Answers, additional detail and congratulations.

Published on Tuesday 24th November 2009 by DJ Kirkby

Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment on the post below. The correct answers are in italics below and Marcus has kindly provided some additional detail in his answers for the questions that seemed to cause the most confusion.

1) If all the empty space were squeezed out of matter, the human race could fit in:

a) Wembley Stadium?

b) The area of the Isle of Wight?

c) The volume of a sugar cube?

2) The faster you travel:

a) The taller you get

b) The slimmer you get

c) The lighter you get

This is a consequence of Einstein’s special theory of relativity of 1905. It’s called Lorentz contraction.

3) Einstein’s mathematics professor called him a:

a) lazy possum

b) lazy dingo

c) lazy dog

Thankfully, Hermann Minkowski – who was guilty of the physics equivalent of turning down the Beatles – later atoned for his mistake.

4) Today’s sunlight was made:

a) 30,000 years ago

b) 300 minutes ago

c) 3 seconds ago

Yes, today’s sunlight is about 30,000 years old, which means it was made at the height of the last ice age. For all but 8 minutes of those 30,000 years (8 minutes it spent flying through space to the earth), it was zig-zagging it’s way out through the sun, bouncing from electron to electron and never travelling more than a centimetre in a straight line before ricocheting in a new direction. Think of the most contorted drunkard’s progress you could imagine. That’s the sort of path light takes as it works its way out of the sun. If it could fly from the centre to the surface in a straight line it would take 2 seconds. In fact, it takes about 30,000 years!

5) The scientists who won the Nobel prize for detecting the faint “afterglow” of the big bang thought they had found:

a) the glow of pigeon droppings

b) the glow of street lights

c) the glow of glow worms

You can also see the afterglow of the big bang fireball by tuning your TV between the stations. About 1 per cent of the static on your screen has come straight from the big bang. Before being picked up by your TV aerial the last thing it touched was the blisteringly hot fireball of the big bang.

A big congratulations to The Goth who answered all five questions correctly. The Goth is the editor of Asperger United. (To find out more about this magazine click on the highlighted title)

9 comments so far

  • That was a most interesting competition and now I'll have to go out and get that book.
    I'm still wondering if getting slimmer and getting lighter aren't one and the same thing? (Q2) but anyway I got Q5 wrong.
    And now I'm wonder how fast Victoria Beckham travels?

  • Very interesting quiz indeed.

    I'll add my thanks to Marcus for his comments and ask him to not stay away, if that's okay with DJK.

    Nice one, Goth!

  • Dear Troy,

    Glad you liked it. No, according to Einstein, you get scrunched up like a pancake in the direction of motion as you approach the speed of light. In fact, simultaneously, you get heavier! This is why the speed of light is unreachable for an object with mass. As you approach it, you become infinitely heavy, so it's infinitely harder to push you any faster.

    Best wishes,

  • Thanks for hosting me, DJ! I really enjoyed it. Congratulations to Goth for getting all the questions correct and winning my book (DJ, You'd better send me his address for Faber). And thanks to everyone for participating and being such fun! Hope I haven't put you off science for life!

    Best wishes,

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