Sunday, March 16, 2008

31 - Answer(s)

Q: Brett Gobe - Are you going to the Wu Tang Clan show at the Armory on 4/20?
A: No.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Damnit, Brett beat me to it...or something. So 420 is supposedly the police code for marijuana, any other cool codes we should know? Like Statutory?
A: First, contrary to popular belief "420" is not the police code for marijuana. For the background on the origins of "420", check out this page at Snopes for a good explanation. Basically, 4:20 was the time that a group of high school students in San Rafael, CA gathered to smoke marijuana after school in 1971. I'm not sure how it entered popular language, but it's here now.

To answer your other question, here is a "nearly-complete" list of police codes. As far as I can find, there is no specific police code for statutory. Which is a bummer because it would have been useful as a title for my band's next album. The codes I find interesting are 59 (Criminal Mischief), 19 (Drunk), 415e (Loud Music or Party), and 23109 (Speed Contest). It's a pretty interesting list, actually.

Q: Joe Zaffarano - Who would win in a fight, Jack Bauer or John McClane?
A: Unfortunately I don't have the time to tackle this one in as much detail as last episode's blockbuster submarine showdown. However, I have been thinking about this question for the past two weeks, and I've got a few observations to make on the subject.

First, let's give some background on the characters. Jack Bauer (Wikipedia page, Fox Profile) is the main character of the TV series 24, played by Kiefer Sutherland. He has held various roles in CTU (the Counter-Terrorist Unit), which is the main organization of the show. He is a man of action, and a well-trained killer. He has used extreme force to extract information from subjects throughout the show's six seasons, and has saved the nation several times. His wife is dead (for spoiler reasons I won't elaborate beyond that), and he has a daughter who is in constant peril throughout the first three seasons (and briefly in the fifth).

John McLane (Wikipedia page) is the main character of the Die Hard movie series. He is the quintessential "right guy in the right place at the right time", though he doesn't ever see it that way at the time in the movies. He is a police officer in the NYPD in all but the second movie (where he is a member of the LAPD). He has built up a great deal of experience in counter-terrorism throughout the four movies, though apparently he has no formal training. He is a man of action who kills without hesitation when called upon to do so. He is divorced from his wife as of the final movie, and he has two children, one of whom factors into the fourth movie.

Now that we've gotten the biographies out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff. First we need to define "fight". As I see it, the two areas of fighting that are the most important are hand-to-hand, and pistols.

Hand-To-Hand Combat
Jack Bauer has extensive training in hand-to-hand combat. He has dispatched of only a few terrorists this way, however. Generally he subdues them instead, then brings them in for questioning. John McLane uses hand-to-hand combat more often than Jack does, but he does so in more of a brawling way. He doesn't seem to have a lot of real training, but he somehow manages to always come out on top. So the battle between them is really a battle of the training of Jack Bauer vs. the luck of John McLane. In my opinion, training wins. Jack Bauer would beat John McLane in hand-to-hand combat, but he would definitely suffer as a result of the encounter.

Pistol Combat
The weapon of choice for both men is the pistol. Jack Bauer has used a pistol (often silenced) to almost super-human effect throughout the history of 24. One joke I've heard is that Jack Bauer never misses, he was just shooting a terrorist several miles away that the viewer can't see. John McLane has similar luck with his pistol. In the third movie he even used a revolver to take down a helicopter. Given the skill (and luck) of both men, I think that this category is a draw (no pun intended). Both of these men are well-trained in the use of their pistols, and I think that it's only a matter of time before one wins. But I have no idea which one that would be. It depends on the terrain, how much ammunition each one has, and how much danger they are in.

Of course, the real answer to this question is "neither". The reason for this is that both of these men are good guys. The good guy cannot lose in a fight. Therefore you have a situation similar to the internet joke about stapling a piece of buttered toast (which always lands butter-side-down) to the back of a cat (which always lands on its feet). Both must hit the ground, and so neither can hit the ground. A fight between these two American icon would be the same way. It would be highly entertaining, however.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Is hydrogen power the future of the automobile?
A: Short answer: yes. Long(ish) answer: Not for a long time.

Much of the public and media's focus on hydrogen power has been placed on the direct output of a hydrogen fuel system (namely water). Very little focus has gone into what it takes to get the hydrogen into the fuel system in the first place. Presently hydrogen has many disadvantages to the current fossil fuel system that is currently in place around the world. It is hard to manufacture, hard to transport, and hard to store. You have to expend a tremendous amount of energy just to get the hydrogen in the first place, unlike fossil fuels which must only be refined. Then once you have it, it must be kept super-cooled in order to maintain its liquid form, which makes transportation and storage difficult. Strange as it sounds, gasoline and diesel are safer and easier to transport and store than hydrogen.

Now, in the future will technologies exist to answer these concerns? Yes. Absolutely. These points I'm bringing up are not meant to defend fossil fuels or detract from hydrogen. I'm just trying to explain the situation we have in the world today. And I don't see that situation changing in the near future (which I define as the next 50 years). There are many untapped sources of fossil fuel energy, including tar sands, shale oil (literally squeezing oil from rocks), and deep-ocean reservoirs. The technology exists to extract fossil fuel from these sources, and that technology will only improve. Therefore I believe that the fossil fuel system will remain in place for quite a long time. Will your children be driving hydrogen cars one day? I'd say so. But exactly when is anyone's guess.

Q: Adam Barnello - Why does salt taste so good?
A: Your body needs salt in order to function properly. Therefore your mind tells you that salt tastes good because it knows you need it. Nothing more complicated than that.