Who among you has heard that “scientific discoveries become public knowledge” or something along those lines. A little quip about how society “is X years behind the scientific field” is often added onto this. Most frequently, the equation E=mc2 is used as an example of something that has finally made this trek. I will concede that many people have heard this formula, but few understand it to any extent. While it does explain nuclear reactions and so forth, it also demonstrates why the energy CONTENT within a massive object directly affects the mass of the object. Warming an object will increase its mass, very slightly, but it will. So we can say that it takes 100 years for scientific discoveries to become “public knowledge” if this is to be a decent example. If this is the case, why do so many people hold onto the idea of vitalism after the prediction that organic compounds differed substantially from inorganic compounds and thus could not be synthesized? It was Wöhler who once wrote, after synthesizing urea, ” The great tragedy of science, the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.” Today, in undergraduate Organic Chemistry labs across the country, students can synthesize much more complex organic compounds. Planck’s law of black body radiation is older than Einstein’s formula, yet it still sits in the obscurity of scientific textbooks. Evolution has made it into society as a combination of misunderstood descriptions and incorrect depictions and is actively opposed by many of the same people that still hold fast on vitalism. (I guess they don’t get the memos)
Given these examples, I propose that accurately represented and understood science does not make it into culture.