Let's Get Quizzical: Summer Science Pub Quiz

23 June 2020
Presented by Adam Murphy, Phil Sansom
Production by Adam Murphy.




This week, lockdown may be easing, but the pubs still haven’t flung open their doors yet, so this week, we’re bringing a little of the pub to you, with a Naked Scientist Pub Quiz. It’s a QnA show with a difference tonight, as Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom put some science quiz questions to our expert panel; chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI athropologist Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes...

In this episode


01:04 - Meet the contestants

Meet our challengers stepping up the plate

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

Who have we got, ready to start quizzing? Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom chat to the panel; chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI researcher Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes...

Ljiljana - Hi Adam, Hi Phil! Nice to be with you again. I mean, I've failed several times in some of the Naked Scientists quizzes, but I am totally primed to be answering and helping out today.

Adam - Brilliant. And in your research vein, what is it that you look into?

Ljiljana - I am a chemist, so I work also on some natural dyes that can be used as photocatalysts. I work on nanotechnology, so how do you make really tiny particles do wonderful things, and how do we design materials that can be used in medicine.

Adam - Amazing. And then Matt, you're with us as well; how do you tend to do in a pub quiz? Any particular areas of expertise?

Matt - I'm not too bad. I don't want to brag, but I have an uninterrupted string of defeats on the Naked Scientists...

Phil - Oh, wow.

Adam - Lovely. Great to hear.

Matt - I'm hoping to continue this strong showing today.

Adam - Your partner is looking forward to being paired with you then, I take it.

Matt - Whoever it is is a very lucky person.

Adam - And what about you? What do you tend to look into?

Matt - Research wise I study galaxies, so looking way back in time to the early universe, and looking at baby galaxies, basically; looking at the first galaxies that form way back billions of years ago at the dawn of time, and then figuring out what physical processes change those baby galaxies into the big grownup galaxies that we see nowadays.

Adam - And how do you go about looking at that kind of thing?

Matt - I'm an observational astronomer, which means I use telescopes. Radio telescopes, normally, so long-wavelength light, which probes the gas in these galaxies. Gas in outer space, gas in galaxies, is the fuel for future star formation. When you study the gas in these galaxies, you can get a sense of how they're behaving, what the physics are, how fast they're forming stars; and those are important things to plug into your models that describe how galaxies evolve over time.

Adam - Amazing. Well we'll be looking forward to chatting with you as well Matt, coming up soon.

Phil - Now Olivia Remes, fantastic to have you with us for the quiz. Tell us, do you have a competitive streak yourself?

Olivia - Well I have to say that after listening to the answers of the other participants, I also must say that I have not been very good. Even though I always want to do as best as I can, I have not been very good at any of the Naked Scientists quizzes, but let's hope that today... today's a new day, so who knows, my luck may be changing.

Phil - Well we do pitch our quizzes pretty hard here on the Naked Scientists. You're at sort of a University Challenge level of hardness, I would say. So I wouldn't be too hard on yourself.

Olivia - Absolutely, absolutely.

Phil - Now tell us about your particular field of interest, because you're a psychologist, correct?

Olivia - That's right, yeah. My area is psychology and mental health, and I look at depression and anxiety, and how people can become resilient. I look at, well what are some of the things that make us have poor mental health? And this is so important now during the coronavirus, when that has been one of the things that a lot of people have been struggling with, these feelings of anxiety and depression; and teaching people coping strategies, how they can overcome that. And I think it's great because there are things that you can do from the comfort of your own home to improve your mental health.

Phil - Are you going to use any of these resilience strategies to give you mental resilience today to last you through this quiz?

Olivia - Absolutely. I have a whole arsenal of things, a whole toolkit to pull from. So the other contestants better be prepared.

Phil - Well, let's move to another of those contestants. In fact, it's Beth Singler! Beth so good to have you back on the show.

Beth - Really great to be back on, thank you.

Phil - Remind us, for those who haven't heard your pieces on our show before: what's your research bag?

