Answers for January 2000

Here are the answers to my first quiz of the 19th millennium – all my e–mails are showing dates like “Friday, January 7, 19100 at 13:07:09”. Among an amazingly prolific field – it is holiday season and people have more time to waste than usual – it has been harder than usual to pick a winner from the many excellent entries received. Runners up are Steve Symonds, Adam Stables and Kim Sides, but the overall WINNER this month is

Sam Ross

Who comes from a mysterious and very silly place that some folk say is a waste of a good sheep paddock. When I used to live there, the local paper ran a competition with quite a good prize – all you had to do was write 120 words on “What to do in Canberra on a Sunday”. Sheesh, that prize was well earned. (winning entry: go to Tidbinbilla and look at the kangaroos and radio telescope). Anyway, on yer, Sam.

Question 1

A flagpole has a rope hanging down from the top. When hanging straight down it is 1 metre longer than the pole; when pulled out tight it just touches the ground 7 metres from the base of the pole. How high is the pole?

Correct Answers:

  • As long as it’s high enough to hang whoever came up with this question.
  • High enough to enable the above described activities to take place.
  • 24 metres if the pole is vertical and the ground is horizontal and they are in Euclidean space. Otherwise not.
  • 24 metres, unless it is a bungy rope then torque would play an enormous part.
  • 24 metres. Had to out-source for pole jokes, huh?
  • 209.973330762327 fingers
  • 73 ft. 6 in.
  • How high? You really do ask for it don’t you Bob!
  • If you pull it really tight, then 0 metres as it has fallen over.
  • No, no, no! How Hi is the Chinaman; Andrzej Kijowski is the Pole.
  • The answer to life, the universe and everything (including Q1 and Q5 of Dr. Bob’s January quiz) is 42. Hmmm … seems a bit high for a flagpole so howzabout we flip it around and make it 24.
  • The GULLIBLE flat-earthers would say 24 metres, and the dumb scientists who think that the Earth is a sphere would consider the slight “curvature” and say 23.886 metres. But WE who are KNOWLEDGABLE know that we live in a Hollow World on the INSIDE of a sphere, and the correct answer is of course 24.2215 metres.
  • Ummm, errr – something about the squaw on the hippopotamus being equal to the sum of the squaws on the other two hides. Will that do?

Algebraic Answer

x, where (x+1)2 = x2 + 49. A particularly good solution to this is 24. [I agree – All other solutions to it, being wrong, are markedly inferior]

A Droll Answer from the Netherlands

Depends on which and how much drugs it did

The Canberra Way of Doing It

Presumably I’m supposed to start doing all kinds of weird and wonderful Pythagorean calculations, scribbling wildly all over the nearest lab technician to get ’24 metres’. But I thought I’d make an attempt to be suitably skeptical, and do some research. So I offered a short term job to a young unemployed person, viz. to shin up the flagpole with a tape measure, so he could drop it down to me, and I’d then be able to take a measurement. Unfortunately, he seems to have had some sort of panic attack – he’s just clinging on about half way up, and screaming. I’ve called the fire brigade to get him down. Tell you what, I’ll see if I can get one of them to take a tape measure up with them while they’re at it…..

How Things Happen in Queensland

This is a trick question isn’t it? The flag pole was not straight, the ground was not level and the rope stretched. Then just when I got to the top of the pole, tape in hand, I realized I could have just pulled the end of the tape up the rope. This was a dangerous question to ask, you could have got sued.

Old Pythie May Be Long Dead, But He Still has the Power to Amaze

I learned my math from POGO. How many times does the angel of the area go into the root of two square hippopotamuses? The ark of the tangerine is equal to the ratio of two secant pi’s, which makes the pole 24 metres. Did you know that every time the rope which is 1 metre longer than the pole is an odd number from the base of the pole, the pole is a whole number? How strange is that?


  • The answer doesn’t take the slope of the ground into account, or whether the pole is in a depression. [Which makes two of us].
  • Not 24 meters. A rope on a flagpole is a loop, if the length of the rope is 1 metre less than the pole height the loop through the pulley won’t reach the ground.
  • Obviously the top of the pole is 24 metres higher than it’s base – but how high is the base? Where is this flagpole, and what is the reference point for the measurement – on Earth, “height above sea-level” is a commonly-used reference point, but who’s to say the flagpole is on Earth?

