Previous: How Tall Can Mountains Get?
Next: Symbioses Are Way More Complex Than You Think!



View count:70,254
Last sync:2022-11-20 12:45
SciShow script writer and D&D enthusiast Alexa Billow goes head to head against Hank in his 50th Quiz Show appearance! Who will win in the battle of Wombat Butts and Quantum Mechanics?

SciShow is supported by Go to to get 20% off of an annual Premium subscription.

Hosted by: Michael Aranda

SciShow has a spinoff podcast! It's called SciShow Tangents. Check it out at
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Huge thanks go to the following Patreon supporters for helping us keep SciShow free for everyone forever:

Avi Yashchin, Adam Brainard, Greg, Alex Hackman, Sam Lutfi, D.A. Noe, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, Charles Southerland, Patrick D. Ashmore, charles george, Kevin Bealer, Chris Peters
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Animal noises:

Convergent evolution:

Supercooled water:

Quantum mechanics:

Image Sources:,_M,_Head,_N.A_2013-04-19-14.28.22_ZS_PMax_(8667378432).jpg

 (00:00) to (02:00)

Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode of SciShow Quiz Show.  Go to to learn more.


Michael: Ladies, gentlemen, and friends beyond the binary, welcome to SciShow Quiz Show, the only quiz show where I can't fit into my sport coat anymore.  I'm your host, Michael Aranda, and on my left, we have Hank Green, who's officially competing in his 50th Quiz Show.

Hank: Whoa!  Do you know, has anyone kept records of how well I've done, 'cause I feel like not great.

M: In this corner, we have Alexa Billow, one of our script editors.  If you ever find a reference to D&D or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in one of our episodes, it was probably Alexa.

H: Thanks for that.

M: Today our contestants will be fighting to win some awesome prizes, not for themselves, but for two of our Patreon Patrons.  Hank, you're competing for Dennis Dray.

H: Hello, Dennis.

M: Alexa, you're playing for Therese Larsson.

A: Hi, Therese.

M: Stefan, show our contestants what they can go home with today.

Stefan: It's the prize zone, welcome to the prize zone, yeah!  Hi, and welcome to the prize zone.  Therese and Dennis, we're about to find out which of you is the best based on the random answers of our contestants.  Now, both of you will be taking home autographed cards from the final round today and you'll also both be getting an artisanal hand-pressed pin and if your contestant walks away with the most green, you'll be taking home the 'I Won SciShow Quiz Show' pin but if your contestant manages to walk away with the least number of unmarked SciShow currency, well, you will be crowned the Ultimate Champion of Losing with the 'I Lost SciShow Quiz Show' pin.  Good luck to you both and gooooo, wombats!

M: Alright.  Each of you start with 1,000 points.  If you answer a question correctly, that number will go up.  If you answer incorrectly, it will go down.  In true SciShow Quiz Show fashion, our first category is about strange animals, because honestly, there really is no shortage of them and they're hilarious.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

H: So good.

M: Wombats are famous for their cube-shaped poops, but they also have another special butt-related adaptation.

H: Of course they do.

M: So why else are their big, fluffy buts so useful?  Is it because they can blend in perfectly with the landscape--

H: Their butts can?

M: --they can be used to smash the skulls of predators--

H: Their butts can?

M: --they excrete a pheromone that attracts prey, or they excrete a substance that we use in vanilla flavoring?

H: Oh, well, mm, see, I know--I've heard some of those facts about other animals, but I'm gonna say that they can secrete a chemical that attracts--wait, wombats?  

M: Mm-hmm.

H: Do--are--do wombats eat animals?  Are they carnivorous?  C.  They excrete a substance that attracts prey.  I got it wrong, you guys.

M: That's incorrect.

H: Frick.

A: Do I get to guess?

H: You have to.

M: You do.

A: Can I guess--do I have to push the button first?

H: Yes.

A: Okay.  B.  

H: B.

M: That is correct.

