Friday quiz: science mnemonics

From the same puzzle of the day desk calendar that gave us the science anagram puzzles post back in February, here’s an entry called “Abbreviated Science”!
There are six science-related1 mnemonics listed below. The actual calendar page also listed the six answers and asked you to match them up (answer = scientific field + description – e.g. for the “Every Good Boy Deserves Football” mnemonic, it would have said “Field: Music. Description: the lines of a treble staff”). However, the combined expertise of this audience should render the answers unnecessary; I got three without looking at any part of the answers (although two of them weren’t the exact mnemonics I was taught at school), and got another two once I knew which fields they were from.
As before, please submit only one answer per commenter per hour, to give people in other time zones a chance to take part!
(Also: I suspect this will be waaaaay too easy, so let’s spread it out).
Time permitting, I’ll update the post with the answers as they come in.
Have fun!
1) Big Boys Romance Our Young Girls Behind Victory Garden Walls
(Eva has it right that these are colours: Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Grey, White. But colours of what…?)
(Bob subsequently guessed the right answer – colours of resistors, in electronics, apparently)
2) Better Go Home Every Night Completely Paid
(Mod Scientist knew this one, and registered just to claim the bragging rights! It’s the nations of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama. Not science, but I did warn you!)
3) Camels Often Sit Down Carefully; Perhaps Their Joints Creak

  • geological epochs. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous)*

4) Kings Play Chess On Fine Grained Sand
(Guess who: it’s Bob! With the Linnean hierarchy – Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)
5) Harry He Likes Beer, But Can Not Obtain Food
(Bob: First 9 elements of the periodic table. Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine)
6) My Very Eager Mother Just Sewed Us New Pajamas
(Bob again: the planets of the solar system, plus poor little Pluto. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

1 One entry requires a rather loose definition of “science”

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"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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45 Responses to Friday quiz: science mnemonics

  1. Bob O'Hara says:

    5 is the first N elements in the periodic table. Although I do prefer this method of remembering the elements:

  2. Bob O'Hara says:

    Or i would if the embed worked (M@!!!!!!!). This is what I was linking to, as if you hadn’t guessed.

  3. Cath Ennis says:

    Right you are, Bob. Well done, go to the top of the class!

  4. 脜sa Karlstr枚m says:

    haha, I’ll read them and get the answers when others provide them. (longer way of keeping quiet and not admitting not knowing any of them 馃槈 )
    it’s fun trying to suss them out though, thanks Cath!

  5. Bob O'Hara says:

    No. 6 needs its pajamas removing.
    (I wonder – was the IAU’s committee that decided such things stacked with Holst purists?)

  6. Bob O'Hara says:

    Damn, got 4 as well. I wonder if I’ll be able to remember in an hour.

  7. Cath Ennis says:

    Yes, well, I doubt desk calendars are at the forefront of astronomy 馃檪
    I was taught “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets”, which I think is much better but would have been too easy for the purposes of this quiz.

  8. Cath Ennis says:

    p.s. 脜sa, just make something up!

  9. steffi suhr says:

    I’m in the same boat as 脜sa on this one… so I just googled one of them just to see if I could. No disclosure, but I found this mnemonic for 3):
    “Crazy Jack Tried Putting Purple Marbles Down Some Old Cows Ears.”
    That crazy old Jack, eh?

  10. Bob O'Hara says:

    Hm. Over an hour has passed.
    So 4 is the levels of the Linnean hierarchy – Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

  11. Bob O'Hara says:

    Just got no. 3 now, although it needs a P and N on the end according to wikipedia.

  12. Cath Ennis says:

    Welcome to the Bob O’Hara show, folks!
    Steffi, Jack is crazy alright! He’s going backwards, too!

