Embedded in a New York Times story today on groups calling for scientists to take a more active role in public life is a statistic that caught our eye: When asked to name a scientist, 47 percent of Americans picked Albert Einstein, who has been dead for 56 years. The second most well-known scientist? Yeah, we're not sure either--23 percent answered "I don't know." Another survey revealed that only 4 percent of Americans could name a living scientist. (Stephen Hawking! Come on, people.)
The Times summoned these stats to illustrate the disconnect between the realms of science and politics. Several groups in the U.S. are prodding scientists, who are generally well-informed on energy and global warming and other heavily debated topics in politics, to speak out in their areas of expertise and even run for political office. Only a handful of members of the U.S. House of Representatives--31 of 435--are "technically trained" in a field of science, according to The Times.