Culture Quiz: Heat Waves

Hot enough yet? Though much of the U.S. is undergoing a torturous heat wave that's got people feeling like stale taffy on hot asphalt, you don't really know heat until you take this quiz on … well, heat, of course.

Image: The Weather Channel

Hot enough yet? Though the weather has improved somewhat on the East Coast in the last few days, much of the U.S. continues to undergo a torturous heat wave that's left people feeling like stale taffy on hot asphalt. But you don't really know heat until you take this quiz on … well, heat, of course.

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1.  Until the late 19th century, scientists explained how heat behaved with the caloric theory, which stated that heat was …

A. A liquid

B. Generated by substances "eating" one another

C. A form of kinetic energy

D. Generated in the brain

2.  The 17th-century Phlogiston theory was an attempt by German alchemist Johann Joachim Becher to find a common explanation for combustion and …

A. Solar heat

B. Exhaustion

C. Rusting

D. Extinguishing fires

3.  The great heat wave of 1936, considered one of the worst in North American history, was followed by …

A. A volcanic explosion in Minnesota

B. The great cold wave of 1936

C. A massive wildfire that threatened Washington, D.C.

D. The invention of the air conditioner

4.  Freon is a trademark name, but what's the real name of the substance that makes your A/C run cold?

A. Permafrost

B. Oxyicetane

C. Chlorofluorocarbon

D. Freoacetacarbon

5.  Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel turned "Summer into Winter" at the court of King James I of England by adding what to water?

A. Freon

B. Alcohol

C. Ether

D. Salt

6.  In spring 2012, the former president of the Maldives predicted that his nation would "be underwater" in how many years—if no one did anything to stop global warming, that is?

A. 7,000

B. 700

C. 70

D. Seven

7.  What do most alleged victims of spontaneous human combustion tend to have in common, as skeptics point out?

A. They've led sinful lives.

B. They're sufferers of asbestosis.

C. They're obese, old, or infirm.

D. They work or live near gas stations.

8.  According to several witnesses at the scene, what were Joan of Arc's last words as she was burned alive?

A. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"

B. "Beware, England, for you have earned an eternal enemy."

C. "I die for France."

D. "I go to God with a light heart."

9.  According to a 2008 study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, how long will it take for the sun to boil away all the liquid on Earth?

A. One million years

B. One billion years

C. One trillion years

D. Never gonna happen.

10.  How does the UN's World Meteorological Organization define a heat wave?

A. When the temperature exceeds 100 degrees F for at least three days.

B. When the shade temperature and non-shade temperature are within two degrees (above 90 degrees F) for at least a week.

C. When the temperature exceeds the average temperature by 9 degrees F for more than five consecutive days.

D. It has no definition for a heat wave.

NOTE: Scroll down for answers and explanations.

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  1. (A) The caloric theory has been superseded by the laws of thermodynamics.

    1. (C) Now we explain both phenomena as oxidation.

    2. (B) The climatic chaos added to the woes of a nation suffering both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

    3. (C) CFCs are being phased out because of their effect on the ozone layer.

    4. (D) Drebbel also happened to have invented the submarine, among many other things.

    5. (D) "If carbon emissions were to stop today, the planet would not see a difference for 60 to 70 years," Mohamed Nasheed said. "If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be underwater in seven years."

    6. (C) Add a dropped cigarette and the right circumstances, and you've got yourself a human candle.

    7. (A) Some also said they saw a white dove fly out of her mouth, so take from the accounts what you will.

    8. (B) The sun, by the way, is getting hotter.

    9. (C) Other organizations define a heat wave differently. The WMO considers 1961-1990 "normal" for the purpose of obtaining an "average" temperature.

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—Michael Y. Park is a writer living in New York City and a regular contributor to

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