frozen. Or by which method it was discovered. So I went for platinum, thinking I might not be up to recent news. Well, if platinum wasn’t discovered “recently” on Mars it will be discovered “soon”. It would be an amazing scientific discovery if Mars was completely devoid of platinum.

    So being grumpy now, I wouldn’t be too proud of the 100% mark, it only shows an ability to adapt your intellectual level to the simplifications of the poll.

    And DrFlimmer, I wouldn’t be too sure that this poll, taken in Germany, would show significant differences in educational levels.

  123. dachs_dude


    46 M

    Knew there was ice on Mars, so I went with water.

    Extremely simple quiz, but then again, I like science.

  124. gnoerpf

    100% (pew)

    But then I’m from Switzerland so to hell with the statistic :-)

  125. Japhy

    “So being grumpy now, I wouldn’t be too proud of the 100% mark, it only shows an ability to adapt your intellectual level to the simplifications of the poll.”

    Pfftt 100% here and proud of it. =P

  126. 100%, thanx Phil, I’ll make my kiddoes take this tonight.. 5th grader and 11th. I expect the 5th grader to do better, it’s just not kewl to be smart and in highschool.

  127. Jenita

    I thought that was waay easy too. All Americans *should* know this stuff, but with science education in jeopardy, I’m not surprised that some Americans missed some of those questions. I got 100% though! Yay!

  128. Jason Sexton

    Yeah 100%. But then i didn’t go to school in Texas either. :)

  129. Rift

    #83 plutonium from pluto- I am a Plutonian myself, I think it should be grand father claused in as a planet, but I’m biased, I’m good friends with Clyde Tombough’s grandson. I don’t agree with the IAU BUT I have to admit most astronomers no longer consider Pluto a planet, and anybody who watches the news should now that. It even made the cover of Time Magazine “Pluto 1930-2006 RIP”. Everyone should be aware of it. Even my 9 year old nephew is aware of it.

  130. Embarrassed to say 100%, because it is too easy.

  131. Mike Wagner

    69% was the lowest mark among the various demographics answering the continental drift question, and that was in people 65+.

    88% was the highest mark, by college graduates. I would guess there were some Liberty U respondents in there.

    Oh, and 100% for this Canadian 😛

  132. 100%
    No party
    Recovering Catholic (AKA Atheist)
    BA – Liberal Arts (including basic Chemistry, Astronomy classes)

    @mike burkhart
    RE: Scientist/villains
    Though there are many movies and TV shows that have the ‘villain scientist’ (aren’t all James Bond’s villains pretty science savvy?), there are also many that have the ‘scientist hero’.. for instance It Came From Outer Space (the commentary on the film by a film historian is interesting in pointing out how many times the scientist isn’t the one causing problems during the era when ICFOS was made). I find these to be more interesting than the ‘we must not destroy the monster, we have to study it’ pseudo-scientists, let alone the ‘supervillain’ style scientist characters.

    105. John Phillips, FCD Says:

    @Kevin: actually the Sun does make a sound, it is only that we are separated by the vacuum of space so can’t hear it.

    In space, no one can hear you fuse….

    RE: aspirin – I take a daily aspirin as a preventive for heart problems… plus, there was a recent SNOPES article (SNOPES/medical/drugs/aspirin.asp) about aspirin and lying down during a cardiac event (heart attack)


  133. Lexcarter

    yaay 100%.i expected them to believe an electron is smaller than an i agreed.
    …..but it is still capable of beeing in two places at once! weird says i.

  134. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Skew, skew, skew! (Non-US quizzer.)

    10 %. I.e. among the 10 % that got 100 %. (o.O)

    While there is (of course) ambiguity, the popular answers reveal a lot to desire.

    Like “Electrons are smaller than atoms.” Electrons have a lot of sizes adhering to it, as the particle size (currently “0”), Compton wavelength, QED interaction size, et cetera. This gives a natural ambiguity in a general answer.

    A natural way of comparison would be to look at electrons bound to atoms by way of QM. Then of course the electron density cloud is as large as the whole system, as they visit the nucleus from time to time by way of uncertainty relationships. This would be _a reasonable_ answer.

    But if you compare particle sizes, which is more natural in a lay context, atoms are among other particles constituted of electrons. So this is an answer you can reason yourself _a reasonable contextual_ answer to.

