20 April 2006

America: Dumb and Dumber

Did you pay attention?


russ said...

I only felt like I didn't have a solid answer on the fossil question, but my guess wasn't too terrible. I probably would've gotten half credit off here and there. I score me a 7.5.

tormp said...

right, they should specify a margin of error.

i had a problem with the 365/24 question. i thought the question they were asking was more like "why has a year been divided into 365 intervals and why has a day been divided into 24 intervals", with the answer to the first being "because that is the number of rotations of the earth per revolution of the earth around the sun".

why a day is divided into 24 hours was kind of beyond me, actually. the implictly unreliable and socially irresponsible wikipedia would tell me a very interesting answer, if i were to lower myself to reading such trash:


Ryan Leaf said...

I don't know if it's because of editing or looseness on the part of the contributors, but half of these questions have problems.

Question four encourages the teleological, anthropomorphic view of evolution that asses up (real) scientists. Natural evolution doesn't "choose" shit.

Tormp's right on #5--24 hours to a day is mostly a convention. This is a history question.

Six and seven are almost the same question.

Question eight is garbage; there are a dozen reasons viruses and bacterial diseases are hard to treat--they form spores, viruses get inside your cells, etc. I guess that's what happens when you have to ask your mom to pad out your article.

Question ten is poorly worded. The reason why we put salt on sidewalks is so we don't fall on our asses. How it works is the science question. Pedantic, sure.

Anyway, I got 11 out of 11 (with extra credit). The answer to all of them is "because that's how God likes it."

tormp said...

question ten is the one i liked the most, as it casts "science" as a mode of interaction between humans and the rest of the natural world, a process that tunes our behavior.

at a high enough level of abstraction, we put salt on the sidewalks for the same reason that people once buried fish in their fields after sowing. the difference between the processes that produced these behaviors is significant.

i also liked "why is the sky blue?", though at first I didn't. it's not important or useful to know the answer; but it's a question that almost every human being asks before they are eight years old (isn't it?). if everyone asks the question, why doesn't everyone know the answer? maybe that question should be on the list.

dewey said...

i also liked "why is the sky blue?", though at first I didn't. it's not important or useful to know the answer;

I sort of wish there was a bit more elaboration in the answer. I mean, their answer boils down to "because there's more blue light than red light in it", which seems to beg the question. Saying the process is called "diffused sky radiation" without describing how that works doesn't get us anywhere.

mani said...

ok let me add my complaint about the extra credit question whose answer I thought was a little vague. It's not that tilting you towards the sun gets you more sunlight because you are closer to it. It's because the angle causes the sunlight to hit the earth closer to a right angle (making the sunlight more concentrated). At least, I think that's what it is. Or maybe they were clear about it.

russ said...

I think it's the distance... because the only time it fall more at a right angle is fall/spring.

tormp said...

i think mani must be right -- it's the density of light rays that matters, not the closeness to the sun, because the earth is physically closer to the sun in spring and autumn then it is during summer and winter.

i think with this article it's also unclear whether the editors attempted to paraphrase the contributors' answers.

tormp said...

"than it is". dammit.

John said...

I think we have 4 seasons both due to the tilt of the earth and the elliptical path the earth takes around the sun. Ok I made that up. The earth is flat.