Beth - I an expert on artificial intelligence, but I have to caveat that by saying I'm probably the least technologically adept person around. I am a sneaky social scientist getting in undercover; I'm an anthropologist who looks at people's understanding of artificial intelligence, and how they interact with it, and what kind of impact it's going to have on society as well. So I've had to be pretty well versed in what artificial intelligence is and can do, but I'm not a builder.

Phil - Have you seen anything weird happen in this world since everyone was in lockdown at home, plenty of time to code various computer software... has anything weird come out of this?

Beth - Well yeah, there's lots of reports that our current AI systems, quite narrow intelligences that we have, are really struggling to deal with a world where we don't behave in the usual way. I mean, everyone knows this from their experience of buying things online, the expectations that we build up through our purchases; that they're now struggling to understand why we want so many toilet rolls at the beginning of lockdown, and are still reproducing this idea that perhaps we want more and more toilet rolls...

Phil - I'm struggling to understand that one myself, to be honest.

Beth - Well that was always going to be necessary at some point, but I think we... algorithms, they take rubbish in, they push rubbish out. So if we constantly tell them we want one thing, they're going again to reproduce those ideas.

Phil - So what's your plan for the quiz? Take rubbish in, push rubbish out? Or take solid winning answers...

Beth - Quite often my responses will be rubbish! In the normal circumstances of a pub quiz I think I'm usually the person there who only supplies the interesting name for the team. And I'm completely struggling to come up with any today. So I doubt I'll come up with any good answers either.

Name badge

Round one - Who am I?
Jack Dixon, Whipple Library

We kick off by giving our panel a series of clues. Can they get the famous scientist it relates to? Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom test our panel; chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI researcher Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes, starting with the first clue for Team One, Ljiljana and Matt...

Eva - I was asked to be the president of Israel in 1952.

Adam - So asked to be the president of Israel. Any ideas?

Ljiljana - Yes. Is it Albert Einstein?

Matt - That was going to be my guess as well.

Adam - So is that what you're going with? You're going with Albert Einstein? Are you going to give me an answer?

Ljiljana - Are you going with this Matt?

Matt - Yeah, I don't know for sure, but that would have been my guess. If it was your instinct, then I think we go for it, yeah.

Adam - Risky taking a shot after Clue 1! Let's see if that was it...

Phil - Well done! Amazing!

Adam - Yeah, absolutely! Right in at first question! No-one I put that to got that as the right answer, so I'm fairly astounded by that.

Ljiljana - Sorry to interrupt you, but it's a such a serendipity that I was reading yesterday an anecdote about Albert Einstein. And there was a little bit of a mention about his musings on being a president. And that's why! This was probably what made me think of this.

Adam - Just right in there, knocking my hard question out of the park, right at the first gate. Well, brilliant. So that is 2 points right away to Matt and Ljiljana. So we're going to move on now. We're going to go to Team Two, which is Beth and Olivia. Are you ready for your first voice ‘Who Am I’ round?

Beth - I'm not sure we're going can live up to that...

Olivia - I know! I feel a bit intimidated too!

Adam - Right-o, well we will see how well you do with this first question about a second 'Who Am I'.

Eva - I was born on Christmas Day in 1642.

Adam - So a Christmas baby. And before everyone gets at me on Twitter, that is the Julian calendar, so the one we don't use today. What do you think - any ideas of Christmas baby scientists?

Beth - 1642...

Adam - I could give you another clue if you want to see?

Beth - Shall we take another clue?

Olivia - Yeah, I think that's the way to go.

Beth - Okay.

Adam - Right-o, so I will give you your next clue, which is...

Eva - Some of my light experiments involved staring at the sun for hours to see what would happen.

Adam - And I should emphasise, the Naked Scientists in no way recommend staring at the sun for hours to see would happen. It is very bad.

Beth - Oh no, I'm not really sure. I want to say Newton because he did experiments with light and rainbows and prisms. But my sense of history is so poor, I may be a century or two out.

Adam - What do you think?

Olivia - Is it three clues that we get?

Adam - There's one more coming up if you want it.

