Answers for December 1998

Among a really good field of witty and erudite answers, our WINNER for December was randomly selected and is –

Phillip Mitchell

So witty and erudite were the answers, and so randy was the random process, that Dr Bob for January 1999 has set a Super Time-Wasting Extra Large Trivia Quiz of 20 questions. And wishes all his chronologically challenged readers a happy new year, whatever significance the change of year number may have this time around.

Question 1

The best suite on the Titanic cost UKP870. What was the lowest fare passengers could pay to get to America?


Steerage from Ireland, two pounds sterling.

Alternative answers:

  • Get to America? On the Titanic? It’ll never happen.
  • That would be “Stowaway” class, costing $0 – although if the people in steerage were anything to go by you would be lucky to actually get to America.
  • 8 Pounds, except for Leonardo di Caprio who should have been paid to stay away.
  • 20 pounds, but you had to bring your own lifeboat.
  • 30 quid or their lives, whichever the cheaper.
  • Around 1000 fathoms …. oops that’s not a currency is it
  • £4 – Cheap! Mind you, none of them have actually completed the journey yet
  • Hah! Trick question. No-one got to America on the Titanic! However, the cheapest ticket was £20. It didn’t include a seat on the lifeboats, but you got a lovely view of the onboard waterfall.
  • A good poker hand.
  • Their future.
  • Work your passage by chipping ice for whisky sodas from passing icebergs

Question 2

A cube is to be painted with six different colours, one to each face. In how many different ways can this be done?


Thirty. Say it has green yellow and red faces. Put the green face on the table. Now, if the red face is on top, you can always turn the yellow face towards you; then three faces remain to be coloured, in 3.2.1 = 6 ways. But if the red face is not on top, then turn the red face towards you and then four faces remain to be coloured, in = 24 ways.

Alternative answers:

  • Tricky!! What colour is the cube to begin with?
  • Only one: Cubist.
  • I thought we went over this with the tetrahedra recently… I suspect the answer is probably !5(5 factorial) = 120 different ways, because once you choose a colour for the first side, you will have a choice of five colours for one of the remaining sides, and so on. But some smart-arse will probably prove that hopelessly wrong, and I’d paint the whole thing blue anyway because it’s my favourite colour.
  • Well you could stand on your head… actually there are 30 unique 6 colour cube patterns.
  • 283 if you include the Van Gogh technique of painting with the brush shoved firmly into the ear hole
  • 720 different combinations. Unless you have more than six color choices. And you could use different kinds of paint, different application methods, etc…
  • A lesser man might say 6! = 720 but the answer is actually infinite if you consider that the cube can be painted with a brush, or a roller, or a sponge, or a rag, or a …
  • Billions and billons. First, take millions of colours and then billions of ways to paint (by brush, by hand, by …) and then 6 factorial.
  • If my boss does it, 1 – the right way. If I do it, 1 – the wrong way. If Michelangelo does it, 1 – but it takes a long time. If Bill Gates does it, 720 – but there are rumours of a floating point problem with that, which will be resolved if you invest in Cube 99 version 1.0
  • Infinite, as you haven’t stated which colors.
  • Up and down or side to side, or maybe in spirals, perhaps a nice chequered pattern….
  • Enough to make Dr Rubik a lot of money
  • I cannot solve this problem, but I can solve a simpler class of problem where: the 6 colours are fixed (i.e. not 6 from a palette of n); and where the method of application is not significant. If I look at any one face, the opposite face can have one of 5 possible colours beginning at any adjacent side its neighbour (going clockwise) can be one of 3 colours. The next square can be any of the 2 remaining colours that’s 5x3x2 = 30 But how many ways can it be painted? Any of the 6 colours can come first, followed by any of the 5, … Thus there are 6! ways of painting each design (720). So there are 720×30 = 21600 ways for any set of 6 colours producing 30 different designs.

Question 3

On 10 August 1628 in Stockholm, what was unusual about the launch of the mighty new Swedish battleship Wasa?


It sailed off gracefully for about 400 metres and then capsized, in the middle of Stockholm Harbour. It was going to be the best battleship around, having 5 full rows of twelve-inch square oak beams bolted all around it, good for ramming the Danish ships. When it was being built, somebody said to the King (Gustav Vasa – the ship was named after him) “Sire, the King of the Danes has a new battleship with two rows of cannons”. “- Well then, bung a second row of cannons on top of my new ship” “But, Sire ….” Anyway there was a big inquiry into What Went Wrong, which was hastily wound up when it was found it was all the King’s fault. In 1956 the wreck, perfectly preserved and long forgotten about, was located and fished up again. The then King of Sweden went aboard and piloted the damn thing back to the same dockside where it was built, where it now forms a major touristic exhibit – it’s really good to visit … but I digress.

Alternative answers:

