Saturday, 24 April 2010

The First Question - 20 April 2010

This week's panel

M Linden, Sydney Caramel, FutureGuru Haiku, Professor Springflower


“ More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity.
I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber.
I need it for my dreams. ”

"Living is more a question of what one spends than what one makes."
-Marcel Duchamp

Word-UP of the week–
“Flog” - It’s a blog where you get flogged.
-M Linden -
“Directionallydumb” – people who pretend to know where you are going (but don’t) and they point to it with their finger (with 100 percent certainty) instead of telling you that they don’t actually know and that you should ask someone else! Synonym – thatswhatGPSisforstupid
- Sydney Caramel

Audience Quote of the week –
“The thing with cueing the tinies is that you get hungry an hour later”
-Crap Mariner:


For the answers go to The 1st Question blog at

1) NASA decided to take crowd sourcing to the next level – and that is an understatement – - they have asked the general public to submit suggestions for where to point the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s high-resolution camera. The public suggestion tool on this site, has just released the first 8 incredible pictures that simply would not have been chosen otherwise. What is the name of the site which allows you to suggest and track what you want to see on Mars?

2) Remember when we spoke of the HaptiHug? It’s kind of silly yes, but effective in gaining a physical sensation that corresponds with text based affection. The problem is, it’s just not macho enough – and when you need to feel a simulation that has a different meaning, let’s say a gunshot to your torso, you need this. It has a USB-powered air compressor & was designed by a surgeon. Yes game-activated internal pneumatic pockets can simulate hits from a pistol or an Uzi, along with the sensations of explosions, stabbings, and rocket hits- but no hugs. What is it called?

3) Shrink-wrapped is the name of a webseries about a cybertherapist – but Shrink-wrapping also refers to a new kind of brain implant that essentially melts into place. Such ultrathin flexible implants, made partly from silk, can record brain activity faithfully and could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control. In people with epilepsy, the arrays could be used to detect when seizures first begin, and deliver pulses to shut them down. The absence of sharp and rigid surfaces improves safety, with less damage and provides better stability. What is the base material for this implant?

4) Currently, cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate and although technically they are biodegradable, this can take as long as 10-15 years. 4 and a half trillion cigarette butts end up as litter. How about a 100 percent biodegradable cigarette filter... with benefits? The manufacturers say when it is placed under a thin layer of soil it sprouts into green grass shoots or even blooming flowers. What is the name of this cigarette waste that users collect in a planter instead of an ashtray?

5) 3D movies are box office Boffo- But 3D is not new at all. The earliest confirmed 3-D film shown to a paying audience was this film which premiered in LA in 1922. The camera rig was a product of the film's producer, Harry K. Fairall, and cinematographer Robert F. Elder. It was a projected dual-strip in the red/green anaglyph format, making it both the earliest known film that utilized dual strip projection and the earliest known film in which anaglyph glasses were used. After a preview for exhibitors and press in New York City, the film dropped out of sight and is now considered lost..What is the name of it?

6) Something different this way comes… An unknown object in the nearby galaxy M82 has started sending out radio waves, and the emission does not look like anything seen anywhere in the universe before. It certainly does not fit the pattern of supernovae or microquasars. Yet its apparent sideways velocity is four times the speed of light- What network of telescopes from the UK has found this mysterious source of radio waves?

P;7) In advance of the April 22 release of Avatar on DVD and Blu-ray an interactive exhibit which turns passers-by into blue-skinned Na’vi from the film using Facial recognition software, captures people’s images and transforms them as they watch. The morph is incredibly realistic. It goes well beyond augmented reality because it isn’t simply superimposing imagery, it’s actually altering the underlying content in real-time,” I would love to see this done for Second Life – I was an Avatar long before the Na’avi. The free-standing structure is comprised of multiple digital screens and centrally located at what famous L.A. mall?

8) Times they are a changing – once blogs were denounced by traditional news organizations until they couldn’t be denied & while we joke about the Pulitzer Prize for best tweet – this is “history-making” because for the first time online-only publications have won the prestigious award for editorial content. One had cartoons in video form and the other a nonprofit startup, a resource for struggling news organizations that can no longer afford to focus human resources on investigative reporting. Name either of the two Sites which won.

