Question of the Month

Here is how it works:
Read the question and try to answer it (duh!). The answer appears immediately below the question, but in the same color as the background so you'll have to use your mouse and highlight the area below the question to view the answer.

August 2009
In which country is the largest pyramid (by volume) in the world located?

Answer: Mexico! The Great Pyramid of Cholula in Puebla, Mexico is still under excavation but is estimated to have a volume almost twice the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
July 2009
Which major league baseball stadium is the oldest?

Answer: Fenway Park in Boston opened in 1912 (Wrigley Field opened in 1914)
June 2009
What name did George Eastman invent in 1888 because it was easy to memorize, pronounce, and spell?

Answer: Kodak
May 2009
What city is the capital of Australia?

Answer: Canberra
April 2009
Which of the following are correct definitions for the word anathema?

A) An unsolved mystery
B) To be formally set apart
C) An uprising of the general population
D) Banished, exiled, or excommunicated
E) Something lifted up as an offering to the gods
F) A recursive programming technique
G) Denouced, sometimes accursed

Answer: B,D,E & G
March 2009
What new weapon was introduced by the British in the Battle of the Somme, during World War I?

Answer: The tank
February 2009
What U.S. President gave the White House its current name?

Answer: Theodore Roosevelt (in 1901)
January 2009
What team was originally named the New York Titans?

Answer: New York Jets
December 2008
"Planck Time" is often dealt with in quantum physics. It is defined as 10-43 seconds which is an extremely short period of time. What is another name for this unit of time?

Answer: Also known as one "jiffy"
November 2008
Who was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms?

Answer: Stephen Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)
October 2008
By word count, what are the longest and shortest books of the Bible?

Answer: Longest - Psalm, Shortest - 3 John
September 2008
What is the longest running sitcom in television history?

Answer: The Simpsons
August 2008
When speaking of Johann Sebastian Bach's music, words like "diapason" "eight foot" "overtones" and "difference tones" sometimes come up. What are these terms referring to?

Answer: One of Bach's favorite musical instruments - the organ
July 2008
Widely regarded as the greatest mathematician of all time, this person was born to poor working-class parents in late 18th century Germany. He was doing calculations in his head at age three, attended university at 15, and began making significant and original contributions by age 20. He was no ivory tower figure, however. Besides mathematics, he also made significant contributions in statistics, astronomy, optics and geodesy. College physics students probably best know him by his work with magnetic fields. He also developed the familiar bell curve used the world over in statistics. Who was this person?

Answer: Carl Friedrich Gauss
June 2008
How many triangles is the tetrahedron composed of?

Answer: Four
May 2008
The NATO phonetic alphabet is often heard on police scanners - when getting the spelling of certain words correct is of paramount importance. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned its own code word (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc.). What are the code words for G, O, and U?

Answer: Golf, Oscar, Uniform
April 2008
What is the name for a type of government in which a cabal or group of persons united in thier beliefs rule?

Answer: Oligarchy
March 2008
The next day, you discover a different oil lamp (see last month's puzzle). Again, out pops a genie who will answer any yes/no question for you. Luckily, the genie talks in English. Unluckily, the genie reveils that he is either a True genie or a False genie, but he won't say which one. A True genie always answers questions truthfully. A False genie always answers questions untruthfully (e.g. 'yes' when the answer is no). Suppose you want to know if the Cowboys will win the Superbowl. What one yes/no question could you ask the genie and from the answer figure out if the Cowboys will go all the way this year?

Answer: Ask the genie "Are you a True genie if and only if the Cowboys win the Superbowl?" There are four possibilities to this question: 1) He is a True genie and the Cowboys win - yes 2) The genie is True and the Cowboys don't win - no 3) The genie is False and the Cowboys win - yes 4) The genie is False and the Cowboys don't win - no. Whenever the Cowboys win, the genie answers 'yes'. Whenever they don't win, he answers 'no', regardless if he is a True of False genie.
February 2008
One day, while doing some spring cleaning, you discover an old oil lamp. When you begin polishing it, out pops a genie, who does not offer you three wishes, but a chance to have any yes/no question truthfully answered. The catch is that the genie only answers yes/no questions with 'da' or 'ja'. He will not tell you which means 'yes' and which means 'no' and you can only ask him one question (he will always answer truthfully though). Suppose you want to know if the Yankees win the 2008 World Series. What one yes/no question could you ask the genie to get an answer to your question and know what the answer means (yes or no)?