H: They hit people with their butts?

A: I had not heard that, but I had thought that they could, like, use their butts as like a barrier when they go into their burrows 'cause they're super hard. 

H: Right.  Do they have hard butts?

O: You might not be able to tell just from looking at them, but Alexa is right.  Wombat butts are hard.  They're made of four separate bony plates and are covered in layers of fat, skin, and cartilage.  That makes them almost rock solid and perfect for both defense and offense.  If a wombat is attacked, it can dive into its burrow and essentially use its butt to plug up the entrance.  Then it uses its hiney as a shield against whatever animal is trying to get inside, but some research also suggests that wombats can attack with their butts, too.  If a predator really won't leave them alone, they can use their rumps to smash their enemies against the roofs of their burrows.  Apparently, with enough force to fracture their skulls.  It just goes to show that no matter how cute they look, you should never mess with a wombat.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

M: Okay, our next question--

H: Frick.

M: Is special because it's an audio question.  

A: Okay.

M: Animals make some weird noises.  

H: Wap-pop-pop-pop-pa-pow.

M: And sometimes, the weirdest sounds come from creatures you wouldn't expect.  Take this noise.  (clicky drumming sound)

H: That sounds like--

A: A 1956 pick-up truck or something.

H: It sounds like a pig having a really bad day, is what I'm thinking.

M: Yeah, in like a garbage disposal. 

A: That would make for a pretty bad day.

M: Okay, so what animal made that sound?  Was it a pig?

H: Definitely not.

M: A turtle, a koala, or a seal?

H: You go first this time.  

A: 'Cause the safe money was on some kind of bird.

H: You could have got Alexa with--if only one of those had been a bird.

A: I'm gonna guess the other marsupial, koala.

M: That is correct.

H: Oh no!  I should have gone, oh, no, I wouldn't have guessed koala.

A: Marsupial days.

H: That's a koala noise?  No one has told me.

O: Look, koalas make some ridiculous noises.  That clip was of a male bellowing and trying to attract a mate.  I know.  Very attractive.  But here's the weird thing.  These animals totally shouldn't be able to make that noise.  In 2013, scientists published a paper in Current Biology pointing out that there's no way koalas should be able to produce that kind of bellow.  If they had typical anatomy, their bodies would just be too small to make such a deep noise . Then again, as the researchers discovered, koalas don't have typical anatomy.  Instead, they have a unique kind of vocal fold.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

These animals are able to pull on and elongate these folds and that allows them to make those deep, creepy noises.  Seriously, they sound like something out of a horror movie.  

H: That's rough.

M: Okay, Alexa, you've got 1400 points.  Hank, you're at 900.  It's time for round two.

H: This is why I don't write the episodes.  

M: This one is a lightning round about convergent evolution.  Convergent evolution is where a trait or feature evolves multiple times in unrelated species, so for this round, you'll have to quickly guess how many times scientists think a specific trait evolved.  

H: Oh, okay, wow.  That's gonna be hard.

A: Yeah.

M: How many times do scientists think eyes of some kind evolved?  Less than five, 15, 30, or more than 40?

H: I'm gonna go with more than 40.  Like, they're the most useful thing.  

M: That is correct.  

O: Considering that soft tissues like eyes don't fossilize well, it's hard to say exactly how many times the abiltity to see with some sort of eye or eyespot has evolved, but according to a 1992 paper, visual systems have shown up somewhere between 40 and 65 times, and that number could even be much higher.  One thing is clear: there is a huge variety in eyes throughout the animal kingdom.  You have simple, seastar eyes, octopus eyes with their camera-like shapes, insect eyes with dozens of lenses, and of course, human eyes, and as we keep learning more about ancient animals, there's no telling what we'll find.

M: Roughly how many times do scientists think the appendix evolved?

H: Oh!

M: One, five, 30, or 70?

H: Less than 0.  There is no appendix.  It's a conspiracy!  

