Do You Know More About Science Than Most Americans?

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Hispanic boy dressed as scientist
Photo: Hill Street Studios

Earlier this week, the National Science Foundation released its Science and Engineering Indicators, which, among other things, include what appears at first glance to be a convenient new reason to roll your eyes at the state of science education in the U.S. The report reveals the percentage of Americans who were able to correctly answer some pretty basic questions concerning the physical and biological sciences. To wit: Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth?

 

A head-scratcher, to be sure. But as tempting as it is to use this as a reason to sneer at Americans’ lack of science literacy, this isn’t exactly fair, as science writer Sheril Kirshenbaum has pointed out. “[Q]uizzing the public tells us little about the state of science literacy in the United States,” she wrote for CNN. “Science literacy isn’t remembering a bunch of facts. It’s an appreciation and understanding of the scientific process and the ability to think critically.”

Fine. But if you’re curious to test your memory for the basics of scientific factual knowledge — and find out how your responses compare to the way most Americans answered — be our guest. Below you’ll find ten of the questions that appeared in the NSF report. Choose your answer, and you’ll find out whether you’re right and whether you’re smarter than those in the U.S. and across the globe. Good luck! 

Test your science knowledge against people’s around the world

Choose an answer see how your knowledge compares to the National Science Board’s 2016 global survey data.

1 of 10

The center of the Earth is very hot.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 84%
Canada: 93%
China: 56%
EU: 86%
India: 57%
Japan: 84%
Malaysia: 75%
Russia: N/A
South Korea: 87%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
2 of 10

The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 82%
Canada: 91%
China: 50%
EU: 87%
India: 32%
Japan: 89%
Malaysia: 62%
Russia: 40%
South Korea: 87%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
3 of 10

Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

Sun around Earth or Earth around Sun

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 76%
Canada: 87%
China: N/A
EU: 66%
India: 70%
Japan: N/A
Malaysia: 85%
Russia: N/A
South Korea: 86%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
4 of 10

All radioactivity is man-made.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 72%
Canada: 72%
China: 48%
EU: 59%
India: N/A
Japan: 64%
Malaysia: 20%
Russia: 35%
South Korea: 44%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
5 of 10

Electrons are smaller than atoms.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 51%
Canada: 58%
China: 27%
EU: 46%
India: 30%
Japan: 28%
Malaysia: 35%
Russia: 44%
South Korea: 46%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
6 of 10

Lasers work by focusing sound waves.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 50%
Canada: 53%
China: 23%
EU: 47%
India: N/A
Japan: 26%
Malaysia: 30%
Russia: 24%
South Korea: 31%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
7 of 10

The universe began with a huge explosion.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 42%
Canada: 68%
China: N/A
EU: N/A
India: 34%
Japan: N/A
Malaysia: N/A
Russia: 35%
South Korea: 67%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
8 of 10

It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 59%
Canada: N/A
China: 58%
EU: 64%
India: 38%
Japan: 26%
Malaysia: 45%
Russia: 22%
South Korea: 59%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
9 of 10

Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 55%
Canada: 53%
China: 28%
EU: 46%
India: 39%
Japan: 28%
Malaysia: 16%
Russia: 18%
South Korea: 30%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea
10 of 10

Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

True or False

Percentage of respondants who answered correctly, by country

100% 50% 0%
United States: 49%
Canada: 74%
China: 66%
EU: 70%
India: 56%
Japan: 78%
Malaysia: N/A
Russia: 44%
South Korea: 64%
USA Canada China EU India Japan Malaysia Russia South Korea