Answer: Ask the genie "Does 'da' mean yes if and only if the Yankees win the 2008 World Series?" There are four possibilities to this question: 1) 'da' means yes and the answer to your question is yes 2) 'da' means yes and the answer to your question is no 3) 'da' means no and the answer to your question is yes 4) 'da' means no and the answer to your question is no. Now think about what the genie would say in each case. If the answer to your question yes, then the genie always answers 'da' no matter what 'da' and 'ja' mean. Conversely, the genie will always answer 'ja' if the answer to your question is no.
January 2008
Suppose I place two aces and a jack face down on a table, in a row. You do not see which card is placed where. Your goal is to point to one of the three cards, ask me a single yes/no question, and from the answer, identify one of the three cards as an ace. One other thing to note - if you point to an ace, I will answer your question truthfully. However, if you point to the jack, I will answer your question completely at random (yes or no). What question should you ask?

Answer: Point to the middle card and ask, "Is the left card an ace?" If I answer yes, choose the left card; if I answer no, choose the right card.
December 2007
Which Gospel(s) speak of the events surrounding Christ's birth?

Answer: Matthew and Luke
November 2007
If a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the straight lines, if produced indefinitely, will meet on the side on which the angles are less than the two right angles.

What is the above convoluted sentence trying to say and who said it?

Answer: It is a definition for parallel lines and is one of Euclid's postulates for geometry.
October 2007
Most of the earth's atmosphere is contained within a few tens of miles above the ground. However, there is no definite boundry and wisps of air extend even out to where the space shuttle orbits. There are six major divisions of the atmosphere. What are those divisions?

Answer: In order of increasing height above sea level: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Ionosphere, and Exosphere.
September 2007
Two standard decks of playing cards are shuffled together and then split into two equal piles of 52 cards each. What are the chances that the number of black cards in one of these piles equals the number of red cards in the other pile?

Answer: 100%
August 2007
The following chemicals are (or were) used extensively and have a common name familiar to the public. Can you figure out what that common name is?

1) Acetylsalicylic acid
2) 2,4,6-Trinitromethylbenzene
3) Sodium bicarbonate
4) Lysergic acid diethylamide
5) Magnesium silicate
6) Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
7) Deoxyribonucleic acid
8) Ascorbic acid

1) Aspirin
2) TNT (explosive)
3) Baking soda
4) LSD (hallucinogen)
5) Asbestos
6) DDT (insecticide)
7) DNA
8) Vitamin C
July 2007
How many planets in our solar system have rings?

Answer: 4 - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune
June 2007
How much soil is there in a hole measuring five feet square and three feet deep?

Answer: None
May 2007
What is the name of the largest number commonly referred to in speech and print?

Answer: Googolplex - a one followed by a googol zeroes (a googol is of course a one followed by one hundred zeros).
April 2007
Who said "Man is the measure of all things"?

Answer: Socrates
March 2007
There are six Noble Gases - elements that are extremely stable and inert. What are they?

Answer: Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Radon
February 2007
Of the planets in our solar system, which one has the highest surface temperature?

Answer: Venus - Even though Mercury is closer to the sun, Venus's dense atmosphere of 90% carbon dioxide traps solar heat and keeps the surface at close to 900 °F (global warming with a vengeance!)
January 2007
Again, suppose there is a lottery (see last month's question), but this one only has 3 'scratch-off-the-dot' tickets. You buy one ticket. Unfortunatly, no one else buys the other two tickets. Just before you scratch your ticket to see if you've won, an official running the lottery takes the two remaining tickets, discards one that he knows is a loser and offers you a trade for the remaining one - he'll give you his ticket and you give him yours. Should you take him up on his offer?

Answer: Yes - if you trade tickets, the chance of your ticket being the winner jumps from 1/3 to 2/3
December 2006
Suppose there is a lottery with 10,000 'scratch-off-the-dot' tickets. The prize is 1 million dollars. Ten thousand people buy the tickets, including you. 9,998 scratch off the dots on their tickets and find the message YOU LOSE. The remaining person offers to trade tickets with you. Should you take them up on their offer?