M: That's not how math works.  Less than 1 would be 0.  You can't have negative appendices.  

H: That sounds exactly like what the government wants you to believe.  

M: What is the answer to the question?

H: She hit the button!

 (08:00) to (10:00)

M: What is the answer to the question?

A: Five?

M: Uh, incorrect.  

A: Okay.  

H: What were the things again?  

M: Your choices are now 1, 30, or 70.  

H: There's no way that 70 of different appendixes evolved.  1.  

M: That's also incorrect.  

H: Oh well.  You know, we're here in the fail basement together.  

O: It's C, a whopping 30 times, which seems like a lot for an organ that doesn't do anything.  This number came from a 2013 study which suggested that appendixes evolved at least 32 times.  The researchers got their results by examining more than 360 species of mammal and figuring out where appendixes popped up in thier histories.  Strangely, though, this study didn't actually give us any insight into what the appendix does, because they found no relationship between having an appendix and things like diet or social factors.  The most the authors could say was that the appendix does appear to have some benefit, but it doesn't evolve in response to social or dietary cues.

M: How many times do scientists think flight has evolved?  1--

H: More than that.

M: 4, 7, 15?  

H: Interesting.  

A: It has to be at least...

H: Well, I--

A: It has to be at least...

H: I can name four off the top of my head.

A: Yeah.  It has to be at least four.

H: Seven.  

M: That is incorrect.

H: Frickadoodle.

A: Four!

M: That is correct.

H: Ahhh, I thought of all of them.  

O: So far as scientists can tell, flight evolved separately in four groups: birds, bats, insects, and pterosaurs, like pterodactyls.  Considering how complicated flight is, that's pretty impressive, but what's also interesting is that biologists have yet to figure out exactly why flight evolved.  Some of that is because flight is mainly a behavioral trait, so even if we can see things like wings or bone structure in the fossil record, we can't figure out what made animals take to the skies.  

 (10:00) to (12:00)

Scientists hypothesize that flight could have been a way to avoid predators or a way to move around more easily, but at this point, those ideas are all just hypotheses.  It's hard to know if we'll ever know for sure.

M: Okay, that concludes the end of our lightning round.  Alright, it's now 1500, 1500 to 900.  

H: I've gone nowhere.  

M: Now, for the final round.

A: Okay.

M: This one is called "Meanwhile, in the world of physics..." because nothing levels the competition quite like a round of weird stuff in physics.  It's possible to supercool water.  In other words, you can lower water past its freezing point but it won't turn into ice unless you disturb it.  We actually did an experiment episode on this with a bottle of water and freezer a few years ago, but as it turns out, you can learn a lot more from this kind of experiment, because recently, scientists found out that supercooled water could also help us find evidence of what?  Invisible dark matter, the dark energy that expands the universe--

H: What?

M: Gravitons, particles that carry the force of gravity--

H: Also mysterious.

M: Or gravitational waves?  

H: I'm gonna go with gravitational waves just because those other things are all detectable.  I was wrong.  

A: I--would it be--what were the choices again?  

H: Dark matter, dark energy, gravitrons.

M: Invisible dark matter, dark energy that expands the universe, gravitational waves.

H: Sorry.  

M: I mean, no, he chose that one.  Gravitons is your other thing.

A: Dark matter.

H: No.  

M: That is correct.  

H: What?

A: Absolute shot in the dark.  Ehhh!  

