Science pub quiz questions wanted

June 18, 2014 • 10:03 am

by  Matthew Cobb

A science journalist friend of mine is getting married this summer. She sent me this mail, which I thought I’d pass on to you:

I’m writing a little science-themed pub quiz – a friendly bit of entertainment for my wedding this August. Could you suggest any nice multiple choice science questions for a lay audience? The quirkier the better.

A pub quiz, in case you don’t know, takes place in a pub (amazing, no?) and generally involves teams. The questions are generally a mixture of general knowledge and obscure facts, and are often divided up into several sections. Getting the answers/giving the marks (generally done by swapping answer sheets between teams) is often a raucous affair.

So, please post in the comments below your favourite questions. Don’t bother with the answers for the moment – that will be part of the fun: if you think you know the answer to a question, post it as a reply, NB I haven’t given her name so we won’t be making it easy for any of the invitees. And don’t forget – general science questions, not just biology, and for a non-specialist audience.

Here’s my question:

How many smells can the human nose detect?
a) 100,000
b) 1,000,000
c) 1,000,000,000
d) 1,000,000,000,000
e) Over 1,000,000,000,000

347 thoughts on “Science pub quiz questions wanted

  1. For the less romantic scientists …

    What makes the world go around?
    A) love
    B) caffeine
    C) the conservation of angular momentum

  2. You and a cannonball are in a boat, on a lake. You toss the cannonball overboard. Does the level of the lake rise, fall, or remain the same?

    1. Nice one! While in the boat it would displace the volume of water which has a weight equal to the cannonball. Thrown overboard it would displace the volume of the ball, which is less. So the level of the lake would drop.

        1. You might find it easier to intuit the correctness of the answer by thinking about how it would be different if you had water in the boat and you bailed out an amount equal to the weight of the cannonball. In that case, you would expect no effect on the water level in the lake, right?

          1. I figured it out after consulting a geometry for dummies website (such things exist) and brushing up on the math I ignored in school.

            Thanks, Timothy-the problem I found used the same method you did to explain it.

    2. I had heard the same problem years ago, about a toy boat floating on the surface of water in a bucket. The boat develops a leak and sinks to the bottom. Does the water level in the bucket go up, down, or stay the same? This one would actually be practical to measure.

  3. These questions come from here:

    http://www.nature.com/news/specials/climatepolitics/quiz.html

    My favorites (answers: d, a, b, b, a):

    To be legal for consumption in the United States, the radioactivity of one litre of ethanol (drinking alcohol) must be:
    (a) Less than 12 decays per minute
    (b) Below the threshold of standard Geiger counters
    (c) Not measurable by accelerator mass spectrometry (the most sensitive detection method)
    (d) More than 4,000 decays per minute

    Of the deaths caused by the Hiroshima atomic bomb, the fraction attributed to cancer was:
    (a) Less than 2%
    (b) About 7%
    (c) About 20%
    (d) More than 50%

    A critical mass of plutonium has a volume of:
    (a) 3 tablespoons
    (b) 1 soft-drink can
    (c) 1 gallon
    (d) 3 gallons

    A typical high-resolution spy satellite has how long to photograph a location?
    (a) 10 seconds
    (b) 1 minute
    (c) 12 minutes
    (d) 90 minutes

    A gram of which of these is most toxic?
    (a) Botulinum toxin
    (b) Arsenic
    (c) Anthrax spores
    (d) Plutonium dust (inhaled)

  4. I’ve seen this one in a pub quiz. Without knowing what any of them actually are, you can make a pretty good guess based on the title.

    Which of the following have not yet been proven?
    A) Fermat’s Last Theorem
    B) Bertrand’s Postulate
    C) Oppermann’s Conjecture

    1. If you drilled a hole from St. Louis straight downward all the way through the Earth, where would you come out?

      1. Somewhere in China
      2. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean
      3. Somewhere in India
      4. Madagascar

  5. 1 When a plane comes in to land on a sunny day, does its shadow A) get bigger, B) get smaller, C) stay about the same?

    2 A raindrop is roughly the same shape as: A) a ping-pong ball, B) a pear, C) an egg

    3 Counting at normal speed, it takes about 12 days to reach a million. How long does it take to reach a billion? A) 12 years B) 32 years C) 12 million years

    4 Which of these creatures needs air to survive? A) a crab B) a lobster C) an electric eel

    1. Re:Q3. Are you talking about a US billion (1000 million, correctly known as a milliard) or a UK billion (1milliom million)? It could make a huge amount of difference to the answer.

      Yes I know, everyone uses the US billion these days, I was trying to amusing. 🙂

    2. On #3, as you get up to higher numbers, it takes more time to say them (28,762,487 takes longer to say than 2). I think the “what would be correct” answer above is off by roughly 30%.

      1. Oooh, good point. The original questions was about seconds (a million seconds is roughly 12 days, a billion roughly 32 years) and I changed it to counting for my kids. It’s really just to show how a billion is a lot bigger than a million. And who uses the GB billion these days?!

        1. Yep, we count “Million, Milliarde, Billion, Billiarde, Tripstrillion, Fantastilliarde”* and hate you Americans for all the confusion you cause by insensibly saying “billion” to our “Milliarde”.

          *) The last two, actually, only in comics that feature Uncle Scrooge.

          1. The old British (&c.) system is much more logical, I think: – million – /bi/llion = million ^ 2 – /tri/llion = million ^ 3 – /quadri/llion = million ^ 4 – /quinti/llion = million ^ 5

            Whereas the new system is – million = thousand ^ 2 – /bi/llion = thousand ^ 3 = million ^ 1.5 – /tri/llion = thousand ^ 4 = million ^ 2 – /quadri/llion = thousand ^ 5 = million ^ 2.5 – /quinti/llion = thousand ^ 6 = million ^ 3

            ???

            /@

    3. A good follow-up to #3 would be to point out that it would take Bill Gates more than 15 lifetimes to count all his dollars, assuming he lived to 85 years in each lifetime.

      1. But surely advances in medical science would extend his expected lifespan while he’s counting.

  6. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, largely for determining the structure of which of the following compounds:

    a) Haemoglobin
    b) Vitamin B12
    c) Cytochrome C
    d) Insulin

      1. Ok …

        a) he plagiarised his work from a student
        b) his work was proved incorrect
        c) he was right but for the wrong reason
        d) he accused a co-winner of stealing his work

  7. What bodily fluid did Hennig Brand boil down which lead to him discovering phosphorous in 1669:

    a)Sweat
    b)Blood
    c)Urine
    d)Saliva

    1. If there were significant amounts of lead in any of those fluids, that’s bad news for Mr. Brand.

        1. I presented that question in my pub quiz a while back, and only half the teams got it right! It’s just about paying attention and listening to the question carefully really.

