How Many of These General Science Words Do You Know the Meaning Of?


By: Ryan Choate

6 Min Quiz

Image: Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

General science is a reference to the overall disciplines under the larger umbrella of science. Do you remember your biology, chemistry and astronomy classes? 

In the field of biology, a scientist may study living things or may get more specific with an interest only in animals where they would study zoology. Microbiology gets even smaller by using highly technical electron microscopes a scientist can see things far smaller than with the naked eye. The best microscopes can see a specimen the size of a nanometer—that's one billionth the size of a meter! Math plays a large part in science. Physics requires math to solve complex equations to measure great distances and combinations of non-tangible items, such as light speed and dark matter.

Whether you're a science nerd or just remember a few terms from your high school biology class, this quiz will test your knowledge or maybe old memories of science jargon. You might need to hypothesize the terms on this quiz in order to dissect the answers. Jog the old hippocampus and see how many of these general science words you know!

What's the scientific unit that measures force?

Force is a push or pull on an object. Scientists measure the strength of these forces in Newtons. You might be more familiar with the unit "pounds," which measures how much something weighs. Fun fact: 1 Newton is approximately 0.224809 pound-force!


When an object has a change in velocity, this can be a representation of what scientific term?

A car is a good illustration of some different types of acceleration. When we hit the gas, the car speeds up, and when we turn the wheel, the car travels in a new direction. When brakes are applied, the car slows down, which is an example of negative acceleration.


Much of the universe is made of particles that can't be seen by scientists. What is this material?

About 80% of the universe is made up of materials that are not observable by scientists, Known as dark matter, it exists in order to hold the elements of the universe together.


A system of measurement can tell us how much gravitational force is put upon an object. What is this measurement known as?

The weight of an object changes with the strength of gravity. The acceleration due to gravity on Earth is 9.8 m/s/s. Someone with a 60kg mass on Earth weighs about 132 pounds. That same person would weigh about 21 pounds on the moon, due to smaller gravitational pull.


Everything on Earth is made of which basic unit of matter?

Scientists once thought the atom was the smallest measurable substance on Earth. They now have discovered that the atom is made up of even smaller particles including protons, neutrons and electrons.


An atom can discard or accept additional electrons. What are these atoms called?

An ion is an atom that has either gained or lost electrons. Since electrons are negatively charged, an atom that has lost an electron has a positive charge, while an atom that has gained an electron has a negative charge.


A swamp, lake and a forest are all examples of what type of biological community of interacting organisms?

An ecosystem includes all of the living and non-living things in a particular environment. The Earth contains many types of ecosystems, ranging from large areas such as the Siberian tundra to the puddle in your backyard.


Some biochemical reactions need a little help. What is the name of this helper catalyst?

Enzymes are typically proteins that speed up reactions that take place in cells. Some enzymes help break down larger molecules, and others bind molecules. All enzymes are highly selective and only help speed up specific reactions.


The word "force" is a homonym, which is a word with different meanings. But in the science world, it means what?

Force is a push or pull on an object that causes an acceleration. This can include making an object start moving, stop moving, speed up, slow down or change directions. Examples of forces include: gravitational, magnetic, friction, applied and elastic.


All objects contain a certain amount of physical substance. If it has substance, it also has what?

Mass is measured in grams, and this measurement remains the same regardless of an object's location in the universe. If you have a mass of 75kg on Earth, you will also have a mass of 75kg on the moon. Gravity does not affect mass.


Plants have the ability to convert solar energy into usable chemical energy. What's the name of this process?

Photosynthesis is the process of converting carbon dioxide into glucose. Animals must consume glucose, but plants have the unique ability to create their own. The glucose is used in various metabolic processes in most living things.


Some animals have life-long relationships with animals of another species. What is this known as?

Mutualism, commensalism and parasitism are all types of symbiosis. Mutualism has benefits for both species involved, while commensalism benefits one part but does no harm to the other. Parasitism benefits one species while causing harm to the other.


Which organisms contain cells with membrane-bound organelles and nuclei?

Humans are eukaryotic organisms. Our cells contain membrane-bound organelles such as mitochondria, the Golgi apparatus and ribosomes. Each organelle has a different job within the cellular system.


Within the eukaryotic domain, what is the highest taxonomic rank?

There are five kingdoms in the eukaryotic domain: monera, protists, fungi, plants and animals. Each kingdom can be further divided into the categories of phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.


Not all atoms within an element are exactly alike; some contain different numbers of neutrons. What do you call these variations of atoms?

Most of the property of an atom comes from the number of protons and electrons, with neutrons still playing a part. The neutron has an impact of the mass of an atom, and some isotopes are more radioactive than others.


At one point, Earth consisted of one large continent surrounded by a single ocean. What was the name of this super continent?

The breakup of a large super continent known as Pangea helped scientists establish the modern theory of plate tectonics. It is thought that the Earth's outer shell is made up of several plates that slide over the mantle.


Organisms must constantly generate new cells. What is the process when a single parent cell divides and produces an identical daughter cell?

