Trivia Testers : A Little More Recent Than The Caves of Lascaux

Question: When was the world’s first numerical weather forecast made? (meaning the use of iterative techniques and atmospheric modeling)

  1. In 1904, by the Norwegian Vilhelm Bjerknes
  2. In 1922, by Lewis Fry Richardson
  3. In 1946, by Princeton mathematician John von Neumann
  4. In 1950, by ENIAC, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground

Answer: D. Numerical weather prediction by integrating the governing hydrodynamic and thermodynamic equations forward in time, starting from the observed, initial state of the atmosphere, was proposed in 1904. Richardson developed the first numerical weather prediction (NWP) system. His technique of dividing the atmosphere into grid cells, then using finite difference solutions of differential equations, formed the basis for future efforts. Soon after ENIAC (which was the world’s first electronic computer, and stood for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) became operational, in 1946, von Neumann advocated the application of computers to weather prediction. The first computerized weather forecast was run on the ENIAC in 1950. The model used a two-dimensional grid with 270 points about 700 km apart, and a time step of three hours. A few years later, the Weather Bureau and several research and forecasting agencies of the Air Force and Navy established a Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit in Suitland, Maryland. It began routine real-time weather forecasting in May, 1955. However, it was well over a decade before numerical methods became more accurate than the ‘subjective method’ of barotropic and baroclinic models (and educated guesswork) used by human forecasters.

Subject: ‘Extree, Extree, Read All About It!’

Question: On September 20, 1904, Orville Wright flew in a well controlled complete circle over Huffman Prairie near Dayton, Ohio, marking the very first time that a powered aircraft had landed at its original point of departure. In which periodical did a first-hand account of this historic Wright Brothers flight first appear?

  1. The West Side News, a local Dayton newspaper published by the Wright Brothers themselves, on Sunday September 25, 1904
  2. the June 1905 Scientific American
  3. the Smithsonian magazine, July 1905
  4. the January 1905 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture, published in Medina, Ohio by Amos Root
  5. the March 1905 issue of Popular Science Monthly

Answer: D. Although the Wright Brothers had three careers (publishing, bicycles, and then aviation) they had left the first one behind before their well known exploits in North Carolina as well as back home in Ohio. (Actually, while they we involved with the Wright Cycle Company, they did advertise that fact in a weekly magazine that they printed.) The fact is though that the Wrights’ own press release about their circular success, which was sent out the following month, was simply ignored.

This might have been because many people just didn’t believe it, even though there were witnesses to their first flights. A report by Octave Chanute did appear in the March 1904 issue of Popular Science Monthly (not 1905). However this was about their earlier accomplishments of course, not this one. Perhaps because of sheer disinterest, the relative isolation of the times (or in the case of the latter, rivalry with Samuel Langley) neither Scientific American nor Smithsonian got the scoop.

In fact, it was someone else: Amos I. Root, the owner of a beekeeping supply house in Medina, Ohio (and also the inventor of the modern beehive), had heard that men were actually flying at Huffman Prairie, and being somewhat of an early adapter, he motored 175 miles to Dayton–I don’t know what type of automobile it was–to see for himself. He was on hand to see Orville’s triumphant flight, and he later published the first eyewitness account of a sustained, controlled, powered flight that involved a return to the original takeoff point in the January 1905 edition of all things, Gleanings in Bee Culture, a journal he published for his customers. (Root later offered to allow Scientific American to reprint his articles, but they refused. The editors of Scientific American no doubt felt stung (sorry), having missed out on such a story. He was so impressed by what he saw that he wrote and published a series of articles in this publication (starting in January, 1905) for the next two years, reporting developments from Huffman Prairie. His writings were eloquent, accurate and very supportive. So the best coverage of the development of the airplane was written for an audience of beekeepers! Incidentally the magazine (now known as Bee Culture) is still published today in Medina OH. Here is Amos Root’s first report:

    ‘When it turned that circle, and came near the starting-point, I was right in front of it; and I said then, and I believe still, it was… the grandest sight of my life. Imagine a locomotive that had left its track, and is climbing up in the air right toward you — a locomotive without any wheels… but with white wings instead… spread 20 feet each way, coming right toward you with a tremendous flap of its propellers, and you have something like what I saw… I tell you, friends, the sensation that one feels is something hard to describe.’

…and in case you’re wondering, one of the first known public announcements about the first and most historic of their flights (the very first one on December 17, 1903) appeared the very next day in the Dayton Daily News of December 18, 1903, the headline for which was: ‘Dayton Boys Emulate Great Santos-Dumont’.

Subject: On a Bicycle Built For Two…

Question: How many times did Orville and Wilbur Wright fly together?

  1. never: Their long-standing policy was never to fly together, so that in case of an accident at least one would remain to carry on their work.
  2. once
  3. They really had such an agreeement, but they frequently broke it.
  4. There was no such rule. Many of their flights after 1909 were dual!

Answer: B. On May 21, 1910 at Huffman Prairie, Wilbur and Orville flew together for the first and last time, with Orville piloting. (Also, on that same day Wilbur made his last flight as a pilot in the United States. He died in 1912.)