Olivia - Yeah, let's take the third one.

Adam - Right-o then, third clue coming up.

Eva - I have a unit of force and many laws named after me.

Beth - Oh okay, then I think it is Newton. Because there is a Newton as a force unit, I think?

Oliva:Yeah, yeah, let's go with Newton.

Adam - Okay, so we are going with Newton on Clue Three - and... well done, that is it! Should have trusted your instincts, you were right after after number two...

Beth - I know, I know...

Olivia - I'm going to give you a virtual high five.

Beth - Oh yeah, okay. I'm doing my half. There we go.

Adam - Socially distanced high five through a computer screen.

Phil - Team spirit on Team Two is absolutely knocking out the park.

Adam - That is the first one down. And I think we know how these questions are going to work. Back to Ljiljana and Matt -  we have another 'Who Am I' for you, and in this one we're going a bit different. So I'm just going to read them. And the first one is: this British palaeontologist was born in 1913.

Ljiljana - Oh. Matt, do you have any guesses?

Matt - I mean, I don't know many palaeontologists full stop.

Ljiljana - Same here.

Matt - I think there is... I have a vague memory of there being a famous lady who dug for fossils down on the South coast and discovered dinosaurs, but I think she might've been earlier. I'm basically drawing a complete blank, I'm sorry.

Adam - Shall we go with Q2?

Matt - I think so.

Adam - Clue number Two is that: across her career she also discovered 15 different species of animals.

Ljiljana - So Matt, I think it is the lady.

Matt - Yeah. I'm struggling so hard to...

Adam - Still stumped! Shall I give you the third clue, see if that jogs any memories?

Matt - I think so, I don't think I'm going to come up with it on my own, I'm afraid.

Adam - Right-o, number three: her most famous discovery might be the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania. Any names there? I heard a gasp from Ljiljana...

Matt - I think it's Mary something? I want to say... oh, this is like drudging my memory. Mary... Mary Mary Mary...

Adam - I don't know that many Mary Mary Mary Marys, but you might need a surname.

Matt - I'll just go with a single Mary. Mary Attwood or something, maybe? I don't know. Oh, I'm sorry.

Adam - I'm afraid that's not it. What about over there on Team 2? Have you got any idea as to who that might be?

Olivia - Uh, no...

Adam - Right.

Olivia - Oh gosh, I'm scraping my brain, but I can't seem to recall.

Adam - Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to close that one down, and I'll put yous all out of your misery and say that that one was Mary Leakey. So those footprints she found? They're 3.7 million years old. And they're the first evidence that humans were bipedal and can walk on two legs. Matt, I think you were reaching for Mary Anning, who was the Victorian palaeontologist.

Matt - Oh, that's probably who I was thinking of, yeah.

Adam - No points there on that question.

Phil - Right, well Team Two, Olivia and Beth. Let's go back to you. I'm going to give you three clues. Clue number one: this West Virginian mathematician was born in 1918. Who am I talking about?

Olivia - 1918. That's when the First World War ended. Virginian mathematician...

Phil - Shall I give you clue number two?

Olivia - Yeah, I think that'd be helpful.

Phil - Number two: John Glenn would refuse to go to space unless she'd checked the numbers.

Beth - Ahh, okay. So someone from the film Hidden Figures possibly? I'm trying to remember any names. Mathematician, female... no, they're all just completely gone from my mind.

Phil - I'll tell you what: the third clue isn't going to help you much. I'm going to give it you.

Adam - Nope, sorry.

Phil - The clue is: she was played by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. You're going to hate me for that.

Beth - I can get a no prize for knowing that there's a film about her! But I can't recall her name. Oh that's so bad, I have seen the film.

Adam - Well let's throw it over to Team One in that case. Matt or Ljiljana, any ideas?

Matt - Yeah, I think it was Katherine Johnson, right?

Ljiljana - Yes, I agree.

Phil - Was it Katherine Johnson? Alright! Let's give half a point to Team One. Well done guys.

Adam - Just swooping in and taking it away there.