9) As the Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, Dutch artists were not able to leave the country after 1914 and were thus isolated from the international art world—especially Paris. Dutch Painter Theo van Doesburg started looking for other artists founding this a movement also known as neoplasticism, in 1917, One of its best known principal members was Piet Mondrian who embodied it’s principles of ultimate simplicity and abstraction. Limiting hispaletteto red, yellow, and blue, and the three primary values, black, white, and grey, he embodied their code. In 1924, Mondrian broke with the group after van Doesburg proposed the theory of elementarism, proposing that the diagonal line was more vital than the horizontal and the vertical. What was the name of this important Dutch art movement?

10) Anthony Masters' book “The Man Who Was M: The Life of Charles Henry Maxwell Knight” asserts Ian Fleming conceived the plan that lured Hess into flying to Scotland, in May 1941, to negotiate Anglo–German peace with Churchill, and resulted in Hess's capture. Fleming possibly conceived of a plan to use this British occultist to trick Rudolf Hess into attempting to contact a fake cell of anti-Churchill Englishmen in Britain, but this plan was not used because Hess had already flown to Scotland in an attempt to broker peace behind Hitler's back. Who was the infamous British occultist he thought to use?

11) We are of course hoping to have a show in 2013- heck by then The 1st Question should be playing on your mobile but for some the end of the world is scheduled for December 31, 2012. While most of us will sweat it out in that underground shelter in our suburban basements – how retro is that! One company envisions a network of underground shelters located near major cities across the U.S. in spacious quarters for up to one year to “ride out the potential events.” At 10 million USD, they are luxury shelters – possibly a new term. Equipped with everything you need for survival including computers, exercise equipment and medical facilities with abundant storage areas for food, fuel, water, and clothes. Spaces in the bunkers are likely to be in the US$50,000 price range and so far over 1,000 applications have been received to reserve a place. What is the name of the company who is building these?

12) This robot can draw! Drawing has been practiced by every civilization since the dawn of humankind. Now Robotkind joins in as computer scientists at Goldsmiths, University of London. Have devised an algorithm that allows this robot to approximate an artist, as well as recreating the thought process that unconsciously occur when drawing someone's face. In particular the research focuses on face sketching. Whose work might hang in the first museum of robot art?

13)She is an American viral video comedienne, and a lifecaster Her popularity is such that a video about her wanting to order a cheeseburger got 600,000 YouTube views in a week. She is known for her "300-page iPhone bill", which earned her international attention and celebrity. As of December 2009 she has about 1 million twitter followers & her videos have attracted a total of 64 million viewers. She does her work with a $400 Canon Powershot digital camera and a $12 green rug from Ikea to create her green screen. She was also shown as a contestant on the 7,000th episode of The Price Is Right I think I should make her an Avatar –and get her on The 1st Question- agreed? Who is she either her Internet name or birth name?

14) He is a legend and of course we hope he is watching tonight, As the creator of Spore and the Sims, Will Wright can pretty much write his own ticket. He just has signed an agreement with this Channel to produce programming that engages an audience. Known in the game industry for the systemic and scientific way that he approaches game design he was approached to bring it to TV. While we can’t wait to see what he comes up with, we really can’t wait for him to see this show. What Channel on cable is Mr. Wright teaming up with to deliver a program, hopefully ours?

15) Fuel cell and microorganisms are the wave of the future – from a moddedvirus splits water molecules to microbes which secrete liquid diesel. The Navy has been using small lightweight microbial fuel cells to power sensors and now its goal is to develop one that is powerful enough to steer a small robotic watercraft. “Think of it as a battery that runs on mud In a microbial fuel cell, organisms feed on available nutrients and generate an electric current as they metabolize the food. The Navy calls it “a device with the potential to revolutionize naval energy.” & is working with researchers at the University of Massachusetts on a microbe called what?

Friday, 23 April 2010

The First Question - 13 April 2010

This week's panel

Ran Hienrichs, Tricia Farella, GreyWolfMornington, DougMandlebrot


"The head learns new things, but the heart forever practices old experiences."
Henry Ward Beecher

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."
- Albert Einstein

"I always say, dare to struggle, dare to grin."
Wavy Gravy

Word-UP of the week –
“Rezbarassment” - The realization that you have been walking around half the day with one shoe on and one misshapen foot.