Science Cannot Tell Us “Why”

  • What is the point of having a 24m high flagpole with a rope attached to the top of it dangling loose? How are you supposed to hoist the flag?
  • It would equal “x” as the rope length is definitely “x+1”. Hang on, it could be ‘y-1’ as the rope is clearly ‘y’ metres long. Y indeed.

The Real Motive

BLOODY HELL!! GEOMETRY and TRIGONOMETRY! Last month was physics…what’s next, Dr Bob, “Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying”?! Oh, I get it! You are finishing your degree at last and you want us to do the work for you!

Dr Bob’s Blunder This Time

  • Usually some portion of the pole is buried in the ground to hold it in place and provide stability. Without knowing how much is buried, it’s impossible to give the actual height of the entire pole.
  • Actually, only 13.2cm. The pole happens to be lying flat on the ground.

Question 2

When two galaxies (say of 100 billion stars each) collide, how many physical star collisions are expected to occur?

Astronomically Correct Answer:

  • None. In fact, the “hit” probablity for a typical star involved in a collision between two galaxies is about 10-15 (, so you would need at least 2000 times more stars before you would even get 1.
  • There’s lots of space in galaxies so when they collide stars don’t often find each other in the dust and gas. However, despite this lack of explosive star-cross’d attraction, the compression of molecular clouds do give birth to lots of sweet little baby stars. Here’s a pretty picture which tells the story (much nicer than words eh?):
  • The answer is that the number of collisions is not significantly higher than that which would have occurred if the galaxies were not colliding. The major reason for this is that whilst the distance between galaxies is in the order of 20 times their diameter, the mean distances between stars in a galaxy is about 107 times their diameter.
  • The answer to that is approximately the same as the answer to this question: If movie stardom was based entirely on merit, how many stars would there be in Hollywood?
  • With a MIGHTY ROAR, the rogue, out-of-control galaxy smashed into the puny Milky Way sending silicon chips, peanut butter and shards of broken glass flying in every direction! CRASH! BLOOEY! Maybe 1 per billion years? Things are kind of spread out [Well, the peanut butter usually is … or do you stick your fingers in the jar too?]

Answers Conceded to be Equally Correct

  • 100 billion are expected to occur, as it is only until they have occurred that we can ‘expect’ them to happen.
  • About 90 billion. Or 2. Somewhere around there, anyway.
  • All of the very few star collisions would be physical.
  • All of them (as opposed to metaphysical collisions).
  • Depends if the give way to the right rule applies.
  • It depends on how many of them have got comprehensive insurance.

Even This One is Not Restrictive Enough

0, or some other number less than 5×1021. [Well actually the stars might go boinggg against one another and then have even more collisions. For example when two clouds of gas are mixed how many atoms collide?]

A Tragic Attempt to Reproduce This in the Laboratory

I tried to recreate this scenario on a snooker table but was thrown out of the local RSL.

Other Answers:

  • Billions and Billions
  • It depends what “physical stars” are. I have never heard of such type of stars, except the Homo Sapiens sort in the local gym…..
  • My calculator doesn’t go that high.
  • How can balls of gas collide anyway?
  • None, according to popular culture. Stars are really just little points of light that control your fate so some psychics could use their amazing psychic powers to levitate the stars away from each other. [What a feat of fate! But being fairly infeasible, I fear it fails]
  • One: Bruce Willis will crash into Arnold Schwarzenegger. In true Hollywood style the collision will make a sound in a vacuum, and as the two human stars separate there will be a screeching sound. Arnie will then say to Willis “I’ll be back” to keep the Arnie fans happy.
  • Perhaps all of them, in an infinite period of time.
  • Physical collisions? None, of course. Now if you had just asked how many mental collisions are expected to occur on the astral plane in these galactic circumstances then the answer is, clearly, forty two. But only if both galaxies are in Sagittarius at the time.
  • Someone should have handed the person who coined the term “space” a cigar. It’s such an appropriate term! Sure, any astronomer will argue that there is lots of interesting “stuff” out there, and that they regularly find previously undiscovered occurrences of the stuff they already know about, and occasionally discover “new” stuff. The truth is that between all these little bits of “stuff” is a huge amount of … you guessed it .. SPACE. Correspondingly, when two galaxies “collide”, you’ll get: – a whole heap of space from Galaxy A “colliding” with space from Galaxy B, a bit of Astronomical bodies from Galaxy A “colliding” with space from Galaxy B, and a roughly equivalent amount of Astronomical bodies from Galaxy B “colliding” with space from Galaxy A. And a handful of collisions between stars.
  • Well it would depend on how much drink was at the the party and most of the stars were say like Ellen DeGenerates and Rock Hudson there would be few, but if was like a really groovy party of say stars like Errol Flynn and Mae West (in their prime) it would be heaps more.

