Science.gov Trivia Answers

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October 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 30, 2014

Department of Education

Question: How many studies has the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse reviewed to find effective educational practices, programs and policies?

Answer: More than 10,000

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The WWC is administered by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) within IES to promote informed decision making by providing educators, policymakers, researchers and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence about "what works" in education. The WWC identifies studies that provide credible and reliable evidence of the effectiveness of a given practice, program or policy (referred to as "interventions"), and then disseminates summary information and reports on the WWC website. During its lifetime, the WWC has reviewed more than 10,000 studies. It has produced over 700 reports, which are available via an online searchable database.

For more information, go to: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 28, 2014

Library of Congress

Question: According to the Library of Congress online exhibit, "Benjamin Franklin … In His Own Words," which musical instrument did Franklin invent: armonica, celesta or orpharion?

Answer: Armonica

According to the Library of Congress (LOC) online exhibit, "Benjamin Franklin … In His Own Words," the famous American author, printer, statesman, inventor and amateur musician sent a letter in 1762 to Italian philosopher Giambatista Beccaria describing a musical instrument he had designed, the armonica. It was Franklin's more sophisticated adaptation of musical glasses. He fitted a series of graduated glass discs on a spindle laid horizontal in a case. By rotating the spindle via a foot pedal and touching the moving discs with a wet finger, Franklin could create bell-like tones. A celesta resembles a small upright piano, has hammers that strike steel plates to produce a tone similar to that of a glockenspiel and was invented in France in the 1880s. The orpharion is a 16th century metal-stringed lute.

For more information, go to:
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/franklin
http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/franklin/index.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 23, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey

Question: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are just over how many counties in the United States: 3,000; 12,000 or 27,000?

Answer: Just over 3,000

According to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), there are 3,141 counties and county equivalents in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. These are:

  • 3,007 designated as "county"
  • 16 "boroughs" in Alaska
  • 11 "census areas" in Alaska (for areas not organized as boroughs by the state)
  • 64 "parishes" in Louisiana
  • 42 "independent cities" (1 in Maryland – Baltimore; 1 in Missouri – St. Louis; 1 in Nevada – Carson City; and 39 in Virginia
  • 1 "district" – the District of Columbia (also known as the Federal District)

The 3,141 total does not include the county-like equivalents in the U.S. commonwealths and territories. These include:

  • 78 "municipios" in Puerto Rico
  • 24 "districts" in the U.S. Virgin Islands (2), Northern Mariana Islands (17) and American Samoa (5)
  • 19 "election districts" in Guam

Forty-eight of the 50 states have operational county governments. Connecticut and Rhode Island are divided into geographic regions called counties, but they do not have functioning governments.

The most extensive county or county-equivalent is the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska, with a land area of 376,856 square kilometers (145,505 square miles). The least extensive county or county-equivalent is the independent City of Falls Church, Va., with a land area of 5.177 square kilometers (1.999 square miles). Most populous county or county-equivalent is Los Angeles County, Calif., with 9,962,789 residents in 2012; least populous: Loving County, Texas, with 71 residents in 2012.

The majority of county names, 94 percent, contain only one word. The award for longest county name (14 letters) is a tie between Northumberland County, Pa., and Northumberland County, Va. The most common county name, with 31, is Washington County.

For more information, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/faq/categories/9799/2971

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 21, 2014

Environmental Protection Agency

Question: Scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development are using satellite data to predict outbreaks of what aquatic scourge?

Answer: Algal blooms

Rapid growths of algae, primarily cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), in marine and fresh water systems are known as algal blooms. The toxins produced by these blooms can cause human illness, threaten drinking water, and harm recreational areas and commercial fishing regions, including those for shellfish. Researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Office of Research and Development (ORD) use images from NASA's SeaWIFS satellite to measure the amount of a pigment in algae, chlorophyll-a, to monitor algal growth and predict blooms. They also compared 13 years of SeaWIFS data to measurements from field studies to see if the satellite's readings could be used to assess water quality. The result was that satellites are useful monitoring tools.

For more information, go to: http://www2.epa.gov/water-research/using-satellites-identify-and-predict-harmful-algal-blooms

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 16, 2014

U.S. Forest Service

Question: The U.S. Forest Service and others study how people make use of their native plants. Is this science called agrimony, ethnobotany or social farming?

Answer: Ethnobotany

Ethnobotany, or "plants sustaining people," is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of their indigenous (native) plant species. Throughout time, countless peoples have tested and recorded the usefulness of plants. Those plants with valuable uses—such as foods, dyes and medicines—were kept and cultivated, and the knowledge of their benefits passed from generation to generation. Ethnobotanists working for or collaborating with the Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are helping document, preserve and foster some of these "human-plant connection" through projects such as the Zaagkii Project, an effort in the Great Lakes region to restore and preserve native plants and protect pollinators, and the Tribal Climate Change Project, a northwestern U.S. program exploring the role of traditional tribal knowledge about plants and other resources in climate change studies, assessments and plans. Agrimony is the name of an herb while social farming is the therapeutic use of farming to promote mental and physical health.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/index.shtml

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 14, 2014

National Archives and Records's Administration

Question: Records at the National Archives and Records Administration show that the U.S. Government once had regulations regarding searches for the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, true or false?

Answer: True

Amongst the items preserved in the "Records of the Agency for International Development (USAID)" by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a Nov. 30, 1959, Foreign Service Dispatch titled "Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal - Relating to Yeti." Issued by the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu, Nepal, the State Department document lists "three regulations applicable only to expeditions searching for the Yeti in Nepal": (1) buy a permit from the Nepalese government for 5,000 Indian rupees; (2) only photograph or capture the beast alive (however, the rules stated that force could be used in self-defense); and (3) clear any news about the search with Nepalese government before sending it out to the world. These regulations on the "Abominable Snowman" were originally issued by the Nepalese government in 1957. Their reissuance by the United States two years later was out of respect for Nepal and not because American officials felt the Yeti was real.

For more information, go to: http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/?dod-date=1210

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 9, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Question: True or false? A NOAA/NASA satellite can spot a wildfire event even before smoke is seen.

Answer: True

Fires can be detected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a set of extremely sensitive radiation sensors aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite known as Suomi NPP, even before the craft's cameras observe smoke. VIIRS provides valuable information on the location and intensity of fires, which can be used to support smoke and air quality analyses and forecasts, help predict future fire behavior and direct fire suppression efforts. Suomi NPP (for National Polar-orbiting Partnership) is the first in a series of advanced Earth-observing satellites (the Joint Polar Satellite System or JPSS) that circle from pole-to-pole (hence "polar orbiting") at an altitude of about 824 kilometers (512 miles). Polar satellites are able to monitor weather as it takes shape around the globe, unlike geostationary satellites—orbiting at 35,800 kilometers or 22,300 miles so that they remain stationed over a fixed point—that see only within their limited domain. VIIRS features multi-band imaging capabilities to support the acquisition of high-resolution atmospheric imagery and the generation of a variety of applied products, including visible and infrared imaging of hurricanes along with detection of fires, smoke and atmospheric aerosols. It was the VIIRS' Day/Night Band sensor that captured the widely popular Earth at night "Black Marble" image.

For more information, go to: http://go.usa.gov/53GB

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 7, 2014

Department of Defense

Question: What biomaterial is being studied by Department of Defense-funded research with potential applications for parachutes, body armor suits and underwater adhesives?

Answer: Spider silk

During the past decade, both the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have funded studies by molecular biologist Randy Lewis (the former when he was at the University of Wyoming and the latter at his current institution, Utah State University) to mass produce spider silks by inserting arachnid genes for silk protein production into alfalfa, bacteria, goats and silkworms. The proteins can be spun into strong, lightweight and extremely elastic silk for potential Department of Defense (DoD) applications in parachute cords, ballistic-resistant body armors, composite materials in aircraft and even adhesives that can work underwater. Medical uses for the lab-derived spider silk—which is five times stronger than steel, three times tougher than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon—include synthetic ligaments, tendons, skin and bone, as well as ultra-fine sutures for microsurgeries and delicate operations (such as facial reconstruction).

For more information, go to: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a516656.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 2, 2014

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Question: National Science Foundation-funded research in Iceland scientifically evaluated a drilled well with what world-record characteristic?

Answer: It was the hottest well in the world because of magma heating

As part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Icelandic Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), a borehole was drilled in 2009 at Krafla, Iceland, that unexpectedly penetrated into magma (molten rock) at only 2,100 meters (6,900 feet) deep. The temperature of the well, known as IDDP-1, was 900-1,000 degrees Celsius (1,700-1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) making it the world's hottest. The IDDP, in cooperation with Iceland's National Power Company, decided to evaluate the ability of the magma well to serve as a geothermal energy source. The well flowed superheated steam at 450 degrees Celsius (840 degrees Fahrenheit) into the existing power plant at Krafla for two years. This was far greater than the 60-80 degrees Celsius (140-180 degrees Fahrenheit) produced by traditional geothermal resources. The steam from the first-ever magma-enhanced geothermal site was capable of generating 36 megwatts of electrical power. While low compared to a typical 660 megawatt coal-fired power station, it was considerably greater than the 1-3 megawatts of an average wind turbine, and more than half of the Krafla plant's 60 megawatt output.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=130319

September 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 30, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Question: A NASA-developed material, transparent polycrystalline alumina, is used in invisible braces. What was its original purpose?

Answer: Helping to track heat-seeking missiles

Transparent polycrystalline alumina (TPA) is a compound that is stronger than steel, allows infrared and microwave radiation to pass through it, and is so light absorbent that it is transparent. TPA was developed by ceramics manufacture Ceradyne Inc., in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as a material for the nose cones of heat-seeking missiles. TPA permitted tracking signals to reach the missile's sensitive guidance systems and sensors, while still being tough enough to protect those same mechanisms from the rigors of high-speed, high-altitude flight. In 1987, a dental products manufacturer, Unitek Corp. (now 3M Unitek), was searching for a strong, yet translucent material with which to create a line of "invisible braces." The company found its answer in TPA, designing the first-ever braces that would reflect the color of the teeth beneath them and withstand the stress and strain of daily use within a patient's mouth. It is one of NASA's best examples of "spinoff technology" from the space program.

For more information, go to: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20020087639

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 25, 2014

Department of Transportation

Question: A robot designed and built by the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and Rutgers University is currently traveling through six states inspecting what?

Answer: Bridges

The Robotics Assisted Bridge Inspection Tool (RABIT™), designed and built by the Department of Transportation (DOT)'s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), is currently inching its way across bridges in six states—Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—and the District of Columbia to collect data on their surface and subsurface conditions. The robot complements conventional visual inspections in analyzing bridge decks, which typically deteriorate faster than other bridge components because of the direct exposure to traffic loads and environmental impacts. This includes using ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and acoustic arrays to assess such concerns as corrosion, degradation of concrete and delamination (division and separation of layers of concrete). The FHWA is currently fine-tuning RABIT™'s capabilities with the six state trial and hopes to inspect 1,000 bridges nationwide in a five-year period.

For more information, go to: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/tfhrc/programs/infrastructure/structures/ltbp/ltbpresearch/rabit/index.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 23, 2014

National Library of Medicine

Question: According to the National Library of Medicine's ToxTown environmental health website, a haboob is a poisonous plant found in the southwestern United States, true or false?

Answer: False

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s ToxTown environmental health website, a haboob is an intense dust storm (the name is derived from the Arabic word for "wind"). Haboobs are most frequent in the southwestern United States from May through September. They have winds of higher than (30 miles per hour), may raise dust to higher than 900 meters (3,000 feet), and last for an average of less than three hours. ToxTown is designed to give the public information on:

  • everyday locations where you might find toxic chemicals;
  • non-technical descriptions of chemicals;
  • links to selected, authoritative chemical information on the Internet;
  • how the environment can impact human health; and
  • Internet resources on environmental health topics.

ToxTown uses colors, graphics, sounds and animation to add interest to learning about connections between chemicals, the environment and the public's health. ToxTown's target audiences are students above elementary-school level, educators and the general public.

For more information, go to: http://www.toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/locations.php?id=152

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 18, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Question: BIOSwimmer, an autonomous underwater vehicle whose development was funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, has the shape of what marine creature?

Answer: A tuna

Mimicking the form and function of one of the world's speediest and most agile fish, the tuna, the Biomimetic In-Oil Swimmer (BIOSwimmer) is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) created by Boston Engineering Corporation with funding from the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T). The bright-yellow mechanical robot is about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and weighs just over 40 kilograms (90 pounds); has pectoral, dorsal and tail fins to aid in navigation; and gets its impressive maneuverability from a tuna-like, back-and-forth moving tail section. Remotely controlled by a laptop computer, BIOSwimmer can operate to depths of up to 90 meters (300 feet). It can inspect ship interiors (such as bilges and tanks), examine the hulls of vessels, patrol and protect harbors and piers, and perform underwater searches.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/st-snapshot-bioswimmer

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 16, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: What technology, developed at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, levitates the vehicle it propels?

Answer: Magnetic levitation or "maglev"

Magnetic levitation is a form of propulsion that uses magnets to levitate a vehicle—usually a train—a small distance above a track. There are currently two commercial trains in operation, one in Shanghai, China, and the other in Japan. In 1961, James R. Powell, then a researcher at the Department of Energy (DOE)'s Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), got the inspiration for maglev while sitting in rush hour traffic. He and BNL colleague Gordon Danby devised a form of transportation that used static magnets to cause electrodynamic lifting, allowing maglev trains to move much more efficiently and quickly than conventional trains. Powell and Gordon received the patent for their work in 1968, and the two are now part of Maglev 2000, a company which hopes to construct a maglev train in the United States that would travel a total of 16,400 miles and reach a maximum of 300 mph. In 2000, Powell and Gordon were awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering for their creation.

For more information, go to: http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2000/bnlpr041800.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 11, 2014

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Question: Since 2000, computer modeling software designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been used to predict the behavior of what hazard: earthquakes, fire or lightning?

Answer: Fire

First released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2000 and now in its sixth version, the NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) computer modeling software has been used worldwide to predict the spread, growth and suppression of fire by researchers, arson investigators, firefighter trainers and groups involved in the development of fire-protection designs and standards. FDS "has become the tool of choice by both the fire research and fire engineering communities," according to the International Forum of Fire Research Directors, an organization that promotes international cooperation in fire safety research. Combined with another NIST program, Smokeview, the software tools were essential to the NIST study that determined the factors that led to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The software also has aided reconstructions and experimental studies of fires in houses and high-rises, mines, aircraft cabins, nuclear facilities, road tunnels, movie theaters, parking garages, subway stations and more. In addition, FDS and Smokeview have been used to investigate circumstances in line-of-duty deaths of firefighters, and architects and engineers employ the tools when designing fire-protections systems for buildings and other structures.

For more information, go to: http://www.nist.gov/el/fire_research/fds_smokeview.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 9, 2014

National Technical Information Service

Question: Available from the National Technical Information Service's National Audiovisual Center is a film called "The World Beyond Zero" that's about: Arctic exploration, higher mathematics or spacecraft tracking?

