Rex Kramer wrote:1. What will be the distance from Earth to Ceres, in cubits, on March 2, 2012, at 2:12:30 GMT?

Rex

This gives me the chance to share a story. A couple weeks ago the trivia team of which I'm a member tied for third place in a local contest. There was also a tie for first place, and the moderator announced that the tie would be broken by asking one question of the two teams. The first and second place teams were placed at separate tables and asked to name the 13 original U.S. colonies. When that didn't break the tie, the moderator decided that the winner would be the first team to bring him the answer to this question: "What is the Roman numeral equivalent of 1980?"

After that tiebreaker was resolved it was our turn. The moderator again said the winning team would be the first to bring him the correct answer to this question: "Given that the moon is, on average, 238,857 miles from the Earth, what is the distance in centimeters?" I grabbed a piece of paper and began furiously scribbling down the numbers and doing the multiplication (I found out later that the other team, mostly younger people, spent two minutes or so trying to figure out how to approach the question). With another team member checking my math as I went, I came up with the answer. It seemed like forever but I was told later it was only about 2 minutes. Fortunately I was right the first time and we claimed the 3rd place prize.

My process was:

2.54 (centimeters in an inch) X 12 (inches in a foot) X 5280 (feet in a mile) X 238,857 miles

Afterward I thought that it might have been easier to just multiply 238,857 X 1.609 (kilometers in a mile) and then move the decimal the appropriate number of places, but it turns out that I would have been off by a few digits since both 2.54 and 1.609 are approximations.