Monday, 22 March 2010

The First Question - 16 March 2010

This week's panel

Curious George, Patio Plasma, Boole Allen, FutureGuru Haiku


A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.
-Edward Teller

The next major explosion is going to be when genetics and computers come together. I'm talking about an organic computer - about biological substances that can function like a semiconductor.
-Alvin Toffler

A satellite has no conscience.
-Edward R. Murrow

A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.
-Alan Perlis

Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.
-Jean Rostand

Word-UP of the week – “Twitless” - someone who is generating not particularly smart or amusing tweets.
- Curious George

Audience Quote of the week -
“If you believe in something enough it becomes real – that is the placebo effect defined in a nutshell.”
-Petlove Petshop


For the answers go to The 1st Question blog at

1) Lots of controversy in Congress this week and tears no doubt from many corporations as a nationwide wireless public safety network as part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan. The FCC is asking many to give up control of the airwaves wholesale so that mobile and wireless companies can also provide in the spectrum. The plan will ask Congress to set aside $16-$18 billion over a 10-year period to help build and operate while recommending that the entire 700-MHz band goes public, The FCC chairman has spoken & additionally stated The private sector simply is not going to build a state-of-the-art, broadband network for public safety on its own dime," Who is Mr. FCC?

2) In 1926, P. A. Glick, a scientist from the federal Division of Cotton Insect Investigations, counted almost 36 million bugs. We know that being able to take cues from nature has contributed greatly to engineering design. I don’t offhand know how an astronaut would duplicate this but here goes: It climbs up to an exposed site (a twig or a flower, for instance), stand on tiptoe, raise its abdomen, test the atmosphere, After that, it starts releasing several silk threads which automatically form a triangular shaped parachute and launches itself into the blue, all free legs spread eagled. Most rides will end a few meters later, but some can travel high up into the upper atmosphere. Depending on mass and parachute to float traveling high up into the upper atmosphere. What insect has been found flying at 15,000 Ft?

3) You need to interact with a robot, but don’t want one of those last century static ones – use this, MIT created a semi-autonomous robot that gives a person a richer way to interact remotely with an audience than is allowed with phone and video conferencing. It’s able to communicate some body posture, a wide range of head movement and very expressive hand gestures.. And is a push toward a future where remote presence can be achieved easily in a way that saves traveling time but still achieves the same experience as "being there”. That is when you cant log into Second Life. Results showed that people felt more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they were embodied in a socially expressive way. I would choose my avatar - What is this robot called?

4) 37 years ago, a robotic Russian rover drove 35 kilometers on the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, is currently mapping the Moon in great detail from its orbit near the Moon's surface. On March 15, NASA released some images and data from the LRO. Using that information, the author of "The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration" found the tracks of the rover in one of the images. Can you name the university where that author is a professor?

5) Joe and Al were on their way to Pluto, and found themselves off-course. This might be reminiscent of Bugs Bunny taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque- but it is actually part of a book – no not how to find a habitable planet! We have mentioned this mid 20th century author before, one of Isaac Asimov’s favorite writers for his novel Space Lawyer, (which is not, unfortuantely going to be Syfy cable series) He wrote of a variety of great inventions as only Science fiction writers can – who was the author of The Emperor of the Stars which contained the Thought screen, Gravito-Statoscope, Atmosphere Tester, and my favorite the Deviatoscope A device that registered how much your course diverged from what you intended?
6) We want robots to be smarter and do our tasks and then even our thinking for us. In 1960,The magazine of Fantasy & Science fiction published a story about a robot that is able to autonomously find an electrical outlet and plug itself in to recharge- and I quote here from the story-
"...they're motivated first by a random device and then they learn. The lines of connection in the graphite-gel that turn out the most successful remain like a printed circuit and then if occasion arises, they overprint them. My whole idea is to get away from a machine with a set of prearranged instructions, and le them teach themselves by trial and error....they're supposed to have complete freedom of choice.” Name the story by Stephen Barr.