Answer: Spacecraft tracking

Among the more than 9,000 multimedia items available from the National Audiovisual Center collection maintained by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is a 1961 NASA film called "The World Beyond Zero." The 28-minute documentary was directed by famed filmmaker Charles "Chick" Gallagher and featured two top actors at the time as narrators: Richard Burton and Robert Preston. It deals with the international tracking station network coordinated by NASA to monitor and communicate with orbiting spacecraft. The title of the film refers to the countdown used during spacecraft launches and indicates that the tracking network is critical to a mission "beyond zero." Locations with tracking stations seen in the film included Cape Kennedy, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, in the United States; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Johannesburg, South Africa; Winkfield, England; and Woomera, Australia.

For more information, go to: http://www.ntis.gov/search/product.aspx?ABBR=AVA18775VNB1

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 4, 2014

Department of Education

Question: The first journal articles indexed by the U.S. Department of Education's Educational Resources Information Center database were from: history, mathematics or special education?

Answer: Special education

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education's Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is an online digital library of education research and information providing access to some 1.5 million bibliographic records of journal articles and other education-related materials. The first articles were indexed in 1965 as part of a pilot document dissemination to special education teachers known as Project Fingertip. Packets each containing 1,746 resource items–including program descriptions, indices, resumes and full-text documents–were sent to all state Boards of Education, a school system in each Congressional district, and special education teachers in the 100 largest cities in the United States.

For more information, go to: http://eric.ed.gov/pdf/ERIC_Retrospective.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 2, 2014

Library of Congress

Question: In which year, commonly referred to as the Annus Mirabilis, did Albert Einstein publish four papers and his dissertation setting the stage for all of modern physics?

Answer: 1905

While working as an examiner in a Swiss patent office at the start of the 20th century, Albert Einstein tackled some of the most important questions and problems in physics. In 1905, he published four papers in the scientific journal Annalen der Physik that contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and forever altered our views on space, time, mass and energy. The year in which Einstein created his quartet of breakthrough works is now commonly known as the Annus Mirabilis, Latin for "miracle year." The papers dealt with the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity and mass-energy equivalence (in which Einstein developed perhaps the most famous equation in physics: E = mc2). All four documents and related information are listed in the Library of Congress (LOC) science guide, "The Annus Mirabilis of Albert Einstein."

For more information, go to: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/einstein.html

August 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 28, 2014

Department of Interior

Question: Is the animal on the logo of the U.S. Department of the Interior (parent department for the U.S. Geological Survey): a bison, a buffalo or both?

Answer: Technically, a bison

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) logo consists of a male bison standing in the prairie, with mountains and a rising sun in the background. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the species Bison bison has become widely known as the American buffalo, although technically, the only two true buffalo species are the Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) and the African, or Cape, buffalo (Syncerus caffer). The Cabinet Department for which the bison stands proudly was created on March 3, 1849, the last day of the 30th Congress–a date that appears at the bottom of the DOI logo. The bison seal dates from 1917, when it was used as the emblem on the initial department flag and replaced the original seal that featured a federal eagle. The eagle returned for a few years in the 1920s, and a different seal was used from 1968-69, but in both cases, the bison was eventually reinstated. Today, DOI employs more than 70,000 people in nine science and technical bureaus, including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

For more information, go to: http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/utley-mackintosh/interior13.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 26, 2014

Environmental Protection Agency

Question: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development built a solar-powered park bench outside a North Carolina library that monitors which of the following: air quality, cloud cover or rainfall?

Answer: Air quality

A prototype of the Village Green Project, an innovative, low-cost, solar-powered air-monitoring system incorporated into a park bench, has been hard at work outside the Durham County (N.C.) South Regional Library since the summer of 2013. Designed and built by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Office of Research and Development (ORD), in partnership with Durham County, this unique piece of outdoor furniture measures the airborne levels of pollutants such as ozone, black carbon and particulate matter; and collects information on pollution-impacting weather conditions such as relative humidity, temperature, wind direction and wind speed. The Village Green Project got its name from the New England term for the area that is the heart of a town where community members come together. The sensor-laden bench, part of EPA's next-generation air measuring research program, is meant to fit well into a modern "village green" environment, such as a playground, city park or running trail. The system's design minimizes its ecological footprint, requires little maintenance and avoids the need for outside electricity. Anyone who uses the bench can see real-time pollution and weather data, as well as educational materials on air quality, by scanning an onsite barcode with their smartphone or by accessing the Village Green Project website (http://villagegreen.epa.gov).

For more information, go to: http://www.epa.gov/research/priorities/docs/village-green-project-fact-sheet.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 21, 2014

U.S. Forest Service

Question: What tree, deemed by the U.S. Forest Service to be an invasive pest, "starred" in the book and movie titled "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"?

Answer: Ailanthus, or tree-of heaven

Ailanthus, the so-called tree-of-heaven, is probably the most famous invasive tree in the United States. It's the title plant in Betty Smith's classic 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the 1945 film of the same name, where it is used as a metaphor for persistence and toughness in the face of adversity. However, that toughness makes this tree–Ailanthus altissima (also known as stink tree and Chinese sumac)–a serious problem wherever it grows. It is most often found in urban settings, industrial wastelands and mine spoils, and along railroad and highway corridors. It survives in hot, dry and toxic soils, sending down its roots around and through concrete and paving cracks. Ailanthus grows very quickly, displaces native plants and is extremely difficult to eradicate. Scientists at, and collaborating with, the Northern Research Station (NRS) in Newton Square, Pa., a facility within the Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS), are developing numerous methods to counter the Ailanthus threat. Among the tactics: computer models that predict the distribution and abundance of seed-spreading Ailanthus trees, combining aerial detection with targeted ground treatment, and cultivating a natural fungal enemy of Ailanthus to attack it biologically.

For more information, go to : http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/news/review/22

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 19, 2014

National Archives and Records's Administration

Question: According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), how many of the four Army Air Force planes attempting a circumnavigation of the Earth in 1924 actually completed the voyage?

Answer: Two

According to "Magellans of the Sky," a story in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)'s Prologue magazine, four Douglas World Cruiser aircraft–the Boston, the Chicago, the New Orleans and the Seattle–took off on April 6, 1924, from Lake Washington in Seattle with eight pilots on the initial leg of man's first circumnavigation of the Earth entirely by air. When the journey ended back in Seattle 175 days later on Sept. 28, 1924, only the Chicago and the New Orleans had completed the 44,342-kilometer (27,553–mile) voyage. The Seattle crashed into a mountain in Alaska a week after the trip's start; fortunately the two men aboard, Frederick Martin and Alva Harvey, made it out alive after 10 days in the wilderness. The Boston was forced down in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 3, 1924, and the pilots, Leigh Wade and Henry Ogden, were rescued by the U.S. Navy destroyer Billingsby. The crew of the Chicago, Lowell Smith and Leslie Arnold, and the crew of the New Orleans, Erik Nelson and Jack Harding, flew on, landed in Washington, D.C. and received a hero's welcome, and then made their way west on a multi-city tour until finally reaching their endpoint, Seattle.

For more information, go to: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/summer/magellans.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 14, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Question: According to NOAA's National Ocean Service, what percentage of the Earth's water is in the ocean: 24, 48 or 96?

Answer: 96 percent

It's hard to imagine, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Ocean Service (NOS), but an astounding 96 percent of the Earth's water can be found in the ocean. That estimate, calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), comes by dividing the amount of water stored in the ocean–1.34 billion cubic kilometers (321 million cubic miles) by the world's total water supply–1.4 billion cubic kilometers (333 million cubic miles). Although there are five named "oceans"– Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern–there actually only is one global ocean that covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet. About two percent of Earth's water is frozen in glaciers and ice caps while less than one percent is fresh. A tiny fraction of water exists as water vapor in our atmosphere.

For more information, go to : http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oceanwater.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 12, 2014

Department of Defense

Question: In the summer of 2014, the USS Ponce, a U.S. Navy vessel, will be the first ship in the fleet mounted with what type of advanced weapon?

Answer: Laser

In the summer of 2014, the U.S. Navy will outfit one of its vessels, the USS Ponce, with the first operational directed-energy gun, known as the Laser Weapon System (LaWS). The novel Department of Defense device is designed to protect a ship against drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) or small-boat attackers; it cannot at present engage incoming missiles, large aircraft, submerged objects or other ships. LaWS uses a solid-state infrared beam which is tunable from low power (to cripple the sensors of an approaching target) to high power (to destroy the target). For example, during field tests in May 2010, LaWS knocked two drones out of the sky. A major advantage of the laser gun over traditional projectile weapons is its low cost per shot because ammo for the latter must be handled, transported and stored. LaWS was developed by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Division and the U.S. Navy's Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Systems (DE&EWS) program.

For more information, go to: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a583696.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 7, 2014

National Science Foundation

Question: A National Science Foundation-funded study discovered a potentially new state of matter, disordered hyperuniformity, in the eyes of what animal?

Answer: A chicken

A recent study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that an unusual arrangement of light-sensitive cells known as cones in the eye of a chicken constitutes the first known biological occurrence of a potentially new state of matter, disordered hyperuniformity. Researchers from Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis found that nature has a way to cram four kinds of cones for color vision–violet, blue, green and red–and another type for detecting light levels within the retina of a chicken's eye so that the pattern appears to be simultaneously disordered over small distances and uniformly distributed (described as a "hidden order") over large distances. This natural model for disordered hyperuniformity could provide the basis for developing materials that can behave like crystal and liquid states of matter at the same time and have unique properties for transmitting and controlling light waves.

For more information, go to: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=130709

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 5, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Question: The first image ever transmitted by NASA to the moon by laser was: an Apollo 11 photo, the Mona Lisa painting or a picture of Bugs Bunny?

Answer: The Mona Lisa

In January 2013, scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) program beamed an image of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting, the Mona Lisa, to the spacecraft from Earth by piggybacking the signal on laser pulses routinely sent for tracking purposes. It was first time that one-way laser communication had been achieved at planetary distances. To confirm that LRO had received the image, it was returned to Earth via the orbiter's radio telemetry system. Based on the success of this pioneering event, NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) satellite was outfitted later in 2013 with the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) device. The LLCD used highly reliable infrared lasers to transfer data across 386,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) at a rate of up to 622 megabits per second. The demonstration proved that two-way, high-rate laser communications was possible from lunar orbit. A second test is planned from Mars orbit in 2016.

For more information, go to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/mona-lisa.html

July 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 31, 2014

Department of Transportation

Question: According to the Department of Transportation, sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for: 5, 10 or 15 seconds?

Answer: 5 seconds

According to studies conducted by the Department of Transportation (DOT)'s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or reading a text message takes one's eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 89 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour), that is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field (91 meters or 300 feet) blindfolded. NHTSA's research also indicates using a cell phone–even a hands-free device–is not any safer. The findings show that the cognitive distraction of having a hands-free phone conversation causes drivers to miss the important visual and audio clues that would ordinarily help them avoid a crash. How bad is the problem of texting/phoning while driving? NTHSA says at any given daylight moment in the United States, approximately 660,000 persons are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.

For more information, go to:
http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/faq.html
http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 29, 2014

National Library of Medicine

Question: The National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information processes about 126 petabytes of data each year, enough to fill a bookshelf stretching how many kilometers: 400,000; 800,000; or 1.2 million?

Answer: 1.2 million kilometers

Each day, researchers from around the world submit approximately four terabytes of data for processing to the National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The center does extensive computing on the new data to integrate them into existing databases such as GenBank, PubMed and PubMed Central. At the same time, users of these databases download some 38 terabytes daily. When all of the incoming and outgoing flow of information is calculated, the total amount of data processing at NCBI is 365 terabytes daily or 126 petabytes (equivalent to 126,000 terabytes or 132 million gigabytes) annually. One petabyte is enough information to fill a bookshelf 9,600 kilometers (6,000 miles) long. Therefore, one year of data in and out of NCBI would fill a shelf that stretches 1.2 million kilometers (750,000 miles)–about three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

For more information, go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/ncbi.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 24, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Question: FINDER is a radar technology developed jointly by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for locating victims trapped in rubble after a disaster. What body function does it detect: breathing, heartbeat or both?

Answer: Both

Remote-sensing radar technology used by NASA's Deep Space Network to locate interplanetary spacecraft has been adapted in a joint project between the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) to locate persons trapped in rubble after a disaster. The prototype system, named Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), can locate disaster victims buried as deep as 9 meters (30 feet) in crushed materials, hidden behind 6 meters (20 feet) of solid concrete, and from about 30 meters (100 feet) in open spaces by picking up the breathing or heartbeat of those missing. FINDER works by beaming microwave radar signals into a disaster area and then using advanced data processing to distinguish human breathing and heartbeat signals from debris "noise" (by filtering the stronger radar signals bouncing back from wreckage) and from life signs made by non-human creatures.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/detecting-heartbeats-rubble-dhs-and-nasa-team-save-victims-disasters

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 22, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: How quickly can the ELITE detector, developed by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, spot trace explosives?

Answer: 2 minutes

The Easy Livermore Inspection Test for Explosives (ELITE) detector was developed in just three months in 2005 by scientists at the Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The detector is the size of a credit card, weighs less than an ounce, has a shelf-life of two years, and can detect trace amounts from more than 30 different explosives in two minutes. Among the explosives and explosive precursors to which ELITE is sensitive are TNT, RDX, ammonium nitrate and black powder. The technology was licensed in 2006 to Field Forensics, the same year it won an R&D 100 Award for innovation. ELITE™ cards cost $10 to $20 each compared to other explosive detection products, which can cost up to $7,500.

For more information, go to: https://missions.llnl.gov/counterterrorism/easy-livermore-inspection-test-for-explosives

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 17, 2014

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Question: A National Institute of Standards and Technology scientist helped save which country's crown jewels after World War II: England, Hungary or Poland?

Answer: Hungary

When the U.S. 86th Infantry Division liberated the town of Mattsee, Austria, near the end of World War II in May 1945 and captured the hiding Nazi minister of Hungary, they made an amazing discovery. Cloistered with the minister were the Holy Crown of Hungary (also called the Crown of St. Stephen), a scepter, an orb, a mantle and a coronation robe–royal objects collectively known as the Crown Jewels of Hungary. Hungarian officials, fearing that the centuries–old treasures might be lost or stolen during the post–war Allied occupation, asked the U.S. government to keep the Crown Jewels in Bonn, Germany, under their protection. When the occupation ended in 1952, the State Department assigned National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST) organic materials expert Gordon M. Kline to secretly accompany the Crown Jewels across the Atlantic for storage in the United States. The plan was to keep the regal relics on American soil until it was deemed appropriate to return them to Hungary. They were taken to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Ky., and stored in protective containers designed and built by NBS. In January 1978, President Jimmy Carter authorized the return of the Crown Jewels to the Hungarian people.

For more information, go to: http://hungary.usembassy.gov/holy_crown.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 15, 2014

National Technical Information Service

Question: True or false: available from the National Technical Information Service is a complete training course on how to catch drunk drivers?

