Answers for November 1999

WINNER in this last but one pre-millenial near-end-of-year penultimate 2000’y sort of quiz was

Paul Bello

of Paris, France (As opposed to Paris, Texas or Paris, Mongolia).

Question 1

The Chinese deputy leader Lin Piao (editor of the Little Red Book) was reported to have died in an air crash in 1971, but was his death accidental?

Real Answer That Very, Very Few People Know (But Now You Lot Do)

According to a book written by an insider close to Mao’s son … Lin Piao had fallen out of favour in the few days beforehand (but he didn’t know this). M.T.Tung invited him and his wife to a huge evening dinner at Mao’s place high on a hill. (The invite might have said “Come to my Communist Party” – but I digress). On the way back down in his official car, some road work signs had been put up and when the car stopped seven men with anti-tank bazookas popped up and fired. They stood in a circle around the car … hell of a mess with whole car incinerated and several assassins killed too. In panic the next day, to make a cover story they sent an aeroplane to Mongolia and crashed it for lack of fuel, but nobody much was on board.

Dr Bob’s Extension to the Above Tale:

When I used this question in my stand-up Xmas Trivia Quiz for the Melbourne Skeptics in 1996, ever confident that nobody could possibly outshine my erudite knowledge of this obscure event, a Chinese woman popped up at the back and said “Look here, I was a good friend of Lin Piao’s wife, and I can tell you that what happened was ….”

Alternative Conspiracies:

  • Of course! Why do you doubt it? Are you a counter-revolutionary?
  • As any 7 year old can tell you, it was the CAC airlines food drove him to kill himself. CAC have this great way of dealing with (inflight) Hijackers; they point the plane at the ground and try to pull up when the hijackers give up.
  • As said in a Chinese news report “After-an-extensive-investigation-Mr-Piao’s-death-was-an-accident-now-stop-pointing-that-gun-at-me-please-Mr-Secret-service-agent”
  • Comrade Mao Tse-tung, using the simplest and the most vivid language, advanced the famous thesis that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun….or a bomb in the cargo hold”
  • He didn’t actually die in the air crash. He is working in the 8 items or less checkout at Woolworths in Surry Hills. He still has the little red book, which he keeps in his little blue shirt pocket.
  • He’s more than a number in your li’l red book,
  • He’s more than a one night sta-a-a-and
  • … His plane crashed into the Billy Ocean
  • If a plane crashes in the forest, does it make a sound?
  • If it was, would you have bothered asking? So I’m going to say no.
  • Lin: What’s that bloody mountain doing there! Pilot: What mountain? Oh, that one – bugger.
  • See Lin, also Mao Tse Tung’s anointed successor and military chief, was supposedly plotting to assassinate Mao. Nothing disrupts career options like an unexplained plane-crash in Mongolia.
  • No Editor dies by accident. They are all murdered by readers with no sense of humour, usually by horsewhipping them on the steps of their club. In Lin Piao’s case, the plotters misread the instructions and tried to horsewhip the pilot of his aircraft with a club, initiating a vertical landing manouevre at supersonic speed. This illustrates the perils inherent in translating cliches into a language that uses pictograms instead of an alphabet. (Thank you Sir Jim R.Wallaby, esteemed editorial entity)
  • No, it was fate.
  • Unfortunately for Lin Piao, he made the mistake of editing out the quote about how it is unwise to eliminate your rivals.
  • No – nothing in Communist China is “accidental”.
  • Official version : Lin Biao decides to flee China. Crafty Mao grounds all aircraft. Lin’s clever son locates a military Trident Jet (No. 256) and with little fuel, no navigator and no radio operator, it takes off. Lin, his family and 6 others happily tootle along heading for Mongolia. After some nervous tapping at the fuel gauge, the pilot attempts a landing at an airstrip near Under Khan in Outer Mongolia. One wing tips the ground and the plane crashes. All perish in the resulting fireball. It’s September 13th…probably a Friday.
  • Lin escaped and now plays a mean bass in Elvis’ Jug Band which meets regularly at Bob’s Diner at the intersection of Routes 17 and 66 in rural Nebraska.
  • This modern bourgeois style of quiz question reveals the imperial and capitalistic bias inherent in your biases. I’ll let someone else reveal that Comrade Piao’s death was not officially revealed until 1972. Indeed this was mysterious as well as the disappearance of his cronies. This suggest that the accidental interface of his plane with the ground was not so accidental.
  • Apparently, the official Chinese government’s story is that Lin Biao died on September 13, 1971, in an airplane crash in Mongolia as he was fleeing to the Soviet Union after having plotted unsuccessfully to overthrow Mao. According to this account during the whole of 1971 (even after the plane crash??) Lin Biao was organizing a coup among military officers. This account is very much in doubt and there is much speculation that Lin Biao after falling out of favor with the party leadership and was assassinated (Ming-Le, 1983:228). This has been reinforced by Mongolian reports in 1990 that say that Lin Biao was not on the plane that crashed in 1971.
  • Well, *he* certainly didn’t plan it.