Phil - Beth Singler, I really am sorry, I can understand that tip of the tongue feeling. Let's redeem it in the next few questions.

Adam - Matt and Ljiljana, last question of this round. Last 'Who Am I'. And your first clue is: this physicist had a particular fondness for pigeons.

Ljiljana - Ahh, I know! Matt, I think this is Nikola Tesla. And you know why I probably know that? Because he was born in Croatia and I'm Croatian. So we know a lot about Nikola Tesla, and I remember recalling that he was living in New York, and he had the ritual of going out and feeding pigeons. So everybody saw that he was very eccentric.

Adam - You happy to go with that Matt?

Matt - Yeah, I would never have guessed this by myself, but you saying this rings a bell, and you hit out of the park with Einstein, so yeah, absolutely. I will trust you implicitly.

Adam - Right-o. We'll see if it's Nikola Tesla...

Ljiljana - Wow, yes!

Adam - Ljiljana is absolutely smashing this round! I think hopefully you would have gotten at the last round when I said he was a brand of electric cars; I think maybe that would have given it away. I wasn't expecting anything on the first one. Well done there, nice job.

Ljiljana - It's really a little bit of serendipity that there are all of these eccentric physicists involved.

Adam - Brilliant. Well done to you two, and we'll move on to Team Two's last question now.

Phil - Alright, Beth and Olivia, here we go. Clue number one: this mathematician had a deep, deep revulsion of beans.

Beth - Bees or beans?

Phil - Beans.

Adam - Refried, kidney variety.

Olivia - Right, so he'd been eating them.

Beth - I'm so tempted to say Alan Turing, but...

Olivia - I'm just wondering when this mathematician lived or how long ago.

Beth - Yeah, we might need another clue...

Phil - Question Two might help you with that one. Shall I give you Question Two? Clue Two, I should say. This is clue number two: he was born around 570 BC.

Beth - Definitely not Alan Turing!

Adam - Probably not, no.

Olivia - Ooh. I think that's ringing a bell. 570 BC...

Beth - Is it Archimedes? I'm trying to remember all my Ancient Greek people.

Phil - I'm going to have to press you. Shall we move on or shall I accept that answer?

Olivia - Can we have the last clue?

Beth - Yeah, go on.

Phil - Alright. Every schoolchild knows his name for his work with triangles.

Olivia - Yeah, I know it: Pythagoras.

Phil - Congratulations! That was not an easy one, and you triumphed. Very well done.

Olivia - Thank god for clue number three!

Adam - Always bet on clue number three.

Beth - I feel like I'm learning a lot though, because I didn't know about his relationship with beans. So that's a good... oh no, of course! Because he that's they killed him.

Phil - Well that brings us to the end, everyone, of Round One.

Abstract art of an atom

Why don't electrons crash into atoms?

We put this quantum conundrum to University of Cambridge chemist Ljiljana Fruk...

Ljiljana - Yeah. So, I mean, it's an extremely interesting question, of course, because you know, this is how we would imagine if we imagine an electron as a negatively charged particle, hitting the positively charged nucleus. But we can't look at the electron as the conventional classical particle. It's a tiny particle and it can't be treated as a classical particle that has a defined position and velocity. But rather as a diffused cloud, let's say, which is defined by quantum physics. And now, without going into quantum physics, we could also say that an electron behaves like a wave. And as it gets, for example, closer to the nucleus, it gets confined in the smaller volume. And for that, we need to apply now a certainty principle that if you know a position of the electron, if it gets confined into the certain volume, we don't know really a momentum or the, or the speed of this electron, but basically what happens as the election gets closer to the nucleus, the wavelength of this electron gets shorter. The shorter wavelength means it has lots of energy and there is a certain point of an electron being around the nucleus where this energy is going to be enough to overcome the attractive force from the nucleus. So basically the energy, the huge energy of electrons, will balance the attractive force of the nucleus. And so the electron is going to be diffused as a cloud around the nucleus, but it's never going to fall into it. So basically we need to stop treating or thinking about the electron as a classical particle, which is moving in the circles around the nucleus. But we need to think that there are some quantum physics rules that apply to it.

