An Exo-Syzygy...... following their trajectory!

Why the following problem now begins to make sense is because more than 4,000 exoplanets have already been identified, of which over 2,000 are confirmed.

Published: 04th November 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th November 2017 05:44 PM   |  A+A-

Why the following problem now begins to make sense is because more than 4,000 exoplanets have already been identified, of which over 2,000 are confirmed. This means that in our galaxy alone there are an estimated billion such planets existing in all kinds of configurations. So forget life being eventually found somewhere among them, there has to be one that confirms to the parameters posed in the paragraph below. In other words, for once we’re presenting a problem that’s a distinct possibility.
A solar system has three planets revolving around the central sun. To begin with, all four are in a straight line. The outermost planet revolves around the sun in 27 weeks; the next one in nine weeks; and the innermost in one week. All three orbits are in the same plane, and all planets revolve in the same direction with the sun in the centre. What is the least number of weeks which must elapse before they are in a straight line again?
(The seating problem involving K for Camelot was about -- what else? – King Arthur, a big fat round table, a whole lot of knights sitting around it but of course no unfaithful Queen Guinevere, so no sex angle with old Sir Lancelot. So sad.)
Am I eligible to participate in Indian newspapers? (Why, has the editors guild of Yemen tried to stop you? Anyway you’re on again! -- MS). On the second evening, the sequence would be: A, F, B, D, G, E and C. On the third evening, it would be A, E, B, G, C, F and D. -- Saifuddin S F Khomosi, Dubai, UAE

On the second evening King Arthur arranged the knights and himself in the following order round the table: Arthur, Floll, Beleobus, Driam, Galahad, Eric and Caradoc. On the third evening they sat in the sequence Arthur, Eric, Beleobus, Galahad, Caradoc, Floll and Driam. He thus had Beleobus next but one to him on both occasions (the nearest possible), and Galahad was the third from him at both sittings (the furthest position possible). -- Shashi Shekher Thakur,
(The second one was: “Why do decomposing animals such as birds or dogs smell so bad whereas dead insects or ants do not? More importantly, what’s the second reason?”)

This is cause by the enzymes in the dead animal and bacteria. If their size is large there is more odour whereas insects are very small in size and have less liquid or fleshy matter even though there is slight odour it is negligible or we cannot sense it. -- U N Murthy, (But you missed out an important point UNM. -- MS)
The stench from dead animals is due to the decomposition of the body and the release of molecules such as cadaverine and putrescine. Also, insects have exoskeletons (external skeletons) which decompose much more slowly as compared to the rest of their tissues, thus trapping the stench inside them. -- Saifuddin Khomosi,

(The third problem was: “What’s the bet that, like me, you also vaguely didn’t know that snake venom is not used directly to treat a snake bite. Instead . . . what?”)
Snake venom is not used directly to treat snakebite. Instead, small sub-lethal doses of it are injected into large animals, such as horses, in gradually increasing doses. In response to this, the animal’s immune system produces an immune serum or antivenin which is then extracted and used to treat people for snakebite. The same principle is also used to treat scorpion and spider stings. -- Dhruv Narayan,

The idea of developing an antivenom occurred to Albert Colmette, a scientist from Louis Pasteur Institute while working in Vietnam, where he saw people were dying of snakebite. Applying the previous experience of developing a vaccine for smallpox, he successfully developed the serum in 1890. In fact, the same technique of milking poison from snakes and injecting in horses is still used to produce the immunoglobulin. -- Balagopalan Nair K,

1. Consider the following series: ER, EU, AT, ??, UE, AR, RU, EN. Now, pay attention to the question AFTER you’ve solved the problem. What are the two missing letters?
2. In the early evening it’s often common to find a small swarm of insects -- usually mosquitoes and gnats -- hovering over your head. Even over trees. Why does this happen?

Sharma is a scriptwriter and former editor of Science Today magazine.(


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