Answers for June 2004

In Dr Bob’s questions for June,
Prokofiev carked it too soon,
A coal barge was loaded,
The tinned fish exploded,
And so did the big blue balloon.

Thanks to Eulalia Penguinstretcher for the above drollery – you can come over and stretch my penguin any time – but as it was difficult as ever to choose this month’s WINNER I picked the entry with the most mentions of Iceland. Take it away (and don’t bring it back) –

Roderick Shire

Question 1

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?


Not at all. The stress originally increased when the coal was loaded in the barge (even if the canal is open to the sea).

Pillar Talk:

  • Shouldn’t that be tonnes? [No, they are BRITISH tons, of 20 cwts each of 112 pounds, each pound being of 16 ounces and each ounce of 4 drams. Honestly, I cannot see what the problem is].
  • Aqueducts don’t mind at all. Its as if it’s all water to them. I think they have a good attitude toward life in general, and things like 100 ton coal barges. I hope they keep up the good work. Please thank them for me if you see them.
  • As far as I knew Aqueducts were built OVER canals, so no stress at all, but if this was one of those poorly constructed “new age” aqueducts, then the pillar gets really stressed, talks to her therapist about it and demands leave to do aquarobics or something.
  • As the barge displaces a volume of water with a mass equal to the mass of the loaded barge, the stress on a pillar would not change once it has reached equilibrium above a pillar. However the as the barge moves across the aqueduct the water level would be increased around it … bow waves etc. Therefore the stress would increase somewhat because of the mass of the water displaced as the barge moved across the aquaduct.
  • As the barge is in water it absorbs the stress so that it is distributed equally over all pillars. Why do you think they built the bloody things?
  • Assuming that the barge is free-floating and not being dragged because it is stuck on the bottom, and the barge is being propelled and not carried by the current, the thrust on the pillars immediately under it should decrease because the water level either side of the barge decreases and this is a consequence of the increased speed of water immediately around the barge to compensate for the local decreased crossectional area of the flowing water. But how do I make this funny? I guess I’ll find out next month. [Well the grammar checker thinks it’s pretty hilarious – only grade 12 and above can understand it].
  • BZZZT – you are disqualified. The aquaduct does not “carry” the canal. The aqueduct IS the canal.
  • Dear Dr Bob. I would like to take back my previous answer to this question as I am an idiot. Would Archimedes have forgiven me? The barge displaces the equivalent weight of water, therefore no extra stress is placed on the columns of the aqueduct.
  • Displacement – water rushes off elsewhere – no change.
  • Doesn’t change – the barge and load displace its weight of water
  • Doesn’t. Load shared equally throughout all pillars as barge passes over
  • How? Hmmm. Dunno. But I would recommend valium for the stress.
  • I suppose you want the boring old Archimedean guff about a body immersed in water displacing its own weight in water, except in Iceland where a body would be wholly immersed in ice, or possibly sitting on top. You, however, threw in a trick. A canal, being by definition a closed system, affects the displacement, depending on whether it is full, in which case 100 tons, plus the weight of the barge, of water spills out over the countryside. If the canal is empty, 100+ tons of barge sit on top of the pillar and might possibly break it, or something in between, proportional to the dimensions of the canal.
  • If it’s all natural, organic, low-carb, low-salt coal – no stress at all. Otherwise, the other pillars will form a support group for unduly stressed pillars, and share the load.
  • In an unconscious world, each pillar feels the pressure equally as the water displacement disperses the stress. In a conscious world, each pillar worries it won’t be as good as their companion pillars, but then is relieved when all is well, which really helps with their personal stress.
  • Is that the far canal? Pillow stresses rarely change while barging on aqueducts.
  • Is this a trick question? Does it not change at all?
  • It depends a little on whether the barge floats as it passes over. We need precision in these types of questions. However I’ll proceed on the assumption it does. Archimedes, it is said, shouted “Eureka” when he worked out that upthrust is equal to the weight of the volume of water displaced. This implies to me that no change in the stress would take place, cos if the barge wasn’t there an equal weight would be. The question is a little like what happens to the water lever in when a glass of water containing ice cubes, is observed after they have melted. Or for that matter what weighs more a tonne of water or a tonne of coal.