Audience Quote of The Week-
I can see a new product the iMovement
-Emmo Wei:


For the answers go to The 1st Question blog at

1) China is on track with its first offshore wind farm, a 102-megawatt array. The project is the latest in a series of moves by the Chinese government to pad its lead as the world’s largest market for wind power. This year China is expected to invest $100 billion to install up to 30,000 megawatts of power. There is some analogy to the US - For example, very recently, Cape Wind, which has proposed a wind farm off Nantucket, announced it had ordered 130 turbines. The difference is that China’s is about to start generating electricity, whereas Cape Wind has been waiting for its federal permit since it gained state and local ones in what year?

2) Described as one of the most energy-efficient skyscrapers in the world. This over 2 million square-foot Tower incorporates the latest green techand engineering including wind turbines . The design incorporates a series of other elements, including solar panels, , chilled ceiling system, under floor ventilation air, and daylight harvesting. While many of these attributes have been incorporated individually into skyscrapers around the world, this represents the first time that they have been used collectively. What building is an amalgam of green anyway you spell it?

3) The landscape of Mars portrayed in stories like the Martian chronicles, is a desert planet crisscrossed by giant canals built by an ancient civilization to bring water from the polar ice caps. It is a common scenario in science fiction of the early 20th century, stemming from early telescope observations of Mars by 19th century astronomers. It began with this Italian in 1877. He believed he saw straight lines on the planet. And called them canali, popularly mistranslated into English as "canals". Based on this and other evidence, the idea that Mars was inhabited by intelligent life was put forward by a number of prominent scientists’ notably American astronomer Percival Lowell. But who was the Italian astronomer who started it all?

4) The company is willingly projecting the first drop in annual sales of its handheld player, because the forthcoming 3-D model will be the company’s biggest portable product introduction since 2004. The world’s biggest maker of video-game machines is embracing the 3-D technology that helped the film “Avatar” break box-office records. The 3DS, going on sale this fiscal year, will compete against the PlayStation Portable and iPad. The company said the new handheld device will allow users to see 3-D images without the need for special glasses. Which company will be in 3D?

5) It is a problem for people with pets – they like to drink from the toilet. However it’s not the best idea for many reasons, including when they want to kiss you. Now a device with an alarm that sounds warning beeps when a pet or person approaches the bowl and the lid is up has arrived. Attached to the underside of the lid it will flash and emit warning beeps when pets or humans approach from 28 inches away. The battery-powered deterrent switches to off mode when the lid is closed. And if your mate leaves the toilet seat up this just also might be the training he needs to keep it shut. What is this new step in electronic toilets called?

6) As the population ages our organs wear out, wouldn’t it be great if we could just clone them? The NewOrgan Prize is an incentive launched by this foundation, and be awarded for successfully constructing a whole new organ from the patient's own cells. This newest longevity prize specifically focuses on speeding up the development of replacement tissues and organs - Wouldn’t you like to know your new liver is waiting for you let’s say 40 years down the road? I would – what Foundation is taking matters into its own hands to reverse aging?

7) Organs on demand won’t interfere with your iPlants. Neural implants are becoming more important in medical research. And ones for communications raise interesting possibilities However, a recent paper details some of the consequences of having an electronic device implanted below the surface of your conscious mind. Security vulnerabilities have already been discovered; in 2003, a hacker demonstrated that cardiac defibrillators could be compromised wirelessly. And if someone was to hack that neural implant, how would you state your case and how could you prove it? No your honor, I didn’t want to steal that jelly donut but I was forced to do so. Of course the movies that come out of this scenario – “Hackers Stole My Brains” will be interesting – What is the name given to special safeguards protecting neural brain implants from being compromised?

8) You want to go to space you don’t have 200,000 to go with Virgin galactic, and you want to go longer than 5 minutes. Okay you really want to go but you don’t have 35 million for a week on the International Space Station. Guess what? The Zero Gravity Corporation operates the officially named G-FORCE ONE, from major US cities and if You want to feel what it is like to be weightless, And you have $5,000 That's the cost of a flight in a modified Boeing 727 alarmingly nicknamed this

9) In spite of the technological age we live in it is reported that one-in-five people don’t have access to clean drinking water. More than 97 percent of the world’s water is in the oceans, so turning salt water into fresh water cost and energy efficiently is the best hope for clean water as demand is growing faster than the population rate. This company is helping to build a new, energy-efficient desalination plant with an expected production capacity of 30,000 cubic meters per day powered by ultra-high photovoltaic technology - a system with a concentration greater than 1,500 suns. What Global company is working in Saudi Arabia on a project with worldwide implications?

