News! – Earth Revolves Around Sun! (or does it?)

I recently read about the results from a recently published survey. The survey is here, but it takes a bit of digging to ferret out the relevant questions, which are embedded here (link downloads PDF). Here’s some text from the article:

“The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Ten questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun [emphasis added], according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.”

So, there’s a bit of a stinker if you happen to be trying to understand the information in The Physics of Success. It makes me wonder a bit whether those 500 or so folks know that the earth is round. To be honest, I found that particular question buried pretty deep in the survey script and I suspect quite a few of those bad answers were just folks suffering from survey fatigue.

So, just to set the record straight, in case anybody reading this is confused, the earth is round like a ball. And, now that I think about it, the sun and the planets revolve around each other, don’t they? The only reason it looks like the earth (and other planets) are rotating around the sun is because the sun has more mass than the planets. However, one of the ways astronomers can pinpoint stars with planets is because they observe a slight wobble, as the star is pulled to and fro by circling planets.

So, really, just as the moon and earth rotate around each other (but the earth moves less because it has more mass), so, too, the earth and the sun rotate around each other. Which means the answer is actually D) None of the Above.

I wonder if I would have been marked wrong on that survey?

Posted in Physics, Random Interesting Thoughts