Trivia Day!

January 3, 2020 • 9:00 am

It’s quiet here on campus, as school doesn’t start again until Monday, and few people are coming into work. I don’t feel like writing about the news or calling out the follies of the Regressive Left. Instead, because it’s National Trivia Day, why don’t we pose some trivia questions? I propose that each of us ask one question that’s considered tough but clever (i.e., not dealing with arcane technical subjects), put it in the thread below, and then, a few hours thereafter, post the answer as a reply to your own question.

To warm up, I suggest you visit Mental Floss‘s “54 fantastic facts for National Trivia Day” site first, as there’s a lot of weird stuff to ponder there. Here are three, and I can’t vouch for their accuracy:

Okay, now I will pose three questions and will give the answers before noon:

1.) What country is named after a chemical element? (I asked this one this morning.)

2.) What #1 pop song was written by someone who became Vice-President of the U.S. (and Nobel Laureate as well)?

3.) Under U.S. law, are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

Remember, if you know the answers DO NOT POST THEM BELOW. Wait until the asker (me in this case) posts the answer. This is because people will go into the thread to ask their own questions, and may not want to see the answers before they try their own guesses.


242 thoughts on “Trivia Day!

  1. Here’s one for everyone but Historian: name the eight US presidents between #7 Andrew Jackson and #16 Abraham Lincoln.

    (Clue: the answer does not include the names Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, or Doc.)

    1. Could include dopey but James Buchanan probably should be called Idiotic. I think he may hold off the Tangerine Wanker for the title of the worst president ever.

    1. Never play cards with a man named “Doc,” never eat at a restaurant called “Mom’s” and never shake another man’s jolt.

      1. Rule three is “never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”

        But “never shake another man’s jolt” is probably a good rule, too (unless that’s what your into, and you’ve got the other man’s consent). 🙂

  2. What does it say about me that I know the answers to all three questions without looking them up. Probably that I need to get a life.

  3. What does it say about me that I know the answers to all three questions without looking them up. Probably that I need to get a life.

        1. I worked for a company named Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne for almost 10 years. Right off I-80. Interesting city with horrible weather 9 months of the year and even worse politics. Glad I’m long gone, back “home” in Washington.

          1. “City” might be a stretch 🙂 There are indeed some interesting aspects, but as you note, the weather and the wind would not be among them. There are certainly many more attractive places to live in Wyo. Interesting employee reviews of the Trading Post.

            1. Yeah, western Wyoming is much more appealing, with Jackson Hole, the Tetons, Yellowstone and Cody to name a few highlights.

  4. Inasmuch as today is the anniversary of the death of the assassin’s assassin, what was the name of the strip-joint nightclub owned by Jack Ruby in Dallas?

    1. I was racking my brain, going over Libra as I thought that novel was the best reference I could think of. Damn, couldn’t come up with it. Now I’ll remember. 😉

  5. I was just watching some of this video: because it is also following an trivia / interesting fact theme. The first one is about cards :

    How many suits are there? Ok, four.

    But if the number of cards in each suit is assigned a number – the order in the suit, restarting at 1 for each suit – what is the sum?

    Finally, what is amusing about these numbers?

    Sorry I just quickly wrote this – it might be poor. Also I have to rework it myself.

    1. At first I read “Barbers and Arabs” which produced a strange mental picture of a host of barbers and Arabs going off to war, barbers brandishing their barbers’ tools, determined to cut the Spaniards’ hair, whether they liked it or not.

  6. If you died and went to heaven and saw all those naked people standing there,how would you know for certain which 2 people were Adam and Eve?.

    1. Since Eve is supposed to be manufactured from one of Adam’s ribs, … well,…. the calcium will all be the same… does Eve contain DNA? Or it all rib? Or… is the DNA all the same, or all random? And do they have DNA analyzers up there?


      Xrays … except wasn’t the rib completely consumed in the manufacturing process? So puzzling…

    1. Hmmm…I just remember them joking about the Russian Mr. Pekup N. Dropov. Their specialty was their goofy sense of humor.

      1. Stump the Chumps wasn’t trivia- it was callers who had previously called in, click and clack gave their advice, and the caller calls in for a follow up, reviewing the case, … is anyone paying attention to this?… and then they ask if they were correct. A “ta da” fanfare signaled good advice, “wah wah wah wahhhhh (plus starter motor – and only starter motor noise)” signaled bad advice.

        That was all off the top of my head. No Google involved.

