Previous: 3 Paranormal Experiences Explained by Science
Next: How the Krack Hack Breaks Wi-Fi Security



View count:134,037
Last sync:2023-11-11 06:15
It's another round of Hank facing off against one of the VidCon elite—this time, Executive Vice President Colin Hickey. Will Colin's surprise expertise help him dominate?

We're conducting a survey of our viewers! If you have time, please give us feedback:

Hosted by: Michael Aranda
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters: Kevin Bealer, Mark Terrio-Cameron, KatieMarie Magnone, Inerri, D.A. Noe, Charles Southerland, Fatima Iqbal,
سلطان الخليفي, Nicholas Smith, Tim Curwick, Scott Satovsky Jr, Philippe von Bergen, Bella Nash, Chris Peters, Patrick D. Ashmore, Piya Shedden, Charles George
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?





Blue whales:


 (00:00) to (02:00)


Michael: Welcome to SciShow Quiz Show, where real smart people test their knowledge about all kinds of science and win prizes for two of our supporting Patrons on Patreon.  I'm Michael Aranda, your host, and today's contestants are Colin Hickey, who happens to be Executive Vice President of VidCon, yaaaay.

Colin: Thank you, yay.

M: And Hank Green, who may or may not hold the world record for drawing fish.

Hank: I definitely have the world record for drawing fish.  Ab--like, I cannot imagine anyone has drawn more fish than me.  I cannot imagine.  I have drawn so many fish.  

M: It's true.

H: I have a question regarding the intro to this episode.

M: Okay.

H: Are we real smart people, as in we are smart people who are real, or are we people who are real smart?

M: Ambiguous.

C: I think either.

H: Okay.  As long as I'm both real and smart.

C: As long as you stay smart.

H: I don't wanna be a fake smart person.

M: There's no hyphen between real and smart.

H: I don't know what that means.

M: Which makes me think that they're saying that you are actual--

H: Smart people.

M: Smart people.  

H: Okay.

C: Yes.

M: We'll see.  So, as a special thank you to our supporters on Patreon, we've selected two of you at random to win some prizes.  Hank, you're playing for Florian Philipp.

H: Hello, Florian.

M: Colin, you're playing for Alicia Granger.

C: Hello, Alicia.  We got this!

H: Good names, today.

M: Stefan, show our audience what our prizes are today.

Stefan: Florian and Alicia, one of you will be a winner today and one of you will be a loser, but both of you will get an autographed card from our final round, so don't worry about that, but the winner will also get an 'I Won SciShow Quiz Show' pin and some swag from, but the loser of today's Quiz Show will actually end up being the winner because they will, of course, be receiving the pin to end all pins, it's ultra-rare, it's printed in full-color, it's made of solid gold except it's not, it's the 'I Lost SciShow Quiz Show' pin and it is very nice.  Good luck to you both.  Back to you, Michael.

M: So you're both starting out with 1,000 SciShow bucks.  Each time you answer a question correctly, you'll win some more.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

If you get it wrong, will lose some.

H: If I've learned anything from this game, it's that just don't answer questions.  Stick with your thousand SciShow bucks and leave.  

C: I'm gonna double my money.

H: You're gonna double your money?

C: Mhmm.

H: Alright.  

C: Prediction.  Bold prediction.

M: Okay, here we go.  Colin, I've been told that you are an expert when it comes to Ghostbusters.  Is that correct?

C: This is true.

M: Okay.

H: This is like a weird tie-in with science.

M: So, our first round is all about the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  

C: Okay.

M: More specifically, the science of marshmallows.  

C: Okay.

M: So here's the question.  People have been eating marshmallows for thousands of years.

H: Really?

M: But they weren't always the manufactured sugary pieces of foam that we know and love today.  The original marshmallows came from a type of mallow plant that grows in marshes, which is where the name comes from.

H: You are messing with me!

C: Rad.

H: You're not--this isn't the part where it's true/false.  This is--this is true.  You are telling me the truth right now.

M: Specifically, marshmallows were made of a gooey secretion from the plant called (?~2:58).

