Let's get quizzical!

Who will be this month's Big Brain?
23 May 2023




It's general (science) knowledge quiz time for the panellists mathematician Ems Lord, space scientist Xander Byrne, materials scientist Anna Ploszajski and astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell...

Chris - And now it is that part of the programme where the teams compete to see who has one of the biggest brains and who on the other hand is going to go home with their academic tail between their legs because it is quiz time. You at home of course can play along too. We have team one who are Lewis and Ems, and team two who are Xander and Anna. And that means that on each team there is someone who has won the quiz before. So one of you is going to go home, formerly a winner, becoming a loser. So round one is called imposter syndrome. So team one Lewis and Ems, a little earlier, we heard the onset of exam season can leave many young people with a sense that they don't deserve to be excelling in their studies or worthy of their desired career path. This is the so-called imposter syndrome. So can our teams spot the imposters in this round? Team one, which of these is not a real animal? Is it A) The Giant Dwarf bat B) the Fried Egg jellyfish, or C) the Pleasing fungus beetle? What do you think Lewis and Ems?

Lewis - Um, I think the Fried Egg jellyfish is a real thing. Giant Dwarf bat is kind of a contradiction in its own terms. So you think that it doesn't really exist, but also as astronomers are bad at naming things, biologists can be pretty bad at times as well. So I wonder if they found a dwarf bat and then found a chuffing big one a few years later. What do you feel, Ems?

Ems - I'm speaking as someone who has a bat detector. I'm just trying to think when I've read anything about giant dwarf bats. We've got Daubentons' here in Cambridge down by the river. I've not come across them. That doesn't mean they don't exist. Possibly not in Cambridge. The second one I was thinking no way but you are keen on that?

Lewis - I just thought jellyfish kind of looked like fried eggs anyway, so why not?

Chris - We're gonna have to hurry you.

Lewis - I think Giant Dwarf bat. The fact that I'm a biologist I think should add no weight whatsoever to my gut instinct though.

Ems - The fact that you are a biologist, I'm willing to go with you.

Lewis - It's going to be on me!

Chris - You're going for the bat and you are correct. Streaking into the lead on the Naked Scientist Big Brain of the Week quiz. Yes, you're correct. The Fried Egg jellyfish does what it says on the tin. It is a jellyfish, it's found in the Med, it has an orange mass on the top which makes it look like a sunny side up egg. The Pleasing Fungus Beetle is so-called because it's a completely harmless beetle that eats fungus. The Giant Dwarf bat is one we made up earlier. Well done to team one, Lewis and Ems. You are currently in the lead with one point. Which of these, team two, scientists never won a Nobel Prize in physics? This is for Xander and Anna. Is it A) Stephen Hawking B) Albert Einstein or C) Niels Bohr? What do you both reckon?

Xander - I think I know this because Albert Einstein did win a Nobel Prize. It wasn't for relativity though, which some people are a bit confused by. I'm pretty sure Niels Bohr did. That was around the time when there weren't very many physicists and not very much stuff was happening. So I wonder if maybe Stephen Hawking was crowded out and didn't get one?

Anna - That was my gut instinct as well, Hawking. It's also Cambridge themed obviously. So maybe we should think that was a hint as well.

Chris - Yeah. Well done both of you. You did indeed correctly identify Stephen Hawking as the imposter. Despite all of his revolutionary work on black holes, Stephen Hawking never netted a Nobel Prize. Einstein for all his work on space time got a prize for the photoelectric effect, and Bohr is one of the mastering big brains behind quantum mechanics. So far we go into round two and it's level pegging with both teams on one each. The next round is called Tech Yes or Tech No. You spot the fake from this strange list of sublime gadgets. So back to Ems and Lewis. Which is the one we made up? The Tech No in this list of strange tech. A) the smart oven with an inbuilt camera that live streams your baked goods to your mobile phone. B) the Play-Doh 3D printer or C) a pair of headphones that double up as a mask to filter the air you are breathing in. What do you both think about that?