Different personality traits are linked to different lifespans in male and female chimpanzees.

21:59 - Round Two - Animals

So you think you're the king of the jungle...

Round Two - Animals
Ljiljana Fruk, Matt Bothwell, Beth Singler and Olivia Remes, University of Cambridge

Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom put some confounding animal questions to our panel; chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI researcher Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes.

Phil - Humans have three color receptors in our eyes. One for blue, one for red, one for green. The mantis shrimp is thought to have the most color receptors though, of any animal. How many different color receptors does it have? Is it (A) 12 or (B) 6? What do you think?

Ljiljana - Okay. Matt, any ideas? I just know that there are many.

Matt - Yeah, I remember hearing that it was more, I think it's 12. I remember it being like significantly more.

Phil - Should we go with 12?

Ljiljana - Yes let's go with 12.

Phil - Yes, very well done - 12 is the answer. However, they're not actually as good as us at distinguishing between closely related colors because of a quirk in how those receptors work, they can differentiate orange and yellow, not the shades between. Well done - two points.

Adam - Right now, Olivia and Beth, your question - due to some cross wiring in the brain of the circadian rhythm and the trigeminal nerve, a rooster is only able to crow in the morning, true or false.

Olivia - Uh, I mean, I've only heard roosters crow in the morning. So just based off of experience, I'm tempted to say true. But what do you think, Beth?

Beth - I think, I feel like we have got some roosters nearby, I think I've had them at different times, but it sounds more scientifically plausible that they can do it at any time. I don't know.

Adam - So I need to press you for an answer.

Olivia - Yeah. We'll go with truth.

Adam - I'm afraid not. That is me Googling random science words and putting them on a page to see what would happen. So despite what we've led to believe by storybooks, roosters will crow pretty much whenever they feel like it. When they've been fed, when they're warning other roosters or even to celebrate success with a lady chicken, they will crow just because they feel like it. I am afraid, no points there.

Phil - Right over to Team One, back to Ljiljana and Matt. Now here's a couple of questions that you won't find in most pub quizzes. This is from a recent paper published by Kamiloglu et al the University of Amsterdam showing that humans can actually accurately tell what a chimpanzee is doing from listening to the sounds they make. So I ask you, what is this chimp doing here? All right. You've got multiple choice. Was it discovering something scary, discovering a large source of food, being refused access to food, or being attacked by another chimp?

Ljiljana - Oh, wow. Can we hear the sound once again? No. Yeah, that's it. Yeah.

Adam - Can we? Absolutely. Of course you can. So what's that chimp up to?

Matt - I've never felt more like I was guessing than right now. I feel like there's an element of kind of wistful frustration in there somewhere. So I reckon maybe C, what do you think?

Phil - Refused access to food?

Ljiljana - Yeah. Yeah. I kind of also think that there is a frustration in it.

Matt - Yeah.

Phil - Unfortunately it was (A) discovering a large food source, so nice try.

Adam - And now over to Olivia and Beth, I have another chimp here for you. What is this chimp up to? So is that chimp being separated from its mother, eating high value food, threatening an aggressive chimp, or being tickled?

Olivia - I feel like it's something more aggressive and something a little bit more, I don't know. He sounds a little bit angry.

Beth - Yeah. And it's quite low as well. Not like a baby sound. So yeah. I'd probably go with the aggression one, there was an aggression one.

Adam - Okay. So threatening an aggressive chimp?

Olivia - Yeah. I would say so.

Adam - Afraid that that particular chimp is being tickled. And I knew that because I don't know about anyone else, but I happen to make quite a similar noise when I'm being tickled. So I'm afraid, no points all around on those set of questions. On to the next ones, Phil.

Phil - Team one, Ljiljana and Matt, tell me which of these four is the only insect that lives year round in Antarctica. Is it (A) the Antarctic ant, (B) the Antarctic midge, (C) the Antarctic beetle, or (D) the Antarctic lice. What do you think?

