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Stupidly measuring stupid – how stupid!

July 19, 2013

The other day, the Australian Academy of Science released a report on science literacy in Australian. I’ll save you the effort of reading in its entirety and sum it up for you; we suck!

30% of those who responded believe that it takes a single day for the Earth to go around the Sun, while 27%  believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. I had initially intended on writing about how little people knew as a segue into discussing an entirely awesome approach to science outreach efforts, but first I’ve got to point out the absurdity of the questions asked in the aforementioned report. I’ll mention the science outreach efforts tomorrow.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

In the above; if I were to guess that the Earth is covered in around 71% water, I would be wrong.


Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Again, people are expected to guess correctly to within one percent.

Xzibit C??

Xzibit C??

My qualm with this, is that remembering a numeric fact is not science; in fact, it’s entirely against the philosophy of science. Whoever prepared this “study” seems to have missed the bloody point. If people know that the Earth is 65-75% water, then they have a good enough understanding. To say that answering 71% is as wrong as answering 20% is just plain stupid. The same thing goes for the second question up there too; an answer of “less than 5%” shows a good understanding. There’s also so much wiggle room in these questions too; do we count frozen water in glaciers, water vapour in the air, changes in the tides?

So guess what, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? You can get f&*$#d – you’re wrong!

71% is wrong, you jerks.

71% is entirely wrong, you monsters.

This is the same philosophy that should be applied to teaching! I know it might seem ironic coming from a mathematician, but numbers don’t matter; teach ideas, concepts and the ability to think independently.


From → Education

  1. They really are stupid categories. On seeing the answers, my thoughts were exactly the same: the “correct” categories should have been 65-75% and 80% of all water is fresh. I wonder what the crossover between those two answers is.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Don’t Miss Your Connection to the Science Train! | Casual Calculations
  2. Asking Stupid Questions | Casual Calculations

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