Answer: No - the chance of either ticket being the winner is equal
November 2006
How many laws of thermodynamics are there?

Answer: 4 - The Zeroth, First, Second, and Third
October 2006
Which US President was the first to ride in an automobile, airplane, and submarine while in office (though not at the same time)?

Answer: Theodore Roosevelt
September 2006
Common sense rules about mathematics often break down when dealing with infinity. For example: infinity + infinity = infinity and infinity x infinity = infinity. At first glance, it seems that doing anything to infinity still leaves you with infinity. But what about the set of all integers (1 2 3 4 ...) and the set of all irrationals (numbers such as Pi that have an unending decimal expansion that never repeats)? Both of these sets are infinite, but are they the same infinity?

Answer: No - the infinity of the irrationals is greater than the infinity of the integers. The proof for this (found in 1874 by Georg Cantor) is extremely interesting and quite easy to follow.
August 2006
Which symphony did Beethoven originally dedicate to Napoleon Bonaparte, but later retract when Bonaparte proclaimed himself emperor?

Answer: His third symphony - "Eroica"
July 2006
In the Dewey Decimal book classification scheme, human knowledge is divided into ten categories. What are those categories?

Answer: General works / Philosophy / Religion / Social sciences / Language / Pure science / Technology / Arts / Literature / Geography, History
June 2006
What is the state fish of Texas?

Answer: The Guadalupe bass
May 2006
Only a handful of persons have won more than one Nobel Prize. Only one person in history has received both Prizes in the natural sciences. Who was that person? (Hint: Prizes awarded in physics and chemistry)

Answer: Marie Curie
April 2006
What is the difference between poaching and boiling?

Answer: Poaching means to cook completely submerged in a barely simmering (not quite boiling) liquid. Most meats need to be poached so they don't become tough. Pasta is almost always boiled.
March 2006
A farmer knows that 20 of his hens, housed in 3 coops, will hatch 30 eggs in 18 days. How long will it take 30 hens, housed in 4 coops to hatch the same number of eggs?

Answer: It will still take 18 days - you can't shorten the process of egg-hatching by increasing the number of chickens.
February 2006
In golf, what is the nomenclature for 3 under par (-3)?

Answer: Albatross or Double Eagle
January 2006
Who were Jesus' apostles as recorded in the Bible?

Answer: Simon (Peter) / Andrew / James / John / Philip / Bartholomew / Thomas (Didymus) / Matthew / James / Thaddaeus / Simon the Zealot / Judas Iscariot / Matthias
December 2005
A group of friends went into an inn to have a meal. The bill amounted to twenty-four coins of equal value, which the men agreed to split equally. But then they discovered that two of the men had slipped away without paying their shares, and so each of the remaining men had to pay one coin more. How many men were originally in the group?

Answer: Eight men
November 2005
As most people know, gold is an extremely dense element. Typical gold bars, such as those shown in the movies, weigh about 30 pounds apiece. Only 3 other elements are more dense than gold - can you name at least one of these?

Answer: In order of increasing density - platinum, iridium, and osmium
October 2005
What great early American writer created the fictional Dutch historian Diedrich Knickerbocker to narrate some of his writings?

Answer: Washington Irving - author of such tales as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle
September 2005
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock was Sheriff of Ellis County and Marshall of Abilene, Kansas and holder of the most famous hand in poker. When he was shot dead by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876, what cards was Wild Bill holding?

Answer: Two black aces and two black eights - ever after known as Deadman's Hand
August 2005
List the following famous composers in chronological order, 1 through 20, from oldest to youngest based on their birth date. If that sounds really difficult (and it is!) try at least getting the composers highlighted in yellow in the correct order relative to each other:

Johannes Brahms
Aaron Copland
John Cage
Martin Luther
Antonio Vivaldi
George Frederic Handel
Philip Glass
Igor Stravinsky
Alessandro Scarlatti
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
George Gershwin
Franz Liszt
Johann Sebastian Bach
Joseph Haydn
Claude Debussy
John Philip Sousa
Frédéric Chopin
Robert Schumann
Johann Strauss II
Ludwig van Beethoven

