Do you really know where you are?
Worker’ - (1962)
Aung San Suu
Do you really, precisely know where you are at any given time?
Pinning down the exact geographical coordinates for any location on land
or sea has been a challenge that humans grappled with for centuries.
Since not every location has a name, and some places have multiple
names, the use of numbers is the preferred method.
This was the origin of the geographic coordinate system that enables
every location on the Earth to be specified by a set of unique numbers.
The coordinates are often chosen in such a way that one number
represents the vertical position, and two or three numbers represent the
horizontal position. A common choice of coordinates is latitude,
longitude and elevation.
With the dawn of the Space Age in 1957, geographical coordinates
could be determined more precisely using satellites in Earth Orbit.
Satellite-aided navigation has a commonplace today in motor vehicles, on
ships and even among explorers of the land and seas. Today’s Wiz Quiz
starts off with a few questions on sat-nav systems.
1. In August 1956, more than a year before the Space Age started, a
science fiction author predicted - with uncanny accuracy - the satellite
navigation systems of today. In a letter to a friend, he wrote that
satellites would “make possible a position-finding grid whereby anyone
on earth could locate himself by means of a couple of dials on an
instrument about the size of a watch”. He added: “It might even make
possible world-wide person-to-person radio with automatic dialling. Thus
no-one on the planet need ever get lost or become out of touch with the
community… unless he wanted to be.” Who made these predictions, all of
which have come true?
2. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is satellite-based service
that provides location and time information in all weather conditions,
anywhere on or near the Earth (land and sea). It was launched in the
early 1970s, and is owned and operated by the US government. GPS service
is available as a free service to anyone armed with a GPS receiver,
which are relatively low cost and easy to use. The system relies on a
constellation of satellites in Earth orbit, with at least 24 satellites
being operational at any given time (with more standing by). For an
accurate reading to be possible, the user of a GPS receiver needs to
have an unobstructed line of sight to a minimum of how many GPS
satellites in orbit (under normal circumstances)?
3. In December 2011, China announced that its own satellite
navigation system has become operational. It offers location, timing and
navigation data (comparable to the US government operated GPS system)
but the service is currently limited to China and surrounding areas in
the Asian region. For the moment, the service is relying on 10
satellites in Earth orbit, but China has plans to expand the network to
a total of 35 satellites offering global coverage by 2020. What name is
given to China’s satellite based navigation system?
4. The European Union has also been developing its own satellite
navigation system, and the first of its operational satellites entered
orbit in October 2011. The European Space Agency (ESA) says the network
should be completed in 2019, and will comprise 30 satellites (27
operational plus three active spares). This system is named after which
famous Italian astronomer?
5. ‘The Lady’ is a French-English co-production movie directed by the
French film director, writer and producer Luc Besson. The film, due for
release in early 2012, is based on the life of Burmese opposition leader
and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent over a decade
under house arrest by the Burmese junta until release in November 2010.
In the film, Suu Kyi is played by a Hong Kong-based Malaysian actress,
one of the most accomplished Asian actors with a long line of credits
and awards. In preparation for her role, she is said to have watched
about 200 hours of audiovisual material on Suu Kyi and took lessons in
Burmese. Who is the actress, who met the Burmese leader in person after
the latter’s release?
6. The movie ‘The Lady’ follows Aung San Suu Kyi starting in 1988
when she returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother, but the Oxford
graduate soon became the figurehead for the country's fight against the
military dictatorship. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the
1990 election by a landslide, but the military nullified the results and
refused to hand over power, confining her to 15 years in detention under
house arrest. ‘The Lady’ centers on one of the lesser known aspects of
Suu Kyi's life: her marriage to an Oxford professor who supported Suu
Kyi's decision to stay on in Burma, raised their two children and played
a key role in supporting the Burmese struggle for democracy. Diagnosed
with cancer and denied a visa to visit Suu Kyi a final time, he died in
1999. What was his name, whose role is played in the movie by the
British actor David Thewlis?
7. Stephen Hawking, probably the world’s most famous living
physicist, turned 70 in January 2012. He was trained as a theoretical
physicist and cosmologist, and many years, served as Lucasian Professor
of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge from 1979 to 2009. He is
now Director of Research at the Institute for Theoretical Cosmology at
the University of Cambridge. He is known worldwide for his contributions
to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the
context of black holes. Since 1963, he has been affected by a medical
condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost
completely paralysed and confined to a wheelchair and able to speak only
through a computer voice synthesizer. What is the medical name of this
motor neuron related illness, which is known in America as Lou Gehrig's
disease because of a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with it in
8. Apart from his frontier research and theories in cosmology,
Professor Stephen Hawking is also noted for writing books of popular
science in which he discusses his theories and cosmology in general.
