New Scientist 2009 Trivia Quiz

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New Scientist 2009 Trivia Quiz - Quiz

If you want to read about the big science stories of the year, you have come to the wrong place – turn back to the news review. Here we are celebrating the science trivia of 2009.
Read on and test your mental mettle in New Scientist’s annual end of year quiz, and we will see whether 2009 has truly been the Year of Science (as promoted by the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science), or rather a Year of Superstition, Ignorance and Minds Like a Sieve.
We apologise in advance for any ludicrous made-up answers that inadvertently turn out Read moreto be correct.


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 

    According to a palaeontologist at the University of Manchester in the UK, Velociraptor, the dinosaur star of many films, might have used its fearsome claws for what?

    • A.

      Breaking into termite mounds

    • B.

      Scratching limpet-like parasites from its hide

    • C.

      Slicing open and disembowelling its prey

    • D.

      Climbing Cretaceous trees

    Correct Answer
    D. Climbing Cretaceous trees
    Explanation
    According to Jurassic Park, everyone's favourite fleet-footed predators dispatched their prey by disembowelling them with deadly "killing claws".

    Not so, say palaeontologists who have studied the biomechanics of Velociraptor claws. Instead, the notorious dinosaurs used their claws to cling to prey and to climb trees.

    See Velociraptor's killing claws were for climbing

    Rate this question:

  • 2. 

    In August, what achieved a record speed of 225 kilometres per hour?

    • A.

      A Russian nuclear-powered warship

    • B.

      A genetically modified French pigeon

    • C.

      A 3-tonne British-built steam car

    • D.

      A Brazilian motorbike fuelled by bioethanol

    Correct Answer
    C. A 3-tonne British-built steam car
    Explanation
    The land speed record for steam-powered cars has been broken for the first time in more than 100 years, after a British-built car achieved an average speed of 225 kilometres per hour (140 miles per hour).

    This smashed the previous official record of 204 km/hr (127 mph) set in 1906 by Fred Marriott of the US in a modified version of the then-popular steam car known as the Stanley Steamer.

    See Steam-powered car breaks century-old speed record

    Rate this question:

  • 3. 

    At the University of Chile, soccer-playing robots are being taught what vital skill, commonly displayed by their human counterparts?

    • A.

      Whining at the referee

    • B.

      Deliberately falling over

    • C.

      Surreptitiously handling the ball

    • D.

      Celebrating a goal by doing a robot dance

    Correct Answer
    B. Deliberately falling over
    Explanation
    Deliberately taking a tumble to implicate another player might earn you a yellow card on the soccer pitch, but falling over safely is an essential skill for all soccer players, both human and humanoid.

    Now soccerbots in Chile are learning to fall in a controlled way, reducing damage to themselves and their environment, letting them recover quickly and get on with the game - they can even fall over deliberately to save a shot on goal, for example.

    See Soccerbots learn how to fall gracefully

    Rate this question:

  • 4. 

    How have engineers at the Ford Motor Company improved the fuel efficiency of a prototype car?

    • A.

      Doping its fuel with a trace of the heavy metal bismuth

    • B.

      Building engine parts out of lightweight lithium

    • C.

      Putting a big flashing sign on the dashboard that says "Slow Down!"

    • D.

      Giving the engine a shot of alcohol, but only when it really needs one

    Correct Answer
    D. Giving the engine a shot of alcohol, but only when it really needs one
    Explanation
    Driving and alcohol don't usually mix, but giving a petrol engine an occasional slug of the hard stuff could make it as fuel-efficient as a petrol-electric hybrid.

    Called a direct-injection ethanol engine, the unit runs primarily on petrol.

    When it needs to deliver maximum power - to climb a hill or overtake, for example - the engine management computer adds a little ethanol to the fuel injected into the combustion chambers.

    See Alcohol makes autos more climate-friendly

    Rate this question:

  • 5. 

    This year, Swiss researchers reported that the armpits of men and women smell different. Respectively, the two odours were said to be akin to:

    • A.

      Beer and chocolate

    • B.

      Eggs and bacon

    • C.

      Salt and vinegar

    • D.

      Cheese and onion

    Correct Answer
    D. Cheese and onion
    Explanation
    Little girls may be made of sugar and spice and all things nice, but their armpits smell of onions.

    And while free of slug or snail odours, men's armpits pack a powerful cheesy whiff.

    See Men smell of cheese and women of onions

    Rate this question:

  • 6. 

    In January we named 10 gadgets that we predicted will be widespread in 30 years’ time. Which of the following was not among them?

    • A.

      Cloak of invisibility

    • B.

      Private space car

    • C.

      Teleportation pod

    • D.

      Smell-o-vision

    Correct Answer
    C. Teleportation pod
    Explanation
    Invisibility cloak research is progressing rapidly (though they're still microscopic), and several private companies are getting in on the space travel act. And even Smell-o-vision, which never worked properly, may be about to make a comeback.

    Teleportation pods are still a long way off, though.

    See Ten sci-fi devices that could soon be in your hands

    Rate this question:

  • 7. 

    NASA successfully tested its new Ares launch system this year, which is planned to carry humans and cargo to the moon and Mars. But what more creative suggestion for getting into space did we report in June?

    • A.

      A hybrid engine that will combine the technologies of rocket, jet and propeller

    • B.

      An inflatable tower

    • C.

      A big air gun

    • D.

      A trampoline

    Correct Answer
    B. An inflatable tower
    Explanation
    A giant inflatable tower could carry people to the edge of space without the need for a rocket, and could be completed much sooner than a cable-based space elevator, its proponents claim.

    See Inflatable tower could climb to the edge of space

    Rate this question:

  • 8. 

    And what more creative suggestion for getting into space did we report in October?

    • A.

      A hybrid engine that will combine the technologies of rocket, jet and propeller

    • B.

      An inflatable tower

    • C.

      A big air gun

    • D.

      A trampoline

    Correct Answer
    C. A big air gun
    Explanation
    When Jules Verne wrote about a gigantic gun that could be used to launch people into space in the 19th century, no one expected it to become a reality.

    Now physicist John Hunter has outlined the design of such a gun that he says could slash the cost of putting cargo into orbit.

    See Blasted into space from a giant air gun

    Rate this question:

  • 9. 

    What threatens the future of lizards in the Australian outback?

    • A.

      Lizard flu

    • B.

      Overheating because of global warming

    • C.

      Being eaten by cane toads

    • D.

      Being eaten by C-list celebrities

    Correct Answer
    B. Overheating because of global warming
    Explanation
    Global warming is set to make life distinctly uncomfortable for reptiles and other cold-blooded animals.

    Unable to produce heat, they rely on strategies such as moving from colder to warmer areas to function. Soon that might not be an option for tropical species.

    See Lizards will roast in a warming world

    Rate this question:

  • 10. 

    At -240 °C, the coldest known spot in the solar system is certainly not somewhere you would want to have a snowball fight. Where is it?

    • A.

      The icy south pole of the moon

    • B.

      The frozen surface of Pluto

    • C.

      The sunless side of Mercury

    • D.

      The bleak heart of a merchant banker

    Correct Answer
    A. The icy south pole of the moon
    Explanation
    Poor Pluto. First it gets kicked out of the planet club, now it's not even the coldest known place in the solar system.

    Dark craters near the moon's south pole have snatched that title – which is good news for the prospects of finding water ice on Earth's companion.

    See Moon is coldest place in the solar system

    Rate this question:

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