I'll take "Crucial Science Knowledge" for 200, Alex
- What percentage of the earth is covered by water?
- What sorts of signals does the brain use to communicate sensations, thoughts and actions?
- Did dinosaurs and humans ever exist at the same time?
- What is Darwin's theory of the origin of species?
- Why does a year consist of 365 days, and a day of 24 hours?
- Why is the sky blue?
- What causes a rainbow?
- What is it that makes diseases caused by viruses and bacteria hard to treat?
- How old are the oldest fossils on earth?
- Why do we put salt on sidewalks when it snows?
- Extra credit: What makes the seasons change?
- Why is leaving the refrigerator door open a really bad strategy for cooling off the kitchen on a hot day?
- Why does taking your tea with lemon and milk result in chunky tea?
- Licking the spoon while you're making the pudding makes it so the pudding doesn't set properly. What's up with that?
- When you're prescribed antibiotics, why should you take the whole course of them even if you feel better sooner (and why won't antibiotics do jack for the common cold)?
- Why are the days longer in the summer than in the winter?
- Why does ice float (and why is this probably a good thing for people living near big lakes)?
- Why shouldn't you use a blow-dryer/curling iron/paper shredder/electric carving knife while soaking in the bath tub?
- What is a hypothesis?
- What is a theory?
- What is probability?
- What is an atom? What is a neutron? What is a proton? What is an electron?
- What is a molecule?
- What is a cell?
- What is a gene? What is a genome? What is the central dogma of molecular biology?
And then there's Dave S.'s comment on the Adventures in Ethics and Science post. Dave doesn't state his questions in the form of a question, but lists several truths about science that he would like people to know, such as:
... that science is a method invented by humans to understand the natural world using natural methodology. It is not meant to reveal all knowledge about every aspect of existance.These emphasize the philosophical side of science -- the significance of evidence, empiricism, reproducibility -- and they're probably my favorite, in terms of what I wish every student would graduate knowing. You can hook them with the ain't-it-cool factor of mundane mysteries ("why doesn't pudding set when you lick the bowl?"), and it's important to show them how science is relevant to their daily lives. You can teach them terminology, and in fact you shouldn't let them leave school without a working scientific vocabulary. But at the end of the day, I wouldn't mind if nobody in the country could explain why the sky was blue, diagnose the cause of chunky tea, or accurately define an atom, as long as we could have everyone understand what a theory is and how it comes about.
... that due to the above, science is limited. But in this limitation lies its strength. The proof of this is the great success science has had.
... that science is not about truth, it's about evidence.
... that evidence is empirical, which means we need to be to observe it with our senses.
... that just because we don't know everything about a process doesn't mean we don't know anything.
... that science is tentative doesn't mean we can't ever be confident in it. Science is stable, but it never stands still.