Saturday, 17 October 2009

The 1st Question 69 - 13 Oct 09

This week's panel

Lorin Tone, Harper Beresford, Reslez Steeplechase, AgileBill Firehawk


Chance favors the prepared mind
Harlan Ellison

To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level.
Bertrand Russell

Word-UP of the week – “Inventoil” – Sorting through one’s extensive inventory.
Harper Beresford

Audience Quote of the week – "Heroin was invented to keep soldier away from cocaine...and it succeeded"
Roger Amdahl


For the answers go to The 1st Question blog at

1) He is a theoretical physicist specializing in string field theory, and a futurist. He is a popularizer of science, host of two radio programs and a best-selling author. Presently, he is engaged in defining the "Theory of Everything", which seeks to unify the four fundamental forces of the universe. Which we have covered in the show. He has publicly stated his concerns over nuclear power, and the general misuse of science. His latest book, Physics of the Impossible, examines the technologies of invisibility, teleportation, precognition, star ships, antimatter engines, time travel and more - In this book, he ranks these subjects according to when, if ever, they might become reality. Who is this genius among us who has lectured at the City College of New York, for more than 30 years?

2) Devices will use special gel pads to "swipe" a person or crime scene to gather a sample which is then analyzed detecting the presence of chemicals within seconds, much quicker than current analysis methods. This will allow better, faster decisions to be made in response to terrorist threats. Raman spectroscopy involves shining a laser beam onto the suspected sample and measuring the energy of light that scatters to determine what chemical compound is present. What country is developing this technology they also hope will be employed for roadside breathalyzing?

3) It is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption in a cosmic perspective. The three levels can be quantified in units of power (watts) and plotted on an increasing logarithmic scale. It has three measures -Type I — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet: Type II — one that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star: & Type III — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single galaxy. At present we are below Type 1 on what scale?

4) He wrote many philosophical papers on ethics and aesthetics. He synthesized the thoughts of Kant and was friends with Goethe. He developed the concept of the Schöne Seele (beautiful soul), a human being whose emotions have been educated by his reason, so that duty and inclination are no longer in conflict with one another; thus "beauty," has morals. He wrote The Robbers considered the first European melodrama and he was an important part of Weimar theatre. This play strongly criticizes the hypocrisies of class and religion and the economic inequities of German society; it also conducts a complicated inquiry into the nature of evil. Beethoven set his poems to music with Ode to Joy- who was he?

5) The experiment was conducted in 1971 as Twenty-four undergraduates were selected to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the university’s psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities. Roles were assigned based on a coin toss. Prisoners and guards all too rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations so much so that the experiment was terminated after six days. The experiment's result has been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support. What was this experiment in human behavior?

6) The Soviet Union launched the very first earth-orbiting satellite in 1957, and the world looked on in awe as Sputnik flashed through the sky. Fifty years later, you’d be lucky to see anything. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network says there are almost 20,000 man-made objects in orbit, ninety-four percent of which are non-functional debris. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of bits of junk too small to track. DARPA has put out a call for someone – anyone – to come up with a way to effectively remove orbital debris. There are about nine hundred operational satellites that are in constant danger of smashing into things. With the reality of space tourism drawing ever closer, the need to clean up around the earth has never been more pressing. There have been lots of ideas in the past but none, obviously, has struck DARPA as quite right.. In 2003, an inflatable set of “space tongs” that could grab and tow objects was proposed by which company? So, if you’ve got a concept for the removal of space debris, it might be worth submitting –But, hurry – you have to get your brilliant idea to them before the end of October.

7) What is it with scientists and robotic animals? Did they not have pets as children? This year alone, we’ve seen robot ferrets, penguins, dogs, locusts, moles and bats. And now, scientists at MIT have come up with a robotic what? A fish. Way back in 1994, MIT ocean engineers built “Robotuna”, a four-foot long monstrosity controlled by six motors. the new fish is less than a foot long, powered by a single motor. This new model has a flexible, single-piece polymer body that mimics biological locomotion through the use of controlled vibration. The latest model swims like a tuna. This allows a greater range of movement. Name one of the many reasons to create a robot fish, sushi for robots is not an option.

8) Curators of King Henry VIII's flagship, a Tudor time capsule likened to a British Pompeii, have just revealed thousands of artifacts never before seen by the public. In 1545 the vessel sank off England's southern coast during an engagement with the French fleet. The vessel was spectacularly raised from its watery grave in front of a global audience of some 60 million in 1982. -That must have been when people still watched TV. What remains of the hull has been on display behind glass ever since, but the thousands of personal items found in the wreckage have been hidden from public view due to lack of a suitable space to show them. The artifacts include, well preserved leather "manbag" complete with compact mirror and cut-throat razor -- the height of Tudor fashion, a giant 4 foot long wooden spoon used to stir the crew's porridge pot what every tudor manbag should have of course and 70 nit combs. What was the name of this fabled vessel?

9) RoboBee is the latest buzzword at these two universities which received a $10 million grant to create a swarm of entirely mechanical flying insects. The work will likely be based on the earlier research of the robotic fly micro air vehicle Bees and bee colonies have long been held up as models of efficiency. Using a host of different sensors, unique communication protocols, and a precise hierarchy of task delegation, thousands of bees can work independently on different tasks while all working toward a common goal--keeping their colony alive. So let’s create robotic bees that fly autonomously and coordinate activities amongst themselves and the hive, much like real bees. Furthermore, the RoboBees created will provide unique insights into how Mother Nature conjures such elegant solutions to solve complex problems. Name one of the 2 schools that got the grant to start the electronic hive?

10) A radioisotope battery the size and thickness of a dime can provide power density six orders of magnitude greater than that of ordinary chemical batteries. And a new form of internal structure could mean that these nuclear batteries could be as thin as a human hair. Nuclear power is already used in batteries in pacemakers and space satellites, so they can be safe. This recent innovation is not only in the battery’s size, but also in its semiconductor, this battery uses a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid one to help preserve itslef. Who was an early proponent of the idea that nuclear power could be provided in very small packages, as incredible as it might have seemed in 1952?

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