Saturday, April 15, 2006

Science Questions Every High School Graduate Should Be Able To Answer

Think you know you know your science? Recently, several science gurus -- Nobel Prize winners, institute heads, teachers and others who spend most of their time thinking about science -- were asked, "What is one science question every high school graduate should be able to answer?"

Take their quiz and see how you do.

1. What percentage of the earth is covered by water?

2. What sorts of signals does the brain use to communicate sensations, thoughts and actions?

3. Did dinosaurs and humans ever exist at the same time?

4. What is Darwin's theory of the origin of species?

5. Why does a year consist of 365 days, and a day of 24 hours?

6. Why is the sky blue?

7. What causes a rainbow?

8. What is it that makes diseases caused by viruses and bacteria hard to treat?

9. How old are the oldest fossils on earth?

10. Why do we put salt on sidewalks when it snows?

Extra credit: What makes the seasons change?


See the article for the answers.

Sadly, I got numbers 6, 9, and 10 wrong (plus #1 if they're picky about a few % points) but I did get the extra credit. I guess I need to head back to high school!

(Via digg.)

21 comments:

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I admit I'm not a science guy. But I did say 3.9 billion years for question 9. That is close, I'm only off by 100 million years.

dbackdad said...

JA,
I got the same ones wrong as you plus I got the extra credit right. I said 2/3 on #1 (as I guess you probably did too) ... so I think we're OK there.

I'm guessing that I might have gotten 1 or 2 more right if I'd taken this right after high school. But 20 years removed kills a lot of brain cells.

Random said...

I got 9 (said 3bn yrs) and 10 (thought it was because salt water freezes at a lower temperature - which it does, incidentally:-)) wrong, I also said 3/4 (75%) for 1, so it depends on how accurate you actually have to be to get that.

I did spot that the question setter got the second half of 5 wrong however, so do I get a bonus for that? There aren't 24 hours in a day because that's how long it takes the earth to revolve on it's axis - there are 24 because the earliest version of our calendar was designed by people who split daylight and nightime into 12 hours each, regardless of the length of each period. It's pefectly possible to split a day into other periods - the French revoloutionaries for example had 10 hours in a day, each of 100 minutes each of 100 seconds long. 24 hours is nothing more than a human tradition with no scientific significance. Presumably the guy who set this question has graduated high school?...

RCA said...

Got all but 10, though only half right for 6 - and missed out on 1 by about 7% - still not bad considering I was never particularly scientific...

really suprised by 9 - but thats a lack of logic, if I knew the earth was around 4 billion years old it would automatically make sense that evidence of this would exist... I blame it being a Sunday morning...

Jewish Atheist said...

I said 75% on #1.

There aren't 24 hours in a day because that's how long it takes the earth to revolve on it's axis - there are 24 because the earliest version of our calendar was designed by people who split daylight and nightime into 12 hours each, regardless of the length of each period.

If I'm grading, you get full credit, but the original isn't wrong, per se. Hours are now defined as 60 minutes, which are defined as 60 seconds, and seconds are defined as some fraction of the time it takes light to travel a certain distance.

really suprised by 9 - but thats a lack of logic, if I knew the earth was around 4 billion years old it would automatically make sense that evidence of this would exist

I had no idea there were fossilized bacteria that old. I guessed around 2 billion years.

Ben said...

The rainbow thing really puzzled me as a kid when we were learning parshas noach. Knowing the natural xause for it.

asher said...

Why do you include Darwin's theory of evolution on a science quiz?

BrooklynWolf said...

Probably, asher, because it is a well-accepted scientific theory.

The Wolf

Jewish Atheist said...

asher,

The quiz was compiled from questions by "several science gurus -- Nobel Prize winners, institute heads, teachers and others who spend most of their time thinking about science," not your friendly neighborhood Jewish Atheist.

Sadie Lou said...

*laughing*
I'll admit that I was --ahem-- stoned for science and math class in highschool.
I should have noticed that my harder classes were at the end of the day, after lunch, and my easy classes (creative writing, English, History, drama) were in the morning.
I would really love to take a science cource at the community college.
I took Algebra 2 years ago and surprised myself with an A. I was considered by my peers to be the "smart one" in the class.
I couldn't believe it. All that time I wasted in highschool is just pathetic. Hindsight has 20/20 vision and all that, though.
:)
I got 1,4 and 9 wrong (or more honestly, didn't really know) and I got the extra credit more or less correct.

Sadie Lou said...

Oh yes, and part of me wanted to say," God makes rainbows." Just to annoy everyone.
*naughty grin*

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: Oh yes, and part of me wanted to say," God makes rainbows." Just to annoy everyone.
*naughty grin*

Well... God *is* in the rain... [grin].

Mis-nagid said...

I got 'em all right. (*phew*!) Even knew some advanced details of most of them.

Mis-nagid said...

BTW, I thought #8 was a stupid question. There's plenty of equally valid answers.

Jewish Atheist said...

I'll admit that I was --ahem-- stoned for science and math class in highschool.

hehe. Excused.

I got 'em all right. (*phew*!) Even knew some advanced details of most of them.

mis-nagid: I knew you were the true scholar among us.

BTW, I thought #8 was a stupid question. There's plenty of equally valid answers.

Agreed. It's ambiguous as it stands.

Mis-nagid said...

Ughhh. How sad it is that you think it takes a "true scholar" to answer these basic, basic questions. That you're not wrong is why it's sad.

Kyaroko said...

I missed 9 and 10. Thanks for posting this. I'm going to use it with my ESL student. I think it will be a good jumping-off point for a discussion and an excercise in how to explain something.

Jewish Atheist said...

mis-nagid:

With science education being what it is, it does take a true scholar. My (private) high school was pretty good, but my physics class sucked and we never covered the ones I missed. I still don't exactly understand the salt answer. "More molecules?" That's an answer?

CyberKitten said...

JA said: I still don't exactly understand the salt answer. "More molecules?" That's an answer?

Strange... I would've said that salt lowers the freezing point of water. How exactly it does that.. I'm not entirely sure.

Mis-nagid said...

The molecules thing is a bad way of expressing what is known in chemistry as "freezing point depression." It's about how salt lowers the freezing point. The salt molecules dissolves into the water (there has to be water for it to work. Too low temp and it'll fail.) This disrupts the balance between water and ice, favoring the water. Rate of melting ice stays the same, rate of freezing water goes down: thus the wanted effect.

Mis-nagid said...

I think that should make this mess clear:

"Adding salt to snow or ice increases the number of molecules on the ground surface" = salt dissolves into the water.

"and makes it harder for the water to freeze." = as opposed to the ice, which continues melting apace.