Scientific ignorance has not only become a glaring problem for this country, it’s become very dangerous for us as a nation. It isn’t that we don’t still have the lion’s share of competent scientists; we DO.
Nor is it a matter of us not providing solid science courses within our primary and secondary educational curricula.
The problem is that not EVERYONE has to take them. And, even though we’ve always required EVERYONE to take minimums in BASIC math and science, what we NOW accept as BASIC has become a colossal joke.
In 1999, Gallup conducted a national survey of adults (18 and older) and discovered some stunningly scary information about the aggregate science IQ of Americans.
The survey pointed out that from roughly 1979 through 1999, America’s scientific literacy doubled. FANTASTIC! Right? WRONG!
That survey also discovered that, even at this new-found level of scientific literacy, only between 20% and 25% of Americans were scientifically PROFICIENT; the rest were clueless.
For example, projecting that survey results forward to today and assuming little improvement, if any at all, the general population does NOT know what molecules are.
Also, less than 33% of Americans are able to identify DNA as a key to heredity. No more than 10% of Americans know what radiation is. And, a real SHOCKER… 20% of Americans (again, 18 and older) believe that the Sun revolves around the EARTH!
And, it should scare the hell out of the rest of us to realize that the members of this 20% crowd NEVER fail to vote!
I won’t even broach the subject of EVOLUTION after former President George W, Bush “officially” declared that the “jury is still out on evolution.”
The topic is just too traumatic because a sizable percentage of Americans just can’t get past the idea of our ancient ancestors having engaged in the nasty (sexual hanky-panky) with monkeys; a notion, by the way, with the same level of scientific validity as the Sun revolving around the Earth.
And, even for a large percentage of Americans who do possess a good grasp of the scientific basics, the perpetuated idea that “ABOUT” is close enough for science in the classroom confuses things even more.
That Earth rotates counter clockwise about its polar axis is NOT a foregone conclusion for many Americans. Neither is the fact that Earth’s polar axis is tilted 23.45-degrees from its perpendicular and it’s this TILT that causes our four seasons.
The Sun does not “rise.” Neither does it “set.” The Earth spins on its polar axis (ONE complete revolution approximately every 24-hours). And, when it has SPUN sufficiently to occult the Sun below the LOCAL horizon, it gets DARK in our relative neck of the cosmic neighborhood.
I’ve had a lot of experience with the ramifications of accepting “ABOUT” as close enough when it comes to science in the classroom. Here’s just one example.
We ALL “know” that Earth’s circumference is “ABOUT” 24,000 miles at the Equator. We ALL “know” that it takes “ABOUT” 24-hours for Earth to make one daily revolution around its polar axis.
By extrapolation using a mathematical ciphering technique—especially his definition of “goesintas”—Jethro Bodine, nephew to Jed Clampett of TV’s world-famous Beverly Hillbillies clan, we’re able to conclude that 24-hours “goesinta” 24,000 miles EXACTLY 1,000 times.
And SO, many people think that we’re on a cosmic merry-go-round that’s going around in a circle at “ABOUT” 1,000 miles per hour. But, this isn’t the case… not even “ABOUT.”
First, the actual measured circumference of the Earth is 24,901.55 miles. But this is only true at latitude ZERO (the Equator). For each degree of latitude above or below the Equator, the circumference gradually diminishes in size.
Then, there’s the business of how long it actually takes this planet to complete one counter clockwise rotation about its polar axis. It’s NOT a full 24-hours; it’s a tad less: 23 hours, 59 minutes, 4.059 seconds.
So, at the Equator ONLY, Mother Earth’s rate of spin is 1,040.4 miles per hour in order to complete the trip in 23 hours, 59 minutes, 4.059 seconds.
On the other hand, I, while sitting comfortably typing on my laptop here in Wilmington, Delaware (latitude 39-degrees, 44-minutes, 44-seconds) am not moving at the same rate.
By multiplying MY latitude by its COSINE—see, you really should have paid attention back in high school—my rate of spin is a mere 800 miles per hour and Earth’s circumference at MY latitude is only 19,147 miles.
I’m going slower simply because I’m making a shorter trip over the same time frame of 23-hours, 59-minutes, 4.059-seconds.
Is this critical for Joe-the-bartender to understand? NO; unless Joe is planning to launch a rocket from Cape Kennedy in Florida to carry needed supplies to the International Space Station.
He’d want to take advantage of the slingshot effect complements of Earth’s natural rotational velocity. But, it wouldn’t amount to 1,040.4 miles per hour since the launch would take place above the Equator.
Cape Kennedy is at latitude 26-degrees, 8-minutes, 47.2038-seconds. At this latitude, the resulting East-to-West slingshot effect would be ABOUT 934 miles per hour.
If you’re absorbing copious volumes of “Kickapoo Joy Juice” while sitting on a barstool in Joe-the-bartender’s bar, the only critical calculations are the distance from the barstool seat and your weight in order to determine the impact of your smashing into the floor when you pass out.
But, if you’re going to be sending stuff into space, especially humans, it’s a different story. And, if you’re one of those insufferable math-phoebes who thought that learning about cosines and stuff was a waste of time, PLEASE go to work for 7-11; you could become an expert at fixing the Slurpee machines.
Or, perhaps you could even become an Attorney-at-Law. God knows, you could not possibly harm that profession any more than it has been!
And, oh, if you’re one of the clueless 20%, yes; the Earth is both spinning (FAST) on its polar axis AND it’s hurtling through space (even FASTER at 66,610 miles per hour) on its annual trip around the Sun.
But fear NOT; there is no need to panic. You don’t have to lie on the ground and hold onto the grass; you WON’T fall off the planet. God, or for SURE Pat Robertson on God’s behalf, will protect you.
Well, OK; probably not if you’re a homosexual. At any rate, though, have a great week.