  • It doesn’t alter the stress if the coal-barge is passing over the canal. It can only have an effect if the barge is in the water, not over, above, the water.
  • It doesn’t, the weight is distributed evenly by the water.
  • It doesn’t; unless the barge is scraping bottom the weight will be distributed across the trough of water.
  • Its stress levels increase dramatically and as a result is in bad need of a group hug, $100 an hour aura rechanelling and its own spot on Oprah to discuss the experience.
  • Jeez, Dr. Bob, you of all people should know that if a barge “passes over” then, just like anything or anyone else that “passes over”, only John Edwards can make sense of it. So how can you expect us poor skeptical quizzoids to answer your wretched question?
  • Lignite, Bituminous or Anthracite? Just kidding. That only matters if the barge sinks.
  • Lots of tepid water churned about by the passing barge surely causes all sorts of stress.
  • None, water, displacement, flotation, etc. no effect – assuming the barge is floating and not being hauled along the bottom.
  • OK. So to float we displace 100 tons of water. Case 1: The water is displaced over miles of canal: Essentially no change. Case 2: The water sloshes over the edge of the canal. No short term change. Case 3: The water stays in the valley part of the canal (say if there are lock and such) I suppose it goes up approximately equally on each pillar. Oh forget it, if your goal was to get people worldwide to support rail subsidies you’ve got my vote.
  • omigod, the stress? you wanna know about the stress? lemme tell you, it’s the same every damn minute of every damn day, barges or not!
  • over the canal? so it is flying? through the air? or is it floating in the water of the canal? I could go on but Ive got NOTHING to say zip zero Im totally unstressed about this answer blissed out cool…as is pillar for I am a pillar too
  • Say the barge weighs 100 tons as well, then with the coal that’s 200 tons. So the barge displaces 200 tons of water to float. Assuming the canal is treated as an open system and isn’t limited to just the aqueduct. Then then the stress in the pillars won’t change because of the barge. But if a strong wind started blowing at the same time or a bomb went off or, well you get the idea.
  • Since the barge is displacing its own weight in water, the physical stress should not change. The psychological stress must be fierce, though.
  • Status quo. Weight of barge is distributed by the water in the canal over all columns
  • The Aqueduct carries no extra weight, because the vessel displaces its own weight of water. The water level rises minutely in the presence of a vessel, but the volume of the canal is so much larger than that of the vessel that the rise in level is very small. It has in fact already occurred as soon as the vessel has passed through the last lock and entered the stretch of water that includes the aqueduct. No new rise happens at the aqueduct.
  • The barge would displace 100 tons of water along the length of the river and out to sea, and therefore there will be no change in stress. There would be an effect if the canal were blocked at each end – but that would be silly, and usually construction contractors catch that sort of design blunder before it happens. And any design that looks too hard for them, for that matter. (Ever wondered why the Museum of Australia logo curve is made of straight sections rather than being an architecturally beautiful smooth curve? Contractor revolt).
  • The gas passed by the coal barge puts an enormous strain on the pillar.
  • The pillars behave like a set of springs, compressing (and expanding laterally), then expanding (and shrinking). This means that the pillars must be made of separate components, since a solid pillar would split and crack.
  • The pillars don’t stress at all. They’re chill and down with being a support act. They have no pretensions to be anything else.
  • The stress reduces. The weight of the water displaced by the barge is greater than the weight of the barge, otherwise the barge would sink.
  • There is no change, thus the beauty of a giant aqueduct.
  • Um, I never studied engineering formally, but I’ve seen as many sword and sandal epics as the next couch potato, and aren’t these things usually built on arch structures of some description? Isn’t the whole idea that any load in the water is distributed across the whole thing so that the structural stresses don’t change much; the barge will just squish the mass of the water it displaces along the rest of the canal, and the pillars look up and say, “Yeah, right, it’s just a barge, big woop” and maybe pop another valium? You don’t last long in the job if you’re the sort of pillar that can’t cope with these day to day stresses – really fractious ones go off to be employed in an ornamental capacity.
  • Um, my unvast knowledge of these things makes me guess there is no stress as the barge is buoyant and floating.
  • Unless the barge hits the side of the aqueduct (which they are prone to do) it won’t change except for the weight of the bow wave.

