Can You Pass This General Science Quiz 2?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Jon Feingersh Photography Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Science: Even if a lot of us didn't make it our career, we still have fond memories of those classes from school, where we learned amazing things about the universe, from the tiny atom to the enormous supernova. But how much do you remember from those days? And have you kept up with what's changed? We'll give you an example: The older quiz-taker might think that the taxonomic scale, in biology, starts with "kingdom." However, since that time biologists have added "domain" at the top of the scale, which encompasses "eukaryota," "bacteria" and "archaea." 

Don't worry, though: Much more has stayed the same than has been rewritten. For example, the speed of light hasn't changed (300,000 kilometers per second), and neither has the force that gravity exerts on a falling object (9.8 meters per second, squared). As long as you rack your brain, you should be able to come up with a lot of correct answers to our questions. Our quiz includes subjects like the stars and planets, on the forces of physics, cells and genes, and types of rock. You might find the questions easy to start with, but don't worry, they'll get harder as you go along. 

Whichever your favorite science class was, you're likely to find something to challenge you in this quiz!

The very first element on the periodic table is which of these?

Hydrogen has the atomic number 1, and its symbol is simply "H." It's earned its place at the top of the heap: Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and an essential part of both water, the stars and carbohydrates.

One of these astronomical bodies has a "corona." Which is it?

"Corona" comes from the Latin word for "crown," and describes the gorgeous flare-like ring around the outer edge of our sun. A total eclipse, though rare, is the best time to see the sun's corona (don't forget, you still need proper eye protection).

"Cirrus" is a classification of which of these?

Cirrus clouds are the highest ones, as measured from their base. Because of their high altitude, they are made of ice crystals, which make lovely, spiny structures, not like the opaque formations seen inside ice cubes.

Which is larger, a biome or a habitat?

Think of a "biome" as a biological region, a large area with certain characteristics that make it nurturing to many types of flora and fauna. A "habitat" is smaller and more specific to one species; a biome will encompass many individual habitats.

"Au" is the symbol on the periodic table for ... ?

This abbreviation reflects the Latin name for gold, "aureus." Fun fact: When the conservative politican Barry Goldwater ran for president, his backers made signs reading "AU-H20" to show their support.

What is the name for the forest biome that covers much of the upper Northern Hemisphere?

Much of Russia and Canada are encompassed by this second-largest of Earth's biomes. Also included are Scandinavia and some of Japan. The taiga is marked by large evergreen forests, with many of the trees pines and spruces.

Which of these is NOT a part of the earth's basic structure?

Geologists essentially divide the earth into core, mantle and crust. The ionosphere is part of the earth's atmosphere, as the name implies. It encompasses the area between 37 and 600 miles above sea level.

What does the Beaufort scale measure?

This can be a little confusing, as wind speed is simply measured in knots. But the Beaufort scale is observational, rating the force of winds in relation to their effect on bodies of water, from "calm" to "hurricane force." You'll never hear the Beaufort scale used to describe winds over the land, just seas and oceans.

Where would you find the Cassini division?

The Cassini division is a dark gap in the rings of Saturn. Astronomers have learned that there isn't a total absence of material there, but rather some ring material which doesn't reflect light all that well. Fun fact: Oleg Cassini, the designer who dressed first lady Jackie Kennedy, was a descendant of astronomer Giovanni Cassini.

The "Leporidae" family includes which of these animals?

This family includes both rabbits and hares. As people who have bred rabbits know, this family is very fertile, often having several litters a year if the circumstances (mostly proximity of males and females) allow it.

The time it takes for a substance to reduce to half its value is called its what?

We're not talking about simple evaporation here. This term is often used in relation to radioactive elements which undergo decay, or medications, which are gradually halved in potency in the body, then break down to nothing.

An "astronomical unit" is 93 million miles. This is also equal to ...

This distance has been adopted by astronomers to measure distances between near-earth bodies, like other planets in the solar system. It isn't really used in measurements beyond the solar system, as it'd be much too small. Light-years are used instead.

What was Carl Linnaeus's main gift to the world?

Linnaeus created the two-name, or "genus-and-species," way of identifying biological organisms. He was a Renaissance man with interests in several academic fields, but taxonomy is the one for which the world remembers him.

The fourth state of matter is called what?

Plasma is an extremely energy-intensive state of matter, not found all that often on the earth. Lightning bolts, however, are an example. Also, the interior of the sun is mostly plasma.

Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic are forms of what?

This is one of the first things you learn in geology or earth science, the three classifications of rock. Igneous is formed from hot magma, sedimentary from compressed layers of soil or broken-down rocks, and metamorphic is made from other rocks under extreme heat or pressure. This is known as the "rock cycle," with rocks changing from one type to the other.

Phobos and Deimos are the moons of which planet?

The planet Mars is named for the classical god of war; you probably knew that. So it's fitting that its moons are named "fear" and "panic" (from the Greek), things which follow in the wake of war.

