Geek Out

Last few hours in New York, and I still don’t have internet access! (I’m
blogging on my phone via the email portal.) So if anyone has left any
comments here, I won’t be able to moderate them till late tonight.

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is a
stunning collection of items, ruined by the enormous crowds and (typical
for New York) rude staff. My favourite part was the Rex Harrison
retrospective, featuring several of his movies, including Noel Coward’s
“Blythe Spirit” (which I first saw as a Broadway play exactly 20 years ago,
starring Richard Chamberlain) and “Anna and the King of Siam”, based on one
of my favourite books.

While at the Met I chanced to see something remarkable: a tour through the
Egyptian antiquities for BLIND people. And that got my brain started.
Stay tuned for further developments.

Last night I hung out with my cousins. We ended up lining up for a club
called the Beauty Bar, whereupon I disocovered that I had no ID– and
apparently ID is mandatory in New York clubs, even for old men like me.

So this, my friends, is where being a geek came in handy. The bouncer, a
burly, bearded black man, demanded of the crowd, “Who’s got science trivia?”

Of course, I jumped to the challenge. For the next 10 minutes, the two of
us exchanged science questions, after which he said, “You, sir, have an

impressive knowledge of science which, I presume, took you at least 21
years to acquire. So you may go in.”

How’s that for an ad for postgraduate education? For the curious, here are
the questions we exchanged:

1. Name the moons of Mars. (Phobos and Deimos).

2. What do they mean? (Fear and destruction).

3. What is the biggest volcano in the solar system? (Olympus Mons on the
Tharsis plateau on Mars

4. What is the only planet in our solar system whose axis of rotation is
not perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic? (Uranus).

5. What mathematical law supposedly predicts the distances from the sun of
each planet and the asteroid belt? (Boyd-Titius law).

6. Name the three closest star systems to our sun. (Proxima/Alpha
Centauri, Barnard’s Star, Wolf 359

7. Name the four fundamental forces of the universe. (Gravity,
electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear

8. What is the multiplicative factor in the formula for computing time
dilation? (1-sqr((v*v/c*c))).

9. Name Neptune’s moon. (Triton).

10. Who first proposed the principle of relativity? (Galileo).

So remember, kids: study your science trivia, because it might just help
your social life.