Matt - So it was ant, midge, beetle, or louse. I would imagine that it would be midge because then they could fly and not have to walk around on the cold ground. I don't know if that's really stupid or not. What do you, yeah, just on that basis.

Ljiljana - Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I agree. I think your explanation also makes sense.

Phil - All right, as you can judge by that correct answer buzzer it is indeed the Antarctic midge. Let's go to Team Two.

Adam - Team two. We have four animal names here for you and they are all in some way or another, except for one, a lie. So which of these animal names isn't a lie. Is it the electric eel, the mantis shrimp, the flying fox, or the chicken turtle. Those are all real animals, but all of them have lies in their name bar one.

Olivia - The last one sounds to me like a lie. Just the name of it. It just made me laugh. Chicken turtle.

Beth - Yeah. It's kind of the most amusing one.

Adam - Okay. So chicken turtle is the answer. And - you are right. I pressed the wrong button there. Hang on. Let me do that right. Absolutely. Yes. Thank you, Phil, for pulling me up on that. It is the chicken turtle, but maybe not for the reason you think. It's called that because apparently it tastes like chicken. Electric eel is actually a kind of knifefish, a flying fox is a bat it's not a fox, and a mantis shrimp, while related to shrimp, is neither a shrimp nor a mantis. 

mental health

How might lockdown be affecting our mental health?

Mental health expert Olivia Remes has some answers for us...

Olivia - Yes, we absolutely can. Our mental health has been affected because of the lockdown, it is still being affected, but there are things that we can do. And the first thing that a lot of people have been experiencing during this lockdown is this loss of meaning and purpose. A lot of people, you know, we've all been working from home each day seems to be the same, nothing new is happening, nothing to look forward to. Because we don't have something to look forward to, that vision is kind of making us lose this meaning and purpose, and it's so important to get it back. And there was this interesting study that was done by Victor Franco, you know, this famous neurologist. He used to work with prisoners of war. And she noticed that the key, the one key difference between those prisoners who survived and those who didn't was whether or not they had meaning and purpose in their lives. So how can we get that meaning and purpose back, or if you don't feel like you have it, then how can you develop it? Well, one of the things that you can do is to find something that you're passionate about or find a task that you think you would enjoy working on, or even just a project, you know, and make regular progress on it. Even if it's for 45 minutes each day, because this can really make a significant difference to your mental health. It can get that meaning and purpose back when you know that you're working towards something. The other thing is we've been stuck inside so much and we haven't really had much of a chance to engage with other people to connect with others. That our minds have become prone to wandering, mind wandering, to daydreaming. You know, we're stuck inside with our thoughts, our minds are running away. But what is interesting is that the more we daydream, the more our minds wander, the more prone we are to depression and to poor mental health. People don't really think about that. That's why I think it's quite an interesting finding because ruminating and thinking a lot about things can actually predispose you to depression and mental health problems. So what is the antidote to that. Well focus on your present task - this pulls you out of your thoughts and it makes you focus on the present moment.

Phil - That's this idea of mindfulness, isn't it Olivia.

Olivia - Absolutely. Absolutely.

Start now

Round Three - What's in a name?
Olivia Remes, Matt Bothwell, Beth Singler, Ljiljana Fruk, University of Cambridge

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

Hubble takes a look at Jupiter

Why does Jupiter have stripes?

Astronomer Matt Bothwell from the University of Cambridge had a quick answer to this one...

Matt - Well, so it's because yeah, Jupiter is not a, just a completely homogenous ball of stuff. Like the, like the pressure and the temperature and all that kind of stuff varies over the surface of the planet. And so that's, that's really what you're seeing. It's basically weather effects on the surface of Jupiter that it's just that it's telling you that there's all kinds of different pressures and temperatures and conditions around the surface.

Adam - Would it ever mix together given like all the time in the universe or is it always going to be this, this stripey ball in space?

Matt - No, it's always going to be a Stripey ball I mean, given that Jupiter is about 5 billion years old, the same as the rest of the solar system. If it was going to reach some kind of equilibrium, it would have done so by now.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

How could we know if an artificial intelligence is really intelligent?

