The public's lack of scientific literacy is a familiar lament voiced by scientists. But a new Pew Research Center Report finds that while Americans' knowledge of the sciences is complicated, it's not as bad as perhaps some have feared.
Pew asked more than 3,200 U.S. adults a set of 12 multiple-choice questions testing knowledge of scientific topics as varied as geology, physics, and medicine. Americans gave more correct answers than incorrect ones, with 82 percent of college graduates and post-graduates getting at least 8 of 12 questions right. Only 40 percent of adults with a high school diploma or less got 8 of the 12 questions correct.
The report also found that men answered, on average, 8.6 out of 12 questions correctly while women got an average of 7.3 questions right.
Questions about the Earth's core and about which element was required for nuclear weapons and energy garnered the most correct responses. Survey participants failed miserably when it came to answering questions about what makes sound loud (its amplitude) and whether water boiled at higher or lower temperatures (lower) at high altitudes than at sea level.
And more people younger than 50 years old tended to answer technology-related questions correctly than older folks. Eighty percent of adults between 18 and 29 and 77 percent of people aged 30 to 49 knew that radio waves were used to transmit cell phone calls. Only 57 percent of folks 65 or older answered that question correctly.
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