H: Ew.

M: And for a long time, they were more than just a tasty dessert.  They were used as medicine.

H: Okay.

M: These days we have better alternatives, but olden day marshmallows were probably a pretty effective treatment, too.  The question is, what were they used as a treatment for?  Was it a cough, a headache, constipation, or mosquito bites.

C: Mosquito bites.

M: I'm sorry, that is incorrect.

H: Ohh.  You're not doubling your SciShow bucks.  I'm gonna go with constipation, 'cause I feel like eating a bunch of marshmallows is gonna make you poop.  

M: That's also incorrect.

H: But I think it's gonna make you poop anyway!  I think I'm right.  It just wasn't used for that.  

C: Was the answer ghostbusting?

M: No, the answer was cough.  

C: Oh well.

H: Man, I gotta try me some marshmallow.  It's still available, right?  Like, those plants still grow somewhere?

M: The answer is A, a cough.  By 2000 BCE, the ancient Egyptians were making marshmallows out of the marshmallow plant by extracting (?~3:58) from the plant's roots and mixing it with nuts and honey.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Just like the modern kind, these marshmallows made a sweet dessert, but they were also used to soothe coughs and sore throats, because their gooey-ness formed a kind of protective film.  That film made marshmallows a useful treatment for all kinds of other things, too, like stomach pain and rashes, and unlike a lot of old timey medicine, there's evidence that marshmallows might have actually helped, especially with coughs.  There haven't been too many studies on it, probably because we have more effective options, but researchers have found that syrup made from marshmallow mucilage is pretty good at soothing coughs.  On a cellular level, they think it works because the complex sugars in the mucilage help keep the cells in the mucus membranes alive.  That soothes the irritation in your throat so you cough less.  Unfortunately, there's no evidence that eating peeps when you're sick will help.

The next question--

H: Okay.

M: Is about a key ingredient in modern marshmallows.

H: So none of this is gonna be about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  It's just about marshmallows.

C: Or ghosts?

H: Not about ghosts either.

M: Who knows?  I haven't read the rest of the question.  We could be in for a surprise.  Modern marshmallows contain gelatin.

H: Sure.

M: The jelly-like stuff that's made from boiling the collagen in things like pig skin or cow bones.  It's also the main ingredient in Jello.  In an experiment published in 1976 that freaked a lot of people out, a Canadian doctor named Adrian Upton attached electrodes to a blob of Jello and showed that by one measure, it seemed to be alive.  

H: Niiiice.  I like it.

M: What did he detect that made the Jello look like it was alive: respiration, brainwaves, a heartbeat, or blood pressure?

H: It can't--I should have let Colin go first, 'cause this is a pure blind guess, but I feel like maybe you can get some brainwave signal back.

M: That is correct.

H: Yes!  

C: Ahh.

H: Oh good.

M: Good guess.

H: Yeah.

M: The answer is B, brainwaves.  Okay, first things first, Jello is not actually alive.  We are very, very sure of that, but when Upton attached electrodes to it, he found a pattern that looked a lot like alpha brain waves, the kind of electrical signals your brain sends out when you're relaxing with your eyes closed.  There's nothing that special about Jello though.  

 (06:00) to (08:00)

It was just reflecting electrical signals from other things in the hospital room where Upton did the test, like IVs and respirators, and that was exactly why he did it.  Doctors often look for brainwaves when they're trying to figure out if someone is clinically brain-dead, and his argument was that you have to do more than just one test.  There are electrical signals everywhere and they can easily cause interference.  So much interference, in fact, that they can make a lump of Jello look like a living resting human brain.  That, or someday we're going to find ourselves living in a terrifying remake of The Blob.

So maybe you've noticed a theme here.  Our bodies are super weird and that's what our next round is about: strange remedies.  

H: Why is that a theme?  

M: I'm just reading the cards.

H: Why is it a theme?  Okay.  

C: My Ghostbusters knowledge has helped me out a lot so far.

