Getting quizzical and spilling guts in the studio...

Our panelists go head to head and a lifesize (knitted) gut is passed round the studio.
27 March 2018

Interview with 

Giles Yeo, Chris Pull, Rachel Oliver, Bobby Seagull

Giles Yeo's gut

Giles Yeo's gut


Our panelists battled head to head for the Q&A Big Brain Quiz. Team One was mathematician Bobby Seagull and geneticist Giles Yeo. Team Two was material scientist Rachel Oliver and biologist Chris Pull. 

ROUND #1 - What happened first?

Team One - Bobby and Giles

QUIZ Q1 - Which happened first: The year that Fluorine was discovered? Or the only draw in the history of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race? What do you both think.

Bobby - Boat race started about 1880s.

Giles - I think so it’s the 160th birthday.

Bobby - Yeah. So fluorine must have been discovered. Is it fluorine?

Giles - Fluorine.

Bobby - It must have been discovered before.

Giles - We’ll go with fluorine.

Bobby - Yeah.

Chris - So you’re going fluorine was first?

Giles - Yeah.


Chris: I’m sorry to say the only draw in the history of Oxford Cambridge boat race history occurred in 1877. Fluorine was discovered 9 years later in 1886.

Chris: Over to Team Two - Rachel and Chris

QUIZ Q2 - Which happened first: The invention of a catapult, or the first use of negative numbers?

Rachel - The catapult: it strikes me as something kind of medieval.

Chris - Yeah.

Rachel - People throwing rocks at castles. Negative numbers: do we think the Romans could do negative numbers? They understood about zero - maybe the could do negative numbers?

Chris - I feel like numbers have been around a really long time.

Rachel - Numbers have been around a really long time. We’re going to go with negative numbers.


Chris - Did you know that Bobby?

Bobby - I was thinking of negative imaginary numbers, not negative integers.

Chris - The answer is the catapult. That first came about in 400 BC, whereas negative numbers were used in the Han Dynasty in China from 200 BC.

So both teams are doing very well at the moment. Your net score is zero.

ROUND #2  - What’s bigger?

Chris - Round two is appropriately named “what’s bigger?”... Hopefully your score by the end of this round! Back to

Team One - Bobby and Giles

QUIZ Q3 - Which is bigger: The lifetime of an adult house fly or the time taken for the Apollo astronauts to reach the moon?

Bobby - How long does it take? Three days, four days to reach the moon.

Giles - It took three days or four days. The average house fly right? All the way from maggots or are we doing the fly-y bit?

Chris - No we’re doing the fly-y bit.

Giles - Oh, just the fly-y bit. I think we’re going to have to go with the moon. Because if you include the maggot stage then it’s definitely longer.

Bobby - It’s just the flying annoying part.

Giles - Yeah, just the fly annoying part. So we’re going to go with the moon.


Chris - Lifetime of a fly. An adult house fly lives for 2-4 weeks; it took the Apollo team about 3 days to get to the moon. The New Horizons Pluto probe, launched in 2006, did it in just 8.5 hours...

TEAM TWO - Rachel and Chris

QUIZ Q4: Which is larger: The average length of the small intestine or the length of nose hair grown by a human over a lifetime?

Rachel - I know that the small intestine is surprisingly long.

Chris - Yeah.

Rachel - But I have no idea how much nose hair a human grows in a lifetime.

Chris - Something like a few millimetres a day. Not a day.


Rachel - It would be like down to our feet quite quickly. How long your hair is also depends on how often your hair falls out but I’m also not sneezing that much nose hair.

Chris - I know that as men get older it grows longer right?

Rachel - It does but do you get quite hairy.

Chris - Sprouting it like yeah, so.

Chris S - Sincere apologies to our older audience. What are we going for then nose hair or small intestine?

Chris - I think it must be nose hair because so far the obvious answers have been the wrong ones.

Rachel - Okay. I got the last one wrong so let’s go nose hair.

Chris S - Giles do you know the answer to this one?

Giles - I did not know that. I know the gut is pretty long but I have no idea about nose hair growth.

Chris S - I think you should get out what you’ve got in your bag under the table.

Giles - What I have got with me is a life sized knitted gut.

Chris S - Who knitted this Giles?

Giles - This is knitted by a consortia of professors and secretaries and research managers at the Institute of Metabolic Science. This is a life size knitted gut, also known as the “food to poop tube.” This is the mouth bit.

Chris S - Oh that’s fantastic.

Giles - Then if I can hand it around so.

Chris S - I’ve got the anus. I’ve got the tongue - that’s okay.