  • It fell over under the second gust of wind after it hit the water. This true answer is silly enough.
  • I don’t know about a ship the Wasa, but on the same day a battle ship the Vasa set out on its maiden voyage. It was to impress all the locals and some foreign types on the beach. It set sail, fired a few canon balls [oh what a good idea – the fewer canons, the better] and tipped over and sank losing about 50 of the 150 people on board. The king was away fighting a war in Poland and was not impressed when message reached him 2 weeks later.
  • It capsized. The number drowned was not known, but one contemporary report tells that “some 30 sailors, wifes and children who wished to follow to Waxholm were drowned.” The Wasa’s 64 guns also made her the most powerful battleship of the time [at least for the first 400 metres]
  • It rolled down the majestically down the slipway, gracefully entered the water….and sank.
  • It sank … see
  • It was a new and better design. Rather than wasting time and money sinking in the heat of battle, it rolled over and sank upon encountering a swell at the harbour entrance. [I wonder who that was]
  • She was the largest and most powerful vessel of her time, with 64 guns and plenty of space for shuffleboard … which would have been great if she was sea worthy. A gust of wind sent her to the bottom before she left the bay.
  • The captain nicked the champagne and got so drunk he started the ship in reverse, crashing into the dock and killing hundreds of innocent people.
  • The way it sailed majestically to the bottom of the harbour right from the word go (or “oops” as they pronounce it in Swedish) Wasa is only an abbreviation of its full name, which I only found out when I cut the decals off my Airfix model that I got when I was a kid (and they are STILL selling); its short for Wasafuginmaddawiddisglugglugglug.
  • They couldn’t spell “Awash” correctly.
  • Wishing to explore the southern hemisphere, they tried to save time and expense by launching it upside down.
  • There were taxes about to fall due on the ship. In order to avoid this, the shipyard tried to launch the ship early and claim that as it was in international waters, it could not be taxed. They failed in this bid, and proved once and for all that there’s No Such Thing As A Free Launch. [Boom Boom]

Question 4

Does (did) the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi know much about physics?


Yes, he does! Or did. He got a degree in physics in 1940.

Alternative answers:

  • A lot…yet nothing – he was a study in metaphysical contradiction. He had a doctorate in physics indicating a modicum of knowledge on the subject. Subsequently, he left the planet without expensive technological aid, a feat as yet not duplicated by NASA. By the way, this question should have been in the past tense – to all intents and purposes, or by current orthodox medical measurements anyway, he is dead.
  • As all of physics is everything about how the universe and all its sub-atomic particles work, nobody knows very much about it.
  • Does Pauline Hanson know much about Australian history? Does Bill Clinton know much about safe sex? Does a pumpkin know much about anything? NO.
  • Enough physics to beat the pants of the university educated type. Can they levitate? No!
  • He at least knows enough about physics to sound impressive to those who don’t know better.
  • He’s set up a university that teaches how to diagnose illness from your pulse alone and vedic astrology, so I would say that his grip on the subject is none too firm.
  • How much is much? And does communing with ephemeral entities that do know count?
  • Maharishi (TM) Mahesh used to claim one could induce a state of floating in air through his T.M. classes. Some people claimed they had a quick float around the garden in the morning before work. All these claims have been withdrawn since someone published a photo of some TM’s floating, on a trampoline.
  • No … but not through want of trying. He has invented the Maharishi’s Absolute Theories of Government, Education, Health, Defense, Economy, Management, Law and Order, and Rehabilitation. He wanted to have one on dinosaurs, but the Monty Python crew beat him to it.
  • Since this is a Skeptical quiz, I’m guessing not.
  • The absolutely spot on average for a great religious leader – zilch
  • Well, he obviously doesn’t know about short first names.
  • The answer has to be “No”, otherwise he would hand out air-sick bags to the 120 passengers on the magic flying carpet which will take them to the rose petal and into its atomic structure, finally coming to rest in the flower’s “pure consciousness”.
  • Why? That’s old hat. He created a new science- the Science of Creative Intelligence, and not only that, he also discovered the Constitution of the Universe, the Maharishi Effect, and Yogic Flying! It must be true, I read it on his web page.

Question 5

What is a spork?


A combined spoon and fork; a runcible spoon. On the Internet [in 1998] there is a newsgroup and at least 3 different collections of pages dedicated to sporks.

Alternative answers:

  • A combination spoon and fork, reputedly invented in the USA, or possibly by the American occupation forces of Japan after WW2. Nowadays the spork is that dinky little plastic gizmo they give you to eat your takeaway Chinese with that is too small to get a decent mouthful and too weak to cut the noodles. It is only good for flicking rice balls at your siblings across the dining table, which was presumably what the occupation forces of Japan had in mind.
  • A cross between a spoon and a fork. I have invented the spife, for use in eating peas.
  • A Spoon Fork. Why anyone would need a fork to pick up a spoon escapes me though.
  • A spork is a spoon/fork hybrid. It is round like a spoon, and shallow enough to consume liquids, with 3 or 4 tines on the end that act like a fork. The prongs may be used to consume substances like meat and poultry. This not to be confused with a foon, the inverse of a spork. Thankfully, like most hybrids (especially the splayde), it is incapable of reproduction.
  • A spork is a blend of spoon and a fork. It is round like a spoon, and shallow enough to consume liquids, with 3 or 4 tines on the end that act like a fork. [Someone has been cribbing here]
  • A spork is what some people call a splade. That is, a cross between a spoon and a fork.
  • A type of killing Axe used in MUD games
  • As described on (the spork FAQ) a spork is: An unusual dining implement that is part spoon, part fork. Basically, it is a spoon with tines on the end, suitable for using as a fork, while still having a spoon portion. It is the utensil of choice for eating cole slaw, potato salad, and many other take-out foods. More can probably be gleaned from the alt.plastic.utensils.spork.spork.spork newsgroup which is dedicated to spork usage.
  • It’s not quite a spoon and not quite a fork and completely useless at being either.
  • Pork eaten with a spoon.
  • A spork is a dork from Madrid.
  • The results of a dork breeding with a Vulcan.
  • Something written by a dyslexic Star Trek fan.
  • The noise a cork makes when you remove it from a wine bottle with a spoon (as opposed to a fork).
  • According to South Park, its what you get when you cross a sperm whale with a pot bellied pig.
  • A device inadvertently created by Victorinox, the Swiss army knife people, when they put the spoon and the fork in such a position that they always stick together when you try to open them.
  • A spork is a spark with vowel shift problems.
  • Spork is an anagram; it is short for The Royal Academy Of Really Bad Spellers. [Wow! This could be the correct answer to ANY question. I am humbled.]