Can We Tell If You’d Pass Bill Nye’s Science Class Based on These Questions?

Torrance Grey

Image: Wiki Commons by Raphael Perrino

About This Quiz

SCIENCE RULES! Bill Nye is perhaps the most recognizable face of science in the world, the legitimate heir to the late Carl Sagan. He's brought science to the masses in quirky, entertaining shows that are just as educational as they are fun.

Nye started his career as a mechanical engineer at Boeing. For those who say "He's not a real scientist!" we'd like to point out that engineering is the boots-on-the-ground, working wing of science. At any rate, Nye left Boeing when he began to have some success at comedy, pitching "Bill Nye the Science Guy" to Seattle's public TV station. Soon, the show was watched and loved nationwide, and Nye's career as a science educator, or "popularizer," was born.

Maybe you grew up watching this PBS favorite. Or maybe you sneaked in some viewing time despite being a full-fledged adult (no shame!). But did you retain enough that you'd pass a class taught by Nye himself? We've concocted a quiz in the vein of the beloved show, full of basic-but-never-boring scientific facts. Try your luck now: Whether you ace the quiz or not, you'll learn something and that's what Nye's career has been all about! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!

"Photosynthesis" refers to the way plants make food out of _____.

It's true that some plants are able to eat insects ... but those are a rare few! In biology, you'll study the much more common process of photosynthesis, or making food from sunlight. Solar energy: even plants use it!

How many moons does Mars have?

Mars' moons are named "Phobos" and "Deimos," meaning "fear" and "dread," two things which inevitably accompany war. They were discovered by Asaph Hall in the late 19th century ... the year 1877, to be exact.

What is the opposite of "flora"?

"Flora" is plant life and "fauna" is animal life: Think of "flowers" and "fawns" and you'll keep them straight. These two terms are generally used in relation to an ecoregion or biome. You wouldn't refer to all members of the animal kingdom as "fauna" in a biology class, for example.

What does a negative magnitude (e.g., -1) say about a star?

This confuses a lot of people studying astronomy for the first time. The lower the number in magnitude, the brighter the astronomic object is. Sirius, the brightest star visible from Earth, has a magnitude of -1.47. Most stars have a positive integer, and the higher that number is, the dimmer they are.

The scientific names for organisms come from which two taxonomic groups?

Scientific names are always two words, from the final two classifications in Linnaean taxonomy: the genus and species. They're also always in Latin, even if it's kind of a faux Latin, like "rattus rattus," the scientific name for the common rat. "A" for effort there, biologists!

In scientific equations, what does the letter "c" usually stand for?

This answer reflects how important the speed of light, or 186,000 meters per second, is to astronomy and physics. It's used as a constant in many equations. In some cases, you'll see the letter "k" stand in for "constant," because of the spelling "konstant" in German.

93 million miles is also known in astronomy as what?

The distance between our planet and the sun is 93 million miles. That figure was chosen to be a universal "measuring stick," simply because of its accessibility to astronomers. It is commonly abbreviated as "AU."

The velocity needed for a spacecraft to leave Earth (or another planet) is called what?

Earth's escape velocity is about 11 kilometers per second, or 25,000 miles per hour. That's the figure that most rocket scientists have to keep in mind. Escape velocity from Mars would be far less, as Mars is the second-smallest planet in the Solar System.

What feature of the universe is named for Giovanni Cassini?

The Italian astronomer is the namesake of the Cassini division, the break between the inner and outer rings of Saturn. There was also a spacecraft named Cassini, which was the first to orbit the great, gaseous planet. Need to Know Dept: Cassini's son Jacques also became an astronomer; a meteor is named for him.

For which of these is there no Nobel Prize?

There are five Nobel Prizes: Chemistry, Literature, Medicine (or Physiology), Peace and Physics. Fun fact: Alfred Nobel invented and patented dynamite. After realizing that his obituary would be mostly about that destructive creation, often used in war, Nobel decided to fund a series of prizes for instructive, useful human achievements.

True or false: All cells have a nucleus.

Only eukaryotic cells have a nucleus; eukaryotic organisms are the more advanced life forms, like plants and animals. The prokaryotes have no nucleus in their cells. These are the single-celled organisms in the bacteria and archea kingdoms.

Deoxyribonucleic acid is better known as what?

DNA is a term that has gone platinum since the 1980s, when Kary Mullis developed the PCR-STR test for DNA that made legal DNA testing, and shows like "CSI," possible. There is also such a thing as RNA. It's ribonucleic acid, which is simpler in structure but essential to gene regulation and expression.

What shape does DNA take?

A double helix is most frequently described as a "twisted ladder." The story goes that Francis Crick, who had been puzzling over the mystery of DNA's structure, had a breakthrough while on acid (no, not the deoxyribonucleic kind) and visualized the double helix, which he described to his wife, who then drew it for him.

Which part of the body has two atria and two ventricles?

The human heart is divided into four chambers. The upper chambers are called "atria," (singular "atrium") and the lower ones "ventricles." The human stomach, in contrast, is essentially one unit. Otherwise, we'd be like cows, which have an amazing four stomachs!

What is "selenology"?

If you got this one, you might have known going in that Selene was the Greek demi-goddess of the literal, physical moon, as opposed to the goddess of the moon, who was Artemis. From this, we get our name for the study of the moon's geological make-up.

What is the difference between "magma" and "lava"?

When magma erupts through the Earth's surface, we call it lava. When it cools and solidifies, it becomes igneous rock, one of the three types of rock. If you thought that either lava or magma was edible ... well, stay in school, sweetie.

