Poor Piano and Ping Pong Paddle: NONE OF THE ABOVE Quiz Time!

Welcome back to another installment of None of the Above Quiz Time, the only blog that quizzes your trivial knowledge based on the quizzes of an unscripted street science show.

This week on NOTA, Tim Shaw lived the American dream.  No, not the one about the owning a home and having two kids, nor the less idyllic one about kidnapping your boss for ransom. (Just me? OK, forget I mentioned it.) Instead, Tim suspended a piano 100ft in the air, pulled a string, and sent it crashing to the ground. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than that, and I’m a husband and father.

Living. The. Dream.
Living. The. Dream.

The demonstration capped off this week’s first NOTA, appropriately titled “What Goes Up.” This episode also exposed gravity’s dirty secret: it affects everything the same. So whether we’re talking a bowling ball, a piano, or a javelin, everything falls at a rate of acceleration equaling 9.8m/s/s. Given a much higher height, air resistance can affect the descent, but the effect at 100ft is negligible.

Not negligible for the piano...
Not negligible for that poor piano…

Of course, the air resistance and other factors will eventually balance out the rate of descent, meeting at a speed known as terminal velocity. Simply put, this is as fast as a particular object can fall. Skydivers in face-down freefall position have a terminal velocity of around 122 mph, but the world record is much faster. What is the top speed reached by a skydiver?  Is it:

A) 373 mph

B) 569 mph

C) 722 mph

D) 843 mph

Competitive skydiving is crazy. The answer is D) 843mph. In 2012, Felix Baumgartner plummeted to earth at this astounding speed, breaking the sound barrier without the aid of a vehicle. He cheated the forces of drag by ballooning 24 miles into the sky, where the atmosphere is less dense. Then he dropped out of a tiny capsule and the rest is history; you’ve probably seen the GIF of his leap a thousand times.

At 10:30pm, “Chain Reactions” made a very convincing argument that the NOTA crew should invest in a 1,000,000 fps slow motion camera. Y’know, the kind that they use to photograph bullets passing through fruit. Why? Well, Tim created a ping pong cannon and blasted a fragile little celluloid ball through a wooden paddle.

Game. Set. Match.
Game. Set. Match.

That’s the power of a ping pong ball traveling over 600 mph. Seems kind of whatever now that we know that a human flew at 843 mph. Imagine what that guy would have done to the ping pong paddle. But I digress… while the game of table tennis – or “ping pong” – has been around officially since the late 19th century, when did it become an Olympic sport?

A) 1948 London Games

B) 1968 Mexico City Games

C) 1988 Seoul Games

D) 2008 Beijing Games

The answer is C) 1988 Seoul Games.  The English are credited with originating table tennis in the 1880s and the game grew in popularity until it reached the Olympic pantheon a century later.

Tim went it alone for his next experiment. Holding a Slinky – yes, the toy – up in the air, he asked what would happen when the spring is dropped. Incredibly, it seemed to hover in the air until the top of the spring contracted to meet the bottom, when upon it fell to the ground.


The Slinky was invented in the 1940s by a Navy engineer named Richard James. And while it was a happy accident that he invented one of the most popular toys in the world, it was not his original purpose. What was James intending to invent?

A) A retractable tether for lowering ordinance into the hold of a ship

B) Supports that would protect and stabilize sensitive instruments during rough seas

C) Springy safety lines that could be attached to sailors cleaning the sides of ships

D) Internal springs for submarine turbines

As fun as the Slinky bungee cord sounds, the answer is B) Supports that would protect and stabilize sensitive instruments during rough seas. While James’ wartime effort fell short, he’ll just have to settle for bringing happiness to millions of children around the world. Small consolation, I suppose.


0 Correct – you’re the piano and casual trivia questions are the ground. Ouch!

1 Correct – you’re one gaping hole short of a complete ping pong paddle

2 Correct – that’s a score worthy of a Plastic Slinky…

3 Correct – but you get the Original Slinky. METAL!

Don’t miss new episodes of None of the Above Mondays at 10pm and 10:30pm on the National Geographic Channel.


  1. Judith cooney
    United Kingdom
    August 24, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Hi Tim my Old friend, glad to see you on National Geographic, unfortunately I’ve not been to well of late, had a bit of a scare actually. be good to hear from you, to see how you are, Phil sends his regards too, we were reminiscing over old times when you did radio the other day and the fun and laughter we all had. from Jude