Monday, April 18, 2005
Quiz 7 (April 18-24, 2005): Astronomy
Quiz 7 (April 18-24, 2005): Astronomy

1. A white dwarf is an astronomical object which is produced when a low to medium mass star dies. What is the term used to define the maximum mass of a white dwarf? It is approximately 3 × 1030 kg, close to 1.44 times the mass of the Sun and named after a Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist from India.

2. Which American astrophysicist discovered the velocity-distance relation, which led to the concept of the expanding universe? The law states that the greater the distance between any two galaxies, the greater their relative speed of separation. He is also generally credited for discovering the redshift of galaxies and has a very well known telescope named after him.

3. Name this largest moon of Saturn - discovered by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, it is the second largest moon in our solar system and is the only one to have a dense atmosphere consisting of more than trace gases. Its atmosphere is denser than Earth's, with a surface pressure more than one and a half times that of our planet and supports an opaque cloud layer that obscures its surface features. The 'Huygens probe' from the Cassini-Huygens mission reached its surface on January 14, 2005 by an atmospheric descent and relayed scientific information.

4. Which American astronomer, famous for his efforts to popularize science wrote the bestselling novel 'Contact', which was later made into the 1997 movie of the same name, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey?

5. Which planet in our solar system has two moons Phobos and Deimos, both of which are small and odd-shaped, with the hypothesis that they are probably captured asteroids? It is named after the Roman god of war and has only a quarter the surface area of the Earth and only one-tenth the mass, though its surface area is approximately equal to that of the Earth's dry land because it lacks oceans.

6. What is the so-called boundary of a black hole referred to as? It is defined as the boundary in spacetime for a given observer beyond which no electromagnetic energy, including light, can reach the observer. It is also the title of a science fiction movie starring Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neill about a spaceship that had disappeared seven years ago (the spaceship has the same name as the movie).

7. Which Indian astronomer (~ 500 AD) presented a mathematical system that described the earth as spinning on its axis and considered the motions of the planets with respect to the sun (a heliocentric solar system)? He also gave a very accurate estimation of 'pi'. India's first satellite (launched in 1975) was named after him.

8. Foundations of modern astronomy
a. Which ancient Greek astronomer was responsible for the 'geocentric' model of the solar system (i.e. earth is the center of the solar system, and all planets revolve around the sun). This remained the generally accepted model in the Western and Arab worlds until it was superseded by the heliocentric solar system.

b. Which brings us to the next question - who was responsible for the 'heliocentric' model (sun at the center) of the solar system (as seen earlier, it was not new, but it is generally attributed to him in the modern age). He hails from Poland and this discovery is considered to mark the beginning of modern astronomy.

c. Contributing to modern astronomy were the three laws of planetary motion, the first of which states that the planets move not in circular but elliptical orbits around the sun (To be exact 'The orbit of a planet about a star is an ellipse with the star at one focus.'). Who was the German astronomer who proposed these laws?

9. Next to the sun, which is the star nearest to the earth? It is a red dwarf in the Alpha Centauri star system and is roughly 4.22 light years from Earth.

10. Which was the first planet in our solar system to be discovered that was not known in ancient times? It had been observed on many previous occasions but was always dismissed as simply another star. It was eventually discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781.

11. What was the name given to a small planet supposed to exist in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun (from a 19th century hypothesis that has now been superseded by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity)? [HINT: the name is the same as that of the planet from which Star Trek's Spock came from]

12. Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka (zeta, epsilon and delta - i cant seem to be able use greek symbols!) are three very prominent stars in the night sky and are signature identifiers for which constellation? They are visible throughout the world, make this constellation universally recognized. [HINT - they form the 'belt']

Sunday, April 10, 2005
Quiz 6 : Indian (and related) Literature
Quiz 6 (April 11-17, 2005): Indian (and related) Literature

Most of the work is by Indian authors, some of them are not Indian, but either the subject is related to India or the author(s) are Indian born - basically, there is some indian connection. hence the 'almost indian' connection.

1. Which well known actor, playwright and director won the Jnanpith Award (India's highest literary prize) in 1998 for his literary contributions to Indian drama (most notably in Kannada)? His first is first play, titled 'Yayati', won the Mysore state award, while his second venture 'Tughlaq' was presented in London as part of the Festival of India in 1982. He has acted in several Hindi and Kannada films with eminent directors such as Satyajit Ray, and Shyam Benegal. He directed the movie 'Utsav' and more recently, his play 'Agni Mattu Male (The Fire and the Rain)' was made into a movie 'Agnivarsha', starring Jackie Shroff, Nagarjuna and Raveena Tandon. Hopefully, all these clues are sufficient.

2. For which novel set in the days of the partition of India did Bhisham Sahni win the 1975 Sahitya Akademi award in Hindi? It was later made into a television series with a stellar cast including Om Puri, A.K.Hangal, Bhisham Sahni himself, Dina Pathak, Deepa Sahi, and Amrish Puri.

3. Who was the author of the novel upon which the 2002 movie Devdas (Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai) was based?

4. Which Indian born writer (now based in New York) won the Pulitzer prize for her collection of short stories 'The Interpreter of Maladies'?

5. Which Indian born writer was a Pulitzer award finalist in 2005 for his book 'Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found'? Born in Calcutta, and raised in Bombay and New York, he co-wrote the Vidhu Vinod Chopra movie 'Mission Kashmir'.

6. Which Anglo-Indian writer, born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh in 1934, won the Sahitya Akademi Award for English in 1992 for his short story collection 'Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra'? Currently based in Mussorie, he received the Padma Shri in 1999. Most of his works have been published by Penguin India, and include 'The Night Train at Deoli and other stories', 'Time stops at Shamli' etc.

