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Hank and Phil Plait dive deep into questions about gametes and sea mammals in this episode of SciShow Quiz Show!
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 Intro (00:00)

Michael: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to SciShow Quiz Show, it's time to get busy with the quizzy.

Hank: Ahhh, (clapping) my goodness, that's my favorite.

Michael: I'm your host and today we have on the show is Snapchat celebrity Hank Green.

Hank: Thank you very much. Hankgre on Snapchat.

Michael: We also have pygmy goat enthusiast Phil Plait.

Hank: Is that a thing?

Phil: It is now, apparently.

Hank: OK, well, you better study up, because it's going to be all pygmy goat questions.

Phil: Excellent.

Michael: Are they actually pygmy goats? There is some confusion between pygmy versus dwarf.

Hank: You have goats

Phil: I have no idea what the difference is, actually.

Hank: Uhh...

Phil: They're little goats that eat everything, they get all swollen, and, and they irritate in a fashion that smells terrible.

Michael: (Laughing) What was that word you said?

Phil: They burp. A lot.

Hank: Well, keep them out, like don't go face-to-face so much.

Phil: They're, well you know,you kinda have to because they're adorable.

Hank: So you just looking at them like mm-mmm.....bwaah.

Phil: Yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely.

Michael: Good so a Well, Hank will be competing on the behalf of Will Clifton.

Hank: Hi, Will!

Michael: Phil is playing for Guy Greer.

Phil: Hey, Guy.

M: I'm going to start you off each, with 1000 darsecs.

H: Oh.

M: Each time you answer a question correctly, you win 100 darsecs, if you answer incorrectly or fail to answer, you will lose 100 darsecs.

P: I can do the Kessel run in 12 darsecs.

M: That's not what that is.

H: No. I mean-

P: It's funnier in my head.

H: It doesn't make sense either way.

P: That's true.

M: Darsecs is, is, is the, uh, currency used by the Klingons.

H: (clearing throat)

P: Is that really true? I've never heard that.

H: I've never heard darsecs either.

P: And I'm like a big Star Trek dork.

H: Me too! And I feel like they just never talk about their capitalism, the Klingons.

P: They just take what they need.

H: Exactly.

P: Yeah.

H: Yeah.

M: So, whoever has the most darsecs at the end, wins, Stefan, what will our winners and losers take home today?

Stefan: Well, Michael, both Will and Guy will be taking home autographed cards from Hank and Phil, with their final guesses and wagers on them, as well as either an "I won SciShow Quiz Show" pin, or the highly valuable "I lost SciShow Quiz Show" pin, a super-cool, out-of-print Hank Green CD, signed by the man himself, and the winner will also take home a copy of the script from this episode, plus some secret SciShow swag. Back to you, Michael.

 Round one: Eggs (2:20)

M: Okay, you guys ready? Round #1 is about...well, you'll see.

P: (clearing throat) That's cheating.

H: Is it?

M: Yeah, that-

P: Does this do anything?

H: Yeah, it lights up, it's a tap light, from the '80s.

P: Oh it does light up.

M: Yeah, it does light up. Before the invention of electronics, if you needed to send a secret message, your options would be pretty limited. You had to be creative. Giambattista della Porta, sixteenth-century Italian polymath expert in all kinds of science and art. During the Spanish Inquisition, when he wanted to send messages to his friends that were in jail, came up with a way to hide messages in a common food item using an ink that would sink beneath the food's coating. Did he hide his messages in oranges, in eggs, in walnuts, or in avocados?

H: I'm going to say, uh, eggs.

M: You are correct! All Porta needed for this trick was Alum, a type of acidic salt, vinegar, wax and galls, a kind of tree growth often used in ink. You would coat a boiled eggs in wax, and use a metal tool to scrape out his message. That way, when he added the ink, it would only affect part of the shell, the shape of the letters. Then he'd combine the alum and galls, which formed a pale yellow ink, soak the egg in it and let it dry, and then put it in vinegar. Eggs have pores, little holes that go straight through the shell, and the acidic vinegar would soften the egg, making it easier for the ink would pass through the holes. Putting the egg in cold water would make it hard again, and the ink would wash of the shell. Then he could bring the harmless looking egg into a prison where a prisoner could peel it to read the message.

P: Oh.

H: Wow, I knew eggshells were pretty permeable, and avocados; did we even have avocados before the 1990's?