Giles - There we go, that’s the size.

Chris S - Goodness this is huge. It’s all the way round the studio. I’ve got the tongue at this end, and esophagus and then what’s this bit? This is the stomach is it?

Giles - That’s the stomach and attached to it will be the liver, the pancreas, the gallbladder.

Chris S - A green gall bladder: it’s all colour coded as well. It’s great. Because bile really is green isn’t it. It comes up the gallbladder then into this first bit of the small pink tube. What’s that?

Giles - This, the whole thing is the small intestine where all of the digestion actually happens. Depending on how far down the food goes is how long it takes to digest, and the further down the food goes, the fuller you actually feel.

Chris S - So before it breaks down?

Giles - Before it actually breaks down to its constituent parts to be absorbed, the longer that takes the fuller you actually feel.

Chris S - What should I be swallowing to get as much food as far as possible down my small intestines so I feel as full as possible then? What’s a good foodstuff to do that?

Giles - One thing is actually protein. Protein to fat to carbohydrates in that order takes the longest to digest. That’s how the Atkins diet works for example. When you eat a lot of protein in the Atkins diet, so much of it travels further down the gut, you get fuller, you eat less, you lose weight. 

Chris S - On that note, if you are intrigued as to how long the intestine really is. The average length of the small intestine, including Giles’ knitted gut, is 6 metres. But over a lifetime, on average, a human will grow 2 metres of nose hair.

ROUND #3 - Science Fact v Science Fiction

Chris - Over to Team One - Bobby and Giles

QUIZ Q5: True or False: Ants have two stomachs?

Bobby - Cows have two stomachs.

Giles - Cows have two stomachs.

Bobby - Why would cows need. Cows have two stomachs because they eat grass.

Giles - Right. So they need a rumen in order to ferment the grass.

Bobby - What do ants eat?

Giles - Grass.

Bobby - Grass. So they would probably need.

Giles - I’ve eaten the bottom on an ant in Australia once. It was very, very…

Chris - That’s a lemony flavour isn’t it?

Giles - Very lemony flavour, yeah yeah.

Chris - Slightly off topic here though. What’s the answer to the quizz?

Bobby - Do you reckon it’s true?

Giles - I’m going to go with true.

Bobby - Shall we go with that? Our finals answer’s true.


Chris - It’s true, they can have the main course and the “anty-pasta”. No, but really, one of their stomachs is for holding food for their own consumption, whilst the second one is to hold food to be shared with other ants. This process is known as trophallaxis.

Chris - TEAM TWO - Rachel and Chris, it’s a pressured moment of you.
QUIZ Q6: True or False: Triskaphobia is the fear of the number 30.

Rachel - He’ll know that one. Trente is French for 30 but is there really a word for the fear of the number 30? I don’t know what else it means though so what do you think?

Chris S - What do you think true or false?

Rachel - I’m going to go true.


Chris - Oh wait, sorry. It’s this…


Chris - I pressed the wrong button. It’s actually false. It’s actually the fear of the number 3!

Chris - Would you like to hear the tie breaker because it’s quite interesting

To the nearest 10, how many multiples of their own body weight can a dung beetle move at one time?

Chris - I’ll ask you one at a time so you can all speculate. It’s quite amazing this and we’ll come to Chris last because he’ll probably has the best chance of getting it right.

Giles, what do you think? Dung beetle; how much poop can they move in one go?

Giles - A hundred times.

Chris - Giles is going a hundred. Bobby?

Bobby - I’ve written down 200.

Chris - Bobby’s going 200. Are we going up? Can you see Bobby’s 200 and raise him at all Rachel?

Rachel - No, I’m going to go 30. I think it’s a good number.

Chris - 30. Chris?

Chris P - Yeah. There was just a talk on and I’m trying to remember what she said.

Chris - It was a good lecture.

Chris P - Yeah. I’m going to say 50 times.

Chris -  1,140. A dung beetle is not only the world’s strongest insect but also the strongest animal on the planet compared to body weight. They can pull 1,141 times their own body weight.

Chris - They follow the stars to work out which direction they’re going?

Chris P - Not quite. They can’t quite see the light from the stars; it’s not strong enough, but they can see the the Milky Way. That’s bright enough for them to navigate by.

Chris - And they use that to roll their ball of dung in the right direction.

Our big brains of the week: Giles and Bobby had one point. You only got one right. Before you celebrate too much.

And ours losers, but nonetheless they redeem themselves by knowing a bit more about dung beetles was Rachel and Chris.


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