  135. I got 100% but admit I was nervous going in about them throwing biology at me. Even the bio questions were easy.

    I would be interested in seeing more breakdowns as Phil said. However, the way the questions are phrased ask what scientists say and not your beliefs. Everyone should know what science says even if they don’t buy it.

  136. odysseus

    The laser question’s stats are kind of weird (in fact all of the questions are). Why did women only answer correctly 37% of the time while men got it 57% of the time?

    Where does it tell us how many people have taken the test? Are men more likely to take this test than women? In fact, women only did better than men on the Aspirin one and the antibiotics one.

  137. Kerry

    o/ I got 100% too. It was pretty easy. If they discover mold on Mars, the answer for the test will have to change for it to still be right.

  138. DenverAstro

    Age: 54
    Education: High School Grad but I stopped paying attention in 5th grade.
    Location: Colorado
    Profession: Commercial Graphics
    Score: 100%
    Affiliation: Extreme Liberal Sheep-Molester
    Religion: Virgin Sacrificing Druid Monk
    Interests: Astronomy, Alchemy, Climatology, Egyptology, Plastics & Rubber

    I was a little surprized at the published results as were so many others on here. If there were any doubt about the quality of education in America, this should say something significant. I do wish the questions had been a little more challenging though.
    (you guys realize I am joking about most of the junk I typed above, right?)

  139. bigjohn756

    This is a ridiculous test. I wouldn’t even call it a real test of anything. Imagine the results if there were questions of substance.

    Anyway, I got 12 correct with one eye closed and using my left hand. Now I can send in my Mensa application.

  140. Disturbingly easy indeed. If even a non native speaking musician (me) can score a 100% in about a minute, it’s really hard to believe only about one third of the tested population has 10 or more of the answers right.

  141. wyoung

    Is there a free reputable website that gives a test that will enable you to have a better idea of where you really stand and breaks down the demo’s? I couldn’t read all of the comments right now so I don’t know if someone addressed that.

  142. Uta

    But interesting to see: They also feel the urgent need to illustrate that topic with the picture of an unattractive crazy scientist brewing slighty disturbing potions.
    100% here too, but European.

  143. Flavio

    100%! Though not American.

    BTW they say “Find out how your score compares with other Americans who took the test in our national telephone survey” … i.e. our personal results won’t affect the ones we are tested against.

  144. Hm. I’m not a scientist or engineer. I have no college education (unless you count a community-ed welding class). I scored 100% and thought that the questions were stupidly easy.

    I don’t think the issue is lack of science education, I think it’s lack of interest. Despite my education and career choices, I’ve always been interested in science – and so I can’t help but pick up the basics as I try to find out more about my interest.

  145. Kew View

    The War of 1812 was actually fought from 1812-1815, so the answer isn’t obvious. (And the Seven Years War lasted more like nine years–can’t seem to trust anybody!) A peace treaty was signed in December 1814, but the fighting went on for another three months while the news made it from Europe to the USA.

    I’m a science teacher so I’d have to go and hide somewhere if I’d gotten less than 100% on the quiz. But I’d be fascinated to see a breakdown of the wrong answers for the ones that weren’t just T/F.

  146. NewEnglandBob

    I gave up when it asked male or female.

  147. Sespetoxri

    Pretty easy I’d say. 100% as well.

  148. Ben

    100% I’m not American either, but were those *science* questions? I mean, even if you just scan news headlines every now and then you should get at least 9 or 10 questions correct.

  149. Bill from Fallbrook

    retired CA art teacher
    I agree with Darrin @150 – lack of interest (apathy too)

  150. Myrgon

    Got 100% as well.
    Less than a year of high school

    And I still breezed through with 100%. The only question that made me hesitate, and even then only for a beat or two, was the one about water on Mars. Those results are really disturbing. I do kind of wonder how big their sample size is, though.

  151. EK0r031

    Off topic, this is absolutely great space simulation software, Universe Sandbox. It’s very impressive.

    It simulates gravity, planets, moons, stars, asteroids, even galaxies. You can set up a scene and watch what happens, for example: what would happen if Rigel appeared in our solar system? What would happen if Earth got the rings of Saturn? What happens when two galaxies collide?

    There is a good interactive tutorial and plenty of scenes to choose from. PS, the menu is hidden under the tutorial window on the right.

