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Noggin Hoggin' Challenge Starting on Monday March 9, 2009

Here are the past questions which were used in this Noggin Hoggin' Challenge, along with the answers we accepted and an explanation.


Bonus Question (Head Start Clue)
When the Sun goes down and the stars start to twinkle, we often see shapes and patterns in the night sky. When three or more celestial bodies such as the Sun, Venus, and Jupiter align, astronomers have a special word to describe the event. Tell me what it is and you will get a head start!

Acceptable answers:

A syzygy is the alignment of three or more celestial bodies along a straight line. In contrast, a "conjunction", though closely related, describes a situation where two celestial bodies appear near each other in the sky when seen from some location (typically the Earth). But in a conjunction, the bodies only have to appear relatively near to one another, not necessarily aligned, and there is no requirement that three objects be involved. Similarly, an "opposition" describes a situation where two objects lie on opposite sides of the sky when viewed from a location.

Syzygy (pronounced sizz-uh-gee) is also the name of the company that runs ExamBank. Our first product, released in 1998, was astronomy software entitled "The Digital Universe".

The word 'Syzygy' is also believed to be the highest scoring word that can be played in Scrabble without using the conventional vowels, 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o', or 'u'.


Question for Monday March 9, 2009:

On a cold day in February, 100 years ago in Nova Scotia, Canada's first powered flight took place from a frozen lake. The person who contributed money to pay for most of the expenses for this venture was deaf.

What illness caused this contributor to lose their hearing?

Acceptable answers:
scarlet fever
streptococcal infection


The Silver Dart was the first powered flight in Canada, flown off the ice of Bras d'Or Lake on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia on February 23, 1909. It was designed and built by a Canadian aeronautical research group under the guidance of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.

Financial backing of the project was made by Mabel Bell, Alexander Graham Bell's wife. Mabel contracted scarlet fever at the age of 5 and lost her hearing. Scarlet fever is a disease that can result from a streptococcal infection, so we accept that answer as valid too.

Mabel was the daughter of a well-to-do Boston family. She sold off land that her father left to her and used that money to set up the Aerial Experiment Association. As she initially made an investment of $20,000, she put forth a mandate that the group had one year to design and fly a powered aircraft. Within the first year, three designs were created, but all were unsuccessful. Mabel made another investment of $15,000 and gave the team a six month extension on their work. It was from this that the team successfully flew the Silver Dart from Bras d'Or Lake on February 23, 1909.


Question for Tuesday March 10, 2009:

I am found on a globe, but I have more to do with the nearest star. What am I called?

Acceptable answers:
an analemma
the analemma
analemma chart
an analemma chart
the analemma chart


The figure 8 that appears on some globes is called an analemma. If you were stay in one location and record the position of the Sun in the sky at the same time each day, it would trace out this particular shape.

It is often found on globes, since this deceptively simple shape can tell us a lot of where the Sun is in relation to the Earth. You may notice the days of the year marked around the shape itself. Find the day you are interested in along the analemma and then see what latitude (horizontal gridline) on the globe that it lines up with. The Sun will pass directly overhead all the locations along that line of latitude on that day. You will also notice that the farthest north the Sun can get is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which it reaches on the Summer Solstice (June 20th or 21st), and the farthest south the Sun can get is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which it reaches on the Winter Solstice (December 21st or 22nd).

The left/right position of the Sun's location on the diagram of the analemma also tells us something of the Sun's position. Up where the figure 8 crosses itself, you will see a small scale indicating the number of minutes that a clock is ahead of the Sun (to the left) or behind the Sun (to the right). This has to do with something called the "equation of time" (but don't worry - we won't be going into the actual equation here)!

This is briefly what the "equation of time" is about. The Earth doesn't revolve around the Sun in a perfect circle - it actually does so in an ellipse, so part of the year it is a bit closer to the Sun, and part of the year it is a bit further. Due to the way orbits work, the Earth moves a bit faster when it is closer to the Sun and slower when it is further away. So, using the Sun to tell time actually isn't that accurate. For example, if you observe the Sun to be straight south from your location at exactly noon one day, you will find that it will have drifted a bit to the right or left the following day or week at the same time, due to the changes in the Earth's orbital speed around the Sun. The scale of the "equation of time" can be used to tell how many minutes behind or ahead the Sun's position would be on any given day when compared to an accurate clock. This information has to be taken into account when reading a sundial, for example, as otherwise the time measured directly from the Sun's position can be out by more than 16 minutes.

If you want, you can watch a movie of an analemma by Tom Matheson, created by taking a picture of the Sun at the same time every day.