1) Martin Luther (1483)
2) Alessandro Scarlatti (1660)
3) Antonio Vivaldi (1678)
4) George Frederic Handel (1685, Feb. 23rd)
5) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685, Mar. 21st)
6) Joseph Haydn (1732)
7) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756)
8) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770)
9) Frédéric Chopin (1810, Mar. 1st)
10)Robert Schumann (1810, June 8th)
11)Franz Liszt (1811)
12)Johann Strauss II (1825)
13)Johannes Brahms (1833)
14)John Philip Sousa (1854)
15)Claude Debussy (1862)
16)Igor Stravinsky (1882)
17)George Gershwin (1898)
18)Aaron Copland (1900)
19)John Cage (1912)
20)Philip Glass (1937)
July 2005
NC State decides to go for a two-point conversion against Wake Forest. The NC State quarterback throws a pass that is intercepted and run back all the way to their end zone. How does the official rule?

Answer: Two points for Wake Forest. In college football, the defensive team is awarded two points if it returns a fumble or interception on a two-point conversion attempt. In pro football, the defensive team cannot score on a failed conversion attempt.
June 2005
What are the ten commandments?

1) Thou shalt have no other Gods.
2) Thou shalt not make any graven images.
3) Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain.
4) Remember the Sabbath day.
5) Honor thy father and mother.
6) Thou shalt not kill.
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8) Thou shalt not steal.
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10)Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house...nor anything that is his.
May 2005
Of the following movies, only one took home the Oscar for Best Picture. Which one was it?
The Wizard of Oz / To Kill a Mockingbird / Fargo / Jaws / Mary Poppins / West Side Story / Citizen Kane / As Good as it Gets / Star Wars

Answer: West Side Story (1961)
April 2005
What is odd about the following sentence?
This sentence is false.

Answer: It is a paradox. If what it says is true, then the sentence really is false, which makes what it says true...but it says it is supposed to be false! If what is says is false, then the sentence is actually true, which makes what it says false...but that means what it says is true, not false!
March 2005
"I would prefer not to." This phrase is repeated multiple times by a certain character in a certain famous short story first published in 1853. What is the name of the story and who was the author? Hint: The character's name and occupation are contained in the story's title.

Answer: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
February 2005
What is the correct term for a group of starling?

Answer: A murmuration of starlings
January 2005
What is greater than God; the dead eat it; and if the living eat it, they die?

Answer: Nothing
December 2004
What is the name of the collection of fugues, canons, and sonatas Johann Sebastian Bach composed after being supplied a basic theme by Frederick the Great (King of Prussia)?

Answer: Musical Offering
November 2004
Many people know what a super nova is - the sudden explosion of an entire star. But what is a regular, non-super, nova?

Answer: A star that exhibits a sudden and exceptional brightness, usually of a temporary nature, and then returns to its former luminosity.
October 2004
Beagles are often times used in pairs when tracking game. What are a pair of beagles called?

Answer: A brace
September 2004
A brother and sister were once asked who was older. "I am older," said the brother. "I am younger," said the sister. It turned out that at least one of the two was lying. Who is older?

Answer: The sister is older. Since the two agree, they are either both lying or both telling the truth. Since at least one is lying, then they are both lying, and the sister is the older one.
August 2004
In astrophysics jargon, what are micro black holes (molecular-size or smaller) called?

Answer: goblins
July 2004
Which type of wood was used to build Noah's ark?

Answer: Gopher wood. Also called Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens).
June 2004
What regular polygon, having the most number of sides, can still be "tiled"? That is, you can shove a bunch of them side-by-side and no extra space is left in between.

Answer: The 6-sided hexagon - like a honeycomb.
March 2004
How much is one million divided by one fourth, plus fifty?

Answer: 4,000,050
February 2004
What are the seven wonders of the ancient world?

1) The Great Pyramid of Giza
2) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
3) The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
4) The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
5) The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
6) The Colossus of Rhodes
7) The Lighthouse of Alexandria
January 2004
What is exceptional about the following sentence?
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Answer: It is a Pangram; a sentence containing every letter of the alphabet.
December 2003
Was 1900 a leap year?