  152. Ben

    Oh wait, this is just Phil’s version of a PZ poll crash! I get it, yeah! Well done! :-)

  153. Sarah

    15 year old (had to say 18, darn you quiz options)
    Haven’t finished highschool
    I thought it was easy, now to see what my sister gets. You know, the results may be skewed due to the sudden influx of informed BABlogees all scoring 100%…

  154. “According to most astronomers, which of the following is no longer considered a planet?”

    Score one for the protest factor here. I adamantly refuse to take this test because of this question. It is quite a presumption to state that “most astronomers” no longer consider Pluto a planet when there is still an ongoing debate and no formal poll to indicate what “most” astronomers believe. That “Pluto: 1930-2006” Time Magazine cover was a media disaster, a blind acceptance that something is fact because 424 individuals, largely for political reasons, decreed it so. Planet Pluto is not dead. My six-year-old nephew is well aware of the controversy and knows that many scientists still do consider Pluto and all dwarf planets as planets. This question calls the entire credibility of this quiz into doubt.

    @Plutonium being from Pluto: Your comment here is right on: “Well maybe a lot of people simply don’t respect or agree with the IAU’s logically inconsistent, anti-democratic, unscientific, dubiously motivated and outright dumb anti-Pluto definition?”

  155. Charlie Young

    It really looks like the 65+ y/o lose an interest in current events in science. I hope I’m not there when I get to that point.

  156. BGC


    “No Kenny! It’s ‘bang, bang, bang’ not ‘pew, pew, pew’!”

  157. Peter

    100%. I’m a bit surprised..I’m not a scientist, I only casually follow science. I found the quiz, well, rather trivial. And now I’m in the top 10% of the population..???
    (I’m not an American BTW)

  158. Joe W.
  159. ChrisS

    100% – and American, usually proud of it. We’re not all idiots, regardless of what you may see in the media.
    Your categories, Phil:

  160. Gary Ansorge

    100%. I’d be rather embarrassed if I scored less than that.
    Embarrassed or suffering from dementia. Fortunately, neither was indicated.

    Phil, you should rightly hold up your blog as a great educational tool. Every school child should read it, not least because it has folk from all over the planet adding to its value content.

    Gary 7

  161. Alexrkr

    100%. Male, 19 yr. old, high school education. This is was easy and the results are sad. Love to see a more scientific poll done as well as getting other countries involved and the break down of how well they would do. I’m starting to suspect that other countries such as Britain and Australia won’t fair too much better. They just love rubbing this crap in our face all the time because there are rarely studies comparable to these.

    Glad to see everyone here did well… bunch of liars. (=

  162. Davros

    100% and another Non USA person (Australia)

  163. I scored 100%
    I am male.
    I am 36 years old.
    My only college course work was English 101. I left after arguing with the teacher about how the movie Pretty Woman could not be based on fact.
    I am in Pensacola, Florida (NW).
    I registered Democrat because it angered my brother.
    I am an atheist.

  164. I got 11/12. I didn’t get the antibiotics question. I still don’t know what the truth is (all I know is the answer they suggested is false). However, I trust that my Doctor does know.

    Having said that – I don’t live in America, and antibiotics are not controversial where I live, so whatever whatever.

  165. Kimpatsu

    Yes, I scored 100%, “along with 10% of the population”; I take it they mean 10% of Americans. I wonder how that would stack up against the UK, Sweden, France, Japan, and China?

  166. I scored 100%. Here’s my potentially relevant data:

    Pennsylvania (specifically Nanticoke, a small blue-collar suburb in Northeastern Pennsylvania)
    Roman Catholic
    Double major in Physics and Philosophy. One semester of graduate school.

    Oh, and that question about Pluto – “most astronomers”? I don’t know that for a fact.

  167. Richard

    I also managed to get 100 %. Not bad for a man who never finished high school

  168. I find the demographic breakdown to be a bit disturbing.

    “Electrons are smaller than atoms” had an overall correct answer rate of less than 50% across the board. Even among college graduates, only 2/3 correctly answered this basic early high-school science question, the answer to which has been known conclusively for what, 75 years? Ouch.

    The antibiotics question result was also a bit disturbing. Abuse of antibiotics is starting to cause all sorts of follow-on issues due to, oddly enough, bacteria evolving resistance. Yet it seems only half the population even know what antibiotics are good for.

    1 person in 4 doesn’t understand the basic plate tectonic theory… another public/early high school science thing.

    3 people in 5 don’t understand that a laser uses light, not sound. I wonder how those people explain laser pointers. I’m going to have to find one and ask.

  169. surveyork


    What I found disturbing is the great percentage of <100%, given this questions are easy peasy.