Question 2

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?


Cut his throat with a razor blade. I read about this cancelled BBC program in “Private Eye” (British satirical magazine), and it has been wasting a couple of dozen neurones of my brain’s memory bank ever since. I have a memory like that of an elephant. Sad isnt it

Equally Valid Statements:

  • ARRARAGAGAAHH no no no not sing anything but dont let him sing aarararahhh
  • Bare his backside.
  • Beats me.
  • Berate the audience for wasting its time watching TV when they might have been reading his books.
  • Blink.
  • Break into song – but which was worse?
  • Commit Suicide
  • Continue to stare silently and do nothing; he was auditioning for an Andy Warhol film.
  • Continue to stare silently, and then did something.
  • Cry
  • Detonate spontaneously.
  • Fake his death.
  • Fart uncontrollably while reciting the national anthem backwards.
  • Fart.
  • Fart?
  • Go to a funeral
  • He performed “Dress Rehearsal Rag ” which was a song so miserable that people would throw themselves out of windows, even the Czech composer. It was only performed on this one occasion. What a miserable bugger he was.
  • He proposed to spontaneously combust. However he failed in this endeavour because having planned it, the combustion failed to be spontaneous.
  • He proposed to stare silently at the screen and subsequent to his proposal had his face slapped vigorously by BBC executives.
  • His imitation of Philip Glass in Iceland.
  • How do you know he was miserable. (was he icelandic). I quite liked McCabe and Mrs Miller anyway. [Seriously I often think of the opening sequence with the mud and rain, when I’m down – things could always be worse. “Cheer up” said a voice from the gloom “things could be worse” so I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse]
  • Hummed a few bars of “I’m Your Man” then made off with one of the backup do-won-won-won girls from “Tower of Song”.
  • I almost gave up on this one, Dr Bob, and was going to respond with a very witty, erudite “Fart” [as have many others], but then I decided to do one last search with a different set of words. I still couldn’t find anything, but have changed my mind and decided on “fall asleep”
  • I’m not sure. But, when you compare it to shows like “Are You Being Served?” it sounds pretty good.
  • Jump up, start tap-dancing and sing “I’m a Yankee doodle dandy” while shooting off two guns.
  • Kill himself. (Pity he wasn’t taken up on the offer.)
  • Knowing Leonard (Laughing Lennie to his mates) as I do, he would have donned his red nose, oversize shoes and purple wig and burst into the first 300 verses of “The good ship Venus”.
  • Leave without singing. At least that’s what I would have insisted on.
  • Let a silent fart, then silently walk away, leaving the host to sit amongst the stench.
  • Masturbate. He WAS miserable.
  • Not sing ever again. We can only hope.
  • Perhaps sing “Stare it cold” or some other strange song linked to the performance.
  • Play hands. This has led me to think up such a series of un-child-friendly comments on the post-aesthetic sensibilities of Mr Cohen that I cannot focus my mind sufficiently to give a suitably sardonic answer.
  • Probably same as I do after staring at the screen for 30 minutes – mouth the words to “Good ship Lollipop!” What did you do to Leonard to make him miserable? Why didn’t you cheer him up? If his poems were that miserable, why didn’t he take up the accordion, instead?
  • Rap with the audience to the theme “There’s no Reason to Remember me” – perhaps he was correct.
  • Scream. Or cry. Or kill himself. (Hey, he’s a poet after all!)
  • Shout Dr. Bob rules?
  • Smile? [now, that would be scary]
  • Tell viewers where to buy tickets to the full length feature film version coming soon to a cinema near you.
  • The chicken dance.
  • Then promptly shat in his pants…
  • Walk out. Anybody who has watched any 60’s BBC TV would do the same. Look for it soon on ‘your ABC’ (non-Aussies probably won’t get that)
  • What do you mean miserable? Sombre, realistic, romantic, not miserable. He lived on Hydra for a long time, not Iceland, he is entitled to have a reflective view of life. Do you mean he was to watch himself on the screen or simply to stare silently into the camera? I think he was going to sing, or recite, “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong” which was included as the last number in a concert he recorded for the Beeb, but which for reasons I cannot fathom (“tortured the dress” “the wind took your clothes”) they then cut out. Did you know Leonard Cohen is nearly 70? I suddenly feel very old.
  • Who cares? What screen? Why would he stare at a screen when he was presumably on it? Why not stare at the camera instead?

Question 3

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

Everyone Got This:

