back to article One third of Russians say Sun revolves round Earth

Those of you brought up in the heliocentric tradition are advised to look away now, because a poll has revealed that one-third of Russians favour the Ptolemaic model of our solar system. A shaken spokeswoman for state pollster VsTIOM admitted on Friday that a survey of 1,600 across Russia confirmed the worst: 32 per cent of …


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  1. Craig Vaughton

    Would the results be any different?

    Having seen what they "teach" here over the last few year as my son passed through the system, I've got my doubts if the results would be any different if you asked the same questions in the UK.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The fall of the USSR was inevitable

    Don't forget that - right into the 90s - all the top USSR scientists firmly dismissed the 'foolish western propaganda' of plate tectonics. Presumably, they put earthquakes down to the anger of the gods. Even 20 years down the line, you can't help but think it's still part of the Russian scientific landscape to doubt tectonics and feel deep down that they don't really exist. It's engrained into them.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Sorokhtin, Ushakov, Zonenshein, etc. might take issue with your plate tectonics/USSR comments.

      BTW, it;'s "it was engrained into them" or "it is ingrained into them".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And while you are being a pedantic little putz....

        It's "it's" not "it;'s".

        1. Anonymous Coward

          My apologies

          for the typo.

          However, my point was that the OP displayed a lack of knowledge in three areas:

          1. Plate tectonics - otherwise he would have been aware of the Russians' work going back to the 1960s.

          2. Grammar (self evident).

          3. Politics, or possibly it was merely bigotry?

  3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    And America / UK?

    Do you have the results for America / UK?

    An additional question for them is "Was everything made by a big invisible bloke, and nothing exists unless he made it?". To tax them further ask them if the big invisible bloke made himself because otherwise he wouldn't exist!

    I remember seeing something about a TV show that replaced USA on a globe with ocean and asked people to point to America, and a lot didn't realise anything was missing and pointed to USSR / Asia as the largest land mass. Of course it could've been an urban myth.

    I'm also afraid about how many people would have to do the quiz verbally due to being illiterate.

    1. Sartori


      "Was everything made by a big invisible bloke, and nothing exists unless he made it?"

      Are you on drugs, what kind of moron would believe THAT?!?!!

      Oh, wait.......seems lots of people do, damn, and I thought there was supposed to be intelligent life on Earth, silly me.

  4. Cameron Colley

    Wow, they've got more in common with the US than they thought!

    Perhaps their only education is a museum of creationism?

  5. Mike Bell

    Hell's Bells!

    Just don't poll the US!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Earth is on wheels, so it can move about.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Rubbish!!!! HERESY!!!!!

      It's on elephants, standing on the back of a turtle.

      After that, it's turtles all the way down!!

  7. Richard IV

    Did humans evolve while the dinosaurs were still alive?

    That has quite an interesting answer. Both literal biblical creationists and those of a scientific bent should be answering "no", the former because they aren't convinced evolution exists (particularly not for humans) and the latter because they are convinced that dinosaurs had died out long before humans came about. It's surely only those who've taken One Million Years BC for a documentary that would answer "yes". It seems to point more at the cultural impact of Raquel and the Flintstones than at the state of an education system.

    The answer to the radioactivity question is more related to the impact on daily life. If you consider the question "all radioactivity that people are worried about is man-made ", then the reason for agreeing is more apparent. Other than radon in granite and uranium ore, I can't think of too many non-manmade sources that would concern me (something spectacular from the sun excluded).

    1. Jamie Kitson

      Did humans evolve while the dinosaurs were still alive?

      It's a strange question, it's past tense, as if we have stopped evolving, or as if humans could have existed with the dinosaurs and not evolved, and you could perhaps answer "yes", as our ancestors were evolving with the dinosaurs. Couldn't they have just said "Did dinosaurs and humans coexist?"

    2. Ammaross Danan


      "The answer to the radioactivity question is more related to the impact on daily life. If you consider the question "all radioactivity that people are worried about is man-made ", then the reason for agreeing is more apparent"

      One also has to consider that many of these Russians were likely alive (or heard stories from parents) about Chernobyl. This likely has skewed belief into man-made radiation, since Chernobyl was a very public man-made radioactive incident... Just because a single incident shouldn't be extrapolated to an absolute, doesn't mean Sheeple* won't do so.

