Saturday, 25 July 2009

Interesting Science Quiz Results

David Bradley of Sciencebase tweeted a quiz on science in the news and asked his followers if we know more science than the average American:

Test Your News IQ

It would appear that I do know more science than the average American (and, I suspect, the average Brit) as I got 12/12. Now, you'll have to do the quiz to see the demographic results, but I thought this was interesting:

I apologise for the lack of labelling - the number column on the far right indicates the percentage of female respondees who answered correctly for each question. The number column immediately to the left indicates the percentage of male respondees. On nine of the questions, men scored more highly than women, but on three questions women did better than men:
  • Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?
  • How are stem cells different from other cells?
  • True or false: Antibiotics will kill viruses as well as bacteria.
These are the three biology/medicine/life science type questions - the other being geology/chemistry/physics/astronomy based. Now, I can't obviously say whether this is statistically significant, although maybe the Pew Research Center will follow up on this. However, when I was at university, physics classes were made up mainly of men and biology classes were made up mainly of women - even at the University Of Cambridge. Gender stereotypes manifesting themselves even among adults? Biology is "nice" and "soft" and you can go along and work with flowers and cute fuzzy animals, young lady, but leave the "serious" physics and astronomy to the more mathematically-minded men. They will solve our real problems. Is this a case that women are more educated in life sciences and less so in physical sciences than the men? Or, being in the vast majority the primary care-givers, do they simply pay attention mainly to the science news that directly affects the health of their family and ignore the rest (remember that awful exchange on The View about whether the Earth was flat)? Conversely is this support for the commonly-held view that men tend to ignore their health? Do they ignore it because they're uninformed or are they uninformed because they've ignored it? So, what do you think? I've used sweeping generalisations here with only that number table to back up my thoughts, but I wonder if there is a real signal there and what the reason might be.

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