Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Thursday Quiz XXIII

[Happy Lunar New Year! Or, as they say in much of the world, "Happy New Year!" Rah Rah Rat, celebrating the new Year of the Rat which begins today, is by very occasional L&TM5K commenter Margaret. Used by permission.]

And what more auspicious start to a new lunar cycle than to partake of the age-old tradition of:

The Thursday Quiz!

The Thursday Quiz is an "Is It or Isn't It" game. From the list of twelve items, your job is to determine whether each IS or ISN'T a true example of the week's category.

Remember always the Laws of Nature:

No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. The Thursday
Quiz is a POP quiz. Violators will lose standing in the scientific community.
This Week's Category will submit you to a rigorous, methodical inquiry!

Real and Bogus: the History of Science

Which ones really happened? And which ones are a tissue of lies and seductive half-truths?

1. 1676 - Danish astronomer Ole Romer makes the first reasonably accurate calculation of the speed of light. He pulls this off by carefully timing how long eclipses of Jupiter's moons seem to last, depending on whether Earth is approaching or moving away from Jupiter.

2. 1735 - Robert Hooke discovers chromosomes within cell bodies and postulates their role in the heredity of traits. His hypothesis will not be proven for another 60 years; eventually, it will prove very influential in the development of evolutionary theory.

3. 1750s - American statesman Benjamin Franklin determines that electricity has positive and negative charges, develops the concept of grounding, and devises the famous "kite" experiment that proves lightning is electrical.

4. 1811 - Amadeo Avogadro hypothesizes that, at any given pressure and temperature, a given volume of any gas will have pretty much the same number of molecules, no matter how big or complex those molecules are. Oddly, it turns out he's right.

5. 1828 - Friedrich Wohler synthesizes urea in the lab. By showing that organic chemicals do not rely on a special life-force, this discovery means that biological science has to discard its assumption that living beings are distinguished by a "vital spark," or physical incarnation of the soul.

6. 1850s & 60s - Gregor Mendel looks very closely at 28,000 pea plants, takes good notes, and publishes a theory of heredity based on his findings. No one cares. Thirty-five years later, his work is rediscovered and becomes the basis of modern genetics.

7. 1859 - Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species, in which he argues that human social and economic systems should function according to the laws of nature, which he describes as "survival of the fittest." Others subsequently develop the notion of biological evolution that is implicit in this idea.

8. 1870 - Scottish geologist Charles Lyell develops the idea of "uniformitarianism," the concept that the Earth's interior is composed of an undifferentiated mass similar to the minerals found at the planet's surface. This will later be proven incorrect, but is now regarded as an important step forward from earlier theories of a hollow Earth, or of a literal underworld or hell within the Earth's interior.

9. 1905 - Einstein publishes his "Theory of Relativity," which holds that the speed of light changes relative to the position, direction, and velocity of the observer. Within five years, this simple insight will result in revolutionary changes in how physicists conceptualize the universe.

10. 1912 - Alfred Wegener introduces the first serious theory of continental drift. The new idea remains controversial for half a century, finally becoming generally accepted only around 1960.

11. 1953 - James Watson and Francis Crick, cribbing from the data of a young female research associate, publish a paper describing the structure of DNA. This conceptual breakthrough pretty much kicks off the field of molecular biology.

12. 1972 - Astronomer Cherryl Trillick uses magnetic imaging to detect AO-054, the first major "Astronomical Object" to be found in the outer solar system. Since this object is never seriously nominated as a planet in its own right, despite being almost exactly the same size as Pluto, it will eventually undermine that unhappy sphere's planetary status.

Submit your hypothesized answers to peer review in the comments.


d said...

1. um. no.
2. sure why not.
3. ok.
4. i remember that he has a number named after him... i'll say yes.
5. no (mainly because i want to believe i still have a soul)
6. yes. poor mendel.
7. yes
8. um. that late? no.
9. no. i don't think that's the theory of relativity
10. sure
11 sure
12 no

go science! you rock! nerds.