        1. You’re right. And jblilie is sorta right, too. The game I was thinking of, which was more a brainteaser than trivia, was “The Puzzler.”

          I miss those guys.

  7. Besides Finland and Sweden, what team did the U.S. Men’s Hockey team beat in the medal round of the 1980 Olympics to win the gold medal?

    1. Incorrect phrasing. The US played Sweden in the Group stage, not in the medal round. They only played two teams in the medal round (as I understand the term). X, and Finland.
      Note: The US tied Sweden in the group stage, 2-2.

      1. Okay. Yes. I apologize. I was going back and forth on this. So then:

        Besides Finland, what team did the U.S. Men’s Hockey team beat in the medal round in the 1980 Olympics to win the gold medal?

    1. Did he perform “I’m a Man” as a fourteen year old with The Spencer Davis Group? I think Blind Faith was his nest group but all of them were very good. Maybe my fave is John Barleycorn Must Die with Traffic.

    2. The Spencer Davis Group is CORRECT!

      The breakthrough hit I always associate with them is “Gimme Some Lovin'”:

    3. This is wrong Ken, here is Steve Winwood [b. 12th May 1948] on guitar at age 9 with brother Muff, father Lawrence, & the Reg Aldis Band, Birmingham, 1957 – Winwood says he first gigged with them at age eight:

      Before The Spencer Davis Group ‘Little Steve’ was already backing Birmingham visiting big American stars on Hammond organ & guitar in what are called ‘pick up groups’ which formed in each UK city. The stars travelled abroad without backing & relied on local musicians near each venue to do the heavy lifting. In ’63, Spencer Davis went to a Birmingham pub, the Golden Eagle on Hill Street [knocked down in ’68], to see the Muff-Woody Jazz Band [trad New Orleans jazz, but with a twist], featuring the brothers – Steve was 15 then. Spencer, impressed by Steve’s Ray Charles-style vocals, persuaded them to join him as the Rhythm & Blues Quartet doing R&B covers – in ’64 they changed their name to The Spencer Davis Group by which time Steve was 15 or 16.

        1. The runners advance on a balk, but not the batter unless he advances by another means (eg, gets a hit if the pitcher completes the pitch.)

          A lot of routine ways being missed here, but I will wait until EdwardM answers.

        2. I wondered about balk and checked wiki:

          “In the event a balk is enforced, the pitch is generally (but not always) nullified, each runner is awarded one base, and the batter (generally) remains at bat, and with the previous count. The balk rule in Major League Baseball was introduced in 1898.”

          1. Ah. I wasn’t certain if all the runners advance one base included the batter. So balk must not count as a way to get on base.

      1. A batter can’t “steal” first base, but can (unless tagged or thrown out) advance to first if a catcher drops a third strike, provided first base is unoccupied or there are two outs.

        The most famous instance occurred when the Brooklyn Dodgers’ catcher let the third strike get by him on what would’ve been the last out of the fourth game of the 1941 World Series, allowing the Yankees to go on to win the ballgame and the Series.

        1. “A batter can’t “steal” first base, but can (unless tagged or thrown out) advance to first if a catcher drops a third strike”

          The bolded is kinda the definition of “stolen base”.

    1. There are eight ways of getting to first base, though one of them has actually never happened. They are;
      Fielders’ choice
      Hit by pitch
      Dropped third strike (the only way to steal first base)
      Defensive interference
      Delay of game.

      That last one is a doozy; in a game which has no time limits, there is a delay of game penalty. A ball is called each time the pitcher exceeds the limit (12 seconds!!!) or a strike if a batter delays. In the long history of MLB no batter has taken first base with this rule. Personally, I cannot remember a single instance in which a delay of game has been called.

      If we ignore the delay of game rule, there has never been a game in which both teams had batters reach first base by all of the other (seven) ways, but there have been several games with one of them doing so.

      1. I’m wrong. A batter can steal first on ANY pitch (it does not need to be the third strike) if the pitch is not handled by either the catcher or pitcher. There are two ways; a passed ball, when the catcher misplays the ball, and a wild pitch, when the pitcher throws too high, low or wide for the catcher to handle.

        Also, they can only do this if no one is on first.

        Sorry. Those responsible for the error have been flogged.

  8. Jerry’s Answer:

    1.) What country is named after a chemical element?

    Answer: Argentina. “Argentum” is the Latin name for silver, giving rise to the chemical symbol for the element, Ag. From the New World Encyclopedia:

    Its name derives from the Latin argentum, meaning silver, and was based upon the legend of Sierra del Plata—a mountain range of silver—which reached Spain around 1524.

