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SciShow’s Executive producer Hank Green faces off against SciShow senior editor Alyssa Lerner in this Quiz Show about weird experiments and strange animal parts.

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Blood Transfusion


Van Allen Belts

Time crystals

Narwhal Tusks

Sea Spiders

Water Insect


 (00:00) to (02:00)


Michael: Welcome to SciShow Quiz Show, where real smart people duke it out in a scientific battle of wits.  I'm Michael Aranda, your host, and our contestants today are Hank Green, local Montanan who's playing extreme weather bingo with the rest of us with an earthquake and lots of wildfires so far.  

Hank: Yeah.  We're working on--

M: That was a really long intro that got written for you.

H: Do you wanna do it again, 'cause you seemed confused the whole time.

M: It just kept going.  It's fine, we'll just roll with it.

H: Yeah.  I mean, you get that free space in the middle.  I'm just, I'm just crossing my fingers for some serious hail.  

M: Okay, what about the Yellowstone explosion?

H: We're not putting that on the list, buddy.  That's--

M: That's game over.

H: Yeah.  You don't get to collect your $15.  

M: Okay, fair.  So, Hank is competing against SciShow's entire New York satellite office who is visiting just in time for our smoke.  Our senior editor, Alyssa Lerner.

H: Hi, Alyssa.

A: Hi.  

M: As a special.

H: She's--nobody clapped!  Nobody said--just silence from behind the cameras.  

(Clapping & cheering ensues)

A: That made me less uncomfortable.  

M: As a special thank you to our supporters on Patreon, we've selected two of you at random to win some awesome prizes.  Hank, you're playing for John Carothers.

H: Hello, John.

M: And Alyssa, you're playing for Lucy McGlasson.

A: Hi, Lucy.

M: Stefan.  Show our players and the audience what they can win.

Stefan: John and Lucy, welcome to the show!  Both of you are going to be taking home some special prizes today.  We've got the autographed cards from our final round, which will have the contestants' beautifully written final guesses and wagers on them, but the person who ends the show with the least amount of points today, today's loser, will take home the fabulous and rare 'I lost SciShow Quiz Show' pin.  Good luck to the contestants, let's play ball!

M: Okay, you both start off with 1,000 SciShow bucks.  Each time you answer a question correctly, you'll win some.  If you get it wrong, you lose some.  Ready?

A: Yes.

M: Okay.  Our first round is about medicine.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Specifically some of the old bad medicine.  

H: Did you write this one?

A: No.  Of course not.  Ceri wrote this one.

H: Okay, alright, just making sure.

M:So when doctors were first tinkering around with blood transfusions, they tried out some non-blood substitutes.  

H: Ooh.

M: In 1854, some doctors were trying to treat cholera and used a liquid that they thought our bodies could change into white blood cells.  They hoped it would boost blood volume and the immune system so people could fight off the bacterial infection.  Unfortunately, this artificial blood didn't actually do this or really help in any way at all.  What was the substance?  Coconut water, milk--

A: I was hoping that wouldn't be one of the choices.

H: You thought milk?  I--I went way worse.  I was like, oh, you know, the pus from cow boils.

A: Oh, we still have two more choices.  

M: Semen.

A: Oh no.

H: I mean, that makes a certain amount of sense.

M: Or egg whites.

H: Oh, you're going.

A: Egg whites.

M: Unfortunately, that was incorrect.

H: Ohh, that's a red color.  I'm gonna go with semen.

M: That is also incorrect, thank God.

H: That's too bad.  Hey--

M: The correct answer is milk.

A: Okay.

H: Oh man.

A: I thought that would be like, a red herring, 'cause it's white.  Also semen.

H: Yeah.

M: White herring.

H: A white herring.  People did not understand what cells were.  

A: But they thought it would convert into white blood cells, so they must have known something about cells. 

H: Right.  Did they like, look, and they were like, oh, there's little droplets in here, just like the lipid droplets would just become white blood cells?