  8. What is one of the single most convincing observations regarding evolution?

    “…the pattern of resemblances you see when you compare the genes, the letter to letter correspondences between genes. Compare the genes of any pair and plot out the resemblances and they fall into a perfect hierarchy, perfect family tree.

  9. The Braves and the Marlins will play a three game series. The forecast says the humidity will be 70% during game 1, during game 2 it will be 75% and during game three it will be 90%. Assuming the forecast is accurate, which of these three games is most likely to see the highest number of home runs hit?

    1. One assumes you’re looking for an answer based on aerodynamics, but physiology also comes into play — including interesting dynamics over conditions that make performance more difficult meaning pitches that’re easier to hit at the same time that batters might not hit them as hard. Plus, an aerodynamic advantage that helps the batter will also let the pitcher speed up the pitch.

      The only true way to answer that one would be with a detailed statistical analysis, something that baseball is particularly well suited for.

      b&

      1. The most important factors are likely to be where the Braves and Marlins are in their respective pitching rotations and which stadium the series is being played in.

      2. I should have clarified that drag isn’t being accounted for and we’re assuming the starting pitchers don’t matter, but I’m asking what effect does humidity have on the flight of a batted ball? I apologize for the confusion, it was a poorly phrased question.

      3. the most humid air is the densest, so statistically the ball is ‘likely’ to travel less far: the average distance per strike would be lower so a home run is less likely to be scored. 90% humidity is tiring though, so the hitting is likely to be less hard, and the pitcher (or as we Brits might say, bowler) is likely to pitch slower making the ball easier to hit. The speed that the hitter runs will be lower at high humidity, the reactions of the fielding side will be slower. The sweat on the brow of the batter could imped his sight and make missed more frequent.
        Cricket anyone?

          1. Oops. That’ll teach me not to make assumptions (this I doubt). Need to reverse the logic of my argument. I would assume (here we go again) that a ball would actually go further at the high humidity. Good thing that ‘wet’ air is less dense: cloud formation would probably be impeded otherwise. What about evaporation? Hadn’t thought about it.
            Maybe fell for a linguistic trap: when the air is hot and humid, its common to describe the air as being ‘heavy’. That’s the subjective impression of humid air: also in Italian.

  10. Another one: Chemicals have various ways of bonding together. Which of these describes the version known as ionic bonding?

    a) atoms share electrons on their outer shells, completing their respective electron counts, and thus binding themselves together

    b) one atom takes another atom’s electrons, making their charges opposite and so attract each other like magnets

    c) atoms space out in a regular array in three dimensions, allowing electrons to flow through the gaps in between

    d) different layers of atoms are weakly attracted to each other, but not enough to fully bond

    1. If you drop the last two words in what I think you think is the correct answer, I’m fine with it.

  11. Which of the following represents the largest number.

    A) Grains of sand on all of the beaches of the earth.

    B) All of the stars in the observable universe.

    C) All of the cells in a typical human body.

  12. Which sound was not inscribed on the Voyager’s Golden Record.

    a) Songs of Whales
    b) Morse code
    c) a message by President Jimmy Carter
    d) “Let it Be” by the Beatles

  13. One last one, because I’ll get carried away otherwise. What is wrong with this statement, “Dimetrodon was a sail-backed genus of dinosaur that lived in the Permian period”?

    a) Dimetrodon is not a genus, but a species

    b) Dimetrodon is not a dinosaur, but more closely related to mammals

    c) Dimetrodon did not have a sail on its back, just a regular spine

    d) Dimetrodon did not live in the Permian period, since no dinosaurs existed then

  14. Two tabletennisballs each hang on a thin fishingline 4 inches apart.
    Blow some air in between the two balls. What happens:
    a. they come together
    b. they move apart
    c. they both go forward
    d. nothing happens

  15. Who was Charles Darwin’s maternal grandfather?

    Willian Aiton, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
    Josiah Wedgwood the pottery manufacturer
    Thomas Secker, Bishop of Oxford
    Engineer Sir Marc Isambard Brunel

    1. The sperm fuses with an ovum to produce a zygote. The egg is then built around the zygote, which then develops into an embryo, which then hatches out of the egg as a chicken. So the sperm comes first.

      1. Chickens have an ovary. So it seems that they are born with a full compliment of unripe ova, that are induced to ripen for fertilization by light cues.
        The males have testes that increase sperm production during mating season.
        So it would seem that the ova comes before the sperm.
        However, I would say the egg comes first. The very first chicken was a descendant of an ancestor species. At some point, something that was “not quite 100%” chicken laid an egg with an “100% certifiable” chicken inside it.

        1. Hen’s have ovaries, roosters have sperm: they are both chickens which I would call the species name.
          One theory (I believe it was discussed by Freud more than a century ago when he was studying Biology and before he got into Psychology) is that the sperm/egg thing evolved from a symbiosis between a small flagellate and a larger unicell, which eventually evolved a way of fusing its DNA. The small flagellate might be assumed to be the more primitive (open to debate) and this would suggest that the sperm came first.
          What is more sexy than the Theory of Evolution?
          Answer: The Theory of the Evolution of Sex

  16. A swing bowler ( no guffaws please !) is a bowler who can make a cricket ball swing ( ie deviate ) through the air using the stitched seam of the ball to disrupt the boundary layer. If a medium fast bowler can cause the ball to swing to the left of the direction of travel, what happens if the same bowler, using the same technique bowls the ball at a much higher speed?

    a) The ball will swing even more to the left
    b) The ball will have the same trajectory as it did at the slower speed
    c) There will be no effect whatsoever – the ball goes in a straight line
    d) The ball will swing the other way ( ie to the right )

    1. No scientific questions can be posed about cricket, because cricket follows no rules that can be comprehended by a rational mind.
      😉

      1. Brits think its funny to try to explain the rules of cricket to foreigners. Foreigners think that Brits are just funny.

  17. Human males have one penis with one head. How many shafts and heads does the duck-billed platypus have?
    a. One shaft, one head.
    b. One shaft, two heads.
    c. Two shafts, two heads.
    d. Two shafts, four heads.
    e. Four shafts, four heads.

