Quiz: Would Jupiter float on water?

Chris Smith puts his own questions to the panel in the form of a quiz!
23 May 2017




The team took a break from the audience questions to pit their wits against each other in a fiendish quiz. Kate Feller and Richard Hollingham versus Andrew Holding and Jess Wade. Chris Smith explained the rules...

Chris - Now the rules are really simple, we’ve got 3 questions each. I’ll ask you something, you’ll give me the answer and you’ll either get one of these…

*bell ding* for  the correct answer

Or one of these…

*sad trumpet sound* ...if you get it wrong. Let’s start with Richard and Kate.

Q1. What’s heavier a proton, or a neutron? Or are they the same?

What do you think you two?

Richard - Oh.

Kate - Oh my.

Richard - Not very much either of them. This is the trouble isn’t it.

Kate - They're’ similar in size; it’s the electrons that are super tiny.

Richard - Yeah. Well, I would go with proton.

Kate - Proton.

Chris - You’re going for proton is heavier.

Richard - Yeah

*trumpet sound*


Chris - I’m sad to say at 1.674 x 10-27kg neutrons are slightly heavier than protons at 1.672 x 10-27kg. But both are considerably more massive than an electron, which weighs about 2000 times less.

Over to the other team. Let’s see if you can beat them. It wouldn’t be hard would it - you just have to get one right.

Q2.  Would the hydrogen-rich gas giant Jupiter, in theory, float or sink if you put it in water?

Andrew - By the centrix scale it’s going to be pretty dense. But it’s pretty big so I think the outside, if you average across the whole thing is going to be lighter because water’s really dense.

Jess - I have literally no way in my mind of imagining this happening, but I imagine if you can similarly displace enough water with your massive dense core then it would float, right?

Chris - You’re going for Jupiter would float?

Andrew - Yeah.

Answer:  It would sink

Chris - According to NASA, jupiter’s density is 1.326g/cm3, meaning that it has a higher density than water, which has a density of 1g/cm3, so it would sink.

Back to Richard and Kate - here we go.

Q3. Strung end to end, all of the DNA molecules in your body’s cells would stretch to Pluto and back about 5 times… What do you think?
Richard - Wow!

Kate - That’s a long way.

Richard - Pluto and back 5 times. All the DNA.

Kate - All of the DNA. So all of the DNA from all of ours cells.

Richard - This could be one of those trick questions. It’s going to be like 6 times.

Kate - Yeah.

Richard - Or 4 times or something like that.

Kate - If it was in the context of how many times around the planet, I’d feel more comfortable with that.

Richard - I’m going to go for false.

Kate - False, yeah.

Answer: TRUE

Chris - The DNA in each of your 40 trillion or so cells is about 2 metres long. So stretched out end-to-end it would form a strand roughly 80 trillion metres - which is 80 billion kilometres in length. The distance to Pluto is about 7.5 billion kilometres, so you should have enough DNA to get there and back at least 5 times. Which really is quite extraordinary.

So it’s level pegging with a high score of nought. It’s Andrew and Jess’s go now. 

Q4. Which, in theory, is more poisonous?

A crane fly aka “daddy-longlegs” 
Puffer fish

Andrew - I’ve heard about the crane fly and I’ve also heard that it can’t penetrate your skin.

Chris - But I only said which in theory is the most poisonous, which is the worst venom?

Jess - It’s definitely not going to be a puffer fish.

Andrew - I think this is one of these big urban myths that actually they’re not that poisonous if they did bite you.

Jess - Which? The puffer fish?

Andrew - The crane fly. A puffer fish is the one that like…

Jess - I rarely think about crane flies.

Andrew - Puffer fish - that’s the one they make fugu from, right?

Jess - Yeah.

Andrew - So that does kill you.

Jess - That does kill you entirely!  Puffer fish.

Andrew - Puffer fish.

Answer: The puffer fish!

Chris - They’ve scored, finally they’re off the bottom. Crane flies aren’t poisonous at all, that’s a complete myth. But, according to toxipedia, the lethal dose of pufferfish venom - a chemical called tetrodotoxin - is 334 microgrammes per kg of body weight in a mammal like a mouse. So no contest! Steer well clear of tetrodotoxin! So if you go and eat puffer fish, otherwise known as Fugu in restaurants, make sure a good chef prepares it for you.

Back to Richard and Kate - here we go.

Q5: The average person walks a distance equivalent to 10 laps of the Earth in their lifetime?

Richard - This is like the Pluto one again.

Chris - Except it’s on Earth.

Kate - Is this the average person on the planet, or is the average person from the UK, or the average person from the US? Very different between the UK and America.

Chris - Average person it says here.

Richard - We’ll just go for true.

Kate - Let’s do it.

Answer: False - it’s actually about 5 Earth-laps in a lifetime.

Chris - The average person walks about 7500 steps per day; in 80 years that’s about 220,000,000 steps; at average stride length, every 2200 steps is one mile, so the average person walks about 100,000 miles in their life. The distance around the equator is about 24,000 miles, so a person walks the equivalent of about 4 or 5 laps of the Earth in a lifetime.

We do have a winner but would you like to have your final question just to really trounce them you two.

Q6. Relative to their body weight, which is the stronger animal?

An Asian elephant
An Asian weaver ant

Jess - I bet it’s the ant.

Andrew - It must be mustn't it. I’ve never seen an elephant pick up something ten times its own size.

Jess - Yeah. Let’s go for the ant.

Answer: the ant!

Chris - A convincing win from team Andrew and team Jess.

In terms of body weight the ant wins - In 2010 Cambridge Zoologist Thomas Endlein photographed an Asian weaver ant holding a 500mg weight in its jaws, which is 100x its body weight.

In terms of tonnage though, it’s got to be the elephant. According to the Food and Agriculture Association of the UN, elephants used in Sri Lanka’s logging industry commonly haul 3 to 4 tons a day! But Wikipedia tells us that Asian elephants tend to weigh about this much anyway, so the ant wins overall.


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