      * Sheeple commonly encompasses the non-educated masses

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Radiation

        Nope, that's still not man-made. We may have released a shitload of it in one inconvenient place near Kiev, but it ain't man-made. Those heavy nuclei would have decayed over time, releasing the same radiation, whether we were here or not.

        Let me know when we start fusing light elements into heavy, fissionable ones on an industrial scale, you can have your boffin icon back then......

      2. Ian 5


        Always worried me when I lived in Cornwall...

    3. I am the Walrus

      Depends where you live.

      "I can't think of too many non-manmade sources that would concern me (something spectacular from the sun excluded)."

      Try living in a country under a huge hole in the ozone layer, in summer. It's a daily concern.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    It's who you ask...

    If you ask the general public, you get a silly answer. Ask those with a degree, or those with a science degree, or those who publish papers in astronomy and you'll get a better answer. Probably the most striking illustration of this can be seen in Doran and Zimmerman's 2009 paper (see graph in where they compare belief in Anthropic Global Warming with the respondent's scientific background.

    For general public, we get under 60% belief, rising to 82% for "Earth Scientists" in general, rising to nearly 90% for those who actively publish or are climatologists, and a stunning 97.4% of climatologist who are active publishers in climate change (*)

    It's all down to who you ask

    (*) or involved in the global conspiracy of scientists to destroy capitalism, which ever you prefer :-)

    1. Jez Burns

      It's who you ask?

      And in other startling news, over 97.4% of priests surveyed - who are active publishers in theology - expressed a belief in God.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        I think ...

        ... that's the point the OP was making.

      2. Nuffnuff

        It's who you ask

        Down with climatologists! We want our climatology done by non-climatologists thank you very much, as by their very name shall their agenda become apparent.

      3. Shakje

        I think a fairer comparison to theology might be

        if you looked at the number of people who believed in the trinity amongst the lay and the priesthood. If there was a staggering difference you might say that the more religiously educated favoured the idea of the trinity. Of course, that doesn't mean it's correct (and being an atheist means that I don't accept the basic premise anyway), but if this was the case, who would have better reasons for believing such? It might also raise interesting questions about a disparity between the priesthood and the lay people. Kinda like climate science. The real question should be, why don't people trust the science (noting, of course, that it goes back far before "Climategate")?

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Does that say......

      ....most Climatologists eat their own dogfood?

  9. John Dallman

    Or it could just be that Russians don't take polls seriously...

    There have been some very weird answers to British polls about things like this; I'm not convinced that the polsters are getting straight answers.

  10. Paratrooping Parrot


    I wonder how many of them were joking about what they thought of the sun orbiting the earth? Then again, there could be some people for whom it doesn't really matter. I don't think simple farmers would care much as to how the earth rotates around the sun. As long as the sun does not come crashing into the earth, they are happy.

    1. Jimmahh

      RE: Polls

      They'd probably care about the effect on the seasons that might have... *shrug*

  11. Anonymous Coward


    In Russia's defense, I think these numbers coincide with levels of alcoholism.

    Did they ask them when they were sober?

    1. Goat Jam


      When would that be then?

  12. Paul_Murphy

    For a given value of dinosaur..

    crocodile, Coelacanth and no doubt other 'living dinosaurs' help to muddy the waters a little.


    1. Nigel 11

      Dinosaurs not actually extinct, just evolved onwards.

      Neither Crocodiles nor Coelacanths are dinosaurs.

      However, Dinosaurs did not become completely extinct as we are taught. The big and land-bound ones did. Small flying ones survived. We know their descendants today as birds. So you might argue that humans do, in fact, still share the planet with dinosaurs.

      I've never investigated whether there is any good reason for designating birds as a separate branch of the tree of life to dinosaurs. Obviously, they are distinguished by feathers, and in the case of almost all modern species, the lack of teeth. But there are fossils of link species, with feathers and teeth, pre-flight and flying.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Hmmmm ...

        ... surely something that was an evolutionary step towards something else, but which no longer exists in itself, is extinct. I'm thinking, say, of trilobites, which (AFAIK) no longer exist in anything other than fossil form, but which have descendants we see now (again, AFAIK - I don't think trilobites were a dead-end, but if they were, substitute something else that wasn't). This would cover dinosaurs still being extinct, but with a healthy family of descendants, wouldn't it?

    2. Quantum Leaper

      I give you the Bird....

      Birds are the closest to living dinosaurs.

