Enquiring into things
The authorship of these questions is mostly but not entirely mine: some of them came from assorted teachers on the oz-teachers list, especially Paul Chandler at The Knox School in Victoria. I think Paul started the language and symbol ones, but it matters little, as we were both under the influence of Postman and Weingartner's Teaching as a Subversive Activity. There were most certainly other guilty parties who contributed bits during 1995, when this topic flickered around the oz-teacher's list. When identified, they will be named!
Where's the moon go?
My answers include the loss of Queensland's agricultural production and tourist potential within about twenty years, and the extinction of most species of crustacean. You work out why I thought that!
Think about whether the ice that formed would sink or float, and which parts of the world would be likely to freeze up permanently.
A new computer product
You could think about what would sell really well, or you might want to think about what computers or computer users really need. Why not start by thinking about the different ways people have of travelling, from roller blades to Concordes, and all the types of cars and two-wheel transport (note: this was written before scooters and the Segway came up). What would a Volkswagen computer be like?
From another angle, think of combining some of the features of an Internet-connected PC, a PDA, a mobile phone, a digital camera, a personal music system and so on. You may find it worth checking up on the meaning of 'wearable computer'. Think voice recognition as an input and voice synthesis as an output.
Taxing the bigots
My version is simple: increase taxes, and give rebates to anybody with a neighbour from the opposition: both neighbours benefit from each other, so they need to protect each other, and keep each other happy. Result: they get to know each other, and get prosperous, while the bigots lose all their money to taxation. Can you do better?
Would you try to make a healthy sport, or a spectator sport with lots of large men hacking lumps out of each other, just made for television? Would you build in a bit of racial stereotyping, as they do in "professional wrestling"?
What is wealth?
You may like to think of wealth in terms of people's health, well-being and life expectancy, or in terms of quality of life, or in terms of their energy usage.
We live at 7 kilowatts. Every second, 7 kilojoules of energy are used to maintain our lifestyles. Would we be less wealthy if we used less power to produce the same goods and services?
How can you decide what is important until you see where it leads? Most of the time, we look at advances in the rear-view mirror, so a motor car (short for carriage!) was originally called a horseless carriage, and radio was called 'wireless telegraphy', while television was seen as 'radio with pictures'. (An additional note at the end of 2001: people are talking about e-books — but is it a mistake to think of them as electronic 'books'?) Can we take some changes like the Internet and say they are sure to be important?
Flags are symbols, so are national anthems, logos, uniforms, old school ties, words, designer clothes, hairstyles and other fashions. Language is a potent symbol if you live in a place like Quebec or Wales. (An additional note at the end of 2001: people are talking about 'patriotic' this and that — meaning pro-American, and you can get almost anything in the colours of the US flag. Why bother?)
Suppose I (as a cervet) said the cervet version of "leopard water". How could you (as another cervet) tell if that meant I was saying:
This sort of structure goes all through the language, so there are three ways of saying good morning when you eneter a room, depending on how many people you find there. Another interesting structure is having two forms of 'we', which can be found in the Austronesian languages of Indonesia and PNG. One form is "inclusive" -- it includes the person addressed, and the second is exclusive -- the person addressed is not part of the we. Consider this: "Bert, we have no food: let's ask Ernie for some. Hey, Ernie, we have no food, will you give us some?"
This structure was so strong that when the people of New Guinea developed Pidgin English, using words from English, German, and even Chinese, they kept two forms of "we": yumi and mipela. I leave it to you to guess which is which :-)
The Tourist trade
Would you like to live in a tourist area, where passing westerners push into your funerals to photograph your quaint customs? Would you like to be a dolphin at a popular dolphin beach, or any kind of animal in a zoo? How can tourism be attractive and honest at the same time?