M: It's just some blood milk.

A: Yeah.  

H: Milk--it does come out of an animal.

A: I guess.  

H: There's a lot of it around.  How did that go?  You're gonna tell us right now, aren't you?

M: I'm about to tell you.

H: Yeah.

M: The answer is B, milk.  During the cholera epidemic in 1854, two doctors in Toronto milked a cow through gauze into a warm bowl.  Then they injected 355 mL of this milk into the bloodstream of a sick 40 year old man.  They thought the fatty globules in the milk could be converted into white blood cells, which would eventually become red blood cells.  This was probably because of another scientist's experiments with milk and animal blood.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Because two patients recovered after their milk transfusions, these doctors thought it was a good blood replacement, even though five others died, and then in 1873, the treatment was used again by a doctor in New York City.  He performed goat milk transfusions on tuberculosis patients and dogs with not-so-great results, but assumed any deaths were from too much milk, not the milk itself.  Over the next few years, a couple more doctors in North America and England bought into the dairy hype and experimented with cow, goat, and even human milk transfusions, but eventually, skepticism and reports of bad side effects were enough to force this bad blood substitute to drop out of fashion.

The psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich had a controversial career in the early 1900s and many of his ideas are considered to be pseudoscience nowadays.  Take the concept of 'orgone', a physical energy that supposedly permeates the universe.  He argued that orgone contributes to things like the sky's blue color or the blue of a certain frog during mating season along with galaxy formation, chlorophyll, weather, and human emotions.  Reich even created big boxes for people to sit in called 'orgone accumulators' which he claimed would harness the energy and treat illnesses like cancer.

A: And how much money did he charge people to sit in the boxes?

M: You know--

H: Not nothin'

M: Two fiddy.  The idea of orgone was built off another idea, though.  What was it?  Freud's idea of libido as sexual energy, Mesmer's idea of animal magnetism, Bergson's idea of elan vital, which he used to explain growth and evolution, or Jung's idea of the collective unconscious?

H: I was gonna, I was gonna say Jung before I even heard all that, so I'm going to go with Jung's idea of the collective unconscious.

M: Incorrect, I'm afraid.

H: I'm wrong, though, so, I'm just trying to get to zero this round.  This time, I feel like, it's like golf.  Lower scores are better.

M: Mhmm.

A: Elan vital.  

M: Unfortunately, that is also incorrect. 

H: Alright, good, good job, good job.  That saves me from, you know, not being tied with you.  

A: Yeah.

H: So we continue to be tied, just lower down than we once were.  

 (06:00) to (08:00)

A: I need to stop guessing based on what I think Ceri would have made the choices.  

M: The answer is A, libido.  Wilhelm Reich was a former student of Freud and took his theory of the libido a step beyond sexy stuff with orgone energy, which he said flows through the universe like some kind of cosmic life force.  The term came from words like 'orgasm' and 'organism' and he believed that when you didn't have enough of this energy or bottled it up, you got sick, so to fix that, he created orgone accumulator boxes that supposedly concentrated the energy and could heal people.  These ideas were mostly based on speculation, misconceptions, and sometimes questionable experiments, not rigorous empirical evidence, so now they're considered pseudoscience.  Point blank, just sitting in a big box isn't going to cure cancer.

On to round two, which we're gonna call--

H: Which hopefully will go better than round one.

M: Space-time.  The Van Allen belts are two clouds of high energy particles surrounding the Earth, held in place by its magnetic field.  We've known about them since the launch of the Explorer 1 satellite in 1958, and have learned a lot since then, like how they can change size because of what the sun's spewing out at any given moment, but this year, researchers found that the inner boundary of the Van Allen belts is definitely farther away from the Earth than it was in the 1960s and they think it's because of something we're doing.  Is it cluttering low Earth orbit with more satellites and space debris, releasing dust clouds in the upper atmosphere for research, heating up the ionosphere with high frequency radio waves to study it, or producing more very low frequency radio communications?

