Monday, September 27, 2010

According to Einstein's famous equation, how many food calories are there in a single gram of mass?

Animated atomic bomb explosion.Image via WikipediaExactly 105 years ago today -- Sept. 27, 1905 -- Albert Einstein published his paper "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?" in Annalen der Physik, introducing the world to his famous equation, E = mc2. Except E = mc2 didn't actually appear in Einstein's original paper; Uncle Albert described his formula in prose, using different variables to express both energy and the speed of light. Translating from the original German, Einstein wrote:
If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/V2.
The V in this case is the 1920s-era standard variable for the speed of light (which Einstein argued was constant). Thus, if you wrote out the mass-energy equivalence equation as Einstein originally described it, you'd get m = L/V2.

The upshot of Einstein's mass-energy equivalence and the relativity it helps describe is that all matter can be converted into a predictable amount of energy -- a large predictable amount of energy. Fortunately, only in very rare circumstances can matter be efficiently and explicitly converted entirely into its equivalent energy. We don't unleash all of our food energy when we digest it, for example, because we're unlocking its chemical energy, not its nuclear energy. That's a very good thing, as E = mc2 would make your average slice of cheesecake exponentially more fattening (and destructive).

According to Einstein's famous equation, how many food calories are there in a single gram of mass?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What was Super Mario's original name and occupation? (Hint: He wasn't a plumber)

A palette swap of Mario and Luigi, as seen in ...Image via WikipediaI'm totally hosed with work, so I'm copping out again and recycling a Geek Trivia column rather than writing a new Truly Trivial. Luckily, Nintendo was founded 121 years ago this week, so I've got an easy topic to milk. See below.
Mario first appeared as the ladder-climbing, barrel-dodging, gorilla-enraging protagonist of Donkey Kong, which made its arcade debut in 1981. ... It wasn't until 1983 that Mario would rate his own name on the game marquee, when he enjoyed three title releases: Mario's Cement Factory, Mario's Bombs Away, and Mario Bros. The latter introduced the world to Mario's brother, Luigi. (It was also the first time Mario squared off against evil turtles.)
...In an industry where an ever-increasing number of complex and hyper-real — and in some cases, hyper-violent — characters and concepts grab headlines and zeitgeist, it's nice to think that a simple Italian plumber named Mario still carries a lot of weight with avid game consumers. Of course, this world-famous character has come a long way from his humble roots — when his name wasn't Mario, and his gorilla-free day job was something besides a plumber.
Find out here.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What was the original name of the Space Shuttle Enterprise?

Space Shuttle EnterpriseImage via WikipediaA mere 34 years ago this week -- Sept. 17, 1976 -- the Space Shuttle Enterprise was revealed to the public with a  Star Trek-themed press event. Gene Roddenberry and much of the original Star Trek series' principal cast were present, which was appropriate since it was a mass write-in campaign by Star Trek fans that prodded NASA into naming the original shuttle orbiter after the famous fictional starship.

The space shuttle designated OV-101 was originally intended to bear a different name than Enterprise, one which has some intriguing parallels to Star Trek canon.

What was the original name of the Space Shuttle Enterprise?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What work of classic literature was Gene Roddenberry's inspiration for Star Trek? (Hint: It wasn't "Wagon Train")

Star Trek motivational poster courtesy Echosphere.netA mere 44 years ago this week -- Sept. 8, 1966 -- the first episode of Star Trek aired on CBS. The debut of "The Man Trap" was the culmination of six years of work for series creator Gene Roddenberry, who had been developing and shopping his show concept since 1960.

Like all Hollywood pitches, Roddenberry had to relate his show premise to an already successful franchise in order to interest production studios. Thus, Star Trek was floated to TV houses as "Wagon Train in space" -- a description that many fans consider inaccurate, and perhaps even condescending.

In truth, Roddenberry was only citing the episodic, random-encounter-with-the-unknown aspect of Wagon Train. His inspiration for Star Trek, as he would later claim, was actually one of the most famous works of classic literature ever written.

What work of classic literature was Gene Roddenberry's self-professed inspiration for
Star Trek?