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Pew poll pupils

by Phil Plait, Sep 23 2009

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 scie Will Txting Ex Make Him Not Want U Back nce 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.

Originally posted at Bad Astronomy.

Will Txting Ex Make Him Not Want U Back

62 Responses to “Pew poll pupils”

  1. Neal says:

    I got 100% and I’m a journalism major from Alabama.

  2. tmac57 says:

    Phil-“I’d like to see these stats broken down by age and education level.” They did provide that info on the results page. Click on the “Demographic Breakdowns by Question” link. I was pretty shocked at the poor results from the college graduates average (9.5 out of 12}.
    I wonder if some people just casually ran through the test without carefully reading the questions. Maybe there is a factor of people not taking the test seriously, thereby not really taking the time to think through their answers.

  3. Jeshua says:

    This was too easy!! I breezed through all the questions in about one minute and still got 100%, even though i know lots of people who are smarter than me. I could think of a number of questions that would trip up many more people, such as, “Intelligent Design is an important scientific theory that should be taught in all grade schools. True or False?” or “Swine flu is easily transmitted from pigs to people. True or False?”

    • Max says:

      I don’t know how easily swine flu is transmitted from pigs to people, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the first person got it.

  4. Yeah, even my Texan High School Dropout brain scored 100%

  5. Max says:

    Phil, the demographic breakdown is on this page.

    “As expected, well-educated people fare much better on the science knowledge test than do those with less education.
    More men (36%) than women (28%) are in the high knowledge category, and whites (37%) are far more likely than African Americans (10%) to fall into the high knowledge group.
    After taking education, age, gender, race and income into account there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats.”

    • Brian M says:

      So, what they are saying is that there are more democrats who are highly educated and less impoverished then republicans? Sounds about right… It still means the average republican probably got it wrong.

      Or perhaps I’m wrong and its the other way around (although I would be rather shocked if that was the case).

      • Max says:

        You’re wrong and it’s the other way around.
        “37% of Republicans are in the high knowledge group compared with 27% of Democrats.”

        Probably because Democrats are more likely to be female, African American, and low income.

  6. David says:

    us foreigners are making you guys look good

  7. Brian M says:

    Ok, even I got 100%. If anyone scored LESS, you should be ashamed of yourself. Well, I can understand 1 or 2. But really.

    • Anthony O'Neal says:

      I failed to read the “over-the-counter” portion of the first question, and immediately assumed they were talking about cholesterol reducing drugs (statins, BTW), so I clicked on the one that sounded strangest (cortisol).

      Meh. Old people can worry about that one.

  8. Jeffrey Eldred says:

    Some of this seems more like trivia that would be gained by reading science news and doesn’t seem to be asking questions that would show knowledge about the actual field. For example linking the Cosmic Background Radiation to the Big Bang theory, knowing how carbon dating works, or knowing that our galaxy has a black hole at the center would probably be better indicators of astronomy knowledge than whether Pluto is officially a planet or that Mars has water.

    • Jeffrey Eldred says:

      I should mention that of course I got 100% and my post was not about making excuses or complaining about the quiz.

    • Max says:

      Their analysis divides the questions into “contemporary” (like Pluto) and “textbook” (like continental drift).

    • Hermann says:

      I agree! I didn’t like the Pluto question which is more about pop-culture than understanding how the world works.
      The answers to the CO2 question are probably skewed because of politics. My guess is that a lot more people are aware of the CO2 connection but cast their lot with the ‘deniers’.

      Besides that, I am disappointed in the 18-29 age group. They could only outscore the 65+ group. This doesn’t bode well for our future.

  9. Bryce says:

    Since when did modern physics consider the “size” of an electron? Last I knew about quantum mechanics particles were considered points. It’s true that an electron has less mass than an atom, but the use of “size” is ambiguous.

    • AUJT says:

      I figured if electrons were “inside” of atoms they would certainly be smaller than an atom. Are there different size electrons? Like electrons that frequent McDonalds?