Which branch of science explains time travel?

We know it makes for some fantastic movies and TV, but no branch of science accepts that humans will be able to move back and forth in time. Although time may exist "all at once," humans are made of matter, therefore a part of the fabric of spacetime — and thus trapped in our particular part of the tapestry.

Which element is simply represented on the periodic table by the letter K?

Potassium gets its symbol from its late-Latin name, "kalium." Potassium is essential to the human diet. While sodium moves water into cells, potassium moves it out again, so both are essential to a correct balance.

Which of these sciences is considered the study of all life forms?

"Animal science" is too narrow a field to cover all life forms. Animals are just one of five kingdoms into which all life on earth is divided; kingdoms being the largest grouping in biological taxonomy.

In biology, what is considered to be the basic unit of life?

Bacteria are unicellular, of course, but they're only a small fraction of living things on earth. But all living organisms have cells, and it's this that biologists consider to be the essential building block of life.

The term for a healthy "steady state" of being is called ...

Sound boring? Nope, this is the state that you *want* your body to be in. A viral infection, like a cold or the flu, knocks your body out of homeostasis, as the viruses and your immune system fight a kind of war. Fortunately, homeostasis is usually restored within a few days, unless the patient is very young, very old or immunosuppressed.

Ornithology is the study of which creatures?

An ornithologist is someone who studies birds. Fun fact: Birds are the closest descendants of the few surviving dinosaurs that we have. (Also, in case you were wondering, the study of fish is "ichthyology," spiders are "arachnology," and mammals are simply "mammalogy.")

What is photosynthesis?

If you chose the second option, it is true that plants grow toward a light source, and this is called "phototropism." However, a much more important process in biology is photosynthesis. It allows plants to, well, live and to nourish many animal species that feed on them.

True or false: Some plants are able to reproduce without flowers (in nature, that is, without human intervention).

Angiosperms are flowering plants, and you probably spent a good bit of time in school learning about how they reproduce using flowers with pistils and stamens. However, gymnosperms (often evergreen trees) use cones to spread their seeds, and ferns just have spores.

What does an invertebrate not have?

If you chose "chlorophyll," you might have been thinking that the "verte" part was related to "verde," meaning "green" in the Latin languages. Sorry, it was a fake-out. Invertebrates don't have spines; it's a group that includes spiders, insects and crustaceans.

"Class" belongs where on the taxonomic scale?

"Class" is about midway on the taxonomic scale. In full, it goes "Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species." There are a variety of mnemonic devices you can use to memorize this; look it up online and pick the one that suits you.

"DNA" stands for deoxyribonucleic ____.

DNA is the molecules that make up genes. As such, we think of it mostly as being responsible for passing traits from parents to children. However, DNA remains important throughout a person's lifetime -- it is the blueprint for how each individual cell should function.

Which of these has the greatest genetic diversity in the animal kingdom?

This didn't happen by accident, of course. Dogs were bred by humans to exaggerate certain valued characteristics, and over about 7,000 years of this, became highly genetically diverse animals. If humans had the same disparity in, say, height, some of us would be two feet tall, while other ethnicities would grow to about seven feet tall.

True or false: Only animals have vascular tissue.

About 90 percent of plants have vascular tissue, meaning vessels that carry water and nutrients to their outer extremities. Early plants did not have these veins, and therefore could not grow very tall -- there was no way for the plant to feed growing tissues far from its roots and stem.

Of the three domains of biological organisms, which one thrives in inhospitable conditions?

Archaea are single-celled organisms, and a recent addition to the biological hierarchy. They thrive in places that other single-celled life forms can't, including acidic and salty environments, and in temperatures over 100 Celsius.

What is magma called when it breaks through the earth's surface?

Magma and lava are essentially the same thing. You're probably a bit more familiar with the term "lava," as it can be seen on guided tours of volcanically active sites. Or, maybe, it's just what you called the stuff that oozed out of your science-project "volcano" in junior high.

The hardest mineral on earth is ...

Of course, it's the beautiful diamond. However, here's a interesting fact: Diamonds weren't chosen as the symbol of engagement because they were beautiful, nor are they rare. They were chosen for their durability, as they didn't scratch despite being worn daily. Not very romantic, eh?

If a doctor plans to specialize in pulmonology, what will he or she treat?

If you know Spanish, you had a head start on this question, as "pulmon" is the Spanish word for "lung." A pulmonologist specializes in these essential organs and in disorders that affect the breathing.

"Selenology" is the geology of ...

You probably didn't study much selenology in school, but that's the name for the geological study of the moon. With the moon landings and the samples the astronauts brought back, selenology made a "giant leap" forward (to use Armstrong's phrase).

"Passerines" make up about two-thirds of what kind of animal?

A passerine is a perching bird, with two toes facing forward and one backward, which allows it to cling to tree branches. Most birds that are not passerines are aquatic birds, which have webbed feet that help them swim, but do not allow perching in trees.

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