Deeper into Jeopardy! V: Biology Class – $200

As quickly as the Battle of the Decades came, it leaves us now to make room for the College Tournament (and with it my Coryat average jumps up by more than half over last week…), which lasts until next Friday, after which we will see the triumphant return of Arthur Chu to the podium to continue his apparently maniacal ways. I’m excited to see if the frankly bizarre amount of media attention he got during his first run will start up again then, although I suspect the attention spans of both the public and the writers have run their respective courses. I’d also like to point out that by my count we saw the first clue that one of my posts should have helped you with – the $1600 clue under NAME THAT SHAKESPEARE PLAY mentioned 1415, and sure enough the correct response was Henry V (highlight to see), just as I said it would be when I talked about the Battle of Agincourt. This week had two straight science categories up on the J!Archive by the time I sat down to write Monday’s post, which I’ve been waiting for since this series started. A little bird told me which one to pick, so let’s get down to BIOLOGY CLASS!

Jeopardy! category: BIOLOGY CLASS (12-02-2014)

$200 clue: At about 9 weeks of age, a human embryo becomes one of these

Correct response

The gist: Human gestation is popularly conceived of as a nine-month arrangement, an appropriately approximate definition for a process that can vary in length by quite a bit among individual mothers. Besides the commonly-used trimesters, the nine-months-or-so can be divided into two periods (as only one of many division schemes). The first, the embryonic period or embryogenesis, lasts until about the ninth week of pregnancy, involves the cleavage of embryonic cells (a process that is also responsible for decades of juvenile laughter in biology classes) to form a blastocyst, which implants itself on the uterine wall.It’s there that it begins to rapidly grow in size (previously having been constrained by the shell-like zona pellucida) and, after about nine weeks, enters the fetal development period, and is known as a fetus. It’s a fairly loose term, but in general it can be understood to mean that a fetus has begun the development of all of its major biological structures, although these may not be fully developed or functional nor even in their final position throughout the fetal period. Around the 24th week the fetus becomes “viable” – it has on average a greater than 50% chance of survival if it leaves the womb at that point, with the chances increasing with more time spent inside, until they become post-mature.*

An ultrasound of a fetus at around nine weeks.

The clue: The most notable feature of this clue is the modifier “about” when defining the age of the fetus – this is, of course, necessary because there is no definite age at which an embryo becomes a fetus. Many a trivia question has been argued and challenged, and many a player left unsatisfied, by imprecise wording in questions like this. If the clue asked about the term for an embryo “at nine weeks of age,” that could potentially be problematic; not all embryos are fetuses at nine weeks, and many embryos could reasonably be called fetuses at, say, eight-and-a-half or earlier. When writing trivia, you’ve got to keep all these little things in mind. It’s a finicky business by nature, so embrace it.
In Jeopardy!: Given that every viviparous vertebrate is a fetus at some point, and a properly-developing fetus incorporates most of the important bits of an animal plus a few more, it’s a convenient thing to build a clue around. “Fetus” shows up in 25 clues in the J!Archive, but it’s the correct response in only four. Many of the others ask about specific structures (often the umbilical cord or amniotic fluid) in the course of their fetal development, and some about medical procedures (amniocentesis and ultrasound). Lots of science terms are used like this, as the framework of a clue in order to ask about a more specific aspect of it.

* I feel the need to point out that I’m sure no doctor, and I’m just relaying what I’ve found – don’t take anything I’m saying as anything more than a broad overview, please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *