1 in 5 Americans Confuse Astrology and Astronomy

Sep 15, 2015

Shipfactory | Shutterstock.com

By Elizabeth Palermo

Do you understand the relationship between elevation and the boiling point of water? Do you know what property of a sound wave determines its loudness? If so, than you likely know more about science than most Americans, the majority of whom got these questions wrong on a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

The nonprofit organization recently polled a representative sample of 3,200 Americans of different ages, genders, ethnicities, races and levels of education and found that, though most of those surveyed understood basic scientific concepts, like the fact that a light-year measures distance (72 percent), far fewer participants knew the answers to more difficult scientific questions.

Some 22 percent of Americans misidentified the “study of how the positions of stars and planets can influence human behavior,” as astronomy rather than what is considered a pseudoscience, astrology.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source below.

70 comments on “1 in 5 Americans Confuse Astrology and Astronomy

  • Those are the easiest questions I’ve ever seen in a science quiz. I got all 12 without even having to pause to think. As a female, I hope I helped kick the stats upward for older women, who seemed to get abysmal scores – mostly due to less education (women in my age group and older were expected to get their “MRS” degree at college, if they went to college at all before getting married). I remember in my small-town high school days in the 70s, girls were seen as “wierd” or “unsexy” or “ugly butch” if they got good grades in math and science and had more interest in those subjects than they did in makeup or hairstyles or bra sizes. Girls could not take shop classes and were actively discouraged from taking advanced math or science classes.



    Report abuse

  • Oh crap……why did I read that study. I’m depressed again………mericans………………

    I was not and am not educated. I got all twelve right. What does that say about the people who couldn’t answer half? Mericans…………..WILL SOME ONE ADOPT ME FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY?



    Report abuse

  • I remember in my small-town high school days in the 70s, girls were seen as “wierd” or “unsexy” or “ugly butch” if they got good grades in math and science..

    In the haze of rampant teenage hormones, I was probably in this category. How could they possibly expect me to concentrate and study when I was surrounded by acres of maturing women hood…Sigh.. I failed my final high school exam first time around because my focus was almost entirely extra curricula activities. At 25 I started to study again and to my shock, discovered a brain, and ran almost straight distinctions from there on. ‘The wasted years.

    But with maturity, an intelligent and engaging mind is far more beautiful than physical looks. Looks fade.



    Report abuse

  • I took this quiz on USA Today and aced it easily. The questions were not that challenging, especially if you thought about it a moment and knew the why of things.

    Now, we know water boils at a lower temperature the higher you are ( Denver in this case ) but how many can tell you why that is?



    Report abuse

  • but how many can tell you why that is?

    I’m prepared to have a go. Denver is a “mile” high above sea level. Lower air pressure. Lowers the boiling point of water. Opposite of a pressure cooker, which through pressure, raises the boiling point of water, allowing for hotter cooking temperatures.



    Report abuse

  • Supposedly that’s why the mountaineers on Everest made lousy tea, – the bloody snow / water never got to 100 c (212 f) ! Although some tea purists claim the water should boil and then cool off for a bit. I don’t suppose they would be too happy in the British motorway services !



    Report abuse

  • When I lived in America a few years ago, (San Francisco), God was hardly ever mentioned, but always the new person would ask what star sign I was. I got fed up with being given a load of bullshit because I was X sign of the zodiac, (how many of them knew what that meant anyway ?), so I started to lie about my birth date, just to see what new bullshit they would come up with. I was not disappointed !

    Astrology : The unthinking man’s explanation of derivatives with plenty of Taurus involved.



    Report abuse

  • Although some tea purists claim the water should boil and then cool
    off for a bit.

    This has the same hand me down undertones of religion. I am sure the boiling of water was important, and is important in some areas still, to kill off bacteria. Put this with the ‘perfect’ brewing temperature that purists claim and add the ritualistic nature of tea drinking that came from the far east and you have a ‘god in a cup’. I like a nice cuppa and the difference in quality from tea-bags, the lowest of the low, to loose whole leaf tea is discernible. My favourite way is Turkish style. It not only requires good tea leaves but can sit on a very low heat all day long (something the movies tell me Americans do with coffee) and you can drink to your hearts content. The two pot system steams the pot above, containing the tea, at a constant temperature. One thing I noticed was how much tea was poured into the cup before topping up with the hot water. If you leave it to brew for a long time then you will only need a very little amount (to taste) of tea. It might have been because she poured it out quickly that she put so much in. It is meant to be drunk hot and sweat but I like to drop in a few cloves and a cinnamon stick in the pot (again to taste) which cuts out the need for sugar.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LavtYRz6AhU



    Report abuse

  • There again there was the Ace of Spades Cafe on the North Circular Road, London, famous for its bikers and lorries, where legend had it that the tea was so strong you could stand your spoon up in it, – and if you left the spoon in too long, it would dissolve !

