Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Facts you should know

by PhilipJ on 25 April 2006

The StarTribune.com asked 10 scientists and science writers: What is one science question every high school graduate should be able to answer?

I’m going to reproduce their questions here, and you can follow the link to read the associated answers if you don’t know them all:

1. What percentage of the earth is covered by water?
ROBERT GAGOSIAN, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE

2. What sorts of signals does the brain use to communicate sensations, thoughts and actions?
TORSTEN WEISEL, ROCKEFELLER INSTITUTE, NEW YORK

3. Did dinosaurs and humans ever exist at the same time?
ANDREW C. REVKIN, NEW YORK TIMES SCIENCE REPORTER

4. What is Darwin’s theory of the origin of species?
JONATHAN WEINER, 1995 PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR

5. Why does a year consist of 365 days, and a day of 24 hours?
LESLIE SAGE, NATURE MAGAZINE

6. Why is the sky blue?
ROY GLAUBER, 2005 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER; HARVARD UNIVERSITY

7. What causes a rainbow?
KIM KASTENS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

8. What is it that makes diseases caused by viruses and bacteria hard to treat?
HELLE GAWRYLEWSKI, JOHNSON & JOHNSON (AND THE AUTHOR’S MOTHER)

9. How old are the oldest fossils on earth?
PAUL NURSE, 2001 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER; ROCKEFELLER INSTITUTE

10. Why do we put salt on sidewalks when it snows?
ARTHUR KNUDSEN, BRIDGETON, N.J., SCHOOLS

Extra credit: What makes the seasons change?

The only question I didn’t really know the answer for was Paul Nurse’s question on the age of the oldest fossils, but you can (and I did) guess and come pretty close all the same.

A couple of other questions that I think everyone should be capable of answering with a high school education are:

How old is the universe?
What is an atom?
What is the scientific method?

That third question in particular is one that I would hope everyone could answer, but bet many could not. Please add further questions you think any high school graduate should know in our comments!



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