Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Big Kid's Table

This post was started during the American election last year it is still relevant and will remain so indefinitely.

Frequently a report on the news illustrates a lack of basic science knowledge in elected officials. Any given week in the American news cycle will feature some form or willful ignorance or base misunderstanding.  While I largely believe people should be free to believe things as they wish, I also believe those representing the public have an obligation not be misinformed.

This post started to take shape after the incident at Fukushima Daiichi complex and when zealots were campaigning against smart meters here in Vancouver.  In the coverage of these stories misunderstanding of science at some basic levels lead to interpretations of risk that were far above the reality of the situations.  The ignorance extends from reporting to technical misunderstandings like these can lead to decisions that are ultimately not in the public interest.  In the interest of pushing for science in government and public discourse I propose the Big Kid's Table Quiz.  Just as a child at a large gathering will need to mind their manners to sit with the grownups, so our officials must demonstrate an understanding of reality to represent us on that topic.

Question 1
Which is larger

A: The Earth
B: The Milky way
C: The Moon
D: The Sun

Question 2
When is it appropriate to cite the bible.

1: On subjects related to environmental science, including but not limited to climate change.
2: On matters of personal freedoms, women's rights
3: On matters concerning legal structures and cultural practices of a bronze age nomadic tribe.
4: Never.
3: Which of the following are examples of Ionizing radiation

  1.   Microwaves
  2.   Wifi waves
  3.   Cellphone Rays
  4.   Gamma Rays
  5.   None of the Above.

4  A greenhouse gas is:

  1. Any gas trapped in a greenhouse
  2. A naturally occurring constituent of the atmosphere capable of trapping heat.
  3.  A liberal conspiracy concocted by Al Gore to increase his wealth through the use   of insider trading on carbon credits. 
  4.   Not at all responsible for the temperature regime on the surface of the earth. 
5: Carbon Dioxide is a what:
    1: A natural product of animal and plant metabolism
    2: An industrial waste from the combustion of fossil fuels
    3: A greenhouse gas
    4: A poison at high concentrations
    5: All of the Above
    6: None of the above.

6: Nuclear fission is.
  1. Any fish caught from the deck of the USS Jimmy Carter
  2. The process, there heavy unstable atomic nuclei are broken into smaller particles  and energy is released.
  3. A reasonably safe and clean form of energy that does not produce massive  quantities of greenhouse gases.
  4. The process that occurs in stars where light atomic nuclei are joined together to release energy and for heavier elements.
  5. 2 and 3
  6. None of the above.

7: which of the following are harmful to humans circle all that apply

  1.  A radio wave
  2.  The light from a light bulb
  3.  The light from a tanning bed
  4.  An X-ray

8: The scientific Consensus on the nature of Climate change and global warming is

  1.  Based on carefully collected and analyzed statistics of both modern and past climates.
  2.  A conspiracy put forth by freedom hating liberals.
  3. Wrong because it suggests policy should be influenced by facts not just beliefs.
  4. A conspiracy created by tens of thousands of scientists and technicians to undermine the american way of life.
  5. Alarmist because the facts suggest immediate action to avoid costly effects such as sea level rise, or radical climate change.

9:  When explaining the interactions of complex global systems such as weather and climate, what model do you employ.  A myth from a bronze age tribe, or models based on data collected and analyzed by trained professionals, justify your answer.

10: Rank in order of energy density. 1 for least dense 5 for most dense.

Wind power   ___
Coal, Natural Gas, petroleum __
Nuclear fission ___
Solar power ___
Hydroelectric ___

Etcetera.  Naturally this quiz is incomplete and only addresses natural science topics where ignorance of them irritates me.  It is also the recommendation that should enough of the representatives fail the test that legislative body should receive a suitable primer from a qualified expert(s) in the field(s) in question.

Be a radical with Science.

1 comment:

Ien in the Kootenays said...
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