Question 2

What is the world’s proportion of bicycles to cars?


Being manufactured, 3:1, in use, 2:1 but rising. I never have time to go out on mine – but I was thinking of buying a new and better one, then I might go out on that. (Thus partially explaining the above figures).

Disproportionate Answers

  • Another question designed to slight the People’s Republic? We must meet.
  • 1/2, in terms of number of wheels. (2/5 if you carry a spare).
  • 5:1, not counting Tibet, where off-road motor bikes are king.
  • Fish b. The Titanic. c. About 50:1
  • Bicycles outnumber cars about 2 to 1. Slowly but surely, bicycles are making plans against us. Thieves are not responsible for car thefts. They are actually car abductions where bicycles abduct cars to improve their ratio and subject cars to humiliating exhaust probes.
  • By number of bikes, by volume or by mass? One car melted down could make lots of bikes. Especially those sodding 4-wheel drives driven by half-brain wankers who insist on driving them about the city with great sodding pedestrian killing bull-bars (which alone have enough metal to make up a few dozen bikes) terrifying the natives. A pox on all of you! May a large tube suddenly appear in from of you so you get stuck in middle of the Earth. erm… i’ll be quiet now…
  • In 1997, it was 1 car for every 2 bikes (460×10*6 cars to 800×10*6 bicycles). Even more interesting is that the ratio in the States is the opposite ie 2 cars for every 1 bike (88×10*6 to 139×10*6) while in China its 1 car for every 250 bikes (the average Chinese family has 3 bikes and no car)! AND, the first car accident in the U.S. was in 1896 when a car collided with a bicycle.
  • In my world, 1:1
  • Insufficient information supplied. It all depends on whether the bicycles used by all those fish to get to the Great Wall of China are included.
  • Is a bi-cycle the gay/lesbian equivalent of a woman’s cycle? And what about a pro-portion? Is it that segment allotted to ladies of the night? Tch – this question is just impossible unless you define your terms better, Dr. Bob.
  • There are far too many bicycles, you can’t have fun in a dark country lane on the back seat of a bicycle, and as for their lack of side-impact protection . . .
  • Who gives a rats arse? (Yes I know: the answer of an ignorant peasant. But then, isn’t a life of blissful ignorance an admirable goal?)

Are Bicycles Better than Women?

1. Bicycles don’t get pregnant. 2. You can ride your bicycle any time of the month. 3. Bicycles don’t have parents. 4. Bicycles don’t whine unless something is really wrong. 5. You can share your bicycles with your friends. 6. Bicycles don’t care how many other bicycles you’ve ridden. 7. When riding, you and your bicycle come at the same time. 8. Bicycles don’t care how many other bicycles you have. 9. Bicycles don’t care if you look at other bicycles. 10. Bicycles don’t care if you buy bicycle magazines. 11. You’ll never hear, “Surprise, you’re going to have a new bicycle” unless you go out and buy one yourself. 12. If your bicycle goes flat, you can fix it. 13. If your bicycle is too loose, you can tighten it. 14. If your bicycle gets misaligned, you don’t have to discuss politics with it. 15. You can have a black bicycle and bring it home to your white parents, or vice versa. 16. You don’t have to be jealous of the guy who works on your bicycle. 17. If you say bad things to your bicycle, you don’t have to apologize before you can ride it again. 18. You can ride your bicycle as long as you want until you get sore because it won’t. 19. You can stop riding your bicycle as soon as you want and it won’t get frustrated. 20. Your parents won’t remain in touch with your old bicycle after you dump it. 21. Bicycles don’t get headaches. 22. Bicycles don’t insult you if you’re a bad rider. 23. Your bicycle never wants a night out with other bicycles. 24. Bicycles don’t care if you’re late. 25. You don’t have to take a shower before you ride your bicycle. 26. If your bicycle doesn’t look good, you can paint it or get better parts. 27. You can ride your bicycle the first time you meet it without having to take it to dinner, see a movie, or meet its mother. 28. The only protection you need to wear when riding your bicycle is a decent helmet. 29. When in mixed company, you can talk about what a great ride you had the last time you were on your bicycle.

