Science & Environment

Quiz: Science fact or fiction?

Science fiction, or science fact?

As we reach the end of National Science and Engineering week, a survey from Birmingham Science City suggests it is not always easy to tell fantastic science from things that are just fantasy. Think you know which is which?

Albert Einstein (AP)

1.) Science fiction, or science fact?

Time travel like that depicted in Doctor Who is currently possible.

Tardis (BBC)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

2.) Science fiction, or science fact?

You can have a clone made of your pet.

Twin tigers (Thinkstock)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

3.) Science fiction, or science fact?

"Tractor beams" - rays that lift or draw in objects - are possible.

Artwork of spaceship and 'tractor beam' (SPL)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

4.) Science fiction, or science fact?

It is possible to "teleport" * .

  1. data
  2. people
  3. bacteria

5.) Science fiction, or science fact?

A garment that can hide people - a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak - exists.

Invisible man (BBC)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

6.) Science fiction, or science fact?

Light sabres - in classic Star Wars flashy-battle style - are available.

Light sabres (Thinkstock)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

7.) Science fiction, or science fact?

Scientists have built a device that harnesses brain waves, moving objects based on a subject's will.

Rodin's Thinker (AP)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction

8.) Science fiction, or science fact?

Science can mimic the stage trick of levitation, and demonstrations have even shown a frog levitated in mid-air.

Stage trick levitation (BBC)
  1. Science fact
  2. Science fiction


  1. Well, sort of. In the way it is portrayed in science fiction, time travel remains an impossibility (30% of those surveyed guessed it is possible). Current theories of physics hold that particles are popping into and out of existence and bouncing back and forth in time - but people cannot.
  2. The first cloned pet was produced in 2004 (a cat called Little Nicky), and for the right price, you could have one too. NB: since both genes and environment shape animals' (and our) dispositions, the result will not necessarily be like the beloved pet you clone.
  3. A staple in science fiction is the baddies' ship being targeted and drawn in using a visible beam of light. Scientists in Hong Kong now say that's theoretically possible - but only for small objects over short distances.
  4. Teleportation is a tricky concept, and so far only the physical states of electrons and photons have been sent from one place to another. Pulling off the same trick with whole molecules and starship captains is a long way off; a quarter of respondents thought it was possible to teleport people.
  5. Not yet - and 78% of respondents guessed not. But it is a rich area of research, and for small, rigid objects the trick is not all that hard to do. Getting something pliable and wizard-sized will prove tricky, though.
  6. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents reckon they are. But not yet. It is certainly easy to make lasers that cut, but stopping them at sabre-length is difficult, and the laws of physics have it that they would never bash against one another but would pass straight through.
  7. The power of the mind plus a device to read out brain waves makes it possible - and 30% of respondents said it was. Our primitive understanding of what the brain's electrical signals actually mean can translate our sheer will into motion; the idea has been put to use recently in hi-tech toys and even an orchestra.
  8. Frogs are not the only animals that have been levitated, but it still has not been done with humans. A magnetic field of some strength is necessary, and last year's physics Nobel laureate Andre Geim famously did the trick with a live frog in 1997.

Your Score

0 - 2 : Lab rat

3 - 5 : Graduate student

6 - 8 : Professor

Photos courtesy SPL and Thinkstock

For more science-themed quizzes, test yourself with 7 questions on scientists or 7 questions on space probes.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites