Scientific Literacy, Measured by Cash Cab


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.



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.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <div> <br> <sup> <sub>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.