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The Desk's SCIENCE or Fiction quiz

part of the Mystery Series

Below is a list of popular terms and concepts. Which are confirmed to exist through research or observation, which are believed to exist through credible theory, and which are in the realm of science fiction? There are a few of each in the list, in some cases it is a matter of degree. You get to decide which is which. Answers and links to sources below the test... there is no scoring.

  1. Antimatter.
  2. Giant Apes.
  3. Black Holes.
  4. Sea Monsters.
  5. Time Travel.
  6. Faster than Light Travel - 'Warp Drive'
  7. Death Rays.
  8. Aliens.
  9. Anti-Gravity.
  10. Cyborg People.
      BONUS- Artificial Intelligence.

ANSWERS with references, all outside links will open in new window.
As a matter of principle, the Desk no longer cites as a source due to the internal cliques and politics within the organization.

1. Antimatter, formerly called 'contraterrene matter' was first proposed to exist scientifically in 1927. A positron was confirmed experimentally in 1932. In the 1990's other particles were created in accelerators and the European Nuclear Research group CERN created several stable atoms of anti-hydrogen soon thereafter. Physicists believe that for every atom of matter in the universe there is an equal but oppositely charged particle of antimatter. For more information see:

2. Extinct species of giant apes (10 feet tall) have been discovered throughout Asia and living specimens which are somewhat smaller but still quite big (over six feet tall) were recently found in Africa.
Gigantopithecus blacki
Their living cousins:

3. Black holes. You don't have to be Stephan Hawking to understand the information presented on the NASA site on the subject.
While they have not, and indeed CANnot be observed directly, evidence of their existence has accumulated to the point where they are an accepted scientific fact.

4. Our first trick question. It depends on your definition of 'sea monster'. Any creature with tentacles twenty feet long qualifies in most people's books. Or a shark with a mouth that can expand to twice its body size, or maybe one that is a true 'living fossil'.
Giant Squid photographed for first time:
Mega Mouth Shark:
Frilled Shark:

5. Most theorists believe that travel BACKWARD in time may be possible under some very specific conditions. However, travel FORWARD in time, into the future, is quite likely impossible therefore science fiction.

6. Well... as done on 'Star Trek' warp drive might be fiction. BUT there is a line of serious inquiry into the heady world of Quantum Theory and eight dimensional space-time in which it is not only possible... it may be possible with TODAY'S technology!
(warning... the article tends to cause one to blink and mutter "what was that again?" once in awhile.)

7. Here too we are straddling the line. 'Blasters' as used in various movies and TV shows may be way off in the misty future someplace. BUT... Non-Lethal microwave weapons are being deployed as 'area denial' weapons, so how close are we to Buck Roger's gun of choice?

8. Another case of the trick question. If we are talking about TV-show space aliens dropping by the White House who speak English and have really cheesy clothes and bad hairdos, NO, that is most likely FICTION. However..... If we are talking about Some Form of Extra Terrestrial Life, such as Archaea bacteria, the extremophiles, and other hardy types that can metabolize sulfuric acid or don't mind breathing ammonia ... then it is quite likely there is 'life' in other places besides our little planet. And plenty of other planets have been discovered for them to call home beyond our system.
Planet Quest homepage:
Current catalog of extrasolar planets:

9. The last of the trick questions. For this one we must define 'anti gravity'. On the fictional TV shows they flip a switch and some machine hums and something will float off the ground. In the lab they flip a switch and some machine hums and something floats.... Yeah. Fiction has met Reality and it is here, and you can build one too!
NOTE: The technology used by American Antigravity has recently been demonstrated under controlled conditions to possibly be some sort of 'thrust effect' and therefore NOT Anti-Gravity. but it is still cool!

10. Not only are 'they' here. They have been for some time. The only difference between reality and popular fiction is the sophistication of the implanted devices. As of today artificial ears allow the otherwise deaf to hear, mechanical hands are becoming good enough to allow readable handwriting, and man-made eyes that can recognize general shapes and movement are being used. Other organs have either been around for years and are getting better, like the artificial kidney and heart, or are in development. From there, it is only a matter of time until they are combined into one person.
BBC story on the subject:

Artificial Intelligence: How smart does something have to be before it is considered an Artificial Intelligence? Some would say that an automobile with self diagnostic capability that can send an email to the service center and make its own appointment for a tune-up has a rudimentary form of AI. Others will not allow anything less that Star Trek's Commander Data into the club. However, most likely the truth is somewhere in between.
      Such tests as the Turing Test for Intelligence (in a double blind study a machine and a person try to convince the researcher they are both human by responding to written questions) really only test programming ability. The real challenge will probably be designing a program, the hardware itself seems to already exist, which can realize what it does not know, discover the answer, retain that information, then act upon its accumulated knowledge in some meaningful way.
      The work in that direction underway and has made some striking progress.

[NOTE: The Desk is not affiliated with any of the above outside sites or entities. Mention of a particular source is not to be taken as an endorsement by or of the Desk. No infringement or disrespect is intended or is to be assumed. thank you ]

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