"They say curiosity killed the cat. I just hope it went out in style." -Yellow
Question #72561 posted on 05/16/2013 11:04 p.m.

Fellow Experimenters,

I recently acquired a laser that professes to put out 100 mW but I suspect it only puts out between 5-10 mW. That doesn't really bother me, I'm just happy to have a laser and one that I can easily see the beam in midair at night.

Last night I wanted to see if I could read by the light of my laser shining on the ceiling of my bedroom (which is your standard white, drywall ceiling). As it turns out, I actually can read by the reflected light. However, I noticed that something that looked a lot like static on the pages of my book that was being created by the laser-light. There were lighter and darker areas that were moving around and fading in and out. Why did this happen and what is it called? Would it be a bad thing to look at it for a long time? (keep in mind, it's not direct laser light. It's reflecting off the ceiling and the page before it hits my eye).

Thanks for all you do!



Dear Sump,

What you're seeing is called laser speckle, and it's caused by interference. It's not dangerous; once a laser beam has bounced off of a diffuse surface (as opposed to a specular, i.e., shiny, surface), it's no more dangerous than any other bright light source. (However, even ordinary light sources can be painful or even dangerous if they're bright enough. In your case, though, you're definitely fine after bouncing off of two diffuse surfaces.)

There are actually two types of laser speckle. Subjective speckles are what you see if you shine a laser on a surface (e.g., the wall or ceiling) and look at the surface directly (although if your laser pointer is as bright as it sounds, you might have difficulty looking directly at the wall/ceiling). These are subjective because the actual speckles you see depend on things like the aperture of the lens (your eye, or a camera's). One example Wikipedia gives is to look directly at the wall, and then at the wall through a small hole (e.g., a pinhole); the speckles will appear much larger through the hole. (If the spot on the wall is too bright to look at, don't push it.)

Then there are objective speckles. These are caused by light bouncing off one diffuse surface (the ceiling) and then a second (the pages of your book). In this case, the speckle pattern doesn't depend on the optical properties of your eye. You would expect to mostly see objective speckles in your case, although there will still be some subjective ones as well (they'll just be much harder or impossible to see).

Okay. So what causes laser speckle? The light coming out of the laser is coherent, which means that the wavelength and the phase of the photons coming from the laser are pretty much the same as each other. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, but good enough in this case.) So you can imagine all of these waves coming from the laser in sync. Once they scatter off of a rough surface, however, the phase of each photon gets changed relative to its neighbors (since they all reflect at different "depths" on the wall). They're still the same wavelength as each other, though. This is a perfect setup for interference.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of interference, I'll refer you to the double-slit experiment, which is a classic example of interference. If you just want a visual example of what's happening, you can jump down to here (note the diagrams/animations on the right-hand side). I also explained interference in thin films in Board Question #49920. The basic idea is that waves can either add up (if they're in phase, e.g., wiggling in sync), which is constructive interference, or they can cancel out (if they're out of phase, e.g., if one is going "up" at the exact time that another is going "down"), which is destructive interference.

Anyway, with the diagrams from Wikipedia to look at, here's what's happening with your laser (which is slightly different from the double-slit experiment): some of the light from your laser reflects off the ceiling and hits your book. The phase of this light will depend on how far the light traveled to get to the book, which will vary depending on which particular spot on the wall it's coming from. Some places, by random chance, will have lots of light that is mostly in phase arriving at the same spot; these will be brighter spots on your book. Other spots, also by chance, will have light arriving that's all out of phase with the rest of the light arriving, which will cause a dark spot. (Of course, there will also be places in between.)

So why are the speckles moving? Your laser pointer isn't exactly a high-quality laser, and so it's unlikely to have a very stable beam. The beam profile is likely to fluctuate, which would cause the shifting you're seeing. (It's also probably not extremely coherent, but that would just keep the bright spots from being quite as bright and the dark spots from being quite as dark.)

Why doesn't this happen with other light sources, like a flashlight or your ceiling light? The light from most non-laser sources isn't coherent at all; it's such a mix of different wavelengths and different phases that the speckles are washed out. You could imagine it as if you have millions of speckle patterns all on top of each other, and they all blend together to create uniform illumination.

Oh, and one final note: if you want to cheaply check to see if your laser pointer is in the ballpark of 100 mW or not, you might look at these do-it-yourself laser power meters. (I put DIY laser power meter into Google and wasn't expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised!) The first one linked from that page requires no soldering and claims to give you a number within about 15% of the real value. Not super accurate, but not too shabby for only $17. (Plus the cost includes an IR thermometer that you can use for other things.)

—Laser Jock

Question #72555 posted on 05/15/2013 9:28 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Your mission: Find a picture of Brenda Song's purple makeup on an episode of Suite Life of Zack and Cody - I remember she had on really pretty purple makeup that matched her skin tone amazingly.
Your next mission: Tell me how to do my sister's Prom makeup like her.

- Older Sister


Dear Older Sister,

You should know that, while I myself don't wear makeup every day, sometimes I look at makeup blogs and I have acquaintances that do makeup semi-professionally, so that's where I'm coming from. This is the best picture I could find:

 London Tipton.png

This is a pretty good video showing a step-by-step tutorial of Brenda Song-inspired makeup. The person in the video uses dark green and light green eye shadow, which you'll want to substitute with dark and light purple. I looked at quite a few written-out makeup tutorials, and so combining those, the tutorial video, and my modest understanding of makeup artistry, this is what I suggest you do:

1. Start with foundation (a dewy one, if you have it [but not if you have oily skin]) & eye shadow primer.
2. Apply a matte light-colored eyeshadow (like cream or light tan) as the highlight color all over lid and up to the brow bone.
3. Apply dark purple eye shadow on the upper lid. Wing out the eye shadow slightly past the outer corner of the eye.
4. Apply the same color a little along the bottom lid of the eye near the outer corner.
5. Apply a dark neutral (such as reddish brown) eye shadow in the crease and outer V; blend everything well.
6. Line the upper lid with black eyeliner, winging out with a thicker line on the outside corner.
7. Apply black eyeliner to the waterline as well, but don't go all the way in with the lower lid; keep it towards the outer corner.
8. Apply a lighter shade of purple eye shadow on the inner corner, both on the upper and lower lids. This will really make the eyes look bright and awake. Blend.
9. Add a smokey effect by adding a touch of black eye shadow where you used eyeliner and blend out a little.
10. Use a lot of black mascara. I recommend doing the lower lashes before the upper.
11. If you use blush, use a neutral/brown/plum-like shade, not pink. Sweep up along cheekbone.
12. If you use bronzer, use just a bit on the temples and sides of the face.
13. You'll want to go easy on the lips, as having both strong eye and lip color will make you (or your sister, I guess) look like a clown. Opt for a neutral or light pink shade. 

I drew this diagram for steps 2-10, but it's rough and I was pretty conservative with the purple. I hope some of this helps! Have fun!


Question #72405 posted on 05/16/2013 10:16 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My niece is turning five in the next few weeks. The other day she heard my sister and me singing “Time After Time” and she loved it and wanted us to play the song over and over. This made me think that, due to her age, she’s missed out on some great music. For her birthday present, I wanted to give her five CDs (one for each year of her life) to celebrate five full decades of the best sing-along (or dance-along, she also likes dancing) music possible. Can you please suggest to me music I should add from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s (and, I guess 2010+ if you feel inclined. It’s not a full decade, so I wasn’t going to include it)?



Dear Basil,

With the help of a few friends, we have compiled you five and a little bit decades of music. Olympus's sister, She, compiled the original list (though she had a lot of things I would have added anyway), and she added some international songs because they're favorites for dancing at the elementary school where she teaches.

1960's (ignore the part where there are songs from the late 50's, just enjoy the music)

  • La Bamba - Ritchie Valens - 1958
  • 16 Candles - The Crests - 1985
  • Shout Part I - The Isley Brothers - 1959
  • Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora) - Harry Belafonte - 1961
  • Uptight (Everything's Alright) - Stevie Wonder - 1965
  • You Can't Hurry Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes - 1966
  • Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel - 1967
  • Higher & Higher - Jackie Wilson - 1967
  • For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder - 1968
  • I Want You Back - Jackson 5 - 1969
  • Sugar, Sugar - The Archies - 1969
  • Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond - 1969


  • ABC - Jackson 5 - 1970
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder - 1970
  • Joy to the World - Three Dog Night - 1970
  • Don't Pull Your Love - Sam & Dave - 1971
  • Mama Don't Dance and Daddy Don't Rock & Roll - Dr. Hook - 1972
  • Play Me - Neil Diamond - 1972
  • Desperado - Eagles - 1973
  • Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd - 1974
  • Mamma Mia - ABBA - 1975
  • Seaside Rendezvous - Queen - 1975
  • You're My Best Friend - Queen - 1975
  • Rubberband Man - The Spinners - 1976
  • Somebody to Love - Queen - 1976
  • Dancing Queen - A*Teens (2000) or ABBA (1976)
  • Fernando - ABBA
  • Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees - 1977
  • September - Earth, Wind, & Fire - 1978
  • YMCA - Village People - 1978
  • Let's Go - The Cars - 1979
  • Don't Stop Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson - 1979
  • Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles - 1979
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper - 1979
  • What a Fool Believes - Doobie Brothers - 1979


  • Celebrate - Kool & The Gang - 1980
  • All Out of Love - Air Supply - 1980
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar - 1981
  • Mickey - Toni Basil - 1981
  • Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield - 1981
  • You Make My Dreams - Hall & Oates - 1981
  • Come On, Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners - 1982
  • Eye of the Tiger - Survivor - 1982
  • Hungry Like a Wolf - Duran Duran - 1982
  • I'm So Excited - The Pointer Sisters - 1982
  • Beat It - Michael Jackson - 1983
  • Jump For My Love - The Pointer Sisters - 1983
  • Separate Ways - Journey - 1983
  • Uptown Girl - Billy Joel - 1983
  • Burning Down the House - Talking Heads - 1983
  • Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper - 1984
  • Footloose - Kenny Loggins - 1984
  • Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Wham! - 1984
  • Careless Whisper - George Michael - 1984
  • Oh Sherrie - Steve Perry - 1984
  • I Would Die 4 U - Prince - 1984
  • Neutron Dance - The Pointer Sisters - 1984
  • Take On Me - A-ha - 1985
  • The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and the News - 1985
  • Conga - Gloria Estefan - 1985
  • Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi - 1986
  • Manic Monday - The Bangles - 1986
  • Walk Like An Egyptian - The Bangles - 1986
  • I Wanna Dance - Whitney Houston - 1987
  • It Must Have Been Love - Roxette - 1987
  • The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson - 1987
  • 500 Miles - The Proclaimers - 1988
  • Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin - 1988
  • Get On Your Feet - Gloria Estefan - 1989
  • Love Shack - The B-52's - 1989
  • Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic - 1989


  • Theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - Will Smith & Quincy Jones - 1990
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - They Might Be Giants - 1990
  • Black or White - Michael Jackson - 1991
  • Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn - 1991
  • Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave) - Roxette - 1991
  • If We Hold On Together (Laugh if you will, but if you play it, people sing) - Dianna Ross - 1991
  • Too Legit to Quit - MC Hammer - 1991
  • I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston - 1992
  • Basket Case - Green Day - 1994
  • Macarena - Los Del Rio - 1994
  • Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls - TLC - 1995
  • Larger Than Life - Backstreet Boys - 1996
  • Wannabe - Spice Girls - 1996
  • Real World - Matchbox Twenty - 1996
  • Barbie Girl - Aqua - 1997
  • Doctor Jones - Aqua - 1997
  • Mmmbop - Hansen - 1997
  • My Heart Will Go On - Céline Dion - 1997
  • Truly Madly Deeply - Savage Garden - 1997
  • Tearin' Up My Heart - *NSync - 1998
  • One Week - Barenaked Ladies - 1998
  • Believe - Cher - 1998
  • Jump, Jive an' Wail - The Brain Setzer Orchestra - 1998
  • All Star - Smash Mouth - 1999
  • I Want It That Way - Backstreet Boys - 1999
  • Baby One More Time - Britney Spears - 1999
  • Rhythm Divine - Enrique Iglesias - 1999
  • Livin' La Vida Loca - Ricky Martin - 1999
  • Smooth - Santana & Rob Thomas - 1999
  • Candy - Mandy Moore - 1999
  • Hey, Beautiful - The Solids - 90's


  • Aaron's Party - Aaron Carter - 2000
  • Beautiful Day - U2 - 2000
  • Bye Bye Bye - *NSync - 2000
  • Dancing Queen - A*Teens (2000) or ABBA (1976)
  • I Want Candy - Aaron Carter - 2000
  • Oops!...I Did It Again - Britney Spears - 2000
  • S Club Party or Viva la Fiesta - S Club 7 - 2000
  • Upside Down - A*Teens - 2000
  • Wherever You Will Go - The Calling - 2001
  • Ave Maria - David Bisbal - 2002
  • Heaven - DJ Sammy - 2002
  • Song for the Lonely - Cher - 2002
  • Crazy in Love - Beyoncé - 2003
  • Hey Ya! - Outkast - 2003
  • I Believe In a Thing Called Love - The Darkness - 2003
  • In Love With the 80's - Relient K - 2003
  • Baila Esta Cumbia - Kumbia Kings & Selena - 2005
  • Brat Pack - The Rocket Summer - 2005
  • Crazy - Gnarls Barkley - 2006
  • All For One - High School Musical 2 - 2007
  • Ever Ever After - Carrie Underwood - 2007
  • What Time Is It? - High School Musical 2 - 2007
  • Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
  • Love Story - Taylor Swift - 2008
  • Eres Tú - Kany Garcia - 2009
  • Halo/Walking On Sunshine - Glee - 2009
  • I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas - 2009
  • Party in the USA - Miley Cyrus - 2009
  • Tik Tok - Ke$ha - 2009


  • Baby - Justin Bieber - 2010
  • Forget You - Cee Lo Green - 2010
  • Kick Drum Heart - The Avett Brothers - 2010
  • Waka Waka - Shakira - 2010
  • Dynamite - Taio Cruz - 2010
  • Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen - 2011
  • Elle Me Dit - Mika - 2011
  • Good Feeling - Flo Rida - 2011
  • Titanium - David Guetta - 2011
  • Good Time - Carly Rae Jepsen & Owl City - 2012

There are a lot of artists who have enough popular music that you can just buy the whole CD, for example, I would buy CDs for ABBA, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson (and The Jackson Five), NSync, Brittney Spears, Spice Girls, Christian Aguilera and Neil Diamond.

Hopefully you will use this to create the most awesome playlists in the history of ever.

-Marguerite St. Just (with help from Olympus, She, Laser Jock, Eirene and various nymless friends and cousins)

Question #72319 posted on 04/27/2013 10:10 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The following are some facts(?) about Sparta that I read on tumblr. Seeing as it's tumblr, I figured I'd fact check. What, if anything, of the following is true?

"Like, guys. Sparta was so kick [edit] sometimes when it came to women. Spartan women were given these small knives so that if their husbands came home and tried to hit them or assault them, they had a weapon within reach. That weapon was for CUTTING THEIR HUSBANDS’ [edit] FACES so that when he went out in public everyone would know he was an [edit], abusing jerkface and they would publicly shame him.

In Sparta, women could own land and were considered citizens.

Divorce was totally fine, and a woman could expect to keep her own wealth and get custody of the kids because paternal lineage wasn’t very important. And it didn’t make her a pariah! She could totally remarry, no big deal at all.

Spartan women participated in some [explicative] sporting events, too. And because they were expected to be as physically fit as the Spartan menfolk (who all had to serve compulsory military duties, btw, and couldn’t marry until they finished them at thirty) they didn’t have time for lots of swishy dresses. So they wore notoriously short skirts. According to some accounts, their thighs were visible at all times.

Also, In Sparta men only got their names on their graves if they died in battle. And women? Women only got their names on their graves if they died in childbirth. THE SPARTANS COMPARED CHILDBIRTH TO [edit] BATTLE AND IT WAS VIEWED AS A [edit] AND HONORABLE WAY TO GO OUT."

Razputin's girl


Dear Razputin's girl,

Congratulations! You've hit on one of my favorite topics: ancient Greece! You may be aware that one of my favorite people from that time is Athena, and so I feel I must defend Athens by refuting these claims. Alas, Wikipedia actually confirms many of them and so I turned to the library. The books I used for this answer can all be found in the HBLL (once I return them).

It should be noted that much of what we know from history, especially ancient history, is limited to and influenced by the writings of the men of the time. One author provided this caveat: "Contemporary scholars...differ in their assessment of what constitutes historical reality, and what was part of the 'Spartan mirage'" (Pomeroy viii). One should also keep in mind that the following research mostly applies to higher-status Spartan women.

Women holding knives to scar their husbands in case of assault: No evidence. In her book Spartan Woman, Sarah B. Pomeroy writes that "One may speculate that Spartan women would have been better at defending themselves if need be, for Plutarch...states that a goal of their physical education was to make them able to defend themselves, their children, and their country. At any rate, just as there is little evidence for illicit adultery at Sparta, there is little for the rape of individuals" (18). While the above shows that women were prepared to resist, I have found no research that points to their being armed.

Women could own land and were citizens: True. Pomeroy clearly states "women could own land" (36). Spartan women were Spartiates, or citizens of Sparta, but they did not enjoy the same political privileges as men. Although Pomeroy gives an example of the significance of women in Spartan elections, she concedes that "Such reports do not indicate that women were fully active citizens in the sense that men were, that they could defend their polis [city], vote, or hold governmental office, for overt political power was not exercised by women anywhere in the Greek world before the advent of Hellenistic queens" (92). They had more citizenship than the lower class and slaves, but not as much as men.

Divorce and remarriage were acceptable: True. It was very important in Spartan society to have heirs, and as Pomeroy writes, "...divorce and remarriage would allow them to sample partners with whom they could have fertile unions" (66). Divorce appears to have been common in ancient Sparta, as was remarriage. In his essay in Spartan Society, Hodkinson points out "It seems that mature rich widows were often in a strong position to determine whether and whom they remarried"(116). Younger widows could remarry but they had less of a say in the matter--"women were normally expected to marry within restricted socio-economic bounds" (118). From what I understand, women who were divorced or widowed were expected to remarry, especially if she was still young enough to have children.

Women kept their wealth and children's custody after divorce: Sort of. It's hard to say definitively, because property laws and things were quite complicated in Sparta. As one author notes, "the Spartans had not completely evolved the principle of private property, and...the family was not a fixed institution" (Oliva 9). A woman's influence in society and power to make her own decisions depended on her wealth, land, and marital situation (Pomeroy 93). The evidence points to women being able to keep their wealth after divorce--indeed, this would help her secure a high-status second husband--but I could not find anything convincing regarding the custody of the children. The emphasis of the woman's role in rearing children leads me to believe that she would retain custody as well.

Women participated in sporting events and wore short skirts: True. The importance of athletics for Spartan women seems to be unique among ancient Greek societies. Some ancient Greek authors indicated that racing, trials of strength, wrestling, discus throwing, and hurling the javelin were important physical activities. Pomeroy writes that "the women's curriculum was a selective and less arduous version of the men's, but similar to it" (14). In regard to dress, she writes that "Not only did Spartan women wear a peplos (tunic) that revealed their thighs, but they regularly exercised completely nude" (25). Some ancient writers referred to Spartan women as "thigh-flashers" (26).

The men couldn’t marry until they finished their military service at thirty years of age: False. They were required to serve in the military and live in the barracks until they were 30, but they could still--and were expected to--marry during this time; they just couldn't live with their wives for an extended period of time until they finished their residence in the barracks.