O: Strangely enough, it's dark matter.  To understand why this makes any sense, it helps to know a little bit about why water freezes.  Normally, you'd think that any water below zero degrees celsius would turn to solid ice, but that's not actually true, because temperature alone isn't enough to make water freeze.  You need something called a nucleation site, too.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

This is the very first spot where water molecules line up to form ice crystals and it sort of catalyzes the whole freezing process.  Usually, a nucleation site is something like a mineral, a piece of dirt, or some other impurity, so if your water doesn't have any impurities, it doesn't always freeze at zero degrees.  You could have a bunch of super cold water just sitting there and if you don't shake it or disrupt it somehow, it won't do anything.  Knowing this can allow you to perform some pretty cool party tricks, but in 2019, one scientist realized it could also help us understand some big questions about the universe.  They discovered that hitting supercooled water with some neutrons, the part of an atom with no electric charge, was enough to trigger the freezing process and that led to an even bigger realization: scientists think that something called dark matter might behave at least a little like neutrons.  Dark matter is the invisible stuff that makes up a good part of the universe, and scientists have been trying to understand it for years, so if dark matter really does act like neutrons, maybe it could trigger super cold water to freeze, too, and if we did enough experiments with it, well, maybe we'd be one step closer to understanding what this mysterious stuff is.

M: Okay.  Time for the last question, which means it's time to place your bets.  You can wager any or all of your points.  1700 points.  800 points.

H: I've done some math and things aren't looking good for Dennis.  

M: While you guys place your bets, it's time to go to commercial break.

This episode of SciShow Quiz Show is almost over, but never fear, there are plenty of other science questions out there.  For example, after we finish this final round, you can head over to Brilliant to check out their daily challenges.  Brilliant is best known for its in-depth courses but they also release new challenges every day that cover topics from stats to computer science.  They're fun, fast ways to apply and master concepts and each problem comes with illustrations, animations, and visuals to help you get the right answers.  Plus, if you love the topic, all of the challenges have a complementary interactive course.

 (14:00) to (16:00)

You can access Brilliant's daily challenges for free, but if you sign up to become a premium member, you'll get access to the entire archive.  If you want to learn more, you can head over to  The first 200 people to sign up for an annual premium subscription at that link will get 20% off.  Alright, back to the Quiz Show.

Welcome back.  Everybody ready?  Here we go.  Once you start studying tiny particles, you'll realize that the quantum world makes basically no sense, or at least it doesn't follow the rules that we're used to.  So the question is, which of these things is not predicted to happen on a quantum scale?  

A: Not?

H: Not.

M: Not predicted to happen on a quantum scale: Time sort of runs in reverse, particles teleport, particles pop in and out of existence, particles can spontaneously duplicate themselves?

A: I can't turn my card over.  Okay.  

H: Okay, I'm ready.  I'm just making dots.  

M: Okay, you ready?

H: Yeah.

M: Reveal your answers.  

H: We both went with D.

A: We did.

M: You're both correct.  

A: Yes!

O: One of these things is just too weird to be true, and it's D, that particles can spontaneously duplicate.  That's just not a thing.  There aren't many things we can say for sure about science, but I can say this one pretty confidently: quantum mechanics is weird.  In this tiny world, scientists have seen particles appear and then pop out of existence lightning fast.  They've seen electrons disappear from one location and suddenly appear in another.  They've even seen time run backwards, at least in a sense.  They've seen reactions appear to run in reverse and spontaneously go from disordered to ordered, which would kind of be like seeing a broken glass rise into the air and put itself back together, but one thing they've never seen is particles spontaneously duplicate.

 (16:00) to (17:13)

They do see particles turn into other particles sometimes in a process called decay, but since the laws of physics say that energy can't be created or destroyed, it means particles can't suddenly multiply.  Well, at least based on what we know now.  Like I said, quantum mechanics is weird, so maybe there's still something we don't know.

H: Oh well.  It was never gonna work out great for me.  'Cause I see that you've made the intelligent bet.

M: Alexa, 1799.  Hank, 1600.  

H: I got closer.  

M: Yeah.  

H: Matter cannot be created.

M: You won it for Therese.  Hank--

H: I lost it for Dennis.  Sorry, Dennis.

M: Oh boy.  Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Quiz Show.  If you want to see more of Hank and Alexa's work, you can stick around because they're either hosting or editing episodes around here all the time.

H: That's true.

M: And if you wanna support SciShow, you can head over to