H: Yeah, you go first.

A: Okay.  The first one.

M: Incorrect.

H: Heyyy!  I just, man, we can't, but I guess I have to go, too.  I'm gonna say, D, more very low frequency--ehhh!

M: That is correct.

H: We're pushing it out (?~7:46)

M: You guys, was that the first correct answer in this episode?

A: Yeah.

H: It is, it was the first--yes.  

M: Yaaay!  

H: I don't--we've never done that bad.  I blame Ceri.  Let's get her down here.

A: Yeah, well, yeah.  

H: Defend yourself.

M: The answer is D, very low frequency communications.  A lot of us will never use very low frequency or VLF radio waves, which range between 3 and 30 kilohertz.  

 (08:00) to (10:00)

They can't transmit audio like voices, but scientists in the military use them for things like broadcasting coded messages or time signals across long distances to submarines deep below the ocean's surface.  We've been using VLF more in the past few decades than in the 1960s, and it turns out that these radio waves are also flying into space and interacting with charged particles in the Van Allen belts to change how and where they move, so basically, there's a VLF bubble surrounding the Earth and pushing back these high energy belts.  We're accidentally changing space weather with our communications way down here.

In the past few years, two teams of researchers managed to create a brand new material called a time crystal, which sounds like some kind of fake magical relic.

H: It does sound funny.

M: But it's real.  Crystals have a regular atomic structure, like how a diamond is made of precisely ordered carbon atoms.  To make a time crystal, one team used a chain of ten ytterbium ions.  The researchers hit them a few times with two lasers, one that made an effective magnetic field and one that flipped the spins of the atoms.  Another team used diamonds to create their time crystal, with densely packed tiny defects called nitrogent vacancy centers, where a carbon atom is replaced with a nitrogen atom.  So knowing that, can you guess what makes a time crystal special?  Is it that it breaks into its component atoms all at once, has a constantly changing structure that repeats in cycles, vibrates faster and faster and emits a lot of energy, or freezes nearby atoms in place?

H: The atoms are just like, I'm absolute zero now!  That doesn't sound right.  I'm sorry, I gave you hint.  I'm gonna go first.

A: Okay.

H: 'Cause you went first last time and I'm gonna say that it's the thing that is the second thing where they--what was it, what's the second thing again?

M: Has a constantly changing structure that repeats in cycles.

H: That one.

M: That is correct!  

A: Yeah, that would have been my guess, too.

H: Dang it, I'm sorry! 

A: No, I wanted to let you go first so that you could eliminate more choices.  

M: A viable strategy.

A: Yeah.

H: That is what I've been letting Alyssa do.  

A: It's worked well for you so far!

 (10:00) to (12:00)

H: Well, I mean, not that well.  I'm still doing quite poorly.

M: The answer is B, time crystals have a constantly changing structure that repeats.  Crystals are defined as having an orderly repeating structure in space, so time crystals are defined as having an orderly repeating structure in time.  The idea of a time crystal was first proposed by a theoretical physicist in 2012 and there was a lot of skepticism surrounding it, but after years of work, physicists were able to come up with a theoretical recipe for time crystals, and then two teams of researchers made them a reality.  

Time crystals are stable, but they aren't in a still equilibrium like a ruby would be.  Instead, time crystals are what these researchers are calling non-equilibrium matter, because the atoms settle into a repetitive moving pattern of slightly changing spins.  It's not a perpetual motion machine, by the way, because the crystals need to be blasted by the lasers occassionally to keep them moving, but it's still a brain-bending example of theory turned reality, and physicists are excited to explore more non-equilibrium materials that could exist.  Theoretically, a time crystal could be used as memory storage in a quantum computer.