M: So our next round is about strange remedies.  One of the most commonly asked science questions is how can I get rid of the hiccups?  Hank, you even hosted a SciShow about it once.  You get the hiccups when your diaphragm, the muscle that controls your breathing, starts to spasm.  Your diaphragm is controlled by the vagus nerve that runs from your neck all the way down to the base of your spine, so the most effective hiccup cures tend to involve stimulating that nerve, which kind of jolts it back into working properly again.  What we didn't mention in that old episode was that in 1988, a doctor published a letter in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine to report that he'd found a cure for hiccups that worked when nothing else.

H: Of emergency medicine?  So like emergency hiccups, which I'm not saying can't happen.

M: So was this unusual cure turning the patient upside down, covering them in ice, giving them an orgasm, or putting a finger up their butt?

C: Putting them in ice.

H: I was gonna say ice, too.  

M: Sorry, that's incorrect.

H: I was gonna say ice, too.

C: Shoulda let you go!

H: Oh, well, now I have to say something about butts or orgasms, I feel like.  Oh, those were both wrong.  So you're saying one of them was right.  I'm gonna go, I--orgasm.  Let's go with orgasm.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

M: Incorrect.  

H: Oh no, it's butt?  

M: You've gotta stick a finger up your butt.  

C: Really?

M: The answer is D, a finger up the butt.  The doctor who published the letter, named Francis Fesmire, was working in the ER when a patient came in because he'd been hiccuping about every two seconds for three days straight.  Fesmire tried every cure he could think of, including some weird ones that doctors use because they stimulate the vagus nerve, making the patient gag, pressing on his eyeballs, and pulling on his tongue.  None of that sounds especially fun, but the poor guy was pretty desperate.  Unfortunately, nothing Fesmire tried worked.  The patient's hiccups would slow down, but once the tongue pulling or whatever stopped, they'd come back full force.  Then he remembered reading about a case study where a digital rectal massage, aka a finger up the butt, slowed down a patient's heartbeat by stimulating the vagus nerve.  So he decided to try it for the guy's hiccups, massaging his rectum in what he described as 'a slow circumferential motion' and it worked.  He recommended that other doctors try it when they couldn't cure a patient's hiccups before prescribing medications that can help, like anti-convulsants.  If you wanna try this at home the next time you have hiccups, well, that's your business.

H: I had a number of things I was going to say while I was saying so and I didn't say any of them.

C: Probably shouldn't.  

M: So Coca-Cola.  

H: Uh-huh.

M: When it was first invented by a pharmacist back in 1886, it was marketed as a cure for all kinds of things like headaches and fatigue and considering that it had cocaine at the time, it probably did cure peoples' headaches and wake them up.

H: Yeah.

M: In exchange for things like addiction, paranoia, irritability, and plenty of other harmful side effects.  These days, Coke might still help you if you have a headache or if you're tired because of the caffeine in it, but even caffeine-free Coke is known to be an effective treatment for a much more serious condition.  So what do doctors use modern-day Coke to treat?  

H: It's just regular, not diet, regular Coke.  Keep going.

M: Uncontrollable diarrhea, a blockage in the stomach, second-degree burns, or a type of skin infection?

H: Oh, he was right under me.  Right under there.

C: Blockage in the stomach.

 (10:00) to (12:00)

H: That's what I was gonna say.

M: That is correct.

C: Yaay!  'Cause you can clean out sink with it.

H: 'Cause it happened in Doc Hollywood, the--with Michael J. Fox.  

C: Great movie.

H: Is the new doctor in town and then he thinks there's something terrible wrong with this kid and the old doctor from the little small town was like, just give him a can of Coke, he's got gas.  

C: You got a good Doc Hollywood memory.