10) Yes it is International Robotics week, I took my Roomba for a drive and to the movies –But don’t you wish sometimes that your robot could do more, and could learn effortlessly from other robots? Well now they can! Research institutes are developing a collective worldwide online memory for robots, wherein robots can learn from each other's capabilities, thus streamlining new operations. It is designed to help robots adapt their pre-programmed tasks to unfamiliar new situations and settings. Allowing it to circumvent the accompanying period of trial and error. Your robot can learn from a collective online memory called what?

11) As long as they don’t interfere with my neural implants I’m fine with that. EVER since Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space in 1961, all Soviet and Russian cosmonauts have trained at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Centre.. It was a highly guarded military facility during the Soviet era, But now you can go through a tour. The museum showcases spacesuits, charred descent capsules and assorted Gagarin memorabilia= For the brave of heart, some tour operators can also arrange a spell in the centrifuge or flights which simulate weightlessness. What is this amazing place?

12) Since 1940, 26 new elements beyond uranium have been added. We have a new element for the periodic table – and it isn’t Avatarium - Researchers are approaching the presumed “island of stability” which is a term in nuclear physics that refers to a region beyond the current periodic table where new superheavy elements with special numbers of neutrons and protons would exhibit increased stability. Its discovery by an international team of scientists from Russia and the U.S was just published this month. The discovery of element 117 wasn’t easy. (Well the birth of super heavy things rarely are) What is its official name?

13) Ah the internet – a great place to find and post stuff anonymously. Some call this the whistle blowers site and some want it removed from the World Wide Web. When “This document is labeled classified” you can be sure it might eventually show up on here which uses trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, It was the subject of a 32 page U.S. counterintelligence investigation that worried about moles within gov't agencies ‘followed by a plan to fatally marginalize the organization, which doesn’t work. There have been embarrassing stories broken by this site, and the current news is The Washington Post, New York Times and several other papers are rethinking policies that allow online commenters to remain anonymous. Coincidence? Perhaps – what tis this anonymous website called?

14) You always wonder how a Nazi could face themselves in the mirror– This man, a former Luftwaffe pilot who was considered to be one of the most advanced dive bombers in the world has an incredible story. As he walked past a synagogue in a small Polish town, he saw storm troopers killing a group of Jews. The sight of the synagogue's rabbi, who did not let go of the Torah even in his death made a great impression. Changing this man forever he began disobeying orders, saving lives by dropping bombs in lakes. After the end of the war, he decided to work as a coal miner for twenty years. During those years, as self-imposed penance, he anonymously donated two-thirds of his wages to organizations that helped Jewish war orphans, and those who survived concentration camps. Then he bought a farm in Galilee and told rabbis his story and asked to be converted to Judaism. Who was he? Either Name will do-
15) It is a rare genetic condition which is found in very gregarious children who are unusually unafraid of strangers. "They don't recognize danger in faces and they approach anyone, they have been tested and found to not mirror the same kind of prejudice for those with different racial profiles. And they have a presumed deficit in processing fear & reduced neural activity in the amygdala, a brain region that processes social threats. Since racial bias in adults has been also linked to over-activity in this area, people who are not dictated by social fear are thought to also be less prejudiced, what is this syndrome called?
16) Cycling in the cold and in the freezing cold is not for the faint of heart or hide. However being able to negotiate the handlebars takes superhuman stamina and makes it even harder than it has to be. Enter this product more than gloves; more than mittens, it is designed to keep your hands warm and dry while cycling in the freezing cold, because someone has to do it. Toronto cyclist Hamish Greenland addressed this problem when The idea of a cover for handlebars came to him after riding home from work at [5F]," with an invention he has named affectionately designed to eliminate the windchill both on your hands, and on your cold-conducting aluminum bars." What does he call it?