    2.) What #1 pop song was written by someone who became Vice-President of the U.S. (and Nobel Laureate as well)?

    From the History Channel:

    America’s 30th vice president has the distinction of being the only man who was both a heartbeat away from the presidency and the composer of a song that hit the top of the pop music charts. Charles Dawes, a descendant of Revolutionary War figure William Dawes (who, along with Paul Revere, made a midnight ride on April 18, 1775, to warn that the British were coming), served as vice president under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. In 1911, Dawes, then a Chicago banker and self-taught amateur musician, penned a tune that would become known as “Melody in A Major.” After one of Dawes’ musician friends brought the instrumental number to a publisher, it went on to be performed by a leading violinist of the time, Fritz Kreisler, and was sold as a phonograph record. In 1951, Carl Sigman added lyrics to Dawes’ tune, which was renamed “It’s All in the Game.” Seven years later, in 1958, a recording of the song by R&B-pop vocalist Tommy Edwards climbed to No. 1 in the U.S. and Britain.

    3.) Under U.S. law, are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

    In the 1893 case of Nix v. Hedden, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that Tariff Act of 1883 used the ordinary meaning of the words “fruit” and “vegetable,” instead of the technical botanical meaning, and so tomatoes became legally a vegetable.

    1. These are very interesting

      I’m struck by the legend of silver mountains, being perhaps the counterpart to El Dorado – a mythical city of gold.

    2. What about Francium and Germanium? I don’t know, just wondering if there’s a connection. There’s also Scandium which has similarities to the region of Scandinavia.

      1. I don’t think that France was named after Francium. Or Germany/Germanium, or Scandinavia/Scandium. T’other way round.

      2. There are lots of elements named after countries or places. The earliest example is copper which is named after Cyprus, where it has been mined since at least 4000 BCA. The word copper is a corruption of kyprios, which is the greek name for Cyprus.

    3. Interestingly, the only other member of Congress to also have had a #1 hit was Sonny Bono. And the only other person to have had both a #1 hit and to have been awarded a Nobel prize besides Dawes is Bob Dylan.

    4. Reminds me of the saying “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing to not put tomato in a fruit salad.”

  9. What two events, that caused considerably more propoganda value than actual damage, occurred exactly one year apart in 1942 and 1943 against the Japanese?
    Hint: Both involved the US Army Air Corps.

    1. Oops, I miss remembered when the AAC became the AAF. They were both AAF. I was off by a little more than a month in the first case.

          1. Totally agree. You see photos of Hamburg where everything is completely wrecked: squares miles of buildings that are no more than shells. You don’t see similar photos of London because it never happened.

            That’s not to say it wasn’t terrifying and dangerous and certain areas like the docks and the City of London (confusingly, a district where all the financial services are concentrated) did get severely damaged.

            1. The Coventry blitz was worse (than London). Most of the city center wiped out. I was born near Coventry shortly after the war, and remember the ruins. Or I think I remember the ruins. Perhaps I am remembering pictures of the ruins.

              Ah, how great Britain was, standing alone against the Jerries. Fortunately, Hitler cared more about invading Russia than Britain.

  10. 1. What is the problem with the grammatical rule “‘I’ before ‘E’, except after ‘C'”?

    2. Who was the first person to circumnavigate the globe?

    3. If the solar system was shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp, how big would the Milky Way galaxy be if reduced proportionally?

      1. The rule is just over-edited. I before E, except after C, and when spoken like A as in neighbour and weigh.

    1. Answer to Number 1: English spelling is simply weird. (I don’t think other languages having “spelling bees”.)

      2. One (or several, rather) of Magellan’s people (Magellan died)

      3. The size of the solar system?

    2. Milky Way = 100,000 ly
      Solar System = 0.001 ly

      So, if the Solar System was shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp, it would take from one to two million years to deliver a letter, so stamped, from one side of the Milky Way to the other – depending on weather.

    3. Number 1.

      There are at least ieght exceptions to the rule. If you think English is wierd I would be agreieng with you. It’s a bit of an anceint meme though.

      I need some caffiene

    4. 2. There is an outside chance the first circumnavigator was the slave to Magellan,ENRIQUE OF MALACA who accompanied Magellan on all his voyages, including the voyage that circumnavigated the world between 1519 and 1521. On 1 May he left in Cebu, with the presumed intention to return to his home island & there is nothing more known of him. If he succeeded in returning to his home, he would have been the first person to circumnavigate the world [by returning to his starting point – which was not Europe in his case].