M: The answer is B, a blockage in the stomach.  In patients with stomachs that are impaired in some way, like after gastric bypass surgery, the indigestible parts of plants can collect into a hard lump called a phytobezoar.  When the lump gets big enough, it can start to cause symptoms like nausea, stomach pain, and weight loss.  It's better to avoid doing a risky surgery if you can, so doctors try to dissolve the phytobezoar first, and they found that Coca-Cola is really good at that.  A 2012 review of studies on this found that Coke on its own cures of phytobezoars half the time, and when you combine it with an endoscopy, where the doctor puts a tube down your throat to help break up the lump, it works more than 90% of the time.  It's thought that Coke is so good at dissolving phytobezoars because it's super acidic, with a pH of 2.6.  There's no obvious reason why doctors specifically use Coke, but there's barely any research on using other kinds of soda, just a couple of case studies where doctors used Pepsi instead.

C: Alright.  What's the score?  I got a point.

(offscreen): 1000 to 1000.

All: Ohhh.  

M: It's tied.  

C: Oh dang.  

H: We're back where we started.  

C: Not going to double my points, and a horrible high five.  

H: It was super bad.  You can still double your points, 'cause at the very end, you can bet all your points.  

C: Oh.

H: So as long as you have 1,000 points at the end.

C: Yep.  No pressure.

M: Now, Coke is specifically used to treat phytobezoars, which are made of plant material.  

H: Okay.

M: But bezoars can be made of lots of different kinds of indigestible things like hair or seeds.

H: Do you know what a bezoar is?

C: Nope.

H: It's like a thing that gets stuck in your body like an indigestible mass.

C: Gotcha.

M: Most people probably know about them from Harry Potter where bezoars from a goat's stomach are said to be an antidote for almost any poison, and in real life ancient medicine, doctors also thought that bezoars could cure most kinds of poisoning as well as things like epilepsy, the plague, and jaundice.  It turns out that goat stomach stones aren't actually great medicine, but it is possible that bezoars were an effective treatment for at least one thing because of the reactions with the minerals and hair inside.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

H: So not just because like, it's really good at making you puke because you just ate a lump of undigestible mass from the inside of a goat?

M: I cannot speak to its efficacy in that manner, but did they use it to treat the plague, jaundice, arsenic poisoning, or snake bites from the common European viper?  

H: I have no idea.  None of those seem like they would work.  I'm gonna go though 'cause Colin was waiting too long.  I'm gonna go with whatever the third one was, Michael.

M: Arsenic poisoning?

H: Sure.

M: Yes.  

H: Heyy!  

C: Son of a--

M: The answer is C, arsenic poisoning.  There are no studies that have actually tested this by giving someone arsenic poisoning and trying to cure it with a bezoar for obvious reasons, so it's hard to know for sure whether it works, but based on what we know about biology and chemistry, researchers think it might.  Arsenic poison generally comes in one of two forms: arsenite, which is made up of an arsenic atom bonded to three oxygens and arsenate, which has four oxygens.  Arsenite could have bonded to the sulfur-containing compounds in the hair in the bezoar, neutralizing the poison before it got a chance to harm the victim.  Arsenate, on the other hand, could have bonded to phosphate ions produced by a mineral often found in bezoars called brushite.  Similar reactions happen in the ocean, where algae neutralize the arsenic produced by things like volcanoes and hot springs.  That said, please don't try this at home.

C: Whatever the third one was, Michael.  I'm very sure of that.

H: That was, yeah.  

M: Okay, it's time for our final round.

H: Okay.  

C: Dang, that was fast.

M: And all I can tell you about the final round is that it will be about an animal.  

C: A ghost of an animal?

M: Maybe the ghost of an animal.  Now you place your bets on how many points you wish to wager.  Colin, you have 1,000 points.  Hank, you have 1,200 points.  Wager as many or as little as you wish, and we'll be right back after these messages.

C: Just in case you need two cards.  

H: You have 1,000 points.

C: I have 1,000 points.

H: So you could double.

 (14:00) to (16:00)

C: My prediction could come true.  

H: Okay.

C: Which, no pressure.  

H: Thank you.