      I can’t imagine most anyone that would regularly read the columns here scoring less than a perfect score.

    • tmac57 says:

      Since an electron is only part of the atom, it pretty much has to be ‘smaller’ than the whole don’t you think?

      • Bryce says:

        So, if we were to take an oxygen atom and remove two of the protons and electrons to end up with carbon, would that make a “smaller” atom since we’ve removed parts?

      • tmac57 says:

        I think a better comparison to the test question would be to take an entire oxygen atom and compare it to a single electron and decide which is smaller.

      • Bryce says:

        How “big” the atomic/sub-atomic particle is depends upon how it is measured and its surroundings. For example, an electron in a hydrogen atom has a different size than a “free” electron. The reason for this is that in quantum mechanics, which is the only correct way to discuss electrons and other “smaller” particles, the term “size” loses its meaning — in fact it has no meaning.

        Which is exactly my original point, the question is meaningless.

      • tmac57 says:

        Well, my understanding is that a point particle is considered, at present to have zero spatial dimension. The size of a whole atom, while not well defined, is at least non-zero, which in math would be considered the larger of the two. So maybe this boils down to a semantical difference. Also, the mass of the electron is less than the mass of the atom, which could also be considered ‘smaller’ mass.

    • Brian says:

      It is true, the term “size” is ill-defined for particles. At best, one could talk about relative cross sections for how well particles interact with other particles. In this case, the electron is much much smaller than a hydrogen atom (the smallest), and for that matter, even just the proton.

      I remember being so frustrated back in high school when taking standardized tests because some of the questions would betray the question writer’s lack of understanding of a topic.

  10. Dave says:

    Easy, I got 12/12 as well. :)

  11. Beelzebud says:

    100% here as well.

  12. jdcllns says:

    Perfect score. Web developer from Alabama with a non-Ivy-league BS.

  13. Pat in Montreal says:

    11 on 12 here, and I realized my wrong answer (caused by lack of attention) as I was clicking the NEXT button…

    Firefighter from Montreal Canada with some college and professional/trade school.

    I have to admit that anyone who reads a newspaper or even watches the evening news should get most of those questions… it’s shocking how many people got less than 60% of the answers right (though it explains a LOT in todays society).

  14. Max says:

    Try this test in basic economics.

    I like that it asks hypotheticals rather than just trivia.
    I scored 20/20. Can you?

    • Paul Hatchman says:

      Got 19/20. My answer to question number 1 supposedly wrong. But I disagree with their answer. So I’m going to give myself a bonus point to compensate :)

      If there was a “large increase in the number of fast food restaurants in a community”, do you really think it would lead to lower prices and HIGHER quality?

      If demand is fixed there comes a point where the only way to lower prices would be to lower quality.

      • Brian M says:

        I work in the computer industry. The entire industry has been so commoditized that the prices have fallen drastically as competition has been increased. There are many more manufacturers now then ever before. Unfortunately, the quality of most of these products has fallen to the same level. You can buy a $400 computer, with a monitor, printer, scanner, etc. Its a pile of crap. Or, you can buy a $2000 computer that is of particular quality.

        I would agree with you in that it doesn’t necessarily mean you get lower prices and higher quality in the same product. But I think I would disagree in that both happen, just in different products. Consumers get more choice between the different scales of quality. Make sense?

    • tmac57 says:

      Got 19/20 on the test, but then realized that I missed #20 by misreading the question, which coincidentally re-enforced my comment #2 by accident.

    • Brian says:

      Managed 12/12, 20/20, but the fast food question did give me pause, if only because I am familiar with the franchise model of business. The character of your product is semi-fixed by the franchise home office (to varying degree). So it is not entirely obvious that the quality would go up. Then again, even a McD’s might make sure those fries are crispy instead of soggy?