Women had the honor of getting their names on graves if they died in childbirth: True. This is mentioned in the book Spartan Society, which quotes Plutarch: "On the gravestones it was forbidden to write the names of the dead, except in the case of men who had died in war and of women who had died in childbirth." However, from what I understand, this meaning is disputed by some, and "childbirth" could be better translated as "sacred office," introducing some ambiguity to the account. Nevertheless, the former meaning is generally accepted. (Brulé and Piolot 152-153)

In conclusion, though I've not found it put quite so colorfully as on tumblr, Sparta indeed rocked women's rights. This website has some more cool facts--the good and the bad--about women in Sparta that seem to agree with my research. (I also borrowed a book about Athenian woman, but that's another question.) For now I must admit, Sparta, that you win this battle. Until next time.

-Owlet of Athens

Brulé, Pierre and Laurent Piolot. "Women's Way of Death: Fatal Childbirth or Heirai?: Commemorative Stones at Sparta and Plutarch, Lycurgus 27.3." Spartan Society. Ed. Thomas J. Figuiera. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2004. 151-178. Print.

Hodkinson, Stephen. "Female Property Ownership and Empowerment in Classical and Hellenistic Sparta." Spartan Society. Ed. Thomas J. Figueira. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2004. 103-136. Print.

Oliva, Pavel. Sparta and her Social Problems. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1971. Print.

Pomeroy, Sarah B. Spartan Women. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Question #72100 posted on 04/16/2013 10:16 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I grew up on the East coast, met a boy at BYU, and followed him to the Midwest. It looks like things aren't going to work out with this boy, so I'm starting to look at other options. Growing up I had zero interest in the West coast, but lately I've had this desire to move to Los Angeles and give California a try. I've never even been to California (the farthest west I've been is Las Vegas), so I don't know where this idea is coming from - maybe a desire to be as far away as possible from everyone I know because I'm embarrassed? Anyway, what can you tell me about LA? My idea is that it's warm, it's near the beach, it's expensive, and there's a lot of traffic. I'm pretty informed, right? What areas are considered LA and what areas are the suburbs? What are the good and bad parts of town? What are the wards like? What are some good radio stations? What are some realistic rent expectations if I want a dishwasher and washer/dryer (or at least hookups)? How's the public transportation? Should I even have a car?

I recognize this is a really big question and I know you probably won't be able to tell me everything, but anything is better than what I know right now!

-Mover and shaker


Dear Mover and shaker,

You have come to the right place. I will encourage everybody to spend time in LA for at least a short time in their life. It's a great city. There's a lot to say about it though—I don't really know where to start. So I'm just going to randomly list all the information I want to share; there's no way to organize it sanely. Here goes.

Anyway, what can you tell me about LA? 

LA is exactly what you think it is. It's a laid-back city. It's warm. There is an inordinate amount of attractive people (mainly aspiring actors who will wait tables for the rest of their lives). Almost everybody surfs; everybody is tan. If you don't recycle, you will be cast out. You bring your own canvas bags. Along the same lines, there are WAY too many Priuses, and you'll meet more gluten-free, vegan people than you'd ever believe existed.

But there's always something to do. Whether you're in Downtown, the Beach Cities, the West Side, or the Valley, there are parties, concerts, art walks, comedy shows, and anything else you can think of. There are just so many different cultures thrown together, it's turned into it's own unique culture. The Mexican food is sublime (get salsa from El Tarasco's—you won't regret it). You can follow your favorite food trucks around the city. You are expected to love Pinkberry. You can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day. It sounds cliché, but you can run into celebrities anywhere (my mom once met Lamar Odom at Target; I've driven down Lincoln next to Chris Paul—I have so many other non-basketball examples). Earthquakes are fun, not something to be feared. You are expected to be an LA-sports fan. You can choose between the Lakers and Clippers, the Dodgers and Angels, what matters is the LA unity. You will be in the minority because you (probably) don't smoke pot, medicinal or not. When people talk about Rainbows, they are not looking in the sky. You should seek out bacon-wrapped hot dogs from street vendors. LA has the greatest radio stations. Even the tourist attractions can be great—spend time at LA Live and 3rd St. Promenade. I could write a whole answer about how great the Troubadour, the Knitting Factory, and other small venues in the city are. Go to Roscoe's and get chicken and waffles. You can find a specialized bakery for ANY type of pastry. Walk two blocks in any direction and you will find a Starbucks. People legitimately get this excited about freeways. On the same note, although Angelenos may talk about freeways and directions a lot, the accents in "The Californians" is TOTALLY FABRICATED (their outfits though? Spot on). Don't stop at a stop sign; do the California Roll. Movies cost upward of $14. It is illegal to talk on the phone while driving. Natives judge others by their area code. This is for real.

Businessmen work in Downtown or Brentwood; struggling artists chill in Silverlake and East Hollywood; West Hollywood is the most well-known and accessible for tourists, and Hollywood is totally upscale—where you're most likely to get rejected from clubs. The Westside is a less-pretentious version of West Hollywood, but with a more beachy vibe. The Valley is exactly what Clueless makes it out to be. 

My friend showed me this blog post last summer; it's a few handy tips from a Mormon girl who moved to LA last year.

What areas are considered LA and what areas are the suburbs?

Unlike New York City, there's no universally-accepted definition of where the city ends and the suburbs start. This makes it awesome. There are multiple cities—Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Downtown, Venice Beach, Silverlake—that all consider themselves the true "Los Angeles." And because many cities that are not called Los Angeles—Westchester, Compton, Beverly Hills, North Hollywood—use LA in their address, the issue is even more confusing. 

My idea is that it's warm, it's near the beach, it's expensive, and there's a lot of traffic. I'm pretty informed, right? 

Your assumptions about LA are stereotypically true. The weather is almost always perfect; the beach is so close (depending on where you are in the city—many people from Pasadena claim to be from LA, but the beach is almost an hour away); it can be very expensive; traffic can be terrible. But there are ways to avoid crazy-expensive rent and most of the traffic. 

What are the good and bad parts of town?

Listen to the rappers—stay away from Compton; Inglewood is usually up to no good. The Beach Cities—Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo—are pretty safe. A common thing people say is that if you stay West of the 405, you'll be fine. But the valley is safe too, and it's gaining in popularity with people in their twenties and thirties. I worked in Echo Park last summer, and it was a great corner of LA I'd never experienced before. Also, even though I'd always assumed Downtown was pure ghetto, there are some really hip, upscale places there. I actually really fell in love with Downtown last summer.

But, really, you just have to be smart. I've spent time in Compton (technically I just went to court there, but during the day it's really not that frightening), Inglewood, Southwest LA, and Watts, and I'm alive. As long as you're not moving to a place where there are shootings on a regular basis, you'll be fine. I wouldn't recommend looking for an apartment in any of those cities, but you don't have to avoid them completely.

What are the wards like?

I can't speak for every ward in the greater LA area, but all the wards I've been a part of—three total—are great, especially the singles wards. Each stake has one singles ward, and they're party places. There are very few students; the wards are mostly composed of young professionals.

What are some good radio stations?

  • The World-famous KROQ 106.7 - The greatest radio station in the world
  • Star 98.7 - In between top 40 and alternative
  • Power 106 (actually on 105.9) - The best hip-hop station in the world
  • Amp Radio 97.1 - Top 40
  • 102.7 KIIS FM - Top 40
  • 104.3 MyFM - Random assortment of everything, but with an inordinate amount of No Doubt
  • Kost 103.5 - "Soft rock with less talk"
  • 95.5 - Classic Rock
  • 93.1 Jack FM 
  • Go Country 105.1 
  • KFrog 95.1 - Country
  • KEarth 101.1 - Oldies

What are some realistic rent expectations if I want a dishwasher and washer/dryer (or at least hookups)?

This really depends where you're going to live in the city. If you're searching for an apartment in Brentwood, you'll be paying between $1,500 and $2,000 a month. However, if you live with (at least) one roommate in a less-expensive part of the city, you can find places for as low as $500. Also, if you know the general area you want to move to, contact the singles ward's bishop. Each ward has a housing specialist who can seriously help you out.

How's the public transportation? Should I even have a car?

Public transportation is terrible. You need a car. And more importantly, you need to learn the freeways. In Downtown alone, there's the 10, the 110, and the 101. And that's just the very very beginning. 

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I love Los Angeles. If you have specific questions or just want to know the best food trucks to follow around, shoot me an email: ace(at)theboard(dot)byu(dot)edu.


Question #71992 posted on 04/11/2013 4:04 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Would one of our programming savvy writers (or one with lots of time on their hands, I suppose) make a graph of how many editor's choice questions there have been weekly since the beginning of time?

You know, I always hesitate to start my questions with "Will you," "Can you," "Would you," etc. because I'm afraid that I'll just get some smart alec that says "Yes." and leaves it at that. But I also hesitate to make it say "Please make a..." for fear of having some smart alec not answer my non-question.

-Giovanni Schwartz, who hardly asks questions under this 'nym anymore. But he's still around. Oh, is he still around.


Dear Gio,

Here you go. The system of excellent responses started in mid-2005, as a way for editors to mark responses that they thought were especially good examples of the best of the Board. The Board was going through a bit of a crisis at that point with sponsorship, and they wanted an easy way to point out good answers to sponsors. Thus, the first week or two an absurdly high percentage (over 30%!) were marked excellent. In order to better show the remaining data, I cut off that spike.


However, the data is still pretty noisy, so I also checked the results if you average over a month instead (keeping the y-axis the same).


And what about years?


I didn't do any statistical analysis, but it looks to me that despite considerable variability on a weekly or monthly time scale, when looked at a year at a time, the percentage of responses marked excellent has been remarkably stable for the last few years, holding pretty steady around 1%.

—Laser Jock

Question #71983 posted on 04/11/2013 3:10 p.m.

Dear Readers of the 100 Hour Board,

So, this might be a little unconventional, but this is the week for unconventionality, is it not? I made a call today for a question and it got me thinking ... how many of you readers have been contacted by a Board writer for help with a question? I really sometimes wonder how often the people I talk to are totally clueless as to what the Board is, or if I'm talking to a reader and just don't know it. Every once in awhile, the Board gets a comment or a question from someone who has helped us answer a question, but I'd like to put it out there for everyone. Just post a comment to answer my question if you have.



Dear Olympus,

Your question was the perfect impetus for a Board reader survey! That being said: HEY READERS, if you still want to comment about your experience, DO IT!

Okay, on to the results. 61 people responded in all. Here are the results.

Question 1: Has a writer ever contacted you for help on a question? 


Question 2: Did you know the writer in real life? 


Apparently I left out options for things like "we are/were roommates," or "(s)he is/was my significant other," or even "I used to be a writer." Ah well!

Question 3: How were you contacted?


Two people responded that they lived with the writers, and one said they met at a party.

Question 4: How many times have you helped with a question?


Question 5 asked what the subject of the question was that the readers helped with. Google Docs died a little when trying to make a graph of those results, so I'll just present them here sans graph. 

Readers have helped with questions of the following categories (at least!): Advertising (1%), Art (1%), Business (3%), BYU-related issues (6%), Cartoons (2%), College/University (8%), Computers (2%), Dances (1%), Education (3%), Electronics/Technology (2%), Entertainment (1%), Environment/Nature (2%), Ethics (1%), Famous People (1%), Fashion/Style (2%), Food & Drink (4%), General Reference (1%), Health (7%), Hypotheticals (2%), LDS-related issues (6%), Legal (law) (1%), Literature (2%), Medical/Body (1%), Money/Finance (3%), Music (3%), Periodicals (1%), Questions about Girls (1%), Questions about Guys (1%), Random (4%), Recreation (1%), Relationships (6%), Religion (2%), Science (2%), Self Improvement (2%), Statistics (1%), Telephones (1%), Travel (1%), Trivia/Riddles (1%), United States (1%), Utah (2%), Writing/Publishing (1%).  

So, BYU-related issues, College/University, Health, and Relationships were the topics most commonly helped with. But clearly we have a lot of variation in reader expertise!

Question 6: Did you know you were being asked a question for the Board?


Finally, for Question 7 they were asked if they had anything else (especially funny stories, if applicable) to share and they totally did! Answers from our lovely readers:

  • I love you guys.
  • Not hilarious, but it confirmed my suspicion that the board writer was who I thought.
  • it's never happened to me, maybe later.....
  • Not exactly hilarious- just amusing. I got my application the same day a question that I helped with got posted. I was freaking out over FB, getting so excited, "IT'S HERE [YAYFULNESS]! IT'S HERE!", and yay thought I was just on a sugar high or something- it was weeks later when he realized that I was freaking out about the app, not the question-I was excited about that too, though!
  • I dreamed about it once.....it was glorious.
  • Somehow the writer knew I was on the track team (it was a track question) and I had no idea how they knew other than omniscience...but it turned out later that my sister had been dating a different board writer, and that's how they knew to ask me. 
  • This board writer shared a specific question with me because it reminded her of me. She then told a story about an incident that happened between us and used it as part of her answer. Turns out, the questioner was me all along!*
  • I haven't been asked for help on a Board question, but I've still been involved in several answers. For example, Eliot's experience in 68510. Having a stranger stay at my house might have been dangerous, but now we're real-life friends, so it was definitely worth the risk! -Glad he didn't go in for the kiss!
  • One time I told my whole premarital class experience and it wasn't really even related to the question. Yum.
  • Hobbes and Tangerine used to come to my office for Board questions. Once I told them I read the board, and that I thought I knew which writers they were. And that's how I learned how to scare a couple of board writers. 
  • I only help writers so I may one day have abs like unto the Quinn. 

Thanks everyone! And once again, if you have further comments you can comment with a comment!

-Mico, maker of surveys

*I always wondered if that happened when I was a writer!

posted on 05/07/2013 2:02 p.m.
Dear Olympus,

Once upon a time I was roommates with the beautiful Miss Scarlet, so I got to go on her epic adventure mentioned in Question Board Question #52963. I will attest that it was quite epic.

While I may not have appreciated it fully at the time (for this also was my introduction to the Board as a whole), I definitely feel cool now, knowing I helped (albeit minimally) with the construction of an Editor's Choice answer. =)

Question #71972 posted on 04/11/2013 3:10 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I have decided that someday I want to own a home that's literally across the street from the temple. Owning a home in a location like this would be very beneficial to my goal to attend the temple regularly. How much would the property of a location like this cost? What is an estimate of an average home in a location like that?

-Spiritually motivated


Dear spiritually motivated,

I'm obsessed with housing prices these days (this is what you get when you want to buy a house in one of the more expensive parts of the country!), so I decided to dig into some of the research here and find how much a property like that would actually cost. Now, you didn't specify which temple, so, just in case, I'll give you an idea of the prices for all the temples in the U.S. (I would have liked to include international temples as well, but it's much harder to find data on housing prices in, say, Ghana; my apologies.)

So let's start with some basic parameters I used for the data. There are currently 68 open and operating temples in the U.S., with another 12 announced or under construction (at least at time of writing, and at least if I counted right). For our purposes here, I exempted temples that are only under construction, since housing prices may vary after the temple is constructed (particularly if Lexi Khan's friend is right and temples are good for neighborhood house values). I also exempted the Salt Lake City and Gila Valley, Arizona temples, because both are built in locations with no houses directly across the street.

Now, about "across the street": availability of online real estate data varies by location, as does availability of houses for sale literally across the street from a temple. Likewise, while a house directly across the street from the temple might satisfy your needs for location, location, location, it might not satisfy your actual housing needs, while a house elsewhere in the immediate neighborhood might satisfy both. To try to solve these problem, as well as to standardize the data, I opted to use each temple's zip code rather than their actual address to find price data.

(A caveat about zip codes as a proxy for "across the street": actual area of zip codes varies quite a bit, from a single building to 1,000 square miles. In this sample, the average area for a zip code was 88.9 square miles, though if I removed the two largest outliers (Monticello, UT and Vernal, UT) the average was 48.4 square miles. The median was 22.6 square miles. Both of these areas are larger than "literally across the street," but many of the zip codes in the sample were only 5-10 square miles, and hopefully it should still be enough to give you an idea of typical house prices in those areas while still being a simple and standardized way to get the data.)

Now, on to the actual prices. I used zillow.com to find the median list price for houses in the zip code of 66 out of the 68 operating temples (again, exempting SLC and Gila Valley). zillow.com uses the median rather than the average because if it used the average a single very expensive or very cheap house could dramatically skew the overall picture of the neighborhood. [Another quick methodological caveat: using the median sale price would have been more accurate, but zillow.com didn't have that data for all the zip codes used and I wanted to be as consistent as possible.] Using the median list price for the zip code, the 5 most expensive temple areas and their house prices were:

  1. Manhattan, New York: $1,475,000
  2. Newport Beach, California: $1,450,000
  3. Boston, Massachusetts (Belmont): $689,000
  4. Los Angeles, California: $579,800
  5. Oakland, California: $569,000

No surprises there, really; those are all major metropolitan areas, which tends to make land values expensive, and those are all fairly urban temples (i.e. set right in the middle or very close to the very expensive cities). The Los Angeles and Oakland temples are older, built when land values were probably not so exorbitant in their areas, but the Manhattan, Newport Beach, and Boston temples are much newer (all in the early or mid-2000s). Those crazy real estate values are also why the Manhattan temple is simply floors within another building, not its own stand-alone building, since space is at a premium in Manhattan.

While we're on the subject of space, let's look at the data another way: price per square foot. This is a common way to standardize discussions of real estate values, since size and type of homes also vary widely across the country; in some areas, the house across the street from the temple is likely to be a 3 or 4-bedroom stand-alone single family residence with spacious backyard, while in other areas (such as Manhattan) it's likely to be an apartment. Evaluating by price per square foot, rather than just by the price of the home, tells you roughly what you're getting for the price. Here are the top 5 most expensive temple zip codes by median price per square foot:

  1. Manhattan, New York: $1,438
  2. Newport Beach, California: $571
  3. Los Angeles, California: $411
  4. Boston, Massachusetts (Belmont): $366
  5. Oakland, California: $363

Also unsurprisingly, it's the same 5 temples. Notice, though, that while the absolute house prices near the Manhattan and Newport Beach temples are similar, the price per square foot is much higher for the Manhattan temple, indicating you'd be getting a 2.5x larger house for the price in Newport Beach. (You'd also be getting much better weather and a view of the beach!) The order of the L.A. and Boston temples is also switched, meaning you'd be getting a larger house in Belmont, MA (the town where the temple is located) than in L.A. The price per square foot for the Boston and Oakland temples is also very similar, while the median actual prices are more than $100k higher in Belmont, so again, you'd be getting a larger house in Belmont than in Oakland. (Again, these are just medians, but having grown up in Belmont, MA and currently living in Oakland, CA, I can attest that Belmont, a posh suburb, tends to have much larger houses than Oakland, where many of the houses were built in the early 20th century and you're hard-pressed to find anything over 3 bedrooms.)

This is fun. Assuming you're not a millionaire, though, let's take a look at some of the more affordable temples. The top 5 cheapest temple zip codes, sorted by median home price, are:

  1. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): $70,000
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada: $78,000
  3. Columbus, Ohio: $89,600
  4. Columbia, South Carolina (Hopkins): $93,000
  5. Palmyra, New York: $94,900

It might surprise you that the Las Vegas temple area would be the #2 cheapest (it did me), but that's in part due to the effects of the housing crash, since the Las Vegas area was one of the hardest hit in the U.S. (I'm sure there are some other factors, too; I don't know the area well, so some of it may be the specific neighborhood where the temple is located, but I can't say for sure.)

Slicing the cheapest list by median list price per square foot, we see some different areas appearing on the list:

  1. Kansas City, Missouri: $57
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada: $59
  3. Columbia, South Carolina (Hopkins): $64
  4. Idaho Falls, Idaho: $66
  5. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): $67

The median list price of houses in the Kansas City zip code is $95,000, just off the top-5 cheapest list prices, but apparently those houses are bigger than Omaha's; same story for Idaho Falls. All this talk of house size got me curious: which temple zip codes are likely to have the largest median houses (calculated by dividing the median list price by the median price per square foot)? Here are the top 5:

  1. San Antonio, Texas: 3,211 sq ft
  2. South Jordan, Utah (home to the Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples) : 2,969 sq ft
  3. Columbia River, Washington (Richland): 2,900 sq ft
  4. Houston, Texas: 2,844 sq ft
  5. Draper, Utah: 2,776 sq ft

I guess what they is true: everything is bigger in Texas, and if you want space, go to Utah. And the places with the (likely, median) smallest houses?

