Nearly Half of Adults in the USA Don’t Know How Long it Takes the Earth to Circle the Sun

Posted on March 19, 2009  Comments (7)


  • How long does it take for the Earth to revolve around the Sun?
  • Did the earliest humans and dinosaurs live on the earth at the same time?
  • What percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water?

According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences: only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun; only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time; only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water. Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly. I sure hope readers of this blog do much better than that.

Despite the fact that access to fresh water is likely to be one of the most pressing environmental issues over the coming years, less than 1% of U.S. adults know what percent of the planet’s water is fresh (the correct answer is 3%).

Related: Scientific IlliteracyUnderstanding the Evolution of Human Beings by CountryReport on K-12 Science Education in USATry to Answer 6 Basic Science Questions

You can take the 6 question survey on the California Academy of Science site (until I bet they take it down). They don’t just have a url like but instead just have it as part of the home page. Dumb design. 36,645 people took the survey online with an average of 4.7 correct answers (I got all 6 🙂 though honestly would have been lucky to get the fresh water answer if I hadn’t just read the anwer).

1) 1 year (~365.24 days) [they don’t say how the question was asked but the 2) No 3) 71% (The approximately correct answer range for this question was defined as anything between 65% and 75%.)

Full press release.

7 Responses to “Nearly Half of Adults in the USA Don’t Know How Long it Takes the Earth to Circle the Sun”

  1. Gabriel
    March 20th, 2009 @ 7:37 am

    What a shame!!
    Dinosaurs and humans living together!!

  2. Noel
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 11:38 am

    I took the survey and got the fresh water on wrong, I knew it was a small percentage but not 3%. Got the others correct.

  3. Carlin Lives! Funnier than ever « Greenfyre's
    July 7th, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    “Carlin’s ‘science’, such as it is, has been exposed by Real Climate. See also the comments thread; very knowledgeable people hang out at Real Climate and often you get as much in the comments as you do in the excellent articles…”

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    July 14th, 2009 @ 8:14 am

    “Electrons are smaller than atoms,” a true or false question fewer than 50% of people got right…

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    September 22nd, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    there are issues that confront society that have science as their foundation. If you are scientifically illiterate, in a way, you are disenfranchising yourself from the democratic process, and you don”™t even know it…

  6. Cristian Science Monitor Scientific Literacy Quiz » Curious Cat Science Blog
    December 21st, 2011 @ 3:28 am

    This is a nice science quiz that you should learn from while taking it (unless you are extremely knowledgeable already and know every answer).

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    April 25th, 2013 @ 2:42 am

    The Pew Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz is a simple 13 question quiz to get a very simple look at scientific understanding in society. Obviously these types of quizes are just extremely simple views, still it is interesting to see how you can do and what questions people struggle with…

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