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# Midwinter looking bleak? Have some festive cheer with this physics quiz

24 Dec 2020 Margaret Harris

1. It’s dark at the North Pole in winter. Fortunately, Santa’s reindeer have exceptional eyesight. Which wavelengths of light can they see? A Ultraviolet B Infrared C Microwave D All of the above

2. In 2019, researchers at the University of Manchester calculated that these same reindeer would burn 5.4 x 1013 J of energy per second while pulling Santa’s sleigh on its all-night supersonic Christmas flight. How many carrots would they need to consume to refuel? A 9.1 x 1012 B 1.2 x 1015 C 7.5 x 1018 D 5.8 x 1021

3. Speaking of amazing animal feats, in July this year, a team of researchers calculated that the rectal pressure of a certain snow-dwelling creature can be as much as 28.2 kPa – enabling it to fire off its faeces at nearly 8 km/hr. What is it? A Polar bear B Penguin C Arctic fox D Partridge (in a pear tree)

4. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah (celebrated this year from 10–18 December) commemorates an occasion in the 2nd century BCE when a single jar (1 Greek amphora ~ 38.3 L) of sacred olive oil burned for eight days instead of one. What was the approximate carbon footprint of this miracle? A 117 kg CO2 B 306 kg COC 720 kg CO2 D 948 kg CO2

5. Which famous physicist was (according to the old Julian calendar) born on Christmas Day? A Galileo Galilei B Johannes Kepler C Isaac Newton D Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

6. Physicists love to quantify things – six quarks, four fundamental forces, three flavours of neutrino, etc. etc. But how many “hallelujahs” are there in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? A 18 B 23 C 54 D 72

7. If a holiday fruitcake were as dense as a white dwarf star, what would be its approximate mass? A 1 x 104 kg B 1 x 106 kg C 1 x 108 kg D 1 x 1010kg

8. If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, but the (dry bulb) temperature outside is hovering around 2 °C, how low must the humidity fall before snow can be made artificially? A 5% B 25% C 40% D 50%

9. Which scientist was the first person to manufacture an artificial snowflake? A Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley B Nathan Myhrvold C Ukichiro Nakaya D Frank Zamboni

10. And finally, what was the diameter of the largest natural snowflake ever recorded? A 6 cm B 17 cm C 24 cm D 38 cm

Stuck on the questions? We’ll provide the answers in the new year.

Update: As promised, here are the answers: 1 A 2 C 3 B 4 C 5 C 6 D 7 B 8 B 9 C 10 D