  • Some inconsiderate wannabe pianist with a higher public profile died at almost exactly the same time, and hogged all the mourners and flowers. That’s the thing about politicians, isn’t it, they’re so inconsiderate and basically selfish, it’s always “Me me me, look at me everyone, look at me”, even dead they want to be the centre of attention.
  • He died on the same day as Stalin, and everyone was too busy celebrating (Stalin’s death, not his. And they say his *music* is characterised by irony…)
  • 5/3/53 … he died the same day as Stalin, that other famous russian de-composer
  • At last, one I can answer without having to look up! Poor old Serge died (but buried? you must have more up to date information than me Dr Bob) on the same day as his best buddy, your friend and mine, Joe, “The Piano Player” Dzodzuashvili, the other man of steel, Stalin. Poor lad spent half his life trying to avoid the bullet in the back of the head courtesy of the mad Georgian, but not even death could keep them apart. By the way, Prokofiev did not live in Iceland, unlike his compatriot Vladimir Ashkenazy who married an Icelandic girl and lived there for some years, lucky man.
  • Because by the time he died all his albums were drug induced experimental nightmares and people refused to bid their farewell after he screwed up and said he was Bigger than Lenin. To add to this he had a son named Oleg which weired out even the most devout Prokofievites. I suppose it also had something to do with the fact that he died within and hour or so of Stalin himself and everyone was being held mourning at gunpoint.
  • Because it was on a road called Quay (which confused half) and in Iceland (which made it inaccesible to the rest).
  • Because Stalin died the same day and everyone was in mourning for the worst mass murderer who ever lived, just in case. Besides Prokoviev was under suspicion by the Stalinists, and therefore it was not politically correct to attend.
  • Because there were rumours he would awaken as a vampire. He actually reawoke as a werewolf, much to the dismay of those who attended, who about half of lost money in bets.
  • Because they were all mourning Stalin who died on the same day. There were no flowers either, Stalin had snaffled them as well.
  • Dear Koba had, alas, stolen his thunder and was embalmed to lie beside Comrade Vlad. Prokofiev, on the other hand, was not embalmed, and is now recognised as a great decomposer. Like Leonard Cohen.
  • He died on 5 March 1953, as did Stalin. Prokofiev’s funeral took place while Stalin was still lying in state (or, some say, during Stalin’s funeral) and the crowds made it impossible for many to get to Prokofiev’s funeral.
  • He died within 50 mins of Stalin, so he was forgotten, until about three weeks later.
  • He’d bored most of his contemporaries to death.
  • His friends were known procrastinators. On the day of his funeral they were all … Stalin. [Crack that one in the USSR and you’d have snow for breakfast]
  • I guess they thought it was better for their health to turn up to big Joe’s funeral
  • Leonard Cohen was down to read the panegyrics. [He’s down all the time]
  • Most people could not afford the admission charge even though it included two drinks.
  • Nobody had heard of him yet.
  • Nobody likes a de-composer
  • People went to Josef’s funeral instead. They wanted to make sure the old butcher was dead.
  • Poor Prokofiev was outed in 1948 for ‘formalism’, a hideous crime in Stalin’s Soviet Union, for which he was forced to publicly confess. His mates were probably too terrified to turn up at the funeral when Sergey carked it five years later.
  • Possibly because the people didn’t like his music but more likely because they thought it more prudent to mourn Stalin.
  • Prokofiev didn’t invite anyone, on account of being compulsorily dead
  • Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin. I guess everyone was getting really legless on vodka.
  • Some upstart named Stalin decided to die on the same day. Just because Stalin had a few friends in high places, people were offered an incentive (staying alive) to attend Stalin’s funeral in stead. Prokofiev failed to attend Stalin’s funeral and look what happened to him! He’s dead now!
  • Stalin died the same day. There was a rigorous “only mourn over mass murderers” law at the time.
  • Stalin had killed most Russians over the past few years. If only Prokofiev had lived slightly longer he might have seen the country repopulated as Stalin died the same day.
  • Stalin wouldn’t allow. (If I can’t go nobody can!)
  • Stalin, who died the same day, apparently had more fans.
  • Stalin’s funeral stole his thunder. People were too happy to mourn.
  • The Russians were too busy standing in line to get a loaf of stale bread.
  • They had better things to do (or else).
  • They knew a miserable poet was coming
  • The invitations were lost in the mail. I just got mine last week. See you there?
  • Anti-kofoviev was the rage that year.

Question 3

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

Everybody Got This One Too:

  • Have you seen those novelty cans where the snakes shoot out when you open them. OK now imagine that with fish. Real fish. Rotten fish. . .
  • It’s best to open them while orbiting the planet. Or preferably, another planet.
  • Because it’s fermented herring, the build up of pressure in the can can (sorry!) cause the can to misshape. It apparently smells vile! [and not just apparently, I can assure you it really smells vile]
  • Being totally recyclable in Scandinavia, they are made of ice.
  • Due to fermentation inside the can, it starts to swell or bloat
  • Erk, it’s fermented herring, so presumably a tin distorted by internal buildup of gas is a sign of a good batch, whereas a gassy tin usually indicates that preserved food has gone off and should be discarded. Yuk! That’s revolting! Eating chemically tortured fish, icky icky icky! (if anyone wants me, I’ll be over here eating my lutefisk…. )
  • Every fiftieth can has a picture of Leonard Cohen spontaneously combusting.
  • For northern Scandinavia read Sweden. Other Scandinavians possess olfactory capabilities. Surströmming cans are misshapen due to internal pressure. They are best opened under water. Actually, do not attempt to open them yourself. If someone attempts the feat, vacate the building.
  • I am becoming increasingly worried about your taste, Dr Bob. I hope you do not consider this an epicurean delight. This delicacy does not throw you into a sybaritic frenzy. [Er, um, I, well <shuffles feet> I, um, my wife runs a company that sells the stuff. Imagine my joy] It is surely not popular in Iceland whose charming and cultured people are far too sophisticated for this. Surstromming, or sour Baltic herring is Baltic herring that has been matured in barrels and brine at 20 degrees C for up to 12 months before being canned. What is unusual about the cans is that they are bulging from the gas build up, or from the Baltic herrings trying to escape the smell, and sometimes even explode. That should make parties in Lapland go with a bang. This orgasmic gourmet experience is known to but a few. Pity.
  • I am bursting to answer this one, but I think there is something fishy about this question!
  • It is the skull and crossbones logo and the huge “Eat at Your Own Risk!” warning on the label. Double Jeopardy would be eating Surstromming with Kim Chee [Hey now that’s an idea]
  • My grandma, being full Swede…and my grandpa, being full Norwegian actually consumed a variety of stinky, disgusting fish products and this was canned fish that was so foul that the can would puff out and nearly explode as the sour herring became Highly Prized and ready for consumption. UGH.
  • No matter what you do you can’t get anybody to buy canned fermenting herrings. [My wife would confirm this]
  • Nothing. Unless you consider it unusual to have tins bulge and explode if you leave them too long (talk about the importance of checking the use by dates on foodstuffs!!) [Yes the tin says something like “Must be opened under any circumstances before Dec 31 of the year it is canned”]
  • That they contain surstromming. Those are the only cans of it that do, so this is very unusual.
  • That’s one swell can of fish. I mean, uh… a “swollen” can of fish…
  • The 5 gallon cans are so prized because they are so very useful. They are used as footstools, with a decorative yak skin topper. With a little gorilla glue and some casters, they make a fine rollabout for various kitchen applications. Because the can is metal, it’s a great place to store refrigerator magnets. The small poetry kits available in shops around the world were actually invented in northern Scandinavia during a particularly cold winter when locals were having a contest to come up with new uses for these fine Surstromming cans. You are held in high esteem for finding even more unique and useful ways to incorporate them into your home. [Hmmm. maybe in the bedroom]
  • The cans are manufactured from an alloy of uranium and plutonium which, when the can is opened and the contents are exposed to air, generates sufficient heat to thaw the stuff so the starving Swedes can swiftly swallow their succulent surstromming (which would otherwise be frozen solid, just like everything else in northern Scandinavia including the brains of those foolish enough to live there).
  • The cans are puffy (it’s funnier than bloated) due to the fermenting herring inside.
  • The cans are swollen due to the buildup of gases from fermenting herring. They have to be opened outside, the stench is amazing. [Well you can open them inside as well. But not if my wife sees you doing it first]
  • The cans are usually inflated like a balloon, and on occasion, a badly treated can can explode spontaneously.
  • The cans look like the stomach of someone who has eaten it – swollen.
  • The cans look very exciting – red and yellow, disguising the horrible smelly contents inside. Other than that, the cans swell as the fish (herring) inside ferments, releasing gas. Apparently a can can be left at 68 degrees F for 1 year to improve the taste of the herrings. I found a story about a guy who brought a can from Sweden to New York and when he went to impress his friends with it, it exploded when he put it down on the table.
  • The cans pass the gas before you eat the food. Unlike say canned chile where – well you get the idea.
  • The mere fact that anyone would bother canning it.
  • The name wraps around because it’s so long.
  • The Swedes are great fans of exploding food and have perfected the swollen can of rotting herring that explodes at meal times thus causing great delight among the family. It’s just one big barrel of laughs (or rotten herring) living in Sweden.
  • The swedish army uses them instead of handgrenades, the fermentation in the cans makes them potentially explosive [Biological weapons are forbidden by the Geneva Convention]
  • The weird bork bork writing all over them.
  • They are all stamped with the international bio hazard symbol and if they are not then they bloody well should be! they bulge and quiver ( much like me ooo errrr) in their middle.
  • They are fish shaped.
  • They are more blown than Hugh Grant.
  • They are spherical (if left long enough, and the can is strong enough) otherwise they just bulge around the sides, or explode.
  • They are vegemite-esque. As in yellow with a red diamond on displaying the nurtritious benefits of reddy-black gunk and it’s glorious hilarious name.
  • They bulge as a result of result of the herring decomposing in them. I think Prokofiev wrote a piece about the effects. It’s reputed by some to be the most repellent foodstuff in creation, but they obviously never went to boarding school.
  • They bulge as the contents ferment, produce gas and try to escape. Open carefully and preferably DOWNWIND or even better, in Scandinavia where we can’t smell the stuff.
  • They can blow up, and look like they’re about to. I wonder if fermenting herrings get you pissed. Maybe eating them will. [Yes. You drink schnapps or vodka with it. You more or less have to]
  • They inflate like a balloon. They can, if handled badly, also burst like a balloon (see picture question)
  • They’re swollen. Surströmming is raw herring that has been allowed to rot, the process happily continuing in the cans for several months leading to a build up of gas. Cans often explode especially, when being opened. Apparently cans should only be opened outside as the stench is unbelievable. I did find one site that suggested opening them underwater to contain the foul stench and juices. Refer for one man’s story. Do you mind, Dr Bob, I’m trying to eat lunch!!
  • Those funny bulges at the ends…..
  • Urk! fermenting herring. The cans bulge visibly because of the fermentation going on inside them. Open with care, or not at all if you want my opinion.
  • You have to turn the can completely around to read the whole name.
  • Yum, Yum! Just the thought of those bulging cans makes my mouth water! Believe me, Bob, there’s nothing better than rotten fish in a can! It’s even better than marmite and vegemite combined. But give me that childhood memory of sizzling blood sausage my mother used to fry on those cold wwinter [I see you shiver just typing about it] mornings when she wanted to drive us out of the house for a couple of days!