Answer: True

Since the 1980s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have trained police officers and other authorized persons to properly and legally administer and interpret Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), the system used to detect and apprehend intoxicated drivers. The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) offers the complete 16-session course with manuals on CD and classroom lessons (featuring 17 video modules) on DVD. Among the training videos included are: "The Truth is in His Eyes," "Prosecuting the Impaired Driver" and "Courtroom Testimony."

For more information, go to: http://www.ntis.gov/products/dwi.aspx

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 10, 2014

U.S. Forest Service

Question: The USDA's U.S. Forest Service newest weapon to protect pine trees from bark beetles is what chemical from the bug itself?

Answer: Pheromones

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS), along with partners from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Alberta, have developed pheromone-releasing flakes that prevent bark beetle attacks on whitebark and limber pine trees. The pheromone flakes, derived from the pest's own behavioral chemical, are applied in two different ways: by aerial distribution for large areas and in stickers attached directly to individual trees. The pheromone convinces beetles that treated trees are not good places for them to reproduce. Protection ranges between 50-80 percent of the trees covered.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/highlights/highlights_display.php?in_high_id=86

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 8, 2014

National Science Foundation

Question: According to a National Science Foundation funded study, a new type of hydrocarbon fuel could come from which of these: a fungus, a fish or a seashell?

Answer: Fungus

While conducting a National Science Foundation funded study on endophytes–fungi that live inside plants–and their unique products, Gary Strobel of Montana State University and his colleagues discovered that an endophyte called Hypoxylon produces volatile organic compounds known as monoterpenes. Monoterpenes are known to make excellent gasoline, do not cause the engine problems often experienced with ethanol fuels and do not have to be produced by fermentation as ethanol does. Hypoxylon, the researchers reported, can utilize agricultural, forestry and urban wastes; grow nicely; and at the same time, make monoterpenes. However, the specialized enzymes that Hypoxylon uses to produce monoterpenes involve complex chemical processes that are difficult to reproduce in the laboratory, and therefore, they are currently difficult to adapt for mass production of monoterpenes for fuel. Strobel and his team are now looking for ways to bioengineer the fungus for greater hydrocarbon yields.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126518&org=NSF

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 3, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Question: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are three types of sea ice: bergy bits, growlers and icebergs. Put them in order of size, starting with the largest.

Answer: Icebergs, bergy bits and growlers

According to the National Ice Center, jointly operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Navy (USN) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG), ice formations drifting in the open ocean can be classified by size. The largest is the iceberg–which must originate from glaciers or shelf ice–that is defined by a height greater than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea level, a thickness of 30-50 meters (100-165 feet), and a minimum area of 500 square meters (5,400 square feet). The smaller fragments, bergy bits and growlers, can originate from glaciers or shelf ice, and also may result from an iceberg breaking up. A bergy bit is classified as having a height generally greater than 1 meter (3 feet) but less than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level and its area is normally about 100-300 square meters (1,100-3,200 square feet). Growlers are even smaller fragments of ice, roughly the size of a truck or grand piano. They extend less than 1 meter (3 feet) above the sea surface and occupy an area of about 20 square meters (200 square feet).

For more information, go to: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/iceberg.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 1, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: According to the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, all of the barbecue grills in the United States used on the Fourth of July produce greater than how many thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide: 50, 100 or 200?

Answer: Greater than 200,000 metric tons

In 2003, researcher Tristram West of the Department of Energy (DOE)'s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) calculated that when an estimated 60 million Americans fired up their barbecue grills on the Fourth of July, the total emissions would include nearly 225,000 metric tons (a metric tons is about 2,200 pounds) of carbon dioxide (CO2), considered a greenhouse gas, is believed to play a role in climate change. West, a researcher in ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division, assumed a 35,000 British thermal unit per hour output for the average grill and one hour of operation for each grill. In making his calculations, West took into account the carbon content and CO2 emissions for each type of fuel. However, even the increased CO2 holiday output is relatively insignificant compared to the approximately 6 billion tons of the gas emitted annually. In fact, West calculated that all of the BBQ grills in use July 4 would have to remain lit every hour of every day for three years to come close to the average annual U.S. CO2 emissions.

For more information, go to: http://www.ornl.gov/ornl/news/news-releases/2003/fourth-of-july-no-picnic-for-the-nation-s-environment

June 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 26, 2014

National Technical Information Science

Question: Available from the National Technical Information Service, AGRICOLA is: a vegetable-flavored soda, an agricultural information database or a handbook on growing plants?

Answer: An agricultural information database

The AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) database, available since 1970 through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and selected vendors, serves as the catalog and index to the collections of the National Agricultural Library and the research of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). AGRICOLA contains more than 4.5 million citations to journal articles, book chapters, monographs, theses, patents, software, audiovisual materials and technical reports. AGRICOLA encompasses all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines, including animal and veterinary sciences, entomology, plant sciences, forestry, aquaculture and fisheries, farming and farming systems, food and human nutrition, and agricultural engineering and technology. The database covers materials from as far back as the 15th century.

For more information, go to: http://www.ntis.gov/products/agricola.aspx

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 24, 2014

U.S. Forest Service

Question: The USDA's U.S. Forest Service once conducted a study that defined the cost of a woodpecker. True or false?

Answer: True

In 2011, researchers at the Southern Research Station (Asheville, N.C.) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) used computer simulations to predict the value of timber production lost in order to preserve an endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker. Plans called for restoring a portion of the Ouachita National Forest (straddling Arkansas and Oklahoma) as a habitat for the bird. The authors of the USFS study found that the impact cost was either $10,550 per year for the desired 400 total pairs of woodpeckers or $16,880 per year for 250 reproducing pairs. In both cases, it was determined that rebuilding the woodpecker population would not cause adverse regional economic consequences.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/highlights/highlights_display.php?in_high_id=415

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 19, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Question: In October 2012, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's Plum Island Animal Disease Center announced the world's first molecular (no live virus) vaccine for what disease?

Answer: Foot-and-mouth disease

The world's first molecular vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was licensed for use in cattle in October 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Developed by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T)'s Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), it is the first FMD vaccine that can be manufactured on the mainland United States because it does not contain live virus. Unlike previous immunization measures based on infectious materials, the Plum Island vaccine does not have to be produced in expensive, high-containment facilities. The PIADC, located in Greenport, N.Y., is the only laboratory in the nation that can work on high-consequence foreign animal diseases. The laboratory helps protect U.S. livestock from the accidental or intentional introduction of foreign animal diseases that can seriously threaten livestock industries, food safety, economy and way of life. In operation for nearly 60 years, the PIADC became part of DHS S&T in 2002.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/publication/st-piadc-press-release-oct-2012

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 17, 2014

National Library of Medicine

Question: The National Library of Medicine's website, ClinicalTrials.gov, provides on average information for how many clinical trials worldwide: 50,000; 75,000; or 150,000?

Answer: 150,000

ClinicalTrials.gov is the National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted in all 50 states and 185 countries worldwide. While the total number of clinical trials at any time varies as individual studies start and finish, the database currently provides information on nearly 150,000 studies. ClinicalTrials.gov also helps users better understand what clinical trials are about, summarizes their history, describes laws and polices related to their operation, and provides a glossary defining relevant terminology.

For more information, go to: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/home

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 12, 2014

Department of Transportation

Question: True or false? The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Advanced Driving Simulator incorporates actual vehicles to make virtual driving more realistic.

Answer: True

The National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS), located at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Research Park in Iowa City, Iowa, is the most sophisticated research driving simulator in the world. Developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)'s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the NADS consists of a large dome in which entire cars and the cabs of trucks and buses can be mounted. The vehicle cabs are equipped electronically and mechanically using instrumentation specific to their make and model. The motion system, on which the dome is mounted, provides 400 square meters (4,300 square feet) of horizontal and longitudinal travel with nearly 360 degrees of rotation in either direction. The driver effectively feels acceleration, braking and steering cues as if he or she were actually driving. Crash scenarios can be convincingly presented with no danger to the subject. Vehicle and driver data is accurately gathered and stored, and tests are repeated with exactitude.

For more information, go to: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Research/Driver+Simulation+(NADS)/The+National+Advanced+Driving+Simulator+(NADS)

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 10, 2014

National Archives and Records Administration

Question: According to the National Archives and Records Administration, keeping records in their original format is the definition for "preservation" or "conservation"?

Answer: Conservation

Although the words are often used interchangeably, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a distinct definition for the terms describing the agency's two primary functions: preservation and conservation. Preservation, NARA says, "encompasses the activities which prolong the useable life of archival records. Preservation activities are designed to minimize the physical and chemical deterioration of records and to prevent the loss of informational content." NARA defines conservation as the "attempt to preserve records in their original format." A conservator is described as someone who "examines records and assesses their condition and the materials which comprise them" and then "recommends remedial treatments to arrest deterioration or to improve condition." For example, the encasement designed and built in 1951 for the "preservation" of the Declaration of Independence included a display glass that rested directly upon the document. Nearly 50 years later, NARA staff discovered that this contact was lifting the ink from the paper, compromising the "conservation" of the cherished artifact. The problem, as well as other threats to the Declaration's survival from its outdated encasement, was solved when a state-of-the-art model replaced it in 2003.

For more information, go to: http://www.archives.gov/preservation/internal/index.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 5, 2014

U.S. Forest Service

Question: The USDA's U.S. Forest Service studies a group of mammals known as ungulates. These animals are defined by the character of which body area: hooves, skin or head?

Answer: Hooves

Ungulates are large mammals that use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. Ungulate species include camels, deer, elk, giraffes, hippopotamuses, horses, llamas, pigs and rhinoceroses. Cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) share a common ancestry with these beasts and are sometimes considered ungulates despite the lack of hooves. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) explores the dynamics of ungulate populations and their habitats to develop management practices that sustain biological diversity, economic and ecological productivity, and forest health. For example, an ongoing USFS study is examining the impact of browsing by deer on forest vegetation.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/wildlife-fish/themes/ungulate.php

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 3, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Question: What NASA term describes the "wearing away" of a heat shield during reentry: ablation, erosion or debrement?

Answer: Ablation

As defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), ablation is the "process by which a spacecraft's heat shield material is consumed by burning and vaporization, thus absorbing the intense heat created by air passing through the vehicle bow shock during atmospheric entry." This was the principle used in the design of heat shields that protected U.S. astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Most of the early research on ablation was performed in the 1950s and 1960s at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. This research and other studies at Ames on recovered meteorites called tektites led to the development in the 1970s of the thermal protection ceramic tiles used on the underside of the Space Shuttle orbiter. Ames researchers are currently leading the advanced heat shield development effort for NASA's next manned spacecraft, Orion.

For more information, go to: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/area-entry-systems.html

May 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 29, 2014

Library of Congress

Question: What famous scientist, whose papers are now part of the Library of Congress, won three Emmys and was named the Humanist of the Year in 1981?

Answer: Carl Sagan

In June 2012, the Library of Congress (LOC) acquired the personal papers of American astronomer, astrobiologist and science communicator Carl Sagan (1934-1996). The Sagan collection came to the LOC through the generosity of writer, producer and director Seth MacFarlane, and is officially designated The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive. The LOC has created a digital collection, "Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond," featuring a selection of works from the Sagan papers, as well as books on astronomical themes such as the origin of the universe, the plurality of worlds and space travel. Also included will be translations of seminal astronomical works, such as Newton's Principia. Additionally, Sagan's book Cosmos is featured in the LOC's ongoing "Books That Shaped America" exhibit.

For more information, go to: http://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2012/07/sagans-papers-offer-a-window-into-his-literary-pursuits/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 27, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey

Question: The U.S. Geological Survey's online service called Streamer lets users visualize what?

Answer: A downstream or upstream trace along America's major waterways

Streamer is a National Atlas of the United States–a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) product-online map service that lets anyone trace downstream and upstream along America's major waterways similar to how GPS helps drivers travel along the nation's roadways. With Streamer, one can:

  • Locate an area of interest by specifying names or latitude/longitude coordinates;
  • Enter the identification number for a USGS streamflow gauging station;
  • Find out the names of waterways by clicking on them;
  • Print maps and detailed reports of downstream and upstream traces; and
  • Learn about current or historic streamflow at thousands of waterways.

Streamer is fueled by digital hydrographic data for the United States at one millionth-scale (2.5 centimeters/1 inch is approximately 25.4 kilometers/15.8 miles).

For more information, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3633

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 22, 2014

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Question: Growing on the grounds of NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus is a direct descendant of which famous tree?

Answer: The apple tree which reportedly led Isaac Newton to theorize gravity

According to Sir Isaac Newton's biographer William Stukeley, the famous scientist formulated his theory of gravity in 1665 while watching an apple fall from a tree near his manor home in Woolsthrorpe, England (Contrary to the popular legend, it was not from the apple striking Newton on the head.). Before the original tree died in 1814, grafts were taken and planted in the English town of Belton. From these grafts, descendants were propagated by the United Kingdom's National Physical Laboratory, the national measurement and standards institute whose equal in the United States is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). After a trip to England, National Bureau of Standards (NBS, the predecessor of NIST) scientist Irvine C. Gardner became obsessed with securing a genuine descendent of the apple tree for his agency. He persevered, obtained one of the English grafts through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and on March 15, 1957, NBS dedicated a Newton apple tree at its Washington, D.C. headquarters. When NIST moved to its current Gaithersburg, Md. location in 1966, a second Newton apple tree was planted there. 

For more information, go to: http://ww2.gazette.net/gazette_archive/1997/199714/gaithersburg/news/a55925-1.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 20, 2014

National Science Foundation

Question: A recent National Science Foundation-funded study found that a specific ecological balance at Yellowstone National Park depended on wolves, elk and what other animal?

Answer: Beaver

Elk and willows play a critical role in keeping a healthy wolf population within the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem because willows serve as browse for elk and elk as food for wolves. A recent study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that a third animal species, the beaver, also was critical to the balance. The loss of wolves at Yellowstone from years of hunting resulted in more elk and fewer willows. With no willows to slow stream flow, creeks flowed faster and faster. Beavers prefer slow-moving waters, so they disappeared with the willows. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, the elk population dropped and willows returned. However, the trees did not come back as quickly or as plentifully as hoped. The reason? Ecologist Tom Hobbs and his research team at Colorado State University (CSU) showed that beavers were needed to build dams and create the sluggish streams preferred by willows. Their study offers new insights on the role of wolf-driven trophic cascades in the Yellowstone ecosystem, a domino effect that occurs when predators--or the lack thereof--in an ecosystem change the abundance or alter traits of their prey, in turn affecting the next lower trophic level.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126853&org=NSF

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 15, 2014

National Technical Information Service

Question: Available from the National Technical Information Service, the Armed Forces Recipe Services features instructions for making how many different meals: 600; 1,700 or 2,300?

Answer: 1,700

The Armed Forces Recipe Services (AFRS) is a collection of 1,700 high-volume, restaurant-style recipes written and updated regularly by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., that is used by cooks worldwide, military and non-military. Each recipe within the ever-growing (by at least one recipe each week) volume features instructions for cooking portions that will feed 100 or more people. From appetizers to desserts, all recipes must meet consumer preferences; assure efficient use of personnel, ingredients and equipment; and meet the Office of the Surgeon General nutrition standards for lower salt, fat and cholesterol, and higher complex carbohydrates and fiber. For example, the "fudgy brownie" recipe uses dried plum puree instead of vegetable oil to make it moist and tasty, yet non-fat. The first edition of the AFRS was published in 1969; the current edition is available in CD-ROM format from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at http://www.ntis.gov/products/recipes.aspx.