  18. True or false:
    Dragonflies cannot walk.

    Most human cells contain 46 chromosomes. If you took the DNA out of a single human cell and laid it out end to end, how long would be the strand of DNA? Approximately…
    A) 5 cm
    B) 2 meters
    C) 1 kilometer
    D) enough to wrap around the earth

    In terms of body lengths per second, the fastest animal on the planet is…
    A) the peregrine falcon in a dive
    B) a cheetah
    C) an unladen African swallow
    D) a mite (which is a tiny arthropod)
    E) a bluefin tuna

    According to the fossil record and genetic evidence, which of these are more closely related to whales?
    A) hippos
    B) bears
    C) sea lions
    D) manatees

    Without this, our atmosphere would be stripped away by the solar wind over several million years.
    A) The ozone layer
    B) plant photosynthesis
    C) the liquid iron core in earths’ center
    D) the moon

    1. The last question has no valid alternative, or rather is still open.

      Atmosphere stripping is highly dependent on the planetary conditions. E.g. Venus has no magnetic field, yet its atmosphere is intact except for two components – most of the hydrogen and some of the oxygen from its initial water content. Mars’s atmosphere has leaked because it is too small and has only magnetic field remnants.

      Earth’s dominant loss mechanism of its atmosphere has mostly been sequestration. (E.g. most of the initial carbon dioxide and perhaps half of the initial nitrogen.)

      Without a magnetic field perhaps we too would have lost our water over 100’s of millions of years, with GW and biosphere ramifications. But the nitrogen would presumably stay, and the carbon would presumably reenter as hefty amounts of carbon dioxide before plate tectonics winds down. (From lack of water.)

      [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_escape ]

      I don’t know where the often espoused, too simplified, idea derives – that a magnetic field is necessary to protect the entirety of a planet atmosphere. (Or rather specifically the dipole magnetic field of a geodynamo, since star-planet interactions can cause an induced field.) The initial notions after the discovery of the van Allen Belts perhaps? So maybe this is a more US centric notion?

      But it is really problematic re understanding individual geophysics of planets. When we have figured out Earth’s, Mars’s and Venus’s atmospheric trajectories, and perhaps more of plate tectonics and other sequestering or recycling mechanisms, maybe these questions are better illuminated. (Even worse for exoplanet comparison, the Sun is blow average calm!)

      As for now, I would suggest dropping this contentious question. FWIW.

      1. Nova recently aired an episode (In the US) called The Earth From Space, or something similar, which made this assertion.

  19. It was during an extended voyage on which ship did Charles Darwin begin developing his theory of evolution by natural selection:

    a) HMS Beagle
    b) HMS Dachshund
    c) HMS Finch
    b) HMS Tortoise

  20. Poet Lord Byron’s daughter became:

    A) The world’s first computer programmer
    B) A distinguished pupil of Gregor Mendel
    C) Founder of the Oxford University School of Genito-Urinary Medicine.
    D) The inventor of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s first unsinkable lifeboat.

      1. OK, the “computer” she worked on was never actually built, but excusing that fact, and I hope you don’t argue that Babbage’s Analytic Engine doesn’t count as a computer, what is your objection?

      2. If I were being pedantic I would have worded it along the lines of “Is generally regarded as the world’s first computer programmer” but as it is a pub quiz and not a university entrance exam I thought I’d keep it simple. As she is generally regarded as the world’s first computer programmer, what’s your objection?

  21. If you drive down the road with a helium balloon in the car, and you suddenly slam on the brakes, what will happen to the helium balloon? Will it surge forward, backward, move up, or move down?

      1. It IS backward. I have no idea why, but a friend I’ve had since high school demonstrated this to me in a 1986 Chevy Astro Van when we were at the University of Florida together. I can’t explain it, but I have witnessed it.

        1. It’s not hard to explain. Normally, a helium balloon wants to go up, when everything else wants to fall down. When you slam on the brakes, the front of the car becomes “down”, i.e. the place where everything in the car (including the air) wants to go — except the balloon, which goes the opposite way, just like it always does.

          The reason for this opposite behavior is that the balloon is lighter than air. So wherever the air goes, it shoves the balloon out of the way.

          In similar fashion, if you float a rubber duckie on a bucket of water, and then whirl the bucket around at high speed, the duckie remains afloat on the (now vertical) surface of the water.

        2. It’s the intertia of the air and the buoyancy of the balloons, I think. The air wants to continue moving forward, and so there is a brief increase in density toward the front of the car. While the ballons also have inertia, they have less than an equivalent volume of air, and so are pushed backward, in effect floating to the back of the car.

  22. My favorite somewhat science-y (double) trick question: which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?

    The obvious answer is that they weigh the same, both being pounds. This is incorrect. The feathers weigh more, as gold is measured in Troy Weight, and while a troy ounce is slightly heavier than an avoirdupois ounce, the fact that a troy pound is only 12 ounces means the feathers will be on the order of 30% heavier.

  23. My questions:

    1 How small was the observable universe before inflation?
    a) smaller than a mite
    b) smaller than an atom
    c) smaller than a proton

    2 What is the largest number of habitable planets around a star?
    a) 1
    b) 2
    c) 3

    3 How many habitable planets does the Milky Way contain?
    a) 10 million
    b) 100 billion
    c) 1000 trillion

    4 How long after planet formation did the Moon form?
    a) 40 million years
    b) 100 million years
    c) 250 million years

    5 How long after planet formation did the Earth ocean form?
    a) 150 million years
    b) 250 million years
    c) 750 million years

    6 What metabolism self-organizes in a primordial anoxic ocean?
    a) Amino acid metabolism
    b) Sugar metabolism
    b) Lipid metabolism

    7 Where do you spot the nightjar?
    a) In the hands of the bartender
    b) In the pub washroom
    c) In the wall photos

    2-3 and 4-5 goes together, obviously.

    1. Oops. The last question was “In the _middle_ of the wall photos”, else no fun or WEIT reference.

    2. If it’s smaller than an atom it’s automatically smaller than a mite, so I’d go a).

      For no. 2, are you excluding exotic possibilities such as double planets (two similar sized bodies orbiting each other)?

      1. Yeah, #2 is pretty vague. If you are asking how many planets can have liquid water, I’d guess no more than two, but I don’t have any facts to back that up.