Between 1988 and 2010, he wrote half a dozen popular science books, but
the most famous of all to date is his first book, published in 1988
which was an international bestseller that eventually sold over 10
million copies. Hawking says that an editor had warned him that for
every mathematical equation included in the book, its readership would
be halved. Despite this, he decided to include a single equation –
Einstein’s most famous one (E equals M C squared). Later, Hawking
wondered aloud whether he might have sold twice as many copies if he’d
not included even that equation! What is the title of this book, which
tries to explain key topics in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black
holes and light cones, to non-specialist readers?
9. Some books can lead to unexpected influences years or decades
after they were written. In 1860, a leading English art critic who was
also a prominent social thinker and philanthropist wrote a long essay
that was highly critical of capitalist economists of the 18th and 19th
Centuries. It was published in book form in 1862, titled ‘Unto the
Last’, which the young Indian lawyer Mohandas K Gandhi read in 1904
while in South Africa.
This book influenced Gandhi so much that he decided immediately to
change his own life and dedicated it to social justice.
The Lady 2012
Some say this book was a precursor of social economy, and because it
critiques the destructive effects of industrialism upon the natural
world, some historians also see it as having anticipating the Green
Movement of the 1970s. Who wrote ‘Unto the Last’?
10. Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, officially known as the
Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and
Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, aims at
eliminating anti-personnel landmines around the world. As of September
2011, 159 states of the world had become parties to this international
This treaty was the culmination of a worldwide citizens’ campaign
that was launched in 1992 by six humanitarian non-governmental
organisations, and attracted the highly visible support of Princess
Diana. The Mine Ban Treaty was adopted in Oslo, Norway, in September
1997, but in which the North American city was the treaty first signed
by 122 States on December 3, 1997 – by which name it is better known?
11. Who was he? Born in England in 1864, he came over to Ceylon in
1885 to be part of the Ceylon Civil Service. His last posting was as
Government Agent North-Central Province (NCP).
Upon retirement in 1919, he opted to live in Ceylon and engage
himself in to improving the life of people living in the province. In
1924, he contested for the seat for the NCP in the Legislative Council
and won by a large majority over a local candidate.
He represented the area also in the State Council 1931, for a total
of 20 years until his death in 1945. John Still, author of ‘Jungle Tide’
(1930) called him a “Knight-errant and champion of the Jungle Peoples’
12. Deaf and blind American woman Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) was the
first such person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree with the help of her
remarkable teacher, Anne Sullivan. Her autobiography ‘Story of My Life’
was dramatized by Arthur Penn into a movie called ‘The Miracle Worker’
Actress Anne Bancroft won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of
Anne Sullivan. In 2005, Sanjaya Leela Bansali remade this movie in
Bollywood starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji in lead roles. What
is the name of that movie, which swept the Filmfare Awards that year?
13. This 19th Century German philosopher, composer and poet wrote
critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy
and science. He is well known for often misinterpreted notions such as
the ‘Superman’ and sweeping statements like ‘God is dead,’ and is the
author of works like ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ and ‘The Birth of Tragedy
from the Spirit of Music’.
He was a contemporary of Wagner and Freud, and did much to introduce
moral relativism and psychological uncertainty to modern philosophical
thought. Who was he?
14. This British author, who came to Galle Literary Festival 2012,
was born in Czechoslovakia, grew up in Singapore and India during the
Second World War and moved to England in 1946 where he became a
journalist, drama critic and playwright. He is the author of award
winning plays including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967),
Travesties (1974), The Real Thing (1982) Arcadia (1993), Rock n Roll
(2006) and The Coast of Utopia (2007). He also co-wrote the screenplays
for Brazil (1985) and Shakespeare in Love (1998), and won one Academy
award and four Tony awards. He was knighted in 1997. Who is he?
15. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games saw two controversies
concerning the same woman athlete. Born in South Africa, she was
hurriedly given British citizenship in order to compete for Britain at
the Games (on the grounds that her grandfather had been British). She
was involved in a famous collision with Mary Decker of United States in
women’s 3,000 metre race.
The same year, she broke the world record for women’s 5,000 metre
race but since it took place in South Africa, the world governing body
for athletics, IAAF, did not recognise the record as South Africa was
isolated from international sports due to Apartheid. In 1985, she
claimed the world record officially while representing Britain. Who is
she, who name is still used as a nickname for fast taxis in her native
Last week’s answers
2. Geneva, Switzerland
4. Pandeniya Thurusaviya Samithiya (in Warakapola, Kegalle district)
5. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis
7 Ananda Coomaraswamy
8. Istvan Orosz
9. Dr Abraham Thomas Kovoor
10. Sarvodaya founder Dr A T Ariyaratne
11. Unexploded ordnance
12. Basil Wright (1907 – 1987)
13. Lionel Wendt (1900 – 1944)
14. Gan Island on Addu Atoll
15. It Happened One Night