  13. Bob O'Hara says:

    I think an hour’s passed. 3 is geological periods. Permian etc. but missing the paleocene and neocene (too modern for camels, presumably).
    I haven’t yet worked out 1 and 2. Give me time. 馃檪

  14. Austin Elliott says:

    As a creaking chemist I knew “Harry he liked beer”, but not the others.
    Incidentally, the periodic table one goes on much further. Oddly the only other bit I can remember (apart from the bit Cath quoted) was the part following Calcium at the start of the transition metals:
    Ca Sc Ti V Cr Mn
    – which ran

    “Called Scarface Tim – a Very Crafty Man – “

  15. Eva Amsen says:

    The first one looks like it should be colours, but of what, I don’t know…
    black (or brown/blue), brown (or black/blue), red, orange, yellow, green (or grey), blue (or black/brown), violet, grey (or green), white
    Hmmm… Colours of the ?] in order of [?
    I am not at all sure of the second-to-last one being “grey”, because intuitively it doesn’t make sense. I can see how black and white would be at the edges, but then in between they should be more “colourful”, not grey. Between violet and white should be something that looks like a very light lavender. Is very light lavender a kind of grey? Maybe.
    (My preference for putting green and blue at their respective places is that green should be between blue and yellow.)
    Wait. Is this the one with the very loose definition of science? Could it be… karate belts?

  16. Eva Amsen says:

    These are my guesses that I dismissed as being even LESS likely than karate belts:
    -rainbow/wavelengths -> doesn’t make sense with black and white included in the spectrum
    -something commercial, eg. the order of brand X crayons in the box when you buy them, or levels of some kind of card game or computer game
    -warning system. This one was somewhat likely, because you can have colours associated with different levels, but the only two colour-coded warning systems I knew didn’t match up: terrorist threats don’t have that many colours, and hospital warnings are not rankable by order. Code blue is not generally better or worse than code red – it depends on who you are!
    Am quite convinced they’re colours, though, so can only think along that line. Of course it’s possible that they’re not…

  17. Cath Ennis says:

    LOL @ Eva. Weren’t you saying something elsewhere about the value of being concise? 馃檪
    You are right that the first one is a list of colours, and you had them in the right order, but you haven’t yet guessed the field or what the coloured objects are.
    Do you guys need a hint? I could tell you the fields of the remaining two, and I can also tell you that number 2 is the one that I think requires a loose definition of science.
    Bob is right on the geological epochs.
    Austin, I might have to look the whole thing up now – that sounds like fun! I remember my biology teacher telling us about a mnemonic she learned in university that started “Christmas in the Kremlin, with Gorbachev and Lenin”, but I can’t remember what it’s for and Google isn’t helping (the search engine, not the cat. Although Google the cat isn’t helping much either).

  18. Bob O'Hara says:

    It’s the colours your boss goes through when he gets a particularly bad review back from a journal?

  19. Austin Elliott says:

    I’d be interested to see how much of the periodic table one there is.
    Though I’ll have to keep quiet about the chemical elements lest I give away that as a 12 yr old I used to be able to sing this off by heart…

  20. Cath Ennis says:

    Austin, that’s impressive! Can you still do it?
    Bob, LOL! Good guess, but it usually goes white – pink – red – purple – grey – green.

  21. Austin Elliott says:

    Only the first verse…

  22. Bob O'Hara says:

    the colours couldn’t be stars, could they? Black holes, brown stars, white dwarves etc.?
    I can’t think of anything else. a hint about no. 2 would be nice, too.

  23. Tom Webb says:

    My biology teacher was very fond of mnemonics and other tricks which didn’t really work, and which generally took more remembering than the biology – something like distinguishing bones in the wrist, the radius and ulna, from tibia and fibula in the shin, on the basis of one of them being a shorter word, and your arm being shorter than your leg, that kind of thing. Amazed I passed my A level, actually.
    But, his version of the taxonomic hierarchy has always worked for me: KP Crisps Often Feed Greedy Stomachs. (Do KP crisps even exist now?!)