Question 3

If there were a tube through the middle of the earth without air resistance, heat transfer etc, and a mass was put in, it would fall to the middle and then rise and arrive at the other side. How many minutes would this one-way journey take?

And the Answer Is:


Equally Correct Answers

  • 42 minutes and 9 seconds, making the simplifying assumption that the earth’s density is uniform. At the centre of the earth, the object’s velocity is about Mach 24, or almost 8 km/s.
  • Assuming uniform mass density then the harmonic frequency is given by: w = sqrt((4/3)*G*pi*rho), where G = gravitational constant = 6.67e-11 m^3/s^2/kg; pi = 3.14; and rho = mass density = 5517 kg/m^3. Thus the 12,762km journey would take pi/w seconds = about 42 minutes.
  • If the experiment was conducted by the NSW Transport Dept it would take forever. They took over 100 years just putting a 5km tube through to Bondi Junction – so if we wanted a hole right through the Earth we will be worrying about Y5K or Y6K long before it would be completed.
  • Fascinating question. I wish I had time to dig out Resnick & Halliday, refresh my memory on the subject and work it out. [What use would two dead bodies be? I suppose you could keep digging the hole right down…]
  • Half the length of time it would take for an object orbiting around the earth, at sea level, assuming no air resitance, heat transfer etc.
  • How is this a one-way journey? Half of the distance is TOWARDS the centre of the earth, and half is AWAY.
  • It’s not a one-way journey. For half of it, one is going “down”. For the other half one is going “up”. It’s a two-way journey.
  • Most masses I’ve attended take about an hour and a half. Will that do?
  • Not relevant. As all the water from Noahs Flood has receded back to the bowels of the earth (ignoring all the laws of physics along the way) you couldnt get a tube through the middle of the plane without it being filled with H2O.
  • But the time on the other side of the Earth is different by 12 hours! So it would come out before it went in, so to speak.
  • Unfortunately my degree is in psychology not physics so the best I can do is note what this question says about you . . .
  • Well, this is easy. You take the diameter of the earth and then some gravitational calculation thingies, mix them up and…and…ok. I don’t know. Happy?
  • Who cares so long as we get to shove all of the 4-wheel drives and their owners down there. er, yeah, sorry, I was going to be quiet, but they really do piss me off.

Question 4

On 4 Oct 1601, how did the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe die?

Intended Correct Answer:

He was dying for a slash.

Even More Correct Answer:

He didn’t. But when he did eventually die exactly 20 days later, it was at a dinner party and he wanted to go for a twinkle, held on but held on too long and went down to urinary poisoning. Seems he was going to go sooner or later anyway, if you take note of the analysis of a strand of his hair which detected very high levels of Hg and Pb. See

Take Direful Heed, All Ye Stargazers:

His silver false nose shorted out the terminals of his electron telescope, electrocuting him. Let this be a lesson to all amateur astronomers – don’t poke your nose into things that don’t concern you.

Equally Dead Theories:

  • (Hey, I know this bit without research!) He wore a silver nose-guard as a result of disfigurement in a dueling incident. One day he got dreadful rhinitis (nasal viral infection), forgot to take the guard off, sneezed, blinded himself and drowned in his own snot. (Eeeeeewww! I think I’m gonna puke.)
  • A planet fell on him.
  • This must have been one of the earlier of Tycho “The Cat” Brahe’s deaths on account of he had at least one more on the 24th of October. [Woops]
  • As far as I know that was his last recorded one.
  • Oh the usual way, heart stopped beating preventing oxygenated blood getting to his brian. [Ouch]
  • His bladder burst ‘coz court etiquette said you couldn’t leave the banquet table until the banquet was over. Personally, I think he was never the same after his drunken pet elk fell down the stairs and landed on him (killing the elk, by the way). His court dwarf, Jepp, had foretold this.
  • His breathing ceased, his EEG and ECG flatlined, and he started to go all stiff and a funny blue/grey colour
  • Good manners prevented him from relieving his bladder whilst dining with Emperor Rudolf in Prague. Pretty ironic for a guy who lost a nose fighting over maths!
  • Mr Brahe serves as a lesson to the dangers of being a gentleman. His bladder burst when he was at dinner because court etiquette meant that he had to stay until the dinner was finished. Learning from his unfortunate fate I have vowed not to do the same. Thus I rarely get invited to dinner parties anymore.
  • Of a heart attack. Possibly silver poisoning from his prosthetic nose. Other reasons may be, bear attack, caught in the gears of a combine harvester, a bizarre cheese grating accident or by a poorly placed body piercing. (The surgeon general does not recommend a chest piercing.)
  • The 5th of October dawned bright and cheery in Prague with Tycho puzzling over headlines in the “Daily Prague” announcing his demise the day before. Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, he subsequently developed prostate problems, grew progressively sicker and feverish and up and died on 24th October…thereby causing the immediate promotion of the “Daily Prague” editor for his pro-active approach to news. Recent analysis of Tycho’s hair shows he died of mercury poisoning. The “Daily Prague” editor died in a freak harpsichord accident the following month.
  • Who nose?