Elizabeth said...

1. No?
2. Yes?
3. No? I've seen the illustrations but don't remember that he "discovered" anything.
4. Yes.
5. Oh, sure, why not.
6. Yes.
7. I'll say yes, but don't know if this is a trick question with the date wrong. I'm not good on dates.
8. No, I think. Mom would know though.
9. Yes.
10. No. But Mom would know for sure. Mom knows everything.
11. Yes
12. No. Yes. No.

mhwitt said...

1. I'll say Isn't.
2. I'll say Is.
3. I'll say Is.
4. I'll say Is.
5. Pretty nearly certain this one is 'Is.'
6. Feeling pretty sure this one is 'Is.'
7. This is a big old 'Hell no!' Darwin was not a 'Social Darwinist.'
8. Isn't. Charles Leyell is essentially the founder of modern Geology, and didn't believe any of this garbage. Feeling pretty much certain of this.
9. Not sure the specifics you give on the Theory of Relatively are right on, but I'll say 'Is.'
10. Is. This is a tale well told in Basin and Range by John McPhee.
11. I'll say Isn't, only because I have never heard of the graduate student you mention.
12. I'll say Is.

missy said...

1. no.
2. okay, yeah.
3. sure.
4. yes?
5. sure.
6. yes.
7. tissue of lies!
8. no.
9. um, seductive half-truth?
10. yes.
11. yep.
12. yes.

Phineas said...

This response will be a travesty and colossal embarrassment, but here goes.

Yes: 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12

No: 1, 4, 5, 8

For a different perspective on rats, I offer you this.

mrs.5000 said...

1 no
2 no
3 yes
4 yes
5 no
6 yes
7 no
8 hmmm no
9 no
10 yes
11 yes
12 yes

Rebel said...

1 is
2 isn't
3 is
4 is... or at least I think it is because he got a number named after him and all.
5 isn't?
6 is
7 um no
8 is
9 isn't? I thought the speed of light was constant
10 is
11 is
12 is

Rebel said...

7 I mean, he wrote the book - but it was about biological evolution, social darwinism came later.

karmasartre said...

1 / tissue
2 / happened
3 / happened
4 / tissue
5 / happened
6 / tissue
7 / tissue
8 / tissue
9 / happened
10 / tissue
11 / happened
12 / tissue

You do these so insidiously. How does Mrs. 5000 ever believe you?

Sandy said...

I wrote several long paragraphs about my feelings of quiz-inadequacy then erased them on the assumption that no-one really cares that much about my shortcomings except me and my mother.
So, right, science and history together in one great messy unknown:
2. n
3. y
4. n
5. y
6. y
7. n
8. y
9. y
10. yes
11. no
12. oh, sure, why not.

Last night my 2 grader completed much of her homework not by actually answering the questions, but by realizing that the left over pair of question and answer in each set must go together. Saved her a lot of time. Wish I could do that here. How about some Wednesday quiz that's a matching game? Because that, I could do. And you know, you have lots of time to make up a new quiz.

Mr. Shain said...

where do you find the time...

1. No
2. No (unless i'm thinking of a different hooke)
3. Yes? (although didn't we know +/- already?)
4. No (although he's real at least)
5. Yes, though i don't know if that last part is true
6. Yes, though i don't know if anyone cared
7. ***NO*** Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. that's right, bonus point please.
8. Yes (i have no idea)
9. No (we've been through this one before)
10. Yes (everyone knows this)
11. Yes
12. No (women scientists, hehehehe)

boo said...

1. is
2. isn't
3. is
4. is
5. isn't
6. is
7. is but natural selection? hmm
8. isn't
9. isn't I'm getting caught up in the dates and unsure of things
10. is
11. is why not?
12. isn't

They all sound so good.

Rex Parker said...