  13. Christoph

    How does that compare with the figures for the USA?

    I seem to remember the US has similar or worse figures?

    Oh, and if you want to be pedantic (not that El Reg readers would *ever* be pedantic) there's live dinosaurs still around today - sitting on the branches going "tweet tweet".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Only in Ameri... oh yeah.... sorry about that.

  15. gaijintendo

    A better question

    or, it should have been phrased

    "Did humans and Dinosaurs co-exist"

    because, we were evolving back then, we just were a little bit more rodent-like.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Doubt i'll be the first with this but..

    In Soviet Russia, Sun revolves round you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      It's gone half-circle

      Oh, for the good old days when we joked from the freedom of our western ivory tower about Stalinist Russia where "you don't photograph the bridges, the bridges photographs you". Now, here in the CCTV capital of the world, try to take a photo of the bridges and not only will several hundred photos and videos be taken of you, but you also stand a very good chance of being accosted by KGB bully boys!

      Sorry, I made a typo in that post. I wrote "KGB bully boys" when the more astute reader amongst you will have already surmised that I meant to write "London Metropolitan Police Service Community Support Officers" (PCSOs), alternatively known as CHIMPS (Completely Hopeless In Most Police Situations).

      1. Anonymous Coward

        There is no such thing...

        ... as a "PCSO". Section 38(2) of the Police Reform Act 2002, which created this peculiar type of non-sworn “policing assistant”, defines these members of police staff as “community support officers”. NOWHERE in the Act does it refer to “Police Community Support Officers”. That latter title was a political invention of the Home Office, in an attempt to dress up these second-class “officers” in a two-tier policing system about which no members of the public were allowed to debate, following their invention by David Blunkett. I ought to add that I have nothing against CSOs per se, but I object strongly to them being used for the clandestine erosion of the Police Service’s ability to deliver professional policing services without there having been a robust and open public debate.

        So, please, do NOT refer to “PCSOs”: they are CSOs. Referring to “police community support officers” simply assists in preserving the illusion presented for too long by the Government of “policing” levels that we know just don’t exist.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Get out of here, Stalker!

      That was too easy.

  17. AC34

    Not according to Einstein..

    Actually, given a lack of universal frame of reference, it's equally valid to posit either the Sun or the Earth as the centre around which the other revolves.. (Albeit, it is a lot simpler to work out the equations of motion governing the dynamics of the Solar System using a heliocentric model..)

    I for one would like to welcome the hordes of evidently highly-educated physicists coming out of Russia

    1. Just Thinking


      If two trains are travelling at the same speed, then suddenly their relative speeds change abruptly, is that because train A braked hard or train B accelerated hard?

      Those two situations are not equivalent, you can tell one from the other. Just check which set of passengers spilled their coffee.

      Same with the earth going round the sun, afaik, but the acceleration involved is thousands of times less than gravity.

      1. Captain TickTock

        Or both...

        How many times have I looked up from my book to see the platform pulling out of the station..

        Particularly on a friday evening

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      Look up "Non-accelerated frame of reference".

      If you need assistance, ask you school teacher about it!

      Then come back to post again.

    3. Jim Noeth

      Who orbits whom

      Does the sun orbit the earth or does the earth orbit the sun? Technically, they orbit each other, but, since the sun is so massive in comparison to the earth, the center of the orbit is essentially the center of the sun (from a mass perspective). But, as someone pointed out, it really depends on your frame of reference.

    4. kalqlate

      Uh oh! Your comment puts you in the "uneducated" category.

      You are confusing the Earth-Sun system with a binary star system.


      You are confused regarding the notion of a "common center of mass" about which both bodies revolve. In a solar system, the center of mass will continually shift as the less massive bodies are continually trapped in the gravity well of their much more massive star, each lesser body slightly tugging on the star, thus continually shifting the common center of mass. ("center of gravity" is slightly different than "center of mass", but it is most common to calculate the center of mass solely from the masses of all bodies within the system and their instantaneous positions.)

      "revolving about" means that one body's orbit about the common center of mass is primarily always outside the orbit of the center body.

      "revolving about each other" means that both bodies very often cross the orbit of the other body.

      Because the mass of the sun is so much greater than that of the Earth, the common center of mass is ALWAYS very close to the sun if not within the limb (visible bounds) of the sun. Therefore, the Sun's orbit about the common center of mass is EXTREMELY tiny compared to the orbit of the Earth's orbit about it. Therefore, the Earth ALWAYS revolves around our sun.