Lewis - They're all suspiciously distinct and things that could have been invented. I think the headphones with the mask is probably a real thing. I think the Play-Doh 3D printer is probably a real thing. I can imagine you can just squeeze it from a syringe and extrude Play-Doh as you move it around. Sort of thing.

Ems - Well, thinking about that 3D printer, likewise I had the Play-Doh when I was younger. But also, my nephew runs a factory that makes 3D printers. The idea of Play-Doh makes sense. I'm going for the smart oven here.

Chris - You think that's fake? Unfortunately that's wrong.The 3D Play-Doh printer is the dodgy one that we made up. The smart oven is indeed real. It's made by Samsung. The headphones are also real, Dyson made that one. The Play-Doh 3D printer was an April Fool's prank allegedly. Team two, you've got to separate the fake from the real. A) a smartphone for left-handed people. B) the air bonsai levitating pot plant or C) the selfie toaster which sears your face onto a piece of bread. Which of those is Tech Yes and which, Xander and Anna, is Tech No?

Xander - Selfie toaster is a hundred percent real.

Anna - I completely agree with you. Self-absorbed.

Anna - I totally agree. In fact, I really desperately want one. Levitating bonsai?

Xander - Again, I can believe that. I can sort of imagine you could have a kind of magnet thing, but a left-handed smartphone, what would that even be, conceptually? It's, yeah,

Anna - It's just different software, right? And I'm sure there must be a setting that you can just switch around.

Xander - Yeah. So presumably you don't need a separate device for that?

Anna - A separate device wouldn't be necessary. So I I reckon it's A again, the smart phone

Chris - It is! The selfie toaster, your instinct was quite right, it is the real deal. The levitating plant pot is the same. There isn't such a thing as a left-handed smartphone per se. Phones are mainly designed for right-handed people, but some devices, as Anna suggests, let you switch your home screen interface around to cater for people who are left-handed. Well done. You are currently in the lead 2-1. So it's all on this. Back to Ems and Lewis. This is called Big and Broken Noses this round. Are you ready? Why have the rugby sides the Saracens and Sale Sharks decided to wear their away kits in the English Premiership final on the 27th of May? Is it A) that statistically a rugby team that wears a home kit is more likely to lose a cup final. Is it B) the scientists have found that the away kits of both sides are significantly more aerodynamic? Or is it C) because there's a clash for colour blind viewers and players?

Lewis - We're thinking C immediately, aren't we?

Ems - So much in the news recently about colour blindness and more awareness. I'm kind of going for C.

Lewis - The more aerodynamic sounded ridiculous. There is a definite advantage to playing on your home ground. So it's definitely not A.

Chris - You're going for this colour blindness. It absolutely is. Saracens have worn their black home strip against Sale who have a maroon away kit, but there were concerns that the black on the red colour combination would make it difficult for colour blind supporters and players to differentiate between the teams. Well done. Point for you. Back to Anna and Xander. Researchers have claimed that a tall nose may be a sign of what? Is this a sign of A) a very high IQ B) Neanderthal heritage or C) a shorter than average life expectancy? What do you both think?

Xander - That's a tough one. IQ? I think scientists are generally kind of going away from as a concept, right?

Anna - I agree. It's a little bit eugenics, isn't it?

Xander - A little bit, yeah, it could be Neanderthal.

Chris - We're not tempted by not living so long?

Xander - There's just so many factors behind my lifespan, right? I reckon it's the Neanderthal one. I don't know about you?

Anna - I'm torn between those two. Maybe the shape of your nose dictates how well bugs can get up your nose?

Xander - Not sure that's the limiting factor on my lifespan. I reckon Neanderthal.

Anna - Yeah let's go with that one. Go with Neanderthal.

Chris - You get a point for that one! Which means we don't have to go to a tiebreaker. We should give Xander and Anna a round of applause. You are this week's winners!


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