Question for Wednesday March 11, 2009:
Paleontologists recently discovered a fossilized skull in a shale deposit in Kansas, U.S.A., and were amazed to discover that it contained mineralized soft tissue. In fact, a CAT scan carried out in France revealed it to be the oldest fossilized brain ever discovered. The discovery was published in a scientific journal just last week.

It is a very rare event that an animal's remains turn into a fossil when it dies, and when that happens, usually only the bones or hard parts of their body are fossilized. There have only been a handful of discoveries of the fossilization of soft tissues, so this find was exceedingly rare. It is also very scientifically valuable too, as being able to see the structure of the brain of the creature directly tells paleontologists a lot more than an empty skull would.

This animal is extinct now, but according to the American Museum of Natural History, there are about 40 identified species of its closest, living relatives. What is the genus and species (in that order and without abbreviation) of the modern day spotted form of its relative? Don't forget to be careful about the spelling!

Acceptable answers:
Hydrolagus colliei

The fossil that was discovered was that of a 300 million-year-old iniopterygian fish. Paleontologists have determined that its closest living relative is the chimaera, an obscure relative of sharks and rays, which is also known as a ghost fish or ratfish.

The scientific classification of the spotted chimaera, or spotted ratfish, is Hydrolagus colliei.



Question for Thursday March 12, 2009:
"Not worth his salt" is a commonly used expression in the English language when talking about a person not doing a job as well as he or she is supposed to. In what country would this expression still apply in its original, historical context, primarily among the nomads who live there?

Acceptable answers:


Throughout history, salt was a very precious and valuable commodity. There even was a time when salt was preferred to gold and silver! According to some sources, the expression "worth his salt" dates back to Roman times when salt was used as currency and workers were paid with it. An individual who was "not worth his salt" was someone whose work wasn't worth the value of the salt he was being paid.

Other sources trace the first recorded use of this expression to 1830. When other commodities weren't available, salt (and in some cases salt brine!) was still occasionally used as a form of payment.

In either case, the expression refers to salt as a form of payment. Incidentally, "sal", the root of "salary", is the latin word for salt.

Up until the 1960s, salt blocks (called amolé) were still in use throughout the entire country of Ethiopia as actual currency. Today, these are still acceptable as a medium of exchange among the nomads of Ethiopia's Danakil Plains. In some places in Tibet, salt is also sometimes used as a currency or as a commodity to barter with. We also accept the answer of China, since the issue of whether Tibet is considered an independent country of China is currently being disputed.


Question for Friday March 13, 2009:


Canada is sometimes jokingly referred to as a land of endless igloos, yet most of us have never seen a traditional igloo created by the Inuit. Strong windblown and packed snow is needed for making the blocks to build long lasting traditional domed igloos. Snow is an excellent insulator as it traps pockets of air. Temperatures outside an igloo can drop to as cold as –40°C or below, yet with body heat alone, the temperature inside an igloo can be warmed to above zero.

The Athabascan Indians are also known for creating another form of snow structure that can be carved out of soft and freshly fallen snow. Snow is piled up, left to settle, and then hollowed out. These structures are often used as emergency shelters as they can be constructed in just a few hours with minimal tools and can last for a number of months.

What is the name of the Athabascan snow structure being described and pictured above?

Acceptable answers:


Quin-zhees are fun to build, but are structurally weaker than igloos. Most Quin-zhees will collapse from the weight of a person climbing on them. They are intended to be built small to allow for good insulation. There should be room to sit up or crouch in them. With a good insulated ground sheet, they are very comfortable to sleep in.

When building, make sure you use snow that is not naturally settled as there may be large air pockets that will lead to quick collapse. All the snow should be disturbed to remove air pockets. Before piling the snow, make sure all the snow at the base is packed down. Pile the snow about 2 meters high by 3 meters wide and leave it sit for 2 to 3 hours before digging out the interior.

When digging out the interior, carve out the top areas first, so that the roof does not become top heavy and collapse in. When digging, make sure to be aware that the collapse of the snow in a Quin-zhee is enough to cause suffocation. Always work with a responsible adult and never lie down flat on your belly to dig, as you would have less mobility in case of a collapse.

With a stick that has a diameter of about 1 cm, puncture 3 holes in the roof to allow for air venting. After you have been in your Quin-zhee awhile, your body heat will warm it enough to create a layer of ice on the interior walls. This will add extra strength to your structure.


Question for Saturday March 14, 2009:
Eating fish regularly contributes healthy fats to your diet. However, certain fish are raised or caught in ways that are detrimental to your health and/or the environment. This is a prime example of the importance of knowing what you're eating and where your food comes from.

There is a particular deep sea fish that has been nearly fished to extinction but has been cunningly marketed by giving it a more appealing name to increase its consumer appeal. While its assumed name refers to the country which spans the greatest latitude while only having one time zone, this fish is neither specifically from that place, nor is even the type of fish, that this pseudonym would suggest. What is the true name of this fish (not the commonly used name for marketing)?