AI expert Beth Singler was on hand to fill us in...

Beth - Yeah. So lots of people have tried to come up with ways to show or describe, or explain intelligence and specifically artificial intelligence. And we've mostly gone down the line of thinking; there are ways to test for intelligence, and that really tells us more about what we think intelligence is. And actually, whether we'll be able to prove intelligence in an artificial entity or machine. I'm really quite fond of a quote from someone called Robert Wilensky, who was a computer scientist working in AI at the very beginning. And he says that very early scientists working on AI were mathematicians, and they looked around and they said, well, we're smart. So if an artificial intelligence is going to be smart, it's going to be able to do the things we can do. And as mathematicians, they could basically prove theorems and play chess. So these same sorts of ideas are now constantly mapped onto what we think AI is going to be able to do to be smart. Whereas I think there might be something interesting in thinking about how an AI might work against our assumptions and programming and be able to do things that are unexpected and unexplained, but also those could theoretically be programmed into it. So it's all very complicated, but I think it does tell us something very, very profound about why we think intelligence is measurable by being able to play chess really well, or Go very well or prove a theorem.

Phil - So are there some under appreciated aspects of quote unquote intelligence, that you think people making these AIs needs to pay more attention to or are starting to pay more attention to?

Beth - Well, we are very aware that intelligence is embodied. Scientists look at cognition through embodiment and as an anthropologist, as a social scientist, I see how an intelligence is a relational thing that we have in community through our human bodies. So increasingly the speculations about how we develop actual humanlike intelligence in machines, would have to require some sort of learning process within an embodied sensory system, and there's work going in that direction. But to simply say, you're intelligent, if you can play chess very well, that that would make me a very not intelligent person. And I hope I am a relatively intelligent person, but I cannot play chess. So there are levels and standards that we have set for intelligence, for our machines and artificial intelligence, but we need to think about how it works in the whole.

Someone washing their hands in a granite sink

What's the difference between phosphorous and phosphates?

We put this question to University of Cambridge chemist Ljiljana Fruk...

Ljiljana - Hmm. So phosphorous and sulphur are elements. So these are chemical elements that have a particular atomic mass, that they contain a number of protons and electrons. Phosphate are salts of phosphoric acid. And phosphoric acid is obtained from phosphorous after the reaction with oxygen and water, and certain processes. The same is with sulphates. Sulphates are salts of sulphuric acid. That said, it's an interesting question. I referred to phosphate and sulfate both are really, really important for functioning of our body. For example, phosphates are important as regulators of our metabolism. They're also very often used in fertilisers. The same thing with sulphur and sulphate. We could hardly imagine the world without sulphates. And actually now in this pandemic, we all use soap, and we are encouraged to wash our hands and one of the main ingredients of soap and soapy compounds is actually sodium laureth sulphate. So both elements and their salts are extremely important from metabolic point of view, but also from the industrial development point of view.

A large astronomical telescope against a dark starry sky.

Will we run out of stars?

We put this stellar question to University of Cambridge astronomer Matt Bothwell...

Matt - Yeah, the answer is like a very resounding yes. I mean, so there's a bit of a lifecycle of galaxies, right? Where they, they take gas, which is like the fuel for future stars. And then that gets squished down by gravity and turns into stars and then stars then live their lives and then explode. And then normally what happens is an exploding star might trigger more stars being formed in the future. But the listener is absolutely right. It's like, there's only so many times this can happen, right? Like there is only a certain amount of energy in the galaxy, there's only a certain amount of gas. Once it's all gone, it's all gone. And so the interesting thing is that I think from the perspective of the very, very distant future, stars might be seen as an artifact of the early universe, right? We know the universe just going to carry on getting bigger and bigger, and colder and colder into the very far distant future. And when the universe is made up of black holes and nothing else, you know, any future inhabitants might look back on the time with stars and just see our time as almost an afterglow of the Big Bang or something.

Phil - So just like Betamax, Tamagotchis, Pokemon cards, and stars.

