This is a competition between JCs for the most challenging question. Each week, there will be a prize of $10 book vouchers. The most creative question will get an iPod shuffle as a grand prize.The complete listing of questions asked by the students and the Library’s answers will be passed to the school which will be posted up on their school’s noticeboard. In this ASK weblog, 5 entries will be hosted up selectively.Bai Yan Ling asked: How long did the person who wrote the first dictionary took? How many words were inside them?
While there are no information on exactly how long it took the person to write the first dictionary, we do have the information that it wasn’t until the 18th century that Dr. Samuel Johnson would publish his landmark English dictionary – prepared over several years. However, his predecessors paved the way which included Nathan Bailey who published a first English dictionary of 60,000 words that included most English words instead of hard words only.In addition, it was noted that Shakespeare, a ‘man of fire-new words,’ filled his world with words. Shakespeare wrote with a vocabulary of some 30,000 words. Today, an educated person’s vocabulary is perhaps about 15,000. English words were everywhere.So a good estimate of the number of words that were in the first dicitonary would be between 30,000 and 60,000 words.“However, people didn’t take too much time accurately defining words or didn’t seem to recognize the meaning of words as fixed. Words named things and dictionaries explained words with synonyms or in another language (translations). According to Ian Lancashire, Dept. of English, University of Toronto, fuzzy language abounded until the late 17th century. Until then, English dictionaries were normally “bilingual,” either in translating non-English words to English or in replacing hard, often Latinate English, so-called “ink-horn” terms, with easier common English with synonyms.”Sources:
www.suite101.com/article.cfm/words/52686 (last accessed on Aug 07)
World Book Encyclopedia – call no. R q031 WOR (available at all community libraries)
You may also wish to consult this site www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/
cawdrey/cawdrey0.html#a (last accessed on 2 Aug 07)
for more information on the origins of the first dictionary.
Tan Yi Ru asked: How does all the elements in the periodic table appear on the Planet Earth?
There are two possible interpretations of this question:
- history of elements on earth
- history of discovery of elements, hence the discovery of periodic table.A necessary prerequisite to the construction of the periodic table was the discovery of the individual elements. Although elements such as gold, silver, tin, copper, lead and mercury have been known since antiquity, the first scientific discovery of an element occurred in 1649 when Hennig Brand discovered phosphorous. During the next 200 years, a vast body of knowledge concerning the properties of elements and their compounds was acquired by chemists (view a 1790 article on the elements). By 1869, a total of 63 elements had been discovered. As the number of known elements grew, scientists began to recognize patterns in properties and began to develop classification schemes.( Extracted from: http://www.wou.edu/las/physci/ch412/perhist.htm – last accessed on 3/8/07 )
All the matter in the universe is composed of the atoms of more than 100 different chemical elements, which are
found both in pure form and combined in chemical compounds. The periodic table was originally constructed to
represent the patterns observed in the chemical properties of the elements. That is to say, as the science of
chemistry developed, it was observed that elements could be grouped according to their chemical reactivity.Source: http://library.eb.com/eb/article-79407
( This database is available for access from home, via http://www.nlb.gov.sg .
Home > eResources > eDatabases > Encyclopædia Britannica Online )
Geologic History of Earth
” The history of the Earth spans approximately 4.6 billion years. The oldest known rocks, however, have an isotopic age of only about 3.9 billion years.”
To read more, please go to: http://library.eb.com/eb/article-69783
Please check for book availability: http://vistaweb.nlb.gov.sg/index.html
The elements : what you really want to know / Ron Miller.
Y English q546 MIL
The elements : a very short introduction / Philip Ball.
English 546 BAL
The ingredients : a guided tour of the elements / Philip Ball.
English 546 BAL
The basics of chemistry / Richard Myers.
R English q540 MYE
All sites listed with last accessed date: 3.8.07
This wonderful website gives a history of the chemical elements in periodic table.
Shanaaz asked: Why is the sky blue and why does it change colours as the day starts and end. How?
Sunlight is a type of “transmitted light” which is made up of a spectrum of colors. The longest wavelengths of light are on the red end of the spectrum and the shortest wavelengths are on the blue/violet end of the spectrum. When this transmitted light enters our atmosphere it collides with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms. The color with the shorter wavelength is scattered more by this collision. Because violet and blue have the shortest wavelengths, the sky appears to be violet / blue. But because our eyes are more sensitive to blue light than they are violet light, we perceive the sky as blue.