Which of the following statements is true?

The atom is the basic building block of matter, despite the discovery in years of sub-atomic particles. Molecules are made up of more than one atom, sometimes all of the same element, but more often of two or more elements. Water is probably the best known: Two hydrogen atoms plus one oxygen atom is a water molecule.

What is an "ion?"

Ions can have a positive or negative electrical charge. The former is called a "cation," while the latter is an "anion." Pro tip: If you are being sold a product that claims to use "negative ions" or "ionization," be wary. Like "quantum," these words have real meaning, but are often misused for marketing purposes.

What is the universal solvent?

If you said "hydrogen," you were close; it's two parts hydrogen! "The universal solvent" is simply a fancy name for water, because so many things will be diluted or dissolve in it. Not all things: oils are a famous example of something that resists water's solvent quality.

A box or shield that blocks out electromagnetic radiation is called a/an .. ?

This useful object is named for its inventor, Michael Faraday. Faraday is an example of a scientist who almost wasn't: born working-class, it was difficult for him to be accepted into the scientific societies of early 19th-century England. Nonetheless, he went on to do important work on magnetism, and to invent an early version of the Bunsen burner.

Lithified rock that usually lies a little way beneath the Earth's surface is called what?

We're sorry if you were tricked by "mantle." The Earth's mantle does lie beneath the crust ... but it's more than five kilometers beneath the crust; in some places, more than 40 miles. Bedrock is much closer to the surface. It lies just below the dirt, dust and scattered rocks that we generally call "soil."

What is the opposite of a conductive material?

If you think of "insulation" as something protective, you've got the right idea, even if you don't know much about electricity. Electrical wires, for example, are insulated by a rubber coating. To clarify: Something conductive easily lets electrons flow through it, while an insulator resists electric current.

When we refer to a good or a bad conductor, are we only talking about electricity?

Though it's rarer, some devices like fuel cells rely on a flow of protons, not electrons. Then there's heat, of course. It, too, is conducted. Water is an excellent conductor of heat, as are many metals. That's why you can stick your hand into the air in a 350-degree oven comfortably, unless you touch the metal rack, but you can't put your hand in even 212-degree water (boiling point at sea level).

The basic building block of life is the ... ?

Cells are considered the essential unit of life, despite containing smaller parts inside them (i.e., organelles). Atoms and molecules are units from chemistry and physics. They are basic units of matter, but not necessarily living matter.

Twenty percent of the oxygen in your body goes to which organ?

The brain is the Las Vegas strip of the human body. It demands a lot of energy. Not only does it require 20 percent of the oxygen you take in, but it's also a greedy consumer of glucose (blood sugar). On average, it demands nearly 25 percent of the blood sugar you'll take in through your diet.

You'd hear the word "clade" in a discussion of what?

Taxonomy is the practice of grouping and identifying living things. Cladistics has revolutionized taxonomy in the past few decades. It's a way of grouping things together which have a common evolutionary ancestor. A "clade" is one such evolutionary family tree.

Where would you find the Mare Tranquillitatis?

In English, this is the "Sea of Tranquility." The smooth, dark plains of basalt on the moon are all called "maria," or "seas" in Latin. This large one is easily visible with binoculars, and it is where the lunar module Eagle landed with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board.

What is the opposite of "alkaline"?

The Ph scale runs from 0 (pure acid) to 14 (pure alkaline). Water has a Ph of 7 and is thus considered "neutral." Pro tip: The fad for "alkaline diets" is just that, a fad. It seems to be based on the idea that if acidity is harsh and damaging, then alkalinity must be mild and benign. Not so: liquid drain opener is pure alkaline, and it's highly corrosive. So are the interiors of alkaline batteries.

What is the name of the seventh planet in our Solar System?

The order of the planets goes Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Poor Pluto, discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, has been downgraded to a dwarf planet and no longer clocks in at #9.

What does the Beaufort Scale measure?

Of course, winds can be measured simply in terms of miles or kilometers per hour. The Beaufort Scale is different; it's a relative measure of wind speed to conditions at sea. It's important in the science of meteorology.

An "angiosperm" is best defined as what?

In Linnaean taxonomy, the angiosperms are the family (below order, above genus) of plants which reproduce via flowers ... which, while very pretty, are essentially reproductive structures. The opposite is gymnosperms, non-flowering plants, which include conifers and ferns.

In what part of the body would you find bones called the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup?

The ear has bones? It's true! These three small bones are found in the inner ear, though they all have practical names that make them sound like something that belongs in a medieval workshop, not the human body.

Which of these physicists made an important breakthrough in time travel?

We hear you objecting: "But quantum physics says that time exists all at once! And the universe is made of spacetime, so why can't we travel back and forth in time as well as space?" The short answer: Because we're made of atoms. We're "woven into" the fabric of spacetime in our particular spot. So while time travel makes for great fiction, no one's actually building a time machine.

About how much blood is there in the human body?

In metric terms, which are preferred in most scientific contexts, this is 5.7 liters. In an average blood donation, you will give about 470 milliliters of blood, or less than one-eighth of your total volume, which your body replaces in two days. If this sounds fine to you, consider scheduling a blood donation with your local Red Cross.

An activist asks you to sign a petition to get dihydrogen monoxide out of the water supply. Should you sign it?

Dihydrogen monoxide is water. Believe it or not, skepticism advocates (people who believe in logic and critical thinking) have actually taken such petitions to health fairs and expos and gotten people to sign them. One famous, red-faced victim was an Australian minister of parliament.

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