For Science!


The “Christian Science Monitor” has a pretty decent science literacy quiz. 50 questions, each gives a bit of context after you answer, such as this on the age of the earth:

In the 17th century, an Anglican archbishop in Ireland named James Ussher added up the reigns of the kings and lifespans of the Biblical kings and patriarchs and concluded that the world came into existence on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. Science has yet to determine the exact date of the formation of our planet, but we can safely conclude that Rev. Ussher got the year wrong.

Fun extra fact: Ussher “calculated” that date, specifically at 9 in the morning. He did not specify what time zone.

Take it here, post your score and what you missed in the comments!

You can find me on twitter, @DrDavidBurger

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  • Rich Stage

    34 correct. It seems I might have to study up on my chemistry.

    • Katy

      Hey, I got 34 too. My problem’s physics though. Hardly surprising mind you – my physics teacher was pretty useless, and when I sat my mock exam I came up with a skiier travelling several thousand miles an hour by the time he reached the bottom of a slope!

      • Drakk

        Perchance do you remember the question?

  • Fabio García

    The page died on me as I was answering question 40. I got several correct on a guessing basis, but missed question 29, about the planets with the lowest surface gravity.

    • Fabio García

      I just checked whether the site was running again, and finally completed the test. Result: 49/50.

  • Andy Jewell

    The time zone for creation was, obviously, Eden Standard Time.

    I got 49/50 because my brain refused to remember the term “Plank’s Constant” when I needed it.

    • Rob

      my brain refused to remember the term “Plank’s Constant”

      2×4, obviously.

  • hotshoe

    Somewhat tedious to actually take the quiz, precisely because they give back each answer with those little paragraphs of explanation, then in order to move on to the next question, you have to click on “next” again (instead of the next question automatically coming up). Ah well, that’s not the reason I didn’t score an A on the quiz. And overall it was interesting to me, so I am willing to recommend it to other people.
    I was surprised how many questions were about trivia, such as: “The only two known planets in our solar system that lack any moons are Venus and what other planet?”. I got that one correct, by the way, but I fail to see what it has to do with scientific literacy or scientific principles in general.
    Here’s one which is not trivial: “In classical mechanics, what is defined as the product of an object’s mass and velocity?” I did get that one wrong, which made me mad at myself.

  • Baal

    41 correct, I suck at physics. The chem, bio and trivia I knew.

  • Makoto

    Hrm, 37, not terrible, but I made a few stupid mistakes…

  • JSC_ltd

    42/50 here. I missed the nanometers per centimeter one (why couldn’t they ask how many drams are in a firkin, or something Imperial?!? Oh yeah, SI), the Joule one because I thought Joule was French, the F=ma calculation one because I don’t know what a Newton is, the one about e because the Golden Mean was a familiar number and I didn’t remember what it was until I was in the act of clicking “answer,” the designation for the coefficient of friction, the mitosis one, the suffix -nimbus, and (this one I’m ashamed of) I forgot that h is for Planck, not Heisenberg.

  • TGAP Dad

    46 of 50

  • Rory

    47. Missed the one about the definition of the joule, the most abundant element in the earth’s crust (could kick myself for that one, especially since they gave the atomic number) and the meaning of the suffix -nimbus. Passable, I suppose.

    • Brad

      45, not too bad. I also missed the one about the most abundant element in earth’s crust and the -numbus. The one about Radon threw me off, I think they had the “explanation” up with the question. Also missed the planet gravity one, I thought that one of the gas giants was large enough so that the higher distance from the center of the planet was enough to counter the larger mass. Guess not.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’ve seen this one before, it was linked to awhile back on Skepchick. I can’t say I’m impressed with it as a measure of scientific literacy, a lot of it was more like trivia questions. I’d like to see a better test, with more of the “how do we know” and “what is the cause of” type of questions. Somebody can be very literate without remembering which greek letter we use to represent what, or what particle’s name comes from a particular work of literature. I think this might have been bodged together by someone watching Jeopardy for a few nights.

    Oh, and 49 right. Who uses CGS in the US anyway? MKS is the US standard, and getting off of that messed me up.

    • Acn

      I’m a plasma physicist, and we use the cgs units almost exclusively because maxwell’s eqns in mks are stupid :)

      • Ubi Dubium

        OK, I can see that. But I still think putting that kind of trivial math problem on a test of “scientific literacy” is ridiculous.

  • Besomyka

    38/50, but I think if I weren’t trying to do multiple things at once I would have been around 41/50. I get a lot of the units confused when it comes to work and electricity. I just don’t use them very often.

  • Alex

    44! It helps that I am a biochemist so I got all the chem questions. Missed the Surface gravity question as well.

  • ayla

    36, and most of what I missed were physics questions… physics, my old nemesis. (I kicked ass at math, bio, and chem, but physics always defeated me.) Not that bad for an English PhD who hasn’t done science since my first year in college!

  • Salo

    40. Not bad considering I was trying to take the quiz and work at the same time.

  • Zme

    Yay….50/50! So many factoids regurgitated from who knows where.

    But as others have pointed out this type of quiz (and the typical examination method of multiple choice) shows nothing of the level of understanding of a subject. Nevertheless, it was fun to do and a blast for my ego.

  • Gordon

    I’m not clicking through 100 pages! Sheesh!

  • Tom

    43/50 for me (wrong = 3 physics, 3 astro, 1 metological)

    It was a really bad ‘science’ test though, so much trivia (who needs to know about Fahrenheit?). Needed more biology :p

  • PhysicsVeganBrian

    Six wrong:
    The chemical difference between DNA and RNA.
    The single cell resulting from sexual reproduction.
    Brightest objects in the night sky.
    Athena and catalytic converters.
    Meaning of -nimbus.
    Brimstone. (Even changed from the correct one.)
    Only feel really dumb about that third one, since I have a Physics Ph.D. At least it’s not Astrophysics…

  • Steve Schlosnagle

    34 of 50 correct. My biggest failing: Biology.

  • ReasJack

    Damn. Didn’t read carefully and confused watts and joules.