Why is the sky blue? How do airplanes fly? What causes the ocean waves?

Many of the first questions children ask their parents are science-related. So it helps to have a little science knowledge to field these “how” and “why” types of questions that can challenge even the smartest of parents.

Of course, a basic understanding of science is important beyond just answering children’s questions—it’s an essential part of many jobs and technological advances. And everyone uses science in their daily lives, regardless of their occupation or interest. From inventions like the smartphone to boiling water to treating a cut, science is everywhere.

Despite the importance of science, however, not everyone is up-to-date on basic scientific facts. According to a 2014 National Science Foundation survey, 26 percent of Americans surveyed thought that the sun revolves around Earth.

A more recent Pew Research study found that Americans did better with some basic science questions, such as concepts about Earth’s core and how nuclear energy is made, but many had trouble with other concepts, like what a light-year measures.

Find out how much science you know with these ten questions based on the science facts that were part of that Pew Research Study. Then test your children’s knowledge. Once you’ve taken the quiz, you can view all the answers and see what percentage of Americans answered them correctly in the Pew study. Or scroll down to click on each question for the answers and get a refresher on these basic science concepts.


Click on each question below to reveal the answers:

What is the hottest layer of the earth?
The inner core is at the center and is the hottest part of the earth. Made of iron and nickel, the temperature of the inner core is estimated to be between 9,000 and 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
What chemical element is used to make nuclear weapons?
Uranium is a naturally radioactive metal that is the fuel used for nuclear reactors. It’s also used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
What celestial object has an icy center and a streaming tail of gas and dust particles?
Comets. Called “dirty snowballs,” comets are made of ices and can have a “tail” that releases gas and dust particles.
What causes the ocean tides?
The ocean tides are caused by gravitational interaction between the earth, moon, and sun. The moon’s pull makes the oceans bulge toward the moon.
Who developed the Polio vaccine?
American medical researcher Jonas Salk developed the first effective polio vaccines.
NASA defines this as “the study of stars, planets, and space.”
Astronomy is the study of the stars, moon, sun, planets, comets, galaxies, and other objects in space. It differs from astrology, which attempts to interpret the influence that celestial bodies may have on people.
What kind of waves are needed to make and receive calls on a cellphone?
Cellphone calls are transmitted via radio waves from a radio transmitter to a radio receiver.
What does a light-year measure?
A light-year measures distance in space.
How does altitude affect the boiling point of water?
Water boils at a lower temperature in high altitudes. The boiling point of water varies by the atmospheric pressure, and pressure drops as the altitude increases. So less heat is needed in higher altitudes, such as in Denver, Colorado, than in lower altitudes like Los Angeles, California.
By what property of a sound wave would you determine how loud a sound is?
The amplitude of a sound wave is what determines the volume of the sound. The larger the amplitude is, the louder the sound.

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