About 28 percent of Americans know enough science to be able to understand what's reported in major newspapers. That's up from 10 percent in 1988. All of this was reported at this weekend's annual conference for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which apparently has a lot of advancing to do. Now, we are not in the midst of a very pro-science time. A recent essay at nerd haven Space.com notes that, while the Astronomical League boasts not-so-astronomical membership numbers of 16,000, the National Mah Jongg League has 275,000 members. Mah Jonng, people! And there is the whole Republican-led "war on science," in which, I guess, the winners' prize is a dunce cap(?). But at least they're finally teaching evolution in most of Kansas now (although in neighboring Texas, evolution is still a big conspiracy).
Now, James Smithson's legacy notwithstanding, it's not such a big deal that we don't know all that much basic science. After all, many of us don't know how to drive a manual transmission car, or know how to change a tire. And that's much much more basic and much much easier to learn than, say, understanding what exactly is going on with subatomic particle physics and the proposed Intergradational Linear Collider -- big news, we're told.