  24. Alejandro Correa says:

    All these interesting talks reminds me of some verses which he wrote to some very dear friends:
    “The Liopleurodon”
    Poor Liopleurodon became extinct
    after being the best died of starvation
    He needed to get on the continent
    but time ran out when he fell from his podium
    No matter said Liopleurodon evolve and other
    without my big imprint, dominate the land, but it will be the salmon?
    Look Lioplurodon said the salmon, do not grieve for someone relieve you, for so little there is to mourn
    I bet one pounds that you will be immortal, but my days are numbered and you Liopleurodon.
    Poor Liopleurodon, the brink of extinction, have stolen your food like vultures, lurking and inglorious dead but no matter
    That following the evolution.

  25. Ken Doyle says:

    One of the few that I remember:
    Wow, Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me Right Now, Sweetie!
    (Hint: Think Hertzsprung-Russel)

  26. Cath Ennis says:

    CLUES: #1 is electronics, and #2 is geography.
    Tom, there’s a story about my biology teacher getting us to write our own mnemonics for the taxonomic hierarchy that deserves a post of its own!
    Alejandro, thanks for sharing that!
    Ken, I’m afraid I don’t know what Hertzsprung-Russel might refer to. But I’m sure someone on here will know!

  27. Bob O'Hara says:

    I can only think that 1 is something to do with the colour codes on resistors.
    Still don’t have a clue about 2. Both my parents were geography teachers, my brother a mineral processor, and I presently have an office in a physical geography department. Grrrr.

  28. Eva Amsen says:

    Ken, singer/physicist Diane Nalini wrote a song about that mnemonic: http://www.myspace.com/dianenalini (and that’s how I know about it)
    Cath, I gave up on the colours, then looked it up, and actually was really close to it yesterday, but thought my guess (which was quite right – I thought isolation plastic around wires) was wrong because there was no ranking in it… I thought it would be similar to the “colours of crayons in a box” thing, not a standard labeling system.

  29. Eva Amsen says:

    GAH, typing. I meant to say “which wasn’t quite right”

  30. Cath Ennis says:

    Aaaaaand resistors is correct!
    Bob, your family tree explains your problems with #2. You’re overthinking it. Think of geography as the term would be understood by a ten-year old… or as a category in Trivial Pursuits… no knowledge of physical geography or minerals required!
    BTW is your brother a processor or a professor…?
    Eva, I knew what you meant! (Unlike the time I was asked to submit a grant where the hypothesis within the abstract was missing a verb, rendering it nonsensical). And wire colours was really close – closer than karate belts 馃檪

  31. Bob O'Hara says:

    My brother now works on R&D for British passports. But he did his PhD reclaiming coal from coal tips. Ironically, his maternal grandfather had been a coal miner at Frickley pit.

  32. Cath Ennis says:

    Passports, eh? That’s getting closer to the kind of geography you need to think about in order to sweep this quiz.

  33. 脜sa Karlstr枚m says:

    Cath: just make something up yeah… in Swedish then?! ^^ ’cause that’s where I am heading with all these initials… surely they’d be the same… wait, no they won’t 馃槈
    I’m happy reading all this and learn I’m sure there are lots of stuff I don’t already know.

  34. Cath Ennis says:

    OK, it’s been a week. Shall I just tell you the final answer?

  35. Mod Scientist says:

    This blog post has forced me out of years of non-registered lurking at Nature Network. You should get a bonus cheque Cath.
    I believe #2 may be the nations of C. America, north to south:
    Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama

  36. Cath Ennis says:

    Ah, the wonder of twitter! (And the power of bragging rights!)
    Well done Mod Scientist, you are correct, and Bob is denied The Sweep!