For more information, go to: http://www.natick.army.mil/about/pao/pubs/warrior/02/novdec/healthy.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 13, 2014

United States Forest Service

Question: According to the USDA's U.S. Forest Service, which of these is NOT a forest disease that the agency is researching: butternut canker, guava rust or fir flu?

Answer: Fir flu

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) conducts research on a number of native and non-native forest pathogens.  Most are caused by bacteria or fungi; butternut canker is fungal and guava rust is microbial. While there are viruses that damage the forest ecosystem, "fir flu" is a made-up disease. Forest pathogens attack trees in a variety of ways, including root destruction that reduce water and nutrient uptake, cankers or wilts that reduce water flow, and leafspots/defoliation that threaten the plant's food supply.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/invasive-species/plant-pathogens/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 8, 2014

National Archives and Records Administration

Question: How many Doppler radar sites are used by NOAA's National Weather Service to identify and track severe weather across the country: 39, 77 or 155?

Answer: 155

Operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Weather Service (NWS) and the Department of Defense (DoD), there are 155 NEXRAD (Next-Generation Radar) Doppler radars stationed across the 50 United States, Guam and Puerto Rico. NEXRAD obtains weather information (precipitation and wind) based on returned energy, since Doppler is a type of radar that can detect motions toward or away from it. The radar emits a burst of energy, the pulse strikes an object and is scattered, and a portion of the scattered energy then reflects back to the radar. Computers analyze the strength of the returned signal, the time it took to travel and its phase shift. The complete process takes place incredibly fast, some 1,300 times each second. This ability to precisely detect movement, including whether or not a storm has rotational activity, makes Doppler radar a valuable tool for meteorologists predicting severe weather tracks or the potential for tornado development.

For more information, go to:
http://radar.weather.gov/
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/doppler/doppler_intro.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 6, 2014

National Archives and Records Administration

Question: Whose presidential library, part of the National Archives and Records Administration, has a solar panel on display that once served the White House: Nixon, Carter or Reagan?

Answer: Jimmy Carter

On June 20, 1979, President Jimmy Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the roof of the West Wing of the White House to heat water for the building. The panels were installed amid the oil crisis of the late 1970s as part of Carter's efforts to encourage alternative energy sources. The solar panels were taken down in 1986. Eventually, they made their way in 1992 to Unity College in Unity, Maine, through the government surplus donations program for use in heating water for the student cafeteria. Former President Carter sent a letter of congratulations to the school for its initiative. The solar panels were retired in 2004, 25 years after they were first used at the White House. Today, one of the panels is on display at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, Ga., part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

For more information, go to:
http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/newsreleases/2007/07-18.pdf
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=carter-white-house-solar-panel-array

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: May 1, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: The world's first tri-generation facility–part of a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy, California state agencies and the private sector-produces what element for use in fuel cell electric vehicles: helium, hydrogen or oxygen?

Answer: Hydrogen

With rapid fueling, long range and zero harmful emissions, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have a lot to offer consumers. The world's first tri-generation facility–opened in 2011 in Orange County, Calif., as part of a partnership between the Department of Energy, state government agencies and private sector organizations–uses the anaerobic digestion of municipal wastewater to efficiently produce hydrogen, electricity and heat. The electricity and heat are used to power and warm the facility, while up to 100 kilograms of hydrogen per day are delivered to a nearby hydrogen fueling station–enough to fuel 25-50 vehicles. The station can quickly refuel a FCEV in only 3 minutes–fast enough to rival the time spent at any conventional gas station.

For more information, go to:
http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-applauds-world-s-first-fuel-cell-and-hydrogen-energy-station-orange
http://energy.gov/articles/fueling-next-generation-vehicle-technology

April 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 29, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Question: A DHS S&T-coordinated project is creating what device found on every aircraft for ground transportation?

Answer: The black box

As part of its innovative public-private partnership known as the System Efficacy through Commercialization, Utilization, Relevance and Evaluation (SECURE), the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) is currently testing technologies that will hopefully lead to the development of a disaster-resistant recording device for ground transportation that will emulate the famous "black box" found on all aircraft. Tests conducted so far have subjected prototypes to explosions and high-intensity fires. The SECURE program partners the Department of Homeland Security with the private sector to develop products, systems or services aligned to the needs of its operating components, first responders and critical infrastructure/key resources owners and operators.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/if-you-cant-stand-heat-get-bus

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 24, 2014

National Science Foundation

Question: Supported by the National Science Foundation, Yellowstone, Blue Waters and Stampede are all examples of what kind of device?

Answer: A supercomputer

Scientists increasingly are turning to powerful new computers to perform calculations they couldn't do with earlier generation machines, and at breathtaking speed, resulting in groundbreaking computational insights across a range of research fields. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently provided more than $200 million in acquisition and deployment funding for the three supercomputer systems: Yellowstone, based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)- Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in Cheyenne, WY; Blue Waters, located at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Stampede, headquartered at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin. The three systems will provide the nation's research community with unprecedented computational capabilities, further enhancing the already potent union between technology and the human mind, and offering the opportunity to better test and advance great scientific ideas.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=127385&org=NSF

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 22, 2014

National Library of Medicine

Question: The launch of the National Library of Medicine's Genetics Home Reference in 2003 coincided with the golden anniversary of what scientific milestone?

Answer: The 50th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix

On Apr. 25, 2003, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) launched the Genetics Home Reference (GHR), a website featuring consumer information about genetic conditions and the genes or chromosomes related to those conditions. The date marked the 50th anniversary of the day in 1953 when James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and colleagues published papers in the journal Nature describing the double helix structure of DNA. The GHR's start date also coincided with the completion of the Human Genome Project, a 13-year international effort to map the entire human genome. The GHR features many instructive images, a glossary and in-depth information on genetic diseases, genetic testing, newborn screening and other issues. The website began with 19 condition summaries and 16 gene descriptions. Today, there are summaries of about 850 genetic conditions; more than 1,000 genes; more than 80 gene families; all of the human chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA.

For more information, go to:
http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov
http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov
(to view papers of Crick and Franklin)

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 17, 2014

Department of Transportation

Question: U.S. Department of Transportation research hopes to replace ground-to-pilot voice transmissions with a combination of what two types of communication?

Answer: Text and synthetic speech

The Next Generation Air Transportation System Data Communications (NextGen Data Comm) system is expected to bring many benefits for pilots and air traffic controllers alike by the year 2025. The system, a project of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)'s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), uses text messages instead of today's voice communications to provide clear, unambiguous and permanent messages to pilots. The NextGen Data Comm is being designed to decrease a pilot's memory load, reduce requests for information to be repeated, lower radio frequency congestion and eliminate responses to wrong call signs. However, there is concern that a text-based communication system will increase the amount of time pilots look down at their instrument panel and not out the window. One solution being studied is to have speech synthesizers vocalize the text transmissions so that pilots keep their focus on flying safely.

For more information, go to:
http://www.volpe.dot.gov/our-work/air-traffic-systems-and-operations/nextgen-systems-development-program-office
http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=10261

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 15, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Admiistration

Question: The Redstone booster that launched the first satellite in 1958 for NASA and the United States, Explorer I, had the letters "UE" painted on it. Why?

Answer: It was a code identifying which missile was used for the flight

America's first satellite, Explorer I, was launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Army on Jan. 31, 1958, aboard a modified Redstone missile known as the Jupiter C. Painted on the side of the booster were the letters "UE." This was an Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) code identifying that this specific missile was the 29th in a series of launches. The code for numbering Redstones was based on the word "HUNTSVILLE," as in Huntsville, Ala., the town where they were built. Each letter in the name was assigned a number, after deletion of the second "l" to avoid confusion and addition of an "X" to go with zero. Therefore, "H-U-N-T-S-V-I-L-E-X" corresponded with "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0" and made "UE" the designation for "29."

For more information, go to: http://www.spaceline.org/rocketsum/jupiter-c.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 10, 2014

Library of Congress

Question: According to the Library of Congress, the Thuronyi Bluff is the name of a poker strategy, an Antarctic geographical feature or a criminal case?

Answer: A geographic feature in Antarctica

The Thuronyi Bluff is a geographic feature located at the head of Mill Inlet between Gould Glacier and Balch Glacier on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The name honors Geza Thuronyi (1919-2007), who worked for the Library of Congress (LOC) from 1966 to 1990 and headed the Cold Regions Bibliography Project (CRBP). The CRBP was started in 1950s by the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the mission of disseminating information on cold regions science and technology. The CRBP, which includes the Antarctic Bibliography and the Bibliography on Cold Regions Science and Technology, continues today under the auspices of NSF and the American Geosciences Institute (AGI). The Antarctic Bibliography covers all disciplines related to the region including biological and geological sciences, medical sciences, meteorology, oceanography, atmospheric and terrestrial physics, expeditions, logistics equipment and supplies and tourism.

For more information, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuronyi_Bluff

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 8, 2014

United States Geological Survey

Question: How is Tasul, a polar bear at Portland's Oregon Zoo, helping the U.S. Geological Survey study climate change?

Answer: By wearing a motion-recording collar to monitor behavior

Scientists and wildlife managers need to understand how polar bears are responding as sea ice retreats. However, polar bears are notoriously difficult to study in the wild. So, Tasul, a polar bear at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Ore., is spending the summer of 2013 wearing a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)-issued collar containing an accelerometer–a device found in most smart phones–that detects minute changes in motion and direction of movement. The device turns Tasul's everyday behaviors like walking, eating, sleeping and swimming into electronic signals. By recording video of her wearing the collar and matching the behavior to the signal, researchers will create a sort of digital fingerprint for polar bear behavior. Once the signals are calibrated, similar collars can be placed on free-roaming bears in the Arctic, allowing researchers to monitor their behavior without having to observe them directly. These collars will be equipped with quick-release mechanisms so scientists can open them remotely and let them drop off the bears after the necessary data has been obtained. This project is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems initiative.

For more information, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3653

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 3, 2014

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Question: The National Institute of Standards and Technology's most prolific inventor, Jacob Rabinow, devised a technology to help the U.S. Postal Service do what?

Answer: Sort mail by optically "reading" addresses.

When the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) decided in May 1973 to honor its workers and the equipment they used to move billions of pieces of mail each year, a new stamp with a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) connection was issued. The 8-cent postage depicted the automatic letter-sorting machinery designed by National Bureau of Standards (NBS, the predecessor to NIST) researcher and inventor Jacob Rabinow (1910-1999). By the early 1950s, Rabinow had created a punched-card sorter, a magnetic disc memory device and an "optical character recognition" reading machine. Rabinow proposed to the USPS that the three technologies, linked together with computers, could be used to sort mail automatically. Such a system would need to read an address, look up the information for sorting or distributing the envelope, and then physically separate the individual letter from others and stack it for delivery or further sorting. Rabinow, who left NBS in 1954 to form his own company, was awarded a contract to make the device a reality. The firm worked closely with the NBS Computer Division to turn out a letter sorter, special memory devices, optical and magnetic envelope coders, equipment for encoding abbreviated addresses onto envelopes for subsequent machine processing, and computers to read and sort the coded mail.

Rabinow returned to NBS in 1972 and served the agency until 1998. By the end of his life, he held 230 U.S. patents and 70 foreign patents. Among these were mechanisms for the automatic regulation of clocks and watches, headlight dimmers, a pressurized container to keep tennis balls bouncy, the magnetic particle clutch, the world's first magnetic disc memory, numerous safety systems for ordnance devices, and the straight-line phonograph. For his creation of optical character recognition, Jacob Rabinow was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.

For more information, go to: http://museum.nist.gov/exhibits/rabinow/index.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: April 1, 2014

Question: NASA-developed nanotechnology was used to create "the world's first virtual ice cream" for Ben & Jerry's, true or false?

Answer: False, it was an April Fool's Day joke in 2010.

According to the Museum of Hoaxes, Ben & Jerry's invited visitors to its website on April 1, 2010, to try out "Ice Screen, the world's first virtual ice cream." The company stated that "NASA-developed nanotechnology can now be streamed into your PC operating system through any Internet browser." The site also declared that the NASA system was "merged with a state-of-the-art coding script to transform ice cream at a moo-lecular level." 

The April Fool Archive on the Museum of Hoaxes website details a myriad of April 1st gags from 1600 through 2013. Among other science-related April Fool's classics are the conversion to metric time (including the 100-second minute, 100-minute hour and 20-hour day) in 1975, the discovery of a new particle of matter known as the Bigon (that existed for a fraction of a second but was the size of a bowling ball) in 1996 and the taking of oral histories from dolphins retired from the U.S. Navy's speech experiments in 2013.

For more information, go to: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/af_database/year/category/2010aprilfools

March 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 27, 2014

National Oceanics and Atmospheric Administration

Question: According to the NOAA's National Weather Service, how many inches of snow are needed, on average, to yield one inch of liquid water: 1, 5 or 10?

Answer: 10 inches (25 centimeters)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Weather Service (NWS), a good rule of thumb for predicting the amount of water that will result from a snowfall–known as snowmelt–is 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow yielding on average one inch (2.5 centimeters) of water. Some flooding from snowmelt occurs in the United States each year. When it does, it can be a major problem because unlike rainfall, which reaches the soil almost immediately, snow stores the water for some time until it melts. This delays the arrival of water at the soil for days, weeks or even months. Flooding can then occur whenever the rate of water input exceeds the ability of the soil to absorb it or when the amount of water exceeds natural storage capacities in soil, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

For more information, go to: http://www.floodsafety.noaa.gov/hazards.shtml

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 25, 2014

National Science Foundation

Question: Research funded by the National Science Foundation has found which of these animals is not as monogamous as once believed: black vultures, prairie voles or emperor penguins?

Answer: Emperor penguins

Only a handful of animal species practice true monogamy–defined as pair bonding between a male and female, which exclusively mate with one another, raise offspring together and spend time together. The pair bonds of some monogamous species may last for the long term, even perhaps for a lifetime. Examples include the black vulture and the prairie vole. However, the monogamous relationship of other animals may last for just a short term, perhaps for only a single mating season. National Science Foundation-funded research has shown that the latter is true for emperor penguins, once believed to mate for life. Monogamy may have evolved in emperors in order to maintain the intense parental cooperation needed by their chicks (e.g. one parent protecting the young from the harsh Antarctic environment while the other gathers food). This theory is supported by the fact that once emperor chicks become independent of their parents and thereby outgrow their need for cooperative parental caregiving, the overwhelming majority of emperor parents (about 85 percent) permanently part ways.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126932&org=NSF 

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 20, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: Researchers at the DOE's Ames Lab have designed nanospheres to help produce what useful substance from algae: biodiesel, cooking oil or detergent?

