Answers for June 1999

Despite many witty entries from the same US company (hey guys, got any work to do)? our hat-trick, tripartite, trifecta WINNER is yet again ……

Dave Hawley

Question 1

Were there any flush toilets before the time of Thomas Crapper?


Yes, but only monarchs could afford one.

More Specific Answers:

  • No, they were all very poor.
  • Yes, but no-one could think of what to call them
  • Yes, they were flush with the ground. They were called holes.
  • No, people were quite content with Mr. Thunderbox’s invention
  • No. The good Mr. Crapper invented the chain (much to the joy of our early convicts who had their balls attached to them)
  • No. They were all really badly aligned! Actually, Albert Giblin holds an 1819 British Patent for the Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer, a system that allowed a toilet to flush effectively. Giblin was employed by Thomas Crapper.
  • Sure. Back in the days of chamberpots, people would take the pot when it was full and flush it out the window.
  • The Abbot of the Abbey of St Albans in the 12th century used a cistern that held rainwater to flush his toilet.
  • The Romans had pretty flash toilets, but toilet design went to pot for a millenia or two during the dark ages. There was some flash dunnies in Paris before the revolution, then the next really flash job was the water closet designed by Mr.T Crapper …. Oh ‘flush’, oh well.
  • Yep! The Minoan residents on the island of Thera (Santorini, nowadays) had them in 3000-1500 BC (Before Cistern). Archeologists have dug up the city and found not only toilets but an underground sewerage system continuously sluiced with fresh water. Some people believe that the island was destroyed by a volcanic eruption but others believe that the toilet/sewerage wasn’t up to standard and that around 1600-1500 BC, the system backed up and …
  • Yes, indeed. According to one of the first flush toilets was invented by the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Harrington in 1596. Thomas Crapper was not involved in any toilet inventions, nor was he knighted.
  • Yes, the Romans had a system of flush toilets. As well there are records of mediaeval English monasteries who were monkeying (sorry) around with it. Poor old Thomas didn’t even have the word crap derived from his name as it was in use a couple of centuries earlier. He was however a plumber-by-appointment to the Royals and helped popularise the flush toilet
  • yes. The ancient Maya indians had them, but took them all with them when they left on their space ships.
  • Yes. The Romans used toilet sized aquaducts and lots of others probably used certain agreed sections of rivers for that purpose.
  • I really couldn’t give a shit.

Question 2

Who in history has conquered the biggest area of land?


G. Khan of Mongolia 4,860,000 sq miles … followed feebly by
A.T.Great 2,180,000 sq miles
Tamerlane 2,145,000
Cyrus 2,090,000
A.T.Hun 1,450,000
A.Hitler 1,370,000
N.Bonaparte 720,000
Mahmud (India 950AD) 680,000
Francisco Pizarro 480,000
Hernando Cortes 315,000

Alternative Answers:

  • Bill Gates, who has conquered the entire world, except for the steadfastly isolated little realms of The Unixarian Republic and Macadamia.
  • Ah, you’ve found out about that have you? The answer is, of course, the Clive family. Clive of Africa, the twin Clives of the Americas , Clive of Europe, Clive of the Other Bits of Asia, and all the rest (the only failures were Clive of Antarctica – he got cold feet, and Clive of India who couldn’t keep his mouth shut after he made that “Peccavi” crack – thought himself a bloody intellectual). We of the Illuminati thought we had kept it all secret, but now you have found out. I’m sorry to say this means we’ll have to kill you (and all your readers).
  • Ronald McDonald, if you include all the feed lots, farms, and landfills with the restaurants.
  • Coca Cola. Little known fact: if you put together all the Coke signs in all the world they would cover a space the size of the northern hemisphere.
  • Ants, or possibly rats or cockroaches. If you mean people, then it was probably some wanker waving a sharp pointed bit of metal leading a bunch of thugs.
  • Captain Cook
  • Kerry Packer
  • The Catholic Church. They have effective control of much of Europe and most of South America, not to mention ownership of great slabs of prime real estate in humble Australia and elsewhere.
  • “Nigel the Superfluous”, who, between the years of 1956 and 1977 travelled through more than 200 countries and laid claim to each and every one of them. On returning to England he spent the rest of his days in the Huddersfield Home for Hapless Conquerers and died in 1985, with very few knowing of his incredible achievements.

Question 3

What proportion of the [female – sorry omitted this] population of Liechtenstein was accused of witchcraft and burnt to death in the 1690’s?