Dr Bob’s Joke on A Similar Topic

An astronomer doing a measurement for a cosmologist – reports an initial tentative value of 5. Cosmologist very happy and says it accords with his theory. Later, the accurate result is available and this turns out to be 4,973 billion. Cosmologist even happier, since it accords even better with his theory.

Question 3

Why is Roald Dahl’s story Esio Trot so titled?

Presumably Correct Answers (since we can’t ask him any more)

  • Because of the strong links between the title and the subject matter of the story.
  • Because that’s what he decided to call it. What a bloody stupid question.
  • Because if it was titled anything else, it would no longer be “Roald Dahl’s story Esio Trot”.
  • It is an anagram of Tortoise, and the book deals with a series of deceptive practices involving these reptiles, that a shyster performs to gain the confidence and eventual admiration of a poor single woman. Words such as these are used as a device to distract the attention of the young lady while sleight of hand is used to switch tortoises (over 100 times!). Is this lass gullible or what? I’m glad there’s rules to keep this sort of thing out of the hands of children.
  • Because he didn’t have a spell checker.
  • It spells TORTOISE in reverse, and is an integral part of the story’s plot (which is for four-year olds – I’m only up to chapter two, so please don’t tell me the ending, OK?).
  • “Lord of the Rings” was taken.
  • He was inflicted with the same Bad-Spelling for Names Curse that plagued his parents (who gave him his name). He had meant to spell “Butterfly Valley”
  • It is named after the eponymous character.
  • To see if his publisher were paying attention?
  • .esiotrot a yb rehtegot thguorb era ohw elpoep owt tuoba s’tI
  • It isn’t titled that much, is it?

Alternative Answers:

  • It is the name of the next Pokemon character.
  • For the benefit of Pat Robertson of the USA, it means “the old devil” or “Satan” in the language of the ancient Wodonga aborigines. Being a non-English word (or at least non-American) it is not in the King James Bible, and is therefore obviously not suitable for children’s eyes. So clearly the book is the work of Satan, and should be burned at every opportunity. Dr Bob, would you believe there are people alive today in the USA who seriously subscribe to this viewpoint?! [Yep]
  • “Tortoise”? Beats me. [This could be the answer to the next question too]
  • For that matter who would name a child Roald? Someone who ran out of N’s.
  • Because Roald hasn’t mastered writing from left to right yet.
  • Because the original title, Elt Rut, may have offended the teenage ninja demographic in Dahl’s readership.
  • Eht koob yllautca slaed ni drawkcab drow yalp os taht “Tort Oise” si eht “EsioTrot”, Eifla, denwo yb Rm. S’yppoh evol tseretni, Srm. Revlis.
  • Esio Trot spelled backward is tortoise. One of the characters in the story is a tortoise named Alfie who apparently Mr. Hoppy thinks is a rival of his love for Miss Silver. A love triangle including a tortoise? And they call this a children’s story?
  • For roughly the same reason that the Australian film “Emoh Ruo” gained it’s title – but Dahl was influenced by a mixed- up young lady called Ana Gram, while Emoh Rou’s original scriptwriter was spending too much time with her backwards pal, Indrome.
  • He attended a seminar on the phenomenon of back-masking on heavy metal records, and decided to have a go at it himself, refusing to listen when people tried to tell him that back-masking doesn’t work quite the same way when you do it with books. Mind you, last week I read a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s book backwards, and the Yorkshire pudding came out shaped just like Amanda Vanstone.
  • It’s a translation from the Spanish “El Trut”.
  • It’s torToisE spelled backwards! And the story is, of course, about a tortoise. Now there’s a Dahl story that’d work as a movie. Not.
  • The book involves a cute middle-aged love story about a man wooing his neighbour by replacing her TORTOISE (spell it backwards with a gap tooth for the book title) with progressively larger and smaller ones (while admirably teaching smallish children about fractions and multiplication).
  • This was Roald’s attempt to cash in on the market cornered by Ian Fleming. Esio is the Character whose name is actually an acronym for the “English Secret Intelligence Organisation” and Trot is from Roald’s well publicised gambling addiction.
  • What’s it all about? Alfie the tortoise and incantations using words written backwards to make him grow bigger, thus helping Mrs Silver to fall in love with Mr Hoppy. All together now – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh. [You missed out the r’s and g’s – aaaaarrrrggghhhhhhhhh]
  • While it appears to be tortoise written backwards it is actually torT oisE written backwards (or perhaps Esio Trot written forwards). In any case I have little idea as I haven’t read it, does it have anything to do with a tortoise?
  • Yertle the Turtle told him to.