      1. gzuckier


        in fact, in the frame of reference of the earth's surface, yes the sun rotates around the earth. that's why everybody thought/thinks that; because they are right.

        similarly, in the frame of reference of a guy swinging a bowling ball around there DOES exist a centrifugal force.

        the "catch" is that neither of these frames of reference are newtonian, because both are rotating whereas newtonian frames are not allowed to be accelerating, which thus rules out rotation. thus, such "illusions" and "imaginary forces" occur as real phenomena; which is why the physics seemingly well studied by so many posters here restricts itself to newtonian frames, apparently without even bothering to note for the students the obvious truth that those are a subset of all possible frames of reference, where newtons laws are not valid without converting to a newtonian frame.

        1. Bill B

          which leads on to

          Does the moon revolve around the Earth? Or the Sun? Neither? Or the centre of the galaxy? Or ...

          (pick your frame of reference)

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Thank you...

          This was most informative and helpful. There is no doubt whatsoever that everything that you describe is also valid for this planet, on which we commence each sentence with a capital letter.

  18. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    The uneducated masses are much easier to control

    Same pattern found throughout history and around the world. As for Russia, Putin wants his job back, when he removes his puppet. Can't have educated masses getting in the way of his need for power.

  19. Miek

    That's nothing, try this ...

    It's an old link, but worth every second

  20. Hollerith 1

    So on par with the Yanks, then

    Though perhaps not quite in the 'and God planned for us to rule the world' league.

  21. Bill Fresher

    Earth around Sun or Sun around Earth

    Isn't it all down to the frame of reference?

  22. frobnicate

    In a frame of reference

    attached to the centre of the Earth, the Sun does revolve around the latter. The real blow to the Russian education system is that shaken Olga still believes that there is _the_ frame of reference.

  23. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    3.4% (of) my arse

    "The poll has a 140 million kilometre margin of error".

    There, fixed that for you.

    I've left the units in kilometres, because I'm not sure whether the El Reg unit of bullshit should be the "survey" or the "report". (The "gartner" is tempting. Anyone got any better ideas?)

    1. Richard Laval
      Thumb Up

      Bull shit unit of measure

      @Ken Hagan. Nope the gartner as a measure of bullshit works just fine.

  24. Jimbo 6
    Black Helicopters

    In other news...

    ...nearly half the world still believe that 9/11 was NOT an inside job orchestrated by the CIA to give the neo-con administration an excuse to invade some oil-rich countries, ride rough-shod over civil liberties, and give a huge boost to fascist parties.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think we should laugh

    Britain is about to get its first 'free school' backed by the "Everyday Champions' Church in Nottinghamshire which teaches creationism. Because Michael Gove thinks parents always know best, his legislation allows these schools to ignore the national curriculum.

    At least the Russians can blame the poor state of education on the complete collapse of the communist economy. We're going to raise a new generation of idiots by deliberate policy.

    There are also some frankly terrifying statistics about belief in creationism and refusal to accept evolution as fact amongst UK medical students from Islamic backgrounds.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Sun Comes Up, Sun Goes Down.

    Sun Comes Up, Sun Goes Down. What's To Understand?

    --Bill O'Reilly

  27. Some Guy
    Thumb Up

    Race for Idiotocracy

    This is truly a Sputnik moment. OMG, the Soviet Reds are attempting to control general ignorance! That's right, the American Red States need to spend more on misinformation. (Except for the Texas State School Board. They're doing fine.)

  28. StoneTheKiwis


    Speaking as someone with a Russian wife, I rather suspect that these pollsters have had the piss taken out of them. And they probably know it and are now taking the piss out of us ...

  29. c0n5p1r4cy
    Big Brother

    Lumpenprols, chavs, thickies etc.

    Like many in IT I've worked with ex-comblockers in their late '30's, and they are a fairly elite lot. Then again they are mainly university graduates. I wonder if the lumpenproletariat pre-ordained to be thick...

    Were Soviet lumpenprols better educated in Soviet times?

    Are Russian lumpenprols thicker than our chavs?

  30. Daniel B.

    Wot? No Russian Reversal jokes?

    In Russia, Sun revolves YOU!!!

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Vodka soaked Valentine

    I'm actually surprised by this. I thought the Russians placed a higher value on Science and Mathmatics.