Answer: Biodiesel

An economically viable method of harvesting and extracting oil from algae for use in making fuel has eluded researchers. The difficulty lies in extracting the oil. Algal oil is stored between the organism's relatively thick cell walls and its membrane. Existing extraction methods rupture or erode the cell walls, killing the algae in the process. This requires that a new batch of algae be introduced each time oil is harvested. Recent research at the Department of Energy (DOE)'s Ames Laboratory has shown that fuel-relevant chemicals can be extracted from the lipids of algae without killing them. The key to the Ames process lies with millions of sponge-like nanospheres that do their work thanks to a proprietary collection of chemicals, which are embedded on each sphere's surface and within its nanoscale tunnels. The spheres comingle with the algae inside a pond or tank, where they are chemically drawn to come in contact with individual algal cells. The Ames Lab team was able to design the spheres so they only cause minimal damage to the organism while gaining access to the algal lipids. Chemicals embedded inside the sphere's tunnels begin to draw oil from the cell. Oil is then stored inside the tunnels of each sphere. Algae organisms grown on a single acre of land could yield as much as 10,000 gallons of fuel annually. By comparison, an acre of corn will produce an estimated 230 gallons of ethanol.

For more information, go to: http://www.ameslab.gov/files/Nanocatalyst_Foundation.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 18, 2014

Department of Homeland Security

Question: DHS S&T's Board Armor keeps patients in route to a hospital free from cross contamination, temperature rise or adverse drug reactions?

Answer: Contamination from the bodily fluids of previously transported patients

Board Armor is a disposable cover for a backboard–the medical device used to immobilize and transport patients–made of a non-porous material that prevents bodily fluids from one patient contaminating another and eliminates the need to clean the backboard between each use. The health care innovation was developed with funding from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) TechSolutions program based on a concept submitted by Scott Neusch, a retired firefighter and paramedic. The TechSolutions program provides information, resources and technology solutions to address technology gaps identified by first responders. In the case of Board Armor, the TechSolutions staff researched the market to determine its potential value to the EMS community and conducted a focus group of first responders to validate and improve upon the idea.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/when-clean-just-isnt-clean-enough

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 13, 2014

United States Forest Service

Question: Since 2008, how has USDA's U.S. Forest Service helped Major League Baseball make the national pastime safer?

Answer: By researching how to manufacture more shatter-resistant wooden bats

Since 2008, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has teamed with Major League Baseball (MLB) to make the wooden bats used in professional games more resistant to shattering. By testing and analyzing thousands of bats broken during actual play, researchers at the USFS Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wisc., have implemented changes in manufacturing that have led to significantly fewer shatterings during the past five years. FPL studies found that inconsistency of wood quality, primarily "slope of grain" (stronger bats have wood grain that is straighter along their length), was the main cause of breakage. Also, low-density maple bats were shown to shatter into multiple pieces more often than ash bats or high-density maple bats.

For more information, go to: http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/newsline/newsline-2013-3.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 11, 2014

National Archives and Records Administration

Question: A telephone in the collection of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration, was used by President Nixon to make the "longest-distance call" in history. To where did the President call?

Answer: The moon

At 11:47 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on July 20, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon used a green touchtone telephone in the Oval Office of the White House to call and congratulate Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin as they walked on the surface of the moon during the first manned mission to another celestial body. The phone is now in the collection at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Nixon described the short conversation over 386,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) as "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House" while the president's daily diary listed the event as "an interplanetary conversation." Nixon told the astronauts that "for one priceless moment, in the whole history of man, all the people of this Earth are truly one." Armstrong replied that "it is an honor and privilege to be representing not only the United States, but men of peace from all nations." Nixon originally had a long speech prepared to read during the phone call, but Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman, who was at the White House as a NASA liaison, convinced the president to keep his words brief, to respect the lunar landing as President John F. Kennedy's legacy.

For more information, go to:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals/apollo11.html
http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forkids/speechesforkids/moonlanding/moonlandingcall.mp3
http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forkids/speechesforkids/moonlanding/moonlandingcall.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 6, 2014

National Library of Medicine

Question: What did the National Library of Medicine do in the 1990s with the cadavers of a Texas convict and a Maryland housewife?

Answer: Both were used to provide a 3-D map of the human body

When they willed their bodies to medicine in the early 1990s, a convicted murderer from Texas and a Maryland housewife could not have imagined the legacy they'd leave behind. They have been immortalized in the National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s Visible Human Project, a library of digitized images providing the complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human anatomies. Since 1995, the Visible Human data sets have been used for a wide range of educational, diagnostic, treatment planning, virtual reality, artistic, mathematical and industrial purposes by nearly 2,000 licensees in 48 countries. Among the applications have been: the ability to practice surgery in a virtual environment, the creation of a 3-D tour of the human body, and the development of non-invasive cancer screening techniques such as the "virtual colonoscopy."

For more information, go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/visible_human.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: March 4, 2014

US Department of Transportation

Question: The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for which of the following U.S. zone systems: time, trade or climate?

Answer: Time zones

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the nation's time zones and the uniform observance of Daylight Saving Time. This was assigned to DOT because time standards are important for many modes of transportation. In 1883, U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted a four-zone system to govern their operations and reduce the confusion resulting from some 100 conflicting locally established "sun times" observed in terminals across the country. States and municipalities then adopted one of the four zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Federal oversight of time zones began in 1918 with the enactment of the Standard Time Act, which vested the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) with the responsibility for establishing boundaries between the standard time zones in the continental United States. This responsibility was transferred from the ICC (which was abolished in 1995) to DOT when Congress created the latter in 1966. Today, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. §§ 260-64) establishes a system of uniform Daylight Saving Time throughout the nation and its possessions, and provides that either Congress or the Secretary of Transportation can change a time-zone boundary.

For more information, go to: http://www.dot.gov/regulations/time-act

February 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 27, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Question: Can NASA's Hubble Space Telescope be used to observe Earth?

Answer: No

If the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), could observe the Earth from its orbit of 570 kilometers (350   miles), its angular resolution–or sharpness–would in theory allow viewing of objects as small as 0.3 meters (30 centimeters). However, that has, and will, never happen for a number of reasons. First, the brightness of Earth would damage the instruments aboard the telescope. The HST also would have to look down through the atmosphere, which would blur the images and make the actual resolution worse. Finally, the HST orbits the Earth at a speed (27,000 kilometers per hour or 17,000 miles per hour) that any image it took would be blurred by the motion.

For more information, go to:
http://asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/archive/hubble/
http://hubblesite.org/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 25, 2014

Library of Congress

Question: The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek computer, is featured in which Library of Congress "Science Tracer Bullet" research guide: archaeoastronomy, cryptology or time?

Answer: archaeoastronomy

The Library of Congress (LOC) "Science Tracer Bullet Series" contains research guides that help locate information on more than 100 science and technology subjects, ranging from aerodynamics to women in the sciences. One of the websites details archaeoastronomy, "the intersidsciplinary study of prehistoric, ancient and traditional astronomies within their cultural context." Included are links to resources on various aspects of archaeoastronomy such as architectural structures and monuments, calendars, ceremonies and myths. One featured archaeoastronomical artifact is the Antikythera Mechanism, recovered from a Greek ship sunk off the coast of Antikythera Island around 80 BCE and believed to be a mechanical computing device. Its wheels and gears created a portable orrery–a device that illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the Solar System in a heliocentric model–that was once used to track celestial locations as well as predict lunar and solar eclipses.

For more information, go to: http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/archaeoastronomytb.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 20, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey

Question: In which state can one find Bokan Mountain and what is being studied there by the U.S. Geological Survey?

Answer: Alaska, rare earth elements

Rare earths elements (REE)–17 elements that include Yttrium, Scandium and the 15 members of the Lanthanide series–are important, but scarce elements used in components in many cutting edge electronic and defense technologies. Currently, very little is known about the geologic setting in which REE deposits form. Understanding these environments and how they come to be is a crucial step to being able to determine where mineable concentrations of REE might be found. Researchers from the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Resources Program (MRP) recently teamed with geologists from Canada's Saint Mary's University to study one of the principal REE deposits in the United States, Bokan Mountain on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island (the largest deposit is located in Mountain Pass, Calif.). At the present time, the United States obtains its REE raw materials from foreign sources, almost exclusively from China. Import dependence upon a single country raises serious issues of supply security. This USGS/St. Mary's study of Bokan Mountain–called "Alaska's Billion Dollar Mountain" by Business Week–will help to define the domestic supply in the United States.

For more information, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3610

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 18, 2014

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Question: What universally used TV technology earned the National Institute of Standards and Technology an Emmy Award in 1980?

Answer: Closed-captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired

On Feb. 15, 1972, an episode of ABC's "The Mod Squad" made history when closed captioning–a technology that arose from National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST) research into using a portion of the network TV signal to send time information nationwide–was first used on broadcast television during a preview of the system at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The barrier-breaking advance for the deaf and hard of hearing made its formal public debut on March 16, 1980, when the "ABC Sunday Night Movie," NBC's "Wonderful World of Disney," and PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" were all broadcast with captions. Today, all new English- and Spanish-language TV programming in the U.S. contains captioning. The creation and development of closed captioning earned NBS, along with collaborators PBS and ABC, a special Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development" in 1980. Today, the Emmy statuette may be seen in the administration building lobby of NIST's Boulder Laboratories.

For more information, go to: http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/grp40/closed-captioning.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 13, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Question: At what site managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can one explore more than 50 underwater shipwrecks in a single place?

Answer: Thunder Bay, located offshore Alpena, Mich., in Lake Huron

Located in the northwestern section of Lake Huron near Alpena, Mich., is Thunder Bay, a region that is home to one of the most treacherous stretches of water within the Great Lakes system. Unpredictable weather, murky fog banks, sudden gales and rocky shoals have earned the area the nickname "Shipwreck Alley." Today, the 1,160-square-kilometer (448-square-mile) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), protects one of America's best-preserved collections of maritime vessel casualties  More than 50 shipwrecks have been discovered to date within the sanctuary's boundaries with an additional 30 wrecks just outside. It is the range of vessel types located in the sanctuary that makes the collection nationally significant. From an 1840s wooden side wheel steamboat to a modern 143-meter-long (470-foot-long) German freighter, the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay represent a microcosm of maritime commerce and travel on the Great Lakes.

For more information, go to: http://thunderbay.noaa.gov/shipwrecks/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 11, 2014

National Technical Information Service

Question: Which type of safety is not covered in a training package offered by the National Technical Informational Service: biological, chemical, fire or kitchen?

Answer: Kitchen safety

As part of its Homeland Security Information Center, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) offers for-fee access to research reports, training multimedia, guidelines and handbooks related to five different types of safety: biological, chemical, fire, hazardous materials and terrorism. These "safety training packages" provide the same materials used to educate and prepare federal law enforcement and emergency management staffs.

For more information, go to: http://www.ntis.gov/hs/safety-training.aspx

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 6, 2014

Department of Energy

Question: What 15-meter (50-foot) in diameter, 45-metric ton (50-ton) object was moved 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) from one Department of Energy lab in New York to another in Illinois?

Answer: A giant electromagnet

A large, 15-meter (50-foot) in diameter electromagnet made of steel, aluminum and superconducting wire was used up until 2001 at New York's Brookhaven National Laboratory, an agency of the Department of Energy (DOE), to trap in a vacuum a subatomic particle known as a muon that pops in and out of existence in less than a second. In an experiment known as Muon-g-2 (pronounced G minus 2), the Brookhaven researchers used the muons to provide evidence of other unknown particles. But to conclusively prove the existence of these particles, a better source of muons was needed. The answer was to move the experiment's second phase to another DOE facility, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), outside of Chicago, Ill., where a special particle accelerator can produce an intense beam of muons traveling at nearly the speed of light. However, Fermilab didn't have an electromagnetic ring, so the one at Brookhaven to Illinois was transported during the summer of 2013 by flatbed truck and barge on a 5,100 kilometer (3,200 mile) mostly-by-water journey. The "Big Move," as it was called, saw the electromagnet travel down the Atlantic seaboard, around the tip of Florida and up by waterways through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois before reaching its new home.

For more information, go to: http://muon-g-2.fnal.gov/bigmove

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: February 4, 2014

Department of Homeland Security Question: The DHS S&T smartphone app FiRST helps first responders deal with floods, earthquakes or bomb threats?

Answer: Bomb threats

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and its partners have developed an application for smartphones and computers known as First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) that can be used when dealing with bomb threats. The app helps first responders quickly define safe distances to cordon off around a potential bomb location, suggest appropriate roadblocks, determine when mandatory evacuation or shelter-in-place circumstances apply, identify nearby areas of particular concern: schools, hospitals, care centers, etc., and roughly calculate potential impacts in terms of damage and injury. FiRST was developed in partnership with DHS's Office of Infrastructure Protection (within the National Protection and Programs Directorate), DHS's Office for Bombing Prevention and Applied Research Associates Inc.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/bomb-threat-app-too

January 2014

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 28, 2014

US Forest Service Question: What "far out" technology was used by researchers from the USDA's U.S. Forest Service to estimate the age of remote forest areas?

Answer: Landsat satellite photography

The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been studying how best to assess the average age of forest trees in remote forests worldwide, and in turn, estimate the amount of carbon being stored by those forests. Growing forests help to address climate change by holding carbon on Earth. USFS scientists compared changes in the color of remote Brazilian forests, as shown by Landsat 5 satellite photographs, over a period of nearly 30 years. The color changes allowed scientists to estimate the forests' age and therefore, the amount of carbon they stored. The scientists then compared their Landsat-based age estimates with age measurements taken within the forests, finding that the former were about 88 percent as accurate. This rate is high enough to make Landsat photographs an economic and efficient option for estimating storage carbon in remote forests. Landsat 5, launched in March 1984, is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-operating (29 years) Earth-observing satellite mission in history. Officially decommissioned in June 2013, Landsat 5 orbited the planet more than 150,000 times while transmitting over 2.5 million images of land surface conditions. It was designed to last three years.

For more information, go to: http://www.naturalinquirer.org/Satellites-and-Changing-Tropical-Forests-a-109.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 23, 2014

National Archives and Records Administration Question: The oldest film in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration is a kinetoscope made by what famous American?

Answer: Thomas A. Edison

The oldest film among the more than 100,000 motion pictures in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a kinetoscope titled Carmencita, Spanish Dance made by American inventor Thomas A. Edison in 1894. Edison had submitted the patent for the kinetoscope, a forerunner to the motion picture camera, three years earlier. His goal was to "do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear." A 1902 Edison application for an improved kinetoscope is part of the NARA collection of famous U.S. patents. The collection also includes the patents for two other Edison achievements: the phonograph and the incandescent light bulb

For more information, go to: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/summer/frame-film.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 21, 2014

National Library of Medicine Question: What do Harry Potter, Frankenstein's monster and women doctors share in common thanks to the National Library of Medicine?

