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Respectability for Dirac’s Drunkards

Dirac’s Drunkards in full flow (Courtesy: Caroline Prew)

By Michael Banks

It was a respectable/mediocre (delete as appropriate) result for the Physics World team at yesterday’s Big Science Pub Quiz held at Imperial College London.

The Physics World “dream team” – including myself, Matin Durrani, Margaret Harris and James Dacey – ventured down to London to test our general science knowledge in a quiz for journalists and academics, which was organized by the science PR office at Imperial.

A total of 16 teams entered from outlets such as Science (Professor Palin and the Fruit Flies), the Times (Meaty You’re Right), the Daily Mail (Imperial Storm Troopers) and Channel 4 (which must have had the team with the best name: Euclids on the Block).

Each team of journalists was put together with a team of academics from Imperial and we joined physicist John Tisch and four members of his quantum optics group for our team, which we called “Dirac’s Drunkards”.

After a few hairy questions in the true or false, science in the movies and picture rounds – for example, is it true that while babies have 300 bones, adults have only 206? – the half-time break couldn’t come quick enough, where we delved into (a rather bland) curry before getting on with the second half of the quiz, with a more taxing pot luck and music lyrics round.

In the end it was not meant to be for Dirac’s Drunkards. We shared eighth place with the BBC News Website (team-name: Denialists) with a score of 52.5 out of 95 – narrowly beating the BBC science radio unit (Radio Gaga) with 51 points and just missing out on seventh place from Euclids on the Block who managed 54 points.

To add further excitement to the night (as if that was at all needed), both teams from New Scientist were in the lead at the end of the quiz with a score of 66.5.


So a tie-breaker question was needed and quiz master Gareth Mitchell asked one surely any particle physicist would know: what is the circumference of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN?

Indeed, it was the team that actually named itself after the collider (mischievously misspelling “Hadron” in Hadron Collider) who won, with a guess of 23 km while the Particle Zoo New Scientist team went for 50 km. Of course, as you will know, the answer is 27 km.

The picture on the right shows what the lucky winning team won, with each member taking home a Big Science Pub Quiz tankard.

Below are some example questions from yesterday’s quiz to see how you would have done (that is without using the internet/Wikipedia/Google of course).

Q) What element in the periodic table has the atomic number 36?
Q) Which Nobel laureate had the original name of Gábor Dénes?
Q) True or false? Women in Sweden have a lower body mass index than women in any other country in the European Union?

Answers on a postcard.

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