1. yes
2. no
3. yes
4. yes
5. no
6. yes
7. no
8. no
9. yes
10. no
11. yes (but cribbing?)
12. yes (feels wrong, but I'm saying 'yes' nonetheless)


k-boogie said...

1. is
2. is not
3. is
4. i think it is
5. is not
6. is
7. is not
8. is not
9. is not
10, is
11. is
12. is

Michael5000 said...

It is time.

1 - Calculating the speed of light. TRUE. OK, this one was pretty obscure. But once they had good telescopes, those 17th Century guys were mad clever.

2 - Chromosomes. NO WAY. Way to early to see those little guys. And with Mendel still more than a century away, nobody was thinking about heredity of traits.

3 - Franklin and electricity. YES. Smart bastard, Franklin.

4 - Avogadro. TRUE. Counterintuitive, but quite correct. 6.02 x 10^23, if memory serves. Plus, a fun place to eat if you're passing through Fort Collins.

5 - Wohler & urea. TRUE.

6 - Mendel. TRUE

7 - Darwin. NO WAY. Darwin was all about the biological evolution. The social and economic misapplications came from others, such as Herbert Spencer (who coined the jolly term "survival of the fittest.")

8 - Lyell and uniformitarianism. NOPE. Uniformitarianism is the idea that physical processes work the same everywhere, and in the past the same as the present. Once you accept this, "geologic time" really starts to make you feel small and insignificant.

9 - Einstein. NOPE. That's the opposite of special relativity, which was in any event ignored for a couple of decades before catching on in the 1920s.

10 - Continental Drift. YOU BETCHA. Trippy how recently something so fundamental was hashed out.

11 - DNA. YEP.

12 - AO-054. AN USUSUALLY EFFECTIVE TISSUE OF LIES. I made up "AO-054," and in fact "Astonomical Object," from whole cloth. "Cherryl Trillick" was a random name from the phone book.

Michael5000 said...

...which means that the TQXXIII Gold Star goes to Boo! It is the first Gold, and the fourth Star overall, for the woman behind the monkey.

The Silver Star goes to the mysterious k-boogie, the same person who has been dominating the Monday Quiz for the last few weeks. It is his, or her, first Star in Thursday competition.

The Blue goes to perennial contender Missy, her fourth Star overall and his first of that color.

Three Green Stars tonight. Two go to two women who consolidate their dominance of the color, Mrs.5000 and Rebel.

Finally, it's a very special night for Mr. Shain. With his TQXXIII Green Star, he becomes only the fourth person to assemble a Complete Set of Gold, Silver, Blue, and Green stars. With typical understated panache, he has finished his set with exactly ONE of each star.

Michael5000 said...

@Elizabeth: Perhaps Mom would enjoy playing the Thursday Quiz!

@karma: Mrs.5000 believes me?

@Sandy: no-one really cares that much about my shortcomings except me and my mother

Ha! Ha! Also, I happily remember being in second and third grade and realizing that gaming the schoolwork was often a more interesting intellectual challenge than doing it straight. No doubt your daughter will grow up to be a big success like me.

@Mr. Shain: Where do I find the time for what?

Also, you're not going to get bonus points for pointing out ways that the wrong answers are wrong.

Also, well played.

@Rex: I guess it is a matter of debate whether or not she gave advance consent for them to use her work.

Thanks to all competitors, as always, for continuing to indulge me in this little game of mine.

mrs.5000 said...

@karmasartre: He's not really so very insidious. That mostly gets used up in the quizzes. It gives him a healthy outlet, and I get the occasional green star.

boo said...

YAY! I see what the congrats are for now! My first one! This is a nice way to start the day.

k-boogie said...

What's so mysterious? I'm just a guy who found your site through Rex's crossword blog, which I read pretty much every day, by the way. I've been playing past thursday and monday quizes for a while, and finally figured out how to leave a comment. I'm more lucky than mysterious. I love the quizzes, too!