The 20th century is often dubbed the “American Century”, and rightly so. America’s dominant position on the world stage during this period was due in large part to the nation’s scientific vitality (and superiority). Companies like AT&T (Bell Labs), IBM, Intel, Boeing, and yes, even Microsoft have fueled more than the American economy. They churn out innovative technologies that are a strategic national asset. In recent years, however, it seems as though America is falling behind – particularly in biotech. But the real problem is that the average American citizen lacks basic 21st century literacy, by which I mean fundamental understanding of the underpinnings of modern science.
A professor at Northwestern is studying this problem.
Dr. Miller’s data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.
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“Tell us about Lenn,” Egwene called. “How he flew to the moon in the belly of an eagle made of fire. Tell about his daughter Salya walking among the stars.”