Quiz: Glow in the dark cats!

We put the panel to the test with our own cunning questions...
08 January 2019

Interview with 

Richard Hollingham, Boffin Media; Anne-Laura Van Harmelen, Cambridge University; Giles Yeo, Cambridge University; Francesca Day, Cambridge University




We put our own questions to the panel, to see who will be crowned The Naked Scientists' Big Brain of the Week! On team 1, Richard Hollingham and Anne-Laura Van Harmelen, team 2 Giles Yeo and Francesca Day...

Chris - Round one is an old chestnut an old favorite. It's called Tech yes or techno.
Team one. Which of these is a real piece of technology, vacuum cleaning shoes or ironing gloves?

Richard - Vacuum cleaning shoes would be great!

Anne-Laura - Well maybe vacuum cleaning shoes could be on wheels, like roller skates, and then you could roll around your house! I would say that the gloves are actually more realistic.
Yeah I think for the gloves.


Chris - Actually that you were right Richard. the vacuum cleaning shoes are a real piece of tech. Someone's probably not far behind with the gloves. Team two: which of these is real: jeans that double as a keyboard, or a wallet that gets scalding hot when it's stolen. And that forces the thief to drop it?

Francesca - So how does the wallet know when it's been stolen? It would have to be it's far enough away from some phone or something I guess.

Giles - Genes as a keyboard?

Francesca - Yeah you do get these like flexible plastic these days right.

Giles - Genes like DNA?

Chris - Not those sorts of genes. Jeans!

Giles - You see now we got to start from the beginning! We've got to go with the jeans.


Chris - Yeah it is the jeans, that double as a real keyboard are actually a real deal. You can buy jeans they've got a keyboard on the crotch area so you can if you're in touch with technology. You can tap away to your heart's content. You stay in touch with the social media with your friends and get any likes.

Giles - This is a family program!

Chris -  It's as you say flexible plastic type technology. Okay team two are in the lead at the moment, round two. Round two is called Weird Science.

Team One which experiment has actually been done -  genetically engineering glow in the dark cats or genetically engineering ducks, so they have chicken’s legs. What do you think?

Richard - That's not ethical. You can't do that can you? I think glow in the dark cats. I think that's doable. Yeah I think that's quite straight forward, doable, ethically not so dubious. Let’s go for cats.


Chris - Genetically engineered cats are real. They used the same gene that makes jellyfish grow GFP green fluorescent protein to make them glow in the dark. Team 2 it's level pegging now. You gotta get this one right. Have scientists trained dolphins to sing a national anthem or have they trained bees to play football?

Giles - I think it's the bees to play football. A bee-sized football, not an actual football!

Fran - If there were enough bees, and there are good at that, it could be an actual football.


Chris - Yet it isn't 11 aside. Actually these are individual bees that were trained to move a ball and they learned to move a ball by watching what other bees did. So it was bees learning socially from other bees which as you say Fran is what they do to make their hives a success.

In terms of dolphin singing the national anthem the Miami Dolphins do of course sing the national anthem but that's at their football game and they're not an animal, they're human.

Round Three this is called beastly lies which animal super power have we made up and which is the real deal?

Team 1 the naked mole rat can survive being driven over by a Mini or the cockroach can survive being put in a microwave?

Richard - I mean it depends how long we put it in the microwave for doesn't it? Could probably survive a couple of seconds? Nothing can survive that long in a microwave!

Anne-Laura - We’ll go for the cockroach.


Chris - The cockroach is the one that can survive. naked mole rats can survive being submerged in water for an extended period. They can survive high temperatures and even acid. I think that's as low pH not LSD, but they unfortunately are not capable of surviving being run over. So that's the point for team one. Team two, which animal super power have we made up here? Can a pistol shrimp snap so quickly it generates a temperature equivalent to the surface of the sun or kind of type of sea sponge become so acidic that it can dissolve out of the sea creature that just tried to eat it?

Fran - What's a pistol shrimp? Is it like a mantis shrimp?

Giles - Does it look that mantis shrimp thing? I'm guessing, we're guessing. The acidic thing sounds more plausible. Let's go with let's go with acid sponges.


Chris - No you got that wrong. Actually it's a pistol shrimp. The duration of the click that they make with their pincers is less than one millisecond the snap produces what's called sonoluminescence from a collapsing capitation bubble. So they produce an area of very low pressure this causes a bubble to pop into existence which then implodes on itself and as it does so it unleashes a thermal pulse which is of more than 5000 degrees, the surface of the sun is about 5000 degrees. It was the pistol shrimp that actually carried the day there.

Right. That means you're at a tiebreaker situation. So who's going to win this? Now the way this works is that the two teams will discuss between yourselves. When I read out this question you have a very short time ago to work out what you think the answer is. And the team that gives us the closest answer are going to get the point.

Okay so the world's fastest animal is the peregrine falcon. How fast can it go?
Richard - We're going for 200 kilometres an hour.

Chris - Giles and Fran?

Giles - Somewhere close to 160 kilometers an hour.

Chris - That means Richard and Anne-Laura you are the winners, the answer is 390 kilometers an hour. Well done Richard and Laura. Congratulations to you and commiserations to our very worthy losers. I mean that in the nicest sense as in losing the competition.


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