Questions for all 2004


Joost Verduin January 2004
Andrew O Lutes February 2004
Win Fowles March 2004
Mercurius April 2004
Martin Binford May 2004
Rod Shire June 2004
Rod Shire July 2004
Mr Mutwehir August 2004
Olav Rokne September 2004
Keith Frampton October 2004
Stephen Merdith November 2004
Wendy Wilkinson December 2004



Q1 What can be said concerning the gender of persons born of virgins?

Q2 In a supermarket in New Zealand I saw a female shop assistant standing on a platform shouting “Sex for $5! Sex for $5”. At first I thought this to be perfectly normal, but on further investigation – strictly in the interests of scientific research, of course – I established that coconuts, normally $1 each, were being retailed. During the period of disappointment that followed this discovery – I don’t like coconuts – I began to wonder why the word for the number between 5 and 7 is so like the word that denotes gender and its related carnal activities. In Swedish it is actually the same word, which may explain how I came to marry a Swede. Anyway, my question is, why in many languages does the word for ‘6’ so strongly resemble the word for ‘sex’?

Q3 Who said, or of what, or when, or why, or on what occasion, “It casts such a shadow over my life that death will be a blessed release.”

Q4 Why do you have to keep the back door closed at the Montsalvat (Melbourne) art gallery?

Q5 In the filming of Lord of the Rings, CDs were usually played during the lengthy make-up sessions. What CD did one actor buy that he believed to feature the Icelandic nose flute?

Q6 Only one new Icelandic law has failed to get Presidential assent in the last 20 years – why was assent refused?

Q7 The Icelandic band Sigur Ros thought it would be cute to record a song in a particular abandoned NATO hut on top of a mountain. Accordingly, one day they set off with all the appropriate engineers, recording equipment etc and climbed the mountain. Having arrived at the hut, why were they not able to play or record in it?

Q8 What is the derivation of the new Icelandic word for ‘computer’?

Q9 Where is the main centre of Icelandic culture outside of Iceland?

Q10 In Njal’s Saga, the enemies who surrounded Gunnar’s house sent a man to climb onto the roof to see if Gunnar was inside – fearing that they would look pretty stupid if they started to besiege it while he was out. Was Gunnar at home?

Q11 <SaysHe.jpg> This picture of Richard Saunders (President Aust Skeptics), Barry Williams (CEO Aust Skeptics) and Robyn Williams (broadcaster ABC) was taken with a silent film, so we can’t hear what they are saying (sorry, I pinched that from Spike Milligan). Fill in the speech bubble.

Q12: <product 2.jpg> As nobody got anywhere near the answer I was expecting for last month’s picture question, here it is again with a couple of clues. I will list some of the less dismal efforts in my December answers, with (as usual) one better than the real answer. So here we go again: before this product was invented, but now possibly exploitable to increase (or decrease) its sales, who made a famous quote about Casaba melons?


February 2004

Q1 What percentage of the world’s poker machines are in Australia?

Q2 When the late comedian Bob Monkhouse as a boy broke his shinbone – what did his mother say?

Q3 Where in Australia is there a Swiss-Indian restaurant?

Q4 In 1757 for what purpose was Semaphore invented?

Q5 A film clip very often used in the 1960’s TV series _Batman_ shows the Batmobile rushing out of the Batcave (usually for the 14-mile journey to Gotham City). In this scene, why does the emerging Batmobile wobble slightly?


March 2004

Q1 When the CIA hide their secret messages in digital picture files (steganography) what pictures do they generally use?

Q2 What opera has the first sung line “Oh what boredom – I think I’ll hang myself”

Q3 What happens if you dive from Jervois Quay in Wellington NZ?

Q4 Complete this quote from Japan in 1569 “I, the Lord Tadaoke, detest seeing …”

Q5 Which children’s program stars a latex puppet based on Constantine’s head?


April 2004

Q1 When an earthquake shook the Microsoft building in Seattle, the alarms sounded properly but nobody left their desks. What eventually persuaded the staff to leave the building?

Q2 The Magna Carta was signed by King John and the barons at Runnymede in 1215. How many of its approx 67 clauses are effective today?

Q3 One of Charles Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engines c.1830 would have used external data cards. The plan was for it to ring a bell during a calculation and display what data it wanted, then an attendant would select a card from a library of data cards. The machine would then have verified that the right card had been inserted. What was the machine going to do if the wrong card was put in?

Q4 What mathematical formula was voted as being “the best formula of all time” (follow up question: what formula came second best)

Q5 There are legends of “four perfect hands” of 13 cards of the same suit happening randomly in a game of bridge. Apart from its absolute improbability, what other reasoning indicates that this has never happened?

Q6 <alien57.jpg> This is a sketch of one of two space aliens seen in a UFO sighting in Connecticut in 1957. In the NICAP write up of this incident, what was said to be the alien’s “distinguishing characteristic”?


May 2004

Q1 Members of the organisation “True Love Waits” decline to indulge in sex before marriage. Compared to the rest of society, how much lower is the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among this group?