7. Which famous Indian writer wrote the novel 'The Guide', later made into a movie starring Dev Anand? He also received the Sahitya Akademi award for this work.

8. Which famous writer wrote the story 'Shatranj ke Khiladi', upon which the movie by the same name directed by Satyajit Ray is based? Born Dhanpat Rai, he started writing in Urdu under the name 'Nawabrai', and his works in Hindi include the novels 'Nirmala' and 'Gaban'.

9. Which famous poet received the Sahitya Akademi award for Hindi in 1968 for his work titled 'Do Chattanen'? He received his doctoral degree from Cambridge for his research on the works of W.B. Yeats, and has enriched Hindi through translations of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, and Shakespeare's Macbeth and Othello. He wrote his last poem 'Ek November 1984' after Indira Gandhi's assassination, and is famous for his poem 'Madhushala'

10. MARATHI (This is purely for the significant number of people on this list who had marathi as a medium of instruction in school):
a. Who won the Sahitya Akademi award in Marathi for his autobiographical novel 'Smaran Gatha'? He also wrote the novel 'Padghavali', later made into a Hindi serial 'Kuch Khoya Kuch Paya' on Doordarshan.
b. Who wrote the award winning novel 'Yayati'?
c. Who wrote the famous play 'Natasamrat'?

11. Which French author wrote the book 'The City of Joy' about the slums of Calcutta, later made into a movie starring Patrick Swayze? He has also been a leading advocate of the rights of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and wrote his book 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal' in 2002. He was one of the top foreign reporters in the 1960s and 1970s and co-wrote 'Freedom at Midnight', about the eclipse of the British Raj in India.

12. Which well known wildlife conservationist wrote 'Jungle Lore', generally considered his autobiography. Born in Kumaon, he established India's first national park in 1934 in the Kumaon Hills, and today it is a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger program, and one of the most favorable places for tiger sightings.

13. [THIS EXTRA QUESTION IS INTENDED TO COMPENSATE FOR THE MARATHI QUESTION ABOVE, #10] Which well known cricketer's autobiography is titled 'Straight from the Heart'? He made his Test debut against Pakistan at Faisalabad in 1978-79 and played his last test against New Zealand at Hamilton in 1994.

Thursday, April 07, 2005
Quiz 5 - Indian History
This quiz is courtesy of Prashant (aka PHD). I will be sending in the next one on Sunday evening.

1. Asoka was a very aggressive and imperialist ruler who attacked most of the other independent states in India of his times and built the first all India empire. However, victory over an Indian state turned him a peace loving ruler. The reason was the huge bloodbath in the battle moved him. What was the name of the state which he defeated in that battle (Hint: it was located in the region which we call Orissa these days).

2. The ruling period of which empire is considered as the Golden era in Indian history? (Hint: the second half in the names of all rulers in these dynasty ended with the name of the dynasty)

3. What was the name of Hindu Rajput wife of Akbar who was also the mother of Jehangeer? (Hint: Remember Mughal-e-Azam)

4. What was the name of the fort on which Shivaji killed Afzal Khan? (Hint: There is some recent controversy about the shrine of Afzal Khan just on the way uphill on the top of the fort. Some Shivsena members tried to ransack it a couple of years ago.)

5. What was the name of the last Mughal emperor who participated against British in the rising of 1857? (Hint: There was a serial about this emperor a few years ago on Doordarshan.)

6. In 1911, British shifted capital of India to Delhi. Which city was India's capital before that? (Hint: The rising disturbance around the old capital was a reason behind this shift).

7. Who was the famous Indian leader who died as a consequence of injuries suffered while demonstrating against Simon commission in 1928? (Hint: Bhagat Singh killed police officer Saunders responsible for the Lathicharge).

8. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was the president of drafting committee for Indian constitution. Who was the President of the constitutional assembly overall?

9. If the president of India dies, automatically vice-president takes over as the post cannot remain vacant even for a minute. If vice-president is not able to assume the office, automatically it goes to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. What was the name of the only chief justice of India who became temporary president of India for just two weeks in 1969? (Hint: He was from the minority community and became vice-president of India after a decade in 1979)

10. Who was the first Finance minister of independent India? (Hint: He was from the same Tamil trading community that the current FM P Chidambaram belongs to.)

11. There was only one time in the history of independent India that the union cabinet had two deputy prime ministers at the same time. It was in Morarji Desai ministry in 1977. Both were prime-ministerial aspirants but silenced to give up their claim in favour of Morarji by Jaiprakash Narayan. But after JP's death, they fought among themselves over the succession to Morarji and brought down the first non-congress government by Janta Party. Who were these two politicians? (Hint: one of them became PM for a short duration subsequently).

12. Who was the only minister in Indira Gandhi cabinet who questioned President Gyani Zail Singh's decision to appoint Rajiv Gandhi as PM after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 as Rajiv was not yet elected the leader of congress parliamentary party? (Hint: He is a senior member in Manmohan Singh cabinet currently. Although he was expelled by Rajiv Gandhi for his dissent, P V Narsimha Rao rehabilitated him in the congress party and politics).


1. Kalinga
2. The ruling period of the Gupta empire
3. Jodhabai
4. Pratapgad
5. Bahadur Shah Zafar
6. Calcutta
7. Lala Lajpatrai
8. Dr. Rajendra Prasad
9. M Hidayatullah
10. R K Shanmugam Chetty
11. Charan Singh & Jagjivan Ram
12. Pranab Mukherjee

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