Round Three - What's in a name?

The science of naming science
23 June 2020

Interview with 

Olivia Remes, Matt Bothwell, Beth Singler, Ljiljana Fruk, University of Cambridge


Start now


Vexacious verbs and puzzling pronouns, how will our panel do, when we put some scientific name questions at them! Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom quiz chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI researcher Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes...

Adam - Yeah, absolutely not. Let's let's keep going like we can all win it because we can actually, and starting with the first question, Ljiljana and Matt, this one is for you. What language do we get the word robot from? Is it Croatian, French, Czech or Dutch?

Matt - Um, I know it means, I remember it means slave. I think it's a Slavic language. So like Czech maybe.

Ljiljana - And I can say that it's not Croatian, I would know about that.

Matt - Oh, then Czech.

Ljiljana - It's probably Czech.

Matt - And I know it means slave, right?

Adam - Absolutely. It is Czech. And it was coined in the 1920s by playwright, Karel Čapek who introduced it in his hit play. And it comes from an old Slavonic word robota which means forced labor. So not quite slave, but also not nice either. So well done on the points there for you two.

Phil - Team two, Beth and Olivia. We've got a multiple choice question for you as well. Tell me which field of science did the word meme, like internet meme of course, originally come from. Was it (A) evolutionary biology (B) computer science, (C) archeology or (D) astronomy.

Beth - Uh, sorry. My memory is so bad. What was the list again?

Phil - It was evolutionary biology, computer science, archeology, or astronomy.

Beth - Okay. Cause I think it came from semantics, but, um, I guess the closest is computer science.

Phil - Olivia. Any thoughts?

Olivia - Absolutely no thoughts at all so I'm happy to go with that.

Phil - Is that a final answer then? Beth? Is it computer science?

Beth - I mean, yeah, it's complicated. I've written a whole book chapter on the meme. So it's a bit more complicated than any of those four, but yeah, I go for computer science then I suppose it's the closest to semantics.

Phil - Well, given that you've written a book about it, you may be about to correct us, but what we have is evolutionary biology coined by Richard Dawkins from 'The selfish gene' his 1976 book.

Beth - Hmm a little bit, it does. It comes from some other ideas. There's a variation called me-meme before meme and yes Dawkins, anyway, it's complicated. It doesn't matter, it's fine.

Phil - Oh, hang on. I'm not sure we can take away any points for that. Given that Beth did actually know.

Adam - Given we have an expert who's actively correcting us. Yeah. I think we have to give them honorary points for that at the very least.

Phil - Absolutely. All right. Well done knowing far more than we did about that question. Thank you guys.

Adam - Thank you. Team one for your next question. One of my favourite things anyway, is that animals tend to have some weird names when they come in groups. So you have a pride of lions for example, but it gets a lot weirder. Your question is, which of these groups of animals comes in what's called a smack. Is it rhinos, wolves, or jellyfish?

Ljiljana - Well, it's not wolves, is it Matt?

Matt - No, no wolves is a pack, right?

Ljiljana - Yeah.

Matt - Rhinos, wolves or jellyfish...okay. Here's my thinking. I think it's so obviously rhinos, the answer is jellyfish. Like I think, I think rhinos is a trick. Do you know what I mean? I think that's how these people think.

Ljiljana - My feeling is saying the rhino.

Matt - My instinct’s going jellyfish, but you've been right a lot so far, so I'm happy to defer to you.

Adam - So are we going rhinos?

Ljiljana - I might be wrong. Let's go.

Adam - We'll go with rhinos then. I am afraid Matt had my exact thinking when I was putting this question together is that I was trying to trick you with rhinos. So as you said wolves come in a pack, but rhinos come in what's called a crash of rhinos. So I'm afraid no points on that round for the two of you.

Phil - Alright, Team Two. This is your chance. What's the word for a group of peacocks? Is it a parliament, a flamboyance, or an ostentation?

Olivia - I'm definitely tempted between the first or second option. I feel like it's not the third one.

Beth - Flamboyant. I mean, they are very flamboyant, they're also quite ostentatious. Okay. So you think between the first two?

Olivia - Yeah, actually, um, what are the first two choices again? Just lost them.

Phil - It was a parliament, a flamboyance or an ostentation.

Olivia - You know, I feel like I've heard parliament before, but I don't know if it's in relation to peacocks. Can we get the second clue?

Phil - That's that's your only clue. I'm afraid. You've got to answer based on that. And I'm going to have to press you for an answer.

Beth - Okay. Let's go for the parliament.

Olivia - All right.

Phil - Parliament it is. I think you had a fact in your mind and the fact is a parliament of owls.

Beth and Olivia - Ah

Phil - I'm very impressed that you got that, but unfortunately, what it is is an ostentation and a flamboyance interestingly that's flamingos, which does make a lot of sense.

Beth - I'm learning so much.

Adam - So there is a town in Sweden and that town is called Ytterby. It has four elements named after it. Can you name two of them? There's a half a point if you get one.

Matt - Ytterby, can you spell it? Or I guess maybe, yeah, maybe not. I don't know if that would help.

Ljiljana - I should, I should know that.

Matt - Yeah. This is a chemistry question, right?

Ljiljana - There is definitely ytterbium.

Adam - To do you have a second one?

Ljiljana - Unfortunately, not.

Matt - Isn't there an element that sounds really similar. Like there's ytterbium and there's likeIs there one that's just like, yttrium, or something. I'm sure there's one that sounds like that.

Adam - I am going to give you that because between the two of you, you got it. Yes. The town, spelling it would have given it away because it is Y T T E R B Y. And it's yttrium, ytterbium, terbium and erbium are all named after this one town. There's also scandium, thulium, holmium, and gadolinium are all discovered in the exact same quarry in this one town. So well done between the two of you. You got there.

Phil - All right. We're onto the last question of the game. Woohoo. So team two, this is your question: Of the 19 chemical elements named after people, only two are named after women. Can you name them? And you'll get half points for getting just one of them.

Adam - I'm afraid we will need to push you for an answer.

Beth - I don't know. Hmm.

Olivia - Yeah. It's been so long since I've done chemistry. Going back to high school chemistry. Gosh, I can only remember a few of the, you know, off the top of my head, a few of the elements.

Beth - Haven't got a clue.

Phil - Well, I'll tell you what, I don't think we can throw this to Ljiljana and Matt, because that would be a gimme for a Ljiljana.

Adam - That would be very not fair.

Beth - I wanted the questions about robots!

Phil - So I'm going to tell you, that it's actually curium for Marie Curie, and meitnerium, which I hadn't heard of. For Lise Meitner


Add a comment