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Not One for the Fridge

Some 3,200 US adults quizzed by the Pew Research Center on a range of scientific topics got an average of eight out of 12 questions correct, the New York Times reports. (You can take the quiz yourself here.)

The questions run the gamut from describing a comet to understanding how cellphones work and from knowing the inventor of the polio vaccine to interpreting a graph of sugar consumption versus tooth decay.

"This is one of those cases where you can look at it as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty," Pew associate director Cary Funk tells the AP.

She adds that she was intrigued by what questions Americans were more likely to get right versus wrong. Eighty-six percent of respondents knew the Earth's core was the hottest layer of the Earth, though only 34 percent knew that water boils at a lower temperature at Denver's altitude versus Los Angeles'.

There were some differences in score by age, gender, and education level, the AP notes. Younger respondents were more likely to know that cellphones use radio waves, while older respondents were more likely to know Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine. Men typically got one more correct answer than women, the Times adds, while people with college degrees generally got two more questions right than people with a high school education or less.

"As developments in science and technology raise new issues for public debate — from driverless cars and space exploration to climate change and genetically modified crops — a public with more knowledge of scientific facts and principles is often seen as one better able to understand these developments and make informed judgments," the Pew Center says in a statement.