Answers for September 1997

Our WINNER this month comes from the cold, soggy Latrobe Valley (as most people do):

Jim Goulter

Question 1

If standing outside in a thunderstorm, should you stand with your feet together?


A nearby lightning strike would set up a potential gradient in the ground; electrons would go up one leg and down the other. (Wow! Ow!) Cattle are sometimes accidentally killed in this way – they should have evolved to be able to stand on one leg by now.

Alternative answers:

  • Yes, except at the equator where a foot in each hemisphere will balance your polarity. [You try this first – the tombstone should make interesting reading].
  • Better to place the feet far apart in a consecutive sort of manner in the direction of the nearest earthed tall metal object.
  • Only if you are playing a very short approach shot or a putt, otherwise you tend to overbalance. Hold a 1 iron over your head for safety – even God can’t hit a 1 iron. [Poor old God. Neither can he make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it].
  • Yes, since there tends to be an increase in wind velocity, which could cause your balance to shift unexpectedly; better keep them apart, so you don’t fall in any puddles. [The least of your worries].
  • You may have a little trouble undoing your shoelaces later. But, hey, there is only one way to really know, so if there are any people willing to . . .
  • Yes, so that approaching UFO’s will know you want to be abducted. Anyone else will be running for cover.
  • Always keep your legs together – didn’t your mother tell you that? [No. Where would I be if my mother had followed such advice? – No, that’s too deep for a trivia quiz]

Question 2

Did Central Americans know about the wheel before the Spanish conquest?


Yes – they had toys with wheels (but nothing useful in practice).

Alternative answers:

  • Yes but they didn’t know about the internal combustion engine.
  • Of course they did. Anyone clever enough to invent antigravity would know about the wheel.
  • They must have had wheels. Why otherwise did their temples have ramps?
  • Yes – some had calendars in the form of a wheel: the wheel of life. Modern North Americans have adapted this idea, but call it the Wheel of Fortune.
  • Yes, but they’d never heard of Central Americans. [And if we knew their word for “smart-arses that wipe out other civilisations” we probably couldn’t print it]
  • Yes, wheels were necessary in sophisticated and ridiculously complicated traps in temples, aimed at making heroic types with bullwhips look good.
  • You wouldn’t have asked the question if the answer was “yes” [Oh wouldn’t I?]. However, I reckon they did have the wheel, but all evidence was subsequently destroyed by the Spaniards for obscure religious reasons. [No – that should be “very clear religious reasons”]

Question 3

Did Galileo drop balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa?


There was an apocryphal story that Galileo did this, at such a time as to be noticed by bishops emerging from a nearby church; sadly it’s too good to be true.

Alternative answers:

  • How many puerile jokes are you going to get from this one? [About 50]
  • No, he just did browneyes.
  • No, this was a “thought experiment”. Galileo’s balls no doubt dropped considerably earlier than this.
  • Only during lightning storms when he stood with his legs together.
  • Possibly he did the experiment somewhere else, or perhaps not at all. [Actually it was somebody else, doing another experiment in a different place].
  • Probably not. Even Compton’s New Century Encyclopedia has its doubts on this, and they’ll believe anything.

Question 4

Does Norway export camels?


Yes. In some of the smaller fjords you have to fend them off with a stick

Alternative answers:

  • Of course – how else did Amundsen reach the equator in 1907?
  • If I was a camel, I would want to leave Norway too – it’s cold enough to freeze your humps off.
  • Given that they seem to smoke everything from whale to horse, I guess they do export camels – 100g at a time.
  • No – the climate is too cold for tobacco.
  • There is a pop-punk band from Stockholm called the “Zero Gravity Camels”. [Damn! This was supposed to be a secret. You can’t trust Freemasons to keep anything quiet these days can you?]
  • Yes Norway is extremely successful in breeding prize camels because it is one of the driest countries in the world. (Most water is in the form of ice which can’t be drunk).
  • I can’t think why Norwegians would export camels. They are nasty, ill-tempered, vicious, spitting supercilious brutes of things. [But what about the camels?]
  • Yes, mainly to Greenland, which suffers constant attrition of camels as they migrate over the polar ice in summer.
  • Yes – but they have to import them first. [No they don’t – don’t you know where camels come from?]
  • Yes. There was a Norwegian team entry in the 1996 Camel Trophy – see [OK – I am out-camelled]
  • Does it matter? [Probably yes – to the shareholders of the company that exports them]

Question 5

Can you be skeptical of skepticism?


Yes! You can be skeptical of anything – you can even be skeptical of whether you can be skeptical of skepticism. But it’s very late at night now.

Alternative answers:

  • I can; can you? [Very good. 15-love]
  • What kind of question is that? [It’s only the usual sort – you know, a statement with the verb inverted and one of those curly lines above the dot at the end]
  • Certainly! Many people like to present the *image* of scepticism to the world, using it as a front to present their strongly held opinions under the guise of an open, questioning, or undecided mind. [Boom boom]
  • Certainly – uncertainty plagues us all. [Does it?]
  • Certainly. The last thing that we need is a bunch of fundamentalist Skeptics going around worshipping Galileo and claiming that whatever Newton said is right, even the spurious stuff on significance of the numbers seven and nine. By the way, I am a friend of Mike Garrett’s and am indulging in the true Australian pastime of cutting down tall poppies!
  • Hee, hee! I like this. Whichever way you answer, you lose! A charming paradox, Dr Bob. You’re a regular Zeno! [I remember my mother explaining that I was dropped down the chimney by a Stoic].
  • Of course not, any doubt demonstrates that you are not sure, and if you’re not sure then you must be wrong, and if you are wrong then THEY must be right, and if they are right then the universe operates on contradictory laws. Only God could make such laws work, therefore Noah’s Ark and all that stuff MUST BE TRUE. It’s logical, anyone can see that.
  • There is good reason to be skeptical of the *effectiveness* of skepticism, as all the debunkings in the world don’t seem to discourage those mystics one bit. Probably all of us believe things that are stupid or wrong, therefore you should be skeptical of someone who proclaims to be truly skeptical about all things – and even more skeptical about someone who doesn’t)
  • True, some skeptics become that way due to maternal traumas early in life that prevents them from acknowledging positive strokes that other peers might receive [So that’s where I got it from!]
  • Well, one can inquire into an inquiry, or indeed commission a Royal Commission (but not a Norwegian Commissary Camel). One can doubt doubt, consider a consideration, and think about thought.
  • I know a lot of people who are skeptical about skepticism but quite convinced of the date on which their god created the Earth.
  • Yes. The Collins dictionary has entries for Skeptical and Skeptic, but points them to sceptcal and scepticim. The Concise Macquarie dictionary 2nd edition does not include the word skepticism. Clearly they are skeptical of it as a word.
  • No, not according to dictionary definitions of those words, but who consults dictionaries nowadays? [Well, it looks like the previous respondent has Colins’ Dictionry of Mispelt Words]