95% of People Can't Ace This A-Z Science General Knowledge Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Science: A lot of us think of it as a really difficult school subject, or as the judgments of a council of intellectual elites --" Scientists," with a capital S. But at core, science is neither of these things. It's the study of the universe as it is (not as we would like it to be; for example, not with the earth at the center of the solar system).

Once you take science on its own terms, it's a beautiful and fascinating subject. There is nothing it does not study and illuminate, from subatomic particles to the limits of the universe -- if there are such limits. Of course, everyone has a favorite scientific subject, from astronomy to zoology. This quiz will test you on many of them. Do you know, for example, what the Earth's radiation belts are called? Or in what field you'd hear people referring to a "joule"? Or what the term "exobiology" refers to? You'll need to know a little about a variety of disciplines. So you're likely to do better if you're a curious person with a subscription to Scientific American than if you studied one scientific field in college and ignored the rest.

Are you ready to channel your inner Bill Nye? Great! Let's do this!

In what field would you use the word "aphelion"?

"Aphelion" means a point at which a astronomical body is furthest from another one. This can be the Earth with the sun, or the moon with the Earth. The opposite is "perihelion."


Is there such a thing, in astronomy, as a "brown dwarf"?

A brown dwarf is a star that fails to create nuclear reactions powerful enough to shine as a star. (We feel like there's a life lesson in here, somewhere).


Which of these is an alternative to Celsius?

Celsius, Fahrenheit and Kelvin are three scales for measuring heat. We'd say "measuring temperature," but as the science-minded among you know, all temperature is heat. It's just a matter of how much or how little, down to zero Kelvin, which is absolute zero.


A Cassegrain telescope is often also known as a _____-Cassegrain telescope.

Whatever the name, this is a telescope that uses mirrors, but has a shorter body than a traditional reflecting telescope, because it bounces the light back and forth between several mirrors to fit the focal length in a shorter space. Think of the way you fold an electric cord back on itself repeatedly to store it in a small space.


In which field would you find a diode?

A diode is the part of a semiconductor that only allows current to flow one way. It can be used to change alternating current to direct current.


Exobiology is the biology of _______.

Yup, this is a field, though it's fairly theoretical so far. The "discovery" of unicellular life on Mars, in the mid-'90s, proved to be a false alarm.


What is a facula?

Nope, not a vampire parody! On the sun, faculae are unusually bright spots, usually found near sunspots.


What is the definition, in physics, of "frequency"?

This term comes up often in science involving radio. You might have seen it illustrated on a computer screen, as the "tightness" of the up-and-down squiggles representing a wave. The height of those waves is called "amplitude."


Gravity is one of the ____ fundamental forces of the universe.

The other three are electromagnetism, strong interaction and weak interaction. Fun fact: In the late '90s, mathematician Alan Sokal pranked an academic journal with an article claiming that gravity was a social construct, and calling for an "emancipatory mathematics." Maybe it's not fair to call the article, which the journal dutifully published, a "prank." Maybe it was an "inversion of hermeneutic norms."


The Hubble Constant measures the rate of what?

The name "Hubble" might be more familiar to you from the Hubble Telescope. But Edwin Hubble also gave his name to this important constant in astronomic calculations.


Histology is the study or examination of ____.

Histology relates to tissue. You might have been briefly tempted by "allergens," since allergies usually cause tissue inflammation, and histology comes into play in that regard.


The word "heliocentric" can be applied to what?

Don't be fooled by "certain plants"; the name for plants that track the sun's movement is "heliotropic." "Heliocentric" applies to our solar system, and replaced the previous "geocentric" model.


"Igneous" most often means a type of ____.

An igneous rock is formed from volcanic processes. The other two types of rock are sedimentary and metamorphic.


Inertia means an object will stay at rest or in motion until _____.

Of course, on Earth there's always an outside force, even if it's just air resistance or friction. This is why we have no perpetual-motion machines.


A joule is a unit that measures ____.

"Work" is a general physics term meaning the result of the application of force. A joule, more specifically defined, is a physical displacement through one meter caused by one newton of force.


The Jovian planets include ...

The four gas giants in the outer solar system are referred to as the "Jovian" planets. They're named for the first and biggest of them, Jupiter.


A kilogram equals _____.

Sorry, trick question! If you said "both #2 and #3," we got you ... a kilogram is 1000 grams, not 100. And 2.2 pounds, in the standard system.


What are the Leonids?

The Leonids got their name from their apparent point of origin, the constellation Leo. The same can be said of the Perseids and the Aquarids, better-known meteor showers.


You would use the phrase "launch window" in ______.

This was probably pretty clear from the word "launch." A "launch window" is the period of time during which conditions are all right for a rocket to take off.


Matter, in its other form, is ______.

This is one of the first things that students learn in basic physics: matter is converted to energy and energy to matter, but neither can be created nor destroyed. However, attempts to interpret this as evidence of life after death are best left to shows like "Ghost Adventures."


A micron is used to measure what?

A micron is 1/1000 of a millimeter. That's tiny! It's mostly used to measure wavelengths of light.


Which element has the symbol N?

Sodium is "Na." It's nitrogen, which makes up about 78 percent of the earth's atmosphere, that has the simple symbol "N."


Why is the ozone layer important to life on earth?

This is why the appearance of a hole in the ozone layer in the late 1980s was so disturbing. Without ozone, living things are much more prone to carcinogenic radiation.


What is pareidolia?

Pareidolia is responsible for people seeing religious figures -- often Jesus or the Virgin Mary -- in things like frost blossoms, refrigerator mold or burned toast. (OK, that last one was just on a TV sitcom!)


What is the "primordial soup"?

Evolution teaches that all life came from the ocean. But three billion years ago, the ocean wasn't the body of saltwater we know today, but a mix of water and chemical elements.


As an adjective, "quantum" means ...

As a noun, a "quanta" is the smallest possible amount/unit of energy. As an adjective, it means "at a subatomic level." Unfortunately, it's been hijacked by pseudoscience to mean "radically world-changing," "impossible to explain by conventional science," or anything else the pseudoscientist needs to justify charging $100 for a two-hour seminar.


Radiation belts: Earth's are called the _____ belts.

These two belts are made up of charged particles, and start at about 700 kilometers above the Earth's surface. They were named for their discoverer, James Van Allen.


The sunspot cycle is __ years long.

The number of dark spots on the sun's surface wax and wane. The number last peaked in 2011, so will peak again in 2022.


Titan is one of ______'s moons.

Titan, befitting its name, is the second-largest moon in the solar system. Only Jupiter's Ganymede is larger.


Ultraviolet light waves are best measured in ______.

Yup, they're about 90 to 350 nanometers in length. Fortunately, they still can't slip past Earth's protective ozone layer.


The only element that exists in a vacuum is ____.

A vacuum is just that: an absence of matter. That's hard for us to conceive of, because our conception of "empty space" is actually air, a rich stew of nitrogen, oxygen, and other trace elements.


What does a watt measure?

A watt is 1 joule per second. It's a simple measure of power, not light, despite its association with light bulbs.


Yellowcake is obtained by processing what?

You'll hear this term in stories about the nuclear-weapons development programs of smaller nations. The creation of yellowcake is a step toward having nuclear weapons. However, less purified yellowcake can be used for benign purposes, like domestic energy.


In what field would you use the term "zero magnitude"?

Magnitude measures the brightness of an astronomic body, usually a star. Lower magnitudes are brighter, with -1 being brighter than 0. This takes some time to get used to!


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!