Question 5

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


Egypt ran on a 7-day week. Until then Rome had worked on an 8-day week. The soldiers liked the idea of getting a day off a bit more often, and as there were many of them, it did seem a rather a good idea so it was rationalised in AD321.

Equally Brilliant Egyptian Inventions:

  • The calendar. (or possibly “the colander” – but that would strain my credibility).
  • A pyramid.
  • A tricky one Dr Bob. Could be lots of things (aqueducts – complete with coal barges even. Didn’t Archimedes spend some time there). However I think it was TAXES. God bless the little Romans.
  • According to Google, cats, but I never thought they were that brilliant.
  • According to the first website I visited, it is audio books. Or perhaps the site was selling audio books. Speaking of books, my guess is that it was papyrus.
  • Baby roman soldiers.
  • Beer. And toast. What? You think making bread tastier and preserving it isn’t brilliant?
  • Better mirrors.
  • Books. The Pergamon Library used sheepskin Parchment, not papyrus. Parchment was harder to roll [especially if you forgot to take the sheep out first] so it was cut into squares and stitched at the spine. The Romans brought the invention back to Rome from Egypt after the library was gifted to Cleopatra in recompense for the accidental burning of the library in Alexandria.
  • Cleopatra’s Needle, which they used to mend their chainmail uniforms. Of course they modified it a bit, making it a tad smaller so all those Roman matrons could get to work.
  • Condoms made of sheep intestines.
  • Damn, I slept through the last hour of Antony and Cleopatra. Because of my innate boredom of Elizabeth Taylor films I am now judged to be inefficient on the trivia department. I remember the horse in National Velvet was called Pie though!
  • Dysentery. Oh you mean invention, sorry, but everybody does bring dysentery back from Egypt. Hashish. Palm trees. Mystery cults. Civilization. Those feelthy pictures everybody picked up at Suez on the way through the canal. It could have been something like glass. There is more sand in Egypt than anywhere else… I gave up trying to look up after the fifth site tried to convince me only Venusians had the technology to build the pyramids, when everybody knows it was the Atlanteans, plus some boozed British and Australian soldiers on the lam from El Alamein.
  • Eye makeup. [ooh, those soldiers. Squaaaad … Camp it … Up!]
  • Glass
  • Glass making. Although stealing the Sphinx’s nose and making a sundial out of it was considered a hoot as well.
  • GST
  • Hardly brilliant but the Egyptians did invent taxes. So could the Romans have decided “hey here’s a good way to screw people out of their money” and taken the idea home. The Egyptians also kept pet cats which the Romans took back with them. I’ll never forgive them for that.
  • heeled sandal well probably sandals Eartha Kitt had a great song about being chewing gum stuck to the heel he being some low life cad and bounder
  • Hmmm, couldn’t be Christianity because it wasn’t fully invented then and in any case is not brilliant. Ditto Islam. The magnetic compass, perhaps? The jock strap? The chariot?
  • Inventions . . .Inventions make me think of light bulbs going off in peoples heads . . . Light bulbs are made of glass . . .glasses help people see . . . Too bad I can’t see the answer.
  • Mangled-syntax-powered-quantum-teleportation that enabled them to be simultaneously stationed in Egypt while also bringing a brilliant invention back to Rome.
  • Mini pyramid paperweights.
  • Oh there is only one brilliant invention solders are interested in, beer. In fact barley beer in this case.
  • Ooohhhh. This is a hard one Dr Bob. What did the Egyptians have that the Romans hadn’t already got from the Greeks? It could be 1) Glass blowing 2) Candles 3) Toilet seats 4) Time travel machine – unfortunately the ship sank on the way home to Rome, and the secret was lost. 5) Asp anti-venom. No – I’ll settle on the toilet seat (so to speak).
  • Paper
  • Pornography!
  • Remote control for TV? no.. Fuzzy toilet seat covers? No.. that was the English. Asps in a basket? I’ll go with comic books. Just guessing,
  • Solar calendar?
  • Syphilis
  • TFT screens, completely ruining the burgeoning cathode ray tube production industry in Rome.
  • The best birthday present for the person who has everything (and is leaving it to you) – the ever popular “Basket-O-Snakes”! Order NOW! Supplies are limited, batteries not included. Some assembly required.
  • The Egyptians invented lots of things, the 24 hour clock, the level, papyrus, glass, potters wheel, lighthouse etc. They are all brilliant.
  • The Jewel of the Nile cocktail, but with chartreuse several hundred years in the future it was not a very good version.
  • The jewel-encrusted pyramid hat.
  • The pig-gut condom.
  • The sphincter. It gave the Romans control over their rearguard action.
  • The square wheel.
  • They learned how to blow glass. Without them I may not have been able to raise this toast to the Egyptians and Romans- well unless I bought canned instead of bottled beer last week at the grocery store.
  • Toaster Ovens.
  • Um….. Paper? Books? Decimal numerals and zero? Antisemitism? Cute little snow dome paper weight souvenirs with little pyramids in them? Rubik’s Cube? Mascara? Hey, I’ve got it – Elizabeth Taylor!
  • Toilet papyrus
  • Venereal Disease
  • Defeat

Question 6

<blue.jpg> What’s this?