    5. 3. Model Milky Way Size:
      ** If using a standard portrait-sized UK stamp of 20mm x 24mm [& thus assume stamp = 20mm or 2 x 10^-5 km].
      ** And if we reduce the Solar System to fit onto the stamp

      Then the Milky Way galaxy will have a diameter of 200,000 km or 600 metres depending on ones definition of what constitutes the Solar System! I’ve not triple-checked my divisions below though.


      [A] Radius of the Solar System [completely ignoring Dark Matter]:

      [1] Pluto [Plutoid or ice giant] = 49 AU
      [2] Oort Cloud objects = Outer edge at as much as 200k AU guesstimated [1.6 to 3.2 ly]

      [B] Radius of the Milky Way [completely ignoring Dark Matter]

      There’s a ring filament of stars above and below the relatively flat galactic plane, wrapping around the Milky Way at a maximum radius of 90k ly [5.7 x 10^9 AU] – they may be part of the Milky Way

      [1] MW/Pluto ratio: 10^10 [gives 2 x 10^5 km for the model MW]
      [2] MW/Oort ratio: 3 x 10^4 [gives 600 metres for the model MW]

      Another Solar System definition is the distance of the heliosphere & the tail of the heliosphere, but it’s still largely unknown, but it’s similar to [2] above in rough round numbers [factors of 10 speak].

      1. “200,000 km or 600 metres” Now that’s a huge difference. I’ll take the larger as the Oort ratio doesn’t come as quickly to mind. Pluto is the classical limit based on me.

        1. The Oort cloud is fascinating & largely unknown – it’s a sphere stretching halfway or more to the nearest alien star. It’s feasible for star systems to swap material via Oort cloud comets & thus some comets that venture inside the inner Solar System may be from very far away indeed. On the time scales involved close by stars change positions dramatically & can disturb our comets into leaving our postcode or even worst send dozens of the little monsters plunging inwards in a flurry of Russian roulette snowballs…

          Good for Hollywood though.

  11. Not really a trivia question, but a nice little mathematical conundrum, posed by one of the loyal contributors to Platitudes of the Day:

    Pick any number 1-9 on a calculator keypad. Use it as the start of a four-digit square, in any direction. For example:


    All such numbers are divisible by 11. Why?

        1. I can still remember how amazed my youngest daughter was when she found out how easy it is to multiply by 11 and that she could stump her primary school teachers by asking “What is 34 x 11?” Easy when you know how, of course – it probably speaks volumes about teacher training here in the UK that they didn’t.

    1. The divisibility rule of 11: Subtract and then add the digits in an alternating pattern from left to right of any length of number. If the answer is 0 or 11, then the result is divisible by 11

      Thus for a 4-digit number, ABCD the pattern is [A-B]+[C-D] = 0 or 11 for ABCD to be 11 divisible.

      Now, if you choose your four digits on a calculator keypad going in a square [either clock direction] A&B are separated by one digit as is C&D. but opposite sign! therefore [A-B]+[C-D] = [-1]+[1] or [1]+[-1] = 0 = divisible by 11.

      1. P.S. I only dealt with squares that start as a horizontal row of two + a further horizontal row of two. For the vertical column of two + a further vertical column of two it should be noted that the digits 1 to 9 on a calculator are arranged 3×3 & two vertically adjacent digits are three apart leading to the expression [-3]+[3] or [3]+[-3] = 0 = divisible by 11.

    2. Intriguing

      “on a calculator keypad”

      So this isn’t simply picking four numbers from 1-9?

      The layout of the keypad is organized a certain way?

    3. For the record; the answer is mildly interesting. It works for any two pairs of adjacent numbers.

      Take the number abcd. Here, b=a+1, c=d+1 and d=a+x. So abcd is equivalent to 1000a +(100a+100) + (10a+10x+10) + a+x. Which reduces to 1111a+11x+110. Which is divisible by 11.

      It works whichever number of the four you start with, and whether you go clockwise or anticlockwise. Try it, for instance, with 415/416 and 2217/2218. I haven’t bothered to calculate it, but I guarantee it will work.

      Even just limited to the 9-digit calculator, it’s an amusing party trick.

      1. I wish to withdraw the above post. It only works for larger pairs of numbers if you actually add them up, not if you just write them out in a string.

        Apologies. That’s what comes of posting late in the evening after a couple of glasses of wine and with the football playing in the background.