  24. To which unit of geological time do the earliest Hominin/Hominid fossils date?

    (a)Pleistocene.
    (b)Jurassic
    (c)Quaternary
    (d)Pliocene
    (e)Miocene

  25. Who wrote the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine?

    a) Grace Hopper
    b) Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace
    c) Hedy Lamarr
    d) Grete Hermann

    Who invented the technology that became a key component of wireless data systems?

    a) Grace Hopper
    b) Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace
    c) Hedy Lamarr
    d) Grete Hermann

    1. If you wanted to be tricky that 2nd question could refer to some ancient technology like a semaphore or drum relay system.

    2. “Wireless data systems” build on a lot of different technologies. So it seems to me that Guglielmo Marconi is at least as plausible an answer as any of your choices.

  26. A 2-parter: assuming safety, and if we could do the requisite physics, even considering precession, could we bore a hole in the earth’s crust at the right angle, in the right spot, and install within and detonate earth’s nukes, to correct the tilt in earth’s axis such as to create eternal springtime everywhere; and 2) should we?

    1. NO! DON’T DO IT! That’s a plot in a SyFy disaster flick!
      If the Earth’s equator was parallel to the Sun’s i.e no tilt, we would lose our seasons. The Sun would blaze down directly on the equator, turning it into a permanent desert. The poles would never get sunlight and would be permanently covered with vast ice sheets. Our temperate zones would be in between them but much smaller. (Land masses and oceans will have a large effect on this as well.)
      The tilt sweeps the Sun to a max of 23 1/2 deg above and below the equator. This kinds of spreads the heat around. Think of pointing a hair dryer on high at your face. It’s a gentle heat if you sweep it back and forth but gets real hot if you point it a one spot.

      1. Hmm. I’m a little suspicious of this.

        The rotation of the earth, clouds, and the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans do a lot to avoid these sorts of effects.

        Even with the axial tilt, the tropics get more sun than the rest of the planet, but they also get amazing amounts of rain. The large arid regions of the earth are actually north and south of the tropics. Both these effects are because of the prevailing winds. It’s more than just sun exposure.

    1. “Color” is an incredibly loaded question. Shine a blacklight on a piece of white office paper, and what color is the paper? Now, take the same piece of paper and look at it under an incandescent bulb. What color is it now? How about under direct sunlight?

      Illuminants aside, damn little that we call “white” actually has a flat spectral response within the eye’s margin of measurement. PTFE (Teflon) pipe thread tape and Tyvek rip-proof postal envelopes come about as close as most people ever personally experience. The polar bear’s fur is close enough to white that calling it anything else amounts to nitpicking.

      Same with the other old chestnut, “What color was George Washington’s white horse?” Horse breeders have their own color schemes and names that don’t include, “white,” but everybody else would quite correctly say the horse was white.

      b&

      1. The polar bear’s fur is white in the sense that George Washington’s horse was white to everyone but a horse breeder. Its skin is black however. I don’t think that is a trick of which colour of light is being shone on it.

        1. I seem to recall reading years ago that polar bear hairs are actually transparent, and act like optical fibers to conduct light down to the skin where it’s absorbed. The apparent white color is like the white of clouds: the result of scattered ambient light rather than white pigmentation.

  27. This can be turned into multiple choice: You walk 10 km south, 10 km east, and 10 km north. You are back where you started. Where are you?

    1. At one of the turning points you shoot* a bear.

      What colour is the bear? a) Brown b) Black c) Grey d) White

      Or (combining with another question here), what colour is the bear’s skin?! 😉

      /@

      * Originally, with a gun. Nowadays, it’d have to be with a camera.

    2. A) At the North Pole
      B) Somewhere near the South Pole
      C) Anywhere on a circle 10 + 5/Pi km north of the South Pole
      C) All of the above

  28. How long does it take for a piece of gum to pass through your gastro-intestinal tract?

    1. It doesn’t pass – it dissolves
    2. As long as a kernel of corn does
    3. Seven years
    4. It never passes – it gets stuck

  29. A steel rod is flying past you at nearly the speed of light, so fast that Lorentz contraction has shrunk it to smaller than its own Schwartzchild radius. But in its own reference frame, it hasn’t shrunk at all.

    So does it collapse into a black hole or not? Why or why not?

  30. How long would it take for an average sized bacterium that reproduces once every 20 minutes to create babies, and the babies’ babies etc who’s total mass equals the mass of the entire earth? (hypothetical since for obvious reasons it’s impossible)

    a) one billion years
    b) 4.6 billion years
    c) less than 3 days
    d) 3 years
    e) 300 years

  31. A rabbit is a(n)

    a) Rodent
    b) Monotreme
    c) Lagomorph
    d) Ungulate

    Which of the following celestial bodies does not have an element named after it:

    a) The sun
    b) Venus
    c) The moon
    d) The earth

      1. Which one of the following celestial bodies has a name not derived from Roman mythology?

        A. Venus

        B. Earth

        C. Saturn

        D. Uranus

        1. I’m pretty sure all of them have multiple names derived from multiple mythologies. (E.g. Saturn was known to the Greeks as Cronus, and Earth as Gaia.)

          Perhaps you mean “Which one does not have a name derived from Roman mythology?” (Uranus has no Roman name because it’s not a naked-eye object.)

          Or maybe “Which of the following names is not derived from Roman mythology?” (Neither Earth nor Uranus has Roman etymology.)

          1. A previous posting by a fine fellow has kindly set me straight on (the Latinized) Uranus being Greek, not Roman, in origin. Thank ye kindly. At the moment I have nothing to further presume to pronounce on the matter.

              1. Not that I’ve come up against. I suspect Romans borrowed from Greeks but not the other way around.

      2. Any name for any of them is can be used to form an element name, so I’m not sure you have it. Here’s a hint. Two of the elements are in the same period as oxygen, and one is a noble gas.

        1. Which of the following celestial bodies does not have an element named after it:

          a) The sun – helium, from Gk. Helios
          b) Venus – vanadium, from Old Norse Vanadis, a name of the Scandinavian goddess Freyja = Venus (cp. Friday/Vendredi/dies Veneris)
          c) The moon – selenium, from Gk. Selene
          d) The earth – tellurium, from Lat. Tellus

          So, none of them!

          (I was wrong before, as I’d forgotten about Tellus until Filippo posted his question.)

          /@

          1. Darn, I forgot that Freya was associated with Venus.

            I suppose one could supply a tricky answer like
            e) Titanium
            (which was not actually named after the moon Titan)

            or go with a safe answer like
            e) Mars.