    Of course, as an American, I can't be too hard on the Russians. Conduct the same poll in our rural areas and of the top answers will be "git off my propertai!" - followed closely by "warning shot".

  32. maclovinz

    Even with this assertion...

    they're still ahead of Bill O'Reilly.... and most FOX News viewers...frightening....and MANY have degrees!

    As an American....ask general Americans about basic crap and you'll get even more surprising answers...and too many have college degrees!

    Degrees don't mean shit....most of the greatest minds involved in Physics/Chemistry (i.e. REALITY) did not have fancy 100K degrees that they can never pay off, mind you....

    I wonder if science courses in College/University are now opt-out??? I kid, on that one. :D

  33. Anonymous Coward

    America rules

    Only 32% know that the Sun revolves around the Earth, what do the other 68% of idiots think?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All a bit pointless

    I'm sure the results would be the same wherever you polled it. The thing is, not everyone really gives a shit about the true nature of things - many only care about what actually affects them. And the fact is, the sun seems to revolve around the earth and as long as nothing arises to challenge that apparent fact, many aren't going to give it a moment's thought.

    Another point : no matter how much you know, there's always someone who knows more than you. So smugness is only relative.

    1. bogwart


      That's true. I have a Great Aunt Wilhelmina who is the most smug person I know.

  35. Mike Flugennock

    Hell, man; it's better than here... the bad old USA, where that figure is close to 99%.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    this side of the North Sea..

    I have been working in education in The Netherlands and I doubt whether it’s much better over here; enough parents reacted surprised when I taught their kids about the heliocentric model. And yes, as shown on TV: lots of my fellow Dutchies in ‘all inclusive’ holiday resorts in Turkey or on the beaches of Lloret the Mar, Spain are often not able to correctly show their current location on a map. And when asked to show The Netherlands on the map.. plenty wrong answers too. I see lots of jokes about the US here, but we aren’t doing that well either I’m afraid.

    Mine's the one with the globe in the pocket..

  37. Stuart Duel

    It could have been worse!

    The Yanks are more stupid.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha, I can top that.

    In the US, half the population believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. I'd rather take my chances with the dinosaur tamers.

  39. Winkypop Silver badge

    Does the sun revolve around the earth?

    Yes and no.

    It depends on what the invisible sky daddy wants !!

  40. xperroni
    Big Brother

    The other two thirds...

    ...of course know it's the Earth which revolves around Prime Minister Putin.

  41. moonface

    Reality TV fodder detected.

    Following on from the previous story "Wooden spaceship descends into Moscow sandpit"

    They are just asking for their own series of Space Cadets. See how many citiziens fancy a day trip to Mars.

  42. D. M

    Same here

    Ask random people some very basic questions here (Australia), I doubt you will get much better result. And yet, our gov encourage private schools to teach kids "earth is only 6000 years old" rubbish.

    I personally spoke to some highly "educated" individuals, who have unshakable believe that "man" was created first, and universe (and everything within) was truly created in 7 days.

  43. ShaggyDoggy


    Good job they didn't ask the Yanks - 90% think the Sun revolves oround THEM

  44. maclovinz


    Saying that the US is more stupid, stupider, whatever, is so old...and proves most people's level of understanding....

    Oh, and for the Brits that say that.....just wondering....who was smart enough to win.....TWICE?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Ok, I give up.

      Who was smart enough to win what twice?

  45. Tree & Tree = Dirty Tree

    Another clichee

    that holds a good amount of truth also about the standard education and attitude of your average US Joe, plus:

    - the world is ~7000 years old, that is when God created it according to the Bible

    - all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve

    - if you are not with Jesus you will be damned for eternity when the world ends

    - all Muslims are evil killers because their religion demands it

    - all Asians are little, peculiar, and look the same

    - everyone is born with the same chances, everywhere

    - being gay is a choice and is immoral

    (others think its a mental disease)

    - outside of the united states is "the frontier", everywhere

    - if you want something and the owner is not giving it to you he is your enemy and has to be forced to it

    (its called "defending national interests")

    - all your enemies deserve to be fought into submission, always

    - Europe is a country

    - so is Asia

    - and Africa

    ... the list goes on endlessly.

    And I am sure everyone can come up with a similar list about just anyone.

    ... looking for the one with the library card in the pocket.

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