  1. Manhattan, New York: 1,025 sq ft
  2. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): 1,044 sq ft
  3. Detroit, Michigan (Bloomfield Hills): 1,270 sq ft
  4. Brigham City, Utah: 1,277 sq ft
  5. Columbus, Ohio: 1,298 sq ft

Manhattan is there for obvious reasons, but I'm not sure about the others, whether that's actually representative of the size of houses in those areas or whether there's some fluke going on with the zillow.com data (which is based only houses for sale recently, so maybe there's some bias in the type and size of home currently being put up for sale). It could also be that the these temples are built in more urban or older areas, which tend to have smaller homes than newer suburbs. (I don't know the Winter Quarters or Omaha areas at all, but from Google Maps it looked like the houses immediately around the temple were older and smaller, and a little bird tells me the neighborhood isn't the best, though the zip code itself is fairly large (67 sq miles) and appears to cover most of Omaha, which should have evened out the neighborhood effects a little bit.)

If you're interested in playing around with this more or looking for a specific temple's data, I put my full spreadsheet online here. Have fun.  Lastly, just in case you only meant the Provo temple and you've been incredibly bored with the data about all these other temples, you can look at current Provo real estate prices here. There aren't any houses for sale across the street from the temple (in any direction) right now, but you can get some houses fairly close (within a block or two) for $250k (4 bed, 2 bath, 2,736 sq ft) or $370k (6 bed, 3 bath, 3,997 sq ft). And I must just have my Oakland real estate goggles on, because, wow those are cheap.


P.S.: Thanks to Katya, who stepped in and provided some key info about where to look up the size of zip codes.

posted on 05/07/2013 1:57 p.m.
To help with Petra's excellent research about the temples-- I can add some info about the Detroit temple. Bloomfield Hills is a really expensive area to live in and the temple's kind of smashed sideways into a residential area. The houses there are fairly small because they're more expensive, although the further you go in Bloomfield Hills, the huger the houses get. And the Detroit temple is really not in Detroit at all. Good thing , too. If the questioner wanted to live across from a temple, Bloomfield Hills would not be a bad place, especially since the recession hit Michigan bad and house prices have halved.

-Grilled Cheese
Question #71911 posted on 04/08/2013 10:10 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Can you make some kind of bar graph or chart or something for all the categories on the Board? Like, how many questions for each category are there on the Board? Including the questions with more than one category. And if that's too much work then don't worry about it. But seriously that would be really fantastic if you did! Thanks!

-The Internaut


Dear Internaut,

I did some hunting around to try to figure out what the best way to visualize the categories might be. The thing that makes it tricky is that (a) there are a lot of them (over 240), so a basic bar chart or pie graph isn't a great option, and (b) they're hierarchical, meaning that we have not just categories but subcategories, sub-subcategories, and so forth. However, after a while of researching I eventually stumbled across the idea of a Voronoi treemap [PDF], which looked ideal.

I had a fair bit of programming to do; I had to (a) get the information I needed about the categories, (b) actually use the the Java library I found for creating Voronoi treemaps [1], which is great but needs a program built around it, and (c) figure out how to use D3.js (a great JavaScript graphics library). I assigned colors for all of the groups of categories that had subcategories, and the deeper the subcategory, the lighter the shade. Top-level categories with no children are all just cream colored. (I also did the coloring manually, since I figured that for a small graph that was easier than implementing a coloring algorithm.)

Anyway, here you go! Due to some restrictions of the Board's current design I wasn't able to include an interactive version directly, but click on the image below to get a version with way more information: you can hover over each category to see its name and how many questions have that category. (Alas, it won't work with Internet Explorer 8 and below, but it will with pretty much anything else, including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. You can also use an iPhone or newer Android; just touch a category to bring up the information, instead of hovering.)

Click the image and enjoy!

—Laser Jock


[1] Arlind Nocaj, Ulrik Brandes, "Computing Voronoi Treemaps: Faster, Simpler, and Resolution-independent", Computer Graphics Forum, vol. 31, no. 3, June 2012, pp. 855-864

Question #71887 posted on 04/06/2013 10:40 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The online version of the 100 Hour Board turns fifteen this year.

How has the Board changed since you first became involved with it?

In what ways do you think the Board will have changed in the next ten years?

What do you hope for the Board?

--Ardilla Feroz


Dear Ardilla Feroz,

What a great question! And loaded too. There are quite a few questions like yours and probably the best place to start would be to search the archives.

You were totally waiting for that answer, weren't you?

I was at BYU in 1999 when the Board was in its infancy. So I've seen the thing go from the stone age all the way through the later versions of the Board. This current version is past my day but it's nice and still functioning and as long as nobody has to go and manually put HTML code around Board answers to be published online then the world is a great place. 

I have way too many memories. And don't ask why I still have photos like these (I'm kind of a sentimental geek so I'll save you the time), but I have past images of Board UI! Once upon a time the Archives looked like this... (eww)

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.09 PM.png

And the Ask a Question page looked like this...

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.31 PM.png

And then we decided to kill the Board and do an amazing new version before Christmas 2004, and Fractile had a little bit of fun with it...

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.18 PM.png

(The inception thing was a joke; yes we know how to properly use that word.)

And here is an example of byte cancer (I laughed so hard at all of these, but this is just an example of the page totally screwed up):

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.13.30 PM.png

Have you check out the Board history? There's a lot of interesting stuff in there about the Board's past too. And not just mine.

My hope is that the Board will continue but that the writers will improve their writing and come back to the Board as it once was, people who loved answering questions for the love of writing and researching. I'll always love the Board because of my history with it, but the Board is only as good as its readers, and therefore its writers—else there be no readers. 



Question #71881 posted on 04/30/2013 11:16 a.m.

Dear Lady Christina de Souza,

It's the day after Easter, which means I'm sure you have mounds of Easter candy lying around. Like Peeps.

I personally hate Peeps, so I like to do strange things with them.

How many Peeps can you eat in 3 minutes?

What's the most fun you've had Peep jousting? (Pictures are great.)

What other weird things have you done/will do with Peeps?

-Tally M.


Dear Cinnamon,

I actually was not given any Peeps for Easter, much to my dismay. My sister hates them (I usually ate hers every year -- after I stole them from her because she doesn't like candy but, more than that, hates sharing, so she'd stash everything under her bed and I would slowly steal it all when she wasn't home, but that's neither here nor there), so her kids didn't get any, either. That meant I had to buy my own.

Fortunately, Peeps are just the garnish called for in NPR's new and sugary drink called The Bloomberg: the sugariest drink in the world! I love NPR and my office used to do what we called "Culture Days" where we would bring in different foods to share, but we haven't done that in years. I decided The Bloomberg was the perfect opportunity to resurrect this office tradition. Let me get you the original drink ingredients and I'll note where we made some substitutions:


1 part Coca-Cola

1 part Yoo-hoo [We just used Nesquik chocolate milk]

1 part Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino [We used Starbucks Vanilla Syrup]

1 part Red Bull

1 part Mountain Dew Kickstart, Mountain Dew's inexplicable new energy drink

1 part Pillsbury Funfetti cake frosting [We picked the pink color/flavor -- do they have flavors? It all tastes like sugar]

1 part Marshmallow Fluff

1 part Hummingbird Food (We actually couldn't find any, due to supply chain issues and a Divine Force protecting us.) [We did not add this, but put in extra sugar to make up for it]

1 part Mrs. Butterworth's pancake syrup

1 part aerosol whipped cream

1 part Kool-Aid [we weren't sure what kind of Kool-Aid, so we did the little bottled kind and a packet of the dry kind, just to be safe]

1 part Cadbury Creme Egg creme (You'll have to extract the creme yourself, because for some reason they don't yet sell it on its own. If you're trying to eat healthy, just use the Cadbury Creme Egg white.) [We put the whole thing in because, hey, why not?]

1 part Nutella

1 part sugar

1 part Country Time Lemonade Mix

1 part Gatorade (for fitness!)


Serve in a glass with a sugar rim. Garnish with whipped cream, a stick of Big Red gum and a Marshmallow Peep [I also got the coconut-covered marshmallows for those who don't like Peeps, because for some reason those people exist]. Be careful not to cry directly into the glass, as the salt of your tears will ruin the taste. [While we did not rim the glass (in actuality, it was a plastic cup) with sugar, we did add sprinkles, and, to be awesome, pop rocks to the garnishing]

As you add the ingredients one by one, you'll notice the colors are constantly changing, like a sunset.


When you first read the ingredients you kind of think, "Hmm, that's probably pretty gross," but when you actually gather all the ingredients together (yes, all this for one drink!), you realize just how truly disgusting it really is.

The most fascinating thing is it really DOES change color like a sunset. It almost looks like a milk shake but with the consistency of maybe a milk shake that's separated into a watery part with a few floating chunks.

First, my roommate came by and, using her blender in my boss's office, we mixed up the drink.


This is us at the beginning of mixing. So far we've added Coke, Kool-aid, chocolate milk, Nutella and the pink frosting.


The adorable finished product with its whipped cream, Peep, Pop Rocks, sprinkle, Big Red garnish.

A few of the reactions we got were:

"It tastes like something my kids would make for me." or "It's like a kids cereal but in liquid form."

My boss thought it wasn't too bad, he even had seconds.

"I think the Kool-Aid is a little too strong? Maybe if it had more Nutella?"

"This is nasty? Someone seriously finished it?"

"It's like a Mexican soft drink."

Most of the "comments," however, came in the form of dry heaving.


My brave roommate trying it. It's really not even a good texture. It's just all-over gross.


My suddenly less-brave roommate looking for somewhere to spit it out.


C4 gagging on it.


The coworker who said her kids had fed her worse. She and my boss are the only two to actually finish the drink. The rest of us just threw ours away. What surprised me the most, however, was how many coworkers we actually got to try it (and I read them the recipe list beforehand). Peer pressure is clearly the most effective way to make things happen.

Pilgrim mentioned, but the Krispy Kreme brownies would have complimented this swimmingly -- but only based on the fact that they both were filled with sugar and made everyone who ate them sick for the rest of the day.

And then, because neither my roommate or I drink soda, let alone soda with caffeine, my boss, another coworker, Roommate and I decided to do shots of a Coke/Mountain Dew/Red Bull mixture. Which was...way better than The Bloomberg. It reminded me of the Coke factory where you can try The World of Coca-Cola drink trey with drinks from all these different countries.

I threw all the leftover ingredients away (I saved the chocolate milk for a few days because I love chocolate milk, but every time I looked at it, I'd get sick at the memory, so that went, too) and just ate the Peeps, which is what I should have done to start with. Peeps are perfect the way they are, they don't need dressing up.

Also, Roommate and I spent the rest of the day being nauseous and jittery. It was great.

-Marguerite St. Just


Dear Tally,

Does this sound like an opportunity to have fun to you? Because it sure does to me.


Peeps one through ten. Let the experiments commence.

We decided to sacrifice the first peep to a blender.


The result was actually kind of unanticipated--a blended peep loses a LOT of its volume.


Here's another view.


And then we made it into a smoothie.


The finished product.


We kept it small, just in case it was nasty, but it actually ended up being pretty good. The nasty flavor of the peep was overwhelmed by the other ingredients, so it mostly just added a bit of texture. I could see myself eating it again.


Thus ends peep #1.

Peep #2 was destined for a similarly gruesome fate.


However, it was too sticky for the grater to actually shred it, and it basically just got mashed instead.


Peep #3 was sent to the frying pan.


While the pan was warming up, peep #4 met its doom.


And, I should note, I almost did too.


It's really a shame that my facial expressions can't be expressed with a paper bag. That was truly nasty.

Now, back to the fried peep.


Add heat to a peep, and it grows.


And grows.


And grows.


As soon as we took it off the heat, it shrank back down to a fraction of its original size.


Despite the nasty appearance and the coating of olive oil, it was actually kind of tolerable. Fairly caramelized.

And now peep #5 makes its appearance.


It shall go the way of the egg.


Doesn't this look painful?


Here are the results.


The pieces were separated and sent out as warnings to all other potentially rebellious peeps.


Having made an example of peep #5, we then turned our attention to peep #6.


For being so sensitive to heat, this peep proved remarkably hard to burn.


Multiple attempts left it match-riddled but largely unscorched...


...until we finally gave in and broke out the hairspray.


It still only partly burned, but we called it good.

Peep #7 was sentenced to death by crushing.


And duly executed.


But it only sort of worked.


He inflated almost halfway up again after we took off the pressure.


So, being pragmatists, we just cut it in half.


Peeps #8 and 9 were sent to the jousting arena.


We didn't have toothpicks, so we used two tines of a fork instead.


The goal of peep jousting is for one peep to stab the other with its weapon.


My money's on the one-eyed peep.


And the winner is...


The one-eyed peep! Let's get a closer look.


This left only peep #10.


And we were out of ideas, so I just stabbed it.


And displayed the carcass.


There you have it! Ten peeps, slaughtered for your enjoyment. I hope you had fun. We certainly did.

-yayfulness and Saint Seb

Question #71841 posted on 04/07/2013 8:34 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I am the asker of Board Question #58033. I LOVED reading Dragon Lady's answer, especially the updated style of storytelling and the easy to understand explanations of Jewish customs. Since this weekend is temporarily bringing back some of the retired writers, I was hoping she would be available to tell another bible story (or several!). I don't have a particular story in mind, though.

So, Dragon Lady...if you're there, would you tell me some more of your favorite Old Testament stories in your own special style??

-me again


Dear me again ~

You definitely just made my week.  Thanks!  When I was at the Jerusalem Center, I used to help people study (we had to know pretty much every name in the Old Testament.  Not even kidding) by telling the stories in modern terms.  It helped that I would tell one person who would spread it, and then others would come ask me, and I would end up telling the same story 3-5 times.  By the time I got home I had grand dreams of writing a book of Bible stories in modern-day language.  But then I realized how much pressure there would be to get things correct, and really, I'm not much of a true Biblical scholar.  I know more than most, but not enough to be considered an expert by any means.  So that dream faded.  So thank you for giving me the chance to do this again.

I debated and debated what story to tell.  My first choice is Tamar in Genesis 38.  When you read that chapter, you leave horrified, wondering how in the world you are ever going to explain that chapter to your children in family scripture study.  Should you just skip it?  You don't even really understand it yourself.  But there is a purpose to it.  I wrote an exegesis on it my last semester of school.  But if you follow the links through the question you linked to, you can actually get to said exegesis.  Would it then be a cop out to write about it?  But it's definitely the scripture story I know best and can tell you the most culture about.  And I love teaching people the principles behind it.  Plus, who ever clicks through links?  (Also, I just realized that the permissions for it were set to private.  Oops.  So no one has read it yet anyway.  I've fixed that, though, so if you want to read the actual thing, you can.)  And lastly, it's written in more of a scholarly tone.  If you're looking for a friendly tone, I guess I'll just have to re-write it here.  [grins]

Ok, ok.  If you still think it's a cop out and want something different, I'll tell you another short one at the end.

Genesis 38: Judah and Tamar

You read the story I wrote up about Ruth, right?  If not, go read it. In the middle I sidetracked a little and talked about Matthew and how he's a man writing for men (err… Jew writing to Jews) and never talks about women.  Except that he's the one that lists women in his genealogy.  (Not Luke who is a gentile writing to gentiles and is the Gospel writer to include most of the stories we have about women.)  Why?  Because he's about to tell the story of the virgin birth, which he's pretty sure is going to be rejected and ridiculed as a woman breaking the Law of Moses.  So he starts by specifically pointing out three women in their genealogy who appear to break the Law of Moses, but are really bringing about God's will.  I already told you about Ruth, and honestly I've never studied Rahab (maybe I should do that someday?), so let's talk about Tamar.

When you read this chapter you probably read something like: Judah has a son who marries Tamar.  Son dies.  Next son marries Tamar.  He does something immoral that makes me squeamish and can we please not talk about it?  He dies.  Dad freaks out about all his son marrying Tamar dying, so he procrastinates letting his third and last son marry him.  He sends Tamar to her family and promises that when his son comes of age, he'll send for her.  He doesn't.  So she dresses up like a harlot and seduces him into sleeping with her (not knowing that it's Tamar) and gets pregnant.  He finds out she's pregnant out of wedlock and sends her to be killed until she reveals him as the father and he declares her to be righteous.  The end.

No wonder you're so confused.  How is that story supposed to be uplifting?  Why is in the scriptures?  What am I supposed to learn from this?  Sleeping with my father-in-law without his knowledge makes me more righteous than he?  Whaaaaat? Once again, knowing Jewish culture clears up a lot of confusion.  It fills in gaps.  So, let's start filling.

Judah, son of Jacob, leaves home and marries a Canaanite.  (Note: this is equivalent to marrying a non-member.) She bears him three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.  Er, being the oldest, gets the birthright of his father.  He carries on the family name, he gets twice the inheritance of any of his brothers, including job, land, house, etc.  Birthright is a big deal in Jewish culture.  Er marries Tamar (the heroine of our story) and before they have any children, he does something very wicked, so God kills him.  

Now we have a problem. Who gets the birthright?  If Er had had a son, the son would get it.  Without an heir, the birthright transfers down to the next son, Onan.  Guess which option Onan prefers. 

Unfortunately for Onan, the Law of the Levirate (which I talked about in the Ruth story) requires him to marry Tamar (even if he's already married to someone else!)  Any children he has with Tamar will be considered Er's children.  So if any of those children are male, Onan no longer gets the birthright, because Tamar's son with Onan is considered Er's son, and thus gets the birthright.  Guess how much Onan likes this option.

Well, as the Law demands, Onan marries Tamar.  Onan, however, does not want Tamar to bear any children that might potentially rip the birthright away from him.  It would be a drastic decrease in wealth and status.  And as you can probably tell, Judah isn't exactly raising his children to have strong standards.  Onan, being a selfish man, isn't about to not sleep with Tamar, though.  He's legally married to her and still wants the pleasure of sex.  So he decides to have the best of both worlds.  He sleeps with her, but then just before he ejaculates, he pulls out of her and lets all of his semen spill out.  Pleasure without responsibility.  Any guesses how God feels about Onan right now?  Yeah.  Not pleased.  Not pleased at all. One more of Judah's sons has now been killed for wickedness.

Judah and Shelah are now both freaking out a little.  Two sons/brothers have married Tamar and soon after, both have died.  (I'm guessing they don't know the details of the deaths, but even if they do, they don't seem the type to really believe in punishment for sin.  Plus, it's so much easier to blame the outsider, innocent that she may be, than your own family.)  If Judah lets Shelah marry Tamar (which the Law of the Levirate demands), and if tradition follows and Shelah dies, Judah is now left without an heir.  He would be shamed forever.  What kind of a man doesn't have an heir!?  Shelah is also scared to death.  He doesn't want to die!  Luckily for both of them, Shelah is still young.  So Judah tells Tamar that Shelah is simply too young for marriage.  "Why don't you go home to your parents? You'll be more comfortable there.  Let them take care of you.  I'll send for you when Shelah is older."  Of course, he doesn't.

