ABU DHABI // A new online competition will give residents a scientific insight into their local environment.
"Do You Know …", which was created by the Swiss university Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), will run for the next two months on www.thenational.ae and in its Frontiers section in The National, starting today.
There will be a new question each Sunday, prompting readers to discover how much they know about the UAE and its culture from a scientific perspective.
One of the seven questions asks readers if they know why falcons attack from the side.
Another asks how does traditional Emirati clothing keep the body cool.
Michael Mitchell, who developed the competition, said the questions were harder than they might seem but the idea of the competition was all about promoting research and learning.
He said they were not trying to "trick people and ask them things they already know", but to make them "excited about science".
"The internet is a great way for people to explore science, so go ahead and look up the answers online," he said.
The competition is a way for people to understand everyday phenomena and be "awoken to a different way of seeing things", he added.
"It's really important to let people know that science can explain the world around them. It opens their sense of wonder."
For example, another question in the competition asks what is the lowest boiling point of water in the UAE.
According to Mr Mitchell, most people are not aware that the boiling point depends on altitude.
"As we get older we just accept things as they are and science can play that role of awakening the exploratory senses."
Readers will have a week to answer each question before the correct answer is published the following Sunday, together with a new question. Entry for this week's question closes at midnight Sunday, when entry for the following week's question begins.
Each correct answer will give participants an increased chance of winning the competition, with the top three finishers winning an iPad and a solar-powered keyboard.
EPFL, which has a branch in Ras Al Khaimah, is known for many scientific developments, including the first modern computer mouse in the 1980s.
The solar panels inside the keyboards being given away as prizes, called dye-sensitised solar cells, are also an EPFL technology. They operate using a process that imitates photosynthesis.
The cells, known as Gratzel cells, generate energy from the sun.
Mr Mitchell hopes that the competition will be a "big success" and that people will "participate in understanding the culture that surrounds them in a scientific way".
The winners will be announced in August.