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Noggin Hoggin' Challenge Starting on Monday April 20, 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)
In Canada, we are privileged to be able to regularly experience a beautiful astronomical phenomenon that most of the population of the Earth is usually unable to see - the "Northern Lights", or aurora borealis. A strong auroral display can be bright enough to cast shadows while producing a mesmerizing and ever-changing spectacle. People from all over the world travel to our country to see an amazing sight that we can often experience just by stepping outside on a dark, clear night and walking away from nearby streetlights.


For thousands of years, people had no idea what caused aurorae, and their mystical appearance led them to be ingrained deeply into the mythology of various cultures. Now, however, we do know what causes the Northern Lights to glow.

Charged particles (mostly electrons) are continually streaming away from the Sun, creating a phenomenon known as the "solar wind". It fluctuates much like the wind on Earth that we are used to - when the Sun is more active, the solar wind increases. And just like the weather we experience here, scientists can predict general trends in the activity of the solar wind (like seasons), but find day to day observations quite unpredictable.

As these particles travel towards the Earth, they encounter the Earth's magnetic field. This in turn channels the particles towards the magnetic poles of the Earth. It isn't long before some of the particles crash into atoms making up our upper atmosphere.

When they do this, they give up some of their energy to those atoms, making the atoms themselves more energetic. Before long, the atom gives up this extra energy by emitting light which we see as the aurora (this is actually a very similar process to how neon lights work). And as the Earth's magnetic field is continuously fluctuating (in part, being pushed around by the particles in the solar wind itself), the places where the solar wind hits the Earth's atmosphere move around, making the aurora itself seem to shimmer and dance.

This all happens at an altitude from 80 km to several hundred kilometres above the Earth's surface. And aurorae occur at both the North and South magnetic poles - near the South magnetic pole, the display is called the "Southern Lights", or aurora australis. The North magnetic pole is currently located in the far Canadian north, which is what makes our country ideal for observing the Northern Lights.

There are lots of different kinds of gases which make up Earth's atmosphere, and the color of the aurora depends on which specific gas is interacting with the solar wind. Which gas creates the most commonly seen, greenish yellow, aurora?

Acceptable answers:
atomic oxygen
molecular oxygen

The Earth's atmosphere consists of roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. The remaining 1% is made up of argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium, and other gases, as well as a variable amount of water vapour. Yet, despite the fact that nitrogen is by far the most common gas in our atmosphere, it does not create the greenish yellow aurorae - that is done by oxygen. In fact, the auroral colors caused by nitrogen are actually quite a rare sight. They range towards the blue and purple end of the spectrum.


Question for Monday April 20, 2009:

Circuses have been around for thousands of years and are now synonymous with big tops, exotic animals, clowns, and acrobats. However, there is one world-renowned, Canadian-born circus that has forgone the traditional circus rings and animal acts in favour of a more artistic performance. In addition to touring performances, they also have regular shows in various fixed venues around the world.

What object is this celebrated circus named after, if spoken in the ancient language used by the organizers of the first known circus ever?

Acceptable answers:
sol solis


"Cirque du Soleil" was founded in Quebec in 1984 and adhered to the cirque nouveau, or modern circus, ideology. As a result, the performances are all-human acts carried by a story line and original, live music.

The first, and largest, circus was organized in Ancient Rome and was the Circus Maximus. Circuses of the time included chariot races, as well as gladiator and wild beast combats (usually to the death!).

"Cirque du Soleil" is French for "Circus of the Sun". The first circus organizers were Etruscan rulers, and the commonly accepted, but debated, Etruscan translation for Sun is "usil". The Etruscan language was completely replaced by Latin by 100 AD.

Since the Circus Maximus was situated in Ancient Rome, and its last recorded race was held in 550 AD, then the Latin "sol solis" or just "sol" are also acceptable ancient language translations.


Question for Tuesday April 21, 2009:
Evan went on a trip around the world with his parents and older sister, and took thousands of pictures with his new digital camera. But when he got home, he found that he had a massive job of organizing them all, and after having seen so many things, found that he'd forgotten where a lot of them were taken.

He knows that he took the following picture on his way to see a play, but can't recall where it might have been.


What is the name of the capital city of the country where this picture would have been taken, as it is known in English?

Acceptable answers:

The alphabet used in English, French, and similar languages is called the Latin alphabet, or Roman alphabet, as it was originally developed by ancient Romans to write in the Latin language. Although the alphabet used in this sign is similar to the Latin alphabet, there are a few letters which we don't have - such as the Δ, Λ, and Φ. A few contenders for alphabets containing similar, but not identical, character representations include Cyrillic (used in Russian, Ukrainian, and related languages) and Greek.

The Φ symbol occurs both in Cyrillic and Greek (it makes an 'F' sound, and the Greek letter is known in English as 'Phi', which is where we came up with the idea that 'PH' can also make an 'F' sound). However, the Δ and Λ letters only occur in Greek. The transliterated names of these letters are 'Delta' and 'Lambda', which make a 'D' and 'L' sound respectively (the corresponding letters in Cyrillic are Д and Л). Also, the 'N' character doesn't exist in Cyrillic - a similarly looking character (И) is written as a mirror image, and actually represents an 'EE' sound.