Let's talk about the Law of the Levirate a little more.  Why is this even a law?  Clearly it just causes problems.  Why would God put a law into place that clearly causes contention?  Well sure, it causes contention if you only look at the men.  The men, who want to provide for their families and do so in the best way possible, want the birthright and they want to fight for it.  It's understandable.  But what about the women?  What happens to Tamar if Onan is allowed to just have the birthright?  Back in the day, women don't have very many rights on their own.  Tamar can't just go out and get a job.  She can't even go fall in love with another and get married.  For one, not many people would marry another man's wife.  They'd rather have someone "unspoiled."  For two, until she runs out of Er's kinsmen, she's still connected to that family.  (Though, that's only because of the Law of the Levirate.  So I fear we're getting into circular reasoning here… moving on.)

When a woman gets married, she becomes part of his family.  Judah now has more rights for Tamar than her own father does.  Sending her back to her own family is actually kind of a slap in the face.  Judah is responsible for taking care of her.  She, on her own, has no rights.  This may seem incredibly unfair and sexist, and maybe it is.  But ideally, God's chosen people are all family-oriented and wonderful, loving people, so they'll put their family first and take care of them.  Oh, there's a widow?  Let's help her out. Just like if we saw an orphan, we'd happily help them eat and sleep and have clothing and an education.  The Law of Moses includes several commands to take care of the widows.  This very-patriarchal system has a major flaw if the patriarch is removed.  So laws like the Law of the Levirate are in place, in part, to help the widows (and any possible female children she had with her first husband) have a husband to provide for them.

Also, remember how I said the birthright was a big deal?  Well, so is the firstborn.  The firstborn is very, very symbolic to Jews.  Well, and to Christians.  We know it's because Christ is the firstborn of God, so all of the firstborn symbology is representative of Him.  (The Jews don't yet realize that.  But they will.  Don't worry.  Ok, they realize it's symbolic of the Messiah.  They just don't realize that's Christ.)  The firstborn male of every female animal is sacrificed.  The firstborn male of every woman technically should be, following that law, but is instead replaced on the altar by an unblemished firstborn male animal.  (Because we don't want child sacrifices here.  That's against the Law of Moses.)  So ideally, the birthright should go to the firstborn male.  Not just because we're all male-chauvenist pigs in an archaic, backwoods culture, but because the firstborn male is symbolic of the Messiah.  Thus, while the second-born can have the birthright (because someone needs to), it's in place as a last resort.  Ideally it should go to the firstborn son any way possible, hence the Law of the Levirate.

Whew.  Got all that?  So, quick recap of Tamar's story: she marries Er who erred (haha.  I'm punny.  But actually, it's punny in Hebrew, too.) and is killed for his wickedness.  So she marries his brother, Onan, who wants sex without giving away his birthright, so he's also killed for his wickedness.  Instead of following the Law and giving Tamar his youngest son, Shelah, to marry, he sends her away until Shelah is old enough, with no intention of ever sending for her again.  Now we're caught up.

Tamar, remember has no rights.  She is living off the charity of her parents.  Imagine being a grown woman, widowed twice over because of the wickedness of your two husbands (who you probably were given no choice in marrying in the first place), then being forced to go live in your parents' basement until a child is old enough to marry you.  Oh, and you're not allowed to get a job.  You have to live off your parents' charity.  Even worse, you're only living on your parents' charity because your father-in-law, who is supposed to supplant your own father in love and responsibility, has decided he hates you and is scared to death of you and has sent you away.  Feeling bad for her yet?

So poor Tamar is stuck at home, waiting on the whims of her selfish father-in-law to give her any semblance of rights, and after years of waiting, realizes that Judah has no intentions of ever fulfilling his duties.  Not only is he leaving her in a hollow husk of a life, but he's denying her children.  She was supposed to be the wife of a birthright son.  She was supposed to raise children to continue on the family.  Perhaps she even loved Er and wanted to give him children.  She should still be given the chance to do so, but it has been denied to her repeatedly.  And given all of that time to do nothing but think, she probably also realized that, barring her death, Shelah will never be allowed to marry, and thus Judah's line is basically terminated.  Not only will she never have children, but her new extended family is basically at an end.  Maybe she's even heard the prophecy that the Messiah is supposed to come through Judah's line.  (I don't know if she had or not.  This is just speculation.)  And family is another big deal to the Jews.  Judah has effectively stripped almost everything of value from Tamar, temporally and spiritually.  And perhaps has doomed prophecy itself.  Yipes.

Tamar then realized that she can't wait on Judah to make the right decision.  She has to take matters into her own hands.  The plotting begins.

Meanwhile, Judah's wife dies.  Having little shame or self-respect (you can probably guess my opinion on Judah, can't you?) he waits out the prescribed mourning period, then moves on with life.  A flock of his sheep are being sheared in Timnah (which happens to be where Tamar resides (or near it), which probably explains how Tamar knew the family to begin with) and he decides to go with a friend*.  Tamar hears that Judah is coming and comes up with a plan.

Did you know that anciently, a woman's clothing was based on her station in life?  There were clothing for a maiden or unmarried woman/virgin (which, incidentally, is how Nephi probably new that Mary was a virgin when he saw her in his vision), for a married woman, for a widow, for a prostitute, etc.  It's like a way more complicated version of an engagement/wedding ring.

Tamar takes off her clothing of widowhood and dons the clothing and veil of a prostitute.  (Of course she wears a veil.  She doesn't want Judah to recognize her, after all.  In fact, what prostitute wants to be recognized?  Most of them are relegated to it because it's the only way available for a woman to make money.  If they have no husband, they have no way to provide for themselves outside of prostitution.  It's shaming.  And another reason people are supposed to take care of the needy! And proof that the people are being wicked and not taking care of the needy.)  She goes to the road where she knows Judah will be traveling, sets up her tent, and positions herself in an alluring manner.

Judah, upon seeing Tamar, is immediately tempted.  He has no wife, after all.  He wastes no time and propositions her to sleep with him.  She asks what he's willing to pay and he promises to send for a goat.  Uh huh.  Like a prostitute is going to accept promises.  So Tamar agrees, so long as he leaves collateral.  Deciding that's fair, Judah asks what she wants.  Oh, not much.  Just his seal, cord and staff.  Or, in modern terms, his signature, credit cards and driver's license. She basically asks for his identity. Clearly Judah is letting his lust talk, because he agrees to the deal and they go do their thing.  Judah leaves and goes on with life.  Tamar packs up and changes back to her widow's clothing, returning to her miserable life.  But her plan succeeded.  She conceived.

Judah finishes up his sheep business and heads home.  He sends his friend back to the prostitute with the promised goat and to receive his stuff.  Prostitutes generally set up camp in one place for awhile, because their best advertisement is word-of-mouth.  When the friend gets there, though, he can't find her.  And when he asks around, no one has any recollection of seeing a prostitute around.  She had just disappeared.  Judah considered his options and decided it was best to just let everything slide.  He could have a new seal, cord and staff be made, after all.  And, really, he had tried to pay her.  If she tried to demand more of him, he had witnesses to prove that he had, in fact, tried to pay.

Three months later, Tamar can no longer hide her pregnancy.  (Turns out, she's pregnant with twins.  Those show a lot sooner.) Word reaches Judah, who is furious.  How dare his daughter-in-law put such shame upon his family?!  As she is not married, she must have committed some form of adultery.  This looks very bad upon his name.  Hypocrite. Now, you remember how by being her father-in-law he has more rights over her than even her own father?  Well, he has the right to punish her for her adultery.  Do you know what the punishment is for adultery in the Law of Moses?  Death.  Seeing a way out of both the shame she shadowed him with and the inevitable marriage of her to his last son, he sentences her to burn to death.  Lovely man, wouldn't you say?

Tamar lets everything happen for awhile, she doesn't want him to be able to worm out of responsibility after all.  As she is being led to her death she sends Judah a message asking if he wanted to know who the father was.  Of course he did!  The more people he can put the blame on, the less shame is on him!  So she tells him, "Here's some stuff that belongs to the man who got me pregnant.  Perhaps you can recognize who they belong to."  And of course, they're his.  It doesn't say so, but I'm guessing there were witnesses to the whole event.  Executions and such had to be witnessed to be legal.

Ohhhhh.  Take that, Judah.

Finally Judah recognizes the hypocrisy of the whole situation.  In trying to preserve and protect his posterity and birthright, he denies the only chance of its fulfillment.  By so doing, he forced Tamar, who was also trying to preserve and protect his posterity and birthright, into desperate measures to circumvent the law in order to fulfill it.  And then he tries to punish her for taking those desperate measures, when he does the exact same thing, but for pleasure instead of for righteous reasons.  At that point, he had no choice but to revoke her death penalty (had he carried through with it, he would have had to sentence himself to death as well anyway) and to admit that she was more righteous than he.

We don't know if she ever married Shelah.  We do know that Judah never slept with her again, though.  She later gave birth to twin boys, though, so she was no longer left helpless and penniless.  She was now the mother of the birthright (grand)son and could take possession of the birthright in his name until he was old enough to claim it for himself.  And it was through her line that Christ was born, as told by Matthew hundreds (thousands?) of years later.


*or his shepherd.  The consonants are the same in Hebrew for a long time the text had no written vowels.  It wasn't until Hebrew stopped being a commonly spoken language that the Massoretes decided to add the vowels to the written text, so it's possible that it got voweled wrong.  And really, I think 'shepherd' makes more sense here.  Is it more likely that Judah would go to a sheep shearing with his friend or his shepherd?


2 Kings 2: Go up, thou bald head

Ok, you think telling that story was a cop out?  Ok.  I'll tell you another, much shorter (though probably not short) story to clarify another oft-misunderstood (yet morbidly funny) scripture.

You read: Elijah has been the prophet for awhile, but God decides to twinkle him and makes Elisha the prophet in his stead.  Elisha, newly-anointed, starts making the rounds.  He gets to Jericho and the people complain to him that the water is gone and the ground is barren and they're all going to die.  Would he kindly help them?  So he tells them to bring him a new bowl full of salt, which they do, and he throws the salt into the spring and the water was healed and the land saved.  Hooray!  And then as he left and went to Beth-el, some spoiled little kids come out and mock his baldness (and what man isn't touchy about that?) so he swears at them and calls upon two female bears to come out of the woods and eat them.  42 children dead at the touchiness of a bald guy.  And then he goes on his way to Mount Carmel, then Samaria.  The end.

Ummm… again.  Wha-aat?

Let's try this story again, with more detail from culture and Hebrew.

Elijah has been the prophet.  Everyone knows and loves him.  When he is taken up to heaven, his mantle (a coat of animal skins, basically) falls off him and lands on Elisha, symbolically showing that the mantle of the prophet now lays upon him.  That physical representation is important to show his authority from God.  So Elisha goes around, doing his duty as a prophet and is asked to heal the waters of Jericho.  Which he does.

Have you ever stopped to consider the ramifications of that act?  The water is gone (or poisoned or somehow made unsuitable for humans), yet people are still there.  How are they drinking?  Bathing?  Washing clothing?  Water is essential.  If there is no water, there is no people.  I don't know if you realize, but Israel is a big, giant desert.  If the water disappears, the people won't last more than a few days.  Luckily, though, Jericho is right next to the river Jordan.  In fact, the spring we're discussing here is probably one of the springs that feed the river, as the river Jordan's head is right there by Jericho.  There are still people, so there is still water.  Probably from the river.  So how is it getting to the people?  Where there is a need, someone will find a way to make money.  A bunch of young men (I'd guess the number to be near 42) see a business opportunity and start hauling water for payment.  The river is probably far enough away that most people wouldn't want to make the journey themselves, as they have plenty of other things to keep them busy, so business is booming.

And then along comes Elisha.  And rips the rug out from under them.  In one bowlful of salt, their income is gone.  Would you be pleased?  They sure weren't.  "Wait, so you're saying they're mad at him so they call him… bald?  And he's petty enough to send she-bears to eat them for it?"  No, no.  That's not at all what I'm saying.  Remember the mantel Elisha is wearing?  The one made of animal skins?  The physical symbol of his priesthood and authority?  By calling him bald, they're really calling him hair-less.  Or rather, they're denying his authority as a prophet.  They're telling him he doesn't have the mantle of a prophet.  They are denying his priesthood and authority.  And, as is the Old Testament way, God kills them for their wickedness.

"But, but, Dragon Lady!  It says they are little children!  Surely God wouldn't kill children!" Nope.  Wrong again.  Look at the footnote of "little children" in verse 23.  In Hebrew, the word is youths.  Not little children.  Chances are, these are boys in their late teens and twenties.  Possibly a few in their thirties.  Boys that are largely of marrying age.  These aren't spoiled kids who are poking fun at an old balding man.  These are responsible adults (yes, late-teenage boys were considered adults) who are calling down the prophet of God and denying his authority because of their own selfishness.

Takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?  Either way, I would suggest refraining from calling President Monson bald.  Just sayin'.

~ Dragon Lady

Question #71797 posted on 04/01/2013 1:52 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I would like to know if this is possible. If it is, can you please calculate it for me?
My goal: Find out the cumulative elevation increase of all the hills I drive up on my way to Boise from Provo. I don't mean subtracting Boise's elevation from Provo's elevation. I mean adding up all the hills I drive up to give me that elevation, without subtracting the downhill elevation.
Hopefully this makes sense. I realize this may not be possible at all, but Board writers often surprise me with cool talents and abilities.



Dear Cleph,

My idea was to make a WalkJogRun route. To make one of these routes, you click on each turn you make, creating a route with lots of little legs. So I clicked away until I created a 385 mile route from Boise to Provo with 187 legs.

WalkJogRun has a nifty little feature that shows you the elevation changes over the course of your route. The really handy part is that it adds up all the ascents and descents for you (hooray!).
Question #71761 posted on 03/31/2013 12:28 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I would research this myself but the associated triggers are too much for me to handle, so I wonder if you would be willing to help me with just enough information that I can not sound completely stupid when talking to a professional.

Please help me understand how Avoidant Personality Disorder relates or does not relate to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Could a child be misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum kid when he really has this personality disorder? Could an adult be misdiagnosed with this personality disorder when he is more properly diagnosed with Aspergers? I sense that Spectrum disorders are firmly based in biology (= nature - genetics and epigenetics), while this personality disorder sounds like it may have its roots more in childhood trauma or PTSD (= nurture). Am I wrong?

Thank you for your efforts. If you don't feel comfortable answering these specific questions, if you could give me some idea of the type of professional I could call; that would be a satisfactory substitute answer. You should be aware, I am only a distant cousin to any relationship with BYU, so I don't qualify for any BYU associated benefits.

-wife of one, mother of the other?


Dear wife of one, mother of the other?,

First of all, the type of professional I think you should call is somebody with a PhD in clinical psychology. Here's a handy place to start. Clinical psychologists are expensive, but they are the people that everyone else in the field defers to concerning diagnoses, assessments, and the exact nature of each of the disorders covered in the DSM. Speaking of the DSM, you could go down to your local library or bookstore and read the informational sections on both of the disorders you mentioned, as the DSM contains all kinds of information about all of its disorders.

The DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, is psychology's attempt to give the full picture of a person's mental health. The DSM divides these concerns onto five axes like so:

Axis I: Acute symptoms or more transient conditions (depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, etc.)

Axis II: Long-term, mostly stable disorders that are more resistant to treatment (personality disorders and mental retardation)

Axis III: Relevant medical conditions or disorders

Axis IV: Relevant psychosocial and environmental factors

Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning score (0-100)

In older versions of the DSM, the autism disorders were categorized on Axis II. The current version, the DSM IV, moved the autism disorders to Axis I. This is perhaps a positive change in professionals' point of view when it comes to treating autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, because Axis I disorders are typically much more treatable than Axis II disorders. The thing, though, is that there should not really be any misdiagnoses that cross over the axes. Oftentimes, Axis II conditions will cause or influence Axis I conditions. For example, an individual's narcissistic personality disorder (Axis II) may support their development of alcohol dependence (Axis I) or another individual's self-destructive symptoms associated with their borderline personality disorder (Axis II) may cause their development of an eating disorder (Axis I). In both of these cases, however, both of the diagnoses would exist, and neither would be a misdiagnoses. The idea that an Axis I disorder could be misdiagnosed as an Axis II disorder or vice versa is an interesting one, because it would suggest that the diagnosing psychologists could not distinguish between more acute conditions and more pervasive ones.

Perhaps because of this, neither of the disorders you mention popped up as probable misdiagnoses of the other diagnosis. In an Advances in Psychiatric Treatment article, the differential diagnosis (meaning a list of other possible disorders that have to be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made) of Asperger syndrome included other pervasive developmental disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, ADHD, OCD, depression, and a handful of medical disorders, but no Axis II disorders. Most differential diagnoses of avoidant personality disorder include other personality disorders. Some of them do include panic disorder with associated agoraphobia, which is an Axis I disorder, so that is interesting, but there was no mention of any of the pervasive developmental disorders that I found.

Next, let's take a look at the symptoms. Asperger syndrome is defined as:

(I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction

(B) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(C) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

(D) a lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(B) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(C) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

(D) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Avoidant personality disorder is defined as:

A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following: 

(A) avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection 

(B) is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked 

(C) shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed 

(D) is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations 

(E) is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy 

(F) views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others 

(G) is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

The most obvious difference between the two is the motivation involved. The social behaviors associated with Asperger syndrome appear to arise out of a lack of understanding or interest, whereas the social behaviors associated with avoidant personality disorder appear to arise out of fear and shame. I imagine that psychologists seeking to make a diagnosis would measure this based on the client's report of the presenting problem. Do people's social behaviors befuddle them, which impedes their own functioning, or is their functioning impaired by their extreme fear of rejection or ridicule? Both of these disorders can appear in early childhood so that makes this self-reporting more difficult, but these are still situations that the diagnosing professional should have watched for. The other obvious difference is the requirement of repetitive or stereotyped interests or behaviors for a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. A person could not be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome unless they demonstrated some repetitive behavior or extreme focus on one activity, and these behaviors would be unusual at best with a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder.

All of that said, is there significant similarity between how behaviors could present with the two diagnoses? Absolutely. If a child is unwilling to meet your eye line, avoids peers like the plague, or obsessively reads books while never engaging others, it could be difficult to surmise what their motivation is. If there is any doubt, I think it is always best to seek a second, third, fourteenth, or fiftieth opinion.

As a note, anybody who says that they know for 100% sure what causes any mental disorder is incorrect. All of them are still up for debate. Your assessment of the causes of one disorder versus another seems rational enough and I would not be surprised if you were correct. However, there is evidence of a genetic predisposition for personality disorders and, like I say, no one knows for certain yet.

One more thing: In the DSM V, which is slated to come out in May (finally!), there will likely be no more Asperger syndrome. The thought is that autism, PDD, and Asperger will all go under the umbrella of autism spectrum (AS) which will be rated as a spectrum. It's an interesting idea.

Call that clinical psychologist, and good luck.

- The Black Sheep

Question #71733 posted on 03/31/2013 2:34 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Could you please make me a list of every red-headed character from Disney movies throughout time, including minor characters? Also, do you think (or could you find out) if the number of red-headed characters has increased in use in Disney movies throughout time? What's the ratio of "bad guy" red-heads to "good guy" red heads? Why do you think that red-heads are usually the bad guys in movies (or at least stereotyped that way)? Does this have a basis in history at all?

-My Name Here


Dear eaglet,

Could you please make me a list of every red-headed character from Disney movies throughout time, including minor characters?
Why yes, yes I can. However, "every" and "throughout time" means a lot more than I thought it did. For the sake of my sanity, I decided that "red-headed" does not include animals, dirty blondes, monsters, robots, or muppets. I tried to include major and minor characters with red, orange, or reddish-brown/auburn hair from both live-action and animated Disney feature films, but this is really not a comprehensive list because, well, I only had so many hours. Reddish-brown vs. brown is subject to [my] interpretation. There were quite a few, so I made a spreadsheet. Here you go! This list was largely compiled using information from the Disney Wiki and this list of Disney movies.

