Public understanding of science and technology

This is a discussion on Public understanding of science and technology within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; ::sigh:: Talk about mixed emotions. I laughed when I read this , but I also felt sorrow and fear knowing ...

  1. #1
    B26354 Deckard's Avatar
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    Public understanding of science and technology

    ::sigh::

    Talk about mixed emotions. I laughed when I read this, but I also felt sorrow and fear knowing that these people get to vote. I think my favorite statistic was the number of people who believe lasers work by focusing sound waves.

    Why do I get the feeling all of the participants have senior level management jobs?
    Jason Deckard

  2. #2
    My diaper's full....... stevey's Avatar
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    yeah its worrying....i myself feel that a large proportion of the public are too ill informed to really deserve a vote.
    but what can you do..we can't have an IQ test/general knowledge test to determine who should vote.

    mind you -
    i must admit i didn't know the gender of your baby was determined by daddies genes....

    and ive just read in New Scientist that early humans MAY actually have existed at the time of dinosaurs !! theres a turn up for the books eh !! so that film with Raquel Welch in the fur bikini !!
    Steve

  3. #3
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    "mind you - i must admit i didn't know the gender of your baby was determined by daddies genes.... "

    Males have XY chromosomes, females have XX. Hence if daddy gives the kid an X chromosome the kid will be female, if he gives it a Y chromosome the kid will be male.

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    If 2 women had a child, via cloning-type techniques of course, you could only get XX, XX, XX or....guess what......XX. That 'Y part is why most of us are here!

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    Confused Magos's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Unregistered
    If 2 women had a child, via cloning-type techniques of course, you could only get XX, XX, XX or....guess what......XX. That 'Y part is why most of us are here!
    What would happen with a YY? Well, theoretically that is...
    MagosX.com

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

  6. #6
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    Nothing, the embryo would never develop.

  7. #7
    Prisoner of my own mind
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    What about all the people with extra "sex" chromosomes?Kilnefielter syndrome, they're perfectly viable people. I've misplelt the syndrome, if you want to look it up try typing xxy into google, the pigeons will do the rest.

    Also doesn't the Sun and the Earth orbit a point at their approximate centre of mass, which given the factor of a million difference is about 150km from the centre of the Sun, which is still way inside it interior.
    And the whole question is still irrelevant because it implies an absolute frame of reference which doesn't exist. Just in most situations it makes more sense to use the point that moves least (ie the Sun) as the origin of the coordinate system, and using the Earth as the origin just leads to a complicated set of transforms to the elliptical paths of everything else (except the Sun), which is still equally valid and even possibly more useful model for observing the planets and launching spacecraft in some situations.

    Although I don't think the question: "Just considering our Solar System, does everything in it revolve around its (the solar system) centre of mass? (yes\no) would have provoked as many wrong answers.

    But the survey didn't seem to be aimed at this kind of specialist knowledge.

    The question asked, especially with multiple choice options can often lead people to answer differently.

    Consider your answers to these questions.

    1:What is you favourite animal?
    a: cat
    b: dog
    c: mouse
    d: dolphin
    e: snake

    2:What is you favourite animal?
    a: cat
    b: dog
    c: mouse
    d: dolphin
    e: snake
    f: other

    3: What is you favourite animal?


    The most important thing in a survey is to ask the right questions, then to the right people.

    looking at the survey I'd have got everything "right" ie the answers they wanted given the questions, but I'd happily have critisised most of the questions except the open ended abstract ones, or ones with definate shown answers.

    There was a distinct effort not to offend over the origins of people question, but not the origins of the universe question, which was quite odd.

    Althought the general theme is quite worrying, but should go to show that education should be an important issue. Although surveys will always show things like this, half the people in the world have less than the mean (average) intelligence, do we let none of them vote??
    Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself.

  8. #8
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    "What about all the people with extra "sex" chromosomes?Kilnefielter syndrome, they're perfectly viable people. I've misplelt the syndrome, if you want to look it up try typing xxy into google, the pigeons will do the rest"

    you can have extra chromosomes; xxy, xyy, xxx, but you can't just have yy, because there are some genes only present on the x chromosomes that are nessesary.

  9. #9
    Prisoner of my own mind
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    From the report

    More women than men answered the following questions correctly:

    The father's gene decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl (72 percent of women compared with 58 percent of men).

    And from the appendix;

    -It is the fatherís gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. (True)

    I dispute the question, not the fact that a YY embryo is not viable.
    And will check, with my girlfriend who works here www.sanger.ac.uk
    whether a single gene determines gender. One of the father's chromosomes would perhaps be better, and in people with more than 2 gender chromosomes where do the extra ones come from?? Father or mother, and are they "boys" or "girls". Are we defining gender here as which set of genetalia they have, or as a more abstract idea ultimately based sexual preference?

    I couldn'y find a copy of the actual survey so couldn't find out the "I don't know rules\options". In my opinion, forcing people to say true\false in surveys like this doesn't produce the most accurate result than giving them the definate option to declare ignorance.
    Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself.

  10. #10
    Prisoner of my own mind
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    The actual most worrying thing is that the survey contains the following questions:

    And that anybody got the first one wrong especially after reading the second question.

    -Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?

    -How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month, or one year?
    Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself.

  11. #11
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    A single gene does not determine the gender an entire chromosome does.

    But come on, the question merely a simplification and whether the question is technically "correct" does not alter the meaning behind the results of the survey.