Matt - Exactly like dated technology.

A robotic-looking woman's face behind a wall of computer code.

What's a neural network?

We put it to Beth Singler, AI expert from the University of Cambridge...

Beth - A neural network is basically a layering of algorithms, that are all in connection with each other, so that the output of one algorithm then becomes the input on another layer. It's a connectionist approach. And the aim of the neural network is to sort of replicate the architecture of the human brain. So the neurons and the synapses that we're familiar with. So the thinking is that if everything is computable, a big if, but some think proven by Alan Turing after Alonzo Church, then the substrate, what the brain is actually built of, whether it's fleshy meat stuff, or Silicon might not actually matter. But what might matter is the architecture of the human brain, the connections between the synapses and the neurons and how they interact and flow to each other. And this is what neural networks are trying to replicate. Now, there are many uses of neural networks, including, basically assessing complex data relationships and doing pattern recognition. As we see in computer vision, in the control of systems like automated cars and in artificial assistants that can learn how to respond to us and learn our preferences. A current interest in neural networks is in using it to recognise and diagnose COVID-19 in patients' lungs' MRIs. However, neural networks can sometimes learn to look for the wrong things in data, or they can express biases that all were already present in the dataset. And this can lead to very negative or unexpected outcomes.

A picture of a trophy

And the winners are...
Beth Singler, Mat Bothwell, Olivia Remes, Ljiljana Fruk, University of Cambridge

Our panel: chemist Ljiljana Fruk, astronomer Matt Bothwell, AI athropologist Beth Singler, and mental health expert Olivia Remes, have all put in a valiant effort in our quiz, but who has won. Adam Murphy and Phil Sansom reveal the scores

Adam - Right? I think Phil, the time has come. Would you be able to do us the honour of revealing the final scores?

Phil - Can I please get a gentle radio drum roll? Yes. Excellent. Contributors drumroll please. Alright. Team number two have got five points and team number one have got 12 and a half points. So, many congratulations.

Adam - That is a resounding team one. Our winning team, Ljiljana and Matt, how do you feel about pulling that win out of the bag?

Ljiljana - I am delighted that, you know, I could play it first of all, with Matt. I'm so sorry about the rhinos, Matt I will remember that now forever.

Matt - I didn't actually know the answer. I was trying to out think the people that write the quiz.

Adam - And, how do you feel, you've broken a streak now Matt, do you feel sad that that streak has gone somehow?

Matt - Yeah. I'm going to look back fondly on my losing days ,but yeah, it feels nice to win. I think I could get used to this.

Adam - Wonderful. And Beth and Olivia. Absolute commiserations. How do you feel?

Phil - And also for an excruciatingly, terribly hard quiz, that you triumphed with some incredible answers on. What are your thoughts? Were you robbed?

Beth - No, no, absolutely not. No. I think, I think I learned a lot actually. I think very well done to team one.

Olivia - Yeah, absolutely. And we had a lot of fun doing it.

Phil - Just an excellent attitude. Were there any standout questions for you?

Beth - I wanted the robot question!

Phil - Noted for next time.

Adam - I did think ahead. Maybe I shouldn't give the robot question to the AI expert.

Phil - Olivia, any for you?

Olivia - I don't know. I enjoyed all the questions, maybe throw in some mental health questions next time, and then we can up our score a little bit. So robot questions and mental health.

Phil - Cater to specialty.

Adam - Yes. Give them exactly the questions they want us to give them. We'll keep that in mind. What about you Matt and Ljiljana? Any particular highlight questions there for the two of you?

Ljiljana - I enjoyed the chimpanzee questions. We didn't get anything right, but it was an interesting experiment.

Matt - That's exactly what I was going to say. I could do a whole quiz of chimpanzee noises. It was fantastic.

Adam - Right. So we will keep that in mind for next month. The questions will be nothing but chimpanzees, exclusively chimpanzee noises. And you're going to have to guess a chimpanzee deciding it's had a bad day getting to work late, things like that. We're going to make it real weird.


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