Also, do you think (or could you find out) if the number of red-headed characters has increased in use in Disney movies throughout time? 
Here is a graph of the number of red-headed characters in Disney movies by year:
Disney Redheads.png
It looks like the number of red-headed characters in Disney movies has increased slightly over the years, but I wouldn't read too much into this data because it's possible Disney has simply been making more characters overall; one would have to compare the actual ratio of redheads to non-redheads to see if there is a comparative increase. It's also likely that there are more data points for recent years because of better online documentation of newer characters. The spikes you see in years 1997, 2011, and 2012 were caused by families of redheads (Hercules, Phineas and Ferb The Movie, and Brave, respectively), so I think it's safe to say that at the very least the number of red-headed families has increased.

What's the ratio of "bad guy" red-heads to "good guy" red heads?
For our purposes I'm going to assume that "bad guy" is associated with the antagonist(s) of the movie and "good guy" means protagonist(s) (including bad-but-later-good types). There were 21 bad guys and 57 good guys in my list, or about a 1:3 ratio of bad guys to good guys. I would say that in general, though, Disney good guys always outnumber the bad guys.

Why do you think that red-heads are usually the bad guys in movies (or at least stereotyped that way)? Does this have a basis in history at all?
If some people associate redheads with bad guys, one reason may be the reputation of redheads having fiery tempers. This Wikipedia article has a lot of information regarding the history and perception of red hair, saying that "In various times and cultures, red hair has been prized, feared, and ridiculed." This assertion is supported by a study that claims "A hot temper is perhaps the most ubiquitous stereotype of redheads." The study cites information claiming that "unlike the consistent Western appeal of blonde hair and lack of any historically distinctive pattern toward brunettes," those with red hair have always been set apart. While "Italy and Greece are examples of societies where culture has favored redheads," other parts of Europe have displayed a stereotype against them, which was evidenced during the witch hunts and was possibly due to "the belief that Judas, who betrayed Christ, was red-haired."1

Another reason for bad guys having red hair may be that the makers of the movies wanted to make the villain stand out by giving them the least common hair color. According to color psychology, the color red also tends to have connotations of "Passion, strength, energy, fire, love, sex, excitement, speed, heat, leadership, masculinity, power...Danger, fire, gaudiness, blood, war, anger, revolution, radicalism, [and] aggression." Personally, I stereotype villains as more often having black hair than red. I think hair-color association for good vs. bad guys depends more on individual experiences than history or innate psychology. For example, I can more easily think of black-haired villains because those were the ones that scared me most (Scar, Rasputin, Gaston), and I think of red-headed Disney characters as silly (Ariel).


Heckert, Druann Maria and Amy Best. (1997). Ugly duckling to swan: Labeling theory and the stigmatization of red hair. Symbolic Interaction, 20(4), 365-384.

Question #71724 posted on 03/29/2013 11:46 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I hear people say the following:

"I'm wanting to go do that"
where I feel like they should be saying:
"I have been wanting to go do that" or "I want to go do that".

Why are those people wrong? Am I wrong? What is this verb usage or misusage called?

-Miss Usage


Dear Miss Usage,

First, let's look at the gut reaction of a native speaker. You say that the usage sounds wrong to you; I agree that it sounds a little off.

Second, let's do a corpus search. (If we're right that this usage is unusual, then a few billion of our closest friends should agree with us.) I did a Google search on "I'm wanting to" vs. "I want to" (both in quotes) and while the "I'm wanting to" faction is certainly well represented (at around 26 million hits), the "I want to" group outnumbers them by a ratio of over 600:1. So, billions of our closest friends (many or most of whom are presumably also native English speakers) also agree with us that "I want to" is preferred.

What's odd here is that "I'm VERB-ing to X" is a perfectly valid construction. It's called progressive aspect, in this case in the present tense, and it's exactly the same construction as "I'm planning to go do that," which sounds fine to me. (It should be noted, though, that "I plan to" does outnumber "I'm planning to" on Google, but only at a ratio of 5:1, which strikes me as close enough that many people are probably using both.) So, the problem with the phrase must have something to do with the meaning of the verb, not just the construction.

Third, then, let's pull out a language reference manual such as the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language to see if we can sort out the issue. In 8.1(b), it talks about using the progressive aspect vs. the imperfect aspect to denote habitual or serial actions. Ex., "I wear shoes" (habitually) vs. "I am wearing shoes" (at the moment).

In 8.1(e), it says "Expressions denoting purely static situations do not combine felicitiously with progressive aspect." So, we say "The Earth is round," but not "*The Earth is being round."

In my mind, those two sections are related, because if a situation is static, then there's no need to distinguish between habitual or serial occurrences vs. single occurrences, because those situations don't apply.

"Wanting" isn't something that one does serially or habitually, and it's doesn't tend to have an abrupt start or finish, which means that it's more like a static state, so the present progressive sounds odd. (Perhaps the fact that it's an internal state also influences our thinking on the matter. It is certainly possible to suddenly want to visit a tropical paradise after seeing a picture of it or suddenly not want to date someone after they do something you find offensive, but those changes aren't outwardly apparent, so they look static from an outsider's perspective. That's just a guess, though. Clearly there is research to be done on the matter!)

Anyway, if you want a succinct description of why this usage sounds off, I'd say that "to want" is treated as a static situation, and so it doesn't combine well with the progressive aspect in the present tense.

- Katya

Question #71718 posted on 03/30/2013 10:04 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Let's assume that Venice becomes submerged except for parts of the taller structures. How habitable would the city be if everyone had to live in partially waterlogged buildings?

-La Fantasma


Dear La Fantasma,

"Ah, Venice."

Dr. Jones may have found Venice to be a lovely place, but it gets a little...less lovely when it's under water.

Flooding in Venice is quite a common occurrence. After all, it was built on a series of over a hundred soggy islands in a lagoon. The natural canals made for convenient transport, but they are also subject to acqua alta (literally, high water). Pictures abound of people swimming in the streets and floating in chairs at streetside cafes during this annual event, which is usually in the late fall to early winter months. I'd love to go into more detail about the causes, but that isn't exactly your question, isn't it?

First, we'll need to account for how much water we'd be dealing with. The worst acqua alta on record occurred in 1966 when the city was flooded with 194 cm of water. According to data from the City of Venice, over 88% of the city is covered in water at this point. Now, their definition of what is covered by water only relates to the pedestrian areas of the city. While many buildings (and great works of art) were damaged by the flood of 1966, they were not underwater. It would take some pretty strong winds, an angry moon, a huge storm, severe subsidence, and total eustatic chaos to bring the flood waters up to 20 m. I guesstimate this, by Google Earth, to be enough water to cover most of the buildings of Venice while leaving most of the cool basilicas and bell towers (like St. Mark's Campanile that Ezio climbed) unscathed.

Now that we basically have Waterworld, you'll notice a few things. You'll have a real hard time getting drinkable water. Most of the water will come from the Adriatic Sea, which is salty. Additionally, like all good floods, the water will be filled with debris and hazardous waste. Including sewage. While ingenious, Venice's sewage system is not exactly very sanitary during floods. Essentially, they dump their waste into the canals, where it can be replenished daily by the tide waters into and out of the sea. That won't work very well if the city is already underwater. All that sewage will seep out of the pipes and tanks where it is usually stored. Suddenly, I'm kind of grossed out by the pictures I've seen of people happily splashing around in the acqua alta waters...

Sanitation aside, your remaining tall buildings, in which the survivors take refuge, are under severe distress. Venetian construction is constantly in need of maintenance due to the salt water lapping along the edges. The bricks used in many of the buildings may have been sealed at the lower levels against moisture, but certainly not above 4-5 m. As salt water infiltrates the masonry, the mortar holding the bricks together dissolves, and the crystallizing salt inside the bricks disintegrates them. This capillary action and infiltration of salt, in addition to subsidence, brought down St. Mark's Campanile in 1902 (and killed the caretaker's cat). It will likely happen again in this aquatic apocalypse. Plus, many structures aren't designed to withstand high external hydrostatic pressure. These tall structures won't last long.

Soggy pizza is nasty. What will you find to eat in your manmade waterlogged tower islands? The local seafood will likely be exterminated by the influx of toxic chemicals found in modern (and ancient) cities. Your food would have to be delivered to you by boat or helicopter. Which raises the question: if you're going to have boats and helicopters coming to your aid, why would you stay in a miserable place where you have disease, no water, no food, and no Internet?

So, La Fantasma, to answer briefly: the city would not be very habitable at all.


Question #71708 posted on 03/27/2013 6:48 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

This one will get you digging.

I attended BYU over 20 years ago (early 1990s) and took a class from Professor C. Glayd Mather in the EET department. Professor Mather's teaching had such impact that even though it was a C- grade for me that semester I still vividly remember the material in some detail, and especially the way he taught it, mostly because it was laced with mild profanity and a general authority's ethic.

He discussed that ethic in detail as often as he could. At one point he put an equation on the overhead which he described as a "formula for success", in which the exponential term was something like "the Spirit of God". He attributed it to a Church apostle who was then known as an all around good guy with an engineering or maths background.

I loved that Professor; he taught me so much important stuff. YOUR mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find that equation.

-Needs Filler For an Elder's Quorum Lesson


Dear Needs,

I'm giving myself a high five for finding it in one search ("richard g scott formula for success"). It helped a lot that you remembered it was from an apostle with an engineering background (note to all readers: when you need us to find something for you, even random little details like that can make a big difference in how easy it is for us to dig up the right thing).

Here's his formula for success:


And here's his formula for greater success, which uses Power of God as the exponent:


It's from his talk "Living the Gospel: The Key to Private, Family, and Professional Success," available here.

- Eirene

posted on 06/25/2013 12:19 p.m.
Aw yeah... that's the one! Thanks so much! (It came too late for my EQ lesson but it's still REALLY NICE to have this for showing to my engineering-minded kids.)
Question #71706 posted on 03/28/2013 12:24 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Which school started using blue as a school color first, BYU or Utah State? Many Aggie fans claim that we stole it from them.

-True Blue


Dear Truest,

USU says on their website that "blue was adopted as the official school color" in 1901.  

BYU doesn't have an "official" date that blue began to be used, but The White and Blue, a school newspaper, had been in print for four to five years before that, beginning in 1897.  BYU Library's page on the BYU school songs states that the first school song was written in 1899 by Annie Pike Greenwood—and that song has a line which goes, "As our colors pure and true... Like thee, our dear old white and blue."  I don't know what you think about that line, but what I personally infer from that is that white and blue are old colors for the school.  So definitely your USU friends have been falsely accusing BYU, and now you have the proof to rub in their faces.

But honestly, arguing whether someone "stole" the color blue from someone else is a ridiculous argument.  Blue is one of the primary colors, and it's quite expected that many schools will gravitate toward it (especially with its longtime use in professional settings).  Yale (which also uses a Y in their logo), Columbia, and ancient schools like the University of St. Andrews and Oxford have blues in their school colors.  What's popular is popular, eh?

-Yog in Neverland

posted on 03/28/2013 2:41 p.m.
See also Board Question #32333.

-=Optimus Prime=-
Question #71443 posted on 03/12/2013 3:06 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Will you make a map that overlays Vatican City on BYU campus, with the center of the Vatican over the center of campus (maybe the quad between the library and JFSB)? I'm trying to get a perspective about how small it really is. For bonus points, you could do the same with other microstates in Europe, like San Marino, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.

-A Loud American


Dear Loud,

This isn't exact, but the relative sizes should be accurate to within a few percent:


If you want to look yourself, here are Google Maps links to BYU and to Vatican City. They're at the same zoom level, but the scales are slightly different due to being at different latitudes (it has to do with the map projection being used). So this isn't an exact comparison, but it should be quite close, especially since you just want to get a feel for how big they are. BYU has a total area of 2.3 km2, while Vatican City has a total area of 0.44 km2, so Vatican City is just about 1/5th the size of BYU campus.

San Marino is quite a bit larger than BYU (61.2 km2, or 27x larger), so I overlaid BYU onto it, instead of the other way around; I chose to start at 900 E and 1700 N as my northeast corner, then down to 900 N and west to 700 E, down to 800 N and west to 150 E / Canyon Rd., all the way up to 1650 N, and back over to 900 E. So it includes all of main campus and some of off-campus housing, but it leaves out Wymount, the stadium, and a few other buildings. (It just seemed overly complicated to try to trace it all exactly.) Anyway, here's a Google Map for San Marino, and here's my overlay:


I used the same method for Liechtenstein, which is 160km2, or 70x bigger than BYU:


And for Monaco, which is actually slightly smaller than BYU (2.02 km2, or 89% of BYU's size), but is more awkwardly shaped (though keep in mind that again, my outline of BYU is leaving out a lot of outlying buildings and such):


—Laser Jock

Question #71438 posted on 04/01/2013 4:28 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Board Question #66370


-blast from the past


Dear blast from the past,

Were you looking for another play of this text-based adventure? Because if you were, you're awfully lucky that Bring Back The Retired Writers For A Week So We Can Have An Excuse For D.A.R.E. To Write Again Because We Love His Answers Week came around when it did.

Alright, friend. Let's do this.

You are in a DESERT. You see a CACTUS with a BIRD sitting on it. Your visible exits are NORTH, WEST, and SOUTH.


You tried that last time, and it didn't work. You decide you'd better leave the cactus alone.


You are in the middle of the desert with sand dunes surrounding you on every side. They're not so tall as to make escape impossible, but it would probably be difficult. You're starting to get a little thirsty.


You look at the desert. Sure is a lot of sand around here. You see something shiny in one of the sand dunes.


You look at a large sand dune to the north and see a flash of something silver. A needle! You reach for it, but some of the sand shifts and covers it. You'd better hope that it wasn't an important item, or else you're going to spend an awful lot of time digging for it.


Silver's not magnetic, pal, and you don't have one anyway.


You start to comb through the sand with your hands, hoping to find that needle, but it's harder than finding a needle in a sandstack. It's really getting hot out here, and the sand is drying you out.


You keep digging. You're starting to get frustrated, and you punch the sand in anger when you feel something sharp. Hooray, the needle! And all you had to do was embed it in your hand!


You take the needle, along with a healthy amount of your blood. Here's hoping the blood isn't too important, either.


You triumphantly hold up the needle. You look like a bit of an idiot. What did you think was going to happen?


You clamber up the sand dune, which wasn't quite as hard as you thought it would be, since you dug away most of it looking for your needle. You make it to the top and see an oasis at the bottom. Water sure sounds good right now; you're really quite thirsty.


You run to the oasis and start scooping handfuls of water into your mouth. I say water, but of course it's sand, because the whole thing's just a mirage. Haven't you played one of these games before? There were beautiful bikini models that were actually cacti, too. You'd think they would have tipped you off. Boy, now you're really thirsty.


There's not much here, other than the sandfuls of hand [STET] you poured into your mouth and spat out and the bikini catcus. Did I mention you're really thirsty? You're really thirsty.


I... look, it was a mirage, okay? There's not really a bikini here, just a cactus that you thought was a bikini model. And if you get your kicks from wearing cactus bikinis you find in the desert, then you might be playing the wrong sort of game, buddy.


I don't know how to do that.


I don't know how to do that.


Ah, so you want help? You can type 'INV' to see your inventory, 'LOOK' to look around at your surroundings, 'GO' to move in any direction, 'USE' to, well, use something, and 'TAKE' to, get this, take something.


You've got that needle you dug up, and a bunch of your blood. You've also got a couple canteens full of water. Good thing you thought to check your inventory, huh?


You open the canteens and confidently pour their contents out, which evaporate almost instantly. Because you're an idiot, probably. Probably should have typed something like 'DRINK WATER FROM CANTEENS' or something like that, genius.


You lay down next to the bikini cactus and await the sweet release of death. As you feel the cool, clammy hands of Death taking you, you hear the sound of a bell ringing, followed by a sliding door. A convenience store! Perhaps you should go there and find sustenance instead of dying.


A Seven-Eleven, no less! You walk in and feel the sweet caress of conditioned air on your neck. Mmmm.


You order up a 256 oz soda. We'll say it's Diet Coke so as not to upset our kind sponsors. The clerk asks for payment.


Ah, you didn't think about that, did you? There's no wallet or any other form of payment in that inventory of yours.


You work for years to pay off that Jumbo Gulp. Between the rare visits from customers (it's a desert, after all), you wonder what the next step in your quest will be, but after a while, you start to think that maybe working at the Seven-Eleven isn't so bad. You could make a career out of this someday. If you keep up the hard work, maybe you can become an assistant manager. Or even own your own franchise! Heady with the thoughts of future success, you pour out a Slurpee to drink during your break. Sadly for you, there's a strict policy against sampling the merchandise while you're at work, and it's enforced by the cobra living in the Slurpee tank. It bites you. You lose 8,000,000 HP. Again. Dang snakes.

You lose the game. You scored 7/150 points.

(A)bort, (R)etry, or (F)ail?

- D.A.R.E.

Question #71279 posted on 03/02/2013 9:46 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

You know that awesome PBS show called Zoom? I used to love that show. My favorite Zoom-er was always Zoe, the cute blonde girl with the glasses.

What happened to the cast? I mean, I would assume they all grew up, but where are they now?

-Mint, who also had glasses and counted on Zoe to reassure her that they were kinda cool.


Dear Mint,

I was able to track down all but a couple of the Zoom kids. For the most part, I won't be citing my sources here in the interest of preserving privacy; however, if you're really curious, you can probably find everything I've found through a couple simple Google searches. I got the full list from Wikipedia; here's what I've been able to find.

Zoe Costello attended NYU and was part of a comedy troupe called "Britanick."

Jared Nathan attended Juilliard. He was a student there when he was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2006. He is the only Zoom alumnus with his own Wikipedia page.

Keiko Yoshida was teaching Spanish in Connecticut as of 2006.

Pablo Velez has worked as production assistant on several movies and TV series.

Alisa Besher also attended NYU and apparently worked with film.

David Toropov, if I'm not mistaken, writes for several web sites and also works as a stage technician.

Lynese Browder graduated from Pine Manor College in 2008, according to this Yahoo! Answers page (which I used as a source for several other individuals as well).

Ray MacMore attended Brooklyn College and was part of a hip-hop group called USRS. From this page, it appears that he's still involved in acting.

Caroline Botelho works at ATETV and her biography can be read on their web site here.

Jessie Ogungbadero is a product manager for a web site and lives in San Francisco.

Kenny Yates has been a crew member of several movies, most notably The Help.

Frances Domond, if I found the right person, is working in Los Angeles.

Rachel Redd appeared in an episode of a TV series in 2010. I couldn't find any other information on her.

Eric Rollins studied acting at Emerson College and has appeared in several films.

Kaleigh Cronin, according to her web site, is an actress, singer, and dancer.

Buzz Barrette attended Boston University.

Garrett DiBona is a logistics account manager in Florida.

Francesco Tena is studying at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

Cara Harvey attends the University of Connecticut and is an intern with Warner Bros. Records/Atlantic.

Tyler Garron may be studying at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Kyle Larrow plays baseball at Harvard and appeared in the team's famous Call Me Maybe video.

Kortney Sumner may be attending Skidmore College.

I couldn't find any reliable sources on Mike Hansen, although one person claimed that he had dropped out of high school at age 17. Likewise, I couldn't find any post-high school information on Claudio Schwartz, Aline Toupine, Matt Runyon, Estuardo Alvizures (except that he has apparently returned to Guatemala), Shing Ying Shieh, Maya Morales, Nick Henry, Noreen Raja, or Emily Marshall.

Finally, as an added bonus, here are two videos with recent pictures of most of the Zoom kids, courtesy of Tally M.


Question #71146 posted on 03/12/2013 10:24 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board and especially MSJ,

I am working on a photo/story book for my toddler about how she was adopted. I hope it will serve as both a letting-her-know tool as we read it together and also something she can refer to later for the basic story and a reminder of how much we love her. I just wondered, do you have any tips for me about what ideas to include or not include in the book? One example: I can say her birth mom loved her, but the birth dad was, let's just say, not involved and not supportive, so do I just leave him out of the story altogether? What have you found yourself reflecting on, when looking back on your own adoption story? I really appreciate your insights.

