2011 Science Quiz: The Answers!


There’s only one thing more exciting than science, and that’s a science quiz! We’ll announce the winners in this year’s LWON Science Quiz in just a moment — remember, it was one prize for the best additional question submitted, and one for a random drawing from all the 100% correct answers. But first, a big thank you to all the many participants! The results were very interesting: almost all entrants scored 7, 8 or 9 correct answers, but only one entrant got all 10 answers correct.¹ We suspect this person is either  a genius, or somehow managed to hack into the LWON Science Questions Database. Either instance is worthy of a prize, and all entrants are to be celebrated. And with no further ado, here are the correct answers:

1. Scientists sparred over a claim that what was incorporated into DNA?

(a) petrochemicals released from burning oil in the Deep Horizon oil spill

(b) arsenic from a lake in eastern California

(c) radioactive isotopes released from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

(d) the new “Jersey Shore” inspired fragrance JWOWW

2. Italian scientists were put on trial for what?

(a) failing to predict an earthquake

(b) transfusing patients with blood from donors infected with HIV

(c) improperly disposing of radioactive isotopes left over from lab experiments

(d) improperly estimating the country’s lost productivity due to taxpayer-funded hair transplants, plastic surgery and Viagra pills for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

3. Who trapped antihydrogen atoms in a feat of physics?

(a) An international team led by Stephen Hawking

(b) Tom’s brother

(c) 2011 Nobel Prize laureates Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, Adam G. Riess

(d) LWON contributor Richard Panek

[It’s true! Not alone of course, but Team ALPHA rules. See red circle for proof. Tom hasn’t really understood anything his brother has done since the early 1990s. Google “birth order + IQ” for insight into the sibling achievement gap.]

4. What ended its 30-year career?

(a) the international fusion project ITER

(b) the world’s oldest DNA sequencer

(c) NASA’s Space Shuttle

(d)  Donald Trump’s original toupee

5. Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Obama administration official Steven Chu came under fire during a scandal over what?

(a) conflicts of interest among Energy Department-funded researchers

(b) a loan guarantee to a renewable energy company

(c) illegal delays in development of a Nevada nuclear waste disposal site

(d)  using taxpayer funds to purchase out-of-print first editions of Far Side comic books

6. The first company to begin clinical trials of what announced that it was quitting the field?

(a) human embryonic stem cells

(b) next-generation gene therapy

(c) cancer vaccines

(d) “StarzPower” designer lip-plumping injections harvested from celebrity liposuctions

7. This U.S. agency contributed to Presidential hopeful Rick Perry’s undoing when the Texas governor appeared to forget that it was one of three agencies he wanted to eliminate in a televised debate.

(a) Institute of Peace

(b) Environmental Protection Agency

(c) Department of Energy

(d) National Endowment for Science Fairs

8. Scientists found evidence for the largest what ever discovered?

(a) black hole

(b) underwater vent

(c) marine virus

(d) “Occupy”-inspired drum circle

[This was the other trouble spot for many, along with #3–the giant marine virus discovery was in 2010, not 2011. How could anyone not have known that?!?]

9. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first new drugs in thirteen years for which disease?

(a) Parkinson’s disease

(b) hepatitis

(c)  melanoma skin cancer

(d)  Galifianakis syndrome

10. California regulators approved the United States’ largest what?

(a)  high-speed rail system

(b) cap-and-trade climate change regulation program

(c)   campaign to counter anti-vaccination programs

(d)  hippie parade

[One contestant pointed out a California bias in the quiz. But really, hippies can march anywhere.]

You coulda won a t-shirt with this on it--and maybe even an explanation!
And the winners are:

1. For correctly answering all 10 questions, the mysterious “Ben.” (Ben, who is not Tom’s brother, sent in his answers identified just by an email address. Tom almost wrote it out here, before realizing that would be a lousy way to treat a reclusive prizewinner.) Still, Ben gets to chose between a decoy coffee cup, which looks just like a disposable but is actually quite permanent porcelain, or a “Bad Monkey” t-shirt. The logo is pretty self explanatory, but it may help to know that it’s linked to Tom’s book about the biological and cultural evolution of warfare. And that you really have been a very bad monkey indeed. Available in many sizes, and several colours including grey, olive drab and lilac (ladies cut).

2. This one was tough! There were three excellent sets of questions, but ultimately we had to go with “Gydle.” Mostly because @Gydle managed to write four answers without referencing male genitalia or penetration–after coming up with 10 sets of answers ourselves, we know how hard that can be! @Gydle also gets her choice of a totally awesome Bad Monkey t-shirt, or an nearly-as-nifty faux-disposable coffee cup.

Thanks again to everyone who participated! Let us know in the comments if you feel like you were robbed. We might be able to rustle up a few more t-shirts at a quite reasonable price.

-Tom and Erika (Hi Hannah–the signer is for you!)


¹ Except @Ed Yong. “Monkeys” is indeed an acceptable answer to any science question.

Images Top: A 1940s-era exam at Tufts University. Probably involving at least a little science. Middle: A subsection of the ALPHA collaboration, photo courtesy of Simon Fraser University. Bottom: The “bad monkey” t-shirt design by Jon Adams. Several sizes and a couple of colours available for sale–have you been a bad monkey?

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7 thoughts on “2011 Science Quiz: The Answers!

  1. Who knew Tom had a brilliant brother? And who’s going to chip in and buy Erin Wayman a bad-monkey t-shirt? Me, for one.

  2. @Doug, science quizzes are like figure skating–it all depends on the judge. Believe me, LWON back channel communications indicate that with a slightly different judging panel, you would have walked away with all the glory!

    @Ann, has Erin Wayman been a bad monkey?

  3. nice job, erika and tom.

    there was a public relations guy named jim sweet at the university of chicago several eons ago (oh, all right, it was only several decades) who claimed that you could get any science story into the lay press if you somehow worked a monkey into it.

  4. OMG!! I won!! I’ve been AFK and just now checked. This totally made my year. Thanks!

    By the way, I have a huge amount of admiration for you for the questions you came up with. It is indeed not an easy task, and I only made up one!

  5. Hey Lastwordonnothing,
    Interesting Post, 1. The red giant is 1.5 times the mass of the sun.
    2. The white dwarf is the fifth stage in the cycle and is also 1.5 times the mass of the sun.
    3. The blue giant is the second stage in the cycle; the blue giant can be 1.5 to 3 times the mass of the sun.
    My quiz answers:
    1. Are stars made mostly of solids, liquids, or gases? – Gases

    2. What is the name of the reaction that occurs in the core of a star that makes star hot and luminescent?-nuclear fusion

    3. Stars primarily burn what element as fuel?-hydrogen into helium
    4. What is the name of a system in which two stars orbit one another?-double star system
    5. What is the name of the galaxy in which our Solar System is located?-Milky Way
    6. Which star is closest to the Earth?-sun
    7. Which starts live longer, giant stars or smaller stars?-smaller stars
    8. Stars twinkle when we see them because their light is distorted by the Earth’s-atmosphere
    9. What is the name of a groups of up to about 1,000 stars?-globular cluster
    10. Do stars ever turn into black holes?-yes

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