Sunday, April 26

#17 - hostage buddy

You win a contest sponsored by your local newspaper to attend a very well known annual awards ceremony. The trip is all inclusive, though you are unable to bring a guest along. The day of the show soon arrives. Surrounded by media and celebrities, you are thoroughly enjoying your evening as an audience member when, just before one of the awards is announced, a gang of masked gunmen enter the auditorium, taking the entire crowd hostage.

The exact aims of these terrorists are unclear, but they do announce (after the initial tumult dies down) that their intentions are to harm no one. However, to make their task of captive management easier, they plan to handcuff audience members together into pairs.

In a strange gesture of goodwill, the terrorists offer to select some number of audience members at random and allow them to decide who their "hostage buddy" will be. Inexplicably, you are the first person chosen. You can select any other individual in the room to be handcuffed to for the duration of this hostage situation. Who do you choose? (You may want to indicate the specific awards show you'd prefer to be attending if you feel it is pertinent to your answer.)

Monday, April 20

#16 - sensory perception

You are invited to spend an afternoon in the high-tech labs of your local university. After a light lunch and extensive tour, you duck out to use the restroom as your group is being escorted out of the labs. Now alone, you find yourself lost in the hallways and unable to find the nearest exit.

A bit concerned, you try one of the doors, hoping that a window might give you a clue as to your whereabouts. However, the first door you try opens to a windowless, soundproofed chamber. As you turn to leave, you notice an intriguing compartment located on the far wall of the room that contains a chair and some interesting-looking gadgetry. You walk over and sit down.

Once inside, you close the compartment door in a feeble attempt to stay under cover. There is indeed a lot of scientific equipment in the space, but the main purpose of the cell seems to lie in a set of five dials, arranged vertically, each labeled with one of the five senses. At present, all of the dials are set to "50" and you assume that 0 and 100 are the limits. A big red button is mounted underneath the lowest dial.

Curious, you shift the SIGHT dial up to 60 and hit the red button. Almost immediately, you notice that the objects around you have come into sharper focus. You also see that the other four dials have all now dipped below 50, presumably to compensate for the movement of the first dial.

You reset the dials to 50 and then design a quick test. You move the TOUCH dial to 35, the TASTE dial to 65, and hit the red button again. Reaching for a stick of gum in your pocket, your hands feel more than a little numb, but as you begin to chew, you are overwhelmed by the increased intensity of the gum's flavor. You leave the compartment briefly, and though your limbs feel strangely vacant, your gum retains its strength. You sit back down, reset the dials, and hit the button, pondering your situation as you continue to chomp your now dull wad of gum.

It seems that you have the opportunity to enhance some combination of your five senses, though not without sacrificing the strength of at least one other sense. The numbers on the dial must collectively add up to 250. You have no idea whether or not your choice would be a permanent one, though it seems clear that the effects of this device are not limited to its chamber.

You sense that you've overstayed your welcome in the room and ought to make good your escape. But you are tempted to reallocate some of your sensory levels before you leave. The obvious risk is that should you make an unwise choice, there is no guarantee that you would be able to again gain access to this lab. What do you do?

Sunday, April 12

#15 - miniature / gigantic

You awake to find yourself in room with no ceiling and smooth white walls. It is a sort of pit, about the size of a racquetball court. There is a hole in the side of one of the walls, but it is much too small for you to fit through. The tops of the walls are too high for you to reach, even if you jump.

The only other items in the room are two small jellybeans, one green and one yellow, which sit in the middle of the floor.

As you continue to take in your surroundings, you notice something etched on one of the walls. Taking a closer look, you read the following words:
Green will cause you grow to a height of 10 feet. Yellow will shrink you to a height of 3 feet. The effects of these beans are permanent.

You mull this over. At ten feet tall, you would be able to reach the top of the wall and could pull yourself up. Shrinking to three feet would allow you fit through the hole near the floor. Underneath the words you find a map also inscribed on the wall. To your amazement, you see that you are 500 feet below your town's city hall. The small hole leads to an extensive passageway. The top of the wall is actually the floor of a room that leads to a separate passageway (one large enough to accommodate someone, say, ten feet tall). Both paths lead upwards and would eventually take you to your town's sewer system, where you could rejoin society at large.

Which jellybean do you eat to escape your bizarre cell?

A few notes. You will grow or shrink in proportion to your present body shape (so you won't compress or stretch). Also, if you ate one bean and kept the other for later, consuming the second would override rather than "cancel out" the effect of the first. Finally, do not allow health concerns to affect your decision. Assume that the beans have the ability to prevent any complications from being much taller (or smaller) than the average bear.

Sunday, April 5

#14 - food capsules

It is 2109 and you are acting as the head of the US Food and Drug Administration. In order to solve the problem of world hunger, the time has finally come for normal food to be replaced by small capsules.

Scientists have been working through the ins and outs of the process over several decades in order to try and preserve some degree of uniqueness amongst the different pills (a single neutral, all-purpose nutritional supplement was never considered the ideal solution due to the human race's love of food). Food preparation and consumption will be fundamentally altered in some regrettable ways, but from the standpoint of efficiency in production and distribution, it has been deemed a fair trade-off.

The plan is for each individual food to eventually have a capsule equivalent. The texture will be similar to a jellybean, but the flavoring will be quite accurate. Each capsule will contain nutrients inherent to the food it is attempting to mimic and several of these pills will leave the consumer as full as if they have had a square meal. The capsules can be combined to create different "dishes" (pot roast, for instance, would not have a single designated pill, but would require a combination of pills to simulate). Additionally, "spice" and "preparation" pills will be available. These particular pills will not have any nutritional value and will not noticeably contribute to the filling of one's stomach, but can be used to simulate different flavorings or preparation methods (frying, broiling, etc).

Full implementation of this food-to-capsule shift is expected to take 8 years. During this time, the art of cooking will gradually die off as foods are replaced. As the FDA chief, it is your task to develop a schedule and timeline for this. The question before you today, as you plan to meet the press to unveil the plan's basic framework, is this: Which food will be the first to switch over to its capsule form, and which will be last?