The First Question - 6 April 2010

This week's panel

Devon Alderton, TyrehlByk, Karen Shemesh , Damian Firecaster

Quotes of The Week

“A page of my journal is like a cake of portable soup. A little may be diffused into a considerable portion.”
-James Boswell

"Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men."
-Mortimer Adler

Word-UP of the week –
“SLY-PAD-IT IS” - A newly discovered mental disorder that reveals itself when new iPad owners realize that SL won’t run on their IPAD…
-Karen Shemesh


For the answers go to The 1st Question blog at

1) He founded his company using technological know-how and his first successful product was an electronic calculator kit. Trying to get out of debt he developed the Altair 8800 PC. This was featured on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics- Prior to it, most computers were still giant machines in university labs, but he believed there were enough tech nerds like him that a personal computer would be a success. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were two and Altair BASIC was Microsoft's first product. He sold his company in 1977 and retired by becoming a country doctor. The father of the personal computer" passed away this week, who was he?

2) This personal home robot brought to you by NEC now has a new function. It can blog about you. NEC included voice recognition to allow the robot to take elements of your daily life and blog about them. When a user converses with it over the course of the day, it records and analyzes your comments. So talk nicely to it. It searches for related multi-media content, including music and images, and uploads it's view of your day. What robot do you want to have a good conversation with?

3) Professional networking sites like LinkedIn have helped people manage their reputations by allowing them to post tightly controlled profiles– while useful, you aren’t going to say anything negative about yourself are you? Well now other people can! This new site is built on reviews that aim to present a raw picture. Named “2010’s worst startup” byEconsultancy, it’s available by invitation-only and was released in beta a few days ago. . If someone posts a nasty, the site does not allow you the option of removing the post or deleting your profile - opening the forum to personal vendettas and anonymous drive-by attacks that can’t be erased or edited and that live in search forever What site are you checking right now to see if you have been mentioned?

4) Freeman Dyson's thought experiment suggested that in our search for advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, we should look for spheres, instead of radio signals. This is a nearly perfectly spherical planetary vapor found in the Crescent Nebula. It was discovered independently by an amateur astronomer and a professional in 2008. Its near perfect symmetry has led it to be considered a possible candidate for a Dyson sphere constructed around a star by an advanced civilization. What is it called?

5) You are alone, you are at your computer and sometimes that smiley or frowny face well it just isn’t enough - at the Augmented Human International Conference held recently in France, Japanese scientists unveiled a robot, to boost feeling & add a human-like sense of touch to cyberspace. We are steeped in computer communication but many people don’t connect emotionally, so by outfitting a person with sensors, speakers, vibrators, and motors, strapped around their torso — their emotions can be read by the robot and picked up by the other person. And feel the incoming emotions too. The robot is 90 percent accurate in judging emotions like joy, fear, and guilt. The scientists also tested their system in Second Life, Five years in the making. The quickened thump of an angry heartbeat, a spine-tingling chill of fear, or that warm-all-over sensation sparked by true love -- all can be felt even as your eyes stay glued to a computer screen. What is the proof of concept robot called?

6) This company has now introduced a 100% compostable bag for their snacks in the US and Canada. Made with plant-based polylactic acid, the new bags will completely biodegrade within about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin. Once finished, the bags were submitted to the independent Wood’s End laboratory, which certified their compostability. So don’t throw it in the trash! What is the name of the company or the snack that will increase national composting awareness with the US Composting Council, recycling educators Earth 911, and Al Gore’s Current TV?

7) “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door so said Emerson - The mousetrap is far and away the most invented machine in all of American history. Since it first opened in 1838, Roughly forty new mousetrap patents have been granted each year, every year, in thirty-nine official subclasses that include “Impaling,” “Smiting,” “Choking or Squeezing,” “Constricting Noose,” &“Electrocuting and Explosive,” (robwag commented that shooting with a gun seemed to be left out.) Of the more than forty-four hundred mousetraps patented fewer than two dozen have ever earned a cent. I have a new mousetrap to report tonight – the "Multi-Kill Electronic Mouse Trap". The mice sashay to their doom through one of two entry points, up the lab-tested staircase and into the kill zone looking for the bait, bacon and peanut butter are recommended. The company says there are no escapes, ever. After electrocution, the Shock N’ Drop Chamber automatically rotates and deposits the dead mouse in the collection drawer holding up to ten mice. What company has just built a possibly better mousetrap?

