Do You Know More About Physics Than a 5th Grader?

By: Elizabeth Lavis
Estimated Completion Time
4 min
Do You Know More About Physics Than a 5th Grader?
Image: Witthaya Prasongsin/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Everyone knows that you don't retain everything you ever learned in school. Want an example? Try to define what a "dangling participle" is!  Even so, most of us would love to think that we know more about physics than a fifth grader. After all, every adult must know more about the way that our universe works than the average eleven-year-old. 

How well do you remember concepts like mass, velocity and volume? Can you recite Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion from memory, or are you a little bit rusty? Can you think both big and small, on macro and atomic levels, to better understand what makes up our world, as well as identify all of the moving parts of an infinitesimal atom?  Do you know the rudimentary building blocks that the sharpest minds use to unlock the secrets of how our incredible universe works? If you should have had a least a cameo role on "The Big Bang Theory," it's time to show your stuff in this quiz that tests you on the basic principles and phenomena of physics and pits your mental might against that of your average fifth grader.  

Are you up for the challenge? Let's get started.

Q1 object in motion What kind of energy does an object in motion have?
Thermal energy
Kinetic energy
One of the cornerstone concepts of physics is kinetic energy. The term is used to express the energy that an object in motion has. An object maintains kinetic energy until it changes speed.
Electrical energy
Light energy

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Q2 resting to acceleration If unopposed, it will change the motion of an object — even from resting to acceleration. What's it called?
Collision
Displacement
Energy
Force
A "force" refers to any interaction that will change the motion of something if left unopposed. It can alter an object from existing in a resting state to being in a state of motion.

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Q3 Sir Issac Newton It supposedly bopped Sir Isaac Newton in the head and inspired his law of universal gravitation. What is it?
An apple
The notion that Sir Isaac Newton actually had the theory of gravity knocked into him by a falling fruit has been widely disputed, but it makes for a pretty incredible story about the origin of this theory. He published his famous work, "Principia," in 1687.
A shoe
A feather
A rock

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Q4 keeps our planet continually orbiting the sun This tremendous force keeps our planet continually orbiting the sun. What is the name of it?
Solar flares
Centrifugal force
The Earth's gravity
The sun's gravity
The sun's gravity keeps all of the planets in our solar system locked into their orbits, circling the sun. It's a good thing, too, because, without it, our planet would veer off into outer space.

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Boat shoe True or false: friction is the resistance of motion when one object rubs against another.
True
We use the word "friction" outside of the realm of physics, but scientifically it has a specific meaning. Kinetic friction refers to moving objects, and static friction refers to non-moving objects.
False

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Q6 object's overall change in position What term do we use when we refer to an object's overall change in position from its original location?
Absolute zero
Displacement
Displacement is a change in an object's location from its original position or a vector that covers the smallest distance between two points. It's determined by — what else — the displacement formula.
Hubble’s Law
Density

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Q7 Atom True or false: the middle of an atom is called a meiosis.
True
False
The middle of an atom is called the nucleus. The nucleus is made of subatomic particles — it's primarily comprised of protons and neutrons, with a very small number of electrons mixed in.

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Q8 standard way to measure power This term is a standard way to measure power. What is it?
Watt
A "watt" is a standard unit used to measure power, equivalent to a single joule per second. A joule is a unit of energy. "Watt" is a common term, used to talk about electrical currents in our many devices.
Particle
Atom
Ping

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Q9 unstable nucleus What do we call it when an unstable nucleus loses energy and emits radiation?
Hydrostatic equilibrium
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay, also called nuclear decay, refers to the disintegration of an unstable nucleus. When radioactive decay happens, the atom emits radioactive energy, which is, of course, dangerous.
Interference
Wave function

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Protons and neutrons These particles are negatively charged. Are they protons or electrons?
Protons
Electrons
Electrons are negatively charged particles, whereas protons are positively charged ones. All atoms contain the same number of protons and electrons, so they effectively cancel each other out.

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Q11 definition of a vacuum What is the definition of a "vacuum"?
A space that contains little or no matter and a very low pressure
Most vacuums have no matter in them, and those that do have so little that it hardly even registers. They have very low pressure and are considered to be inhospitable environments.
A space that is exactly the same, pressure-wise, as the air around it
A space that contains a ton of matter and very high pressure
A space where only protons can exist

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Q12 nuclear energy We've all heard the term "nuclear energy," but what's another official name for it?
Super energy
Physics energy
Hot energy
Atomic energy
Atomic energy is created through nuclear fission or nuclear decay. It is a powerful but sometimes unmanageable form of energy that can be dangerous if it is mishandled.

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Q13 break the sound barrier Talk about getting your hustle on! What phenomenon happens when you break the sound barrier?
Wormhole
Sonic boom
A sonic boom is the loud noise that shock waves make when an object travels faster than the speed of sound. Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier, back in 1947.
Supernova
Redshift

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Q14 Gravity Gravity is a powerful force. What earthly phenomenon is caused by the moon's gravity?
The change of the seasons
Oceanic tides
Oceanic tides are primarily caused by the moon's gravity. For many years, these tides were considered one of the more mysterious phenomena on the planet, but now we understand why they happen.
Earthquakes
Monsoons

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Q15 This former planet was demoted This former planet was demoted a few years back. What disgraced dwarf planet are we referring to?
Neptune
Mars
Mercury
Pluto
Back in 2006, Pluto was stripped of its planethood by scientists who decided that it just didn't meet all of the criteria — specifically, clearing its neighborhood of "other objects" near its size.

