Questions for June 2017

AS READERS MIGHT DETECT, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel in which I store my future quiz questions; also I am going overseas yet again in July, so there may not be more of these for a while. But here goes.

  1. The Old Bedford River had a six-mile drainage canal that was so long and straight that you would not be able to see a boat at the other end because of the Earth’s curvature. So, why was this place often visited by flat-earth believers?
  2. When Brunel had completed the construction of the mighty iron ship SS Great Britain and had launched it, what major problem was encountered?
  3. Big Ben is the hour bell of the clock in the Palace of Westminster; the clock’s clockwork mechanism is wound up 3 times a week; how long does it take a man to wind it up?
  4. Complete this quote: “Inviting the object of your desire back to your place for the first time, pouring some drinks, dimming the lights, then switching on the stereo and playing [one of Captain Beefheart’s records] would surely be the precursor to …”
  5. In 1915 the Melbourne Police organised dozens of simultaneous raids on illegal alcohol establishments in Fitzroy.  The raids were synchronised to happen when the Fitzroy Town Hall clock struck midnight. What happened at midnight?


Questions for April-May 2017

1. Who was the director of the British MI6 who pointed out that semen made a good invisible ink for use by spies?

2. When James Dodson, at the age of 47, found that life insurance was available only for persons up to age 45, he decided to start his own insurance scheme that catered for all ages. Why didn’t it go ahead?

3. What was unusual about F.D.C.Willard, FRSC – who co-wrote a paper on low temperature physics with Professor Jack Hetherington?

4. What was it that Mick Jagger had, of enormous size, that greatly impressed the young journalist Lola Bensky?

5. What did Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II say, when someone who had not recognised her said that she looked like the Queen?

Questions for March 2017

Still staggering along. Now and then I find some new material. Have a go, post a sarky comment!

1. When they wind up the clockwork clock at the Houses of Parliament (whose hour bell is named “Big Ben”) what source of the correct time, if any, do they check it against?

2. What was the highlight of the 1894 London stage production of Ben Hur?

3. Cats come in various colour schemes. What colour cat was preferred by the Vikings?

4. What did Thomas Edison irrationally fear?

5. Which country burns the most firewood per head of population?

Questions for February 2017

As I keep saying, this quiz is doomed – I have been doing it for 20 years now – but I keep finding enough questions to make up a set. So here is February 2017 – have a go by posting a comment, or just enjoy it.

1. Erasmus, in 1526, wrote the first modern book of table manners. Including: Instead of licking ones’ greasy fingers, or wiping them on one’s jacket, one should … do what?

2. The British driving test was instigated in 1935. Who was the first candidate?

3. In 1970 the Cairo Opera House was engulfed by fire. Why didn’t the fire brigade attend?

4. Anders Celsius devised the centigrade scale for temperatures in 1742, but it had a flaw – how did Carolus Linnaeus improve it?

5. David Wolf was an astronaut on the Space Shuttle in 1997. What pressing need did he have, unique among astronauts, that was facilitated and enabled specifically for him?

Questions for January 2017

This is the 20th anniversary of the quiz!! But, it is doomed. When I started it in 1997, Google and Wikipedia had not even been dreamed of, let alone invented. I am running out of obscure questions, information is so easily available these days! Anyway, here is a special Captain Beefheart quiz –

1. Captain Beefheart, when a young man would often wash his hair & keep it wet – why?

2. Why was Trout Mask Replica once chosen for Desert Island Discs?

3. CBS used a brand new disc-cutting lathe to make the master recording of Doc At The Radar Station. Once the cutting began, the band and the engineers all went out for a meal … and what happened?

4. The Captain came to regret making the too-commercial LP Bluejeans and Moonbeams. (My mother liked it). What did he advise his fans to do with it?

5. Beefheart added his cousin, Victor Hayden, to the band on bass clarinet. What was remarkable about Victor’s style of playing?

Questions for December 2016

Here’s the questions for December – no pictures this time.

1. In the original series of Star Trek, when the Enterprise uses a Tractor Beam to pull things toward the ship, you cannot see the beam at all – why?

2. And in the original series of Star Trek, there was a sort of square-looking transporter module for travelling down from the ship to land on planets, so why did they keep doing the “beam me down/up” thing?

3. After much strife, prominent Tibetans (mostly in exile) managed to get a national Tibetan Football Team together. Then, due to pressure from China, nobody wanted to play against them. Where was their first international game?

4. What is unique about the English word BONDMAID?

5. The Dyirbal language, spoken by 29 persons in NE Queensland, has not two, not three, but four genders. One gender is for males … what things fall into the other three genders?

Questions for November 2016

All pictures again – some from my holidays!!

