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Quiz Answer Revealed

Levitt posted a quiz here, and then gave one hint, and then another.

Nobody has come up with exactly the right answer yet, however. I’m not all that surprised: what the conference organizer did was indeed pretty tricky. A lot of you were close, or had different elements of the answer right, but not quite.

Now Levitt has gotten on a plane, and I’m about to go home sick with the flu, so I’m going to go ahead and give this answer so the quiz doesn’t drag out all day.

Here’s what happened. The speaker before Levitt was, as some of you surmised, putting the audience to sleep. So what’d the conference organizer do? He adjusted the speed of the countdown clock. When you’re giving a lecture on a big stage, there’s usually an electronic countdown clock on a video monitor that tells you how much time you’ve got left. If you’re giving a 60-minute talk, for instance, it might count down in 5-minute increments and then go into second mode after that. In this case, the organizer sped up the previous speaker’s countdown clock by about 30%, which meant that the speaker thought he was speaking for the entire 60 minutes but in fact gave a much shorter speech. In the meantime, the conference organizer summoned Levitt to arrive early to begin right after the previous speaker’s talk.

Two of you came pretty close in the last round of answering. Here’s what NewDad had to say:

You know how the monitor speaker that points to the speaker that provides feedback to the speaker. So, instead of letting the sounds pass right through from the microphone to the monitoring speakers, they sped it up gradually. Now, up on hearing the sped-up feedback, the speaker was subconsciously influenced to speed up his/her speech, thus finishing it ahead of time.

Now, if it seems technologically nifty to speed up a countdown clock, it would seem really hard to speed up live audio. But still, nice guess.

Here’s what Gabofr guessed:

Nobody was paying attention to the previous speaker, so he was clever to lie to you in order to start your presentation early. It is devious because people were starting to leave and he decided to cut short the earlier speaker.

Again, not quite right, but certainly warm.

I’ll leave it for Levitt decide whom he wants to give the prize to in this case, since it was his quiz. Great guesses, everyone.