  170. 100%. Only 10% get 100%? Yoicks.

  171. Michael


    Only 10% got 100%? That is disturbing, very easy questions.

  172. Michael

    People tend to think schools today are worse than they have ever been. However, looking at the graphs, the older segments of the population don’t appear to do any better on the quiz than the younger segments.

  173. Jim Beaver

    100%. But that is to be expected (I am a science teacher after all. And from a state that still has evolution in the state standards!). Depressingly simple. I fear for the future of the race.

  174. Crudely Wrott

    Damn near fifty years ago my mother got me a series of books titled “All About Books.” All about Volcanoes and Earthquakes, All About Reptiles and Amphibians, All About the Weather and so on. Roughly the same time I discovered Isaac Asimov through his fiction, and soon after, his factual books. The combination must have been potent because ever since then all I’ve been doing is paying attention, attempting to read broadly and staying abreast of current events. That’s all, really. OK, I read science magazines and blogs and such but the last science course I took was in my senior year in high school, 1969. But it’s enough.

    Enough to ace the test.

    I see I am in capable and stalwart company.

  175. Brian

    I got 11 out of 12. I learned that antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

  176. 100%, baby! Just had to add one more to the list of scientific awesomeness above. I wouldn’t credit my college degree, but the ability instead to learn, think critically, remain unbiased, and question “why”. Then again, you got to admit that those are some pretty simple questions.

  177. OtherRob

    100% for me. Yay. :)

  178. Scott Smith

    100%. isn’t this the stuff I learned in Jr. High… nearly 30 years ago?? Well most of it anyway…. and I only made it through high school at that.. hahaha

  179. ChrisZ

    100% but I wasn’t totally sure about the Mars question, I just figured that the only other answer I couldn’t rule out (platinum) would be one that nobody cared about so water was probably it.

    Still, when did they discover water? I mean, they’ve known about ice for a long time obviously. I remember some fairly recent images of a crater with what appeared to be water, but I didn’t know if that had been confirmed. Was that it, or something else I don’t know about?

  180. Jim

    Apparently, you can only leave a comment here if you scored 100%…. :-) Luckily, I did too. I was surprised at how easy the questions really were. Only one was I not 100% sure of the answer (maybe only 80% sure….).

  181. Dude

    Hahaha! 100%! F*ck yeah! Oh, wait, almost everyone got 100%


  182. Escuerd


    You’re in luck. You can already see the responses for many of these questions broken down by U.S. region, voting party, political views, education, age, religion, theism status, and a ton of other things. It’s really easy.

    Many of these exact questions (and a few others of interest) were on the General Social Survey:

    It spans 1978 to 2008 and new data were published every few years. It included lots of questions, and you can use the site above to correlate any two variables you want to by entering the variable names in the “ROW” and “COLUMN” fields on the right side of the page. Unfortunately there’s no way to link directly.

    The relevant variable names (in ALLCAPS) are:

    Demographic variables:

    PARTYID – Political party

    POLVIEWS – Liberal, moderate or conservative

    RELIGID – Religious identity

    GOD – Confidence in the existence of God

    AGE – Duh

    DEGREE – Highest degree earned

    REGION – Which census-designated region of the U.S. the respondent lives in

    Science questions variables (True or False):

    LASERS – “Lasers work by focusing sound waves.”

    CONDRIFT – “The continents on which we live have been moving their locations
    for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.”

    RADIOACT – “All radioactivity is man-made.”

    VIRUSES – “Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.”

    ELECTRON – “Electrons are smaller than atoms.”

    EARTHSUN – “The Earth goes around the Sun.”

    HOTCORE – “The center of the Earth is very hot.”

    EVOLVED – “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

    BOYORGRL – “It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.”

    BIGBANG – “The universe began with a huge explosion.”

    SOLARREV – “How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month, or one year?”

    If I were more patient, I’d have done a few screen captures and linked to the images of some of the more interesting histograms, but I’m not feeling patient at the moment, and know that anyone who’s actually interested could do that themselves.

  183. csrster

    Well, I correctly guessed which answers they were expecting on 100% of the questions :-)

    … but I’ll bet that _some_ component of the GPS system relies on magnets, and the electron/atom question is just plain wrong.

    As for Mars – as far I am concerned ice _is_ water, but I would certainly dispute that it was first detected “recently”.