    Just here-say, nothing to do with reason or science.



    Report abuse

  • No no! Not strong at all. Use the breakfast tea. You have got to get the tea/ hot water mix right for you. You can have it as strong as you like. Adding the spices give it an even milder taste.

    By the way! Leave out the ‘sweat’ and just use sugar if you want ( blush)



    Report abuse

  • David R Allen
    Sep 15, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Lower air pressure. Lowers the boiling point of water. Opposite of a pressure cooker, which through pressure, raises the boiling point of water, allowing for hotter cooking temperatures.

    Taken to extremes, researchers have to be careful not to end up in a pressure cooked submersible!

    http://www.whoi.edu/main/topic/hydrothermal-vents
    Hydrothermal fluid temperatures can reach 400°C (750°F) or more, but they do not boil under the extreme pressure of the deep ocean.

    As they pour out of a vent, the fluids encounter cold, oxygenated seawater, causing another, more rapid series of chemical reactions to occur. Sulfur and other materials precipitate, or come out of solution, to form metal-rich towers and deposits of minerals on the seafloor.



    Report abuse

  • Does this explain how the creatures that live in these extreme conditions survive Alan? If their blood or the water filled cells doesn’t boil maybe?



    Report abuse

  • If so, than you likely know more about science than most Americans, the majority of whom got these questions wrong on a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

    It seems the Pew researchers are not very good at science either!

    The answer they give to Question 4 on tides is wrong!

    Tides are not caused by “the gravitational pull of the Moon alone”!

    http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/tides/tides02_cause.html

    Our sun is 27 million times larger than our moon. Based on its mass, the sun’s gravitational attraction to the Earth is more than 177 times greater than that of the moon to the Earth. If tidal forces were based solely on comparative masses, the sun should have a tide-generating force that is 27 million times greater than that of the moon. However, the sun is 390 times further from the Earth than is the moon. Thus, its tide-generating force is reduced by 3903, or about 59 million times less than the moon. Because of these conditions, the sun’s tide-generating force is about half that of the moon (Thurman, H.V., 1994).

    Tides on Earth are generated by a combination of the gravity of the Moon, the gravity of the Sun, and the movement of the tidal waves across the ocean surface caused by the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

    That is why we have spring and neap tides!



    Report abuse

  • Olgun
    Sep 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Does this explain how the creatures that live in these extreme conditions survive Alan? If their blood or the water filled cells doesn’t boil maybe?

    No! They don’t live in the very hot flow where they would cook. They live in the cold or mixed warmed water nearby.
    Some extremophiles live in quite hot water, but not that hot!



    Report abuse

  • Alan4discussion
    Sep 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Also:-
    The height of the tide in specific locations is influenced by the amount of open ocean (measuring East-West) adjacent to the landmass and the local coastal landforms (continental shelf or tapering estuaries), channelling the tidal waves. (Hence enclosed seas like the Red Sea with short East-West dimensions, have very small tides)



    Report abuse

  • Taurus

    I am a Taurus. May 9, 1962, to be precise. The 9 is also significant. It is, according to Dante, a very special number. The Holy Trinity is 3. Nine is three, three times. It is a miracle-number. That is why he always saw Beatrice (who was a “living miracle”) on the ninth day of the month, or when he was nine, or at four in the afternoon (the first of the last nine hours of the day), etc.

    It is tempting to embrace these notions when we are flattered in some way by them.

    Taurus: Virile, creative, independent.

    Look, astrology wouldn’t have been around all these years if there wasn’t some truth to it.

    (Joke . . . I think.)

    Off topic as far as this thread is concerned, but very relevant to the ongoing topic of Reason and Science: just watched about an hour of the Republican debate. Scary, scary stuff. A bunch of sickos. Jesus! (Pardon the expression.)



    Report abuse

  • I just took this test and I was not a fan of this question either. There is still little excuse for getting it wrong since it is obvious what the questioners think is the correct answer but the phrasing is poor.

    The tides are not caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon. They are caused by the gravitational differential from the Moon (and the Sun) acting over large bodies of water and by details of the shapes of land masses. Saying it is due to the pull is just wrong.