(Source: Why is the sky blue? www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html)The change in the color of the sky is due to the rotation of Earth around the sun. At dusk and dawn the colors of the sky change and the first portion of the visible spectrum is what appears to the viewer. During these times of the day the sun is positioned at a different angle to the earth than during the normal daytime. Because of this angle, the longer wavelengths are the ones that reach the eye. The blue and other shorter wavelengths are scattered millions of times and do not reach the viewer. When the sun does not shine directly on a certain portion of the earth there are more gas molecules between the viewer and the sun. Therefore, the normal blue color of he sky is no longer visible because the short wavelengths of blue and green are scattered millions of times and do not reach the viewer. Therefore the longer wavelengths that couldn’t be scattered as many times are able to now hit the viewer in a more direct way.
(Source: What makes the sky change colors?
BooksTitle Why is the sky blue?
Author Jacobs, Marian B.
Publisher New York : PowerKids Press, 1999
Call No. J English 551.56 JACTitle Why is the sky blue? : and other outdoor questions
Author Ripley, Catherine.
Publisher Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1997
Call No. J P English 032 RIP
Why is the sky blue? – math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/
Blue Sky – hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/
Why is the sky blue? – science.howstuffworks.com/question39.htm
Understanding Colors in the sky from sunsets to blue sky – www.mountainnature.com/Climate/SkyColours.htm
Mccoll Victoria Mei Lin asked:
How do we define race and why has it caused so much discrimination in the world today?
Lim Wei Liang asked: It is said that atoms is basic unit of life.However looking deeper into electrons, it looks like a string affected by vibrations, like a musical notes. Therefore, will the definition of basic unit of life change?
We are not aware of any scientific definitions of life making atoms its basic unit. Biologists often consider the cell as the basic unit of life (at least of life as we know it) as a working definition. This definition is often found in textbooks.However, there is no single accepted definition of what constitutes life. However, your question appears to involve the more mechanistic definitions of life which:
“Simply stated, the view of the mechanists is that organisms are no different from subtle machines: the whole is the sum of its parts, which are arranged in such a way that an internal energy source can move them in accordance with a built-in program of purposeful action. In the mechanist’s view, advances in molecular biology corroborate this claim and demonstrate that in principle organisms are no more than complicated physical systems.”For a detailed discussion about the different views about what life and, we suggest reading the Encyclopædia Britannica article, ‘Viewpoints on the nature of life’. The Encyclopaedia Britannica Online is avaiable after logging into the National Library Board’s website and searching our website’s eDatabases section for it.With respect to what you said about “it looks like a string affected by vibrations”, we presume that it is a reference to string theory (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/
everything.html for a basic explanation) which is an attempt to unify the fields of physics (quantum theory, relativity, subatomic particles) into a siglne grand theory.As even the reductionist position of the mechanists looks at the simplest definition of life in terms of chemical (or biochemical] processes and not in quantum, relativistic or subatomic terms, there does not seem to be anybody anticipating string theory having an impact on the ongoing research into life.
Also, given that the life sciences deal with observable research, it is more likely for a finding in the life sciences to affect the theoretical search for a grand theory of physics than vice versa.
Kelly Wong asked: If there is a word in the dictionary being misspelt, would anyone know?
Well, as we know some authorative dictionaries had undergone several editions over the years and they have a dedicated team of commissioned editors who are linguistic specialists to oversee the revision of their publications. Usually, if not always, the process is both stringent and rigorous to ensure excellence in lexicography.If despite all conscientious effort to ensure accuracies of the entries in the dictionary, and the consumer is still able to spot typo mistakes, some publishers have also make provisions for the public alert them. A case in point is the English Pronouncing dictionary, published by the Cambridge University Press. You can email comments about that dictionary to firstname.lastname@example.org (Info extracted from behind cover page)Title:English pronouncing dictionary /[Daniel Jones].
Call no: R423.1 JON
Publisher:Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Available in some NLB libraries.The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary has also made such provisions.
URL of Online Oxford English Dictionary: //www.oed.com/general/privacy.html
See extracts below:“Oxford University Press [OED] makes no warranties or representations of any kind that the services provided by this web site will be uninterrupted , error-free or that the web site or the server that hosts the web site are free from viruses or other forms of harmful computer code.
OED appeals and submissions
To suggest a new word, or contribute new evidence for a word already in the OED,
please read How to contribute words to the Reading Programme and contact us as follows:
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon St.
Oxford OX2 6DP
Tel: +44 (0)1865 353660
Fax: +44 (0)1865 353811
General questions and comments
For queries about the English language in general, visit AskOxford.com or contact the
Oxford Word and Language Service at:
Oxford University Press
Great Clarendon St.
Oxford OX2 6DP
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 353660
The OED welcomes academic feedback on its editorial content.
For this and all other enquiries, please use our support form or e-mail email@example.com.”
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