Scientific Literacy, Measured by Cash Cab

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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:

  1. In 1953, scientists Watson and rick discovered that DNA takes what unique shape?
  2. Atoms are really tiny. What is their even-smaller center called?
  3. In what tube does the fertilization of a woman’s egg normally take place?
  4. What famed Italian astronomer discovered three of Jupiter’s moons in 1610?
  5. Often invoked as a political metaphor, what scientific test determines if a substance is an acid or a base?
  6. What fatty acid identified by the FDA is beneficial in fighting heart disease?
  7. 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.

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Comments

I love the show Cash Cab, and while in your experience every science question was answered correctly, I have certainly observed the exact opposite, to my frustration. But some people's expertise is another's weakness, and I don't take for granted that I have studied scientific subjects non-stop for most of my life. With that said, I only got 5 out of 7 correct! In my defense though, Galileo is more of a history question, and my knowledge of 80's television didn't come up with a show entitled "A photon is emitted." ;)

i really only knew #3. although i like the show science have never been my strong suit. love the article though.

Hi there i watch Cash Cabs too, but i knew just 3,4 and 6, but Michael Kennedy answered :( Well, that was fun to spend few minutes and think about world secrets, rather just work. Hope to see more articles from you! See you soon, Justas.

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