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Take a Deep Breath ...

Science brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.

 

Puzzle ID:#27248
Fun:*** (2.82)
Difficulty:*** (2.65)
Category:Science
Submitted By:norcekrius****

 

 

 



Nora Shekrie picked up the phone on the second ring. Ten minutes after she'd sent her phone number to her cousin's friend, she had the expected call.
"Nora? It's Todd. Can you hear me?"
"Just fine. You're in a big city, you know. They have cell towers and flush toilets and fast food and everything."
"I know, I know, La Paz is civilization. I'm just used to things not working quite the way I expect. Thanks for talking with me."
"It's your phone bill. Your e-mail said that your sociology professor is dead, and the authorities are acting strangely?"
"That's right, except it's anthropology. I heard the clamor when the fire truck came. I looked out of my window -- his house is about two blocks away. By the time the La Paz FD got there, it was too late. The house was up in flames, just like on the 11:00 news. Straight up to the sky; it was horrible to watch. Dr. Bernardo was probably already dead from smoke inhalation. At least, from the flames I saw, I hope he was."
"Cause of death and funeral pyre, all in one?"
"Quite. The police picked up someone suspicious in the area, and the one said something that another student translated as suspicion of some weird type of arson. He didn't follow it all; there was a lot of noise, and we haven't totally adapted to the neighborhood cant quite yet."
"Can't what? Oh, you mean the accent and dialect?"
"Right. But they let him go later that night. This place has the most tangled rumor mill I've ever seen, worse than high school, and it sounds like the kid's parents are important people of some sort."
"Such as?"
"City politics, business, and social status. Wealth, influence, and obligation are rolled up as tightly as if the feudal period were last generation instead of a century ago, or however long it was."
"Close enough. What else?"
"We all, I mean the students, get a weird feeling about this. They've asked us all sorts of strange questions, like what Bernardo did in his spare time, what he ate and drank, did he smoke, did he take drugs, like they were trying to smear his reputation or something. But I'm sure he wasn't mixed up in anything. He was on time for everything, competent every day, and brilliant at least twice a week. There are only 20 of us students on the program, and he's here just for this one class, you know, so we're a pretty tight group, even if he does this every year. He knows the university people, too, and I'm rambling."
"It's okay. Keep going."
"Well, there are some new discoveries out at the dig, which I guess we'll never get to now, and he must have spent all his free time between preparing for class and, uh, getting to know the T.A."
"Girlfriend?"
"Right. She's torn between shooting half the town in retribution and flying home to commit suicide. She adored him seven ways from Sunday. And he was only eight years older, so it wasn't anything too weird."
"Maybe someone local took a difference to that? Anyone jealous?"
"Maybe. He's pretty likeable. Maybe he had someone down here who was looking forward to his return."
"Well, it sounds like someone took things into their own hands."
"That's what some of us think, but the police sound about ready to file it as an accidental death? What can we do?"
"You can tell them it's definitely arson. I expect they know that already, but once they know that the foreigners know, perhaps they'll be a bit more conscious of their civic duty."
"But I don't know that!"
"I'm something like 5,000 miles away from La Paz, and I know it's arson. There should be enough clues to narrow it down for them."

How was Nora so sure?



Answer

La Paz is about 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) above sea level. The partial pressure of oxygen is barely high enough to sustain an open fire. La Paz bought fire engines only out of civic pride: the equipment generally gathers dust in the station.

Since the flames went "straight up to the sky", this fire had help of some sort. There was no significant wind to supply more oxygen, so someone must have "made arrangements" to make such a conflagration.

Unfortunately, we don't have clues to figure out who did it.

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Comments

safire2191*us*
Dec 01, 2005

also, it takes a LOT of heat to burn a man to a crisp and without the oxygen, the fire may not have gotten hot enough.
brainsterAin*
Dec 01, 2005

good one!
choptlivvaAus*
Dec 01, 2005

I figured it out.... but ONLY after looking at the hint. I had a little advantage though. My daughter spent quite a bit of time in Bolivia in cultural study programs, both in H.S. and college. So I knew about the high altitude and the low oxygen levels.

Fun!!! (I'll have to send this to her!!!)
aceterp
Dec 01, 2005

Very hard, and pretty obscure. I wasn't even close to getting it until I did a search for La Paz. Good stuff! Keep it coming
SunroseAus*
Dec 01, 2005

Very well written. I had fun trying to solve this one out. I enjoyed this one, and it's a learning experience as well. Good Job, and keep 'em coming.
smart-1**
Dec 01, 2005

wolfmanh**
Dec 02, 2005

wow a lot of reading, great teaser and well written
TiggrAus*
Dec 05, 2005

I would have to agree with everything that Sunrose said.
rkaalandAus*
Dec 10, 2005

Good Job!! I didn't get it exactly right but knew it had something to do with oxygen. Too lazy this morning to look up the location!
sweetime**
Dec 14, 2005

well done norcekri - another great teaser
i admit you had me stumped, but i'd never heard of the location, and it's far too late (and i'm too lazy) to look it up

well done
troy14*dk*
Dec 18, 2005

way too long to read... but I guess its good
troy14*dk*
Dec 18, 2005

troy14*dk*
Dec 18, 2005

mrticklesAus*
Dec 19, 2005

Good God! MUCH too LONG!
Brainy_1Aus*
Dec 31, 2005

Another good one! I also was too lazy to look up the location but I knew it had something to do with oxygen! Good job, as usual!!
Warrior_Poet
Jan 12, 2006

I liked this one, and it had me stumped until I read it a second time through. Good teaser.
usernameAhk*
Jan 31, 2006

well i got it after looking up info on la paz. i knew where it was but i never knew the altitude of the city. after thinking about that, i noticed the answer.
SPUTNIK2Aus*
Aug 06, 2006

Great Teaser buddy, very nicely written!
vbguy101*us*
Aug 19, 2006

TOO LONG

I can't read it all since I have to catch some Z's
LeafFan4life*
Mar 04, 2007

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........if you make a long teaser make sure we can follow it and make sure its not totally boring....
CatsAreCute**
Jan 30, 2008

I like the long teasers! Good one!
uhhhhAus*
Apr 06, 2008

Too Long, sorry i quit.



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