      2. I’ve just realised the general case of my comment above [about the divisibility by 11 rule], namely that ANY square or rectangular array of digits on a 1-9 keypad [they don’t have to be adjacent], selected in a circular manner will produce a 4-digit number that’s a multiple of 11. eg:

        1. I think I see this now – So the keypad is :


          … that means 5 is never used.

          I’m confused though- Steve Pollard just withdrew this? There’s something amusing about it it think?

          1. Thyroid. Steve made an error in his last post that’s all. All calculator keypads are flipped the other from how you’ve represented them, not that it matters. They are like this:


            And you can use 5 – I’ve put some 5s below

            * Choose any key you like
            * Then make a square [or rectangular] path from that key going clock, or anti-clock

            Thus you can have have…
            ** 32 numbers made of 2×2 squares such as: 5623, 7854, 1452 etc etc etc

            ** 8 numbers made of the only 3×3 square:
            7931, 9317, 3179, 1793, 7139, 1397, 3971 & 9713

            ** 16 numbers made of 3×2 rectangles:
            that’s 8 variants of 7964 & 8 variants of 4631

            ** 16 numbers made of 2×3 rectangle:
            8 variants of 7821 & 8 variants of 8932

            Thus there are 72 x 4-digit numbers constructed from the square/rectangle & they are all divisible by 11

              1. 5632

                …the quotients are interesting to compare

    4. 1452 / 11 = 132
      2563 / 11 = 233
      14789632 / 11 = 1344512

      1452256314789632 / 11 = 132023301344512

      Rewrite to easily see the pattern :

      132 0 233 0 1344512

    5. If the numbers are laid out as shown below, more patterns are visible :

      (Needs fixed width – don’t know how ):


      I’m looking also at the edges- turned 90 degrees to help readability:


      … hopefully that’s legible. I don’t know math lingo but this must be a boundary of the 11 space (?). There’s even squares to be made across this boundary, for example :


      An intriguing one is 6490 (4906, 9064, and 0649). It has an anisotropic pattern. Other fixed patterns are 737 and 792. It’s interesting to see them on the field- I suppose this is a thing in maths – there’s beat patterns of one wants to find them.

      1. These make a different shape – I’ll leave that to the reader :


        I think they also permute, but I did not check exhaustively

    6. I rewrote the grid so 0 is at the origin, and it works but I didn’t test it extensively. Here’s a sample :


      The original calculator keypad is found … in the same orientation, I think. Now it is easier to get integers containing zero. I also note that two integer and three integer multiples of 11 of course take different shapes. Also to the limits of my 64 bit calculator, there’s a point where errors creep in to enormous calculations, such as doing 6820 over and over again.

      … I found Stack Exchange and Reddit threads that touch upon this problem but it seems no one wrote it out as shown above. So I hope this amuses anyone deleting these tiresome updates to a page dedicated to minutiae.

  12. The Roulette wheel has the numbers 0 to 36. Gauss determined the sum of the first n numbers is n*(n+1)/2 = 36*37/2 = 666

        1. So would you if the Roman centurions rolled lots to decided who gets your clothes while you’re expiring on the cross.

  13. In 1860, two new counties were carved out of the New Mexico Territory; one was Mora County. Name the other.

  14. Which of the following animals does not belong to the same order as the others?

    a. deer
    b. bear
    c. killer whale
    d. moose

      1. I figured the killer whale was the trick because it seemed the logical outlier. Either way, it is a surprising and interesting fact.

  15. I’m reminded of this quiz:

    How long did the Hundred Years War last?
    Which country makes Panama hats?
    From which animal do we get catgut?
    In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
    What is a camel’s hair brush made of?
    The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
    What was King George VI’s first name?
    What color is a purple finch?
    Where are Chinese gooseberries from?
    How long did the Thirty Years War last?
    How many outs are there in an inning?

      1. From your question, definitely the obvious answer. But, for someone who doesn’t know, it could be tricky.

  16. HAWAII has the fewest number of indigenous species of orchids (three). It is surprising there are any. Every orchid has co-evolved with a specific pollinator, and they presumably
    have to colonize neighboring ares in tandem.
    Similarly, banyans and fig trees, Ficus, are prolific throughout the tropics, but none made it to Hawaii naturally, for the same reason. The tiny wasp pollinator is specific to each species.

  17. After the battle of Waterloo, where the British lost 120 officers & 1651 men,* which was the next bloodiest battle for the British?

    * Hull News, Nov 4th 1854

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