Sunday, January 25
You receive an anonymous letter one day in the mail. The envelope is like none you have ever seen, very shiny and requiring a while to open (as it is not made of typical paper). The enclosed message informs you that you now possess a degree of superhuman strength. You have the ability to push, pull, or lift objects weighing several metric tons.
There's a catch, though. You will only be able to call upon this ability ten separate times in your life. After that, it's gone for good.
A few days later, while on a leisurely weekend drive through a local metropark, you come across a fallen tree lying in the roadside, blocking off both lanes. You exit your vehicle to inspect the large log (that appears to be well within your newfound lifting range). You are in no rush and can easily turn around and take a different route to your destination. However, as you walk back to your automobile, another lone motorist pulls up behind.
The driver, a middle-aged man, rolls down his window and the two of you strike up a brief, hurried conversation. It seems that he is on his way to his daughter's piano recital. He also knows the area and other possible routes, but based on the time, your present location, and where the recital is being held, taking a detour would assuredly result in him arriving late. After this becomes clear, the man begins drawing the discussion to a close so that he can at least make decent time.
The man's comments and manner imply that his already strained relationship with his wife and children would be further complicated by this lapse in punctuality. It is within your power to help this individual, but as the situation currently stands, he knows nothing of your ability and would have no reason to believe you could assist him in any way.
Do you lift the log?
Would your answer change if you were alone?
Posted by Matt at 6:04 PM
Sunday, January 18
In a dream one night, you spend an afternoon hanging out with Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom. Near the end of the dream, Mario makes you a startling offer: as a memento of your time spent in his world, you will be able to take one object or character from the Mario universe back with you to your real life.
After Mario says this, you are overwhelmed with the feeling that what he says is true. This is not going to be one of those dreams where you win the lottery only to wake up disappointed.
Which character or object do you choose?
We'll assume that Peach and Luigi are off limits, as they would miss Mario too much and vice versa. Also bear in mind that whatever you select will have the same properties in the real word as it does in the Nintendo games. Eating a fire flower would let you produce fireballs, but you could lose that ability were you to sustain an injury. Though he looks friendly, a Pokey would probably not be an ideal pet (most of these creatures would likely require an arduous domestication process).
Posted by Matt at 5:14 PM
Sunday, January 11
A great uncle of yours recently passed away. He was independently wealthy and nobody you know can manage to tell you what exactly he did with his time. Though most of your extended family considered him a little crazy, the two of you always got along well.
In his will, your uncle leaves you the remnants of one of his "science projects", delivered to you in a large crate. Upon inspection, you find a time machine inside.
It is a single-passenger device capable of transporting you to any time or place (the user sets the date and location). Besides your own person, the machine has enough room to accommodate two medium-sized duffel bags. Also in the crate is a sort of manual left by your uncle. It contains general usage instructions, assurances that the device is fully safe and operational, and a few caveats about the machine. They are as follows:
1) While in another time period, you will not have the ability to alter significant historical events.
2) On a related note, your uncle also advises you not to travel to any time in which there is a high likelihood of encountering yourself. He cites space-time continuum concerns.
3) The machine's battery is solar powered, but needs a full year to recharge after jumping. In essence, if you choose to time travel, you are committing to at least a year in that time.
4) To return to the present day, you simply press a large red button on the dashboard once seated in the machine. This will not take you back to the day you originally left. Rather, your return date will be determined by the date of your departure plus the length of time you spent in the past or future. For instance, if you leave in January of 2009 to spend two years studying under Socrates, you will return in January of 2011. There is no way for you to regain the two "lost" years in the present day. While you cannot grasp all of the theory behind it, your uncle includes a great deal of math in this section of the manual explaining why this is.
Based on this information, what do you do with the time machine?
Please note, travel to distant times and/or places would present cultural challenges that would likely require preparation in advance of the trip. In the example above, showing up in ancient Greece as an English speaker in blue jeans might very well lead to a fruitless (or possibly even dangerous) year.
Posted by Matt at 3:01 PM
Sunday, January 4
North America is currently in the throes of a zombie epidemic. You are in an abandoned shopping mall with several close friends or family members. At present, the walls of the building are the only thing separating your intrepid band from the zombie hordes outside.
As invariably happens in these types of situations, a lone zombie somehow makes its way inside and some of your company become infected in the ensuing skirmish.
Once infected, a person begins exhibiting zombie-like characteristics within an hour. A zombie possesses the same physical characteristics (speed, agility, strength) as the human they once were, but with an insatiable and singular desire to bite and infect others. They lack nearly all cognitive ability and cannot be reasoned with.
In your quest for survival, would you be able to muster up the resolve to kill one of your infected loved ones? And if so, what stage of zombification would need to be reached for you to take such an action (infected but not yet showing zombie-like symptoms, full-zombie, etc)? You may assume for the purposes of this exercise that guns and ammunition are available (meaning you would not have to carry out the kill with your bare hands).
Posted by Matt at 3:12 PM