A brighter, more comet-friendly Britain

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The Independent Online
You are now entering an election-free zone

This has been Science Week, a week at the start of which the British were an ignorant, scientifically naive bunch and after which they are now one of the most scientifically sophisticated communities in the world.

Or are they ?

Well, it's easy to find out.

If you have been paying attention, you too should be scientifically switched on by now.

So why not test yourself to see just how much you have picked up ?

Here we go then! All you have to do is see how many of the following searching scientific questions you can answer.

1. Every week Melvyn Bragg starts the week with a bunch of assorted pundits, and every week one of them is a geneticist. What are the odds against this happening by random selection ?

2. Sometimes one of the Dimblebys asks for a show of hands during one of their Question programmes, and says, "Of course this isn't a scientifically conducted survey". Compared to what? What is a scientifically conducted survey?

3. For instance, is a political election a scientifically conducted survey?

4. If the opinion polls say that one party will win, and the election results say that by a count of elected members the other side has won, might a scientist say that the polls were right and the election was wrong?

5. What IS the scientific process ? Which of the following descriptions most nearly approximates to the way science works ?

a) Evolving a theory and then testing it with repeatable and verifiable experiments until proved true or false.

b) Developing an experimental programme such as sheep cloning which is newsworthy enough to get more research funds rolling in.

c) Being called in by the Government at BSE or E.Coli time and being asked to bail them out overnight.

6. How can you tell sheep apart at the best of times?

7. A comet has been placed in the north-western sky especially to promote interest in Science Week. But what is it called?

a) "Hip Hop"

b) "Gault-Millau"

c) "Darth Vader"

d) "Look, just over the chimney, that faint blob, oh it's gone now...."

8. What does the word "forensic" refer to?

a) Cutting up dead people

b) Crime shows on TV....

c) Any evidence in court which is subsequently shown to be dodgy.

9. What can be seen glowing faintly in the evening after sunset and again round about sunrise?

a) That thing, you know, the whatsit, the asteroid, no, as you were, the comet or whatever

b) The nearest big city, or perhaps just Trowbridge

c) Michael Howard on Newsnight and again on the Today programme.

10. What is a comet exactly?

a) A laser show designed to publicise Science Week

b) Nuclear waste dumped in space by a now-extinct civilisation

c) An omen foretelling great unrest ahead and massive hold-ups on the M40

11. Which of the following words are not genuine scientific terms ?

a) morph

b) zap

c) mutant

d) ninja

e) ginormous

f) mega

g) bodacious

12. The population of the world is increasing the whole time, but the amount of air and water stays constant, leading to a smaller share for everyone. What will this mean for mankind by the year AD2200 ?

a) That we will all be forced to take smaller breaths ?

b) That air will be piped down from the upper atmosphere, rather as water is now piped from the Welsh hills?

c) That bottles of fizzy air will be placed on the tables of posh restaurants?

d) That dry methods of washing ourselves will be evolved, eg that we will vacuum-clean our hair instead of shampooing it?

13. Have you ever met anyone who had finished reading A Brief History of Time?

14. Explain briefly the difference between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.

Answers will be given next time Science Week comes along