  • Dr Bob’s ego, after he realised that he’d provided a picture question that even idiots like me could answer. (In fact even the six year old daughters of idiots like me could answer…)
  • Dr Bob’s egoLike a blue haiku balloonBurst with a pin prick
  • So sad, it’s hit 10 with “picture balloon popping” Searching on Google.(This is in Haiku. I know your CGI script drops carriage returns.)Parentheticalremark was a Haiku, too. Damn I am clever.
  • A balloon popping. Try to hide its neck better next time.
  • A balloon exploding – it ate too much. Bit like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, really.
  • A balloon in the act of bursting. Also a good metaphor for my ego when I realised how badly wrong I got question 1
  • A balloon that will make a toddler cry.
  • A balloon which has been cut in half.
  • A clam shell, spray-painted “sky-blue”
  • A curved blue thing with jagged edges.
  • A dinner plate after a meal of surstömming.
  • A frisbee that has been rescued from a tree where it lay for a long time, melting in the summer heat. Duh!
  • A horse saliva collector, found at racetracks for drug testing purposes, or a temporary tortoise repair kit, or something nasty.
  • A low profile chamberpot.
  • A new way of culturing artificial pearls
  • A self-opening plastic pack of surstromming. That or a ballon held to close to an open tin of the stuff. In either case, it has clearly caused Stalin’s last breath to escape from it. Leonard Cohen used the effect in a piece called ‘Drinking Gin in the Coalshed on a Wet Thursday Under the Aqueduct.’
  • A sure fire recipe for a moment of amusement followed by a screaming child.
  • A thin membrane of blue plastic that used to contain air under pressure.
  • A toilet bowl that blew apart from lethal human gas.
  • A very large oyster.
  • An imprint of the tongue of a killer whale.
  • Broken
  • Deflationary economics
  • Fold away plastic strapless bra for Pamela Anderson.
  • I know. It’s a mans hand trying to snatch a mis-shapen blue thingy. Check out the shirt!!!
  • I’m goin’ back someday / Come what may, to / Blue Balloon…
  • Incontinence rubber paraphernalia
  • It is a little known device invented by the Koreans for use by persons travelling in the commuter crush. They have it inserted in their trousers and it allows then to relieve themselves without having to go to the inconveniently crowded toilets. Or it could be some sort of food storage device.
  • It’s the shadow of the hand of God slicing through a light blue balloon.
  • Liberal party 2004 election ballooon bursting? I hope I hope
  • Looks like an inflated toy balloon that burst after exposure to liquid nitrogen. Either that or it’s an incontinence pad for a boy elephant.
  • Looks like the Queen’s royal ass bumper to prevent bruising when she bumps into pianos, parking-meters and so forth. Mine is pink. [ooo how cute – another queen?]
  • Looks suspiciously like one of those plastic plates I’m not allowed to put in the dishwasher.
  • Melted frisbee after being stuck in tree.
  • Oh, come on, that’s obvious. It’s a balloon, caught just after it was popped right at the top. And most people will have perception fast enough to actually know that.
  • One melmac platter placed on the train tracks and retrieved after the train ran over it.
  • One of the “don’ts” on the condom instructions?
  • Slo-Mo balloon popping photography – brilliant!
  • That was my ballloonnn you bastard! you burst it!! waaaaa
  • The gaudily-tinted hipbone of a rare marine animal.
  • The jaw of the Greater Icelandic leopard shark, now extinct. It has been painted blue just to make it more difficult [and I imagine that few things are more difficult than painting a shark’s jaw blue]. Or a frisbee someone has put in a microwave. It might also be Dr Bob in his nice, striped, High Table shirt holding an object. Do we really need to identify the object, or simply the person holding it?
  • The results of taking too many little blue pills.
  • These are plastic hip joints for a very large person.
  • Well, it’s obviously a balloon being burst. Nice photo too. It looks however like a really pissed off cartoon clam having his pony tail yanked.
  • What was it, more like.


