The best answer to any question.

Sept. 1 2014 7:23 AM

How Do Casinos Catch Card Counters?

Answer by Ben Mezrich, New York Times best-selling author of Seven Wonders, Bringing Down the House, and the book that became The Social Network:

Interesting question. They actually employ former card counters and have them sit in the security booths and watch players via the security cameras. If they see a lone card counter raising and lowering his bets, they either send more drinks to slow him down, or they'll eventually send a pit boss or security to ask him to leave.

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Aug. 26 2014 7:38 AM

Lois Lowry on Her Writing Process and Literary Influences

Answer by Lois Lowry, author, The Giver:

Q: What is the process that a writer goes through while writing a novel?

A: I sit alone in a room every day and do my work, and that’s what I love doing. I enter the lives of these characters that I know are fictional and have appeared in my imagination. But they become so real to me that when I finish a manuscript, it's like leaving behind a family that you’ve been close to, and I love that process.

Aug. 25 2014 6:24 AM

How Big of a Problem Is Space Contamination?

Answer by Robert Walker, writer of articles on Mars and space:

For me, the No. 1 issue that is rarely discussed is contamination of the solar system by Earth microbes and of Earth by samples returned from space. It is not so much that the issues are not discussed at all. There are many papers and workshop reports about them. The problem is that they are rarely discussed by the public and are ignored in news reports. So there is hardly any public awareness of these issues.

Aug. 24 2014 7:14 AM

What Is It Like to Live in Christchurch, New Zealand?

Answer by Jesse Bythell:

I'm a New Zealander, born in Christchurch, where I have lived for much of my life.

Christchurch, as you may know, has experienced thousands of earthquakes since September 2011, and much of the city has been devastated, causing people to move away. While the infrastructure is being rebuilt and lives put back together, some very exciting innovations are taking place there. For example, suburbs that have been deemed too unsafe for residential housing are being turned into public parks or "food forests," where old fruit trees and berry canes from garden remnants are being preserved and added to, creating places where people can garden communally and forage. I haven't lived in Christchurch for the last eight years, so I will write about my experience living there before the earthquakes.

Aug. 22 2014 7:58 AM

How Is a Book Optioned and Developed Into a Film?

Answer by Juliet Blake, producer, The Hundred-Foot Journey:

I read The Hundred-Food Journey, loved it, and got on a train to meet the author right away. I told him that other producers would probably have 20 books that they would be trying to make into movies, and I promised him that I would just have one. I also promised him I would get the movie made. But when I got back onto the train to head back to Washington, I thought, Well, how the hell am I going to do that?

Aug. 21 2014 8:22 AM

How Do You Become Better Politically Educated?

Answer by Mark Binfield, bureaucratic minion:

Focus on policy, not personality. A lot of politics is a soap opera: who's popular, who's not, who's misbehaving, who's rising, who's falling. All of that drama matters, but only because of its eventual effects on what actions the government takes and what policies it enacts. For now, the soap opera is noise to you. (And a lot of it is noise, period.) Resist the urge to watch it, and don't let anyone convince you that you're uninformed when you don't. It doesn't matter who the players are until you understand the game.

Aug. 20 2014 8:06 AM

Should the U.S. Be Responsible for Stopping Genocides in Other Countries?

Answer by Elizabeth Baum Milne:

This is an incredibly complicated question, and I think Samantha Power's A Problem From Hell provides the most intelligent analysis of the difficulties of this situation.

Aug. 19 2014 12:53 PM

When Did Humans First Consider the Possibility of Alien Life?

Answer by Tim O'Neill, atheist, medievalist, skeptic, and amateur historian:

The first speculation about what we would call "aliens" goes back to the atomist speculations popular among Epicurean philosophers in ancient Greece and their Roman disciples. Democritus and Epicurus considered the universe to be the result of a chance jostling of atoms and regarded it as highly likely that there were other worlds out there and that they were inhabited. Epicurus' disciple Metrodorus of Chios considered the idea of our "world" being the only one as unlikely as "if a single ear of wheat grew on a vast plain." As the Roman Epicurean poet Lucretius put it: "Nothing in the universe is unique and alone and therefore in other regions there must be other earths inhabited by different tribes of men and breeds of beasts."

Aug. 14 2014 8:12 AM

Is It Offensive to Address a Woman as Female?

Answer by Carrie Cutler, engineering student:

I wouldn't go so far as "offensive," but I do find it annoying.

First, and most annoyingly, female is an adjective. (I'm using the Oxford English Dictionary, not random dictionaries online.) I've spent way too much time around the written word not to twitch when I hear or see bad grammar. The word female describes the presence of ovaries and a uterus in some object that experiences sexual differentiation (human, mammal, lizard, dolphin, etc.). It's especially bad grammar when men and females are matched, because female is defined as a description of sexual differentiation that applies to any sexually differentiated species, and man is human-specific.

Aug. 11 2014 1:14 PM

Could Modern Troops Defeat Medieval Knights in Hand-to-Hand Combat?

Answer by Jon Davis, Marine sergeant, Iraq vet, weapons instructor:

So we want to see what the epic ending to a battle between two of time's most deadly warriors will be?

Actually, it's not that interesting. The Marine, my chosen analog for this question, loses, and that is actually not all that surprising.