  32. For starters, to modify the NSF adult science literacy survey Lawrence Krauss likes to quote (and which approx. 50% of Amuricun adults miss):

    Which answer best describes the Earth’s and sun’s motion relative to one another:

    A. The sun goes around the Earth in 365 days.
    B. The Earth goes around the sun in one year.
    C. The sun goes around the Earth in one year.
    D. The Earth goes around the sun in 365 days.

    (On one of the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” episodes, Bill Nye said, “The Milky Way Galaxy rotates counter-clockwise.” That question invites thoughtful scrutiny. One might as well ask if the Earth is revolving (counter-) clockwise around the sun. Ditto for a yo-yo I’m twirling in a circle between me and a viewer.)

    1. The Earth does indeed revolve counterclockwise around the Sun. This is not a meaningless statement; rather, it says that the motion of the Earth around Sun has the same rotational direction as the Sun’s own rotation. Looking down on the solar system from above the Sun’s north pole (as is conventional for such systems), nearly all the rotary motion we observe, on any scale, is counterclockwise (with a few notable exceptions).

      Of course if you choose to view it from the other side (in defiance of convention), then all those motions would be clockwise. But the fact that they all have the same rotational direction is a fact worth taking note of.

      1. Granted. But Nye just throws it out there as an item to be memorized, true simply and solely because someone said so, without much if any reflective critical thinking.

      2. One might ask if there were a way to establish clockwise/counter-clockwise (or equivalently left and right) without reference to a specific object like the sun or the earth or the galaxy.

        One way to think about that is how to communicate those ideas to an alien intelligence. One early consideration of this problem came from Richard Feynman, starting at about 34 minutes into this talk (the aliens part comes in at minute 40):

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ6o1cDxV7o

        A more comprehensive reflection, including some clever suggestions from readers, begins here:

        http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/degrees-of-freedom/2011/08/28/handedness-galactic-challenge/

  33. Mars has two moons, Deimos and Phobos, but nothing lasts forever. What is the most likely fate for them?

    a) They will both crash into Mars eventually.
    b) Phobos will crash into Mars, Deimos will drift away.
    c) They will both drift away
    d) They will continue to orbit Mars until the sun beomes a red giant and evaporates them.
    e) They will collide with each other.

  34. Which of the following can actually be built?

    a) A Turing Machine
    b) A Foucault Pendulum
    c) A Carnot Engine
    d) Maxwell’s Demon

    1. I like this one.

      Note that even the pendulum can’t actually be built; the (most elegant) approximations we make still need to have energy input or else they’ll stop. Not after first successfully demonstrating the rotation of the Earth, of course, but the perfect actualization of the ideal is every bit as impossible as in the other examples.

      Also, a Brownian-scale Maxwell’s Daemon has been built, if I remember right, in the past few years by researchers in nanotechnology — it’s just that, as Maxwell himself would have told you, the Daemon requires energy input greater than that it extracts from the system.

      …and you’re reading this on a machine that is every bit a Turing Machine up to the limits of its memory, and your car has a Carnot Engine limited by ambient temperature…

      …but that opportunity for discussion is exactly why I like this one.

      b&

      1. Well a true Carnot engine has to run infinitely slowly, or entropy is introduced.

        A true Turing machine has an infinite amount of tape. From the point of view of human sized problems, our computers are Turing-equivalent, but from the standpoint of a theoretician, they are but mere finite state machines.

        1. Yup — and Maxwell’s Daemon can’t actually extract energy, and the pendulum also has its inefficiencies and inexactnesses.

          All four are ideal abstractions that can’t actually exist…and yet real-world approximations of all four are incredibly useful, if not the very foundations of modern civilization itself.

          …but the pendulum, which I’m sure was the original intended answer, is the one with enough looseness in its definition and intended purpose that you can probably get away with claiming that it’s been built…but, again, once you start opening the door for that type of wiggle room, you can apply the same classes of excuses to the others.

          Which, again, is why I like the question!

          I should add: as a pedagogical tool, I think multiple-guess questions are nearly useless as actually used. If I were to find myself at the front of a classroom again, if I decided to use them on a test…it’d be exactly this sort of ambiguous question, and I’d require the students to provide both pro and con arguments for all options. It would both give ample opportunity to the students to demonstrate just how thoroughly they understand the subject…and make it painfully clear when they don’t….

          b&

          1. I appreciate and largely agree with your comments about multiple choice questions.

            In this particular case, I’m not sure I follow your argument about Foucault’s pendulum. In particular I don’t think it requires the pendulum not to wind down or not to have an external power source to keep it from winding down. What it demonstrates is the precession of it’s plane of oscillation as the earth rotates, which is distinct from the amplitude of the oscillations themselves.

            Many museums have objects labeled Foucoult pendulums on display and in operation.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foucault_pendulum

            My understanding is that any imperfections are of the same class of those of other obeservational instruments (e.g., there is no perfect telescope or perfect clock). To me, this puts the other three in a different category. I’d be happy to be correct with a reference to a more definitive source.

            1. Ah, but that’s the beauty of it!

              You can’t build a perfect pendulum, but you can still build an imperfect approximation and use it to demonstrate the motions of the Earth.

              You can’t build a perfect Turing machine, but you can still build an imperfect approximation and use it to compute all sorts of interesting things.

              You can’t build a perfect Carnot engine, but you can still build an imperfect approximation and use it to power your horseless carriage.

              You can’t build a perfect Maxwell’s Daemon, but you can still build an imperfect approximation and use it to separate hot from cold.

              The really interesting question here lies in how much imperfection is permissible for the device to still qualify for “really” being the device in question. Where do you draw that line and how and why?

              That you can, quite legitimately, draw the line in pretty much any direction means you can use the question to probe all sorts of sociological and historical and technical and psychological and other influences.

              b&

              1. We’re pretty far apart here, I’m afraid.

                The importance of the Carnot Engine or the Turing Machine are as theoretical conceptual models, and that’s how they are used. Maxwell’s demon is along similar lines to me, though as some experimentation has been done, I could concede a little ground there.

                A computer is simply not an approximate Turing machine. It’s design is in no way based on Turing’s thought experiment. Conclusions from theoretical computer science can characterize and place limits on what our computers can do, but there are also physical limitations that are irrelevant to Turing machines that must also be considered.