7) His father, arrived in Mexico in 1902 from Lebanon, alone at 14 years escaping from the Ottoman Empire, which at the time conscripted at 15. By the time he was 26, his net worth was $40 million. He has substantial influence over the telecommunications industry in Mexico and much of Latin America. According to The Wall Street Journal, he credits part of his ability to discover investment opportunities early to his friend, Alvin Toffler. In 1997, just before the company introduced its iMac line, he bought three percent of Apple Computer's stock. And yes he is the world’s richest man, his net worth estimated at US$53.5 billion which coming from a country Mexico whose per capita income does not surpass $14,500 a year, with nearly 17% of the population living in poverty does generate some controversy. He might buy the New York Times, (he is their leading creditor atm) or a soccer team or a formula one racing team. Who led the charge to privatize the Mexican telecommunications industry?

8) During a lecture, he noticed a compass needle deflected from magnetic north when electric current from a battery was switched on and off, confirming a direct relationship between electricity and magnetism. His initial interpretation was that magnetic effects radiate from all sides of a wire carrying an electric current, as do light and heat. Three months later he showed that an electric current produces a circular magnetic field as it flows through a wire. He was the first modern thinker to explicitly describe and name the thought experiment. He has a unit of magnetic strength, named after him, His work also represented a major step toward a unified concept of energy, - who was he?

9) They should name an ultimate unit of Troy after you - Why conduct a thought experiment, hmmm let me think? OH yes! To predict and forecast the indefinite and unknowable future - Scientists also use thought experiments when physical experiments are impossible such as Einstein's chasing a light beam, which lead to Special Relativity. Or a what if? Like If Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz had cooperated with each other, what mathematics would look like today?" possibly not much if they had got on REALLY well. Einstein had pointed out that the quantum superposition of an unstable keg of gunpowder will, after a while, contain both exploded and unexploded components. Quantum mechanics has its flaws and to illustrate the bizarreness of some of it and the mathematics necessary to describe quantum states, this famous thought experiment of a paradox, was given – It is Named after the physicist who invented it and its primary actor, a 4 legged animal = What is it known as?

10) Current computers operate using binary coding; thousands to trillions of small electrical circuits representing a binary digit of information by means of an electronic switch. The future of computing is to move this to a quantum scale, where the weird properties of subatomic particles can be used to create much faster computers. A new device developed by Harvard scientists which uses nanostructured wire made of this to provide a bright, stable source of single photons at room temperature represents a breakthrough in making this quantum technology a reality. What substance is being used, its color center containing an electron spin associated with a nitrogen vacancy that has manipulative photons?

11) I don’t mean rhinestones! Scientists have discovered that a moving pulse of heat traveling along these miniscule wires can cause powerful waves of energy. These "thermopower waves" can drive electrons along like a collection of flotsam propelled along the surface of ocean waves, creating an electrical current. The previously unknown phenomenon opens up a new area of energy research and could lead to a new way of producing electricity. Nanotubes made of this were coated with a layer of reactive fuel that produces heat by decomposing. It was then ignited at one end and the result was a fast-moving thermal wave. With a temperature of 3,000 kelvin, this ring of heat sped along the tube 10,000 times faster than normal. The amount of power released, was much greater than that predicted by It’s being called electron entrainment, since part of the current appears to scale with wave velocity.” What were the nanotubes made of?

12) With digital clocks all around us you have to be pretty important to actually wear a watch these days. I would ask for a show of hands from our panel as to who is actually wearing a watch right now but the time on my computer indicates we are running a bit late – suffice it to say that most watches are built to withstand varying degrees of water pressure and shocks . But a new watch from Seiko has been built to withstand the harsh environments found during an afternoon spacewalk. It is the first watch ever designed for use in outer space, and that might restrict the market so Seiko will only make 100 of these watches at $28,000 USD.. Who was the original Spring Drive Spacewalk watch built for?

13) We have discussed breakthroughs in science in technology and in undergarments – Tonight is no exception – This company invented the Konkatsu Bra which played a marriage waltz and stopped the self destruct timer when an engagement ring was fed to it. Now this company has come up with something even more interesting- The latest bra is designed to appeal to the growing numbers of female golfers in Japan looking for a unique way to practice their putting. The “Nice Cup In Bra” consists of a putting green colored top that unfurls into a 1.5-meter-long putting mat. If things get too unruly then the pink skirt with the words “Be Quiet” emblazoned across the rear can be used as a flag. Upon sinking a putt into either of the cups a speaker will congratulate the user with a cry of “nice shot.” What is the name of this inventive Japanese company?

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