So our conclusion is that the alphabet used must Greek. All other letters produce similar sounds as their English lookalikes, with the exception of Ρ (transliterated as 'Rho'), which is actually equivalent to an English 'R'. As a result, the name of the place on the sign would be written in English as 'Delfinario'. This is the name of a summer theatre at Mikrolimano harbour in the Greek city of Piraeus.

The rest of the question is straightforward, since the capital city of Greece is Athens, as it is known in English. In Greek, it is actually written as Αθηνα, which is pronounced as 'Athena'.


Question for Wednesday April 22, 2009:
What is the birthdate of the first woman ever to play the Canadian version of hurley, a sport born at Long Pond in Windsor, NS, for the professional team named after the natural phenomenon which generates heat equivalent to up to five times the surface temperature of the Sun? (Write your answer in the form yyyy/mm/dd)

Acceptable answers:


Long Pond in Windsor, Nova Scotia, is the birthplace of what we now call hockey. Hurley is an Irish game played with curved sticks and a ball. Around 1800, boys from King's College School, the first Canadian college, took to this game to the ice. Over time, Ice Hurley developed into the Ice Hockey game Canadians know and love.

Based on spectrometer readings, lightning is capable of heating the ambient air up to 30,000°C, five times hotter that the Sun's surface of 5,500-6,000 °C! The professional hockey team named after lightning is the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Manon Rhéaume, a goalie, is the first, and only, woman ever to have played professionally in a National Hockey League exhibition game. She played two such games, one in 1992 and a second in 1993, both for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Manon was born on February 24, 1972, or 1972/02/24 in the yyyy/mm/dd format.


Question for Thursday April 23, 2009:
Daphne and Hannah are very interested in geography and always thought it would be awesome to stand right on the equator some day. When their parents told them they were planning to take a trip to South America, they seized the opportunity to try and work that experience into their travel plans, and convinced their parents to take a side excursion to Ecuador. After all, 'ecuador' means 'equator' in Spanish.

As soon as they arrived, they hurriedly made their way to the capital city, Quito, which they had always heard straddled the equator. But on arriving, they soon found out that this wasn't entirely true. Instead, tourists who wanted to stand in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time were told to board buses for a neighbouring community, known as "Middle of the World" in Spanish, containing a museum and monument marking the location of the equator.

After arriving and exploring the area, they were quietly told in confidence by a local person that this monument still wasn't located exactly on the equator. Back in the early 1980s when the museum and monument were constructed, it was difficult to determine the exact position of anything with traditional surveying equipment, particularly in the middle of Ecuador's mountainous rainforest. When GPS technology became available, it was discovered that the entire infrastructure was constructed about 240 metres south of where it should have been, but as it would cost too much to move everything, this fact was not widely advertised.

A smaller equator-marking monument that used to be found in this community was given to a nearby town, which actually did succeed in placing it on the true equator. Though much less widely known and visited by tourists, this monument (shown to the left) is much more legitimate than the one most people see.

Convinced that they had in fact now managed to find a location truly situated on the Earth's equator, they began to contemplate other facts about the geography of our planet and conceived an interesting thought experiment. Assume that both girls were given completely identical airplanes capable of traveling at precisely the same ground speed (ignore the effect that wind might have on their journey) and that both airplanes do not need refuelling. The idea would be to start from this location at the same time and have a "race" around the world with Daphne heading due west and Hannah heading due north, until either girl arrives back in the square first. What prominent geological feature would the losing girl be looking at when the race was over?

Acceptable answers:
Volcan Cayambe
Cayambe Volcano
Volcano Cayambe
the Cayambe Volcano
Mount Cayambe

The first step in solving this question is to figure out where specifically the girls would be starting from. The first real clue in this regard is the "Middle of the World", which translates to "Mitad del Mundo" in Spanish. But it's not difficult to find this place, either in English or Spanish, since it is a very popular tourist destination in Ecuador.

A little research will reveal that the original monument was moved to the town of Calacalí in 1979. The exact square in which the monument is located can be seen in any online mapping resource like Google Maps:

Now that we have a starting point, we can tackle the rest of the question. At first, one might assume that we would have the same distance to travel around the Earth no matter which direction we start out in. This would be true if the Earth was perfectly spherical, but it's actually not. Since the areas around the equator are further from the axis of the Earth, they are affected more by the centrifugal force caused by the Earth's daily rotation. As a result, the Earth is actually somewhat flattened by its own rotation, bulging outward near the equator slightly. The technical term for the Earth's specific shape is actually an "oblate spheroid", not a simple sphere. And the end result is that the circumference of the Earth measured around the equator is 40,075.02 km, while the circumference measured passing through the poles is 40,007.86 km.

The difference between these two measurements is 40075.02 – 40007.86 = 67.16 km. In other words, Daphne, travelling along the equator, would have to travel 67.16 km further than Hannah, who took a route passing over both poles. Since Daphne started out by travelling west, when Hannah would return back to their starting location in Calacalí first, Daphne would be located 67.16 km east of reaching the same destination.