Answer: Each has been featured in a recent National Library of Medicine exhibition

The National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s Exhibition Program develops traveling and online exhibitions in conjunction with temporary displays featured at the library's headquarters in Bethesda, Md. These exhibitions and educational resources engage diverse audiences and explore a variety of topics in the history of medicine. Exhibitions are featured in the NLM Rotunda Gallery and the History of Medicine Division Reading Room. Additionally, NLM produces traveling exhibitions, which are made available free of charge to public, university and medical libraries, as well as cultural centers across the country. The library's permanent online exhibitions are augmented by resources for educators and students in grades K through 12, and in colleges and universities. NLM exhibitions cover four different categories: medicine and the arts, science and society, patients and practitioners, and the technology of medicine.  Since 1986, exhibitions have included "HARRY POTTER'S WORLD: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine," "FRANKENSTEIN: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature," and "CHANGING THE FACE OF MEDICINE: Celebrating America's Women Physicians." Currently, the library in Maryland is featuring NATIVE VOICES: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Wellness. A touring version of the exhibition will be crossing the United States soon.

For more information, go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/about/exhibition/index.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 16, 2014

US Department of Transportation Question: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which state had the most miles of toll highways and toll structures (bridges and tunnels) in 2009?

Answer: Florida

When the statistic was last calculated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in 2009, there were 1,057 kilometers (657 miles) of toll highways and toll structures in Florida, putting it nearly 160 kilometers (100 miles) ahead of the runner-up, New York. Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New Jersey rounded out the top five. The longest toll road in Florida is the 502-kilometer (312-mile) Florida's Turnpike.

For more information, go to: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/hf/pl11028/chapter1.cfm#fig13

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 14, 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Question: Tang, Teflon and Velcro are all spinoffs from products developed originally for NASA, true or false?

Answer: False

Tang, Teflon, and Velcro, are not spinoff technologies from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). General Foods developed the orange-flavored powdered breakfast drink, Tang, in 1957, and it has been on supermarket shelves since 1959. In 1962, when astronaut John Glenn performed eating experiments in orbit, Tang was selected for the menu, launching the drink's heightened public awareness. NASA also raised the celebrity status of Teflon, a material invented for DuPont in 1938, when the non-stick coating was applied to heat shields, space suits and cargo hold liners. Velcro was used during the Apollo missions during the 1960s and 1970s to anchor equipment inside the spacecraft cabin while in zero gravity. The fabric hook-and-loop fastener technology was invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. An actual "NASA spinoff" is a technology, originally developed to meet NASA mission needs, that has been transferred to the public and now provides benefits for the nation and world as a commercial product or service. NASA spinoffs enhance many aspects of daily life, including health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity. As of 2012, NASA had documented nearly 1,800 spinoff technologies.

For more information, go to: http://spinoff.nasa.gov/index.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 9, 2014

Library of Congress Question: About how many items does the Library of Congress have in its collections: 1 million, 50 million or 150 million?

Answer: More than 150 Million

The Library of Congress (LOC) is the largest library in the world, with more than 150 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 35 million books and other print materials in 470 languages, 3.4 million recordings, 13.6 million photographs, 5.4 million maps, 6.5 million pieces of sheet music and 68 million manuscripts. The LOC is home to the largest rare book collection in North America and the world's largest collections of maps, atlases, newspapers, music, motion pictures, photographs, and microforms. The LOC receives some 15,000 items each working day and adds approximately 11,000 items to the collections daily.

For more information, go to: http://www.loc.gov/about/facts.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: January 7, 2014

United States Geological Survey Question: What is the largest reservoir by volume in the United States?

Answer: Lake Mead

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Lake Mead, located on the Arizona-Nevada border, is the largest United States reservoir with a volume of 36 cubic kilometers (29 million acre-feet), or approximately 36 trillion liters (9.3 trillion gallons) of water. When it was first filled in 1935 after the completion of Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam), Lake Mead stored greater than 40 cubic kilometers of water (32 million acre-feet). Sediment accumulation reduced this to its current level.

The reservoir with the second largest volume in the nation (32 cubic kilometers or 27 acre-feet), Lake Powell in Utah, boasts its own distinction-it is the longest reservoir in the United States with a length of 299 kilometers (186 miles).

For more information USGS water programs, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/water/

December 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 19, 2013

National Institue of Standards and Technology Question: What National Institute of Standards and Technology experiment left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 is still operating?

Answer: A laser reflector used to measure the Earth-moon distance

One of NASA's longest-running experiments–and one with a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) connection–continues to return data to this day. During the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969, the astronauts set up a laser reflector on the surface. The still-operational experimental station reflects a powerful laser pulse aimed at it from terrestrial telescopes. By measuring how long the pulse takes to return to Earth (the round trip takes about 2.5 seconds), scientists have defined the Earth-moon distance to within 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). The device, which works in principle like a bicycle safety reflector, was designed primarily by NIST physicist James Faller. The Apollo 14 and 15 missions in 1971 delivered two other Faller-designed reflectors. All three are still used to monitor the Earth-moon distance as well as study continental drift (by triangulating the distance between lasers on two different continents striking the same reflector).

For more information, go to: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_11/experiments/lrr/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 17, 2013

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Question: The U.S. Weather Bureau, predecessor of the NOAA's National Weather Service, used history's first weather satellite in 1960. What was it named: Echo, NAVSTAR or TIROS?

Answer: TIROS

TIROS (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) I was launched April 1, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The main objective was to demonstrate the feasibility and capability of observing the Earth's weather patterns from space. The TIROS program, a collaborative effort by NASA, the U.S. Weather Bureau (predecessor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service) and other agencies, proved that space-borne systems could acquire data for immediate use by meteorologists. TIROS I and the nine successive satellites in the program pioneered the techniques that led to today's sophisticated, worldwide meteorological satellite network. The spacecraft was 106 centimeters (42 inches) in diameter, 48 centimeters (19 inches) high and weighed 122 kilograms (270 pounds). It was made of aluminum alloy and stainless steel, covered by 9,200 solar cells and operated for 78 days.

Echo was a communications satellite; NAVSTAR was used for navigation.

For more information, go to: http://www.lib.noaa.gov/collections/TIROS/tiros.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 12, 2013

National Science Foundation Question: A classic National Science Foundation-funded study used an optogenetic "light switch" to examine the function of which type of cells: muscles, neurons or bones?

Answer: Neurons

Optogenetics is a bioengineering technique that combines genetics and optical science so that scientists can selectively turn on and off neurons- electrically excitable cells that convey information through electrical and chemical signaling-in living organisms so that resulting behavioral changes can be observed in real time. In a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded study, the team of Stanford professor Karl Deisseroth developed methods for introducing light-sensitive proteins into specific neurons in neural circuits of various species to make them light sensitive-a method he named optogenetics. The neurons and circuits could then be turned on merely by shining a light on them, and turned off by other types of simple light manipulations. Better understanding of neuronal function through this optogenetic "light switch" is being used to help identify appropriate targets for drugs or technologies that address brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease. In another important and potentially life-changing example, NSF-funded researchers envision using optogenetics to switch a heart beat on and off with light.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114611

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 10, 2013

National Technical Information Service Question: A database created by the National Technical Information Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the repository for all digitized data on what disaster and its impacts?

Answer: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill

On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon mobile drilling unit in the Gulf of Mexico 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Louisiana set off a chain of events that led to its sinking and to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. In 2011, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered to create a federal database for storing and making available all scientific and technical documents, images and videos about the disaster in digital format. Known as the Deepwater Horizon Institutional Repository (DWH-IR), the site is a searchable, online collection of data captured and generated by public and private sector agencies, organizations and groups involved in response and restoration efforts.

For more information, go to: http://noaa.ntis.gov/site/home.php

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 5, 2013

US Department of Energy Question: What device developed by the Department of Energy has made interplanetary exploration possible since 1961?

Answer: Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG)

The radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), nicknamed the "space battery," provides an uninterrupted and reliable source of heat and electricity in remote and harsh environments such as deep space. Developed by the National Laboratories of the Department of Energy (DOE), the RTG generates energy through the radioactive decay of nuclear material. The first RTG was launched into Earth orbit on June 29, 1961, aboard Transit 4A, a Navy navigation satellite. Since that time, RTGs have powered probes outward into the Solar System and beyond, including visits to the Moon, Mars (such as the current mission of the Curiosity rover), Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and the upcoming (2015) first encounter with Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons craft.

For more information, go to: http://www.osti.gov/accomplishments/rtg.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: December 3, 2013

US Department of Homeland Security Question: DHS S&T's "smart crumbs" are waterproof and heat-resistant electronic devices for police officers, firefighters or pilots?

Answer: Firefighters

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) is currently developing a one-inch square, half-inch thick wireless router that is waterproof and heat-resistant up to degrees 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit) known as the Wireless Intelligent Sensor Platform for Emergency Responders (WISPER) and nicknamed the "smart crumb." WISPER is designed to provide a strong, consistent and unblocked signal for two separate devices that track a firefighter's location and monitor his vital signs. Each firefighter enters a burning building with five WISPER routers loaded into a belt-mounted canister. If a firefighter steps behind signal-blocking wall (such as concrete) or moves beyond radio range, a base station on the firetruck orders his canister to drop a router, just like the crumbs Hansel and Gretel used to make a trail home. The dropped routers arrange themselves into a network. If a router accidentally gets kicked down a stairwell or firehosed under a couch, the WISPER network automatically reconfigures.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/where-there's-smoke-theres-signal

November 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 26, 2013

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Question: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet Earth has how many oceans?

Answer: One

It's not a trick question. The Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern (Antarctic) Oceans are not separate bodies of water; they form one continuous oceanic mass. The boundaries between the five "map oceans" arose over time for a variety of historical, cultural, geographical and scientific reasons. The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet's surface, driving weather, regulating temperature and ultimately supporting all living organisms. Throughout history, the ocean has been a vital source of sustenance, transport, commerce, growth and inspiration. Yet for all of our reliance on the ocean, about 95 percent of this realm remains unexplored, unseen by human eyes.

For more information, go to: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/howmanyoceans.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 21, 2013

U.S. Forest Service Question: What native Hawaiian tree, studied by USDA's U.S. Forest Service, was used to make a guitar for singer Taylor Swift?

Answer: The koa tree (Acacia koa)

Wood from the native Hawaiian Acacia koa tree is prized for furniture, surfboards, canoes and musical instruments; in fact, singer Taylor Swift often performs with a koa wood guitar. Concerned at how extensive harvesting of koa trees might impact the Hawaiian environment, the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been studying the species at the 13,000 hectare (33,000-acre) Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (located on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii) to better understand its relationship with other flora and fauna. The research has shown that a loss of nitrogen-fixing koa trees reduces the available amount of that nutrient in soil, making it more difficult for other native plants to become established. Koa trees also provide a habitat for some endangered Hawaiian bird species.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/topics/ecosystem_processes/tropical/restoration

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 19, 2013

National Archives and Records Administration Question: The Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights) are displayed at the National Archives and Records Administration in high-tech encasements filled with which gas: oxygen, argon or helium?

Answer: Argon

In 1995, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) engaged the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with NASA and Heery International, to design and make new state-of-the-art encasements to secure the Charters of Freedom documents-the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights-against all types of environmental assault (harmful light, oxygen, humidity, etc.). In all, NIST built nine glass encasements for NARA. Five hold the four pages of the Constitution and its transmittal page (which was signed by George Washington). One each is used for the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The two prototype encasements built at the start of the project are used as spares. The interior of the encasements have been purged of air and are filled with humidified argon gas. Argon, an inert gas, replaced the helium used in the encasements that were in place from 1951 until 2003 (which also were designed and built by NIST). Argon atoms are larger than helium atoms, making them less likely to diffuse out of the encasement. The relative humidity inside the encasement is 40 percent, preventing the parchment from becoming brittle.

For more information, go to:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/charters_preservation_04.html
http://www.100.nist.gov/Charter/charters_of_freedom_project.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 14, 2013

National Library of Medicine Question: How many citations are found in PubMed, the world's largest biomedical database, provided by the National Library of Medicine?

Answer: More than 22 million

PubMed, the world's largest biomedical database, comprises more than 22 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals and online books. PubMed is a free resource, available 24/7, that is developed and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, Md. PubMed citations and abstracts include the fields of biomedicine and health, covering portions of the life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences and bioengineering. PubMed also provides access to additional relevant web sites and links to the other NCBI molecular biology resources.

For more information, go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 12, 2013

US Department of Transportation Question: Which Secretary of Transportation also served as Secretary of Labor and president of the American Red Cross?

Answer: Elizabeth Dole

Elizabeth Dole was appointed Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) by President Ronald Reagan. She served from Feb. 7, 1983, to Sept. 30, 1987. She was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to head the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in January 1989, a post she held until Nov. 23, 1990. In 1991, she became president of the American Red Cross, the first woman to achieve that position since the organization's founder, Clara Barton, stepped down in 1904. Dole also served as a U.S. senator, representing the state of North Carolina from 2004-2008.

For more information, go to: http://ntl.bts.gov/historian/bios.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 7, 2013

United States Geological Survey Question: Who is the famous explorer that served as the second director of the United States Geological Survey?

Answer: John Wesley Powell

Powell was born in 1834 at Mount Morris, N.Y. Interested in botany and geology at an early age, he began his scientific investigations with a series of self-directed field trips, including a rowboat voyage that covered the length of the Mississippi River. In 1861, Powell enlisted in the Union Army. He lost his right arm at the elbow in the Battle of Shiloh but returned to active duty and was promoted to the rank of major.

In the spring of 1869, Powell led an expedition down the Colorado River into a great uncharted territory. Ninety-nine days later, he emerged from the Grand Canyon as an American hero. Powell served as the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from March 1881 until May 1884.

In 1877, Powell published a pioneering work on Indian languages that led to his appointment in 1879 as the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution (now the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History), a post held simultaneously while serving as the USGS director. Powell died in 1902 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

For more information, go to:
http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/john-wesley-powell-explorer-geologist-geographer/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: November 5, 2013

Library of Congress Question: Approximately what portion of the materials in the Library of Congress is in a language other than English: 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2?

Answer: 1/2

The Library of Congress (LOC)'s international collections comprise materials from all over the globe and its foreign-language materials are stunning in their scope and quality. For many areas of the world, such as China, Russia, and Latin America, the collections are the finest and most comprehensive research collections outside the country of origin. For several regions in the world, where preserving materials takes a back seat to more immediate human needs, the collections are superior to what is available locally. Approximately one half of the book and serial collections are in languages other than English, with more than 470 languages and 35 scripts represented.

For more information, go to:
http://www.loc.gov/rr/coll-international.html

October 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 31, 2013

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Question: Who was the only NASA astronaut to fly on all five Space Shuttle orbiters: John Young, Sally Ride or Story Musgrave?

Answer: Story Musgrave

Dr. Story Musgrave, selected as a scientist-astronaut by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1967, flew six Space Shuttle missions and rode at least once on all five of the orbiters that went into space: Atlantis (1991), Challenger (1983 and 1985), Columbia (1996), Discovery (1989) and Endeavour (1993). He spent more than 1,200 hours in orbit. John Young, commander of the first Shuttle mission aboard Columbia in 1981, piloted the ship a second time in 1983. America's first woman in space in 1983 aboard Challenger, Sally Ride, flew on the same orbiter again in 1984.

For more information, go to:
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/musgrave.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 29, 2013

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Question: As postulated by a National Institute of Standards and Technology metallurgist, the failure of which of these parts—rivets, hull plates or masts—likely caused the RMS Titanic to sink in under three hours after striking an iceberg in 1912?

