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The 12 Christmas Questions

20th December 2013
By Katy Alexander

To celebrate the holiday season, we launched a very festive video. A popular item featured in this video was the “I Love Science” polar bear, and because it proved so popular, we wanted to give our readers the chance to win it!

So, all you need to do is answer our 12 Christmas questions, then message us on Facebook, Twitter, or on Google+ to let us know you have completed the quiz – please use #sciencexmas so we can keep track. We will then pick a winner at random, we’ll check your answers and in exchange you’ll win…

Polar Bear

You have until the 12th day of Christmas, which is the 5th January, to take part. Good luck!

The Quiz

1. If you multiply the highest number on the Beaufort scale by the atomic number of iodine, then add the product to the year in which Darwin’s On The Origin of Species was published, and then add the periodic table group number of the halogens, what appropriately festive number do you have?

2. In what Christmassy context would you find a moon of Uranus, a rocky celestial body, a vulpine female, a computer accessibility tool, a waggling honeybee, thunder and lightning, and three others?

3. Of all the sweet foodstuffs used as names for Android operating systems, what are the only two (API levels 3 and 10 for the true geeks out there) that have recipes for Christmas versions of them in Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Christmas?

4. And sticking with operating systems, how can you seasonally connect version 10.6 of Mac OS X with Dean Martin?

5. Similarly, what is the seasonal connection between Erithacus rubecula and the curator of the Christmas comedy/science show Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People?

6. What laws would you associate with by far the most famous scientist to have been born on Christmas Day?

7. Santa’s sack has 15 presents in it – 5 green ones, 5 red ones, and 5 white ones. If Peter Higgs, Brian Green and Neil deGrasse Tyson each pull out one present at random, what are the chances of them all having different colours? And the chances of them all having the same colour?

8. If you are covering JJ Thomson’s famous metaphorical object with a healthy dose of C2H5OH, in what festive activity are you about to partake?

9. Each year, the ‘Christmas Price Index’ is announced. This is how much it would cost you to buy all the things mentioned in the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. The figure for this year is US$27,393.17. To the nearest 5, this is the equivalent of how many bitcoins (as of 20th December 2013)?

10. What craft crashed into Mars, never to be seen again, on Christmas Day 2003?

11. What is the only element that has no letters in common with “The three wise men”? And how about the only other element that has no letters in common with just “wise men”?

12. Take the name for a chemical product derived from three identical precursor molecules, the surname of the Austrian physicist who famously gives his name to the ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound, and the chemical symbols for strontium, sulphur and yttrium – mix all their letters together and unscramble them to get a seasonal message from all at Digital Science.

Quiz created by Chris Clough

The Answers

1. 12 x 53 + 1859 + 17 = 2512 (that’s the date of Christmas, for those whose brain is addled by Christmas booze)

2. They are Santa’s reindeer. (Cupid, Comet, Vixen, Dasher, Dancer, Donner and Blitzen, respectively)

3. Cupcakes and Gingerbread

4. SNOW (Version 10.6 of Mac OS X is Snow Leopard, and Dean Martin famously sang “Let It Snow!”)

5. ROBIN (Scientific name for the bird, and Robin Ince.)

6. The Laws of Motion (the scientist being Isaac Newton).

7. In each case, the first present pulled out can be anything, so our calculations start from the draw of the second.
In the first case (three different colours), the second present drawn can be any of ten from the remaining fourteen (it just needs to be a different colour from the one already drawn), and the third present can be any of five from thirteen. So the calculation is 10/14 x 5/13 = 27.5%
In the second case (all the same colour), the second present drawn can be any four from fourteen, and then any three from the remaining thirteen, so it’s 4/14 x 3/13 = 6.5%

8. JJ Thomson came up with the plum pudding model of the atom, and C2H5OH is alcohol – so you’d be about to flambé your Christmas pudding.

9. US$27,393.17 was worth the same as around 40 bitcoins at the time of setting the quiz – but you’d only get around 28 for your money today (6th January).

10. This was the Beagle 2.

11. Pleasingly and appropriately, the only element to have no letters in common with ‘THREE WISE MEN’ is GOLD. If you change the phrase to simply ‘WISE MEN’ then you can also add COBALT (but no others).


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