DBOTW (You'll see...)
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 94 12:49:27 PDT
Subject: DBOTW (You'll see...)
Forwarded-by: lanih@info.Berkeley.EDU (J. Lani Herrmann)
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Jennifer L Michael)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dave Barry)
What is your "Science IQ"? To find out, take this
1. Tides are caused by:
(a) Gravity leaking out of the moon.
(b) Clams burping in unison.
(c) Sen. Howell Heflin.
2. What is magnetism?
(a) Invisible rays that shoot out of a compass.
(b) The force that causes dogs to bark when you ring the
(c) The molecular attraction that forms between
refrigerators and little ceramic vegetables.
3. The Earth rotates:
(a) Around the cosine.
(b) At night.
(c) In a direction away from Cleveland.
ANSWERS: The correct scientific answer to all three
questions is: "d. No Opinion."
If you did poorly on this quiz, do not feel bad: When it
comes to scientific knowledge, a great many Americans are every
bit as stupid as you are. This was the conclusion of a recent
nationwide survey reported in The New York Times (motto: "All The
News Blah Blah Blah"), which showed that Americans had the same
basic level of scientific literacy as road salt.
This does not surprise me. I constantly see evidence that
Americans do not understand basic scientific principles. For
example, the great mathematician and dead person Sir Isaac Newton
(who also invented gravity) proved in 1583 that, no matter how
hard you push, you cannot fit an object into an airplane overhead
storage compartment if the object is way bigger than the
compartment. Americans still do not understand this. I am writing
these words on a flight from Miami to San Francisco, a flight that
I frankly thought was never going to leave the gate because the
aisle seemed to be permanently blocked by a man and a woman who --
after taking approximately 15 minutes to figure out that row 19
was the one between row 18 and row 20 -- attempted to stow a
wicker basket that, to judge from its size and weight, contained
an elk. I can personally vouch for the weight, because at one
point in their struggle the couple (this is true) dropped the
basket on my head, after which they glared at me. I think they
thought I was trying to harm their elk.
These Americans would definitely benefit from better
science training, similar to what I received in Mrs. West's
eighth-grade science class at Harold C. Crittenden Junior High
School in Armonk, N.Y. I vividly remember Mrs. West standing at
the blackboard, drawing a diagram to illustrate the electron,
which is a tiny particle of electricity found in extension cords,
while the entire class stared with rapt attention at Tom Parker,
who was listening to a concealed earphone attached to a transistor
radio tuned to a critical World Series game between the Yankees
and the Pirates. Mrs. West, diagraming away, would tell us an
important fact about electrons, such as that they mate for life,
and Tom would signal that, say, Bobby Richardson had singled, and
the classroom would erupt with muffled cheers, and Mrs. West would
turn around, startled, thinking, whoa, these young people are INTO
Tragically, many Americans did not receive this caliber of
science training, which is why they did so poorly in the survey.
According to the Times story, one of the questions that most
people answered incorrectly was:
"Which of these is the nearest living relative of the
dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex? (a) A chicken; (b) A crocodile; (c) A
lizard; (d) An elephant."
The correct answer, of course, is: Sen. Howell Heflin.
No, seriously, the correct answer, according to The New
York Times, is: A chicken. I'm serious. Your immediate reaction to
this is: "Wait a minute. The giant, fearsome creature that ate a
car AND a lawyer in 'Jurassic Park' is related to a CHICKEN?',
Yes. By studying the bones of dinosaurs that, fortunately,
died in a standing position at the American Museum of Natural
History, scientists have been able to determine that Tyrannosaurus
rex used to stride through the prehistoric jungle, its massive
weight causing the Earth to tremble with each step, until it
located its prey; and then, with a horrifying roar audible for
miles ("COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO"), it would lunge downward and
administer the awesome Peck of Death to a kernel of prehistoric
corn weighing upwards of 3,000 pounds.
But the point is that we need to improve our scientific
literacy, and the place to start is with our young people. I think
we should have a program wherein our top scientific minds go into
the public schools and lecture to the students, and if the
students fool around, our top scientific minds should whack them
on the head with slide rules.
Speaking of which, I want to stress that my mental
faculties were in no way affected by the elk-basket blow to my
head head head head head hey look there are BIG spiders on the
(C) 1994 THE MIAMI HERALD
© 1994 Peter Langston