67.16 km east of Calacalí would situate her just a bit east of Volcan Cayambe - the Cayambe Volcano. Heading west, this prominent geological feature would be directly ahead of her.


Question for Friday April 24, 2009:
Almost since they were first invented, dictionaries have provided people with information on how to pronounce new words that they learn about. However, the pronunciation keys they use have not been completely standardized - a dictionary made by one company may use different symbols than that of a different company. As well, the symbols used in many dictionaries only consider sounds that occur naturally in the English language.

In an attempt to address these shortcomings, the International Phonetic Alphabet was developed. It not only standardizes the representation of phonemes, but contains provision for being able to describe the various sounds made by speakers of all languages on Earth. It is sufficiently accurate to even be able to describe subtle differences in accent between speakers of the same language, if that information is of interest to scholars.

The question below has been written with the International Phonetic Alphabet. Figure out what it means, and then provide us with your answer to the question in the blank below. Do not use the phonetic alphabet itself to write your answer - just use the regular letters on your keyboard to type a response.


Acceptable answers:

Once a chart or table cross referencing the various IPA symbols to examples of phonemes within English words is obtained, the question it is asking can be sounded out as follows:

What is the thirteenth letter of the English language?

The answer to this, of course, is simply the letter 'M'.


Question for Saturday April 25, 2009:
In engineering, there is a term for a beam which is completely fixed at one end, with its other end projecting freely out into the air.  In bridge building, this design has been particularly useful for spanning large distances where it is difficult or undesirable to erect central supporting columns.  A Canadian bridge, built more than a century ago, still holds the world record for distance spanned in this category. Tragically, it collapsed on more than one occasion while under construction, killing a number of individuals.

A symbolic item, ritually given to and worn by many Canadian members of this profession, is commonly, though falsely, rumored to serve as a humbling reminder of this particular tragedy.

The author who created the ceremony during which these items are distributed is best known for penning which classic collection of children's literature about animals?

Acceptable answers:
The Jungle Book
Jungle Book
Just So Stories
Just-So Stories


A beam that is fixed at one end and extends out horizontally without additional support is known as a cantilever.

Cantilever bridges are built using cantilevered beams, trusses of structural steel or concrete girders. The 90 year-old Quebec Bridge (Pont de Québec), currently holds the world record for the longest cantilever bridge.

Tragically, due to an error in the design engineer's calculations and human pride, the first version of this bridge collapsed into the St. Lawrence River on August 29, 1907, taking the lives of 75 workers. The bridge was rebuilt, but tragedy struck again on September 11, 1916, when 13 more workers lost their lives as the central span plunged into the river below as it was being hoisted into place. The Quebec Bridge was finally completed in 1917 and officially opened on December 3, 1919.

Graduating engineers often participate in a ceremony known as the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer (or Iron Ring Ceremony, or Kipling Ritual), during which they recite the Obligation, an oath of professional standards and honor, and then receive a symbolic ring.

These rings were historically made from iron, which was long reputed to have come from the wreckage of the collapsed Quebec Bridge. This belief is unsubstantiated, however, as the bridge was actually made of steel. Today, the rings are made of stainless steel and should be worn on the drawing and writing hand of the engineer to serve as a humbling, constant reminder of the consequences of error.

As the name suggests, the Kipling Ritual is named after Rudyard Kipling who drafted the secret Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and the Obligation. Kipling had long been the literary hero of engineers, having made reference to their work in some of his poems and writing.

"The Jungle Book" (1894) is a classic collection of children's anthropomorphic animal stories written by Rudyard Kipling. Also, his "Just So Stories" (1902) illustrate fictional tales of how things came about, often using animals as the main characters.


Question for Sunday April 26, 2009:
There is a famous Christmas song in which people build a completely inanimate snowman that they pretend to be a specific person they name. This particular reference was more meaningful when the song was written than it is today, and so it is now often misunderstood or misquoted. Nevertheless, part of the name that they use is also the name of a musical notation scheme.

Write the melody of the first line of the song in this musical notation. Omitting the first character, which will be a symbol, you will be left with 6 characters. What are they?

Acceptable answers:


First, you need to discover that the song being referenced is Winter Wonderland (not Frosty the Snowman, since Frosty comes to life, and the snowman is said to be completely inanimate). In the third verse of Winter Wonderland, reference is made to a snowman that they pretend is Parson Brown. When the song was written, parsons were Protestant ministers who traveled between small towns to perform marriage ceremonies.

There is a musical notation scheme called Parsons code (named after Denys Parsons who developed it). With this code, the first note is designated with an asterisk. Each subsequent note is then identified by a 'u' if the pitch goes up, a 'd' if the pitch goes down, or an 'r' if it stays the same. It doesn't matter how much the pitch may go up or down - Parsons Code only indicates the relative pitch of each note to the one before.

Working with the first line of Winter Wonderland, you would use Parsons Code to write out the melody as:


Therefore, the Parsons Code representation for the first line of Winter Wonderland is:


And omitting the first character, as required, will result in an answer of