Scientific Literacy, Measured by Cash Cab
While home with the flu yesterday, I watched several episodes of Discovery Channel’s Cash Cab – the surprisingly entertaining show where unsuspecting New York cab riders are invited to participate in a quiz show (and win cash) while riding in a cab to their destination.
Almost every “ride” featured a basic science/health trivia question. A sampling:
- In 1953, scientists Watson and rick discovered that DNA takes what unique shape?
- Atoms are really tiny. What is their even-smaller center called?
- In what tube does the fertilization of a woman’s egg normally take place?
- What famed Italian astronomer discovered three of Jupiter’s moons in 1610?
- Often invoked as a political metaphor, what scientific test determines if a substance is an acid or a base?
- What fatty acid identified by the FDA is beneficial in fighting heart disease?
- Co-opted by a 1980′s television show, what occurs when an electron jumps from one energy level to another?
Of note – the contestants answered every single one of these questions correctly. I was quite impressed. And it wasn’t all New Yorkers, either. There were several groups of tourists as well.
The National Science Foundation conducts a survey of public scientific knowledge every year, asking true/false questions that in many ways are easier than those above. Scores vary by educational background, typically ranging from 40% (< high school) to 75% (graduate study) correct.
So how well can you do? Post your answers in the comments below and I’ll share the answers in a few days.