M: Who knows?

H: I'm pretty sure they were invented in the '90s.

P: But... If you crack the egg open and then you just got all this glop, what are you gonna read?

H: Oh, it's a hard-boiled egg.

P: It's just a dot.

H: Hard-boiled egg.

P: You see now that would have made a big difference.

H: Yes. I was like "how would--" but then I figured that he hard-boiled them first.

P: Yeah. I actually kind of figured that too, but it was too late. (Hank laughs) I would have died in prison un-messaged.

M: So eggs is our topic for round number one.

H: Oh! I know so much about eggs!

M: Excellent!

P: Have you ever made one? Bet not. 

H: I have not made an egg, correct (High Fives with Phil)

M: Question two: Raising a kid can take a lot of time and energy and some birds called brood parasites decide it is not worth the trouble. So they lay their eggs in another bird's nest and hope that that bird won't notice and raise the chick as if it were its own. So that means that the legitimate babies get fewer resources but the female species of one bird known as superb fairy wren have come up with a way to tell the difference between their own offspring and the imposters. How do they do it? Is it marking their eggs with poop and rolling any unmarked new ones out of the nest? Literally sniffing out which ones are their chicks? Teaching their chicks a secret code before they hatch? Or feeding all the chicks and insect that's poisonous to the brood parasites.

P: Now what do we do? 

M: I don't know who got there first.

H: Go at the same time? ( laughs ) on three. one... two... three..

P: B

H: A

P: Oh, you said on three

M: Umm

H: well

P: On three means on three. I say B you say A

H: someone was wrong were we both wrong?

M: you're you're both wrong.

H: I thought it was definitely poop

M: that is incorrect. The correct answer is that they teach their chicks a secret code. it is hard for a wren to figure out which chicks are the brood parasites without accidentally rejecting one of their own. So they teach their eggs a kind of password making calls that have their won unique sound signature. Once the Wren chicks hatch the sounds they make when they beg for food incorporates that signature. The brood parasite chick's, in this case bronze cuckoo's don't use the password so the mother wren knows which baby to feed. And researchers have found that if the wren hears more cuckoos in the area while she's nesting she'll make more calls with the password, and when the chicks are born and start to make calls of their own their better at copying the code. There's a greater threat so the mother wren puts more effort into her defenses.

H: a secret code! I rolled my eyes at that 

M: I saw

P: that's that's cuckoo


P: And you know why that's really funny because that's what they do

H:they are a brood parasite

P: Yeah

 Round Two: Sperm(6:37)

M: Whoo okay round number two is about sperm.

P: Okay??

M: You've made some off those

H: I made lots of them (laughs)

M: Humans inherit most things equally from both of their parents sense they get have of their DNA from each BUT, there are some exceptions, like the mitochondria which are like the power plants of the cell come only from the egg. There's also another type of organelle that only comes from the sperm. Is it Centrioles, Lysosomes, Ribosomes, or the Endoplasmic Reticulum?

H: I have no idea...that's totally new information to me and I'm really excited to hear the answer!
P: I think it's that Ectoplasm thing I saw that one ghost busters and so...

H: Endoplasmic Reticulum

P: They were all men in that group the first time

M: That's incorrect

P: Damn

M: The correct answer is Centrioles

H: I get to answ-ansapansa gapa gahhhh I get to try

P: OH you were gonna say Ribosomes

H: I was, I was not going to say Centrioles I can promise you that

M: How about how about because I screwed that up we won't take away any points from Hank

P: Uggggh 


P: boned again

H: Yeah, really because I was like I was gonna say something but it wasn't gonna be Centriol.

M: Centrioles are part of most animal cells and some plant cells they're little cylinders made of groups of tubes and their job is to help with cell division. as animal egg cells form they lose their Centrioles and for a long time scientists though they developed once the embryo was already a few cell divisions old. Sperm do have Centrioles and scientists already knew that in some animals like Sea Urchins embryos got their Centrioles from sperm but that's not true for mice who Centrioles develop from centrosomes collections of fibers that they inherit from their mothers that help with cell division. So for a long time scientist figured sperm didn't donate Centrioles in any mammals including humans but then in 1991 a group of researchers from Australia and Japan tested human eggs that were only just being fertilized and found Centrioles that could only come from sperm.