Mitosis is the primary mechanism organisms use to reproduce cells. In the eukaryotic cell, this process has five phases: interphase prophase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase. These phases produce the two identical daughter cells.


The division of sex cells is more complicated than that of somatic cells. What is the process that sister cells with varying genetic makeup?

The end goal of meiosis is to produce four daughter cells with genetic variation. Meiosis involves two rounds of nuclear division rather than just one. Variation is further increased when two gametes meet during fertilization.


A force applied over time can cause what change in an object?

Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. A large bus traveling at 60 mph has more momentum than a Prius traveling at 15 mph. A head-on collision of these two objects would cause considerable damage to the Prius, because the change in momentum would be greater with the Prius.


Living things work hard to maintain stable conditions. What is the name of the process that ensures this stability?

The human body uses a number of homeostatic processes. Humans maintain a normal body temperature by sweating when too warm and shivering when too cold. We must also maintain homeostasis in regards to pH levels and blood pressure.


Large masses in the universe are attracted to each other. What is the name of this attractive force?

Gravity is the force that brings you back to the ground when you jump, and it also keeps the Earth in orbit around the sun. Gravity is a product of an objects mass. This is why a person weighs more on Earth than they would on the moon, which has a much smaller mass than Earth.


Objects are made of different types of atoms. What do you call a substance made of a single type of atom?

The periodic table of elements, like the one seen in science classes, lists all the elements known to humankind. Each one is defined by a set of unique characteristics, including the number of protons and its inclination to interact with other elements.


An object that lacks motion does not mean it lacks energy. What is the type of energy that could become kinetic?

An object has potential energy if it has the possibility of motion. Examples of potential energy are: gravitational, elastic, chemical and nuclear. Potential energy can move to kinetic energy and back again. A classic example of this would be a roller coaster.


The Earth is divided into three main layers. Which layer is the biggest by volume?

The mantle is mostly a solid layer of Earth. It lies between the molten core and the outer crust. It's the thickest layer, making up about 84% of the Earth's volume, at almost 2,000 miles thick.


The diversity of life is a result of various DNA combinations. What's the name of the complete set of an organism's genetic material?

Your genome contains the instructions for all of your human characteristics, written in a chemical code known as DNA. Human DNA contains around 20,000 genes. Each of these genes are specific instructions for making proteins, the building blocks of our body.


An object in motion possesses a certain amount of energy. What is the type of energy?

Kinetic energy is a product of an object's mass and velocity. The faster an object travels, the more kinetic energy it has. The more kinetic energy an object has, the more work it can do.


Newton's first law states that an object will maintain its current state of motion unless acted upon by an outside force. What term describes this law?

Inertia is an object's tendency to continue doing what it is doing unless acted upon by a force. If not for friction, a ball's inertia would keep it rolling forever. Earth's inertia keeps it revolving around the sun.


Every gene comes in different forms. What is the name of these variant forms of genes?

Each person inherits two alleles for each gene, one from each parent. These various alleles give rise to all physical traits such as eye and hair color. Some alleles are more dominant than others. The combination of alleles is called the genotype, and the physical trait expressed is called the phenotype.


How do scientists measure distance between objects in the universe?

A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. This is roughly equal to 6 trillion miles. The Earth is about 8 light-minutes from the sun and 4.3 light-years away from the next closest start, Proxima Centauri.


Atomic nuclei have the unique ability to bond together to create a single atom. What is this process called?

Fusion occurs when wo atoms fuse together to create a single new atom. This new atom contains less mass than the two previous atoms combined. This missing mass is given off in the form of energy as described in Einstein's equation E=mc^2. This is the main source of energy for the sun.


Some materials permit electrons to flow freely. What is this material called?

Conductors can be metal, solutions and even the human body. The only requirement for a conductor is they allow electrons to flow freely. Some of the most conductive materials include silver, copper and aluminum.


Classical mechanics is concerned with analyzing an object's position. What is the name of the 4th, 5th and 6th derivatives of position?

Velocity describes the rate at which position changes. Accelerations describes the rate at which velocity changes. Scientists can analyze further derivatives of position including snap, crackle and pop, each describing how the previous derivative changes.


Some cells have the potential to become any type of specialized cell. What is the name of this raw material?

Stem cells have the potential to develop into any type of cell. It has huge medical implications because it allows for the creation of any kind of tissue. Stem cells can be found in an embryo's bone marrow and in the umbilical cord.


Earth contains three distinct types of rock. Which type is created by cooling magma?

Igneous is the type of rock formed when liquid magma cools and solidifies. The most common type of igneous rocks are basalt, obsidian and pumice. The variety comes from the different chemical composition of magma.


Sexual reproduction involves the fusion of sex cells. What is the term used for this fertilized egg cell?

A zygote is a single-cell organism resulting from the unification of a sperm and egg cell. A zygote will continue to divide until it becomes a blastocyst, at which point it will implant in the wall of the uterus. This will eventually develop into an embryo and then a fetus.


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