    The extra chromosome......... harking back to my A-level biology i think its a meiosis error, so the extra X could come from either parent, but the extra Y could only come from the father.

    Gender is determined phenotypically ie. by genetalia, in almost all cases anyone with a Y- chromosome is male......... though you can get (in ver rare cases) people who appear female, but who have no womb, and who have xy chromosomes, hence are genetically "male".
    Last edited by Clyde; 05-02-2002 at 06:49 AM.

  12. #12
    Prisoner of my own mind
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    Yes, most of the questions rely on simplifications as does all science teaching below post-graduate\doctorate level.

    I have a very broad science understanding (especially physics from my degree and biology\biochemistry\genetics which was my girlfriends degree).
    So I know that the answers I am told to give to the questions are wrong and would rather give a more verbose more accurate answer. I should not be given that survey to judge my knowledge of science and technolgy becuse of my level of knowledge is higher than the aim of the questions.

    And surely the mistaking gene and chromosome is quite a major error\simplication and is just confusing the question.

    The which is faster light or sound question is a huge simplification with a whole bunch of assumptions bult in since neither is constant.

    And surely the whole point of science is to be exact, the simplifications are promoting ignorance, in a way. The simplification can still be a more complete understanding than a person had before so is more accurate, but still not right.
    Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself.

  13. #13
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    " I should not be given that survey to judge my knowledge of science and technolgy becuse of my level of knowledge is higher than the aim of the questions. "

    The aim of that survey is not to find out how good people are at science but how bad they are.

    "And surely the mistaking gene and chromosome is quite a major error\simplication and is just confusing the question"

    It doesn't really confuse the question; those of us who know that it's chromosomes instantly realise they are simplifying for people who have only a v-a-gue (why the hell is the message board replacing v-a-g with ***????) notion of what genes really are.

    "The which is faster light or sound question is a huge simplification with a whole bunch of assumptions bult in since neither is constant"

    Its just testing basic knowledge, when people talk about the speed of light unless otherwise stated they are talking about the speed of light through a vacum, likewise the speed of sound is a refrence to the speed of sound through air.

    Most people have no clue that the speed of light and speed changes in different materials.

    "And surely the whole point of science is to be exact, the simplifications are promoting ignorance, in a way. The simplification can still be a more complete understanding than a person had before so is more accurate, but still not right."

    Come off it, this is not science at all, its a test of public basic knowledge. There is no promotion of ignorance here! The people in the suvey are not being taught anything they are just being asked questions.

    If you did want to try and teach them you certainly would NOT launch into what is actually "right", why do you think we are taught that electrons orbit the nucleus at school (which is a flagrant lie)? - Because explaining what really happens is way to complicated for us at that point.

  14. #14
    Prisoner of my own mind
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    I never said that people should be taught the most complete level of understanding first and the gradual building up of a persons understanding of the world is the right way to do it.

    The survey just seems flawed, because the questions aren't set differently for people with different backgrounds.
    There was no obvious option for declaring ignorance, what did a blank response count as, getting it wrong, or not answering.
    One question gives away the answer to apparantly the previous question, that's not testing anything but perception and basic intelligence. If I'd have sent the survey I'd have sent it back with most of these queries\complaints.
    Most surveys of this type suffer from this kind of failing and so the information gathered is not as useful as it might be. Quite frankly, the most two main pieces of information I got out of this survey and its results were:
    People not educated in science and tecnology don't have a good understanding of it. (Which really didn't need the survey)
    And that these people wrote a lousy survey, didn't ask the write people for advice on writing a survey, didn't proof read the survey they had written for them particularly well, or employed lousy proof readers.

    If the aim was to measure how bad people were, why do the appendices give percentages of people who answered correctly, rather than people who answered incorrectly and people who didn't know, gave no response.

    As for the gene question, what if through watching... jeopardy or who wants to be a millionaire or whatever you knew it was chromosonal rather than genetic, why do you assume they meant chromosone? How can you possibly test peoples knowledge of science and scientific literacy if you don't get the terms right yourself.

    As for the gene question, what if through watching... jeopardy or who wants to be a millionaire or whatever you knew it was chromosonal rather than genetic, why do you assume they meant chromosone? How can you possibly test peoples knowledge of science and scientific literacy if you don't get the terms right yourself.

    Yes it is testing basic knowledge, but we (and thousands of others) have "expert" knowledge, we know that both the speeds of sound and light depend entirely on the medium, we "know" the answer they want is "light travels faster than sound" but I'd rather say "The speed of waves depends on the properties of the meduim through which the wave is travelling, however, the speed of light in a vacuum is faster than the speed of sound in air at standard temperature and pressure", because that's what my understanding tells me. The people collecting the survey would then go, smart arse and put me in the "correct" bracket.

    Interestingly enough, now in the UK examination system you can no longer be penalised for answering at a higher level than the exam was set so if for example at GCSE physics or chemistry, or heaven forbid dual award science, paper answer some of the questions using something you'd read and understood from an A-level paper you'd get the credit, it really tests the examiners though.
    Lead me not into temptation... I can find it myself.

  15. #15
    The Earth is not flat. Clyde's Avatar
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    Fair enough, i just don't think the innacuracies of the survey make much difference to its results.

    You're British, what Uni did you go to?

    I'm at Bristol currently study chemistry. (In my first year i started as an honours biochemist, but my god it bored me to tears, so i swapped in the 2nd yr. to chemistry )

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