M: So, blue whales are the biggest animals on Earth.  They can be up to 30 meters long and weigh more than 150 metric tons.  There used to be hundreds of thousands of them in the oceans, but they were almost driven extinct  by whaling before it was outlawed in 1966.  Since then, their numbers have started to recover, but we know that they're affected by other things, too, like pollution and noise from human activity.  In 2013, researchers announced that they used something from a blue whale to put together a timeline of the chemicals it had been exposed to, and the levels of stress hormones over the course of its life, kind of like how you can learn about a tree's history by studying its rings.  So the question is, what part of the whale did they use to figure this out?  Was it its earwax, its feces, the baleen plates they use to capture food, or its blubber?

H: No, you just write it down on the thing.

C: Oh.  Oh, I thought I wrote down how much points.

H: Right, yeah, and then you also write down (?~15:03)

M: Yes, yes.

H: Yeah, it's just Jeopardy.

C: Dang it.

H: Do you watch Jeopardy ever?  

C: What's Jeopardy?  I've never heard of that show.  Popular?

H: I got--I know it's one of  these two.

C: Dang.  Really wanna win this.  Really, really wanna win this.

M: It's Ghostbusters vs. Doc Hollywood.  

C: One great movie vs one horrible movie.  

M: Ohhh, shots fired.

C: Doc Hollywood.

H: I think I've seen it the one time, so.

M: So, you guys ready?  

H: Uh-huh.

C: We are.

M: Show your answers.

H: I went with earwax.

C: I went with the baleen thingy.

H: You just wrote ghosts on there.

C: There's some ghosts.

H: Oh, number three.  

C: And the number three.

H: You wrote three, okay.

M: So Hank is correct.  

C: What?

H: Yay!  

M: Colin, I'm so sorry.  

The answer is A, it's earwax.  Whales ears aren't open to the environment like ours are, but they still produce earwax, so over the course of their lives, their earwax just builds up, forming a huge plug.  You know how Shrek pulls a plug of earwax out of his ear and uses it as a candle?  

 (16:00) to (18:00)

Whale earwax plugs are pretty much exactly like that, and as each layer of earwax in the plug forms, it includes some of the toxins and hormones that are circulating through the whale at that time.  The research for the 2013 study started in 2007 when a 12 year old blue whale was killed by a ship off the coast of California.  The researchers decided to extract one of his 25cm long earwax plugs and studied the different layers.  They found 16 types of pollutants in the earwax, with the highest concentration during the whale's first year of life, probably because his mother's milk was more contaminated than the stuff he was exposed to after that.  They also found that his average levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, doubled over the course of his life, although they couldn't tell how much of that came from natural factors like sexual maturity and how much came from things like pollution or noise.  Marine biologists have been analyzing pollutant levels in whale blubber for a long time, but they couldn't use it to get a timeline of exposure throughout a whale's life.  The 2013 study showed that with earwax, you can.  Since then, researchers have started analyzing more whale earwax plugs, including some that have been stored in museums for decades.  So it turns out that earwax plugs can be pretty useful, but I'm glad humans don't build up giant sticks of earwax with no way to get them out.  That seems really uncomfortable.

H: I even, I bet 799 so that if we both got it right, you would win.  

C: What a gentleman.  

H: But I won anyway 'cause you're at 0.  You have 0 points.

C: Yes, I've--my prediction did not come true.  

H: That was the other one that I was gonna guess, but basically, I was down to like, do whales have earwax, and I decided they probably did.  

M: Well, it's been an emotional rollercoaster.  

C: It really has.

H: It basically--it's similar to how like, when your mom cuts your hair and she's like, or you're like, why did you cut my hair, and you're like, she's like, I don't know, no reason.  She's gonna test it for drugs.

C: Oh, yes.  

M: Never had that experience.  Didn't know where you were going with that.

H: Definitely had that experience.

C: Me too.  

M: Okay, well. 

C: On next week's episode.  

M: Thanks for joining us for this SciShow Quiz Show.  Thanks to all of our Patrons at Patreon.  If you wanna help support the show, you can go to and if you wanna see some of the awesome stuff that Colin does, you can go to  

 (18:00) to (18:17)

C: Yeah.  

H: Well, I didn't--I need to know more about marshmallows now.

M: Right?  That's a thing.