Reports vary, with the highest figure being 90%

Pedantically Correct Answer:

  • It would appear that while several modern writers claim that 9 million people met their deaths during the witchcraft persecution, there are a total of 236,870 documented incidents and none of them come from Liechtenstein. Possibly because Liechtenstein was not founded until 1750.

Alternative Answers:

  • 1% …. she burned for a spell.
  • 10%
  • 20% rings a bell. Or was that what I got for history?
  • 53%
  • 66.667%
  • A fair proportion. I think this answer means I will not win this quiz.
  • A minority …. and of those, about 60% were women. the numbers are sketchy as around the same time, “normal” BBQ’s were very popular and after a few ales, accidental self-inflicted roasting occurred frequently.
  • All of them. That’s the last time they don’t tip the witchfinder…
  • All the ones who weighed the same as a DUCK! <see Monty Python>
  • Almost all of the women folk. It is a little known fact that Liechtenstein had the largest population in Europe until the king, after a row with his wife, remarked to the commander of the army that “all women are witches”. The commander, using his initiative, acted on the advice. The population never recovered.
  • An interesting problem, Dr Bob! Algebraically the situation can probably be expressed as follows; B=C*(W1+W2)*100/P, where B=percentage burned, C=conviction rate as a fraction, W1=witches, W2=warlocks, P=total population, W1 and W2 are mutually exclusive subsets of P, W1<=P, W2<=P, and W1+W2<=P. This equation can be re-expressed as B=(100*C*W1/P)+(100*C*W2/P). Given that “success” is a higher value for B, it would have made sense therefore to maximise C and W1 and W2, and to minimise P. It is unfortunate that the Inquisitors tended to concentrate on maximising only C and W1. This is the “subtractive” approach, where a reduction in the value of W1 (or indeed W2) leads to a corresponding reduction in P. This is especially true for small values of P (such as in Liechtenstein). The Inquisitors could have achieved a much more successful result using the “inclusive” approach of attempting to make the union of the sets W1 and W2 approach P initially. This, in practical terms, equates to declaring everyone a witch including the Inquisitors, warlocks, bystanders, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, securing a 100% conviction rate and burning everyone at the stake. What was the question?
  • During the disastrous drought of 1689 a woman was heard to remark that the crop failure was caused by a dry spell. The Catholic Church took this to mean witchcraft, so they set out to burn witches, they couldn’t tell which witch was which witch so they went for the lot. Many could not escape due to a shortage of brooms caused by the broom bush crop failure. Anyway the drought ended and prosperity returned so it worked… Q.E.D.
  • Everyone who had a Z chromosone
  • Judging from all the witchcraft sites on the Internet, the correct answer must surely be “not nearly enough of them”.
  • Many of the women around the place at the time were accused and burnt. This may explain why women did not get to vote until 1984. There weren’t enough of them left.
  • The population of Liechtenstein today is about 30,000 people. In 1690 it would have been a lot less, I’ll have a guess and say 2000. If they burnt 200 for witchcraft – not a huge number for the times – that would come in at 10%, which is as reasonable a guess as any.
  • The proportion of the accused that could swim!
  • This is a trick question isn’t it?
  • Unfortunately, only a small percentage.
  • Well, Liechtenstein has a day where they celebrate burning of witches (not real ones). Therefore it must have been a few. Which means I really don’t know.
  • Buggered if I know!

Question 4

Can chimpanzees swim?



More Specific Answers:

  • Ook?
  • Chimpanzees cannot swim as they don’t have enough body fat to help them float. Calendars with chimps in bikinis excluded.
  • Chimps swim with the same grace and ease that humans swing from branch to branch through the tree tops. There is a famous chimp movie called Tarzan of the Swamp, about a swimming chimp.
  • Extensive experimentation with creationist subjects <chimps are hard to get hold of> has revealed no.
  • I guess if they could, it would be pretty chaotic at the zoos that keep them behind moats.
  • If gorillas can swim, why not chimps? I’m sure I’ve seen some down at St.Kilda.
  • If we can swim and apes can swim, then my guess is that chimpanzees can not swim. Otherwise, why would you ask the question?
  • Is the Pope a Buddhist? Of course they can swim. Who do you think holds all of the Olympic and World swimming records? Do you seriously believe that all the best swimmers shave off their body hair just so they can shave (no pun intended [Oh, all right – of course the pun was intended – but you’d hardly expect me to admit it]) a couple of nanoseconds off their best times? Well, you gullible fool, you are wrong. The hair is shaved so that the real simian nature of the participants will not be so obvious that even people who spend huge amounts of money to attend “swim meets” (what is happening to our cherished Mother Tongue?) could hardly fail to notice. Think back to that famous Russian (or was he Dutch?) butterfly (or was it backstroke?) swimmer of a few years ago. Arms that long don’t come naturally in the species homo, you know. Why do you think one of the major swimming events is called the “Pan” Pacifics? Get a grip man.
  • No, because the gorillas are hogging the pool
  • No, but they can fly in rockets.
  • No, they are too densely muscled to maintain a positive buoyancy and propel themselves, even with their extraordinarily powerful arms.
  • No, they lack enough body fat and this makes them too dense. However I would question this as I know lots of dense people who CAN swim!
  • Not in my flush toilet, they can’t.
  • Only if Michael Jackson is in the pool first.
  • Only if they’ve been taught how to by a certain blind watchmaker.
  • Only if you can get the gorillas to stop dive-bombing them in the deep end of the pool. NAUGHTY gorillas! (thanks, Neddy Seagoon).
  • They cannot swim since they abhor water. However, their biology is sufficiently alike to human characteristics that they can be taught through hypnosis and large offers of cash.
  • Well if gorillas can, why the hell not. Is this a democracy or what ?!?
  • Yes…..Just before they drown.

Question 5

What happened on 26 October 1881?


It was a day full of interesting and exciting happenings…

  • Everyone was already really excited by the fact that you could write the year upside down. Someone noticed on this day that if you turned the whole date upside down, it was the 97th of January but the year was still OK (I have recommended the same thing as a y2k compliance solution)
  • The biologist Helmer Pareli Kjerschow Agersborg was born in Norway.
  • Seaman Robert A. Sweeney was cited for valor aboard the USS KEARSARGE (notable because he was black and was cited again in 1882) [what – for being black? Come to think of it, it was probably a good enough reason]
  • A tree fell down in the rainforests of Borneo, but no one was around to see it.
  • Aliens invaded the earth and brainwashed the entire population, thus leaving us in the state we are in today.
  • Someone died.
  • Nietzsche thought of something brilliant.
  • Ear muffs went on sale in readiness for the big bang when Krakatoa exploded on 26 August 1883.
  • The Charles W. Morgan, a full rigged double decker made of oak and built in New Bedford, Massachusetts sailed from Fayal on its 12th voyage.
  • The member for Bennelong was elected.
  • The Catholic Church gave amnesty to all unburnt witches in Liechtenstein.
  • The famous “Gunfight at the OK Corral” where the Earps & Doc Holliday took on the Clantons at 2:47pm in Tombstone, Arizona. Actually this was not even at the OK Corral, but in a vacant lot near the corner of fourth and Fremont Street. Not was it a gunfight – it was gang warfare. And the corral wasn’t really OK, it was full of holes.
  • The author of the first ever trivia quiz was brutally murdered.
  • Wednesday.


  • Do I get a free Australian Skeptics membership if I win three in a row??? :-)) [All right, yes – the badge and magazines are in the post]
  • —do not write below this line—office use only—
  • Can Dr. Bob swim? [Yes – like a gorilla – see picture of me attempting to do so in Bali last week]
  • Hilarious, well done Dr Bob [I admit my swimming style and suntan merit these comments – but what do you think about my trivia questions?]
  • Can you at least TRY and come up with a question I know? Please? [What would be the point of that?]
  • Dr Bob must be psychic, just after the Kleagle question the KKK show up in Australia, I dread to think what might come about from the witch burning question . . . [Cripes, I am sorry. But I did like the KKK picture in the middle page of the newspaper, where it becomes clear there are only 4 of them and they are all sitting on a sofa in someone’s lounge room, with mantelpiece, budgie in cage etc]
  • Glad to see you didn’t have any questions based on the contents of your pantry this month.
  • [No, I have eaten it all]
  • I don’t test well. Hope you grade on the curve. [Yes – recklessly]
  • I really should be writing a great novel!
  • Not bad this month but I am getting tired of aquatic simians. [See picture above]
  • Presently, at this precise moment in time, it is pissing down rain here in Qld and the temperature has plummeted to 19 Deg. But don’t tell the Victorians.
  • Very interesting. Thought provoking questions. [This is exactly what the creationists say about their own presentations]