Event Supervisor: Alan Scott - University of Wisconsin

Fermi Questions – Test Booklet
2009 Wisconsin State Science Olympiad
Event Supervisor: Alan Scott
Round your answer to the nearest integer exponent of ten.
Write your answer clearly in the square box on the answer
sheet. For example, suppose you needed to estimate a time
quantity in units of seconds. Your answer was determined to
be 7.54x104 seconds. Your answer should be
You are permitted to interact and talk quietly with your team while taking the test. A
team captain should be designated to enter final answers into the boxes on the answer
sheet. You must answer as many questions as you can to the best of your ability within
the time allotted. Calculators are not permitted. You are not allowed to reference any
notes or documents to complete the questions.
1. In the time it takes you to read this question, how many people worldwide have
2. How many oxygen atoms exist in the earth’s atmosphere?
3. Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago and published his famous The Origin of
Species 150 years ago. Evolution is a global concern in regards to emerging pathogens
that could cause worldwide pandemics. Suppose a highly contagious virus is contracted
by one person on earth. This one person passes it to 2 other people every day. All
subsequent people contracting the illness keep passing it to two additional people
everyday. If the incubation period is 20 days, how many people would contract the
illness before the symptoms appear in the first person? (Assume one never runs out of
4. How many people worldwide are currently reading a Wikipedia page?
5. In the fall of 2011, the Mars Science Laboratory rover is scheduled to be launched and
will explore Mars. This rover is nuclear powered and can operate both day and night. It
gets its energy from 4.8 kg of radioactive PuO2 (plutonium dioxide). If the total power
being supplied to the rover at the beginning of the mission is 2,120 W, how many watts
of power - per plutonium atom - is being supplied?
6. How many post-it notes (any brand) are used in the United States per year?
7. How many plastic water bottles are produced every year in the United States?
8. How many plastic water bottles are thrown away and not recycled every year in the
United States?
9. In 1609, Galileo Galilei built a telescope and was the first to see and study the moons
of Jupiter. These observations began to shift humanities view of itself within the
universe. Some of the sunlight did not reflect off the moons of Jupiter and enter into
Galileo’s eyes but continued out into space away from the Sun. How far away from earth
in meters has this part of the sunlight traveled at the current time?
10. How many people worldwide are currently talking on a cell phone while driving a
11. How many bacteria cells are contained in the intestines of live humans in the United
States at the current time?
12. How many electrons are contained in the atoms that make-up the question mark at
the end of this sentence?
13. How many days would it take a single person to count, one at a time, the number of
dollar bills that would add up to our national debt of $11 trillion?
14. It is estimated that 7% of the electrical energy generated in the United States is lost
while being transmitted to its usage location. If this could be lowered to 6.9% instead of
7%, how much money in dollars worth of electricity would be saved each year in the
United States?
15. If only a millionth of a percent of stars in our galaxy have one planet with life on it,
how many planets exist with life on them in our galaxy?
16. In December of 2004, an Indonesian tsunami killed an estimated 250,000 people. In
how many seconds would this number of people be replaced based upon the current rate
of births and deaths worldwide?
17. How many people are riding a bicycle right now worldwide?
18. How many atoms of iron are contained in the molten outer core of the earth?
19. A future hydrogen economy will be based upon the splitting and recombining of
water molecules and the energy involved in such chemical reactions. When hydrogen gas
is burned it follows the chemical formula 2H2 + O2  2H2O + 572 kJ. Thus, 286 kJ of
energy is produced per mole of reacting hydrogen gas. Suppose all the energy produced
in obtaining one cup of water in this reaction goes into running a 100 horsepower car.
How many hours can this car run?
20. How many trees are needed on the planet in order for all the vehicular transportation
in the United States to become carbon neutral? (This implies all the carbon dioxide
emitted by the vehicles are absorbed by the trees.)
21. What is the number of trees currently alive on planet earth right now?
22. The most distant object that is visible, to the unaided eye, in the night time sky is the
Andromeda galaxy. It is about 2.5 million light-years away. How many ant insect steps
would it take for an ant to walk a distance that is equivalent to the distance Andromeda is
away from us?
23. How many people in Africa will get infected with HIV tomorrow?
24. In the 2008 presidential election, the presidential candidates debated the pros and
cons of expanding off-shore drilling in U.S. waters. Candidate Obama stated that if
everyone properly inflated their tires it would save an amount equal to the oil produced
from expanded off-shore drilling. The experts do state that if everyone properly inflated
their tires it would be equivalent to saving 1% of the gasoline consumed in the United
States. How many gallons of gasoline would be saved each year by properly inflating all
tires in the U.S.?
25. How many mosquito bites will people receive in the United States between 10 and
10:30pm (local time) on July 4th?