    Report abuse

  • We tauruses

    Laurie,
    What should I bring to Thanksgiving? Send me instructions. Not familiar with the Boston area.
    Bonnie is welcome too, I presume. Bonnie, should I bring my complete set of Twilight Zone DVDs?
    What happened to Alice? She lives in England, I think. Yes! Birmingham. A bit far, but I am sure she would come if you asked her nicely.
    Now as for the topic: I am a classic Taurus, as I indicated in my earlier post. Here is something I found that positively proves that astrology is not a pseudo-science. This is a site devoted to Reason and Science so I have to provide real evidence. I got this from a virtually infallible source: the internet.
    “You tend to get swept off your feet by romance and beauty. When you see a beautiful painting or any other work or art and appreciate it, you may be sure it is the effect of Venus. You are sensual and simple, and have a keen eye for all that is beautiful in the world.”
    Bonnie, your posts have this quality of beauty – as do yours, Ms. B.
    (What is odd is that description of Tauruses really does apply.)



    Report abuse

  • Northampton
    Sep 16, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    but the phrasing is poor.

    The phrasing and marking is so poor as to invalidate the whole question.
    Not only do they give a wrong answer as correct, but they list two other influences and count them as wrong.

    They also give the option of choosing “no answer”, but it is unclear as to whether this means “the candidate has no answer,” or if “none of the given answers is correct”. As for the answers on the effects of the Moon, the Sun, and the rotation, the correct answer would be “none of these individually”, or “all of them collectively”!

    This also means that having only 11 valid questions, the scores are out of 11 not 12, therefore all the percentages given are also wrong!!!!!



    Report abuse

  • Confusion betwixt Astro-nomy and Astro-logy is hardly surprising.

    A few intelligent people I know, have puckered their eyebrows over this one. Unless one is immersed in woo, or the scientific study of space, perhaps the reason might be along the lines of “hmm, never really thought about it!”.

    This poster succinctly clears all things up – Periodic table of irrational Nonsense.



    Report abuse

  • bonnie
    Sep 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    This poster succinctly clears all things up – Periodic table of irrational Nonsense.

    Brilliant. Thanks Bonnie. That’s the best thing I’ve seen for yonks 🙂



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    You are sensual and simple, and have a keen eye for all that is beautiful in the world.”
    P.S. The “simple” part most definitely does NOT apply.

    Hey buddy! If you want to keep the “sensual” part then you gotta take the simple with it too. There’s no having your cake and eat it too around here!!!!
    If it was written in the stars then it’s meant to be. ~cross eyed toothless smile~



    Report abuse

  • Richard Dawkins should hire Bonnie as the resident research associate for surfing the internet to select the most relevant and funny material relating to posts. The “Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense” could serve as the table of contents for the Encyclopedia of Woo. Who thinks this stuff up! Ingenious. Priceless.



    Report abuse

  • Melvin
    Sep 17, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Richard Dawkins should hire Bonnie as the resident research associate for surfing the internet to select the most relevant and funny material relating to posts.

    Even better if they could arrange it so she replaces Jaclyn “flourescent teeth” Glenn’s little section of irrelevance.



    Report abuse

  • A Yonk is a variable period of time that changes according to the whims of the speaker. A bit like the christian god. To me a Yonk is around 15 years. Alan4D may have a different variation.

    And Bonnie’s periodic table is gold. I’ve shared it with my secret clan of like minded individuals.

    It could also be called the Peridiotic Table.



    Report abuse

  • I should clarify. I’m not completely manically opposed to nice teeth. I actually wish my parents had put mine in braces when I was a kid because one of them is wonky but we don’t do stuff like that over here, or at least not back in the 60s. However, we have a “thing” over here now, primarily in Essex but no doubt it will spread, where feckless, witless, brain dead tv reality “stars” have their teeth ground back to stubs and capped with veneers that glow like white shirts under an ultraviolet night club light.

    Their leader of the flourescent teeth brigade is a moron called Joey Essex. To say he has the IQ of a Brazilian tree frog is being unduly unkind to tree frogs. On a tv show quiz he had no idea who Jesus’s mother was. When asked which country (yes country) was adjacent to Wales he said London. After being told it was England, and then asked the same question on a subsequent show, when he’d already forgotten the answer he said Russia. He thought a square had six sides. He’d never heard of Elton John and thought Richard and Judy (UK tv chat show hosts) were the “people who created the world” (Adam and Eve, even though they didn’t).

    When asked, in the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet who was Romeo’s girlfriend he said Romeo.

    He has no skills, zero intellect and yet he now earns more than 99% of actual hard working ordinary folk for appearing on crap tv shows and playing a moron, which is not a strain for him.