Acceptable answers:
Patagonian Toothfish
Dissostichus eleginoides


First of all, the country being referred to is Chile. China is another large country which only has one time zone, but it doesn't stretch quite as far in latitude as Chile does. Brazil actually spans slightly more latitude than Chile does, but it contains two timezones.

The Patagonian Toothfish (scientific name "Dissostichus eleginoides"), more commonly known as the Chilean Sea Bass, is neither a bass, nor is it specifically from Chile. It was marketed and sold as Chilean Sea Bass in an attempt to increase its appeal to consumers who were not particularly keen to order "toothfish". This marketing ploy was very successful and it has become very trendy in the food world, with devastating consequences for the fish.

The Patagonian Toothfish lives in the deep sea, in almost complete darkness, where limited food sources mean that fish grow slowly and don't reach reproductive age for many years (12 years in this case). Unfortunately, most of this deep sea habitat lies in international waters, where there are no protective laws in place for fishing. Research predicts that, as a result of overfishing, Patagonian Toothfish (as well as many other species') populations will be completely decimated within two to five years.

Regrettably, as a fish becomes more and more difficult to come by, its rarity increases its perceived value, making it all the more desirable to the elite. This drives up the cost and potential profits, inadvertently encouraging illegal activities and harmful practices that maximize yield.

The consequences for the marine ecosystem have been disastrous. The Patagonian Toothfish makes up a large part of the diet of endangered sperm whales, Southern Elephant seals and colossal squid. To make matters worse, the illegal fishing industry commonly uses dynamite to eliminate competition from any large predators present in the area. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of endangered albatrosses and petrels are caught and drowned every year as they dive to feed on fish bait.


Question for Sunday March 15, 2009:
If you were to make your way up the greatest number of storeys, to the highest publicly accessible observation decks of the three, currently standing and completed, skyscrapers with the most floors in the world, how many storeys would you have ascended altogether? Assume that the first storey of a building counts, and remember, your goal is to make your way up the greatest number of storeys possible to visit these three observation decks, one in each skyscraper.

Acceptable answers:
305 storeys
305 floors
301 storeys
301 floors


The Sears Tower in Chicago, USA, currently holds the record for a completed skyscraper with the most floors. It has 108 standard storeys (110 if you count the main roof and mechanical penthouse roof). The highest observation deck (the Sears Tower Skydeck) is on the 103rd floor, with another on the 99th floor.

The Empire State Building in New York, USA, the first building to have more than 100 storeys, is the runner-up with a total of 102 floors. It has 2 observation decks, the highest of which is on the 102nd floor.

The Shanghai World Financial Center, in Shanghai, China, and the Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, are tied for third place with 101 floors each. However, whereas the Shanghai World Financial Center has the most elevated of its three observation decks on the 100th storey, the Taipei 101's Outdoor Observatory is only on the 91st floor. Since the goal is to make your way up the greatest number of storeys possible, you would choose the Shanghai World Financial Center over Taipei 101. Yet, interestingly, the Taipei 101 is actually currently the tallest completed building in the world, rising to 509 metres.

Remember that the question asked you to consider only skyscrapers which were completed. Other structures, such as the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, the Guangzhou International Finance Center in China, and the Burj Dubai in Dubai will all affect the list of the top three buildings with the most number of storeys, but they are not yet complete. The Burj Dubai, scheduled for completion by September of this year, will tower above all the others with 162 floors. Though not yet complete, it is already the tallest man-made structure ever built. Another proposed building in Dubai, the Nakheel Tower, would dwarf them all, rising to 1400 metres and containing 228 storeys. But those buildings can't be considered for this question since they are not yet completed.

There are also some man-made structures that are taller than these three skyscrapers - for example, the CN Tower in Toronto is actually the third highest man-made structure in the world, 26 metres taller than the Sears Tower. A radio antenna in North Dakota is even taller still. But neither of these can be considered skyscrapers, or have the concept of "storeys" in a traditional sense.


     Sears Tower 


Empire State Building


    Shanghai World
    Financial Center

Once you had made your way up to all three of these observation decks you would have ascended:

               103 (Sears Tower)
            + 102 (Empire State Building)
            + 100 (Shanghai World Financial Center)
               305 storeys altogether!

We accept the answer of 305 storeys, although technically, at the moment the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower is under renovation and therefore not publically accessible. Instead, they are currently using the 99th floor as their observation deck and will be for the next month or so. Taking that new information into account, we have:

                99 (Sears Tower)
            + 102 (Empire State Building)
            + 100 (Shanghai World Financial Center)
               301 storeys altogether!

So we consider both 305 and 301 to be acceptable answers to this question.