This Thursday, Jeopardy! champions Argonne

By Louise LernerMarch 8, 2011

This national laboratory is a category on the game show Jeopardy! this week.

If you answered "What is Argonne National Laboratory?" you'd have buzzed in correctly! The Clue Crew, a set of traveling hosts who visit places across the country and film clues about that location for the show, spent a day at Argonne last year. The clues, filmed in several different labs around Argonne, feature scientific topics and research based at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory.

The show will air in Chicagoland on Thursday, March 10, at 3:30 p.m. CST on ABC; for other areas, check local listings. An entire category will feature clues filmed at the lab, and a spotlight segment on Argonne detailing the laboratory's research will also air during a commercial break.

Argonne National Laboratory is a multipurpose lab near Chicago that focuses on solving national energy, environment and security problems with science and technology. Test your scientific and Argonne knowledge with the following Jeopardy!-style clues:

These devices, usually on your dashboard, help direct you where to turn, but they're also easy to hack.
Answer: What are GPS devices?
Argonne scientist and physical security expert Roger Johnston has studied the weaknesses of GPS devices and found they can be easily hijacked. The satellite signals they read from space are so weak that the devices can be easy fooled into picking up another, stronger fake signal. But no fear—Johnston's team suggested fixes to improve security. Johnston heads the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne, which tackles physical security challenges to help make America more secure. More surprising security myths exposed by the VAT »

This kind of tree, named in the title of a popular children's book, turns out to be effective at reducing water pollution when planted over a contaminated site.
Answer: What are willow trees?
Willows and poplar trees extend their 30-foot taproots to pull pollutants out of groundwater. The process, using plants to remove contaminants, is called "phytoremediation." At an experimental site at Argonne, agronomist Cristina Negri measures the trees' progress. As the trees absorb the water, it rises to the leaves and the pollutants are broken down harmlessly by sunlight. At the height of summer, a single tree can pump 26 gallons of water out of the ground. Read more »

This cartoonist, whose drawings feature machines with dozens of steps to perform a simple task, is the inspiration for an annual high school engineering contest held by Argonne.
Answer: Who is Rube Goldberg?
Goldberg's cartoons, such as this one, are a perfect tool to help kids learn about engineering. Every spring, Argonne organizes a competition for local high schools to create bizarre machines that use toy trains, Velcro, ball bearings, printers, tanks of water, model airplanes and any combination of wacky steps to perform a simple task; this year, the machines had to water a plant. Along the way, high-schoolers learn engineering and problem-solving skills. Read more »