The best answer to any question.

Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM

How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?

Answer by Robert Frost, trained International Space Station astronauts to operate the motion control system:

There have been numerous experiments into plant growth in space. It's important to scientists on the ground because it can help us better understand how plants function, which can help us to grow food more efficaciously. It's also important to NASA, because when we finally start sending astronauts away from low Earth orbit, they may need to grow their own food and maintain their own regenerable atmosphere.

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Sept. 12 2014 1:07 PM

What Protocol Does a Hotel Follow When a Guest Is Found Dead in a Room?

Answer by Mike Holovacs, 10 years front-facing experience, front desk, concierge, valet/door supervision; 2014 master's in hospitality:

I've not caught a body while working myself, but my current boss's body count is eight, and a prior boss of mine is well into double digits. I did have someone drop from a coronary in front of me, but he died in the ambulance. (Yes, hoteliers know exactly how many on-property deaths they have been privy to in many cases. Unless you've lost count ... )

Sept. 10 2014 7:09 AM

How Do You Differentiate Good Acting From Bad Acting?


Answer by Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer:



If anyone tells you there are objective standards, they're full of crap. This is a matter of personal taste. There are trends. There are many people who loved Philip Seymour Hoffman's acting. But if you don't, you're not wrong. At worst, you're eccentric.



I'm a director who has been working with actors for almost 30 years, and I'm the son of a film historian. I'll give you my definition of good acting. But I really want to stress that if I say, “Pacino is great,” and you disagree, my experience does not make me right and you wrong. It just means we have different tastes.


Sept. 8 2014 8:46 AM

What’s It Like to Work at Starbucks During Pumpkin Spice Latte Season?


Answer by Nadia Singer, former barista:



Pumpkin spice latte and peppermint mocha seasons were some of the busiest times of year at the Starbucks I used to work at. It was interesting to see how many new people would show up just to drink one of these “delicacy” items and also to see people who ordered the same thing for 300-plus days a year make the switch. There wasn't a day that passed by leading up to fall that a customer didn't ask when the pumpkin spice latte would be back.


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.

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.