Pew Research put up a website purporting to quiz you on your scientific knowledge, while flogging their poll of American adults (n=3278), claiming those adults are scientifically illiterate.

The problem is, Pew’s website exposed they actually got their own science wrong. While pointing one finger at us, they pointed three back at themselves!

Take a look at question 2:

The question asks “Which kind of waves are used to make and receive cellphone calls?” The choices are Radio, Light, Sound, and Gravity waves. Those with even a basic physics background should be hearing warning bells right about now. You see, the first two choices are not distinct from one another. Radio waves are light waves.

Light waves come in many different frequencies, similar to how sound comes in different pitches. Our eyes pick up a narrow band of light waves, distinguishing different frequencies of light within that band as ‘colors’, much as our ears pick up a band of sound waves, distinguishing frequencies within that band as different pitches of sound. Any sound or light waves that are too high, or too low, in frequency, we can’t see or hear.

Radio waves are a very low frequency of light. The waves are much larger than those of visible light. While a wave of visible light might be about a micrometer in length (about 0.00004 inches), one wave of cellphone spectrum signals might be a full meter long (about 1 yard).

To put “radio waves” and “light waves” as multiple choice options, marking one right and one wrong, shows only the ignorance of the person making the test. Pew is clearly not competent to judge whether Americans know science. Not until they get their own science together, at least.

Tags: Pew Science