"It's not Mars .... or Venus....' -- the man in the video below speaking in French.

Science Watch this You Tube video and I'll see you afterwards.

Clearly I'm not going to agree with the somewhat xenophobic headline which accompanies the video, since in fact all it proves is that 58% of the people in that studio didn't know the answer to that question. Did you like me expect that the bar graph during the phone a friend would offer a hundred percent in the moon column though? It does seem extraordinary that so many people would not know the answer to what you would have thought was such an elementary science question. If I do have a theory it's that the subject wasn't covered in school because the educators assumed that the students, no matter how old they were, would already be aware. Clearly they're not and so they're happy to pass through their lives in blissful ignorance.

The shape of the solar system was covered for me in infants school, along with a round Earth and the change of the seasons. It's in English Literature lessons that I was presented with the more interesting material - that this view of our corner of the universe was not the prevailing impression for thousands of years. Pre-Gallileo, people generally followed Ptolemy in putting the Earth at the centre of the existence with the sun and moon and planets and stars revolving around us, God having placed us there to emphasis our importance. That's the view of the universe Milton used in constructing Paradise Lost (hence the teaching context). In other words not too long ago in the grand sphere of things, the man at the centre of this clip would have been considered a genius, or at least the follower of one.

What is in fact more troubling about the clip is the placement of the question. At the end, he walks away with a grand and a half's worth of Euros which means this poser wasn't dropped in the selection of warm up questions but instead after some money is safe, in other words the producers who set the questions themselves believed it to be slightly tricky, that it is the kind of thing which might stump some people. The presenter doesn't know quite what to say, since he's apparently in the minority of people in the audience who knew the right answer (unless that's just because it appeared on his screen). It's hard to imagine that happening in the UK, although it would be an interesting experiment if this same question was placed in the same position on one of our Saturday night spots just to see the reaction, a kind of cross-cultural quizzical social experiment. [clip via]

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