  • As today is Iceland National Day, and knowing your love of all things Icelandic, do I win? [Very nearly. I had no idea it was Icelandic National Day. Imagine my shame … I immediately took off the music I was playing and am now belting out “Flugufrelsarinn” by Sigur Ros … Hamagangur, ég þusti niður að læknum, bjargvættur … you can probably hear it over there in Modbury North]
  • A bit of a mixture this month Dr Bob
  • A lunatic seduced two charladies for their keys and so escaped. The next day’s headline read NUT SCREWS WASHERS AND BOLTS!
  • According to Derrida, there is no “outside-of-text”. What’s it like in there, Dr.Bob?
  • After these last two months I think I’m getting physick.
  • Could have done this faster, but I decided to emulate Leonard Cohen to put myself into the correct frame of mind to answer question 2. It didn’t help.
  • Didn’t feel humorous today. Also only managed one Iceland mention so, ho hum, can’t expect much of a result. They are the two most important winner qualities aren’t they?? [Well sort of, after money, sex, music, food, and cryptography]
  • G’day Bob. Good to see a scandinavian question in there. Also glad to Stalin making a reappearance if only in a support role.
  • Good luck in your evaluation.
  • Good news from my workplace, Dr. Bob! The school president, Jesus Junior, resigned (at gunpoint). The bad news is that now nobody seems to be in charge other than some trustees, one of whom was crying at a meeting because he thinks the school is so wonderful.
  • Have a jubilant June!
  • Heading is still May – glad to know that you are not quite perfect!
  • Hello Bob. This has been Enjay in Japan. [Oh I’m sorry to hear that. Or are you still with us?]
  • Hey, it took me less than an hour to produce these answers! They may not be right, but they’re quick! (I bet it took you longer to write the questions, and come to that, to read all the answers!) [Oh yes … yes indeed]
  • How many millions of others got your picture question right this time? Not exactly a challenge. Fine timing with the shutter though. [Yes I had to inflate and burst many balloons before I got this right]
  • I’d love to displace some of my Gilligan’s Island trivia with… oh, I dunno, my Mom’s birthday, maybe my blood type… something I might NEED to know.
  • I do not know how observant you normally are, Dr Bob, but there has been some pretty serious grovelling this month. Will it do me any good? he asked, expecting the answer no. It goes without saying, however, that I would prefer to win on my considerable merits than get every answer wrong as usual and still win by appealing to your good nature, if you have one. It seemed a tad easier this month. 4 out of 5, ignoring the picture question which I do anyway. Well 3.5 out of 6. All right 2 and a quarter, a guess and a wild guess, fair enough. I think you are softening us all up for a major Icelandic hit soon. Bring it on!
  • I like clams.
  • I prefer pictures of women in the shower to odd appliances or singing mathematicians. Cheers. [Well I do my best, Q6 is really a boob support for use by well-endowed women in the shower … no really …]
  • I’d always thought a homeopath was a nutter who hated gays. Now I realise I was worried about nothing at all.
  • If I pass the quiz, do I get a gold star?
  • I’m baaaack!!! Been a while but I assure you it wasn’t me making good on my threat to leave if no pictures of naked men where introduced to counterbalance the Russian soft porn stars. It was merely because some bastard made off with my computer. The prick left his Lenny Cohen CD’s though.
  • It is my first time and I feel so ashamed.
  • Me fail Dr. Bob’s quiz? That’s unpossible! [that sounds very like Newspeak. Double-plus ungood verging crimethink possibility unpersonal vaporisation]
  • My cat’s breath smells like catfood.
  • Please don’t be too hard on Mr Cohen. Writing poems is a difficult and usually thankless task. Lying on the couch thinking up new poems is hard work, despite what my wife says. She calls me a lazy lout and hardly ever brings me another beer. The road of the artist is strewn with nails and broken glass!
  • sorry for brevity recovering from shoulder surgery [Oh don’t worry Keith. Plenty of people write much MUCH more stuff anyway]
  • Surprising how quickly you can do one of these quizzes.
  • That was an easy one Doctor Bob, I think. But now I have to wait a whole month to find out.
  • The fraternity council was trying to plan an event where racers rode tricycles around a circular track. To keep the event interesting after each lap the racers would drink some beer based on how far they rode. The challenge was to make the race long enough and the drinking heavy enough for some fun without making it dangerous. After some debate they brought in a mathematician to help them solve the problem. The mathematician listened then said it didn’t matter how long the race was only 1 quart of beer would be drank. How is that possible asked the brothers? Simple says the mathematician. Let n be the radius of the track in yards. Let s be the number of ounces drank per yard. Suppose you ride the tricycle t times around the course. Then the amount of beer you drink is 2pints.
  • The Troy movie seems atheistic; the gods and their temples are defamed, yet the gods do nothing, they make no appearance at all in the movie.
  • There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works. (Alan J. Perlis, Yale, September 1980)
  • There’s always one completely wrong. I did correctly guess that answer about the last tree left in Stalingrad though….
  • Wasn’t $500K enough!! Do you want more??
  • Well, done, Dr. Bob!
  • Why did the fly fall off the wall? Because it had a piano tied to its leg.
  • You should at least implement a take back system, just in case someone realises he’s fouled up on a question and wishes to recant. Or is that too Catholic?
  • Where do you find all this obscure stuff?? [I wish I knew. The problem is not so much with finding it, as with how to lose it again]