  184. Dude

    Oh yeah, my info:

    Boise, Idaho
    Some College completed, though it was put on hold so I could pursue a lavish lifestyle in the field of “Touring Death Metal band”

  185. 100% . But when we have all finished preening ourselves about how much cleverer than the general population we are…. how well do you think these bloggers would do on a similar quiz on a non scientific topic, say the Arts or World History?

  186. PhantomPhoton

    Wow, really? Those were pretty easy. I went 12/12.
    I can understand how some of the ignorant would choose to answer one or two of them incorrectly due to religion or political hogwash. I can understand some not quite getting a couple because, let’s face it not everyone loves science (blasphemy I know). But to miss over half of them would take some serious ignorance or effort to purposefully answer incorrectly.

  187. Ness

    I got 12/12 – i’ll be honest the i was unsure of the first one as it’s the first i’ve ever heard of something like that. Maybe because i live in Australia? Irregardless, i did get it right as i did a process of elimination.

  188. Pouria

    100% and in Sweden, 28 years old, high school equivalent education.

    The results scare me so much I might never visit USA again…

    People not knowing it’s carbon dioxide that’s causing global climate change?
    People thinking all radioactivity is man made?
    People thinking electrons are larger than atoms?

    It’s funny how the first question 91% got correct. I’m guessing cause that information can be spread through word of mouth.

    Did not like question 8. Was worded wrongly, almost selected false on it, cause it said “millions” which gets you thinking that they’ve only been moving the past 10-5 million years.


  189. 11/12 (first question got me).

    BTW, this is fun to watch propluto crackpots kicking and screaming. Pluto Is Not Longer Planet. Get over it, crybabies. :)))

    PS: 28, Poland, equivalent of college, currently programmer.

  190. MadScientist

    Many of the questions are misleading, such as “how are stem cells different”. Depending on what stem cell we’re talking about, the stem cell is probably already set to differentiate into a specific type of cell (for example a leucocyte).

    Yeah, I’m Teh G33k – 12 points. Now if they’d only ask such easy trivial questions in Trivial Pursuit.

  191. bassmanpete

    How did so many folks get the laser question wrong…

    Because the question is “Lasers work by focusing sound waves:” and probably by the time they got to question 9, the others being so easy, many people skimmed the question too quickly without thinking too much and clicked on true (as I nearly did).

    Not needing to blow my own trumpet I’m not saying what percentage I achieved – but I didn’t get any wrong :)

    It would be interesting to see how many commenters would claim 100% in a spelling test, assuming the spelling errors in the previous 190+ comments aren’t just typos and also allowing for differences between UK & US English.

  192. Nigel Depledge
  193. R

    Im 13 and I got 11/12, I must say im astonished by how people could get 7/12 or less on a quiz as easy as this. But then again, I don’t live in America so cant really count for me

  194. The Yorkshire Sceptic

    Well, that was easy! :)

    But then, I’m a Brit old enough to have been educated when standards were considerably higher than they are now…


  195. brett

    Georgia (born/raised in SC, went to college in AL), Christian, Conservative – 100%. Did I buck the trend?

    The only reason you would want to know state/voting/religion is so you can “prove” that southern Christian conservatives are idiots. Sadly, that’s probably true for 90% of them. But, just for the record, the exact same is true for Northeastern atheist liberals. Distribution curves and whatnot…Yeehaw! It’s not what is being taught – it’s what is being learned.

  196. Kam

    Score: 100% (although the electron question almost caught me before I remembered to stop over-thinking the questions and go with the best available answer.)
    Age: 50
    Education level: PhD in English (Rhetoric and Composition)
    State: Ohio (born and raised in Illinois)
    Politics: Social Democrat with an inexplicable fondness for Anarchy
    Religion: Raised Jehovah’s Witness (nothing a good education won’t fix), currently an agnostic Deist (IF there is a God, it isn’t what you think it is).

    Actually, I was surprised that Americans did as well as they did on the test. As it is, I still think that, had the test been confined to the borders of Northeast Ohio, the results would have been much, much lower.

    Personally, though, I found the report itself much more interesting. Only 87% of American Scientists accept that species change through evolution? 13% is a lot higher than the “minuscule number” suggested by Thunderfoot and other science apologists. (Okay, maybe the “minuscule number” shows up in numbers globally, or some other factor I’m not aware of, but I still find that 13% shockingly high.) More information on that number (the question posed, for example) would have been nice.

