Saturday, 27 February 2016

Nature vs Technology: A 'Higher Or Lower' Quiz

Technology takes on nature in a series of head-to-head battles.

This week I pit nature against technology in a 'higher or lower' comparison.  Round one is a battle of temperatures.

In the red corner...  The sun's core.
And in the blue corner...  The Large Hadron Collider

Round 1) Temperature

The Large Hadron Collider, pictured yesterday,
One of the earliest scentific facts I remember being aware of is that the Sun is extremely hot indeed.  I remember in a child-like way thinking, 'You definitely wouldn't want to touch it!'

However, another scientific fact I learnt a bit later on is that sub-atomic shenanigans can also produce extremely high temperatures.  Scientists are always firing atoms and stuff at each other inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), so how does the Sun's temperature compare with some of the experiments at the LHC?

Which is the hottest?  The Sun's core, or the hottest temperature recorded at the LHC?

a) The Sun's core
b) Hottest temperature recorded at the Large Hadron Collider

Surprisingly, the Large Hadron Collider has witnessed temperatures hotter than the Sun.  And not just slightly hotter.  The hottest temperature recorded at the LHC is an impressive 366,667 times hotter than the Sun's core!  To put that into perspective, that's an extra 5 zeroes on the end!

a) The Sun's core - 15,000,000 C
b) Hottest temperature recorded at the Large Hadron Collider - 5,500,000,000,000 C - Hottest

Winner: Technology

Round 2) Old age

A baby turtle at the start of its hopefully long life.
Round two is a battle of longevity with humans pitted against the giant tortoise in a comparison of life expectancy.

Of course strictly speaking, both humans and giant tortoises fall under the 'nature' category, so if you want to split hairs this is actually a 'nature versus nature' battle, and a 'technology versus nature' battle should perhaps actually see robots battling giant tortoises. 

However, medical, surgical and medicinal advances have helped to extend the life expectancy of humans, so for the purposes of this round I'm arguing that human life expectancy receives a little help from technology, whereas the life expectancy of giant tortoises is totally down to nature.

Anyway, enough of the waffle.  Which has the highest life expectancy; humans or giant tortoises?

a) Humans
b) Giant Tortoises

Giant tortoises win this round quite comfortably, with a life expectancy of 100 years or more.  Humans, on the other hand, check in at a mere 67 years.*  This average is gradually increasing, and in 2011 the Queen sent 9,736 congratulatory messages to UK citizens celebrating their 100th birthdays**.  A few lucky humans will therefore outlive giant tortoises, but on average giant tortoises can expect to live significantly longer.

* Statistics relate to the worldwide average as at the year 2010.
** Not personally obviously.  She probably has people to do that sort of thing for her.

a) Humans - 67
b) Giant Tortoises - 100 - Oldest

Winner: Nature

Round 3) Altitude

"You want me to fly how high!?"
Please note, this is just a random bird and not a Ruppell's vulture.
Round three is a battle of altitude, with birds taking on commercial aeroplanes to see which can fly the highest.  Representing nature we have Ruppell's vulture, and representing technology we have the new generation Boeing 737.

So what reaches the greatest height; the world's highest flying bird, or the world's highest flying commercial aeroplane?

a) Highest flying bird
b) Highest flying aeroplane

The highest flying bird is a Ruppell's vulture which has been recorded at heights of up to 37,000 feet!  That's 7 miles high!  Typically, commercial flights will cruise at between 28-35,000 feet, but the new generation Boeing 737 is certified to 41,000 feet, so it can fly even higher than a Ruppell's vulture!

a) Highest flying bird - 37,000 feet
b) Highest flying aeroplane - 41,000 feet - highest

Winner: Technology

Round 4) Speed

A close-up of a volcanic eruption taken by a
brave / foolish (delete as appropriate) photographer.
Round four is a battle of velocity.  Representing technology we have a formula 1 car, and representing nature we have the speed of light.

Only joking!  The speed of light would be quite a challenge for formula 1 engineers to beat, so to make things a little more even I've chosen the speed of a volcanic eruption to represent nature.  Lava from a volcano actually flows quite slowly at only a few miles per hour, but rocks thrown from the initial eruption travel at a much faster pace.

So which is fastest; the speed of a formula 1 car, or the typical speed of rocks thrown from a volcanic eruption?

a) Formula 1 car
b) Volcanic eruption

The top speed recorded by a formula 1 car was 231.5 mph (372.5 kph) set by Juan Pablo Montoya at Monza during the 2005 Italian Grand Prix.  When a volcano erupts explosively, rocks can be thrown from the initial eruption at speeds of over 450 mph (720 kph).  That's approximately twice as fast as a formula 1 car, so this round is a comfortable victory for nature.

a) Formula 1 car - 231.5 mph
b) Volcanic eruption - over 450 mph (720 kph) - fastest

Winner: Nature

Round 5) Optics

The human eye battles a camera in this final round.
This final round sees the human eye face the world's most powerful digital camera in a battle of optical precision.  So it's a simple question to round things off...

What has the highest megapixel resolution; the human eye or the world's most powerful digital camera?

a) Human eye
b) World's most powerful digital camera

There's some debate about this, but according to, a conservative estimate puts the resolution of the eye at 576 megapixels.  This beats the Dark Energy Camera (attached to a telescope in Chile as part of the Dark Energy Project) which has a still impressive resolution of 570 megapixels.  So when it comes to optics, nature wins!

a) Human eye - 576 megapixels - highest
b) World's most powerful digital camera - 570 megapixels

Winner: Nature

It was a closely fought battle, but in the end nature just emerged victorius by three rounds to two!  Congatulations to nature and commiserations to technology for being pipped by the narrowest of margins.  Better luck next time, technology!

I like to feature 'Higher Or Lower' quizzes on the Charles Fudgemuffin blog from time to time, so if you want to read months and months of blog posts in the hope of occasionally finding one with a 'Higher Or Lower' theme, then you can follow me, Charles Fudgemuffin, on facebook and twitter:
Facebook: CharlesFudgemuffin
Twitter: @CFudgemuffin

And you can find more 'Higher Or Lower' questions in my earlier Christmas themed quiz:
Christmas 'Higher Or Lower' Quiz

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About The Author

The 'How To Save The World' books
by Charles Fudgemuffin
Charles Fudgemuffin is the author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books which are available for Kindle from Amazon.  The first book in the series is available from the following link:
How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy

As with all Kindle books, you can also download a free sample of the first few chapters.

Please note, the 'How To Save The World' books contain material suitable for ages 18+ and are not recommended for prudes or squares.