Okay, the next question is all about animal bodies.  Sometimes they work real differently than ours do.  For instance, male narwhals have a huge tooth sticking out of their heads, making them basically aquatic unicorns, and biologists have had a lot of different hypotheses about what they use these tusks for, like detecting subtle changes in the water with super sensitive nerve-endings or chipping away at the ice, but in May this year, a swimming narwhal was caught on drone video making jagged up and down movements with its tusk, a behavior that had never been seen before.  What do scientists think it was doing?  Making vibrations to talk to other narwhals, clubbing fish to stun them, acting aggressive to scare the drone away, or flinching because fish were tickling it?

H: That fish tickle.  

A: That's my guess, is the fish tickle.  

H: You're going fish tickle?

A: Yeah.

M: I'm sorry, that is incorrect.

A: Aw.  

H: I'm gonna go with fish stunning.

M: That is correct.

H: Oh man, Alyssa.  Whacking those little fish, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, with my head tooth.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

A: I just feel like that's something we would have known already.  

H: Narwhals, they're not easy to observe.  They're all in the middle of nowhere, it's cold, nobody wants to be up there.

M: They're very suspicious, mysterious animals.

A: I guess.

H: But they don't mind drones.

M: They're fine with drones.

A: I know, they're not aggressive toward them.

H: I feel like if you got an aggressive tooth sticking out of your head, there should be multiple reasons why you have it.  It shouldn't be like, one thing.  You can have like a super sensitive organ that also is a fish club.  

M: Yeah, that sounds sound to me.

A: Probably be pretty painful if it's really sensitive.

H: Well, but maybe it's sensitive just like, to--

M: Electromagnetism.

A: Or other unicorns, like the ones on land.  

H: Yeah, it's like a unicorn dowsing rod.

M: Ooh, it's their antenna to communicate with radio waves, but only with other unicorns.

A: And that makes the Van Allen belts move.  

M: We got it.  We solved the science.  The answer is B, clubbing their prey.  This drone video showed a narwhal using its tusk to hit and stun an arctic cod and then sucking it up as a snack.  This is the first time scientists have actually seen narwhals using their tooth as a weapon.  That's not to say other hypotheses are bunk.  It's possible that narwhals use their tusks for other things, too, like really important sensory organs or for sexual selection, we just have to keep studying them to find out.  

Arthropods, which includes your arachnids, crustaceans, and insects, have open circulatory systems instead of closed ones like us.  All of theri organs are floating in a fluid called hemolymph, which isn't contained in blood vessels.  Hemolymph acts kind of like our blood, though, and lots of arthropods have hearts to help pump it around and get oxygen to their tissues.  Sea spiders have really small abdomens that make it hard for their organs to fit inside and long spindly legs.  They have tiny hearts which aren't enough to pump hemolymph around their whole bodies, so they have another way of getting oxygen to all of their tissues.

H: What's the animal again?

M: The sea spider.

A: Are they actually spiders?

H: No, they're almost certainly crustaceans.  Can't imagine that there are aquatic spiders that I don't know about.

A: Okay.

M: Do they tumble to move, retract their legs which are made of a stretchy material, have long branching guts that contract, or have muscles lining each of their legs?

 (14:00) to (16:00)

H: Moving the hemolymph around!  When I was in college, I did research on crabs and we would remove the hemolymph from them with needles, just like hit in the elbow and just suck it out.  (?~14:19) and then do test on it after (?~14:21) them on treadmills.  So I'm gonna say one of the answers that you said, four.  

M: Have muscles lining each of their legs?

H: Yeah.

M: Incorrect, I'm afraid.

A: I'm gonna go with contracting their legs.

M: Incorrect.  They have long branching guts that contract.

H: What?!  

A: At some point, I will get a question right.  There's at least one more question.

M: The answer is C, pump their guts.  A sea spider or pycnogonid, doesn't have enough space in its abdomen to hold all of its guts, so its digestive system branches out all over its body and down every leg, kind of like how our blood vessels branch out everywhere, and instead of having gills, sea spiders take in oxygen by diffusion through their exoskeleton.  Researchers noticed that the rhythmic peristalsis of a sea spider's gut, which is basically the muscles contracting and relaxing to move food along, is much stronger than they expected.  Its heart, on the other hand, pumps pretty weakly.