Answer: No - a leap year is defined as a year divisible by 4, except for years ending in 00 - in which case the year must by divisible by 400.
November 2003
Therein lies the secret that there is a 7-letter word in the English language that contains 10 words without rearranging any of its letters. What is the word?

Answer: "Therein" contains the following words: the, there, re, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, and herein.
October 2003
A rooster sits at the pentacle of a barn roof. The front of the barn faces north and there is a strong wind from the south. If the rooster lays an egg, which direction will the egg roll? (Assume the roof slopes to the east and west.)

Answer: The rooster will never lay an egg - hens lay eggs, not roosters
September 2003
Carl and Jim were floating in a rowboat in the middle of small pond. Carl decides to throw the heavy lead anchor overboard to keep them right above the best fishing spot. After dropping the anchor in the water, Jim notices their boat floats higher in the water. "Gee Carl," he ruminates aloud, "I wonder if we just changed the water level of this pond?" So, did the pond's water level go up, down, or stay the same after Carl threw the anchor in?

Answer: The water level dropped. When the anchor was in the boat, it displaced an amount of water equal to its weight. Once the anchor was dropped into the water, however, it displaced an amount of water equal to its volume, and since lead is denser than water, that volume of water the anchor displaces must be less than its weight.
August 2003
Do the following math procedure in your head: Take 1000 and add 40 to it. Now add another 1000. Now add 30. Add another 1000. Now add 20. Now add another 1000. Now add 10. What is the total?

Answer: 4100 (most people get 5000)
July 2003
This is a most unusual paragraph. This writing may annoy you until you find out why it is so unusual, for you won't find a solution instantly. But don't go into a tailspin about it, for it isn't that difficult. But you will admit that it is most unusual. This writing looks so ordinary that you might think that nothing is wrong with it. And, in fact, nothing is wrong with it. But it is unusual, and you must ask why. If you study and think about it, you may find out why, but you must do it without any coaching of any kind. No doubt if you work at it for long, it will dawn on you...who knows? So start to study it now, and try your skill at finding out what is so unusual about this writing. If you can do it in half an hour, you may claim an approach to wisdom, but if you can't do it in half an hour...find our solution.

Answer: There is no use of the letter "e"
June 2003
You are on a game show and the host says, "Now to win the grand prize of a million dollars, you just have to answer the following question in 90 seconds: Name 100 words that do NOT contain the letter A." What would be the most prudent thing to do?

Answer: Just count from one to a hundred (one, two, three, hundred) in under 90 seconds.
May 2003
A man dressed all in black is walking down a country lane. Suddenly a large black car without any lights on comes round the corner and screeches to a halt. How did the driver of the car know there was a man in the road?

Answer: It was daylight
April 2003
Imagine you are in a sinking rowboat surrounded by sharks. How would you survive?

Answer: Quit imagining!
March 2003
A man has two dogs. At least one of them is male. What is the probablity that both of them are male?

Answer: 1/3 (Not 1/2! Think of tossing a coin twice and male = heads = H. TT is ruled out, three possibilities are left and only one of those, HH, is what you want.)
February 2003
There are two brothers whose combined age is 11 years. One brother is 10 years older than the other. What are their ages?

Answer: One is 10 ½ and the other is ½ year old. (subtract them to get a difference of 10)
January 2003
What is a possible yes/no question a person could be asked for which it would be impossible for that person to lie (assuming they answered yes or no)?

Answer: Will you answer yes to this question?
December 2002
If a certain plant were three feet taller, then it would be twice as tall as it would be if it were half a foot less. How tall is the plant?

Answer: 4 feet (solve the equation x+3=2(x-1/2) )
November 2002
What is the minimum number of ping pong balls required to build a four sided equilateral pyramid (with a square base and equilateral triangles on the four sides)?

Answer: Five
October 2002
On a boat docked in the harbor, there is a ladder hung over the side that containes six rungs. The rungs are spaced one foot apart. At low tide, the water comes up to the second rung from the bottom. Then the water rises two feet in one hour. Which rung does the water then hit?

Answer: The second rung from the bottom
September 2002
A certain majical tree doubles its height every day. It takes one hundered days for the tree to reach its full height. How many days did it take to reach half its full height?

Answer: 99 days