                Foucault’s pendulum (and pendulum’s in general) are devices that can be built and applied to real world measurements and experiments with a high degree of accuracy. To me it’s a different class entirely and there’s a clear gap. I respect that you might feel differently. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

              2. A computer is simply not an approximate Turing machine.

                Actually…that was the whole point of Turing’s Machine. Logically, virtually every computer ever manufactured is exactly equivalent to an infinite number of different Turing machines but with finite (rather than infinite) tapes. That’s the one and only change: the tape length.

                It’s design is in no way based on Turing’s thought experiment. Conclusions from theoretical computer science can characterize and place limits on what our computers can do, but there are also physical limitations that are irrelevant to Turing machines that must also be considered.

                But Turing’s Machine does so much more than that! Indeed, every day I work I make use of the equivalency that Turing established with his Machine. I telecommute. I own a Mac, but I do Windows programming for the job — which means that I run VMware, a computer emulator that wouldn’t be possible without Turing equivalency. And the particular programming I do is very heavy on SQL. Most of the SQL programs I write are with a subset of the language that isn’t actually Turing-complete. That fact throws inexperienced SQL programmers for a loop, so to speak, and frequently causes them to “lean on” the full language set…with very undesirable results.

                Foucault’s pendulum (and pendulum’s in general) are devices that can be built and applied to real world measurements and experiments with a high degree of accuracy.

                If that’s the standard…then computers have pendulums beat…..

                b&

    1. Or alternatively, explain why the number of planets in the solar system is not equal to nine, for any definition of “planet” that doesn’t involve special pleading on Pluto’s behalf.

          1. Pluto? I thought he was one of those Johnny-cum-Lately Roman gods. Are you thinking of Hades?

              1. Huh.

                From a Princeton webpage:

                “Pluto (genitive Plutonis) is the Latinized form of the Greek Ploutōn. Pluto’s Roman equivalent is Dis Pater, whose name is most often taken to mean “Rich Father.” Pluto was also identified with the obscure Roman Orcus, like Hades the name of both a god of the underworld and the underworld itself. The name Pluto is sometimes used for the ruler of the dead in Latin literature, leading some mythology handbooks to assert misleadingly that Pluto was the Roman counterpart of Hades, rather than an adopted Greek name identified with Dis Pater or Orcus.”

              2. I don’t know that anyone completely agrees on that whole pater stuff. Dis pater – man that sounds like Darth Vader….everyone had daddy issues!

  35. What point on the earth’s surface is farthest from the center of the earth

    a) The summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
    b) The summit of K2, China & Pakistan border
    c) The summit of Mt. Everest, Nepal
    d) The summit of Chimborazo, Ecuador
    e) The summit of Mt. Vinson, Antarctica

        1. Argh. I was half asleep in bed reading that comment, and for some reason read it as farthest from the Sun.

          1. No worries. I thought you might have been thinking of the tidal force of the moon (up to 30 cm for the rocky parts of the earth). But that’s not enough to make a difference here.

    1. that begs a further question – which I don’t actually know the answer to – of “What was K1?”
      Yeah, I know trivially that it was the first skyline point chosen for triangulation by the Karakorum survey of 18-whenever … But what was this point on the skyline, and why did they pick it?
      /self, wikis : Oh, it’s Masherbrum, and had a local name, so that’s what got used. But K2 itself, being considerably more in the middle of nowhere had no “local” name, so was stuck with “K2”.
      As Tom Patey once put it, ripping shreds from Lord Byron,

      “Masherbrum, Gasherbrum and Srinagar,
      Are all good training for Dark Lochnagar!”

  36. Maxwell’s equations provide a mathematical model for a large variety of electormagnetic and optical phenomena. Maxwell put the pieces together, but each of the four equations is also associated with a scientist who discovered it. Which of the following is not associated with one of Maxwell’s equations:

    a) Georg Simon Ohm
    b) Michael Faraday
    c) Carl Friedrich Gauss
    d) André-Marie Ampère

    1. Oops, tecnically, that last sentence should read not associated with any of Maxwell’s equations, since Gauss is associated with two of them.

    2. Technically, Maxwell didn’t just put these Gentlemen’s pieces together, but added the crucial ingredient: the mathematical term that lets electrical fields beget magnetic fields, and thus allows for waves in thin air.

  37. The name given to the mechanism by which a star produces heat is:

    A. Fission

    B. Friction

    C. Bloviation

    D. Fusion

    E. Flatuation

    F. Prevarication

      1. Since you’re here…a suggestion was made elsewhere that these questions should be racy. A little birdie tells me you can top any other tries made to date in that arena. Can you rise to the occasion?

        b&

          1. So long as patient confidentiality isn’t compromised, I’m thinking none of the rest of us care about what trouble you personally get yourself into!

            b&

  38. Everyone knows about sea lions and sea horses. But which of these cannot be found in today’s oceans:

    a) Sea pigs
    b) Sea lilies
    c) Sea scorpions
    d) Sea squirts

    1. If anyone claims to not know any sea pigs, then I can introduce them to some real maritime porkers.

  39. How will the earth end:

    1) The sun will become a red giant and engulf it
    2) Some Inca will predict the end
    3) Death by Jesus
    4) Plague of Locusts

        1. Yes, the bitter rivalry between our native locusts and their space cousins will continue to the very end of the earth. 🙂

  40. Mercury poisoning was documented as a health risk in the manufacture of which of these?

    a) Mercury pennies
    b) Felt hats
    c) Vaccines
    d) Dental amalgam for fillings

    1. Sigh. a) should be Mercury dimes. Which are called that due to “winged liberty” profile on them, not the metal content.

  41. Which of these “pods” is NOT a type of animal

    a) Isopod
    b) Pseudopod
    c) Brachiopod
    d) Gastropod

  42. Helium is so light it escapes from the earth’s atmosphere. Fortunately a small amount of helium is continually be generated to replace it. What process does this?

    a) alpha decay of heavy elements
    b) fusion of hydrogen into helium in the earth’s core
    c) Bacterial breakdown of Helium Dioxide in the soil
    d) Helium trapped in meteorites that fall to earth.

  43. Pub quizzes need ribald questions.

    There is an animal with sperm cells that are two inches long (!) The animal is commonly known as a…
    A) blue whale
    B) barnacle
    C) duck
    D) fruit fly

    What animal has the longest penis, relative to its body size?
    A) blue whale
    B) barnacle
    C) duck
    D) fruit fly

    What animal has his junk torn off after mating? A male…
    A) honey bee
    B) honey badger
    C) honey creeper
    D) honey locust

    1. You’re going to have to specify. There are lots of species of ducks, and not all of them have long penises. I suggest Ruddy Duck.