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Q16 speeding bullet It's faster than a speeding bullet — by leaps and bounds. What is the fastest thing in our universe?
Light
It's very hard to wrap your mind around the speed of light, which moves at an astonishing 186,282 miles per second. Light is by far the fastest-moving thing in our entire known universe.
Sound
Orbit
Solar

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Q17 What is inertia You've heard this term in your grade school physics class. What is inertia?
The speed at which a meteor moves around the sun
The tendency to preserve a state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force
Who doesn't love a little guilty pleasure inertia once in a while? Anyone who has ever binged on Netflix knows that staying in a state of rest until forcibly moved is an underrated talent.
An object that orbits around a dwarf planet, like Pluto
A formula designed to calculate the speed of sound

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Q18 concave or convex If something has a surface that is curved outward, is it concave or convex?
Concave
Convex
When an object rounds out like a sphere, it's considered to be convex. When light passes through a convex lens, it tends to bunch together rather than split apart on the other side.

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Q19 What keeps our feet on the ground We owe our very lives to this force. What keeps our feet on the ground?
Pascal
Electronics
Gravity
Gravity, in its simplest form, means that objects with mass tend to be attracted to each other. Since virtually everything on our planet has mass, we are firmly rooted to the Earth.
Mass

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Q20 Theory of Relativity What legendary genius formulated the theory of relativity?
Albert Einstein
Let's talk about Albert Einstein's famous theory of relativity! This varsity level concept basically states that our perception of gravity is based on the curvature of space and time.
Galileo Galilei
Stephen Hawking
Isaac Newton

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Q21 the universe True or false: the universe is shrinking.
True
False
Actually, the opposite is true. The universe is expanding, and it seems to be expanding at a much higher rate than it has in the past. Don't worry — this doesn't have any real effect for us humans.

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Q22 definition of a current What is the definition of a current?
The way light looks when reflected through a prism
A space/time principle that explains alternate universes
What happens when a sound wave meets a light wave
A flow of electricity through a conductor
Current generally flows from positive points to negative points. This term refers to the way an electrical force flows through a conductor. Metal is an exceptionally good conductor.

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Q23 stops a current What stops an electric current in its tracks?
Metal
Water
Rubber
Since electricity always prefers to travel through the path of least resistance, it tends to avoid messing with rubber. Rubber is highly resistant and can stop an electrical current.
Wood

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Q24 NOT a way to quantify temperature What is NOT a way to quantify temperature?
Gravitas
Fahrenheit, Celsius and Kelvin are all valid measurements of temperature. Kelvin is rarely used outside of scientific scenarios, but Fahrenheit and Celsius certainly are. Fahrenheit is generally used in the United States.
Celsius
Kelvin
Fahrenheit

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Q25 three Laws of Motion Who invented calculus and came up with the three laws of motion?
Thomas Edison
Charles Darwin
Sir Isaac Newton
You can thank Sir Isaac Newton and fellow scientist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for your killer hard 10th-grade calculus class — the two men came up with calculus independently. Newton's three laws of motion are the building blocks of physics — he came up with those on his own.
Nicola Tesla

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Compass
Prism
For an object to qualify as a prism, it has to have a few specific qualities. The ends must be identical and have flat faces. Of course, it must be clear so that light can pass through it.
Microscope
Flask

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Q27 sub-atomic particles What form of matter has subatomic particles with properties opposite those of regular subatomic particles?
Dark matter
Black holes
Antimatter
Antimatter might sound like a sci-fi term, but it's actually a useful component of medical imaging, specifically, Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Also, antimatter occurs in cosmic rays, and it's studied for its unique properties.
Light

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Q28 change in velocity What is the rate of increase in speed or the rate of change in velocity known as?
Acceleration
Acceleration can mean a number of different things, even just increasing speed while driving a car. In physics, acceleration is the rate of change of velocity in a certain amount of time.
Datum
Event horizon
Seismology

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Q29 Stars True or false: it’s possible that some of the stars we see in the sky no longer exist.
True
As tough as it is to fully grasp, it's entirely possible — and even very likely — that some of the stars we gaze at in the night sky are not there any longer, thanks to the speed at which light travels.
False

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Q30 heliocentric solar system In physics, what is a heliocentric system?
One where oxygen is breathed
One where the moon orbits our Earth
One that revolves around the sun
Heliocentric universes — including ours — revolve around a star or sun. The idea that we live in a heliocentric universe was first envisioned by Copernicus, but it didn't catch on for centuries.
One where planets rotate on their axes

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Q31 sudden change in momentum When there's a sudden change in momentum, what do we call it?
Funnel
Magnetism
Phase
Impulse
The term "impulse" refers to a sudden change in momentum — either an increase or a decrease. This can occur when an object either moves from a state of inertia or has a change in momentum.

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Q32 true for every action Physics tells us that this is true for every action. What is it?
There is an equal and opposite reaction.
Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion states that "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." This is one of the governing laws of physics and holds true for everything.
All actions are based on facts.
Actions can be measured in impulses.
Action only occurs on a macro level.

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Q33 The famous physicist The famous physicist pictured here wrote "A Brief History of Time" and contributed heavily to our understanding of modern physics. Who was he?
Galileo Galilei
Marie Curie
Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking was one of the most brilliant physicists who ever lived. His books, specifically "A Brief History of Time," made physics accessible and understandable to nearly everyone.
Max Planck

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Q34 Milky Way galaxy True or false: We live in the Milky Way galaxy.
True
The Milky Way, a spiral shaped galaxy, is our home. Specifically, our planet is located in the Orion Arm of the galaxy. The Milky Way disk measures as much as 120,000 light-years in diameter.
False

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Q35 This physics term This physics term is used to measure how much matter is in an object. What is it?
Mass
In physics, the term "mass" is simply the measure of how much matter is in something. The mass of an object doesn't change, even if external forces are acting upon the object.
Variable
Datum
Burette

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