So yeah, this happened. And on Kim Kardashian’s official Facebook page, as you can see, it garnered over 260k likes. Oh, and also we landed a space probe on a comet for the first time ever. No big deal.
This is only the first time in history we’ve seen the surface of a comet. This mission might provide answers to questions about our solar system and our very own planet. So you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if tons of people–what?! Only 5.6k likes? Okay…fine, maybe the ESA doesn’t have the greatest of Facebook presences. But what about more popular science sites on FB, like I fucking love science? Surely when they posted about Philae and Rosetta, people flocked to it!
That was the most popular post about Philae and Rosetta and the ESA mission, and it only has 150k likes. A hundred thousand more people were interested in a celebrity ass than a scientific milestone. That might not seem like a lot of people, but think of how many politicians are elected by much slimmer margins.
Okay, Facebook isn’t the only social media site out there. There’s also twitter. So let’s look at that. Here’s something from the ESA and Philae:
I think this bears repeating: this is the first time human eyes have seen what the surface of a comet looks like. Almost 9k likes. Okay. And then there’s this:
Kim K’s baby eating hot chocolate. Almost 30k likes. More than three times as many likes as a significant scientific and human milestone. Let that sink in.
So why is this important? Because this is it, people. This is America. If you’ve ever wondered what’s wrong with our country, ta-da.
It’s why, when ranked internationally, American students come in at or below average in math and science testing. In recent data our students failed to crack the top 20 in science, math, and reading. But there is a further implication here.
This is why the problem with scientific literacy in America is never going to get better. Science can’t compete. I applaud people like Bill Nye, Brian Greene, Lawrence Krauss, and Neil deGrasse Tyson for the wonderful books they turn out on current scientific advancements and ideas for consumption by the general public. But books aren’t going to reach the people we need to influence the most–our youth. Today’s kids spend 7.5 hours per day consuming media (TV, social networking, gaming, and music). Or, put another way, they spend virtually all of their free time NOT reading.
If science wants to make any sort of meaningful impact on future generations, they’ll have to do so over social media. There’s literally no other way to reach children and adolescents. But science is being drowned out. Kim Kardashian has 24 million Facebook fans. If you add up NASA, CERN, the ESA, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins fans you only get 14.65 million, a little more than half of Kim K’s followers.
Some people might be tempted to say, “So what?” Who cares if kids aren’t interested in a comet? Scientifically illiterate kids grow up to become scientifically illiterate adults. And the those adults vote and are elected into office, and do things like ignore global warming, refuse to vaccinate their kids, and try to get creationism taught as science. Scientifically illiterate people don’t innovate, and without innovation the economy is going to tank. Scientific literacy affects every facet of our lives and our future.
Kim Kardashian reaches more kids everyday than science does. For that matter, so does Justin Bieber, whose Facebook page has 76,000,000 likes. One final bit of information.
Between their two twitter accounts, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber reach a combined 82.2 million people–about 25% of all Americans. NASA reaches just under 8 million, or about 2.5% of all Americans.