LONDON—Nearly 90 percent of French teenagers expect scientists to find a cure for cancer within 20 years. A little more than 40 percent believe science will eliminate hunger in that time, 61 percent think it will make daily life easier, and 15 percent expect scientists to have “blown up the world.”
These forecasts come from a survey of 5,000 adolescent readers of the French general interest magazine Okapi. The results indicate considerable optimism about science coupled with a significant level of anxiety, noted Goery Delacote of France's Ministry of Research and Technology, which sponsored the study. While a large number of respondents said they were “fascinated,” “confident” and “enthusiastic” about scientific re search, nearly as many confessed also to feeling “afraid.” The youngsters said the United States was making the largest contribution to science, followed by Japan and the Soviet Union. They ranked their own country fourth.
The survey, which appeared as a questionnaire in the 350,000-circulation magazine, asked readers to choose from among four hypothetical science-based experiences. The most popular was traveling back-wards in time (46 percent), followed by visiting outer space (27 percent), exploring the ocean floor (17 percent) and communicating by telepathy (10 percent). More than 80 percent believed science will never make humans immortal.
Television is an important source of scientific information for a majority of young readers. Among those age 9 and 10 the figure is 56 percent, and it rises to 79 percent for those age 15 and older. Specialized magazine are an important source for 37 percent of younger readers and 45 percent of older readers. Books rank third, mentioned by 41 percent of younger readers and 27 percent of older readers. School is a major source for only 35 percent of young readers and 21 percent of teenagers.
Asked about the importance of various academic subjects to their (unspecified) careers, 61 percent said they would need to be “good at” mathematics and 44 percent selected languages. Physics was chosen by 32 percent, and only 25 percent chose biology.
In Chapter 1, “Fossils and War,” author J.G.M. “Hans” Thewissen describes the difficulties of conducting field research in a conflict zone.