-Yellow Ochre


Dear Nutmeg,

I've actually been thinking a lot about this as I've been asked to speak on a lot of adoption panels lately and adoptive parents are always asking what they can do with their kids to discuss adoption and birth parents and I'm on panels with people closed adoptions and open adoptions and everything in between.

I can't tell you how much I love the book idea. I desperately wish I had something like that growing up and here's why. Growing up is hard enough trying to belong places and knowing I was adopted, even though I knew my family loves me and I love them, I always felt something was missing. I didn't realize until after I met my birth families and asked them questions what things were important to me (and this seems to be universal among the adoptees I've talked to).

  • Who I look like - There's something so magical about seeing genetics at work that I think people take for granted (like I just got off a phone call where someone was light-heartedly complaining that he looks just like his brother and people are always mixing them up). When you're adopted, you don't really get that. My favorite thing from my birth family has been seeing pictures and having them point out whose features I have. I especially love visiting with my paternal grandparents and having them tell me just how much I look and act like my great-grandmother. I've never met the woman, but I'm thrilled that I look like someone. Finally! I have a friend with closed adoptions say, "I have a picture of my mom holding me, but it doesn't show her face, just her hands. We have the same hands. I wish I could see if we had the same face." If the birth father is a little cooperative or the birth mother can get pictures of him or his family, I'd say include it! You don't have to talk about how good or bad people are when it's just about features.
  • Family interests and hobbies - At the last adoption panel I spoke on, one of the girls recently read a letter from her birth mother and she said, "It answered so many questions! Mostly why I love being outdoors and doing sports when my family has no interest in those things!" It's kind of cool to realize something you love may be genetic. When I e-mailed my birth mom for the first time to tell her about me, I said I liked reading, art, music and theater and she said that made her laugh because I could be describing any one of her other three daughters. I love pictures, so I would include pictures of your daughters birth parents doing things they love, or stories of what they love. I'd also let her know that it's okay to like things her birth families like even if your family doesn't like them as much (for example, my friend with hiking and sports).
  • Letters - Definitely include a letter from the birth families (if they'll comply - even if her birth father isn't involved, maybe his parents would like to get in on that) saying how much they love your daughter and all their hopes and dreams for her (happiness, that she'll love her parents, that she'll grow up well, that kind of thing). The letter I have from my birth mother says something about how she hoped I would learn to play the piano or at least love music. My parents never gave me the letter (my mom was always threatened by the idea of my birth mother, which I wish she wasn't) and I discovered it by accident when I was much older. I wish I'd had it all my life. Can there ever be too many people telling your child they love her and hope for her to accomplish great things? And do not forget letters from you about how much you love her and wanted her.
  • Stories - I love stories. Adore them. I would have loved in my book stories about my birth families (cute things they did growing up kind of things) as well as stories about my adoptive family. But that's only because I think it's fun to hear about things my parents (biological and adopted) did when they were growing up.
  • Birth story - Again, I love stories. I wish more than anything I had my birth story. I have friends who know theirs and I can't get my birth mom to tell me more than a few things. I wish I had the entire story. I just think it's an interesting thing to know about yourself.
  • Family Traditions - I'm a little on the fence about this one, since you may not want to include it, but as I get to know my birth family, I find little things they do that are special to them (like reading a children's Christmas book on Christmas Eve) that I wish my family would have adopted as well and then they could say, "We got this tradition because your birth dad's family does it." They also have more expensive traditions like going to Mackinac Island every summer and my grandparents take their grandchildren to Chicago for a lunch and shopping day; obviously these are traditions we will not be incorporating. I think adding little things to your family is a great way to say, "Hey, your birth family has good things and we love accepting new things!" But, I know people who might disagree with me, so I'll leave that up to you.

As for the birth dad not being involved. I think I may have mentioned before, my birth parents knew each other for maybe a month while my birth mom worked at Yellowstone and my birth dad was driving through on his way to California. Obviously by the time she knew she was pregnant, she had no idea how to contact him and spent the 21 years until I met her thinking he was the biggest jerk on earth. She told me his name and to not contact him because he was a horrible, self-involved person. Then I called him anyway and it was a wonderful decision. My birth dad's family is actually more involved in my life than my birth mom's family -- enough that I have very little contact with her and know comparatively little about them (by her choice, not mine). Which is just a long way of saying, I don't think the way a person acts now is the way a person will act 20 years from now (hopefully!). I'd include what you can about him (pictures, stories) while understanding there will be a lot more about her birth mom. When she's older, she'll probably ask about him and you can say he wasn't around much, but as long as they aren't statements about him being a horrible person, I think open discussion is great and he should have the chance, in however many years, to prove that he's not the uncaring person he was when he was younger. 

My mom disagreed with that last point. She said she'd leave him out of the book entirely and wait until your daughter asks questions herself since it probably won't be right away. But she does agree that you shouldn't say he's not supportive and didn't want to be involved and give him the benefit of the doubt that perhaps his age and the experience made him act in a less-favorable fashion. Since we assume you've never met him, you can just tell her you don't know him and don't know his situation.

For the record, I debated between the term, at least for my family, of "adoptive parents" vs "real parents." If people ask, I use the term "real" over "adoptive" because "adoptive" seems impersonal and doesn't reflect my feelings for my family. I went with "adoptive" here for the sake of clarity, but, in case there was any worry (because this was a worry for my mom), I can have my birth families in my life and still know who my "real" parents are.

I really applaud your project. I hope your daughter realizes how lucky she is!

-Marguerite St. Just

Question #71118 posted on 03/07/2013 2:40 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

In honor of 2012 DA14, I wish to ask a question about the fate of humanity. What do you think is the likelihood of each of the following happening in the next thousand years?

1. The Earth gets used up and mankind . . .
a. leaves the solar system to colonize habitable exoplanets.
b. terraforms Mars or Venus for colonization.
c. builds a glass bubble colony on the Moon.
d. tries to frantically pump resources into their space program at the last minute, only to fail to accomplish any of the above with meaningful results.

2. Mankind reverses the trend of polluting and switches to only reusable energy. Instead of expanding into space, they farm the oceans and build ever upwards like the Jetsons.

3. A disaster strikes from space which we are unable to stop in the form of . . .
a. an asteroid
b. a supernova explosion
c. a solar flare
d. a gamma ray burst
e. Nemesis
f. Nibiru

4. A united world government controls the number of births and the lifespan of all humans.

5. Humanity is decimated by _____ and the few survivors live primitively.
a. war
b. disease
c. zombies

If this is too much, you can just speculate what you think the first of these to occur will be and talk about which sci-fi novel/tv show/movie is the most likely to happen or just your favorite.

-Large Talons


Dear Large Talons,

I did not realize I was such a geek about this until I started researching. So, thank you for asking this; it's been fun to discover yet another way that I'm hopelessly geeky. I'm going to talk a bit about each scenario you suggested, and give it a rating on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being "as surely as River Tam would be to defeat me at hand-to-hand combat."

If you don't want to read the entire thing, just read the stuff in bold. Also, I just wanted to share this comic with everyone.

1. The Earth gets used up and mankind...

a) leaves the solar system to colonize habitable exoplanets: 3/10

Currently, scientists have found 15 planets whose orbits are entirely within the "habitable zone," or the area around stars that could theoretically support human life. Although scientists theorize that a significant percentage of stars will have Earth-sized worlds in their habitable zone, the current techniques for finding extrasolar planets don't work very well for finding Earth-like worlds. This is because exoplanets are currently observed by measuring the Doppler shift of the hosting star's spectral lines. 

Obviously, within 1000 years, scientific technique for finding exoplanets will improve. However, there are significant hurdles to colonizing an exoplanet, even when we've found a specific planet that is theoretically habitable. The first problem is that "habitable" doesn't mean "colonizable." The current definition of "habitable" essentially means that liquid water is able to form or exists on the surface of the planet. This excludes all planets that are either too close or too far from its star. However, there are a lot of other factors that influence whether we could live on the planet, such as gravity. For example, the star Gliese 581g is technically classified as a "habitable" star, despite the fact that its gravity is almost two times as great as the gravity on Earth. As a result, it would be extremely difficult to even just walk around, and your cardiovascular system would be under constant stress. Furthermore, its increased size would also mean an extremely dense atmosphere, which would make movement and breathing even more difficult. So in able to be colonizable, a planet has to be similar in size to Earth. Additionally, it would also be really, really helpful if it had a similar elemental makeup. Being able to support liquid water is nice, but if we have to bring in nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, etc., that just makes the planet that much more impractical. Finally, the planet must have a manageable flow of energy at the surface. If it's all the same temperature, there's too much thermal inertia to be able to do any practical "work" in terms of physics. On the other hand, if the planet experiences completely insane storms, that's another hurdle to overcome.

But we have 1000 years, you say. Maybe medicine will improve to the point where we can biologically engineer humans to withstand extreme conditions, engineering will make it possible to alter the atmosphere or stimulate Earth-like gravity, our knowledge of space will allow us to mine for other elements to bring to the planet, and we'll be able to use our advanced science to overcome the weather problems. Well, if our science is as good as all that, why wouldn't we just use it to fix Earth, or terraform planets within our own solar system? It would be less costly, and much less difficult.

Finally, even if we found a colonizable planet and for some reason wanted to go through all the unnecessary effort of applying this technology to a planet that was light years away, the planet would still be light years away. I discussed some possible means of travel in Board Question #69668, but basically, any travel across such distances is going to require massive amounts of energy, which again would make colonizing exoplanets much less feasible from an economic or logical standpoint than using our own solar system first.

b) terraforms Mars or Venus for colonization: 6/10

Terraforming Mars or Venus offers a couple of immediately obvious advantages over exoplanets: we already know how to get to them and we know they exist.

The main problem with Mars is its low gravity. While low gravity is less problematic than high gravity, since it would offer ease of motion and also not pose a problem for spacecraft taking off or landing, low gravity has potential long-term health effects that are not yet fully understood. However, I think it's likely that by the time we're ready to terraform Mars, medicine will have access to sufficient data to understand the effects, and also have sufficient motivation to work something out. However, another problem with low gravity is that it prevents Mars from retaining a sufficiently thick atmosphere. In order to continue breathing, we would either have to continuously replenish Mars' atmosphere (which is an impractical long-term solution), create artificial barriers or bubbles (which would be catastrophic if they failed), or develop some impressive new technology to fix the problem. In my opinion, such technology may very well be within reach in 1000 years.

One possible means of retaining Mars' atmosphere is creating a magnetosphere, although there are many examples of planets that have maintained thick atmospheres without one. In any case, it would be necessary anyways to protect Mars from solar wind. Mars would require a magnetosphere of about 30 µT.

Because Mars is so far from the Sun, it would require more greenhouse gases than Earth in order to maintain life. This could actually be an advantage; if we could somehow collect Earth's greenhouse gases, we could ship them to Mars, use it to start the atmosphere, and make both planets more habitable. Furthermore, Mars already contains many of the necessary elements to be able to support life, albeit not in the exact molecular forms that are necessary. However, Mars also conveniently contains some chemicals that can assist in these processes, such as perchlorate to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Mars also has a large amount of frozen water, which would be extremely convenient if we could just warm the planet up enough to melt it. However, Mars would require a large amount of inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon, to be imported in order to create a proper atmosphere. Furthermore, the atmosphere would probably be thin and low in oxygen, which creates long-term health effects, similar to those experienced by climbers on Mount Everest. Other options for heating Mars' surface and thickening its atmosphere include using large mirrors to heat the planet, and inducing asteroid-like impacts to produce dust clouds to create a greenhouse effect. 

Scientists currently suggest that terraforming Mars could take several millennia. However, while humanity might not be finished terraforming Mars in 1000 years, I think it's quite likely that people would at least have started it. In fact, some optimistic (or possibly off-the-wall) scientists think it could be done within a few generations. After all, it's argued that we technically already have the technology to do most of what's required. And as I said before, Mars is a much more practical first step before we try something as radical as exoplanets.

There are ethical implications that argue against terraforming Mars, such as disturbing potential alien microbes or whether it's right to go mess up another planet after we've ruined this one. Based on humanity's typical responses to such positions, however, I'm going to guess that terraforming Mars will go ahead anyways.

Venus, on the other hand, is way too hot. This is partly due to an extreme greenhouse effect caused by the dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, and partly because it's closer to the sun. To fix the proximity-to-the-sun problem, a couple of solutions have been proposed. These mainly center around some form of solar shade in space, or reflective objects in the upper atmosphere. While current technology is still a ways away from solar shields, I definitely think it's achievable within 1000 years. Reflective mirrors in the atmosphere take advantage of existing technology, but wouldn't make as much of a difference because Venus' clouds are already highly reflective, so this strategy wouldn't have a huge impact on the albedo effect.

Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide on Venus needs to be severely depleted. The main problem I see with this is that if we develop the technology to make Venus habitable, it would mean that we would almost definitely have the technology to fix many of the pollution problems on Earth, so why would we bother terraforming Venus instead? However, let's assume that we have already used the technology on Earth, but due to overpopulation or other problems, we still want to terraform Venus. In this situation, there are several ways to deplete the carbon dioxide. While genetically engineered bacteria have been proposed, it was later discovered that Venus did not have enough hydrogen, and that the atmosphere was too dense to convert via biological processes before the carbon was converted to carbon dioxide again due to the temperature. Instead, it would be more efficient to simply bombard Venus with hydrogen. In order to produce graphite and water from hydrogen and carbon dioxide via the Bosch reaction, we would have to use about 4 x 1019 kg of hydrogen! It's possible that we could get this amount of hydrogen from harvesting comets, but that technology is at least a few centuries away. On the plus side, once this reaction was complete, the atmosphere would be largely nitrogen without making further alterations, which is an improvement over Mars. Alternatively, the carbon dioxide could be sequestered using alkaline carbonates, but the amount of refined material required is on the order of magnitude of a 300-mile-wide asteroid. It would take an incredible amount of mining to produce this. Finally, while directly moving the carbon dioxide has been proposed, scientists have yet to come up with a credible idea of how to do this.

Additionally, Venus also lacks a magnetosphere, which would be important to induce in order to prevent solar wind-related problems in terms of atmosphere depletion, cosmic rays, and other problems. Unlike Mars, however, Venus is a similar size to Earth, which means that there would be no gravity-related issues. On the other hand, some scientists have pointed out that it would be nice if we could speed up Venus' rotation, since one day on Venus is as long as 224 days on Earth. This would result in the nights being very cold, and the days being extremely hot; it would be more difficult to keep the temperature from swinging to wild extremes.

It's difficult to say whether Mars or Venus would be more difficult to terraform. On one hand, Mars doesn't really have an atmosphere, while Venus has proven that it can hold onto one. Furthermore, Venus is closer to Earth and has a similar gravity, but Mars has a more reasonable day/night cycle. Both planets would require vast quantities of elements to be mined and added to the planet. For a more extended treatment of Mars vs. Venus, you might be interested in this website. Personally, I'm inclined to say that Mars would be terraformed first, partly because of the technological considerations, but also because it's widely agreed that it's the project that scientists take more seriously.

c) builds a glass bubble colony on the Moon: 8/10 

Basically the only advantage of colonizing the Moon is that it's a lot closer. As a result, getting to the Moon is cheaper and faster, which is an important consideration, especially if option (d) comes true and we have to get off the planet in a hurry. Furthermore, if a Moon mission went wrong, emergency help or rescue from Earth would be a valid option. This makes it a much safer alternative than settling Mars, especially when colonization technology is in its infancy and is largely unproven. Because of this, I think it's pretty likely that the Moon will be colonized first, either as a trial run for Mars, a political stunt, or because a private foundation became rich enough to fund it.

Current technology is actually pretty close to being able to colonize the Moon; we could probably do it some time this century if we felt like it. Maybe not in a glass bubble, since the lack of atmosphere means that the Moon is subject to many more meteorite impacts than Earth, but there are valid options on the table. Lunar caves are a great initial source of shelter, for example. These settlements would have to be pressurized and also shielded against solar wind and radiation. Russian scientists have recently discovered a vast network of volcanic tubes under the surface, which would be a great starting point for colonization.

Ice deposits have been discovered on the Moon, which could make a moon colony self-sufficient in terms of water. Meanwhile, as food crisis technology on Earth continues to drive new GMO crops and techniques like hydroscopic farming, it's quite plausible that the colonies could grow their own food, which could have the added benefit of making them oxygen-sufficient as well. Nanotechnology is also growing closer to food replication and building improvements, which could protect against the meteorite problem I mentioned earlier. Technologies like 3D printing also make it easier for the Moon to be self-sufficient, as the settlers could create replacement parts and objects on demand, requiring only a regular shipment of raw printing materials from Earth.

However, the Moon is a much worse long-term option than Mars or Venus. Because it is significantly smaller than either of them, it would be difficult to create a permanent atmosphere around the Moon. This would mean that the colonies would always have to be pressurized and self-contained. Over the long term, the risk of a leak or other technical failure makes the idea impractical. Also, the small size of the moon means its gravity is about 17% of Earth's. While adults could live on the Moon for long periods of time, they would experience a loss of bone density and muscle atrophy. However, children would experience significantly more serious effects; without significant medical intervention, a long-term lunar colony simply could not sustain itself if the next generation couldn't survive to be healthy adults. While the Moon may someday offer mining, tourism, and scientific opportunities, as well as being a technological stepping-stone to colonizing other planets, it would not make a good long-term home. Unless scientists can create artificial gravity, my guess is that most people who live on the Moon will only do so for a part of their lives, spending their developmental years on Earth. On the other hand, Moon colonization would provide extremely valuable insights about how humans would cope in the low-gravity environment of Mars.

The combination of the long lunar night (354 hours) and the lack of atmosphere also leads to temperature extremes, which would be inconvenient to deal with. The lunar night would also disrupt plant growth and prevent solar power from being an effective means of generating energy. These disadvantages are similar to Venus, but are not present on Mars.

Aside from the scientific reasons why colonizing the Moon is possible, there are also significant political incentives, which I believe make it more likely. We already have Russian scientists and Newt Gingrich talking about moon colonies. If we have a whole millennium to talk about it and have our technology make it increasingly possible, eventually some country or another is going to make a serious bid for it, even if it's just for a short-term scientific research station. Because the Moon has no atmosphere, it makes a significantly better place for an observatory than Earth, especially as light pollution and greenhouse gases increase. And once one country has an observatory on the Moon, other countries are going to want to compete in order to not be seen as falling behind. Assuming we don't kill ourselves off first, I think we'll almost definitely colonize the Moon.

d) tries to frantically pump resources into their space program at the last minute, only to fail to accomplish any of the above with meaningful results: 4/10 

We hear a lot about NASA's budget cuts. And yeah, it's true that in the current state of things, we wouldn't be able to get off-planet sometime this century if we were to suddenly suffer a disaster that made it necessary. However, as I discussed above, we already essentially have the technology to form a lunar colony. And while NASA may be experiencing budget cuts, private enterprises, Russia, and China are continuing to fund manned space exploration. Ultimately, progress is still being made. It's my personal opinion that if things got bad enough that we had to evacuate Earth, we would probably discover this in time to divert our remaining resources into a lunar colony that would be reasonably likely to work.

Meanwhile, NASA is still working on space exploration. The same technology used to deposit Curiosity on Mars could easily be used to deposit supplies for an outpost, and eventually to land humans on Mars, which NASA still talks about doing within the next couple of decades.