    I find this intensively offensive. That a retard with fake teeth should earn a lot for actually being so stupid that people can’t help watching him on tv in much the same way as drivers slow down at a crash site to rubberneck.

    I am not in any way comparing him to Jaclyn. She is clearly much more intelligent than him but then so are my three chickens and all they do is cluck and lay eggs. Their free range eggs are truly delicious though. But I’m now apparently conditioned to equate flourescent teeth with “stupid”.



    Report abuse

  • Hey! I’m from Essex but I worked out the anagram to your name……

    The silent majority feel the same way. I am so glad my dentist has removed the ‘do-it-yourself’ teeth whitener from their display. I dread to think what danger the Joey Essex’ would put themselves in.



    Report abuse

  • Event

    Seriously, I’ve been wondering about events associated with this site and its members. You mentioned a “rally” in June, 2016. Is that for real, and if so, how does one learn about these thing? Where is that mentioned?



    Report abuse

  • Bonnie’s Chart

    Who knows? Maybe gravitation and consciousness will be on that same “funny” chart fifty or a hundred years from now, and Karma will be off of it.



    Report abuse

  • Who thinks this stuff up! Ingenious. Priceless.

    Just playing devil’s advocate, as it were, but consider this:

    In the past there was vast, pervasive ignorance about a lot of things. For example, no one knew anything about DNA in the past, or RNA, etc., etc., etc.

    On these grounds we are wrong too however: for in the future it will be said of us,

    “they knew nothing of — — ” something else

    And I am not saying in the future people will have evolved beyond us. It will just be different (?)

    Again: just some food for thought and reflection.



    Report abuse

  • I absolutely guarentee the number is higher than 1 in 5. My cousin is a bona fide PhD Astronomer. Works on Hubble, works for JPL, goes to Atacama, Chile, Australia etc. doing whatever he does with great passion. Hes also very funny ... and has an endless litany of stories about the confusion. But then again he lives in California where air heads (like, really, you do that ? So cool - Im a Libra) roughly equal the techno nerds.



    Report abuse

  • teeth

    They must have spoken to her, “Richard”; her latest video is more on topic. I’d still like to see her booted, however. Although she’s the kind you “love to hate.” Ah, let them keep her.



    Report abuse

  • There’s some smart buggers on this site. Give me the creationists any time, what they say is easy to understand, therefore must be true (Ockam’s razor).



    Report abuse

  • eejit
    Sep 18, 2015 at 6:14 am

    There’s some smart buggers on this site. Give me the creationists any time, what they say is easy to understand, therefore must be true (Ockam’s razor).

    O’Reilly: I’ll tell you why [religion’s] not a scam. In my opinion, all right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can explain why the tide goes in … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/01/31/bill-oreilly-explains-tides-by-questioning-the-moons-origin/

    Easy to understand . . . . 🙂 God-did-it!!



    Report abuse

  • Silverman: Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus

    Reply toAlan4, below. For some reason you can’t reply to replies of replies. His theology’s wrong. The Greek gods lived on Olympus, Thor lived in Valhallah.



    Report abuse

  • 5 out of 5 astronomers and 5 out of 5 astrologers don’t confuse the two subjects.

    If knowing the difference (or knowing the answers to any of the other questions) is important to a person’s success in life, chances are pretty good that a person will know.



    Report abuse

  • I had forgotten about this thread until today.

    It behooves me to confer the science guy of the day trophy on D. R. Allen!

    Alan4discussion is disqualified because he is a working scientist I believe.



    Report abuse

  • alf1200
    Sep 19, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I would love to get into a contest with Bill O’reilly in the subject of science.

    It’s just as well O’reilly isn’t trying to explain the Moon at the moment – what with the Super-Moon and a simultaneous total eclipse!

    http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2015-september-28
    27 September / 28 September 2015 — Total Lunar Eclipse

    In the US, Canada, and Central and South America, this rare Total Lunar Eclipse of a Supermoon will begin on the evening of September 27, 2015. In Europe, South/East Asia, Africa, the Arctic, and in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans it starts after midnight on September 28, 2015.

    Also called a Blood Moon this eclipse will last for about 1 hour and 12 minutes.

    The poor fellow would be going into spasms of “You can’t explain that”!



    Report abuse

  • Simple to remember: All zodiac signs are constellations, but not all constellations are zodiac signs. I figured that out after noticing that the “daily horoscope” that appears in most newspapers does not include anything about people who were born under the signs of “Orion’s Belt” or “Ursa Major.”



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.