The Q&A Quiz!

Who will win this month's big brain award?
21 November 2022




Chris - Right it's quiz time. I knew you were all eagerly anticipating this. We do this whenever we have a Q and A programme. It's our opportunity to test the mettle of our panel, but also you can play along at home. We've got four people here in the studio. So logically that breaks down into two teams. And I'm gonna divide you up into Emma and Andrew as team one and Jonathan and Rosemary are gonna be team two. You're actively encouraged to confer between you, please. Now we've got three rounds for this, and the first round is the World Cup. Don't worry, this is not actually, I'm told, about football. We've got two questions based around the competing teams. Question one, for Emma and Andrew, which of these previous World Cup host nations have been awarded the most Nobel prizes for science? I'll give you three options, and by Nobel Prizes for science, it's physics, chemistry, or the physiology or medicine prize. So is it A) Switzerland, B) France, or C) Germany? Which of those World Cup host nations has had the most Nobel prizes for science in the past? What do you think? Do confer.

Andrew - France had a lot in the early days with the Curies and everything, didn't it? Germany industrialised very early, right? And did an awful lot of science.

Chris - Switzerland, France, or Germany?

Emma - Yeah, let's go for France.

Chris - Unfortunately, it's a miss. No, the answer is Germany. It's got the third highest number of scientific Nobel prizes, 79 across all categories. And they're behind us, the UK on 90. But of course the leaders out in front are the USA, big country - 273. You were right to point the finger at France who have 35 Nobel prizes in science. But Switzerland so far have only got 18. I'm afraid that's a miss for you guys.

Chris - Question two is going Jonathan and Rosemary's Way, and again, another world event happening right now. COP 27, very much in the news at the moment. This is the climate conference. They've got a focus at COP 27 on preserving biodiversity. So what we want to know, Jonathan and Rosemary, is which of the following nations at this year's World Cup has the highest biodiversity index ranking? And if you want to know what one of those is, a biodiversity index is defined by what percentage of all of the world's animal species are found in that country. So which of these countries has the highest biodiversity index? Is it Mexico, Australia, or the United States? What do you think?

Rosemary - The US is so broad. There's so many different biomes within the US.

Jonathan - I know Australia is a lot of desert, but it also has some rainforest, but yeah, an enormous amount of the outback as well where there doesn't seem to be much. Maybe the best way to work it out is: biodiversity seems to increase as you get closer to the equator. There's more sun, there's more vegetation.

Rosemary - So, maybe Mexico?

Chris - You've scored a goal. Well done it is indeed Mexico. Brazil would be far too easy. That was the highest. Mexico sixth in the world for biodiversity. 10% of the total world species are found there. Australia's seventh place and the US is in position number 10. We are a small island. The UK is down the bottom of the world rankings.

Chris - Right over to round two. Back to Emma and Andrew. So this round is which came first - we are asking you which invention of these three came first? Is it the raincoat, the hot air balloon or the photograph. The raincoat, the hot air balloon or the photograph? Which of those inventions came first?

Emma - The one I have really no idea about is the raincoat.

Andrew - Well I was thinking the macintosh.

Emma - How are we defining raincoat? That sounds a very boring, scientists answer, but if you were talking about using skins, or some kind of fabric that was impregnated with something that would help make it waterproof, that could actually go back quite a long way in terms of archeology, you know, using fats or something like that on skins or tanned hides.

Andrew - I see hot air balloons as quite a bit later.

Chris - Unfortunately, you've hit the bar again. The hot air balloon was the answer. Would you have got that? The raincoat, you were quite right, Andrew, was invented by a Scottish architect, Charles Macintosh. That was in 1823. The first photograph was taken in 1814 by the French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce. But in 1783, following tests with a rooster, a duck and a sheep, followed by a human pilot who is the frencher Pilatre de Rozier, he successfully ascended to the dizzy height of 25 metres in a hot air balloon that was built by the Montgolfier brothers. So unfortunately you didn't score on that one. So at the moment, team two are in the lead. They have one point. Let's find out if they can cement their lead. Rosemary and Jonathan, we want to know which of these was discovered first. A) the planet Uranus B) the element Hydrogen or C) the cell. What was discovered first?