  • What do you mean? I have checked Debrett’s and Who’s Who, but I can’t find any evidence that this story has any titles, hereditary or conferred.
  • I’m sure someone tortoise, but maybe I’m backward on this.

Question 4

In what TV program occurs the line “Lashings of hot screwdriver”

Amazingly Only Five People Knew This. Why Must I Be Surrounded By Incompetence?

  • Farty Towels
  • Fawlty Towers. Basil says this in the Americans episode and has no idea how to make a Waldorf Salad (celery, apples walnuts, grapes in a mayonnaise sauce). Basil has to make the salad after the chef is caught lying to him about having karate lessons.
  • Fawlty Towers. The episodes were not named originally but they were when released on video. This line comes from the episode later called “Waldorf Salad”.
  • The greatest television comedy ever made- Fawlty Towers
  • Watery Fowls. (I strongly suspect that knowing this makes me a nerd)

Nearly Right Answers

  • Don’t know this one. Has to be British, humour, probably about machinery, very boys talk. My guess, Bob Coltrane’s programme on engines.
  • I can’t figure this one out at all. It sounds very Monty Python”esque”, so that’s my guess, Monty Python. If it’s a British or Australian tv series, I’m at a serious disadvantage for figuring it out here in the US (unless you’d like to get me satellite TV).

Desperate Guesses

  • Sex and the City? Ally McBeal? Burkes Backyard? Good Morning Australia? Sesame Street? THUNDERBIRDS! Yaaaay!
  • A stupid line about DIY… probably ‘Home Improvements’
  • Black Adder
  • Cheers
  • Great … if the question based on your pantry contents wasn’t bad enough, now you’re basing them on your television viewing habits. Since I was unable to find a mention of the above (all I got was porn sites), I’ll assume it’s something new, like Futurama, the Simpsons off-shoot thingy.
  • Home Improvements
  • Home improvements
  • Home Improvements, where Tim promotes his new book “Tool Time cooking tips”
  • If there is a comma between ‘screw’ and ‘driver’ then the program is either ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ or reruns of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’. If not, it’s probably ‘Seinfeld’ because the line, like the program, makes no sense.
  • Much brain-wracking by the entire family has produced the following certainly correct answer: It might not be “Red Dwarf”.
  • My next program
  • Mystery Science Theatre.
  • Not into soapies I’m afraid, so I’ll guess Tim, the tool man’s “Tool Time” show, or No. 96. Am I close?
  • Not sure, but I think Bender would like it.
  • Screwdriver (n.) 1. A tool used for the tightening or loosening of helical-threaded fasteners (see screw). 2. An alcoholic drink consisting of vodka and orange juice. For the first, I’d hate to be “lashed” with one. For the second, I’d hate to have a hot one. Sounds like a rather unappealing show, which is probably the reason I’ve never caught it on the box, and why I can’t answer this question.
  • Something on Playboy TV? I don’t subscribe to that…
  • sounds like Ab Fab
  • Sylvania Waters?
  • Tales from the Crypt.
  • The televisation of Niven and Pournelle’s “Inferno”.
  • Two Fat Ladies.
  • ummm I think this may have been before my time… but maybe the childrens comic Tick man?
  • I am a respectable lady and so I HAVE NO IDEA <disdainful sniff> [oooo, come around to my place. Actually I have no idea either, but come around anyway. Oh, you mean no idea about TV programs.]