Finally, although the Constellation program's cancellation may appear to limit the future of manned space exploration, that isn't actually the case. Instead, NASA will continue to use probes like Curiosity to further explore the Moon, Mars, and other planets. Essentially every probe NASA has sent to these locations recently has included finding water and evaluating the habitability of the area as one of its objectives. At the same time, NASA is looking at sending astronauts on long-term missions to Lagrange areas, which are points in space where gravity from different bodies essentially cancels out. This would allow NASA to evaluate the long-term effects of living in space or low-gravity areas, and mean that medicine could come up with solutions to any potential problems. And because manned exploration is still a long-term goal that captures the public imagination, NASA has continued to look at different theoretical possibilities for colonization.

The upshot of it is, I think that our knowledge and understanding of other planets is going to progress to the point where we will be able to colonize the Moon in an emergency, assuming the emergency is something like "We're going to experience a runaway greenhouse effect/giant asteroid/etc. in a decade" and not something like "Oh hey, the Earth is getting destroyed in a week" like we always see in movies. In the very least, we should be able to establish a lunar colony large enough to sustain the human race. While it wouldn't be able to support the entire Earth the way a completely terraformed planet would, I would still call that result meaningful.

Furthermore, a lot of the technological advances I've talked about would also allow us to prolong Earth's ability to sustain us. I feel like we would definitely be able to stretch it out to a few more centuries or even millennia, and I feel like that's plenty of time to get space exploration going. Think for a moment about the scale of a thousand years. A millennium ago, we hadn't even crossed the Atlantic Ocean (with the possible exception of the Vikings); look how far we've come since then. On a similar note, we put a man on the moon barely half a century after the airplane was even invented. Technological progress moves at an awesome pace. It wasn't so long ago that we doubted that anyone would even reach the moon. I'm pretty sure that with 1000 years, we'll see some pretty amazing advancements that would allow last-minute space programs to have a pretty good chance at success. And, as I've discussed above and will discuss more below, I think we'll be able to keep the Earth habitable and disaster-free for long enough to see it happen.

2) Mankind reverses the trend of polluting and switches to only reusable energy. Instead of expanding into space, they farm the oceans and build ever upwards like the Jetsons: 10/10

I gave these options a solid 10 because not only are they inevitable, but they are also already happening.

First of all, take renewable energy. Within the next 1000 years, we are going to run out of coal and oil, and some sources suggest that could be as early as the next 50 years. Even before the world is literally stripped of every extractable drop, the price crunch will mean that oil has effectively become unavailable for many people. So what happens then? Well, in the book A Thousand Barrels a Second, Peter Tertzakian gives a fascinating account of the history of energy resources. According to him, whenever society has switched from one dominant energy source to another, due to lack of availability, the process of making the shift takes about fifty to one hundred years. So, by 2150 at the latest, I predict that we will have moved on from non-renewable resources. It's possible that nuclear fission, or even nuclear fusion, will make up a large percentage of this, but nuclear power is impractical for transportation, and the dangers of fission mean that many regions will prefer to avoid it. Therefore, the only available option is going to be renewable energy. This will probably take many forms, including solar power, wind, hydro, biofuel, nanotechnology, geothermal, and the efficient use of waste heat. The obvious problem is that green energy isn't as energy-dense as fossil fuels, and so it doesn't work quite as well. Furthermore, it's not just the technology that needs to be developed; it's the infrastructure. Tertzakian points out that one of the reasons for Edison's success is that he was able to thread the wiring for lightbulbs through the already existing pipelines for gas lighting in the first communities he wired. Similarly, even if something like a hydrogen fuel cell car becomes affordable, gas stations will need to be outfitted to refuel them before the technology can really take off. This won't be economical until we reach a real oil crunch, which will probably happen within our lifetimes.

Some countries are already taking initiatives to make renewable energy a significant part of their infrastructure. Germany, for example, derived 25% of its electricity from renewable energy in 2012, as opposed to 6% in 2000. However, the technology isn't perfect; electricity prices have increased and power outages have become more common. Nevertheless, the country recognizes the value in moving forward with renewable energy production. Similarly, countries with strong coastal tides, such as Norway and Canada, could derive much of their energy from hydroelectric power. In areas with extremely low population density, solar power is already a better resource than traditional fuels, because the settlements can be self-sustained and off the grid, reducing overall costs.

Obviously, some areas will face significant challenges in implementing renewable energy, and it's currently not developed enough to substitute for fossil fuels, even if there weren't economic and infrastructure issues in the way. However, because fossil fuels will definitely run out, renewable energy is going to become the next dominant energy source whether we like it or not. Nuclear fission may increase for a while, but the extreme waste and danger of plants, combined with the fact that I'm pretty confident that we'll work out fusion plants within the next millennium means it will probably be phased out too.

Secondly, ocean farming will become an important means of producing food, due to the eventual limits of GMO technology, the necessity of developing land due to a growing world population, and the fact that that growing population will continue to need food. It's estimated that ocean farms could produce enough nutrition for the entire world population using an area the size of Washington state. Obviously, this could not only solve the current world food crisis, but it could also support the world population for hundreds or even thousands of years at that rate. Currently, approximately 90% of the ocean is unproductive due to the lack of nutrients for phytoplankton activity, leading to a plateau in fish harvesting in 1989. By increasing phytoplankton activity, not only could we feed the world, but we would also create a huge greenhouse gas sink, combatting pollution at the same time. China and other Asian countries currently see seaweed farms as a crucial strategy in offsetting their carbon emissions. Additionally, while even the most eco-friendly land-based farms require fresh water (another resource that will become increasingly scarce), deforestation, and fertilizer, land farming isn't a sustainable long-term solution to world hunger.

So if ocean farming is so great, why haven't we done it on a large scale yet? Well, for one thing, ocean farming previously succumbed to the same faults as industrial land farming, flooding monopopulations of fish with chemicals and creating huge amounts of pollution and waste. Current proposals for ocean farming would create biological habitats that mimic the natural order, eliminating the need for both chemical stimulants and waste management. The other huge hurdle is that it's difficult to economically profit from ocean farming due to current laws and regulations surrounding the fishing industry. Seeding the oceans with chelated iron to produce phytoplankton blooms isn't going to produce a return on your investment if the fish simply swim away and get fished by someone else. However, countries as diverse as New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, Canada, and the USA are implementing new "individual transferable quotas" and privatizations of fishing areas, making ocean farming increasingly economical.

Nevertheless, ocean farming can't sustain the world indefinitely. The resources required to create ocean farms, such as iron, still have to be mined, manufactured, and distributed. As a result, it would theoretically become necessary for iron to eventually be mined from space, meaning that colonizing the Moon or other planets wouldn't become completely unnecessary, although ocean farms could delay the importance of creating extraterrestrial settlements.

Finally, futuristic skyscrapers are already being developed in countries with high population densities, such as Japan. (Is there any way this question could not eventually reference Japan? I don't think so.) While some of their concepts seem pretty science-fiction-y, it's an undeniable fact that areas that face high population density begin building upwards instead of outwards. For instance, after the government of Ontario passed a law prohibiting urban sprawl, Toronto began the construction of 147 new tall buildings. The real question is whether we'll wait until we've developed virtually all the land on Earth before we build upwards, or if we'll voluntarily turn to skyscrapers before we destroy the entire environment. After a thousand years, though, I think either of those situations will long since have come to pass.

Furthermore, a lot of skyscraper concepts are meant to do double-duty as energy producers or waste cleaners. Some concepts propose cleaning the ocean, producing energy from towers of waste, being movable in case of disaster, doing double-duty by restoring areas destroyed by mining, or storing water in case of drought. Others include recycling centers that are self-powered by wind turbines, towers built into the ground to house the dead, and towers that harvest lightning power.

Many of these concepts are obviously unrealistic, meant merely to inspire possibilities. For instance, this proposal will probably never come to pass, but it raises intriguing questions about prefabricating skyscrapers, integrating them into transportation hubs, coating the walls with photovoltaic cells or carbon dioxide sinks, and installing heat-recapturing technology to minimize waste. In fact, it's suggested that skyscrapers could become energy-neutral or even energy-producing, by integrating biofuel cells and wind turbines. These wind turbines could also be used to capture moisture and produce drinking water for the residents. This skyscraper proposed for Dubai could pay off its energy debt in 20 years, and would power the municipal grid for decades to come.

Meanwhile, the technology surrounding skyscrapers is continuing to make them taller and safer. For instance, the Shanghai Tower, scheduled to open in 2014, will be the second-tallest tower in the world, and contains innovations that will make skyscrapers safer and even more common. It has a layered, interlocking structure to make it more stable, and two glass facades that essentially turn the tower into a giant Thermos, drastically reducing the energy needed to heat and cool it. Not only are its elevators the fastest in the world, but their ability to regenerate electricity make them extremely efficient. Furthermore, because the tower twists one degree per floor, it directs and slows wind currents, reducing lateral wind forces by 24%, a key innovation in an area where typhoons are common.

There are many other innovations in skyscraper technology. Instead of the classic steel framework, a structural system called the "tube" makes the outside of the building the strongest part, which helps it to reduce wind. However, the height of the building also requires increasing the base width using this technique. New ideas, such as the "stayed-mast" and "buttressed core," feature a strong central core. Meanwhile, the height of these buildings is pushing the limits on conventional cabled elevators. Last year, MagneMotion unveiled an elevator that is driven by magnets, much like a vertical bullet train. Seemingly unrelated technologies, such as 3D printing, allow for rapid modeling of wind effects. Finally, improvements in materials technology allows us to create lightweight building materials that can withstand huge compressive forces. Ironically, our research on the nanoscale level is fueling the creation of the largest structures in all of human history.

Additional innovations include rerouting earthquake waves around skyscrapers instead of attempting to absorb them, creating escape harnesses to make the upper floors safer, and harvesting energy during demolitions by using gravitational potential energy to generate electricity.

Alternatively, some people are even proposing "waterscrapers" that would be entirely self-sufficient for food and energy. While such a thing is clearly quite a ways off, could we sit it within 1000 years? I think so.

However, it's important to consider that even if the world was sustained by 100% renewable energy, we would still produce other forms of waste, such as garbage and sewage. Furthermore, while skyscrapers can reduce urban sprawl, we still can't cover the entire Earth in buildings like Coruscant because of the total destruction of the environment that such a thing would imply. In other words, while I think everything in the option will definitely happen, I still think we're going to end up looking at space colonization at some point in time.

3. A disaster strikes from space which we are unable to stop in the form of... 

a) an asteroid: 2/10 

The Earth experiences impacts from space debris every day. Most of it burns up in the atmosphere, but some of it reaches Earth. Many of these impacts are relatively small. However, we experience impacts from sizable chunks, about 10 m across, approximately once a decade. We just don't hear about it much because so much of the Earth's surface is uninhabited. Even if our population explodes dramatically, however, such an impact wouldn't be a disaster large enough to threaten mankind. As it happens, meteors large enough to destroy a city (about 100 m across) hit Earth once or twice every thousand years or so, although the odds of it actually hitting a city still make it an unlikely event in the next millennium. And even if we lost a city, the human race would still be fine.

In order to threaten the global climate, an asteroid would have to be at least a kilometer wide. To cause mass extinctions, the asteroid would have to be even larger: about 5 kilometers. The kinds of asteroid impacts occur a couple times in a million years, so it's hypothetically possible. The (extremely small) odds are raised by the fact that many comets approach this scale; if a long-orbit comet will eventually be on a collision course with Earth, we could very well not know about it yet. In order to prevent this, organizations such as the Spaceguard Survey have been paying close attention to near-Earth asteroids. Currently, the most interesting threat they've identified is a 270 m asteroid named Apophis, which will pass close enough to Earth to hit communication satellites in 2029. It's possible that this will shift its orbit enough to place it on a collision course in 2036. Again, though, the odds are small - about 1 in 250,000 - and the asteroid wouldn't be able to wipe out mankind anyways, although it would be a pretty big catastrophe. Currently, scientists have identified about 400 asteroids large enough to cause regional damage, which they estimate is probably about 10% of how many there actually are. Nevertheless, such asteroid wouldn't cause an apocalypse.

So why did I rate this category so low? Because in the extremely unlikely event that such an asteroid would be on a collision course with Earth, we would probably be able to stop it. Astronomers are getting better and better at identifying potential threats every day, and as our space program continues to expand as discussed above, we will be even more capable of dealing with them. Current proposals include drilling a hole and dropping a nuclear bomb into it, or using spaceships and/or bombs to knock the asteroid off course.

According to Discovery Magazine, an asteroid impact is the #1 most likely doomsday scenario. However, their analysis was not confined to the next 1000 years, and it didn't factor in the possibility of stopping it. Compared to the other options in scenario (3), an asteroid impact is more preventable.

b) a supernova explosion: 0.0001/10 

The nearest star that could go supernova, Betelgeuse, is 640 light years away. Because the energy of a supernova dissipates exponentially, and a star must be 100 light years away to pose no threat to Earth, it's not really a big deal if Betelgeuse goes supernova, let alone all the other stars that are even further off. How close does a supernova have to be to destroy Earth? Well, if a supernova went off 50 light years away, this would probably shear away the ozone and destroy Earth's magnetic field, rendering our planet completely uninhabitable. In a more dramatic scenario, a star 1 light year away would rip our entire solar system to shreds. (The nearest star is Proxima Centauri at just over 4 light years, but it's impossible for it to supernova any time within the next 1000 years, or even the next billion or so.)

However, the Sun is constantly moving throughout the galaxy. It's theoretically possible that because our solar system is entering the Orion arm, dangerous supernovae could become more frequent than the current one in 240 million years we currently experience. Furthermore, because the most dangerous type of supernovae, Type 1a, occur in the common white dwarf star, it's possible that an unpredictable supernova could occur in a solar system that is not well studied. Nevertheless, this possibility is pretty remote. They would have to be less than 33 light years from Earth, and any known candidates for such an event will have been carried further away than that by the time the star could go supernova. The hype is greatly overblown by poorly researched articles that neglect to recognize that stars over three thousand light years away, which will not explode for over 10 million years, are not going to threaten us.

Basically, NASA says it's not going to happen. The three closest stars that will next supernova are both too far away, and aren't going to explode for millions of years. While it's possible that a superluminous supernova could cause chronobiological problems, the negative effect of such an event still couldn't wipe out life on Earth. I didn't rate a supernova explosion as zero, because it's still hypothetically possible, but everything we know about science suggests that it won't.

c) a solar flare: 0.00000000000000000000000000001/10 

According to NASA, the sun is not physically capable of producing a solar flare that destroys earth. While the most powerful type of solar flare, coronal mass ejections (CME's), can disrupt electric grids and GPS units, this would not "end the world," although it would be a temporary, regional natural disaster. I think the most recent pop culture example of a solar flare destroying the earth is from that horrible movie 2012, which had science of a quality that matched its plot. Basically, there are several types of radiation that the sun can emit. During a normal solar flare, the sun emits x-rays, which take about 8 minutes to reach earth and are absorbed by the ionosophere. The sun cannot and will not release enough x-rays that the ionosphere can't handle it. During CME's, the sun can emit alpha and beta particles, which take about 40 minutes to reach earth and are also absorbed by the upper atmosphere. While these particles could be damaging if Earth's magnetic field were to get all wacky (which is totally possible, by the way, but you didn't ask me about that), it's not a problem as long as the magnetic field holds. In 2012, they decided to make the scenario even more ridiculous for some reason by having the killer particle be neutrinos, which are totally harmless and neutral. Millions of solar neutrinos pass through your body every day. It's fine. Potato potato potato just checking to see if you're still paying attention.

I don't really have much else to say about this one; it's just not possible. However, if you want the odds of the magnetic field failing or flipping within the next 1000 years, I'd be willing to give that doomsday scenario a 3/10. Earth's magnetic field flips every couple hundred million years, and we're actually overdue for a flip. Some scientists predict that this could happen within the next 500 years. While the magnetic field always restores itself, the process of changing its polarity means that for a period of time, the field won't cover the Earth in the same way, and we'll be vulnerable to solar flares during that time. It's totally possible that this scenario could wipe out life on Earth. Honestly, I think that of all the natural disaster doomsday scenarios, this one is the most likely. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that we would be exposed to enough radiation to kill us; it's also possible that we would simply have no magnetic north, access to satellites, or reliable electricity grids. While that would set civilization significantly back, we would still be alive at the end of it. It all depends on how long we're unprotected, and scientists simply don't know the answer to that. The field could take thousands of years to completely flip, or it could take a few weeks.

d) a gamma ray burst: 1/10 

Supernova events, or the collision of black holes or two neutron stars, can cause gamma ray bursts, the most powerful electromagnetic event in the universe. They can have up to 0.05% as much energy as the Sun would if its entire mass was instantaneously converted into energy, which, if you're having trouble visualizing it, is a LOT of energy. However, gamma ray bursts occur very rarely, and they would have to be within six thousand light years of Earth in order to cause mass extinctions. These mass extinctions would primarily occur due to the ozone layer being destroyed, allowing massive amounts of cosmic radiation to reach Earth and kill pretty much all the things. Fortunately, GRBs only occur every 100,000 years at maximum, and only a small percentage of these would be aimed towards Earth. NASA estimates that GRBs that have the potential to affect life on Earth occur every five million years or so, and that a GRB may have caused the Ordovician-Silurian extinction event.

The most dangerous type of star that could cause a gamma burst is a Wolf-Rayet star, which are extremely hot, massive stars that are losing mass rapidly. These are at high risk to supernova and cause a GRB. For example, WR 104 could deplete 25% of Earth's ozone layer and hit the near side of Earth with enough lethal radiation to instantly kill some people. However, WR 104 isn't going to have a supernova event within the next 1000 years, and even if it does, it's not guaranteed that it would even have a GRB, or that it would be aimed towards Earth if it did.

In a less extreme scenario, it's possible that a GRB could create an excess of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere, creating a photochemical smog that causes a cosmic winter effect. This could also deplete the ozone layer and cause more cosmic radiation to reach Earth. However, because this effect would occur over time, and it's already unlikely to happen, I'm going to postulate that if it did happen in 3000 AD or something, we would be able to come up with technological solutions to save at least some of the life on Earth.

However, remember the star T Pyxidis from the supernova section of the question? While the supernova wouldn't kill us, T Pyxidis is close enough to Earth that a GRB aimed in our direction totally could kill us. Fortunately, it shouldn't happen for about 10 million years.

Interestingly, scientists are discovering evidence that suggests that a GRB may have hit Earth in the 8th century. Obviously, it was too far away to cause mass extinction events, but it's kind of comforting to know that GRBs have hit Earth while humans lived on it, and we came through it just fine.

e) Nemesis: 0/10

I'm going to say this once: Nemesis doesn't exist. The odds of us being destroyed by something that doesn't exist are...wait, let me get my calculator...zero.

f) Nibiru: 0/10

Nibiru doesn't exist either. At least Nemesis started out as an outside-the-box scientific hypothesis; Nibiru is the brainchild of a science fiction writer and a psychic.

(Yeah, my answers to these two sections were lame and short, but my geekiness is limited to science, not conspiracy theories.)

4. A united world government controls the number of births and the lifespan of all humans: 2/10

I don't really see a united world government being able to wield even a fraction of the power required to control something like that. Multi-national government is way too weak and dysfunctional. Exhibit A; Exhibit B.

Besides, let's consider what would have to happen to give rise to a truly united world government. Based on how opposed the USA is to the UN, I think we can safely say that America will never willingly agree to give up sovereignty to a world government, and I don't really see America trying to actually take over the world. So, in order to have a world government, the USA would have to be severely weakened somehow. If this happened through war (i.e., a hostile nation or terrorist group trying to take over the world), I can't imagine that the opposing side would come out of the conflict without sustaining significant and devastating damages from fighting America. This group wouldn't be in any sort of position to force their attempted takeover of the world, especially since a lot of other nations would also put up resistance. Similarly, if the USA was devastated by some sort of natural disaster or calamity, I imagine that the rest of the world would be similarly devastated. Again, there wouldn't be the resources to form and enforce a totalitarian world government. Even if the USA was selectively decimated by a natural disaster, leaving the rest of the world relatively intact, I don't see that motivating any other countries to suddenly try to take over the world. (Except Canada. This entire answer is part of our secret plot to lull the world into a false sense of security, while giving the impression that we're weak and powerless. Then, right when you're least expecting it...bam! Everyone has to wear a toque.)

