On television, in movies, songs and books, popular culture is full of references to science. Some of them are more fiction than fact, while others are scientifically accurate. Being able to distinguish between them is the purpose of the essay contest sponsored by MichiganScience, the newest quarterly published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The contest, open to students in grades 6 through 12, will award a $500 scholarship to the student who best analyzes a pop-culture reference to science in 500 words. Runners-up will receive gift certificates from Edmund Scientific, a top supplier of science education equipment.

MichiganScience hopes to inspire students to recognize the difference between actual science and mere fantasy or conjecture. For example, Al Gore’s documentary is being shown in many classrooms throughout the state despite its scientific errors (see Mackinac Center review of the film at: http://www.mackinac.org/7787). Other aspects of popular culture depict scientifically accurate elements, such as the forensics in television programs such as Law and Order the CSI series.

“Today’s students are exposed to pop culture on a daily, even hourly basis,” said MichiganScience editor Bruce Edward Walker. “We want Michigan’s students to distinguish real science from what is not or cannot be accurate.”

The contest deadline is June 1, and winners will be announced on Aug. 1. The winning essay will appear in the fall issue of MichiganScience magazine. Click here for entry form and rules.

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