Almost Plausible Answers

  • “Enemies”, the seldom broadcasted anti sit-com to “Friends”
  • 3 Sizzling Female Mechanics and a Sailboat
  • Brian Naylor’s news reports, He used to finish the report with … “may your news be good news and have lashings of hot screwdriver” but due to the fact that the cricket was on this often got edited out.
  • The Famous Five does DIY
  • The Amazing Tool Eaters of the World
  • Esio Trot – The Flagpole Rope Measurer with 52 Eyes

– Using That Phrase As A Search Term:

  • Cocktail Hour with Madam Lash
  • Australia’s Funniest Home Bondage Videos 2.
  • Worldwide Masochists Convention 1992.
  • I can’t get that channel with the “V” chip.
  • Possibly some current affairs satire, after a harrassment case.
  • That would be from “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”, a kinky kids puppet show. Fran had the hots for Kukla, a dragon with a “big tooth”. Or was Ollie the dragon..?
  • The little known “soft S&M” TV film called “Debbie does Hardware” starring John Homes, Emanual, Christopher Plumber and Sharon Emery Stone, directed by Sam Mends and with music from Cold Chisel.

And Lastly

  • Incidentally, where is the question mark at the end of your question? [It moved – it’s now at the end of your question]
  • This is hard for people with a life….. [It is certainly disrupting mine, I have work to do too]

Question 5

How many eyes are shown on a pack of 52 playing cards?

Susan Prognosticates

(I bet you didn’t know that) Looking at my tarot cards I foresee, Dr Bob, questions, scorn and complaints in your future. Those around you will be seeking answers from you and treating your searches for truth without compassion and with scepticism. Your lucky number: 42. (I’m assuming that you intend the sort of usual Australian 500 “double headed” set which has the Jacks of Hearts and Spades and the King of Diamonds in profile. My lovely Austrian and French playing cards give different answers- some very fetching bonnets and headdresses cover Marie-Therese’s eye on some suits and some packs are not double headed…)

Pedantry rules, ok Dr Bob?

  • On a pack, none. In a pack is a different matter.
  • None are shown, though 42 are depicted.
  • None on the pack, but 42 on the cards.
  • If the cards are face down, you wouldn’t see them.
  • The words “playing cards” on the pack contains ONE “i” and would depend on the number of times it appears. Let’s say both sides of the pack contained the words “playing cards” then it would be TWO. Is that clearer?

The Answers That I Sort of Wanted

  • On my deck of cards (bought especially for this question) from Barabarella’s Adult Shop, there are 97 eyes shown. This includes both jokers – there would be 93 without the jokers. Interestingly, one of the jacks is black, and indeed shows only one eye. Other cards have from 0 to 2 eyes visible (as well as a number of other bits) I am led to believe that on decks of cards that have less flesh exposed, that there are 42 eyes showing, but I can’t be bothered checking it out. I’m having too much fun with this deck.
  • The calculation is simple: each pack contains four King cards, four Queen cards, and four Jack cards, each of these twelve cards has two faces depicted, for a total of 48 – however: for doubtless excellent reasons, the King of Diamonds, Jack of Hearts, and Jack of Clubs are shown in profile, so the final total is only 42 cards. I confidently expect that somebody else will make the inevitable Douglas Adams joke, so I’ll just comment that if the question hadn’t excluded jokers, my answer would have been 48 anyway. The joker cards in my pack show three eyes each… [ … hardly surprising, in Kalgoorlie]
  • 42 – The Jack of Hearts, King of Diamonds and Jack of Spades are shown in profile so they have two eyes per card (since they have two heads per card). All the others are shown face-on so they have four eyes per card.
  • 27 – I have a marked deck
  • 42 – I’m assuming you are talking about a conventional pack and not a Happy Families pack?
  • 48 with the Jokers, unless the cards have reflective backs, in which case it will depend on the number of players.
  • Hmmm, let see. Kings & Queens are 4-eyed, plus some Jacks, 2 eyes, and what about the Jokers? That another 4. So that’s, erm… 28, but mine are a bit rude, so on the other side I’ve got 16 blondes, 13 redheads, hang on, she’s got her eyes closed, and she’s in profile, so that’s one less, now for brunettes… oh, bugger it. Lots.
  • The answer is 42 oh great philosopher, what was the question?