8) Unlike the Multi-Kill Electronic mousetrap, Recidivism rates among prisoners is insanely high. In California, seven out of ten prisoners return to prison within three years. Something needs to change The basic prison design from the late 1800s of the Panopticon has been the norm, now two Malaysian architecture students use height as a wall in their award winning design concept. . Their project examines the possibility of creating a prison-city in the sky, where the inmates would live in a “free” and productive community with agricultural fields to grow food for the city below, factories and recycling plants that would be operated by the offenders as a way to give back to the community and support the host city below them. What is this innovative prison in the sky called?

9) This man had a vision of building "the world's free virtual school”, and his teaching academy has a 2009 Tech Award with 12+ million views and 1200+ 10-minute "videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations & physics, and challenges in growing a non-profit from zero to global impact. MIT had 12 point something million cumulative views as of today, so did this man who is he?

10) The Martian Chronicles is a 1950 science fiction short story collection by Ray Bradbury about the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a troubled and eventually atomically devastated Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. It follows a "future history" structure. The stories complete in themselves, come together as episodes in a larger sequential narrative framework. The first third (set in the period from January 1999—April 2000) details the attempts of the Earthmen to reach Mars, and the various ways in which the Martians keep them from returning.. As we know, we didn’t reach Mars 10 years ago – A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates in the original by how many years?

11)A tiny spacecraft has been designed at Cornell University to save us all. The intent of engineers is to deploy a swarm of them between the Earth and the sun. If a solar flare strikes, the additional warning will give us time to prepare. The tiny craft are little more than solar panels with radio antennas, the spacecraft is just one centimeter square, and weighing just 7.5 milligrams A SWARM of this spacecraft, positioned at a Lagrange point between the Earth and the sun, could alert us to the approach of dangerous space storms well before a conventional craft can. The first prototypes are due for launch into low-Earth orbit this year, perhaps as early as May. What are they called?

12) Following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, Cary Fowler, thought Sooner or later a disaster is going to strike a major seed bank. A former university professor and an agricultural diversity expert, he sent a letter to Norway asking the government if they would be willing to look into the feasibility of establishing a fail-safe one. He didn’t want to put it in New York or Moscow, but in a remote location away from most of the dangers in the world. It needed to be naturally cold, so as not to be completely dependent on mechanical refrigeration. The project launched in 2008 to “to serve as the ultimate safety net for one of the world’s most important natural resources and is called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. What has it been nicknamed?

13) The director of the Pentagon’s research arm said last month that the United States could soon face a severe lack of science and engineering graduates, putting the nation’s security at risk. Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, showed poor emphasis on science and engineering education in America may leave the nation unable to call forth an elite army of futuristic technogeeks whose resulting innovations also contribute significantly to the Nation’s economic vitality. DARPA’s representative said dwindling funds means it can’t recruit the best brains, themselves a shrinking resource: colleges and universities in the U.S. saw what percent fewer science and computing graduates?

14) China is on track to bring its first offshore wind farm online, a 102-megawatt array. The project is the latest in a series of moves by the Chinese government to pad its lead as the world’s largest market for wind power. This year China is expected to invest $100 billion to install up to 30,000 megawatts of power. There is some analogy to the US - For example, last week, Cape Wind, which has proposed a wind farm off Nantucket, announced it had ordered 130 turbines. The difference is that China’s first offshore wind farm, installed by top Chinese turbine producer Sinovel, is about to start generating electricity, whereas Cape Wind has been waiting for its federal permit since it gained state and local ones in what year?

15) The background of Mars portrayed in stories like the Martian chronicles, is a desert planet crisscrossed by giant canals built by an ancient civilization to bring water from the polar ice caps. It is a common scenario in science fiction of the early 20th century, stemming from early telescope observations of Mars by 19th century astronomers who, beginning with this Italian in 1877, believed they saw straight lines on the planet. This astronomer called them canali ("grooves" or "channels”), which were popularly mistranslated into English as "canals". Based on this and other evidence, the idea that Mars was inhabited by intelligent life was put forward by a number of prominent scientists around the turn of the century, notably American astronomer Percival Lowell.But who was the Italian astronomer who started it all in 1877?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The First Question - 30 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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