Let's get Quizzical!

05 December 2017

Interview with

Kate Feller - University of Cambridge, Matt Middleton - Southampton University, Patrick Short - University of Cambridge, Phillip Broadwith - Royal Society of Chemistry

As always, Chris Smith had a quiz for our panel of experts, they are: marine biologist - Kate Feller, chemist - Phillip Broadwith, astrophysicist - Matt Middleton, and geneticist - Patrick Short.

Chris - Team ONE will be Matt and Patrick. So Team TWO is Kate and Phillip.

ROUND #1 - Science Fact v Science Fiction

TEAM ONE - Matt and Patrick

QUIZ Q1: A hummingbird flaps its wings 150 times per second. True or false?

Matt - That’s got to be true hasn’t it?  Either that or it’s an underestimate. I’ve seen videos - they really go for it!

Chris - So you’re going for true.

Matt - I think we’re going for true.

Chris: FALSE - Most hummingbirds flap at about 50 wingbeats per second. The fastest flapping recorded was 80 times per second by an Amethyst Woodstar Hummingbird. So you’re a little bit quick off the mark there Matt.

TEAM TWO  - Kate and Phillip

QUIZ Q2: 250,000 mosquito bites would empty a human of blood. True or false?

Chris - What do you think Kate and Phillip?

Kate - 250,000?

Phillip - We have about 9 pints, 4½ litres of blood?

Chris - Metric in this studio please.

Phillip - I went there. No I don’t think so. They can’t take very much. Fraction of a millilitre at a time.

Kate - Yeah. I wouldn’t say they’re taking in more than…

Chris - So what do you think - true or false?

Kate - False.

Phillip - False. 

Chris: FALSE - Although it probably would kill you! A mosquito drinks about 5 millionths of a litre of blood per meal, so it would take a million mosquito bites to drink all of the blood in a human! That said, losing more about 20% of your blood volume is fatal without treatment, so providing dinner for a quarter of a million mosquitoes would probably still kill you.

ROUND #2 - What’s bigger?

TEAM ONE - Matt and Patrick

Q3: Which is larger: The number of moons around Jupiter, or the number of pencils you could make from the carbon in a human body?

Matt - Oh there’s a lot. There’s a huge amount. How big’s the pencil?

Chris - Oh come on - pencil size.

Patrick - I don’t think you can make many pencils.

Matt - You can’t. We’re carbon based but we’re mostly water so… He’s frowning.

Chris - What are you going for pencils or Jupiter?

Patrick - Jupiter.

Matt - Jupiter.

Chris - You’re going for Jupiter?

Matt - How small are these pencils?

Chris: PENCILS - Jupiter’s got at least 67 moons in orbit as far as we know, but your body is about 20% carbon, which is about 15 kilograms of the black stuff in an average person. A pencil weighs a few grams; most of it is carbon, so you could make at least a few thousand pencils with the carbon atoms in an average person...

TEAM TWO  - Kate and Phillip

Q4: Which is greater: the distance travelled by light in one second or the distance to the moon?

Kate - Lights pretty fast.

Phillip - One light second.

Kate - I really like light, I want to go with that.

Chris - Are you going for moon or light?

Phillip - It’s got to be the light.

Kate - Yeah. Let’s do it.

Chris - You’re going for light.

Kate - Yeah, light.

Phillip - Light.

A: THE MOON - The average Earth-Moon distance is about 380,000 kilometres. The distance light travels in one second is about 300,000 kilometres.

You didn’t get any marks there. So currently in the lead it is Phillip and Kate with one point so far... on to round three.

ROUND #3 - Chemicals

TEAM ONE - Matt and Patrick

QUIZ Q5: What letter won’t you find on the periodic table of elements?
Chris - Are you working through all 120 elements or something?

Matt - We’re going with J.

A: J - The letter J doesn’t appear in the table, or in the names of any elements; the letter Q is also not used, although some temporary names given to some elements do contain the letter; for example ununquadium, now officially called flerovium…

It is level pegging and it’s all on this one. So Kate and Phillip are you going to win or does it go to a tiebreaker?

TEAM TWO  - Kate and Phillip

QUIZ Q6: Which element on the periodic table has the highest melting temperature?

Kate - This one’s all you Phillip.

Phillip - Depends on the definition. Tungsten is generally the one that’s considered to have the highest melting temperature. But, if you cound carbon diamond which doesn’t really melt, then… I’m going to go tungsten I think.

Kate - Tungsten - okay.

Chris - Should have stuck to your guns.

Chris: CARBON - This melts at over 3500 degrees. A diamond needs to be 5000 degrees with the right pressure before it will melt. It’s closely followed by tungsten, which melts at 3400 degrees - this is why tungsten’s used in conventional light bulbs, where the filament glows at 2500 degrees.

Chris - I’m going to read you this. Confer between the two of you on the quiet and then we will go with a point being awarded to the team who gets closest. 

Tie Breaker: If you laid 500 trillion e-coli bacteria down, end-to-end. How long would it be in kilometres?

Chris - There’s some frantic scribbling going on here. The physicists are trying to work it out, the chemists and the biologists are reasoning it out.

Matt and Patrick team, what do you think the answer is?

Matt - 5 x 10 to the 8 metres.

Chris - So that’s 500 million metres.

Matt - Yeah.

Chris - Okay. that’s 500 million metres.

What do you guys think?

Phillip - 5 kilometres; 5,000 metres.

Chris - I think actually it’s going to therefore be Matt and Patrick who are the winners because, in fact, the way we calculated this, the length of a single E. coli bacterium is around 3 microns which is 3 millionths of a metre. 500 trillion of them would be 1.5 million kilometers long. For comparison, the Sun’s diameter is 1.4 million kilometers. So it should stretch all the way across the Sun that number of microbes.

So who therefore won because I guess these guys get the victory. It is a victory for Matt and Patrick this week. You get a prize beyond price; you get to be the Naked Scientists brain of the week!

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