  15. Tracy says:

    18 out of 20 on the econ quiz. I’ve got a masters in elementary education and know nothing about economics. Guess some of that high school econ stuck…

  16. kabol says:

    i missed one on the pew (mars i think) and 3 on the econ.

    boy, do i feel stupid.

    • AUJT says:

      I understand the feeling stupid thing but I’m very sure that you are not. :-) I thought that they discovered a Denny’s on Mars but then I remembered that I was *in* a Denny’s when I read that they/we had found water (ice/something wet, beer would be good) on Mars. I like pie!

      I missed one on the econ test. I read a word wrong which just happened to be the word ‘wrong’ and was getting ready to send an email to the test peeps and argue the answer ’cause I’m pretty sure that I understand the function of money….. ;-)

  17. Dave says:

    I got a 100 and my 16 y/o son got 11/12. He missed was the first one about aspirin. This led to a great research/teaching moment.

    Thanks, Dave

  18. Aaron says:

    Got 100%. But I ask, how many people that may have got a low score openly admit it on this blog?

    Btw, being reading “Death”. Love it

    • kabol says:

      …how many people that may have got a low score openly admit it on this blog?

      i agree – it’s the internet after all.

      so basically can make myself feel better and think that i was honest in missing one and the rest of you are lying. :) ;0)

    • Pat in Montreal says:

      The flip side to that is that the average skeptic who reads and participates on this website is *probably* an above average respondent to that poll.

  19. Myk says:

    I find it quite interesting that the demographics breakdown shows a reversal of the gender differences for the questions related to medicine. The male average is higher than the female on every non-medical question, while the reverse is true for the medical ones.

    • Brian says:

      Statistically, women in the households tend to make the medical decisions. It reasonably follows they pay more attention to the topic.

  20. gwen says:

    Any high school student should have gotten 12/12, it was just that easy, this is not college level knowledge!

    • kabol says:

      you don’t say what your score was…of course it was 100%.

      i agree it wasn’t difficult. but now i remember why i hate multiple choice answered tests.

      you should see some of the standardized state tests that children have to take these days…many adults would not do as well as they might think due to the ambiguity of some of the answers.

      i think state governors should be required to take state educational exams.

    • Max says:

      Maybe high schools are teaching about stem cells now, but adults have to follow the science news to stay updated.

    • Max says:

      Thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. True or False?

  21. gwen says:

    Oops, okay, perhaps a high school student who did NOT take CPR (which was a HS requirement in my son’s school)would not know the answer to the first question.

  22. kabol says:

    dave\mabus, you’re messed up and i feel sorry for you.

  23. retreayt says:

    not at all…you’re the ones who are messed up…

    you have no clue about REALITY…

  24. kabol says:

    i don’t suppose screenshots of this psycho dipshit’s…eh, never mind..i’m sure someone has it covered.

  25. kabol says:

    jesus is calling you, Dennis Markuze. he’s mad. very, very mad.

  26. Greg says:

    Not a huge challenge there. Even my 10 year old son got 11 right.

  27. Ajzzz says:

    While I got 100%, I read the science sections on news sites and listen to three science themed podcasts. I don’t expect everyone to know that water was found on mars, or that pluto is not a planet. A lot of people aren’t effected by tsunamis. Not knowing what stem cells are, and that CO2 causes warming is troubling given the political battles that are happening. Not know that radioactivity is not only caused by man, electrons are smaller than atoms, and lasers are focused light shows a outstanding deep ignorance. Not knowing antibiotics don’t kill viruses is dangerous ignorance. Apparently doctors are prescribing antibiotics for viruses because they give into patients demands.

  28. foothillsfarm says:

    My 10 year old scored better than 80% of the public.

  29. AudreyR says:

    Interesting. This high school only educated young woman found that quiz simple.

  30. Mara says:

    Got a 11/12. The age thing didn’t list me, though– five years too young. I couldn’t remember if viruses were technically “biotic.” Evidently they’re not. :)