Our teams of scientists are pitted against one another...
20 September 2022




It is that time in the show where we put our experts' knowledge to the test with a quiz.

Team 1 are going to be Kathryn Harkup and Jonathan Reisman

And team 2 are Risa Bagwandin and Peter Haynes. 

You are actively encouraged to confer between you.

Chris - Round one is called 'On this day in history'. So Kathryn and Jonathan, question one. September the 15th, a date that echoes through history, on this day, the 15th of September, 187 years ago, Charles Darwin first landed in the Galapagos Islands, would you believe. He was best known for having his big beard and bad handwriting, as well as having some pretty important theories to impart. He was though also an avid collector of which group of invertebrates? I've got three options for you: A) Ants B) Beetles or C) Butterflies. So Jonathan and Kathryn, Darwin had a penchant for collecting what group of invertebrates?

Kathryn - Are there interesting beetles in and about his home, or was he collecting them in the Galapagos? I don't know what the beetle population of the UK is, and how exciting it is and whether it's worthy of collecting

Chris - Jonathan?

Jonathan - I do know that beetle diversity across the world is quite staggering and surprising, so I might go for that answer.

Chris - It's a good choice. It is answer B - beetles. Darwin was a huge collector of beetles and his collection of thousands of them from the Beagle voyage is in the Natural History Museum in London. Well done, plus one to team one so far, I shall mark you up as one point. Question two, this is going to Risa and Peter. September the 15th, 1928 is also an important date because it's the date on which Alexander Fleming discovered the effect of a pretty important mold that turned out to be world changing. But how many lives do we estimate penicillin, that came from that mold, has since saved since it was rolled out in 1942. So Risa and Peter, penicillin - how many lives saved since A) 20 million B) 200 million C) 2 billion lives saved? What do you think?

Risa - Well, if we take the approximation that there's 6 billion people on the planet. But In a lifetime...

Peter - Well, your comment about how many people on the planet has made me think actually 2 billion is too many. So perhaps we go over 200 million.

Risa - Mm I'm thinking 200 million.

Peter - Okay. Let's go for that.

Risa - Okay.

Chris - It's a good one to go for. It is 200 million because that's about two and a half million lives a year that gets saved from diseases like meningitis and pneumonia. So it is one point a piece level, pegging after round one. Back to our team number one, Katherine and Jonathan. Your question in round two, which is 'close family and neighbours'. The first animal to orbit the earth was A) a mouse B) a dog or C) a pig. What do you think?

Kathryn - Oh, I'm pretty sure both a mouse and a dog have been sent into space. I'm not sure a pig has, I missed that particular news item if it was sent into space, but I don't know whether a mouse or a dog went first.

Jonathan - I do know that the Russians sent up a dog named Laika

Kathryn - Yeah. I don't know if they did any experiments before with smaller animals. I imagine the weight would've been an advantage when launching something into space, but I'm happy to go with a dog because I've definitely heard of Laika and going into space.

Chris - Yeah. With that, Jonathan?

Jonathan - Sure. Let's go with Laika.

Chris - It's a good one to go with. You're quite right. Laika was the first animal in orbit. It was on 'Sputnik 2', November, 1957. She was part of the Soviet space dog program. And the half-ton Sputnik 2 satellite unfortunately didn't have a very good life support system on it though. So she didn't live very long, but she did live long enough to be the first animal to orbit the Earth. And then she burned up in 1958 when the satellite was returned to Earth. Well done, it's a point for you. Over to team two. This is Peter and Risa and we're gonna stay in space with this one. Our galaxy is the Milky way. It's one of billions of galaxies that spread out across the universe, but who is our nearest neighboring galaxy? Who's our nearest neighboring galaxy? Is it the Andromeda galaxy, Canis Major or the Tadpole galaxy?

Risa - I have no idea. This is something that I've not paid much attention to.

Peter - There was a nice exhibit in Cambridge a few weeks ago of planets along the river, but unfortunately it didn't get to galaxies. Cause if they put galaxy in it, I might have known the answer. I mean, Tadpole seems very unlikely to me.

Risa - I agree

Peter - What was the first one?

Chris - Andromeda, Canis Major, or the Tadpole galaxy?

Peter - Go for the middle one?

Risa - Is that what we're going for? We'll just go with the one in the middle, like in multiple question quiz sheets.

Peter - Perhaps just go for tadpole because it's unlikely.

Chris - Going to have to hurry you, what do you think? What are you gonna go for?

Risa - We'll go with B since that's our default now.