After some experiments on 12 species of sea spiders, scientists learned that as food gets pushed down their legs, oxygen-rich hemolymph gets squeezed around their bodies.  So the way to their heart really is their stomach, or at least that's what keeps the hemolymph pumping.

And now for the final question, the script says!  So Alyssa, you have 500 points, Hank, you have 1300 points.  You can wager any, all, or none of those points on your answer to the next question, which follows the same basic theme as our previous questions, watery animal type things.

H: Those are good.  They're so weird.

A: They are so weird.  

M: So we're gonna cut to commercial break, maybe.  

Welcome back.  One species of water boatman is a teeny tiny two millimeter freshwater insect that can make an incredibly loud noise. 

 (16:00) to (18:00)

In 2011, researchers recorded the sound with an underwater microphone from 1 meter away and found it was an average of 78.9 decibels with a max of 99.2 decibels.  In air, that would be like standing next to a jackhammer or a power lawnmower and while they're muffled underwater, you can still hear them from a nearby riverbank.  Only the males can make this sound and researchers think it helps them to woo a mate.  

H: Sure.

M: So how do they do it?  Stabbing another male with their penis?

H: What?  Why would that make noise?  Is he just like, 'ow!  Dude!'?  It's just, it's just really, it's like they are, in their language, it's just like, 'Dude!'  

A: Explains why the scream is so loud.

M: It's the same as, you know, stabbing a sidewalk with a jackhammer.  It makes noise.  

H: They have powerful penises.  

M: Or do they do it by sucking up air and farting, or--?

H: Not gonna rule it out.

M: Or pumping water out their butt so they speed along and rub against sand?

H: What?  

M: Or rubbing their penis against their abdomen?

H: So it's definitely a butt or a penis thing?  It isn't any of those, Michael!  That's ridiculous.  

M: I don't know, man, I didn't invent this insect, so.

H: That's real good, whoever did.  A+

M: Good job on this one, nature.

H: Alright, I got my answer.  

M: OKay.

H: I didn't really know how to write it down.

M: Reveal your answers.  What does that even mean?

H: Penis ab poppin'.  They rub their penis against their abs.  

M: Okay.  Pumping water.  Hank is correct.

A: Of course!

H: They're smackin' it against their bellies.

M: You know, it makes a loud noise.  

H: What kinda dicks?

M: Let me tell you about it right now.

The answer is D, rubbing their penis against their abdomen.  A lot of insects make sounds by stridulation, or rubbing different parts of their bodies together.  Grasshoppers use appendages on their hind legs and wings while crickets just use their wings, and this water boatman uses its abdomen and a ridge on its paramere, which is what entomologists call part of an insect penis.  The rubbing area is only around 50 micrometers across, which is about as wide as a human hair, so the researchers aren't sure how they amplify the noise so much.

 (18:00) to (19:09)

They think the loudness happens through something called runaway selection, because the lady water boatmen seem to mate with the best and loudest singers and they don't have any predators that hunt them down using sound, but you know, we should probably leave the penis orchestrations to the insects and find our mates with other kinds of communication.  Talking.

A: I got 0!  

H: You got 0!  John, I got you a reward.  

A: Lucy, I'm very sorry, but I also got you a reward, technically.

H: You're not the only person who's gotten 0 on the show.  In fact, you're not the only person at this table who's gotten a 0 on the show.  

A: Yeah.

M: So thanks for joining us on this SciShow Quiz Show and thanks to all of our Patrons on Patreon.  If you want to hear more from Hank and Alyssa together, you can check out a couple episodes on our podcast, Holy Fracking Science, I'll say to be, you know, HFS.

H: Yeah, sure.  HFS.  

M: And don't forget, of course, to go to and subscribe.