      1. One notes that “penne” (pasta) and “pencil” and penis share the same etymological “root.”

  44. If you are standing at sea level at the North Pole, how much closer to the center of the Earth are you than if you were standing at sea level on the Equator

    A) 2m
    B) 200m
    C) 2,000m
    D) 20,000m
    E) 200,000m

    1. Farnsworth: I’m sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all..
      Fry: Oh. What’s it called now?
      Farnsworth: Urectum. Here, let me locate it for you…

  45. Why is it that when you look into a mirror left and right are apparently reversed, but up and down aren’t?

    1. You want up and down reversed? Put the mirror on the floor and stand on it.

      Doing so, in fact, makes it plain that the reversal is along the axis perpendicular to the mirror.

      So let’s stand the mirror up vertically again and face it with a compass in our hand. If I’m facing north, my reflection is facing south. Again, the reversal is perpendicular to the mirror: front-to-back, not left-to-right.

      It just so happens that due to our bilateral symmetry, a left hand reversed front-to-back looks like a right hand, and vice versa. But if our hands were asymmetrical (like fiddler crabs, for instance), the question of “why do mirrors reverse left and right?” wouldn’t even come up.

      1. This is true, but reversing left and right handeness is a little deeper than you let on. Reflections reverse chirality. That’s why text looks backwards even though it has no real thickeness in the direction perpendicular to the mirror. This is also why analog clocks and watches appear to run backwards in a mirror.

        1. Right, but the point is that identifying chirality with left and right handedness is a cognitive bias due to our symmetrical body plan, not a property of the mirror itself. Chirality is reversed along any axis, not just the left-right axis.

    2. That is a nice puzzle. Richard Dawkins put it thusly, more or less: If you hold a pencil up so its tip is facing to your left, you can see that you can read the writing on it. But looking at this in a mirror presents a puzzle: the mirror reflection of the pencil also has its tip to your left, but the writing on the pencil is left-right mirror reversed!

      The answer is simple, but it can cook your noodle thinking about it.

      1. Sorry, I’m having trouble visualizing a geometry in which it’s simultaneously true that the pencil points to my left with the writing visible, and the pencil’s reflection is also pointing to my left with the writing visible. If the writing is simultaneously visible on both the pencil and its reflection, then it seems to me they must be pointing in opposite directions.

        But let’s try this instead. Let’s use a pen with a transparent plastic barrel, and remove the ink cartridge from it so I can see through it. Now it’s possible to hold the pen in front of me in such a way that both it and its reflection are visible and point in the same direction, and I can see the writing on the reflection, and I can also see through the pen barrel to the writing on the actual pen. But in this configuration, I see both sets of writing reversed.

        This is consistent with my front-to-back argument. The writing I see in the mirror is the same as what I see when looking at the back side of the writing through the pen barrel. But the mirror brings it to the front, and puts the unwritten side of the barrel behind it.

        1. I think you can just rotate the pencil along its long axis to see the writing, then rotate it back to see its reflection in the mirror. All while keeping the point to your left.

          1. OK, but then the reflected writing will be upside-down as well as mirror-reversed. And if I imagine the writing disappearing over the pencil’s horizon as I rotate it, then it will be upside-down and backwards in my mental image as well (just as in the case of the transparent pen barrel).

    3. The explanation I heard was that up and down are interpreted with respect to the earth, but left and right with respect to the observer – an apple and orange sort of comparison. Looking in the mirror, facing north, won’t change the apparent location of the Pacific ocean in that mirror.

  46. Drakes have a corkscrew shaped penis, spiraling counter-clockwise. What shape is a female duck’s vagina?

    A) Counter-clockwise corkscrew
    B) Clockwise corkscrew
    C) Straight
    D) Ducks don’t have vaginas

    (B)

  47. “Pub quizzes need ribald questions.”

    Well, then:

    Which of the following is not a real bird?

    A) Brown Booby
    B) Dickcissel
    C) Cock Robin
    D) Great Tit

    1. They’re all real birds, unless you know of a parthenogenetic robin species. (Technically impossible, given the nature of avian sex chromosomes.)

      1. OK, OK: which of the above is not an IOU-approved common name for a particular species of bird?

        (Pedants!)

        😀

  48. “How many smells can the human nose detect?”

    Being a science related site that question should be asking: “How many odors can the human nose detect?”

    1. well if we’re going to get all pedantic, surely you mean how many odours can the human nose differentiate?

  49. Cut a circular hole in a metal sheet. Heat up the sheet. What happens to the hole?

    A) It gets bigger
    B) It gets smaller
    C) Its size doesn’t change
    D) Its size changes unpredictably

    1. There are some metals, and temperature ranges, for which the answer is not the same as for most other metals.
      And now I’m trying to remember the metal and the ranges.
      Antimony-lead alloy, which is used (well, was used) for casting type in hot metal presses? The negative coefficient of expansion and relatively low melting point help to make the letters sharper.

  50. Which of these phrases is NOT known to be a euphemism for sexual acts anywhere around the world?

    A) around the world
    B) fanny-pack
    C) scat singing
    D) shucking oysters
    E) sine your pitty on da runny kine
    F) working
    G) none of the above

    1. My instinct, knowing you, would be to go with G. At the same time, I’ve never before heard a suggestion that there might be any secondary sexual definitions for scat.

      b&

      1. I imagine “nun of the a-buff” could possibly be sexual, but to my knowledge, “none of the above”, as a phrase, is not codespeak anywhere for anything hanky or panky. If I’m wrong about this though, then that would make this one big fat trick question.

          1. I’m now thinking that the correct answer is to simply state that there is NO word or phrase in existence, in any language, that have not, at some point, been construed to be some sort of sexual innuendo. And that includes the word “innuendo”.

      2. I’ve never before heard a suggestion that there might be any secondary sexual definitions for scat.

        Ben, meet hardsports. Hardsports, meet Ben.

  51. If the entire night sky (the volume of space containing all individual stars visible with the naked eye) was shrunk down to the size of a single pixel on a computer screen, how big would the observable universe be relative to that pixel?

    a) 26 millimetres in diameter
    b) 26 centimetres in diameter
    c) 26 metres in diameter
    d) 2600 metres in diameter
    e) 260000 metres in diameter

    1. Your phrasing is a tad confusing – do you mean the ‘entire night sky’ as visible stars to be the ‘observable universe’, as opposed to the parts of the universe we cannot observe?

