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Archive for June, 2010

    Winner: Dave

    On a quiet night with about 15 players, dropping Dave won by  a country mile. Closest was Claire, who showed her social studies teacher skills when she was the only player who knew that it was Winston Churchill who said: “A good woman is still a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.” Yikes! Try and say that today, and you might get impeached.

    Next week is Blue or Pink night, as Margaret, our fave hostess, waitress, and bartender finds out if her baby is a boy or a girl. So be sure to wear the right color, or at least what you think will be the right color.

    “Good Question!”: What chicken part did Harvard gene splicers manage to change into a third leg ?

    Answer: A wing

    In 1999 US scientists genetically-engineered chickens to grow basic “legs” instead of wings. Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, took a gene normally found only in chicken legs and transferred it to the forming wings of chick embryos. A virus was used to deliver the gene into the budding wings of the developing chick embryos.

    The resulting structures lost many of their wing characteristics and gained those of a leg. Feathers vanished, the beginnings of clawed fingers appeared at the end of limbs, and muscles usually confined to the leg could clearly be seen.

    The scientists believe the work may eventually help us to understand how legs and arms develop in humans, raising the possibility – one day – of preventing or correcting deformities. As yet unpublished Japanese research is purported to have achieved an almost complete transformation from wing to leg and from leg to wing. How about turning chickens into dinosaurs?

    Jurassic Park comes true: How scientists are bringing dinosaurs back to life with the help of the humble chicken

    Will scientists ever be able to resurrect the dinosaur? According to Jack Horner, professor of palaeontology at Montana State University and an advisor on the Jurassic Park films, the answer is an unequivocal yes. He says: ‘Of course we can bring them back to life. Their ancestral DNA is still present. ‘The science is there. I don’t think there are any barriers, other than the philosophical.’

    Retro-engineering a bird. It is generally accepted by palaeontologists that birds are descended from a class of theropod dinosaurs called raptors. ‘If we want to see a dinosaur in our lifetime, we need to start with a bird and work backwards,’ says Horner. ‘As long as birds exist, we have the ability to reach back to dinosaurs.’

    In the 1990s, scientists discovered dinosaurs in China buried in a fine ash. They were preserved in remarkable detail and bird-like features, including claws and feathers, were recognisable. Horner believes that a modern bird’s DNA contains a genetic memory that could be ‘switched on’ again, resurrecting long-dormant dinosaur traits.

    To make such a creature, he would start with the genome (the whole hereditary information encoded in the DNA) of an emu. ‘Emus have all the features we need in order to make a Velociraptor-sized dinosaur,’ he says. ‘If I were to make a dinosaur, that is where I’d start.’

    Far-fetched as this sounds, his work is supported by other leading academics.

    Sean Carroll, a geneticist at the University of Wisconsin, says: ‘The inventory of genes in a bird would be very similar to the inventory of genes in a dinosaur. ‘It is differences in the decision-making that takes during development that make the difference between a chicken and a tyrannosaurus.’

    So, will it one day be possible to reverse evolution?

    Mark Westhusin is a world-renowned expert in creating life forms from DNA. Together with his colleague, Dewey Kramer, at Texas A&M University, he has cloned more species than researchers at any other laboratory, including a White-tailed deer and a Black Angus bull. Westhusin explains that soon, the relevant DNA to turn back the clock could be manufactured and implanted into an emu egg, for instance, to trigger dormant genes.

    ‘We already have small artificial chromosomes that have been put into embryos and develop and divide and express their genes,’ he explains. ‘The technology is advancing so fast, in sequencing genes and in putting genes back together, and in manufacturing long stretches of DNA.’ Fallon agrees, saying: ‘As we learn more, we’ll be able to do it. ‘The genetic knowledge is in the bird.’

    For his part, Horner imagines creating the first example. ‘I have to admit that I’ve certainly imagined walking up on a stage to give a talk, and having a little dino chicken walk up behind me,’ he says. ‘That would be kind of cool.

    ‘There is now nothing to stop us bringing back dinosaurs but ourselves. ‘People who don’t believe it don’t know much about evolution.’

    Pausing for a second, he adds: ‘Whether it is a good idea or not is another question…’

    sources: daily mail, bbc news

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Winner: JohnC

Tonight’s crowd was a typical summertime crowd – very large and very noisy.

With 20 players, some new to the game, there was no clear favorite. JohnC was his usual quiet self and amidst the hubub quietly became the night’s surprise winner. He started a bit slow, but finished strong to overtake Pluto and FrankSr at the finish.

The game was not without controversy. Which state generates the fewest tourist dollars? Most said Delaware, others Rhode Island. The answerman said RI, but many remain skeptical. Not an easy question to find the answer to.

Cousins Jaime and Carolyn, playing in the peanut gallery had a rough night but still managed to have a good time and a lot of laughs. For their troubles they were awarded the best prize – a pen set.

“Good Question!”: What time is on the clock on the back of the $100 bill

Answer: 4:10

Why 4:10? No one at the Bureau of Engraving knows why, or as Rosebud would say, ” It is what it is.”

Actually, if you take a $100 bill out of your wallet and look very closely at the back of the bill, you will think the answer is really 2:20, but that was not one of the choices. The folks at the Bureau of Engraving insist it shows 4:10, but apparently they have never looked closely at the back of the bill.

Some facts about the $100 bill:

The one hundred dollar bill has founding father Benjamin Franklin on the face side, and the historic scene of Independence Hall, the location where the Declaration was signed, on the reverse side. The bill is one of two current notes that does not feature a President of the United States; the other is the United States ten-dollar bill, featuring Alexander Hamilton.