And These

  • 6 Eyes are shown although Picasso may argue that there are actually 12
  • Couldn’t say, mine are in Braille.
  • Depends on how many people are standing around the table.
  • Enough so they can see where they are going
  • Eye don’t know. Hardeeharhar.
  • From 0 to 208.
  • I found 317 on a deck of very naughty playing cards, not counting brown eyes.
  • I didn’t know there was a one-eyed king! the number would be 42, since there a two sets on each card. That doesn’t count my two eyes. The cheetah I’m playing with is the worst cheater on the block.
  • Oh come on. I’m paraniod enpough already! [I sympathise – They have already infiltrated your spell checker]
  • There are about 200 pairs in my Original Japanese version Sailor Moon playing cards and about 500 eyes in my Collector’s Edition Bone playing cards. And I am still trying to get hold of the Pokemon ones.
  • In a standard pack, an even number. In one of those “adult packs”, well, who looks at the eyes?
  • On my Treasury pack from Crown Casino, 42. The Jokers had their eyes closed.

Comments For This Millennium:

  • 44% of ‘Ally McBeal’ fans believe that British films would be better if they contained more explosions.
  • A Buddhist monk goes up to a hot dog seller and says: “Make me one with everything”
  • Any incorrect answers are a result of the Y2K bug.
  • Chocolate fish don’t swim, and steamrollers don’t roll steam.
  • Don’t hate me for being a New Zealander. I know where you live [On the West Island]
  • Dr Bob, this is difficult again. Don’t you have anything to do during the New Year’s celebration break? But I am looking forward to the answers!
  • Ever tried to come up with ten funny answers to each question? [Yes many times, with increasingly desperate results as you can all see]. Don’t.
  • General Reality Failure. Please Reboot Universe.
  • Happy New Year, New Century and New Millennium, Dr Bob. Since we’ve pretty much done the spleen, can we move on to the pancreas now? [Yes, and then pass rapidly on from there to some of the other bits too]
  • How do I get rid of English Ivy? The previous owners of this house loved it, we don’t. It takes a day to clear one square metre and it’s eating into my quiz research time. [There is a quick and easy method. All you need is a few kilograms of plutonium]
  • I think I’m getting the hang of this. The idea is not to answer the question, right? We just have to come up with ridiculous answers!
  • I would like to formally apologise. [In contrast to Mr Howard]
  • If you really put yourself to it, I guess you could post this quiz every two weeks!
  • Lashings, adult books, and limp things on flagpoles. What is this quiz coming to? [Perhaps you should have worded that “Where is this quiz going”]
  • No comment
  • Quite innovative – I compile general knowlege quizzes and intend to present one in this sort of style sometime in the near future. [Check your insurance carefully first]
  • Since this question is optional, I decided I won’t answer it.
  • Thank you for awarding me the prize the other month. At last I have fame and riches after labouring in obscurity for decades! My children now call me “Sir”. I have, of course, divorced my wife and taken up some of Dr Bob’s groupies that wait for me every night outside my office building. [Oh that’s where they have gone. You can keep most of them but can I have the Albanian blonde with the wooden leg back? She is good at chess]
  • This is my first time so please be gentle.
  • This was one of the duller quizzes you’ve come up with. I blame Y2K.
  • Too much maths!!! Please go back to obscure facts.
  • Um, actually, I was looking for a site that lists publishers of scientific journals. I’m not exactly sure how I ended up here (Y2K, perhaps?). But your page is definitely more fun than ploughing through Elsevier’s indices. [Oh I don’t know – what are her indices like?]
  • What ever happened to the apocalypse?
  • Wot, no Hitler? He did like big flagpoles though.
  • You published all five of my asinine answers to last month’s quiz. I am not sure how to take this. Was it a compliment or were you simply short of respondents?
  • You still owe me a beer.