 Round Three: Marine Mammals(8:26)

M: Round number three: Weird facts about Marine Mammals


M: Some animals practice what's known as lunge feeding, which is exactly what it sounds like. They suddenly lunge forward and snap their jaws around a huge mouthful of pray. It's a complicated maneuver requiring a high degree of muscle coordination.

P: I've seen Hank do this so yeah...

M: (Laughs)

H: Corn dogs

M: (Laughs again)

M: In 2012 researchers discovered an organ in a particular mammals chin that was basically just a bundle of nerves that they think help coordinate all these movements. So which animal has the organ? Is it Narwhals, Dolphins, Dwarf Sperm Whales or Blue Whales?

H: Dwarf Sperm Whales are a thing?

M: Is that your answer?

H: Yes

M: Incorrect

P: Ummm I'm not a fan of Narwhals. Dolphins are jerks.

H: whaaaaa

P: So I'm gonna go with the last one ever it was.

H&M: Blue Whales

P: Blue Whales... sure.

M: You are correct.

H: What???????

P: This is how logic works.

M: The researchers noticed a ball of blood vessels and nerves about the size of a grapefruit just hanging out in the chins of rorqual whales, which include huge whales like humpback whales, fin whales, and blue whales. If you're the type of tiny sea creatures these whales eat, you and your friends might notice the 200 ton whale swimming up to you and scatter. So baleen whales, a type of whale with plates for filtering food from water, including the rorquals, snap their jaws forward to catch a whole mouthful of water at once. And, to make sure they don't create a huge wave in the water that moves all the food away, baleen whales expand their throat so they can take in the extra water. This whole process takes a whole lot of coordination of different body parts and the researchers think that the chin organ, which is linked to the whale's jaws, throat, and nervous system, keeps everything together.

So we finally reached our double or nothing round. Hank has 900 points.

H: Yeah!

M: You can wager as many of those as you'd like on your answer to the next question, which I can only tell you will be about another mysterious whale organ.

 H: Ooh!

P: Oh, whale organs.

M: While you guys place your bets, we're going to go to commercial break.

Welcome back! You guys have placed your bets. You ready? Here we go. Sperm whales aren't named after their gametes. Instead, they're named after the waxy stuff in their heads called spermaceti, which just means semen whale in Latin. The spermaceti is--

H: So a sperm whale--

P: Pasta

H: So a sperm whale has, in its head, sper-- semen whale?

M: (snickers)

H: Sperm whales have semen whale in their heads.

M: Those Latins!

H: (laughs) Oh man.

M: (laughs)

H: Go on.

M: The spermaceti is produced by the spermaceti organ and its composition makes scientists think that it might be useful for a few different things. But, which of these things does it definitely not do? Help with buoyancy, focus sound for echolocation, keep the whale warm in cold water, or act as a nose cushion.

P: It's in the whale's head?

M: (dances) Everybody good?

H: Yeah. I drew a really bad whale.

P: That's what I was just doing.

M: Reveal your answers now. It looks like Phil is correct!

P & H: Ohhhh!

M: So far, scientists haven't been able to prove what spermaceti is for exactly, but they have been able to make some guesses based on its properties and its position in a whale's head. One possibility is that spermaceti helps with buoyancy by becoming a denser solid as the whale dives deep enough. The higher density would help the whale sink deeper into the ocean. It might also help with echolocation by helping focus the sound which is reflected through the spermaceti organ or it could be a shock absorber. There are lots of other ways spermaceti might be useful to a whale like by helping close its nose during a dive and it might have more than one purpose but it probably doesn't help keep them warm that is what blubber is for.

H: Oh man

M: That brings you down to 200, Phil you've got 16,000 darsecs

P: 1.6 times 10^3 darsecs


P:and a blowy whale oh you got a blowy whale too

H: that's a potted plant

P: It's a pot of whales plant.... NO? pod of whales plant??

H:Pod Pod of whale plants

M: Oh boy, Well that makes Phil and Guy our winners thanks for playing today

H: I lost for Will

M: Sorry Will Oh boy

H: We'll send you some stuff anyway

M: thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Quiz Show don't forget to check out Phil on Crash Course Astronomy you can also find him on twitter @BadAstronomer. If you'd like one of our contestant to play for you, you can go to and don't forget to go to and subscribe.

H: Hankgre on Snapchat