Question 5

How many references were at the end of Einstein’s 1905 paper describing his theory of relativity?


None (Which seems to inspire countless authors of crackpot papers to copy).
The full text in German, available for Einstein, Albert “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper”, Annalen der Physik und Chemie, IV. Folge, Band 17 (1905) S. 821-921 (available at has no references at the end of the paper. (Indeed it has no paper, if you read it at http:etc) Any references are added as foot-notes in the text itself.

Dr Bob Falls Into His Own Trap Again

  • All of them. That’s where the references go.
  • None. He described his theory of relativity in the body of his paper.
  • None of the references described his theory of relativity.

Relatively Right Answers:

  • Enough. (Yes!!)
  • He made the whole thing up himself, and had no experimental support, so who would he have referenced? Never read the thing, but I’d have to guess none. Scientists in the late 19th and early 20th century were rather arrogant and didn’t bother citing anyone.
  • I don’t know, but I bet he didn’t acknowledge that Italian who really did discover it.
  • I know the answer. But I reserve the right to respond at another time and in another place.
  • Just one, and it referred the reader to the back of the first page, making it into the first Moebius strip based on hypertext.
  • None. Who needs to refer to preceding work when you have a brain the size of a planet.
  • One. Ref: A.Einstein
  • Only 1. His psychic predicted the work of Setterfield and Norman from Flinders Uni regarding the variability of the speed of light and its relevance to the creation of God’s world. If his theory was to be proved wrong then this was the each way bet. It should be mentioned in passing that the psychic got the winner of the Melbourne Cup arse up again.
  • Well, he thanked God, his mum, his producer…
  • There were references at the end ? Sorry…but I fell asleep after “Hi, my name’s Al Einstein…and boy, do I have a theory for YOU….”


  • Death takes centre stage this month!
  • Enough!
  • I couldn’t actually be bothered to look up the answers – sorry. (No – that’s the whole idea. I already know the bloody answers – it’s the witty versions that warm the cockles of my heart)
  • I don’t know if it’s just my browser (Netscape), but the font on this page is pretty average.
  • If you took all the urine the world produces in one day, it would take a full twenty minutes to flow off of Niagara Falls. (No Paul – if you took all the urine… And by the way have you seen Viagara Falls – it flows upwards…)
  • Is the cartoon drawing below a real likeness of yourself? (No, it’s a photo of the end of my, er little finger)
  • Mark my words. One day, one day I will be able to answer all the questions.
  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all those poor souls like me who never win this thing but keep getting sucked back in month after month. My best chance of winning is if I see all these questions again in a box at K Mart, called Dr Bob’s Trivial Pursuit.
  • Thank you for lying about my answer for the Jerusalem Artichoke being the correct one. It’s nice to see my lame attempts at humour being recognised by such an esteemed presence as yourself. I know you were lying, because I made it up. (Cripes, I thought it was serious – I even altered my surgeon’s notes. I used to be a surgeon, but they fired me – I sawed into the table too many times)
  • These questions never cease to bemuse me.
  • This is hard. (Yes I’m sure it is … Moving right along …) But I am looking forward to reading other people’s answers! ^_^
  • This quiz was no fun. [Sorry Ros. Perhaps you miss all the Hitler questions —arrgh look at next month’s!!]
  • Two questions about the death of people, one about a journey to the center of the earth, and one on relativity…sounds like a nightmare about an impending visit by the in-laws, especially if they’ve asked to borrow the car!
  • When do we get a new picture of the Doc? (When the Doc looks different)