It is the largest denomination that has been in circulation since July 14, 1969, when the higher denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 and $100,000 were retired. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the average life of a $100 bill in circulation is 60 months (5 years) before it is replaced due to wear. Approximately 7% of all notes produced today are $100 bills.

The bills are also commonly referred to as “Benjamins” in reference to the use of Benjamin Franklin’s portrait on the denomination. They are also often referred to as “C-Notes” based on the Roman numeral C which means 100.

New Benjamins due Feb 2011

The new design for the $100 bills will include additional security features designed to weed out counterfeit notes. The new design includes a 3-D security ribbon that contains images of bells and 100s that move and change from one to the other as handlers tilt the note. A new image of the Liberty Bell in the inkwell changes color from copper to green when the bill is tilted.

It also features phrases from the Declaration of Independence and the quill used by the Founding Fathers to sign the document on the right hand side of the front of the bill. On the back, there’s a new image of the back of Independence Hall. Both that image and Franklin’s portrait have been enlarged, and designers dropped the oval around both images.

The new design follows more than a decade of research and development by folks at the Treasury Department, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Secret Service. Less than a hundredth of 1 percent of all U.S. currency is counterfeit, but the $100 note is the most widely circulated and most frequently counterfeited outside the U.S., while inside the U.S. the $20 bill is most counterfeited.

This makeover may leave people wondering if there is magic involved. Benjamin Franklin is still on the $100 bill, but he has been joined by a disappearing Liberty Bell in an inkwell and a bright blue security ribbon composed of thousands of tiny lenses that magnify objects in mysterious ways. Move the bill and the objects move in a different direction.

The changes are aimed at thwarting counterfeiters who are armed with ever-more sophisticated computers, scanners and color copiers. The Federal Reserve Board will start issuing the bills Feb. 10, 2011. The older bills will still work and will eventually be cycled out of the market.

For a cool video of the unveiling of the new bill see: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/04/new_100_bill_unveiled.html

The $100 bill, the highest value denomination in general circulation, is the last bill to undergo an extensive redesign. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing began the process in 2003, adding splashes of color to spruce up first the $20 and then the $50, $10 and $5 bills. The $1 bill isn’t getting a makeover.

sources: the wahington post, the bureau of the currency, wikipedia

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Winner: Dave

Dropping Dave started fast, missed only 2, and cruised to a win tonight. Tugboat Dave never recovered from his slip up on that easy first question and finished second. TD, everyone knows that the Sistine chapel is in the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. Pluto called it a real “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb” type question – and then carelessly proceeded to answer it wrong!

Tonight’s group of 14 players included our answer card conservator Ellen, who told us that she would be taking training with her Coast Guard Auxiliary unit on Tuesdays for the next few months. See you in September, Ellen. The much maligned Beth and flyboy Bob are headed to Florida for a bit of R&R and maybe a breather from our quizmaster. Go easy, Daphne!

Tugboat Dave’s daughter Emily, a student at Fordham U, celebrated her birthday with us and made a very respectable showing in the game. Go Rams. By the way Emily don’t feel bad. You may have missed Clem Kadiddlehopper, but you really didn’t miss anything.

“Good Question!”: If you leave Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass which country will you arrive in?

Answer: Pakistan

The Khyber Pass is the most northerly and important of the mountain passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throughout history it has been an important trade route between Central Asia and South Asia and a strategic military location. The summit of the Khyber Pass is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) inside Pakistan at Landi Kotal and it cuts through the northeastern part of the Safed Koh mountains which themselves are a far southeastern extension of the Hindu Kush range. The Pass became widely known to thousands of Westerners and Japanese who traveled it in the days of the Hippie trail, taking a bus or car from Kabul to the Afghan border.

The pass connects Kābul with Peshāwar. The pass has historically been the gateway for invasions of the Indian subcontinent from the northwest. Some of the commanders who crossed the Khyber Pass and led armies eastward in the conquest of India included: Cyrus the Great , Alexander the Great , and Genghis Khan. The British invaded Afghanistan from India and fought three Afghan Wars in 1839-42, 1878-80, and 1919. George Molesworth, a member of the British force of 1919, summarised: “Every stone in the Khyber has been soaked in blood.” Rudyard Kipling called it “a sword cut through the mountains.” For strategic reasons, after the First World War the British built a heavily engineered railway through the Pass. The Khyber Pass Railway from Jamrud, near Peshawar, to the Afghan border near Landi Kotal was opened in 1925.

The Khyber Pass begins about 10 miles outside the Pakistani city of Peshawar in the northwest frontier province and ends on the Afghan border at Torkham. Because it is the main connection between Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent, the route through the Khyber Pass constitutes one of the major means of access to Central Asia. The pass, which narrows at one point to 200 yards, reaches an altitude of 3,500 feet. The pass is situated in the Afridi tribal areas, where the government has little authority; as a result, kidnapping and smuggling are common occurrences along the route. Throughout the centuries the Pashtun clans, particularly the Afridis and the Afghan Shinwaris, have regarded the Pass as their own preserve and have levied a toll on travellers for safe conduct. Since this has long been their main source of income, resistance to challenges to the Shinwaris’ authority has often been fierce.

After 1980 the pass became a major route for refugees leaving, or later returning to, Afghanistan, and for guerrilla fighters entering Afghanistan. Pakistan has periodically closed the border crossing at the Afghan side of the pass in an attempt to control the movement of unwanted refugees.

During the current war in Afghanistan, the Khyber Pass has been a major route for resupplying NATO forces in the Afghan theater of conflict. Recognizing this, the Taliban attempted to choke off the route in late 2008 and early 2009, bringing the Taliban into conflict with the Pakistani government.

sources: Britannica Online Encyclopedia, encyclopedia.com, wikipedia

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