Answer: The rivets

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) research on materials has many practical applications, such as an explanation for the rapid sinking of the ocean liner RMS Titanic after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April 1912. A NIST metallurgist, Timothy Foecke, analyzed steel and rivet samples recovered from the Titanic's remains on the ocean floor. His examinations revealed that the wrought iron in the rivets contained three times today's allowable amount of slag (the glassy residue left behind after the smelting of ore), making it less ductile and more brittle than it should have been. This finding provides strong evidence that Titanic's collision with the iceberg caused the rivet heads to break off, popped the fasteners from their holes and allowed water to rush in between the separated hull plates. Photographs of Titanic's sister ship, the RMS Olympic, back up the rivet failure theory. Taken after the Olympic collided with another vessel in 1911, the photos clearly show dozens of vacant holes in the hull where rivets once sat.

For more information, go to:
http://www.nist.gov/mml/msed/titanic_021798.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 24, 2013

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Question: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asks: What is different about dolphins and porpoises? Is it their faces, fins, body shapes or all three characteristics?

Answer: All three

While dolphins and porpoises both are members—along with whales—of the mammalian order Cetacea, the two species do have distinct differences in their faces, fins and figures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Ocean Service, dolphins tend to have prominent, elongated "beaks" and cone-shaped teeth, while porpoises have smaller mouths and spade-shaped teeth. The dolphin's hooked or curved dorsal fin (the one in the middle of the animal's back) also differs from the porpoise's triangular dorsal fin. Generally speaking, dolphin bodies are lean compared to the more stocky porpoise. Dolphins are by far the more prevalent species. Most scientists agree that there are 32 dolphin species (plus five closely related species of river dolphin) and only six porpoise species.

For more information, go to:
http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/dolphin_porpoise.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 22, 2013

National Archives and Records Administration Question: How many times each hour is the air changed in the records storage areas at the Archives II building of the National Archives and Records Administration: 2, 4 or 6?

Answer: Six

Completed in 1993, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)'s Archives II building in College Park, Md., was designed and built with state-of-the-art systems and environments that provide the strict conditions necessary for the long-term protection of up to (2 million cubic feet) of federal government records. Removal of harmful particulate materials and gaseous pollutants from the air of the storage areas (called stacks) was a priority design element. Gas removal presents the greatest challenge because NARA requires the filtering of gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and aldehydes to levels ranging from 1.0 to 12.5 parts per billion. Therefore, the outside air provided to the stacks for ventilation and pressurization has to be filtered, as does the stack return air, which contains gases originating from the stored materials. With a total outside air movement of (70,000 cubic feet) per minute and a total recirculation of (678,000 cubic feet) per minute, the air within the stacks is changed a minimum of six times per hour.

For more information, go to:
http://www.archives.gov/preservation/technical/tip13.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: October 17, 2013

National Technical Information Service (NTIS) Question: What was the number one ancestry claimed by Americans on the 2000 Census–German or Irish–as reported in the U.S. Census Bureau's Census Atlas of the United States, available from the National Technical Information Service?

Answer: German

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Census Atlas of the United States, released in January 2008 and available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 42.8 million people, or 15 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, considered themselves to be of German or part-German ancestry. Irish was second on the list as the ancestry claimed by 30.5 million Americans or 11 percent. Others in the top seven ancestries were African-American (24.9 million or 9 percent), English (24.5 million or 9 percent), American (20.2 million or 7 percent), Mexican (18.4 million or 7 percent) and Italian (15.6 million or 6 percent). The top three ancestries in the 2000 Census–German, Irish and African-American–also led the list for the 1990 Census. The Census Atlas of the United States, a 314-page, 7-pound volume, presents data from 1790 through 2000 and contains more than 700 maps. It was the first general population and housing statistical atlas published by the U.S. Census Bureau since 1925.

For more information, go to:
http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/censusatlas/pdf/9_Ancestry.pdf
http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/census_2000/cb08-cn05.html
http://www.ntis.gov/products/censusatlas.aspx

September 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 26, 2013

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service Question: USDA's U.S. Forest Service scientists found that fewer spring snow packs are reducing the population of which burrowing mammal?

Answer: The wolverine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been studying the range of the wolverine, the largest member of the weasel family. Little is known about them because these nocturnal mammals are rarely seen by humans. Some groups have petitioned for the wolverine to be listed as an endangered species, yet lack of knowledge about their habitat range has hindered attempts to protect them. USFS scientists compiled hundreds of verifiable and documented records dating back to 1827 of wolverine occurrence (specimens, DNA detections, photos and accounts of wolverines being killed or captured) in the contiguous United States from museums, literature and institutional archives. This helped them determine that climate change and human development have reduced the amount of spring snow packs–where wolverines build dens in which they bear and raise their young–and as a result, have shrunk the wolverine's habitat range and the animal's numbers in the northern United States.

For more information, go to:
http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2007_aubry_k001.pdf

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 24, 2013

National Science Foundation Question: Developed with funding from the National Science Foundation, what item is being used as a microelectronic health monitor?

Answer: A tattoo

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), engineers John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Yonggang Huang at Northwestern University have been developing "electronic tattoos," microelectronic health monitors so thin, light and portable that they can attach right to the surface of skin and go wherever a person goes. The tattoos incorporate "elastic electronics," a technology where the tiny monitors are fashioned from tiny, wavy silicon structures containing circuits that are thinner than a human hair. The devices are applied directly to the surface of the skin in the same way as a child's temporary stick-on tattoo. As the skin moves and deforms, the circuit can follow those deformations in a completely noninvasive way. This innovation has the potential to revolutionize the field of healthcare technology, yielding miniature monitors for muscle movement, heart function, brain waves and other body activities.

For more information, go to:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/innovation/electronictattoo.jsp
http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/skinmountedelectronics.jsp

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 19, 2013

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Question: In 1996, where did President Bill Clinton urge NASA to search for signs of extraterrestrial life?

Answer: Mars

On Aug. 7, 1996, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it had found possible microscopic fossils of primitive, bacteria-like organisms inside of an ancient Martian rock that fell to Earth as a meteorite. That afternoon, President Bill Clinton delivered an televised statement about the announcement in which he said, "I am determined that the American space program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for further evidence of life on Mars." The meteorite behind all of the excitement, designated ALH 84001, was discovered in in the Allan Hills region of Antarctica in 1984. It is a 1.93 kilogram (4.3 pound) mass believed to be about 4.5 billion years old that was blasted from the Martian surface some 16 million years ago and struck the Earth about 13,000 years ago. Of the 24,000 or so meteorites that have been discovered on Earth, only 34 have been identified as originating from the planet Mars. While the evidence of fossilized bacteria in ALH84001 remains controversial, it stimulated a concerted effort by NASA to search for life or the remnants of life on Mars.

For more information, go to:
http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/alh.html
http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/clinton.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 17, 2013

Department of Transportation Question: Which U.S. president signed the legislation that created the U.S. Department of Transportation: Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon?

Answer: Lyndon Johnson

On Oct. 15, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law Public Law 89-670, establishing the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). On Nov. 8, 1966, Johnson nominated Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation Alan S. Boyd to become the nation's first Secretary of Transportation. He took office on Jan. 16, 1967, a little under four months before his department officially opened for business on Apr. 1, 1967. Boyd served as Secretary until Jan. 20, 1969, when President Richard Nixon was inaugurated.

For more information, go to: http://ntl.bts.gov/historian/chronology.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 12, 2013

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Question: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the August full moon brings about an "underwater snowstorm." What is it really?

Answer: The spawning of a coral reef

Seven-to-10 days after the full moon each August, the reef-building corals of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), put on a fantastic spawning display that resembles an underwater snowstorm. Each coral species in the sanctuary–located in the Gulf of Mexico some 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of Louisiana–time their gamete (egg and sperm) release for maximum benefit by avoiding the simultaneous spawning of other species. Most scientists agree that these mass spawning events are designed to allow genetic mixing and dispersal of offspring over large distances. The sheer volume of the gametes spawned allows for the fertilization and survival of a significant number of larvae despite the best efforts of predators.

For more information, go to: http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/science/fgbcoralspawning.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 10, 2013

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Question: For what purpose did DHS S&T develop an inflatable cylinder, 32 feet long by 16 feet wide, which fills with 35,000 gallons of air or water?

Answer: To plug tunnels

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T)'s Resilient Tunnel Project (RTP) recently designed and tested an enormous (32 feet long by 16 feet wide), pill-shaped inflatable cylinder that can be filled with 35,000 gallons of water or air (about the same capacity of a medium-sized swimming pool) in minutes to contain flooding or dangerous gases in a mass transit tunnel. The giant plug was developed in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), West Virginia University (WVU) and ILC Dover—the longtime maker of space suits for NASA astronauts. When not in use, the plug stores within a small space in a tunnel, ready to respond in an emergency by being remotely inflated from the tunnel system's command center.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/35000-gallons-prevention

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 5, 2013

U.S. Department of Energy Question: Which Department of Energy laboratory was the birthplace of #video games?

Answer: Brookhaven National Laboratory

William Higinbotham, head of the Instrumentation Division at what is now the Department of Energy (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), created an interactive game called "Tennis for Two" for the annual visitor day in 1958. The game was run by an analog computer hooked up to an oscilloscope. Simulated on a screen was a vertical side view of a tennis court. Each player had a knob and a button. Rotating the knob changed the angle of the ball and a press of the button sent the ball toward the opposite side of the court. If the ball hit the net, it rebounded at an unexpected angle. If the ball went over the net, but was not hit back, it would hit the floor and bounce again at a natural angle. If it disappeared off the screen, a reset button could be pressed, causing the ball to reappear and remain stationary until a hit button was pressed.

For more information, go to: http://www.osti.gov/accomplishments/videogame.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: September 3, 2013

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Question: An isolated, freestanding wall at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Gaithersburg, Md., campus tests the long-term effects of weather exposure on what?

Answer: Stones from nearly all 50 states and 16 foreign nations

In 1880, the Census Office and the National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution) conducted a study of building stones of the United States and collected a set of reference specimens from working quarries. Sixty-two years later, a federal committee decided that it would be valuable to study the actual weathering of such a great variety of stone. In 1948, a test wall was constructed at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST) headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was moved to Gaithersburg, Md., in 1977, where the agency had relocated 11 years earlier. The NIST Stone Wall contains 2352 individual samples of stone, of which 2032 are domestic stone from 47 states, and 320 are stones from 16 foreign countries. Over 30 distinct types of stones are represented, including marble, limestone, sandstone, and granite.

For more information, go to:
http://stonewall.nist.gov/

August 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 29, 2013

United States Geological Survey Question: Which January 17th earthquake was more catastrophic, the 1995 one in Kobe, Japan, or the 1994 one in Northridge, Calif.?

Answer: The Kobe, Japan, earthquake

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Great Hanshin earthquake, more commonly called the Kobe earthquake, occurred on Jan. 17, 1995, in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. It had a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale and was responsible for 5,530 deaths; 37,000 injuries; and over $100 billion in economic loss. By comparison, the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge, Calif., earthquake (magnitude 6.7) was responsible for approximately 60 deaths; 9,000 injuries; and over $40 billion in damage.

For more information, go to: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 27, 2013

Library of Congress Question: True or false? The Library of Congress has a copy of every book published in the United States.

Answer: False

Contrary to popular belief, the Library of Congress (LOC) does not contain a copy of every book published in the United States. It does, however, house more than 155 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 35 million books and other print materials, 3.4 million recordings, 13.6 million photographs, 5.4 million maps, 6.5 million pieces of sheet music and 68 million manuscripts. The misconception that the LOC "has every book published" may have started during the tenure (1864-1897) of Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford, the man who opened the LOC to the public and greatly expanded its collections. Spofford successfully advocated a change in the U.S. copyright law so that the LOC would receive two free copies of every book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition, engraving, cut, print or photograph submitted for copyright. Copyrighted items, of course, do not include every book published, but isn't hard to see how the confusion might have arisen.

For more information, go to:
http://www.loc.gov/about/faqs.html#every_book
http://www.loc.gov/about/librarianoffice/spofford.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 22, 2013

National Library of Medicine Question: Which is older, the National Library of Medicine, or its parent federal agency, the National Institutes of Health?

Answer: The National Library of Medicine is 51 years older than the National Institutes of Health

Now the world's largest medical library, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) originated in 1836 as the Library of the Surgeon General of the Army. Congress would officially designate it as the National Library of Medicine in 1956 under Public Law 84-941. The predecessor of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Laboratory of Hygiene, was founded in 1887. The two would not become connected until NLM moved into its current facility on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., in 1962. Interestingly, the collections of NLM's History of Medicine Division had to be reunited with the rest of the library once the building was completed. The collections were transported from Cleveland under the watch of Pinkerton guards and with insurance coverage by Lloyd's of London.

For more information, go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/175

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 20, 2013

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Question: According to NASA, what is the largest living organism visible from Earth orbit?

Answer: Australia's Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef extends for 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) along the northeastern coast of Australia. It is not a single reef, but a vast maze of reefs, passages and coral cays (islands that are part of the reef). The white calcium carbonate that coats the living coral reflects light, making the water above the reef appear bright blue from space. This phenomenon allows the reef to be the largest living organism visible in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite photos and videos. Imagery from NASA satellites is being used to track the extent of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. Coral bleaching is the whitening of living coral due to a disruption of the symbiosis (two organisms whose living together benefits both) with its zooxanthellae, tiny photosynthesizing algae.

For more information, go to:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA03401
http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 15, 2013

National Archives and Records Administration Question: Who held the patent, viewable on the National Archives and Records Administration website, for "anti-gravity illusion" shoes?

Answer: Michael Jackson

U.S. Patent 5,255,452—viewable on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website—was issued on Oct. 26, 1993, to the "King of Pop," singer Michael Jackson, for a "method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion." The application abstract describes the patent as: "A system for allowing the shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer's foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member." The shoes enabled Jackson to lean forward to an exaggerated angle while dancing backward on stage, a move that became known as the "moonwalk." The patent for Jackson's invention expired on Oct. 26, 2005.

For more information, go to:
http://research.archives.gov/description/5742940

http://blogs.archives.gov/aotus/?p=2574

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 13, 2013

National Science Foundation Question: What Web technology used by millions today—and funded in its early development stages by the National Science Foundation—was called BackRub in the 1990s?

Answer: Google

In 1994, the National Science Foundation (NSF) made its first six awards under the multi-agency Digital Library Initiative (DLI). One of those awards supported a Stanford University project, which in turn, funded the development of a novel Web search engine by graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Brin was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship). While search engines at the time ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, the two theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships between websites. Their prototype search engine used well-established technology to crawl from page to page by following links. However, in addition to compiling a standard text index, the prototype also mapped out a vast family tree that reflected the Web links among pages. Page and Brin originally nicknamed their new system "BackRub," because it checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site. Eventually, they changed the name to Google, originating from a misspelling of the word "googol," the number one followed by one hundred zeros, which was picked to signify that the search engine was intended to provide large quantities of information.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=100660

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 8, 2013

National Technical Information Service (NTIS) Question: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration diving manual, available through the National Technical Information Service, says what type of chamber is used to treat injured divers: decompression or recompression?