On this map of Europe, what do the coloured zones represent?

Where is this?

This is Archbishop Grgur, a propellerhead of the 10th century. As you can see, he was pretty motivated – what about?

This is the ancient town of Komiza, on the Dalmatian island of Vis. A passing Pope with his fleet of boats took shelter here during a storm – this was ages ago – and was impressed with the industry and zeal of the fishermen, as well as their hospitality. How did that Pope reward the fishermen of Komiza?

This is an 18th-century lawyer in London, depicted at one moment in his life. (The artist must have sketched very quickly). What is about to happen?

Questions for Sept/Oct 2016

I’m travelling a lot these days and will have to end this quiz soon, after 20 years!! but I will soon put up a “Best of” compilation of a few of the earlier questions that got the best sarcastic answers. (I remember promising to do that 15 years ago, in August 2001). So here are some picture questions until I get home … witty comments are welcome.

1. This is Leonardo’s idea for a tank. What’s wrong with it?

2. These men are, would you believe, looking for a job. What job?

3. What does this device do?

4. This is a list. What are the items listed?

5. These are post-war Germans in Berlin. What are they looking for?

Questions for August 2016

This is Dr Bob’s quiz for August 2016. I’m travelling, and running out of text questions, however I have a lot of of pictures to use. When I get the hang of it I will move on to use those; here’s two for now. Please send witty answers by hitting “Comment”, or just enjoy them when they come up.

1. The graph shows the percentage of Norwegians watching television; NRK2 is traditionally the least watched channel. What did NRK2 broadcast that made it more popular?

2. This is the civic Coat of Arms of the Polish coastal town of Ustka. How was its design modified in 2004?

3. Which author has had the most books banned from public libraries?

4. The Enindhilyagwa language has five genders of nouns … I bet you are going to look this up on Wikipedia.

5. The Norwegian explorers Fritdjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen tried to reach the North Pole in 1895, but after a series of mishaps ended up stranded in a snow shelter for eight months. The Norwegian language, like French and German, has formal and personal forms of address, for example for the word “you” and Norwegians were dreadfully formal in those days. What caused the two stranded men to adopt the personal form of address in their conversation?

Questions for June/July 2016

By the late Dr Bob … I am still travelling, see my other blog ( for daily-ish updates of my adventures. These are good questons IMHO, that I have been saving.

  1. During the construction of London’s Westminster Bridge in the 1860’s, why was the use of a diving-bell replaced by individual diving-suits?
  2. The Great Wall of China has towers with arrow-slots so that archers can fire northwards at the approaching Mongols. But the part of the Wall near Beijing also has arrow-slots in the south face, towards China – why?
  3. In English law, situations or things can be described as existing “since time immemorial”. When did “time immemorial” officially end?
  4. What was Arthur Conan Doyle supposed to be doing, when he devised and wrote the first Sherlock Holmes stories?
  5. Peter Jackson and his crew, on their first visit to the farm which would become the location for Hobbiton in Lord of the Rings, were shoo’ed away by the farmer – why?

May 2016 – sorry no questions!

I hope this sticks on the site, I am travelling in China and cannot see WordPress or use my email which goes via Google, or access my list of future questions so I am sending this post ‘blind’ from an internet cafe. Normal service, well, the usual service will resume in early June. Do not adjust your set.

Questions for April 2016

I am perpetually travelling these days; today I am in NZ, for example. My son and his GF have walked the entire 3000-km Te Araroa trail; they are crazy. Invercargill never looked so good. Anyway, have a go at these –

  1. The book Outlaw relates a child’s grim view of Soviet Russia in 1935. One day, each child in the author’s school class was given a poster of Stalin to take home. One wretched child brought his back the following day. What was his excuse?
  2. It is told that the Kings of Norway and Sweden once rolled two dice to determine the owenrship of an island. The King of Sweden rolled first, scoring a double 6. The King of Norway could have given up at that point, but how did he end up with the island?
  3. In the Great Pyramid, two very narrow passages lead upwards from the Queen’s Chamber. In 1994, a robot camera was sent up one of these passages and discovered a metal door at its end; then in 2002, a small hole was drilled in this door and another camera was poked through it. What lay behind it?
  4. What problem are Apple having with their new voice-activated controller, in New Zealand?
  5. Queenstown NZ is a rather silly place but from here you can see a mountain range called The Remarkables. Apart from this being a spectacular view, what else is remarkable about The Remarkables?

Questions for March 2016

Here’s this month’s stuff – enjoy reading, and feel free to post sarky comments. Answers next month.