    One last thing I’d have liked to seen, how do the numbers breakdown among supporters/nonsupporters of a manned space program? Pew missed the opportunity to connect the inspirational effects that NASA (may) have on science education. Just a thought.


    (Oh, and to give credit where credit is due: 100%? Thank you PBS, Nova, and PCHS (which, while I was there, had an amazing science curriculum). And thank you, Carl Sagan (and every other science writer I’ve ever read, which are too numerous to mention. I’d also included Phil, but that would look like sucking up.)

    OH! And you can start a grammatically correct sentence with a conjunction. Neither coordinating conjunctions nor subordinating conjunctions are prohibited from use as the first word of a sentence by the rules of grammar. Their use is discouraged by the rules of formal style–which is not the same thing. (You just knew the English guy would chime in on that one.)

  197. Just me

    100% :-) And to think I got my degree in Bible & Religion! The Horror! The Horror!

    But seriously, I went through the test, wondering when the questions were going to get hard — like something about the gravitational constant or Planck mass or how genes work or something. I guess I kinda took for granted that the answers to those questions were common knowledge. Oops.

    At the risk of sounding like an arrogant jerk, I was at first surprised that anyone could miss any questions, and then I was shocked and concerned to see how many didn’t get a full score. But then it occurred to me that this test doesn’t so much indicate a level of intelligence or knowledge as it does a level of curiosity. So, people who scored lower are simply less curious about the world than people who scored higher. I’m curious about everything. Especially science-y and religion-y things.
    I suppose I should be less surprised at the results of this quiz after 8 years of the science-hostile Bush Administration. The Bush Administration fostered a cultural environment that practically celebrated ignorance and treated intelligence like detached elitism. It would be interesting to do this quiz again after the Obama administration, and compare the results.

  198. Lexrst

    100% and I’m from Texas. Maybe we’re not doomed after all… :)

  199. Another 100% – I thought this quiz felt like an episode of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” I find it amazing that only 10% of the general population could get a perfect score. What has happened to the educational system in this country? It obviously needs work.

  200. Christine

    Not surprising that the majority of users who have responded here got 100%. Me too. And yes, I thought it was pretty easy.

  201. Just me

    Sorry, I just reread my post and wanted to clarify something. I don’t assume that the gravitational constant or Planck mass or how genes work are common knowledge. I assumed that the answers to the questions given in the quiz were common knowledge.

  202. Doug

    I, too, got 100%. I think the real interesting part of this is not how many here thought it was easy. I mean, come on if you are reading Phil’s blog you are already part of a pretty select group. This shocker is some of the low scores of the “random” people for whom it must not have been entirely easy. Not surprising I guess, but a bit saddening nonetheless.

  203. Les

    Way too easy. 100% Conservative, Colorado, Some College

  204. 100%

    Phil, thanks for a great blog. I rarely comment (my bad) but I do appreciate the terrific articles. You’ll also be pleased to know we had our two-month-old son vaccinated yesterday. :-)

  205. David


    -age 46 with some college… ( oh to go back in time and talk to that impatient student… )

    -a born and raised Texan! ( oh the horror! )

    -voting Independent or on issues… never on either of the 2 party’s lines.

    -Skeptic in training.

  206. SomeGuyFromTexas

    100% for me. Like others, I wonder what percent of the 10% who had perfect scores are posting in this thread.

    Other stats:

    Male, 50.
    B.A. Physics.
    Politically independent.
    Not affiliated with any religion.

  207. Merijn

    11/12, but not native english speaker
    they say you’re compared to Americans, sorry but I contributed from Europe 😉

  208. Shadowen

    Some points…

    1) Aspirin has advertising saying it can help prevent heart attacks. No surprise 91% of people got it.

    2) Considering the kerfuffle about it when it was announced, I would have thought more people would have known this, but it was years ago that it really broke into the mainstream consciousness and it’s only been brought up in very demographic-heavy media (i.e. used by McKay to sneer at Tyson on an episode of Stargate Atlantis) since.

    3) The Christmas tsunami happened almost four years ago, it got huge coverage, and most people haven’t forgotten it. It even has an advantage over 9/11 in that there was no media confusion about whether it was Iraq or Al Qaeda that caused the earthquake in the first place…

    4) GPS is a piece of technology a lot of people work with often. I’d say the 1 in 5 statistic is a good representative of people who don’t use it at all.

    5) I’m a little worried about this figure, given how much attention climate change has been receiving, but given how much of it is, “No, it won’t happen”, few people are actualyl talking about the culprit. Still, more than half know it.

