The National Science Foundation's annual survey of Americans' science smarts is in. The bad news is this: People think astrology is science. (It isn't.) The good news: Now you can prove you know science better.
Mother Jones did a good job fleshing out the astrology thing. The magazine made the graph at right, showing that people who understand that astrology (the belief that the date of your birth predetermines personality characteristics) is not in any way scientific. We'd like to see this thing go up over time; instead, it's on a downward trend. Come on, America.
But before you start getting too hand-wringy over it, how much do you, Humble Reader, know about science? Below, we've presented a series of questions asked by the NSF related to science and several questions about astrology that we ourselves made up. The goal is that you will know more about the former than the latter. Let us see if you do.
1. Science. Easy. The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move.
Right. 83 percent of Americans got this right.
Wrong. 83 percent of Americans got this right.
2. Astrology. Easy. The astrological symbol for Libra is a set of scales.
3. Science. Easy. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
Right. One-quarter of Americans got this wrong.
Wrong. One-quarter of Americans got this wrong.
4. Astrology. Easy. The symbol for Capricorn is a crab.
5. Science. Medium. It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
Right. 63 percent of Americans got this right.
Wrong. 63 percent of Americans got this right.
6. Astrology. Medium. People born in August are usually Virgo.
7. Science. Medium. Electrons are smaller than atoms.
Right. Almost half of Americans got this wrong.
Wrong. Almost half of Americans got this wrong.
8. Astrology. Medium. The sign of the Gemini is for people born in late Spring.
9. Science. Hard. Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
Right. 53 percent of Americans got this wrong.
Wrong. 53 percent of Americans got this wrong.
10. Astrology. Hard. Sagittarius is governed by the planet Jupiter.
11. Science. Hard. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
Right. About half of Americans got this wrong.
Wrong. About half of Americans got this wrong.
12. Astrology. Hard. Aquarius is a water sign.
(You'll see your score once you answer all the questions. I give up; show me my score.)
Update, Saturday: A lot of websites have made a great deal out of the third question above, and the fact that most Americans don't know the answer. (See: "1 in 4 Americans unaware that Earth circles Sun.")
Well, compared to other countries, the United States is downright brilliant. Here's the actual survey data:
Or, in map form, where darker colors mean a higher percentage of the population knows the correct answer:
Americans may not be scientific geniuses, but at least we aren't the EU.
The "hard" astrology questions are from Astrology.com.au. We hope they are "right."