Rosemary - Okay, so William Herschel discovered Uranus in, like the 1800s. I don't know about the cell or hydrogen.

Jonathan - I'm not sure about the cell. The first person to use a microscope was Anthony Von Loevenhook, a Dutch haberdasher who ground lenses because he wanted to look at the quality of his curtains that he was buying and selling. But I'm not sure if he would've identified the cell. But that was back in the late 1600s.

Chris - I'm gonna have to hurry you.

Rosemary - Maybe the cell.

Jonathan - Okay, let's go with that.

Chris - And you score another goal. Very good. You're quite right to choose the cell. I'll give you the reasoning and the argument behind this. All of them were discovered a long time ago, but Uranus, you're quite right, was Sir William Herschel, 1781. Hydrogen, Henry Cavendish, Cambridge man, 1766. But the earliest of all was the cell. Robert Hook described the cell in 1665. His collaborator was Loevenhook, who was sending, to the Royal Society, reams and reams of drawings of things he had seen with his tiny little blast droplet lenses. Do you want to have a go at the last one? Because it is quite funny. So if you can redeem yourselves and get off the ground team one, because it will be about time if you do so. And that is the name of the next round: It's about time. Emma and Andrew, our planet's rotational speed is gradually slowing. This is because of friction effects associated with the tides which are giving energy to the moon, speeding it up. So that means the length of a day on earth was shorter in the past. How long was a day about one and a half billion years ago. Was it A) 12 hours B) 18 hours or C) 23 hours long?

Emma - I have even less idea than I had about the last 2. We didn't do particularly well on those.

Andrew - Go with the 23 hours.

Chris - Sorry, you haven't redeemed yourself. You scored three misses. I don't know who you are taking penalties for, but you are not going to be on their team for the World Cup. It was actually 18 hours long. At the formation of the earth, the day was as short as 12 hours. But on average, because the length of the year increases by a second every 65,000 years or so, if you wind the clock back it was about 18 hours back then. Do you want to have a go you two and see what you would've won? The average human lifespan across the planet is about 73. But there are members of the animal kingdom that achieve this many times over, and one of the oldest living vertebrates is believed to be the greenland shark. One individual got carbon dated. In fact, they looked at its eyeball for various reasons and they found that it was the longest living vertebrae that had ever been discovered. How old did the scientists think that she was? Was it A) 191.5 years? B) 301 years, or C) 401 years?

Rosemary - I feel like I remember reading something about a shark being older than the United States. I could be pulling that out of nowhere, but I feel like I read that.

Jonathan - I think it's really, really old. I mean, they're a funny species, aren't they? I believe they get these parasitic worms in their eyes that they obviously can't get rid of because they don't have fingers or hands to take them out. And they go around for hundreds of years with these parasitic worms in their eyes. But I'd probably go for the longest, the oldest.

Rosemary - So old I I'm going to stick to 301.

Chris - You're gonna go 301?

Chris - Okay. You've missed your first shot on goal. It's actually 401 years. The way they proved it was with radiocarbon dating. The eyeballs, because they contain tissues that are not replaced during the lifetime of the animal, those are the crystalline proteins that form the lens. They are not replaced as the animal ages, and so you can look at the age of the carbon atoms in there and how many of them are radioactive and work out how old the animal is. And when this was done, 401 years is the average because it could be between 272 or perhaps even as old as 512 years. Isn't that amazing? Isn't nature an incredible thing? Anyway, the winners of the Naked Scientists Big Brain of the Week award this week are our astronomer Rosemary Williams and our expert in global health. Jonathan Kennedy. I think they deserve a round of applause, don't they?


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