  37. Eva Amsen says:

    So, I’ve noticed something odd.
    All these English mnemonics are always sentences, like Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and more such nonsense.
    When I think of Dutch mnemonics, most of the ones I’ve learned are NOT sentences, but just strings of letters that either makes a word, or almost a word, or are otherwise (almost) pronounceable. I realized with the last answer that I know a mnemonic to remember the order of the islands in the North of Holland, but the mnemonic is just “TVTAS” (which could mean “TV bag” but that’s not really an existing thing.)
    And I learned the first elements of the periodic table just as “HeLiBeBCNOF” (implying that you know Hydrogen anyway) pronounced as a made-up word. Elsewhere online I mentioned that I learned “KNAP” (“clever” or “smart”) to figure out whether the kathode or anode is the positive one.
    The only actual sentence I remember learning is “Meneer Van Dalen Wacht Op Antwoord” (Mr. Van Dale is waiting for an answer) which is the order of mathematical operators in an equation if there are no parentheses to show which to do first (exponent, multiply, divide, root, add, subtract). And that’s a really famous one that almost everyone would have been taught in elementary school, and yet nobody ever uses…

  38. Frank Norman says:

    I learnt the stave one as Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Hence the Tom Stoppard play of that name. I think football must be some strange northern variant.
    I hated those sentence mnemonics – I always found it harder to remember the mnemonic than the thing itself.

  39. Cath Ennis says:

    Eva, that’s interesting! Maybe Dutch just lends itself better to making words (or word-like entities) out of random strings of letters? I wonder what people in other countries do?
    And how do you remember the planets? What does MVEMJSUN(P) sound like?!
    Frank, I’ve heard “deserves fruit” as well, but us strange Northerners do seem to prefer the football one 馃檪

  40. Kristi Vogel says:

    Anatomy has a mix of both the English and Dutch varieties of mnemonics (including some that I can’t share here). There’s “To Zanzibar By Motor Car” for the branches of the facial nerve (temporal, zygomatic, buccal, marginal mandibular, cervical), and MATT for non-masticatory muscles innervated by the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve (mylohyoid, anterior belly of the digastric, tensor veli palatini, tensor tympani). In neuroanatomy, there’s the PITTS mnemonic for the spinothalamic pathway (pain, itch, tickle, temperature, and sexual sensation). Most of the ones that are complete sentences are the ones I can’t share, and appear to date to a time when the vast majority of medical students in the US were male.

  41. Cath Ennis says:

    Heh – I bet they’re good ones though. Maybe you should run your own quiz and we can all try to find ways to answer without triggering the offensively phrased comment filters 馃檪
    I always liked OIL RIG for Oxidation Is Loss, Reduction Is Gain (of electrons). Nice and neat and easy to remember.

  42. Kristi Vogel says:

    I can’t imagine why, but “Oh I Loathe Republican Industrial Greed” just popped into my head, when I saw OIL RIG. 馃槈

  43. Cath Ennis says:

    HAHAHA! OK, I’m using that from now on (not that I really need to know about electrons any more)

  44. Alejandro Correa says:

    I get the impression they did not understood my poetry, here is in Spanish:
    鈥淓l Liopleurodon ”
    Pobre Liopleurodon se extingui贸
    despu茅s de haber sido el mejor, muri贸 de inanici贸n.
    Ten铆a que conseguirlo en el continente
    pero el tiempo se acab贸, cuando el se cay贸 del podio.
    No importa, dijo el Liopleurodon, evolucionaran otros
    sin mi huella grande, dominaran la tierra, pero ser谩 el salm贸n?
    – Dijo el salm贸n- puedes Lioplurodon no llorar por alguien que aliviar, por lo poco que hay que lamentar ?
    Apuesto una libra de que usted ser谩 inmortal, pero mis d铆as est谩n contados y que Liopleurodon.
    Pobre Liopleurodon, al borde de la extinci贸n, han robado su comida como buitres al acecho y los muertos sin gloria, pero eso no es importante.
    驴Que viene despu茅s de la evoluci贸n ?

  45. Frank Hopkins says:

    Geological Epochs: (The 2nd mnemonic uses the 1st two letters of each term)
    Cambrian Chief Car
    Ordovician Of Orders
    Silurian Staffs Sinking
    Devonian Dining Despite
    Carboniferous Car California
    Permian Party People
    Triassic Train Trading
    Jurassic Just Junky
    Cretaceous Crashed Crap

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