    2. That depends very much on what your meaning of “visible with the naked eye” is. If you consider magnitude 5.8 as being visible, then GRB 080319B counts as “visible” (for a few seconds) at around 2.5 gigaparsec. (That’s several thousand times the distance to the Andromeda galaxy, which is definitely naked-eye visible.)

    3. The question is intended to simply ask how much of the observable universe casual observers can see when out for a walk at night, concerning primarily the most numerous objects that dominate the sky – individual stars and solar system objects, not the smudges of galaxies including the Milky Way. It’s admittedly not easy to be both simple and precise.

  52. After a few beers, things get kind of wild…

    What is the largest organ in the human body?

    Name a female mammal with two vaginas.

    What is the velocity of a sneeze?
    A. 10 mph
    B. 50 mph
    C. 100 mph
    D. 500 mph

            1. Depends on how you define “large”. I’m guessing that the total surface area of the circulatory system surpasses that of the skin.

            1. Well, it depends how you measure largest. (My ex-nurse wife says.)

              Many pub quizzes forget the skin, and say “liver”, forgetting that that’s a gland not an organ.

              /@

          1. I’m reminded of hearing (if I correctly recall) in an Anatomy & Physiology class that, somehow technically, in some sense, the digestive tract is not part of the human body per se . . . or words to that effect . . . or kinda-sorta . . . or if you see what Ahm gittin’ at . . . . Which is to say, what if we could photosynthesize like plants?

            1. what if we could photosynthesize like plants?

              We have nowhere near enough surface area to support a lifestyle as active as what we enjoy. Indeed, photosynthesis provides just about enough energy to sit around all day and be a plant.

              If you eat lots of plants and absorb the solar energy they spend the whole day collecting, then you have enough energy to be a grazing herbivore. And if you eat herbivores, you have enough energy to be a carnivore.

              Or, the reason why activity levels increase with trophic levels has everything to do with thermodynamics….

              Cheers,

              b&

              1. While I agree that’s a good reason there aren’t many plants walking around, I’m not sure it follows that carnivores are more active than their prey.

                Many ambush predators, like crocodiles or leopards, would seem to me to be less active than their typical prey animals. Even lions seem less active than gazelles, for example.

                On the flip side, our ape relatives are probably at about the same activity level as we are, but eat a mostly vegetarian diet. (We have bigger brains, but they have more muscle mass).

                My point is, I don’t think trophic level and activity level correlate that much for consumer organisms. As always, I would be happy to be corrected with a reputable reference.

  53. Which of these has the smallest genome?

    a)Wheat

    b)An onion

    c)A lungfish

    d)A salamander

    e)Deepak Chopra

  54. Science questions? There’s so much to choose from. Going through the things on my desk … Name the process of agitating sand and gravel from a stream bed, in order to extract gold dust.
    What’s this ? (For one of belemnite fossils, a rather battered Nautilus shell, 1N4008 diodes, a scute from a turtle of some sort, a sea urchin test, and several agnathan fish fossils.)
    It’s a computer mouse. Year of invention (+/-2)?
    This is an AA rechargeable cell ; what is it’s main metal component?
    This is an AA non-rechargeable cell of the cheap and nasty variety ; what is it’s main metal component?

  55. Which one of these is *not* the name of an elementary particle?

    a) strange
    b) truth
    c) beauty
    d) nice
    e) charm

      1. Truth and beauty were proposed alternatives for top and bottom respectively (I guess they picked the initial letters first?) . I like them better, though I can see that they are harder words for non-English speakers. AFAIK top and bottom are now the standard.

        1. I have seen “truth” and “beauty” used regularly by colleagues in the experiments. You can write the same quiz with “top” and “bottom”, but then, I would choose a different fake name.

          1. If there are folks still using truth and beauty that’s fine. (In fact, yay!) I haven’t seen them in news and publications the press in a while, but I don’t work in the field.

          2. Sorry! They were truth and beauty in my day (30ya), but this seems to have fallen out of f(l)avour.

            Wp: “In the past, bottom and top quarks were sometimes referred to as “beauty” and “truth” respectively, but these names have somewhat fallen out of use.[50] While “truth” never did catch on, accelerator complexes devoted to massive production of bottom quarks are sometimes called “beauty factories”.[51]”

            /@

    1. The version for nitpicks, less poetically inclined:

      Which one of these is *not* the name of an elementary particle?

      a) strange
      b) top
      c) bottom
      d) mean
      e) charm

  56. True or false, a helium airship needs approximately twice the volume of a a hydrogen airship to lift the same weight?

    1. The important factor for lift is the density difference of the gas used compared to air, not the relative density. From that perspective, both hydrogen and helium are pretty much the same in this application.

    2. “True or false, a helium airship needs approximately twice the volume of a a hydrogen airship to lift the same weight?”

      If true, just curious – just how much less, and how much more, than twice the exact volume of a given hydrogen airship qualifies as “approximately” twice? >1.5 times the volume? < 2.5 times the volume?

  57. Britain’s two greatest scientists (Newton and Darwin) had their heads put on British bank notes. What fate befell the head of France’s greatest scientist (Antoine Lavoisier).

    1. Only one American scientist has made it onto US currency, and that’s mostly by accident.

      Personally, I think Andrew Jackson needs to be evicted from the $20. I can think of dozens of candidates to replace him, doesn’t need to be a scientist, even, just please, no more generals, Presidents or (shudder) Secretaries of the Treasury.

  58. Various one-offs (answers below):

    1) What did Dalton think were the proportions of hydrogen and oxygen in water?

    2) Which one of the following did not postulate evolution by natural selection? Darwin, Wallace, Newton, Empedocles.

    3) Lavoisier pays tribute to which philosopher as the motivation for him cleaning up chemical nomenclature?

    4) Descartes considered what field to be the most useful “technology” (i.e., ideally science based craft)?

    5) At the end of his life, what did Mendeleev think was the lightest element?

    6) What language did Mendeleev use to help name the heretofore undiscovered elements he is (partially) famous for?

    7) Faraday was a member of which religious denomination?

    — spoiler —

    1) 1:1
    2) Newton
    3) Condillac
    4) Medicine
    5) He claimed the lightest element had yet to be discovered. (And was wrong, as it happens.)
    6) Sanskrit
    7) He was a Sandemanian

  59. Which of these scientists died in the same year Einstein was born?

    a) Clerk Maxwell
    b) Pasteur
    c) Helmholtz
    d) Darwin

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