The National Science Foundation conducts a survey every two to three years to evaluate how good Americans are at science. The questions vary slightly from year to year, but they all have to do with basic facts in physical and biological sciences.
Both the general public and people who have obtained bachelor's degrees were stumped by the quiz. College graduates consistently scored higher than the general public, but didn't earn a perfect score on any question.
See if you can pass the most recent form of the test from 2016.
1. True or false? The center of the Earth is very hot.
Of the general public, 85% got this right, as did 89% of college grads surveyed.
The temperature of Earth's core is an estimated 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit — as hot as the surface of the sun.
2. True or false? The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move.
Of all those surveyed, 81% answered correctly, and 87% of college graduates specifically.
Earth's outermost layer, called the lithosphere, is broken into tectonic plates that shift a few inches every year. The theory of plate tectonics posits that the supercontinent Pangea broke apart and that individual continents are still moving thanks to the motion of these plates.
3. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
Overall, 73% chose the correct answer. College grads scored 10% higher with 83%.
Answer: The Earth goes around the Sun.
Before the Space Age gave us photos of the solar system, astronomers observed the phases of Venus, moons of Jupiter, and stellar parallax — the changing positions of stars over time — to prove that the Earth is not stationary and that it orbits the sun.
4. True or false? All radioactivity is man-made.
In total, 70% of respondents got this right. People with college degrees pulled ahead by 10% again with 80% correct answers.
The sun and stars emit cosmic radiation that interacts with Earth's atmosphere. There's also natural radioactive material in soil, water, and vegetation.
5. True or false? Electrons are smaller than atoms.
Less than half of Americans got this right at 48%. College graduates did a little better with 59%.
Electrons are much less massive than the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus of an atom.
6. True or false? Lasers work by focusing sound waves.
Again, less than half (45%) of Americans picked the right answer. Just over half of college graduates (52%) got it right.
"Laser" stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers concentrate light waves, not sound waves.
7. True or false? The universe began with a huge explosion.
39% of those surveyed got this right compared to 44% of college grads.
The Big Bang was more of an expansion than an explosion, but the correct answer is "true."
8. True or false? It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
Overall, 59% percent answered correctly, as did 71% of those with a bachelor's degree.
Sperm carry either X (female) or Y (male) chromosomes. The sex of the baby is determined by whichever sperm reaches the egg first.
9. True or false? Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.
Just over half of Americans chose correctly at 51% in contrast to 73% or almost 3/4 of college grads.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
10. True or false? Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.
In total, 52% percent got this right. As for college graduates, 63% were correct.
Evolution by natural selection is "one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science," according to LiveScience.
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