    6) The last time stem cells were really in the news was years ago, and its opponents have been succesful at painting it as “controversial” without anyone ever explaining exactly what it is.

    7) Not surprised on this one. There wasn’t much of a hoopla, given that we’d discovered, for certain, frickin’ water on frickin’ Mars.

    8) This one impresses me, and makes me wonder about all those polls that should less than half of Americans consider evolution to be accurate.

    9) This one scares the crap out of me. About the only thing I can think of is that people are genuinely confused by the portrayal of energy weapons in Star Wars and Star Trek and so on.

    10) This one worries me…but I’m not surprised. It’s been a misconception going back at least a decade, and never seems to receive enough attention to dislodge it. (I remember an episode of ER that dealt with it where Dr. Greene made an announcement to the waiting room that people waiting to receive antibiotics for cold or flu symptoms would be turned away anyway, so they might as well go home right now.)

    11) Not surprised…even though I would have been able to answer this question by the fourth grade. Most people don’t care about things that small, so they don’t retain.

    12) …I’m really not certain about this one.

    I got 100%, incidentally. Mid-twenties, some college. Canadian.

  209. Jeff

    I’m surprised, I got them all.
    For your stats BA: I’m male, 50, blue-collar, vet, atheist, with some college.
    Your blog inspires me. Thanks

  210. Gwenny

    100% here as well. But I already knew I was in the top 1%. 😉

  211. Bernardo

    Well… im not American

    Im 18 yo brazilian boy… and i got 100%…

  212. James

    They should have a few logic/scientific method questions. These are all memorization. No different than asking which former house member is on “Dancing with the Stars”. Though in some ways it is more valuable as a poll of what scientific news topics people are following.

  213. PCB

    Just out of curiosity I had my 6 year old son take the quiz…he got 8 out of 12. In other words, a first grader outscored 45% of the adults that took the telephone poll.
    BTW, I got ’em all. Demographics for myself: 29, male, some college, atheist, left-leaning independent.

  214. PhilB

    100% here male 35, American, some college, db developer

    @215 – Agree with you on #9. At the very least people’s reasoning should tell them that sound waves would have nothing to do with lasers. But maybe that’s just me.

  215. Sean P

    11/12 for me.

    I thought that the Water on Mars was old enough that it must be something I hadn’t heard about, so I guessed mold. Oops.

    Also, our daughter spent most of kindergarten being sick in one form or another, so my wife and I may have spent more time recently reading up on viruses vs. bacteria and how each one is/can be treated than the everyday person.

    And for the stats, I’m a 35 year old American male with a Bachelors degree, who does tech support for a living. I’ve never been particularly religious, and I’ve lived in the Northeast my whole life.

  216. gr8googlymoogly

    100%… with one lobe turned off. The future of the world looks bleak. On the other hand, I may eventually be a relative genius if I can live long enough!!

    BTW – White male, age 50, IT consultant from California, some college/no degree, HUGE fan of science and Bad Astronomy.

  217. Catbunny

    11/12. Blasted Mars question. It said “water”, and my brain said “liquid water”. Guessed platinum. (*doh!*)
    American white female Navy brat, 35, BSCE. *sigh*

  218. Markle

    100% 42M,CA,nasty lefty intellectual heathen snob. I was waiting for a tricky question to separate out the plodders. I suppose that’s where all the electron fussiness in the comments is coming from. If you wanted to give away the purpose I guess you could title the quiz, “Have you been paying attention to mainstream science news?” or “Did you sleep through science class in Jr. High/Middle School?”

    The Pluto-brats (see what I did there?) are funny. It looks as if they prefer their opinions over others, but that one…. Wow. She reasons like a YEC or AML hoaxer. And I like Pluto. I’ve come to terms with the idea that it spawned its own category by being so different.

  219. 100%. It was bit easy no?

  220. Gebo

    100%! Agreed it was easy for most of us, who follow your blog and have scientific minds. But I’m still a bit surprised that as much as 10% of the public got 12/12.

  221. Daniel

    im 15 for christ’s sake

  222. Julian

    100% in approx 30 seconds

    male, 40, CIO, High School dropout (25 years ago)

    I would love to see the quiz get progressivly more difficuly to see where each demographic segment drops below the 50% mark.

    I would really like to see a religion breakdown in the demographics. Now THAT would be interesting.


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