Chris - Okay. You're going for your default answer. And it's the right thing to do. It is Canis Major. Now the Tadpole galaxy does it really exist because it looks like a tadpole. It's 420 million light years away, that's a long way off. Andromeda, two and a half million light years away. That was thought to be our nearest neighbour until very recently actually. But Canis Major now has the crown. It's actually a thousand times closer than Andromeda, 25,000 light years away. It's our nearest galactic neighbour but is still a long way off though, because even our fastest spacecraft, which is the Parker Solar probe would take a mere 39 million years to get there. So that's a point for you too. So level pegging at the end of round two, we might be in tiebreaker territory. Let's find out. Round three is called back to school and it's GCSE time. So schools have all gone back recently, the GCSE results, which we sit here in the UK, are not far in the past. So time to see how you would fare at GCSE. We want to know team one. This is Catherine and Jonathan. What is hotter? A) the boiling point of iron B) a lightning bolt or C) the surface of the sun. What's hotter?

Kathryn - So for me, I think it's between the surface of the sun and a lightning bolt. I'm gonna discount iron because I think that's... Although boiling point though that's...

Chris - I was crafty there. Wasn't I?

Kathryn That was crafty. See if you said melting point, I'd have dismissed it out of hand, but boiling point. Mm.

Chris - Yeah. See, I knew you were coming on the program and I thought 'chemist, she's gonna know that, I'm gonna be crafty.'

Kathryn - It's almost like you planned it.

Chris - I did. <laugh> Jonathan. Any thoughts?

Jonathan - I agree, Kathryn, that I'm a little perplexed because they're all certainly very hot. Could anything on earth be hotter than the surface of the sun? I wonder...

Kathryn - I think it's one of those deceptive questions where the surface of the sun, everyone imagines, it's going to be super, super hot, but actually it's not as hot as some lots of other things. For example, a lightning bolt. That would be my gut reaction is a lightning bolt

Chris - Going for that one?

Jonathan - I'll back you up on that one, Kathryn

Kathryn - Oh, bless you.

Chris - It's a good choice. It is a lightning bolt. Let me tell you about iron. You were quite right with iron. 1500 degrees Celcius is the melting point, give or take. The boiling point, craftily, is 2,800 C. I did that on purpose. The sun's surface is 5,000 degrees Celcius. Lightning super heats the air around it to a sizzling 30,000 degrees Celcius. So it's about six times hotter than the surface of the sun. Well done. So you get a point for that one as well. You gotta get this one right team two, Risa and Peter, because at the moment they've got a full house. We're over to biology for you two and we want to know how many bones are there in a great white shark. Is it 0, 536, or 2,804? 0, 536 or 2,804 in your average great white?

Risa - Any thoughts?

Peter - Well, the non marine biologist in me has this vague idea that sharks don't have bones. They have some other kind of solid material in them. But I could be distracted because Kathryn has just made a gesture at me, which is interesting.

Chris - She was trying to put the opposition off.

Kathryn - I'm trying to make it fair competition. I want the best out of everyone.

Risa - I'm gonna go with with Peter here

Chris - Which is?

Peter - Which is zero.

Chris - Peter's going zero. Answer A), you're breaking with your tradition. You went B every time.

Peter - Yeah. I mean, that was a tough decision

Chris - I can't tempt you with 536?

Risa - No, no.

Chris - It's a good choice because it's not right. A is the correct answer. Sharks are cartilaginous fish so they are not bony. There are no bones in a great white shark, well done. So that means it's tiebreaker time because you have all got a hundred percent so far. So the tiebreaker is: how are your Nobel prizes? How are you on Nobels? Are you good at Nobels? We'll find out. We want to know what year the Nobel prizes were first awarded. Jonathan's down the line so I'm gonna ask him to start. So Jonathan, what year do you think the Nobels first started? You're not allowed to click quickly flick out your phone and go looking at this either.

Jonathan - Of course not. I may be close or very, very wrong. I'll go with 1938.

Chris - Okay. 1938. Kathryn. Any thoughts?

I'm gonna go much earlier than that because I think it's 190-something. I'm going to guess 1904.

Chris - Karthryn goes 1904. Peter?

Peter - I'd go a bit earlier. I'd go for 1895.

Chris - 1895. Risa?

Risa - I have to admit, I know this one. So I've been following the Nobel prize winners for quite some time. So the first noble prize was awarded in 1901

Chris - And you are right. So our Naked Scientists 'big brain of the week' award goes to Risa and Peter. Very well done. I think we should give them a round of applause for that one!


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