A study released today by the National Science Foundation states that most of the average American’s comprehension of science originates from “Real Facts” printed on the underside of Snapple bottle caps. According to the report, the quirky facts, which appear under the caps of all Snapple and Diet Snapple drinks, have quickly eclipsed news reports, television documentaries, and even high school and university classes as the primary source for the nation’s understanding of scientific truth.
“In a survey of the American public, less than half of the respondents were able to positively identify a diagram of the periodic table, let alone articulate the concept of an element,” said Roger Flanagan, a Presidential Science Advisor and the study’s author. “However, fully 87% knew that giraffes have black tongues, as stated in Snapple Real Fact #22.”
One of the study’s strangest findings was that Snapple Real Facts frequently provide supplemental knowledge about topics that the average American can often barely comprehend. “An overwhelming majority of the population recognized the accuracy of Snapple Real Fact #117, which states that ‘Saturn would float if it were placed in a gigantic bathtub,’” said Flanagan. “This is true, of course, because the gas giant has an average density that is less than that of water. However, we were surprised to find that only 9% of Americans could identify Saturn as a planet in our own solar system. It turns out the other 91% believed that the Real Fact was referring to the car.”
Reaction from the scientific community has been mixed. “Science is not a purely theoretical field—it affects our everyday lives in a number of ways. It’s alarming that most Americans don’t know simple scientific facts that affect their personal health,” stated Sandra Vorhaus, a molecular biophysicist at Johns Hopkins University. “On the other hand, I suppose that there may be some practical value in knowing that termites eat through wood two times faster when listening to rock music. That’s #52, by the way.”
Mitchell Goldberger, CEO of the Snapple Beverage Corp., praised the study’s findings. “Our company is proud to fulfill a valuable civic function through our Real Facts program,” he said. “Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that ‘a well-informed populace is the best defense against tyranny.’ How better to fight tyranny than with a little of the ‘best stuff on Earth’?”
—Originally written for The Yale Record in 2003