Answer: A recompression chamber

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Diving Manual 4th Edition–available in print or CD-ROM from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)–"recompression chamber is the term used to denote a chamber that is used to treat injured divers." On the other hand, the manual states that a "decompression chamber generally denotes a chamber that is deployed for the primary purpose of conducting surface decompression." In other words, a decompression chamber prevents diving-related maladies such as decompression sickness (also known as "the bends") and carbon monoxide poisoning, and a recompression chamber is used to take care of divers already suffering from these problems.

For more information, go to: https://www.ntis.gov/products/noaadive.aspx

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 6, 2013

U.S. Department of Transportation Question: The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says what type of vehicle can have two or three wheels?

Answer: A motorcycle

The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a nationwide census providing annual data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes, defines a motorcycle as "A two- or three-wheeled motor vehicle designed to transport one or two people, including motorscooters, minibikes and mopeds." FARS, operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)'s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 1975, contains data on a census of fatal traffic crashes within the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To be included in FARS, a crash "must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a trafficway customarily open to the public and result in the death of a person (occupant of a vehicle or a non-occupant) within 30 days of the crash."

For more information, go to: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Help/Terms.aspx

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: August 1, 2013

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Question: DHS S&T researchers worked with private and public experts on dams to develop a software tool that can simulate what type of disaster?

Answer: Flooding

A software tool that can virtually simulate catastrophic flooding—whether from a breached levee, failed dam, surging tide, landslide or tsunami—was recently developed through a collaborative effort between researchers at the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and dam experts at DHS's Office of Infrastructure Protection (within the National Protection and Programs Directorate) and the University of Mississippi's National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (UM-NCCHE). The flood simulation tool allows users to forecast consequences, develop counter measures and even train emergency responders. It's so fast that a flood taking 24 hours to inundate downstream areas can be modeled in less than 24 minutes.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/katrina-changed-everything-new-software-flooding-protection

July 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 30, 2013

U.S. Department of Energy Question: Which radioactive element, discovered in 1944 at what is now a Department of Energy laboratory, makes it possible for ionization smoke detectors to work?

Answer: Americium, Element 95 on the periodic table

Americium was discovered in 1944 by a research team led by Glenn T. Seaborg. The scientists bombarded plutonium-239, an isotope of plutonium, with high-energy neutrons. This formed plutonium-240, which they also bombarded with neutrons. The plutonium-240 changed into plutonium-241, which then decayed into americium-241. This work was carried out at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory, now known as the Department of Energy (DOE)'s Argonne National Laboratory.

The most common use of americium is in ionization smoke detectors. When americium-241 decays, it gives off alpha particles that ionize the air between two electrodes. This generates a very small electric current flow across the gap. When smoke enters, the alpha radiation is absorbed by the soot particles and the current is interrupted, sounding the alarm.

For more information on Americium see DOE Jefferson Laboratory's science education site "It's Elemental: The Element Americium."

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 25, 2013

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Question: In 2007, the National Institute of Standards and Technology celebrated the 50th anniversary of what computing achievement involving a baby?

Answer: A photo that was the world's first digitally scanned image

In 1957, computer pioneer Russell Kirsch and his colleagues at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST, created a rotating drum scanner and programming that allowed images to be fed into the nation's first programmable computer, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC)—also developed at NBS. The first image scanned was a head-and-shoulders shot of Kirsch's 3-month-old son Walden. The ghostlike black-and-white photo only measured 176 pixels on a side—a far cry from today's megapixel digital snapshots—but it would become the Adam and Eve for all computer imaging to follow. In 2003, the editors of Life magazine honored Kirsch's image by naming it one of "the 100 photographs that changed the world."

For more information, go to: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/image_052407.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 23, 2013

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Question: What is the largest volcano on Earth?

Answer: Mauna Loa in Hawaii

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii has the largest volume of any volcano on Earth. Mauna Loa consists of about 80,000 cubic kilometers (19,000 cubic miles) of lava and rises more than 17,000 meters (56,000 feet) above its base on the Pacific Ocean floor. Because of its massive size, the volcano has depressed the Pacific tectonic plate upon which it sits by about 8 kilometers (5 miles). More than half of the area of the island of Hawaii, some 5,000 square kilometers (2,000 square miles) is attributed to Mauna Loa.

For more information, go to: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 18, 2013

Library of Congress Question: What is the age of the oldest written material held by the Library of Congress: 250 years old, 900 years old or 4,000 years old?

Answer: 4,000 years old

The oldest written material in the Library of Congress (LOC) is about 4,000 years old, a cuneiform tablet from the reign of the Sumerian king Gudea of Lagash (2144-2124 B.C.E.). Cuneiform was developed by the Sumerians, who influenced culture and development beyond their original borders in Mesopotamia (present-day southern Iraq), site of the world's earliest civilization. Originally, cuneiform signs were pictograms, later, it also became syllabic. Reeds were used as writing implements. The tip of a reed stylus was impressed into a wet clay surface to draw the strokes of the sign—thus acquiring a "wedge-shaped" appearance. The clay was then either baked in a kiln or dried by the sun. The word cuneiform is derived from Latin—cuneus for wedge and forma, meaning shape. The LOC acquired its collection of cuneiform materials in 1929 from Kirkor Minassian, an art dealer.

For more information, go to: http://memory.loc.gov/intldl/cuneihtml/cuneihome.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 16, 2013

National Library of Medicine Question: What's the subject of the oldest book in the National Library of Medicine's "Turning the Pages" online collection of digitized rare and historic manuscripts?

Answer: Surgery

The Edwin Smith Papyrus, the world's oldest surviving surgical text, was written in Egyptian hieratic script around the 17th century BCE, but probably based on material from a thousand years earlier. The papyrus is a textbook on trauma surgery, and describes anatomical observations and the examination, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of numerous injuries in exquisite detail. American archaeologist Edwin Smith discovered the papyrus in Egypt in the 1860s, and his daughter donated the papyrus to the New York Historical Society after his death. The papyrus is one of 11 rare and historic manuscripts available online and via an Apple iPad app on the National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s popular "Turning the Pages" website. Among the other virtual volumes offered are: Elizabeth Blackwell's tome on medicinal plants, A Curious Herbal (1737); Robert Hooke's observations of the microbial world, Micrographia (1665); and the book considered the world's first modern zoological treatise, Historia Animalium (Latin for "Studies on Animals" and published in 1551) by Conrad Gessner.

For more information, go to: http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/intro.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 11, 2013

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Question: Which of NASA's Mercury 7 astronauts later became an aquanaut who explored the ocean floor: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper or John Glenn?

Answer: Scott Carpenter

One of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) original Mercury 7 astronauts, Scott Carpenter, also lived and worked on the ocean floor as an aquanaut on board the U.S. Navy's SEALAB-II in the summer of 1965. Carpenter spent 30 days in the underwater habitat stationed at a depth of 62 meters (205 feet) off the coast of La Jolla, Calif. He commanded two of the three teams that conducted deep-sea diving activities on what became known as the "Tilton Hilton" because of the tilted angle at which the SEALAB module rested. Along with testing the psychological rigors of living beneath the waves, the SEALAB teams tried out new tools, experimented with novel salvage methods and evaluated an electronically heated diving suit. A bottlenose dolphin named Tuffy from the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program ferried supplies to the lab from the surface. Carpenter's only trip into space was a three-orbit journey on May 24, 1962, aboard the Aurora 7 Mercury spacecraft.

For more information, go to:
http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/carpenter-ms.html

http://www.scottcarpenter.com/sealab.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 9, 2013

National Archives and Records Administration Question: In the film "National Treasure," the heroes uncover invisible clues to a treasure, including a cipher, on the back of the Declaration of Independence. What's actually on the back of the real document housed at the National Archives and Records Administration?

Answer: The words "Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776"

There is writing on the back of the original signed Declaration of Independence housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. However, it is not invisible, it does not provide clues to a treasure, and it does not include an Ottendorf cipher (which is used to decode a message hidden in another document) as the feature film, "National Treasure," suggests. The writing on the back simply reads "Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776." It appears upside down on the bottom of the page. In its early life, the large parchment—75.57 centimeters (29.75 inches) by 62.23 centimeters (24.50 inches)—was rolled up for storage, so it's likely that the notation was added simply as a label. The identity of the inscriber is unknown.

For more information, go to:
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/treasure/back_of_declaration.html
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/treasure/flip_side_of_history.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: July 2, 2013

National Science Foundation Question: Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation blindfold snakes to study what ability?

Answer: Thermal imaging, also known as "seeing heat"

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Directorate for Biological Sciences, biologist Michael Grace and his team at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) study infrared (thermal) sensors in snakes. Pit vipers, pythons and boas possess special organs that form images in the brain of the thermal environment, much like vision occurs in the human brain. Thus, these snakes "see" heat, and this amazing system is the most sensitive infrared detector on Earth, natural or artificial. Research in this area will advance the development of artificial sensor technologies for industrial, defense and biomedical applications.

For more information, go to: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/infraredsnakes.jsp

June 2013

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 27, 2013

National Technical Information Service Question: The National Technical Information Service was created as a result of which war: World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War?

Answer: World War II

In late 1945, President Harry Truman set up a program to distribute the results of government and government supported-research which had been kept secret during World War II. Early in the following year, the Office of the Publication Board (OPB) was organized to distribute reports and The Bibliography of Scientific and Industrial Reports (BSIR) was issued to announce the materials available. Among the earliest items included in the OPB collection were captured German and Japanese industrial and military technology secrets. They were microfilmed and sold at the cost of reproduction to American entrepreneurs hoping to capitalize on advanced production methods for medicines, chemicals, textiles, etc. The current federal technical reports system and the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) arose from the OPB effort. In 1950, the OPB became the Commerce Department's Office of Technical Services (OTS). The agency was charged with making "the results of technological research and development readily available to industry and business, and to the general public." In 1965, OTS became the Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information (CFSTI) and then, in 1970, was renamed NTIS.

For more information, go to: http://unllib.unl.edu/Bolin_resources/bsir-xml/What_is_BSIR.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 25, 2013

Department of Transportation Question: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the longest road in the United States stretches between which two states?

Answer: Massachusetts and Oregon

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the longest road in the United States is US 20 which stretches 5.415 kilometers (3,365 miles) from Boston, Mass., to Newport, Ore. US 20 passes through the following states: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. From 1937 until 1963, US 20 was actually the second longest road behind U.S. 6, which began in Provincetown, Mass and ended in Long Beach, Calif., 5,877 kilometers (3,652 miles) away. However, in 1963, California requested that U.S. 6 be terminated at Bishop, Calif., shortening the route to 5,193 kilometers (3,227 miles) and making U.S. 20 the longest road in the country.

For more information, go to: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/longest.cfm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 20, 2013

Department of Homeland Security Question: In which city's subway system did DHS S&T test biological agent detection sensors in 2012?

Answer: Boston, Mass.

The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) conducted a series of tests in the Boston subways in August 2012 to measure the real-world performance of new sensors developed to detect biological agents. The tests, part of DHS S&T's "Detect-to-Protect" (D2P) Bio Detection project, involved releasing small amounts of a harmless, food-grade bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, into the air after the subway stations had closed. Then, sensors from different manufacturers were evaluated on their respective abilities to identify and confirm the presence of the released bacteria within minutes.

For more information, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/st-snapshot-detect-protect

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 18, 2013

Department of Energy Question: What was discovered in 1998 by Department of Energy and NASA scientists that completely changed how we view the universe?

Answer: Dark energy

Dark energy was discovered in 1998 by scientists funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA who worked at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and other institutions. Dark energy is the name given to the cause of the accelerating expansion of our universe and comprises more than 70 percent of its total mass and energy. It was named by Science magazine as the scientific breakthrough of the year because it was previously believed that the expansion of the universe was slowing, not accelerating. LBNL physicist Saul Perlmutter shared the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for the finding. DOE and NASA are now developing the Joint Dark Energy Mission to explore the properties of dark energy and measure how cosmic expansion has changed over time using a large-aperture optical/near-infrared wide-field telescope operating in space. LBNL has lead responsibility for the DOE work. The mission, scheduled to begin in 2016, will be managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

For more information, go to:http://jdem.lbl.gov

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 13, 2013

National Institute of Standards and Technology Question: In the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah, the National Institute of Standards and Technology calibrated the timers for what competition?

Answer: Bobsledding

Racers in the bobsled, luge and skeleton events reach some of the highest speeds of any Olympic Winter Games competitors—up to 130-145 kilometers per hour (80-90 miles per hour). Since winners are often decided by mere milliseconds, the timing system for these events must be highly accurate and consistent. That wasn't a problem at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, thanks to experts from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The timing system for the runs at Utah Olympic Park was calibrated against the national time standard provided by the NIST-F1 atomic clock in Boulder, Colo.

For more information, go to: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2002_0102.htm

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 11, 2013

Library of Congress Question: How much did the U.S. Congress pay for Thomas Jefferson's personal library to restock the Library of Congress collection destroyed in 1814: $5,998; $23,950; or $75,236?

Answer: $23,950

On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved legislation that appropriated $5,000 to purchase "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress." The first books, ordered from London, arrived in 1801 and were stored in the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress (LOC)'s first home. The collection consisted of 740 volumes and three maps. In 1814, the British army invaded the city of Washington, D.,C., and burned the Capitol, including the now 3,000-volume LOC. Former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, in retirement at his Virginia mansion, Monticello, offered to sell his personal library to Congress to "recommence" the library. The purchase of Jefferson's 6,487 volumes for $23,950 was approved in 1815. Not only was the collection more than twice the number of volumes that had been lost, it also expanded the scope of the LOC far beyond the bounds of a legislative library.

For more information, go to: http://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/loc.html

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 6, 2013

United States Geological Survey Question: Where and when did the deadliest recorded earthquake occur?

Answer: China, 1556

The world's deadliest recorded earthquake occurred in 1556 in the Shaanxi Province, central China. It struck a region where most people lived in caves carved from soft rock. These dwellings collapsed during the earthquake, killing an estimated 830,000 people. In 1976, another deadly earthquake struck in Tangshan, China, where more than 250,000 people were killed. Worldwide earthquake activity is monitored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

For more information, go to: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/

Science.gov Trivia Question of the Day: June 4, 2013

National Library of Medicine Question: The National Library of Medicine main building was designed and constructed in the late 1950s to protect its collection from what type of disaster?

Answer: A nuclear attack

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., is the world's largest biomedical library housing more than 19 million books, journals, artworks, manuscripts, audiovisual productions and other materials. Because the NLM main library facility was built in the late 1950s during the height of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR, the building incorporated many design characteristics that, at the time, were considered state-of-the-art means for protecting the collection from a nearby (but not direct) nuclear strike. These included a collapsible roof, floors and walls that would equalize the pressure of an explosion, and over 50 miles of bookshelves stored on three football field-sized underground levels.

For more information, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC200608/pdf/mlab00197-0165.pdf