  1. Eratosthenes derived the size of the Earth from the angles of shadows at Syene (Aswan) and Alexandria, knowing how far apart they were. How did he measure how far apart these places were?
  2. Did Lumpy Stevens bowl John Small?
  3. Why did the (Soviet) Russians build the Friendship Bridge, across the Amu-Darya in Uzbekistan?
  4. Rudolf Virchow opposed Bismarck’s financial policies. What is said to have happened as a result?
  5. Why is the Bob Dylan song “Ballad of a thin man” a.k.a. “Mr Jones” featured in the Danish TV series The Bridge series 3?

Questions for February 2016

Here’s some new and some old that I have been saving for years. Yes I am scraping the barrel this month! Feel free to post comments. Answers next month.

  1. Andre Tchaikowsky was a Polish pianist. (Not that other, Russian Tchaikowski bloke). He had a strange ambition – to act in Hamlet, but not in the title role – no, he wanted to play Yorick, the jester. Did he manage it?
  2. Georg Steller described a tribe in (Tsarist) Siberia who improved their wretched existence by drying out hallucinogenic mushrooms, that contained ibotenic acid, and eating them. Demand and fashion led to the mushrooms becoming expensive, and thus no longer affordable by poorer tribe members. What did they do instead?
  3. The German Tank problem: you spot ten German tanks of a particular model, and you know the Germans have numbered them in order starting at 1. The highest number that you see is 250. Roughly how many tanks of that model are there?
  4. Dr Johnson compiled his famous Dictionary of the English Language. Later he was told off by a woman for not including obscenities in it. What was his reply?
  5. The list of the largest known prime numbers known to humanity includes the values 23217-1, 24253-1, 24423-1, 29689-1. OK, this was years ago, we are up to 274207281-1 now. For how long was 24253-1 the largest known prime?

Questions for January 2016

Another new year, another new month, another set of silly questions. Feel free to post comments. Answers next month.

  1. How many times does the word “and” occur in the text of Moby Dick?
  2. How did Peter the Great encourage his peasants to visit his new museums in (his new) St Petersburg?
  3. At the end of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, a children’s choir emotionally sang “Goodbye, sweet Misha” while a giant balloon in the shape of Misha, the cute bear mascot of the Games, floated up and out of the stadium. Whatever happened to Misha?
  4. What unusual message was the Town Crier of Goslar, Germany obliged to announce on certain days?
  5. The Joneses have two children; I know that their elder child is a girl; what is the chance that the other one is a girl too? The Smiths have two children and one of them is a girl; what is the chance that the other one is a girl too?

Questions for December

Here they are – please send sarcastic comments.

  1. How far does a NASA rocket have to travel before they say “We have lift-off”?
  2. Vladimir Putin was born in what was then Leningrad … when was the last time that Russia had a leader who was born in Moscow?
  3. When the explorer Fred Ommanney became stranded in Antarctica, how did he make a sign to be spotted by aircraft looking for him?
  4. A thief in Fareham, UK would climb over a wall with razor wire, and steal diesel fuel from the local builders’ merchants. By forensic science, how was he eventually caught?
  5. Who said, in self-disparagement “I am no Einstein”?

Questions for November

Derrr, I was interstate, or in some other state – in an alternate reality? Belatedly, here are my Nov questions. Feel free to post sarcastic comments. December questions will be better (and on time)

  1. During the Napoleonic Wars the British Army administered terrible floggings to offending soldiers, but these were found to be ineffective, bad for morale and, for that matter, they required quite a bit of effort to administer. What punishment was substituted?
  2. In 1941 the inhabitants of Leningrad, fearing destruction by the invading Germans, took down and buried or hid all their statues except one statue – whose?
  3. When you make a speech, you stand on a platform sometimes called a rostrum – where does the word derive from?
  4. Cinderella’s shoe – was it really made of glass? Surely, the Prince would have easily spotted anyone hopping about in a glass slipper.
  5. What colour is the skin of a polar bear? (under the white fur)

Questions for October

Here they are.  I already know the answers!  so post something witty or sarcastic as a comment.  You don’t have to try them all!

  1. In the film “Gravity” chess pieces are floating around the wrecked Russian module. What game objects are floating around in the Chinese module?
  2. Someone once noticed that Adolf Hitler was secretly adding something to his (AH’s) glass of red wine – what was it?
  3. Genghis Khan’s Mongol horde left its mark here and there, well, almost everywhere actually. How many people did each of his warriors kill, on average?
  4. Cleopatra contemplated various methods of suicide (yes, really) – why did she decide to choose dath by asp?
  5. The opiod chemical etorpine is a very powerful tranquillizer, useful for rapidly immobilizing elephants and rhinoceroses; how was its analgesic property discovered?