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His Questions on Orbits Leave Them Going in Circles

--It’s enough to get Copernicus revolving in his grave. Asked in a nationwide survey whether the Earth revolves around the sun, or the sun around the Earth, a whopping 21% of American adults incorrectly answered the latter, and 7% said they didn’t know. “It’s a fairly dire situation,” said Jon Miller of Northern Illinois University of the results in a survey of 2,401 adults conducted for the National Science Foundation. Only 5% to 7% of adult Americans are “scientifically literate,” Miller projected. “How can you preserve democracy when the world is increasingly more complex scientifically . . . and people are increasingly more ignorant of the issue?” asked Leon Lederman, co-winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for physics. And in an election year in which “Star Wars” has been cited repeatedly, it also appears that Americans have little knowledge of what is being talked about. Asked whether lasers--an essential component of “Star Wars"--work by focusing sound waves, only 36% correctly answered that the statement was false. Lasers work by focusing light waves.


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