Monday, February 27, 2006

Open Space: TOI

this is a Sunday special on the Times of India. selected Q&As

When did James Bond make his debut?

James Bond made his debut in Ian Fleming's book Casino Royale in 1953. This British spy has gone on to save the world from assorted sinister groups and megalomaniacs in several books. His enduring appeal probably lies in high-speed chases involving souped-up cars, charming sultry women and coming up trumps. Several actors have played Bond but the latest choice Daniel Craig has so incensed fans that they have launched a website to vent their anger.

— Sunil K, Chennai

What are Mersenne numbers?

Mersenne numbers are named after Fr Mersenne, a 16th century Italian mathematician. They are one less than powers of 2. The powers of 2 are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128... so Mersenne Numbers are 1, 3, 7, 15, 31, 63, 127... The importance of these numbers is that when a Mersenne number is a prime p, (the so called Mersenne prime), then the number p(p + 1)/2 is a perfect number. Perfect numbers are numbers that are equal to the sum of their own divisors. All the divisors of 6 (other than 6 itself) are 1, 2 and 3. Their sum is again 6. So 6 is a perfect number and arises from the Mersenne prime 3. The Mersenne prime 7 gives the perfect number 28, the Mersenne prime 31 leads to the perfect number 496 and so on.

— Arun Vaidya, Ahmedabad

What is the origin of the term 'cat's cradle'?

Cat's cradle is a game in which an intricately looped string is transferred from the hands of one player to the next, resulting in a succession of loop patterns. It used to be a socio-religious activity carried out by small Greek communities in ancient times. On designated days, members used to transfer such looped strings, called cat's cradles, from hand to hand to invoke blessings and bring good luck.

— Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi

Why do stars twinkle at night?

Stars seem to twinkle or change their brightness all the time. In fact, most stars shine with a steady light. The movement of air (sometimes called turbulence) in the Earth's atmosphere causes the starlight to get slightly bent as it travels from the distant star through the atmosphere to us on the ground. Some of the light reaches us directly but some gets bent slightly. This gives the illusion of twinkling. Stars closer to the horizon appear to twinkle more than others. This is because the atmosphere is a lot denser near the horizon than between the Earth and a star higher in the sky.

— Rikin B Gandhi, Mumbai

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