As far as population control goes, while I don't anticipate a united world government, we've already seen individual governments attempt to control the number of births. In a study by David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell, it was suggested that the world population must be reduced to about 2 billion people in order to promote a sustainable level of living at the equivalent of a moderate European lifestyle. This could be accomplished within 100 years if each couple restricted themselves to only one child. Obviously, not every government is going to try to enforce something like this. Generally, population control is supported by increasing the availability of contraception and increasing women's education. In Iran, family planning education is mandatory for both males and females before a marriage license can be obtained, which is credited with the drastic reduction in birth rates that it has seen. India uses other incentives to promote population control, such their law that makes anyone with more than two children ineligible for elections to Gram Panchayats, or local governments.

The most obvious example of enforced population control is China's one-child policy, which makes exceptions for twins, rural couples, ethnic minorities, and couples who are both only children themselves. This policy has been largely controversial due to the increased number of female abortions and female infanticide that has contributed to China's extreme gender imbalance. Many advocacy groups oppose the policy based on human rights violations, such as forced abortions. Furthermore, the policy has created other problems, such as the fact that one adult is now solely responsible for the care of two parents and four grandparents, without any available help. In my personal opinion, the difficulty that China has had with the one-child policy suggests that it's very unlikely that this will be widely adopted. This would be unconstitutional by the standards of many countries, and other countries don't have a strong enough totalitarian state to enforce it to the same degree as China.

While many countries have dabbled in compulsory sterilzation, most countries seem to have abandoned it in recent decades, with the notable exception of Uzbekistan. It, too, seems to be on its way out.

I see two possible scenarios for lifespan control. In one scenario, science has extended the average human life by a moderate amount, and so governments choose to cap the human lifespan at some arbitrary age, despite that everyone will eventually die of old age (even if old age is now 150 or 200 years old). Considering how controversial abortion, capital punishment, and other associated issues are, I can't imagine that any democracy would agree to such a thing. I can hypothetically see a totalitarian nation attempting to implement such a policy, but they would face extremely heavy international condemnation, and it would probably be even less successful than compulsory population control.

In the other scenario, science has invented some sort of procedure or pill that allows humans to live far longer than their natural lifespan, possibly making them immortal. In this situation, I can hypothetically see different countries enacting various sorts of proposals that would make this unavailable to anyone above a certain age, effectively killing them. However, this would lead to a huge black market for lifespan. Poor people would sell some of their "life" to rich people in order to buy food, send their children to college, or pay for other basic necessities. The disparity between nations who could afford it and nations who could not would become extreme. Dictators could ultimately rule forever, forcing changes in foreign policy when it comes to dealing with them. It would be total chaos.

Fortunately, I don't think such a thing will be developed within the next 1000 years. While some creatures, such as the hydra and planarian worms, can be biologically immortal, there is currently no research being done about applying this to humans. While anti-aging products exist, Concealocanth does a great job of explaining why they're bunk in Board Question #68832. Although it may be possible to eventually grow human organs in a lab, I'm having a hard time to imagine a future where you can literally replace every single tissue in your body as it ages. Even if that became a reality, you'd probably still end up with some pretty old tissue in you. As you age, your risk for cancer increases, so I basically think everyone would just die of cancer in a couple hundred years. So what if we cure cancer? Well, I think we're getting into the realm where people require so many different treatment requirements that we're essentially back to my first scenario, where the government restricts certain treatments below a certain age.

Basically, I don't think there's going to be a magic bullet that makes humans immortal. If we do come up with a method of rejuvenation, I think that it would bear so many similarities to cancer (again) that it would take awhile before everyone started truly living for decades and centuries beyond their natural time. And in that situation, we could still die of other diseases, accidents, and murder. Maybe we'd see some government sneaking poison into nursing homes or something.

Really, the sociological implications of medicine that can make humans functionally immortal are too broad to accurately predict. In the case that this happens, I'm sure that some governments will resort to unethical methods of dealing with the situation. At the same time, we have to consider the fact that such developments in technology will also come at the same time as the developments I talked about in part (1) and (2) of this question, which would reduce the pressure a non-aging population would cause. Maybe non-aging individuals would be better candidates for space exploration and settlement, and governments would instead begin a race to see who could build the best non-aging population in order to get a leg up on the space race. Who knows?

Finally, it's proposed that we could one day find a way of transporting our consciousnesses into computers, living forever as cyborgs. While this could lead to all kinds of crazy scenarios, like cyborg armies and increased competition over precious metal resources, it would also serve to reduce the strain of feeding a growing human population. On the other hand, the energy requirements would probably accelerate the Earth's pollution, and the other resources necessary to build a bunch of cyborgs would still lead to population challenges. So while computer people is a pretty cool and far-fetched idea, I think it would come with essentially the same pressures as any other means of gaining immortality.

5. Humanity is decimated by _____ and the few survivors live primitively.

a) war: 7/10 

So we're going to have more wars in the next 1000 years, and some of them will be major ones. History and the current state of the world today makes that abundantly clear. So now the question is, will any of these wars be large enough to decimate humanity? I can think of three possible scenarios where this happens: WWIII, biological warfare, and nuclear warfare.

I'm having trouble thinking of a specific situation right now that's likely to lead to WWIII, but a thousand years is a really, really long time. Within the last thousand years, we've had conflicts from the Crusades to WWII. I kind of just see it as a given that at some point in the next 1000 years, there will be numerous situations where the world could erupt into war, and I also see it as pretty likely that it would happen. (So basically, today we've learned that Zed thinks space travel and science is awesome, the universe is fine, but humans are idiots.) I read a great point in this discussion that essentially says that wars erupt when one power bloc thinks it can prevail against another. The Cold War didn't erupt into global fighting because the USA and the USSR perceived each other to be too equally matched to start an open war. However, as China increases in power, NATO and other traditional Western alliances decline, terrorist groups gain supporters, and developing nations like Iran and North Korea gain power, new power blocs are emerging. It's pretty likely that one of these might perceive themselves as being in a position to make a strike against another bloc. So, I think WWIII will happen within 1000 years. However, like the previous wars, I don't think a conventional war will decimate humanity. A lot of people will die and some countries may be reshaped, but overall, humanity will be fine.

So, under what conditions could war decimate humanity? Well, the obvious one is nuclear warfare. This apocalyptic scenario has been so thoroughly rehashed, and has been such an object of fear for so long, that I think some people tend to downplay the risks these days. After all, the Cold War is over, so it would seem that the world has taken a step back from nuclear warfare. However, a study by Stanford University warns that the risk of nuclear warfare with China is actually higher than most people think. While China has a strict policy of not striking first with nuclear weapons, and the military power of the US makes them unlikely to resort to such extremes, there are other factors that could precipitate nuclear warfare. For instance, if China perceived conventional attacks to be an attempt to sabotage their nuclear capabilities, or if they thought they were a precursor to a nuclear strike, they might break their rule. Similarly, China's military policy is specifically designed to create uncertainty in the US about their plans, under the idea that this will prevent the US from taking swift action. However, this strategy obviously also creates the potential for the US to believe that China is going to use nuclear weapons. Some conventional Chinese missiles are on the same bases as nuclear missiles, and some rockets are even able to carry either type of missile. Finally, the US does not find China's no-first-strike policy to be credible, which could also result in misunderstandings leading to war.

Meanwhile, Stanford engineer Martin Hellman believes that the chances of a child born today suffering death from nuclear warfare to be 10%. That's 10% in our lifetime, let alone in the next 1000 years. His risk analysis approach looks at the rate of possible initiating events, the probability of these events turning into major events, and the probability of these crises leading to the use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the situation in Iran and North Korea adds complexity to his consideration; nuclear terrorism isn't even included in his assessment, which means it's actually conservative.

The outcomes of a nuclear winter should be well-known to most readers, but for the sake of completeness, I'll summarize. The aftereffects of the bomb would pollute the atmosphere so thoroughly that major climate change would occur, leading to famine and drought. This could possibly lead to even more fighting and conflict. Furthermore, global nuclear war would be more likely to target major cities, which would destroy more technology, power grids, and communication systems, further leading humanity into a pre-technological state. Along with nuclear warfare, it's possible that high-altitude magnetic pulses would be used to sabotage militaries, destroying our computer systems. Meanwhile, radiation would kill many people outright, and lead to greatly increased rates of cancer. We all know why nuclear warfare is bad. And according to scientists, there's a great chance of nuclear warfare in the next 1000 years than there is of any natural disaster on the list.

Finally, biological warfare wouldn't even require a major, worldwide conflict to decimate humanity. As we all learned from the Jurassic Park movies, life will find a way. No matter what kinds of controls the biological engineers think they've built into their weapon, living things can mutate, reproduce, and quickly move beyond the ability of their creators to control. There are many non-apocalyptic examples of this; for instance, look at what the cane toads have done to Australia. While bacteria can be genetically modified to only act within a narrow environmental range, bacteria mutates all the time; that's why you have to get a new flu shot every year. Similarly, even things that don't directly kill you, like anti-agriculture agents, can be easily spread by migrating animals, water runoff, or weather patterns.  

Currently, the USA, Russia, China, and South Africa definitely have biological weapons. The UK, France, Iraq, Israel, Iran, Syria, and North Korea probably have biological weapons, and other countries, such as India, Pakistan, and Libya, are seeking biological weapons. Not only are these a lot of powerful nations that tend to disagree with each other, but some of these nations also provide terrorists with close access to biological weapons. While nations themselves would presumably use biological weapons carefully, and with all the safeguards they could put on them, terrorists have no such inhibitions. It only takes one terrorist to release a powerful biological weapon, and humanity could be decimated. Biological warfare has a long history of being used, so it's not like it would be a first-time thing. The difference is, today's superior technology makes it that much more dangerous to the entire world, and the increase in global travel makes it more communicable than ever.

For more information on biological weapons, the NIH has a great collection of articles on the different types here.

b) disease: 4/10 

In contrast, I don't think a pandemic is likely to have such an effect that it truly decimates the human race. The only time that's happened in history is when smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans, and that was confined to a specific ethnic population that had considerably less access to medicine than we do today. While there have been many, many pandemics in human history, none of them actually wiped out civilization. In modern times, SARS, avian flu, and swine flu were all contained and caused minimal deaths. Historically, there's not a lot of basis to think that pandemics tend to decimate humanity as a whole.

On the other hand, there are modern differences that could change this. For one thing, the speed of global travel makes pandemics more transmissible; in the past, particularly potent pandemics were typically confined to small regions, because they killed off their hosts faster than the disease could spread. Now, we lack a good global system to respond to pandemics in a way that reduces transmission of the disease. Along with the speed of global travel, we now have less time to react to the situation, and it can be difficult to get aid effectively to the afflicted, especially when the pandemics begin in developing areas. Furthermore, most pandemics do begin in developing areas, due to the fact that conditions are more favorable for disease to develop and fester. And although modern medicine is better able to treat disease, viruses can develop and spread faster than vaccines can be developed and deployed to counteract them. As a result, it's very probable that we will see a significant pandemic within our lifetime – much more probable than nuclear warfare or biological terrorism. The difference is, a naturally occurring pandemic isn't going to decimate humanity; it will kill a lot of people, but civilization will recover fairly quickly. The odds of a pandemic actually destroying civilization are still significantly lower than the odds of war destroying civilization. Most likely, it will cause a recession and maybe up to 20% of people will die. I don't think it will cause us to return to a primitive state.

However, there's another disease threat that could also have a significant impact on humanity: antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics don't kill all bacteria; they only kill most of them. The bacteria that are left have mutations that make them resistant to that antibiotic, and when they multiply, all of those bacteria will also be resistant. Our usage of antibiotics, such as pumping them en masse into animal feed, quitting the medication once we feel better even though we still have a few days left that we're supposed to take it, and insisting on being prescribed antibiotics for problems that aren't even caused by bacteria all lead to the overexposure of bacteria to antibiotics, accelerating the problem. This has created significant problems in treating diseases that could previously be treated with "weak" antibiotics; for instance, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis has been popping up with increasing frequency. Furthermore, superbugs such as MRSA also threaten to become an increasingly common disease, with few good treatment options.

Meanwhile, research on new antibiotics is slowing down, due to the fact that antibiotics research isn't very profitable for pharmaceutical companies. Other alternatives are being developed; for example, Professor Savage's research group at BYU has been looking at a synthetic version of a natural anti-bacterial found in other microorganisms. I can't seem to find my o-chem notes on this, but because of the way it disrupts the bacteria, they can't grow immune to it. However, alternatives to the antibiotics we already have aren't being developed quickly enough.

To realize the impact of this, stop for a moment and think about how often we use antibiotics. When was the last time someone you knew died of strep throat or scarlet fever? We take antibiotics for pretty much everything; while people used to die of septic shock because they cut their finger, that isn't even an issue today. Furthermore, think of all the surgeries we do today, both elective and necessary. The rates of post-surgery complications have gone down enormously since antibiotics were developed; in a very real sense, losing our ability to fight bacteria with antibiotic agents could return us, if not to a "primitive" state, at least to a state where health care and life expectancy are drastically reduced. Overall, we won't live primitively, and we'll probably find a solution within 1000 years. However, this could become a very real and serious problem for quite some time.

c) zombies: 0/10 

So I don't really believe that a zombie apocalypse is possible, but the subject is one of my favorites. M and I joke about who's going to cause the zombie apocalypse all the time. (Hey look, I made it like 10,000 words before bringing up M! New record!)

First, let's talk about some ways the zombie apocalypse could be created, and then we'll talk about why it would fail.

In this video, the possibility of a "rage virus" is discussed – the dead aren't reanimated, but the infected humans develop qualities of rage and the insatiable desire for human flesh. In order to do this, the virus must be specific to the brain areas that cause these symptoms, while leaving the rest of the brain intact so that the zombies can move around and stuff. The virus could enter the olfactory neurons through retrograde axonal transport in order to affect the ventromedial hypothalamus, which regulates hunger; the amygdala, which regulates emotion; and the frontal cortex, which regulates morality and inhibiting impulsive actions (like biting people). You end up with super hungry, aggressive, brain-dead beings who can't recognize family and friends or control their own actions. Alternatively, a similar effect could be created by attaching a prion to a virus and causing brain damage, but you would then have to induce metabolic alkalosis to prevent the prion from completely destroying the brain, and prions can't really be attached to viruses anyways.

Furthermore, there are parasites, like Toxoplasmosa gondii, that can induce zombie-like symptoms; neurotoxins, like those used in Haiti to produce real-life, zombie-like people, and brain stem cells or nanobots, which would some day be used for brain surgery, only for things to go horribly wrong.

So let's suppose zombies begin to roam the Earth. We're all doomed, right? Wrong. So wrong. Why? Well, for one thing, zombies have no sense of self-preservation that allows us to avoid natural predators. They would be eaten alive by dogs, cats, and wolves, decomposed by maggots and flies, and even mauled by deer and bears. Furthermore, their lack of self-preservation and higher thought processes would make it super easy for the military to outwit them.

Oh yeah, the military. Why doesn't the military ever win against the zombies in these movies? Seriously, you have some lone protagonist with makeshift weapons taking on a dozen at once, yet the American military is somehow defeated? Really? This makes no sense. Even if they could somehow overpower the military with brute force, I find it difficult to believe that we couldn't out-strategize them; a simple doorknob would probably cause their non-functioning brains to overload.

Additionally, they can't heal from injuries, or even normal cellular wear and tear. Leg broken? They can't chase you anymore. Tendons degrade? They fall into a heap of animated corpse-flesh that can't hurt anybody. Seriously. We can all just lock the doors, throw rocks at their ankles, and wait it out for a couple of weeks.

And then you have to consider the effects of weather. Zombies aren't smart enough to find shelter. If it was warm out, they'd dry out and desiccate under the sun, or they'd start rotting and dissolve into rancid, putrid flesh. Have you ever left meat out in July for a few days? No, because you have a functioning frontal cortex. The zombies would just be destroyed. And it's not like cold would be any better for them; they'd freeze solid. Grab a hammer, smash some zombie ice cubes, and the problem is solved.

Also, remember how I talked about diseases like SARS and swine flu not overrunning us? Well, those diseases were highly transmissible through airborne contact. Most zombie folklore agrees that zombies must bite you in order to infect you. This is a terrible way to spread disease. How did zombies even get enough numbers to pose a threat to the local policeman, let alone the American military? Seriously, if you knew there were zombies running around biting people, would you get close to strangers? When was the last time you contracted rabies? Hmmm? The only scenario where a zombie outbreak could occur quickly enough to infect a large amount of the population too quickly to control would be a virus more potent than any we've ever seen before.

Finally, if a zombie attacks you, just get in a boat. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a zombie that could swim? Brain-dead creatures can't climb or navigate obstacles nearly as efficiently as you or I could. If worst comes to worst, we could all go find a nice building with exposed pipes, toss a rope over them, climb up with a good supply of food and water, pull the rope up after us, and wait for the zombies to decompose as previously stated.

And if worst comes to worst, we can all flee to Canada, where the government has devoted actual government time to discussing preparations for the zombie apocalypse. Which raises this question: what if the zombie apocalypse is engineered by Canadians so we can feel special and needed for once?


Question #70936 posted on 02/12/2013 3:52 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Which letter of the alphabet is the most popular to begin baby names (first names) with? Second most popular? Top 5? Can you do it for 2012? Last 100 years cumulatively?

My guesses: 1-J, 2-K, 3-M, 4-R, 5-N



Dear Cleph,

I was pleased to find that the Social Security Administration makes available a list of all names given to babies born since 1880, along with how many people had each name. (They do exclude names with fewer than 5 people in a given year, to protect privacy, so a very small percentage of names aren't counted below.) I downloaded the national set and went to work with Python.

I wasn't sure if you'd be more interested in a year-by-year breakdown, or just an overall lumped-together result, so I did both. Here are the lumped-together results, corrected for total number of names in a given year. (Far fewer names were in 1880 than in 2011, but I calculated what percentage of names each year started with a given letter and then averaged the percentages, to keep from biasing toward years with larger populations.)



If you want an unweighted result, here it is; there are a few small differences, but it looks substantially the same.




These are fine, but personally, I found the results more interesting if I broke them down by year. Here are the results for each year, ranked from 1 to 26; the top three spots (1, 2, 3) get special colors (green, yellow, orange), and anything else fades from red (#4) to blue (#26). This spoils the smooth fading (most changes occur gradually over decades), and draws perhaps undue attention to the first three places, but I felt like it was more interesting. First, females:




I blame the reign of "M" to the overwhelming popularity of Mary during that time period. (It was often double or triple the next-closest female name.) "M" is back in second place currently due to names like Madison and Mia. "A" took over due to names like Abigail, Ava, Ashley, and Alexis, all adding up. Now males:




Wow. For the guys, I did not expect this. "J" has been the most popular first letter for every single year since 1880. John, Jacob, James, Jeffrey, Jack, Jason, Joseph, Jonathan...the list goes on. I think the other most interesting thing here is the steady decline of "W". It was #2 for decades, thanks mostly to William (with an assist going to Walter). William is still pretty popular, but it's just outgunned by the other letters these days. Finally, the overall results:




Looking at both genders together, we just get a mix of the above results, about like you'd expect.

It's kind of fun to look at the patterns in these charts. You can take a closer look at the top names for a given year by going to the Social Security Administration's baby names site; scroll down a bit and you can pick any year you like (in case you're curious why "E" used to be so popular for girls, or what happened to "H" in the 1910s for girls).

—Laser Jock