“That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.” (A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 1887)
1 in 4 Americans Don’t Know Earth Orbits the Sun. Yes, Really. (Discovery.com):
[T]he National Science Foundation (NSF) delivered news of a pretty shocking poll result: around one in four Americans (yes, that’s 25 percent) are unaware that the Earth orbits the sun.
[…] But wait! I hear you cry, perhaps the NSF poll was flawed? Perhaps the poll sample was too small? Sadly not. The NSF poll, which is used to gauge U.S. scientific literacy every year, surveyed 2,200 people who were asked 10 questions about physical and biological sciences.
This story strains credulity a bit… and despite Discovery‘s assurances, it still sounds a little dubious. The Discovery article links to a Phys.org story that essentially says the same thing, but does not link directly to the NSF knowledge survey or its results.
Nevertheless, after some searching, the NSF’s National Science Board “Science and Engineering Indicators 2014” (nsf.gov) can be found online, and is split up into an overview and several chapters. Chapter 7, “Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding,” describes the knowledge survey and results on page 23 (see Table 7-8).
Regarding the question, “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” (the correct answer being “Earth around Sun,” for you Holmesians), the following table yields the percent giving the correct answer by country/region in the most recent year surveyed:
|United States (2012)||74|
|South Korea (2004)||86|
Overall, the 74 percent result does not appear to be much of a statistical anomaly. Yet I still wonder if it’s not as much a reading comprehension survey as it is a science knowledge survey, or a measure of question fatigue among those surveyed?