Q2 In 1492 did people generally think that the world was flat?

Q3 When Christopher Columbus died on 20/5/1506 was he rich?

Q4 Why was the British pop group The Edgar Broughton Band often referred to as “The Legendary Edgar Broughton Band”?

Q5 A circular iron hoop has an iron bar welded across its diameter. When the whole thing is heated up, does its shape distort?

Q6 <Four pictures a-d> What should be on the white card in the fourth picture?


June 2004

Q1 An aqueduct on a row of big pillars carries a canal across a valley. How does the stress in one of the pillars change when a barge carrying 100 tons of coal passes over in the canal?

Q2 In 1968 the miserable poet Leonard Cohen came to fame, and was offered a 30-minute spot on BBC TV; he proposed to stare silently at the screen for nearly the whole time, and then do what?

Q3 Prokofiev, the Russian composer, lived and eventually died, as all of us must. Why did very few people attend his funeral?

Q4 Surstromming is a canned foodstuff, much prized in northern Scandinavia as the winter approaches. What looks unusual about the cans of it?

Q5 What brilliant invention did Roman soldiers stationed in Egypt bring back to Rome?

Q6 <blue.jpg> What’s this?


July 2004

Q1 If you visit the notorious Bates Motel, and you pass through the building and go into the backyard, what would you see?

Q2 The 1972 edition of Chambers’ Twentieth Century Dictionary contained many new words, but only one word in the 1952 edition was removed – which word?

Q3 There was a severe outbreak of cholera in London 1848. How was it stopped?

Q4 Residents of Mongolia have for centuries had only single names, but were recently required to adopt surnames. What happened?

Q5 Captain Beefheart when new to pop music in the 1960s was groomed by his record company to look like whom?

Q6 <picture> Y2K currency has been issued by Fiji – this is the $2 banknote. What is remarkable about the $5 note?


August 2004

Q1 Why is the start of Tarkovsky’s amazing film _Solaris_ so long and boring?

Q2 The first book that Gutenberg printed was the Bible. What was the topic of the second book that he printed?

Q3 How many people mentioned in the Bible were known to be ambidextrous?

Q4 Where would be a good place to weigh a pie?

Q5 It’s well known where Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn died. But where was she born?

Q6 <pictureof QE2 aged 16> Who is this?


September 2004

Q1 Which book is most often stolen from public libraries?

Q2 What did Matti tell Hatti?

Q3 Tossing coins at a statue of Pushkin in the foyer of Moscow’s Pushkin Institute was believed to bring good luck. Why don’t people do this any more?

Q4 What was the name of the tiny second-floor discount record shop in Oxford St, London where Dr Bob bought “Trout Mask Replica”

Q5 If you have spots in front of your eyes, should you see a doctor?

Q6 <script 86k JPG> What language is this?


October 2004

Q1 Andrei Tarkovsky’s house at 1 Shchipkovskij Alley is preserved. What happens if you go in and climb the stairs?

Q2 William Caxton’s first print runs (at Bruges, but in English) were of several volumes of the History of Troy. What book was next to be printed in English?

Q3 How many people are mentioned in the Bible as being left handed?

Q4 In all the best circles, pies are consumed with tomato ketchup. What percentage of tomato ketchup is made from tomatoes?

Q5 Why was Anne Boleyn beheaded with a sword instead of the traditional axe?

Q6 <corgi photo> This is one of the Queen’s, um, dogs. This is a corgi belonging to the Queen. In fact she has more than one of them. What is the plural of corgi?


November 2004

Q1 The Koran states that the fires of Hell are guarded by nineteen angels. Why nineteen?

Q2 The Koran points out that if all the trees were pens and all the seas were ink (presumably the big A provides enough parchment) then even if augmented by sevenfold more seas, this would still not be enough to record God’s word. Okey-dokey, if that much ink were used to write words, which were then typed up in ASCII and transferred to suitable 2004-vintage computer storage media, then what size building could it all be crammed into?

Q3 The Druids respect the “four sacred directions”. Three of these are North, South, and East – what is the fourth one?

Q4 In the north of Scotland, a preacher named Fraser prepared his sermons in a room whose walls at each end had holes through the plasterwork. How did these holes arise?

Q5 What book ends with the sentence “I love you.” ?

Q6 [picture with 2 shields] This photo was taken in 1968. Who are these people and what are they doing?


December 2004

Q1 What new religious holiday, having its origins in the Book of Exodus, was proclaimed in November 2003?

Q2 The ancient Persians preferred to make important decisions when they were drunk, and review them later when sober. What happened if they were sober when a new decision was urgently needed?

Q3 Ingmar Bergman’s _The Seventh Seal_ was premiered on 16 Feb 1957. Why are most Swedish films premiered just before or after Xmas?

Q4 Which country or province is the world’s largest supplier of legal opium products?

Q5 If you were visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and she said she fancied a cup of tea, how should you add milk and/or sugar to it?

Q6 (picture) Although you can’t see him, what can you say about the photographer who took this picture?