Monday, July 23, 2007


Well, I doubt many of you have been waiting with bated breath for the resumption of this quizzing blog. Those of you who have, owe this posting to one man alone - no, it's not me - it's
:)" Varma.

Of course, after he was so persuasive (and polite - did you see the smiley?), how could I refuse??

I do apologize, however, for keeping all of you waiting so long. I can't promise to return to regular updates - I'm a delicate stage in my PhD at the moment. I can also say that when I do (return), they won't necessarily be 'hard to google' questions. However I do miss quizzing, and the cat and mouse game between quizzer and quizmaster. So, in the words of Arnold, .... oh, wait, we have a question about that! Well, here are the answers to Set Nine.

If you're new to XQZ, check out the first posting Ground Zero for an idea of how this quiz blog works. Your can always try answering the previous sets and sending in your rating of them. But for now,

The answers!!

It's degrees of separation. Kevin Bacon is famous for 'Six degrees of Kevin Bacon' - i.e., you can connect any Hollywood star, dead or alive, to Kevin in 6 steps or less. Will Smith starred in the movie Six Degrees of Separation, which was partly based on the life of David Hampton, who is the conman shown in the first photo.

It used to be that camel jockeys were kids, because they were light and wouldn't slow down their mounts in the camel races. Obviously there was a bit of hue and cry raised over this child exploitation, especially since the children used to be starved to make them as light as possible. So, moving with the ages, they have started using robot jockeys instead, with Qatar in fact completely banning using child riders.

Unfortunately this question is no longer completely correct. It was a list of famous directors who had multiple Oscar nominations but no wins. However, with Martin Scorsese having won the award for The Departed, this no longer quite holds. The others are:

Robert Altman (5 nominations, received an honorary award in 2006)
Stanley Kubrick (4 nominations)
Federico Fellini (4 nominations)
Alfred Hitchcock (5 nominations)
Ingmar Bergman (3 nominations)

He won the Nobel Prize for Physics. While unusual by today's standards, it can be understood if one reads the words that Alfred Nobel used while setting up the Prize:

... shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; ....

Ooh, Green Patches !! Well, the idea here is that all the portions in green were bought by the United States. The major one in the middle was the Louisiana Purchase (530 million acres (828,000 sq mi or 2,100,000 km²) of French territory in 1803, at the cost of about 3¢ per acre (7¢ per ha); totaling $15 million or 80 million French francs), Alaska was of course known as Seward's Folly ($7,200,000 at about 1.9¢ per acre; Jeffrey Archer based a book on the Alaska treaty/lease called 'A Matter of Honour') and there's Gadsden Purchase and a few cessions. Well, if I had known that somebody had made this map, I wouldn't have had to go to so much trouble!

MSQ: Umm, looks like I goofed up a little here. Turns out there are several times he used the phrase.... or something approaching it. What I had in mind was The Running Man, but you can see the full list here.

War of 1812, and believe it or not, it was the Canadians! There's even a hilarious song about it:
And the White House burned, burned, burned.
And we’re the ones that did it,
It burned, burned, burned.
While the president ran and cried,
It burned, burned, burned.
And things were very historical,
And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies WaWaWa

In the war of 1812.
The connection is 'The Treaty of Paris'. All these conflicts were resolved by a treaty signed in Paris - which is why, in a quiz, if you are ever asked for the name of a treaty, when in doubt, go with Paris (or Versailles, which is now, after all, a suburb of Paris :) ). The last pic is for the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the EU.

Weird, eh?

The Dalai Lama, Jake LaMotta, Jesus Christ, Howard Hughes, and Bob Dylan. See the connect yet? No? All right - they all had biopics directed by Martin Scorsese. Ha! You can't escape me, Martin! I'll make a question out of you yet!

Jules Verne. Lovely parade, wasn't it?

Till next time, my friends!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Eight-fold way to the Truth (which is out there, somewhere....)

Welcome to XQZ. Since it's long overdue, and since Hrishi's been haunting my nightmares :), I've decided to go ahead and post the answers to set Eight. Hopefully I'll soon get around to including the names of the people who got them right. In the meanwhile, you can entertain yourself by trying Set Nine, and by writing in and rating this set and previous ones, both on Quality and Toughness. The rating scheme is described in the first posting Ground Zero.

If you're new to XQZ, check out the first posting Ground Zero.
for an idea of how this quiz blog works. Your can always try answering the previous sets and sending in your rating of them. But for now,

To the answers!

Bill Gates. Easy, but wierd.

The Old Man of the Mountain. Unfortunately, despite attempts to stabilise it, it collapsed a few years ago.

The answer is 'microsoft' - note the small 'm'. The extract is taken from the cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer, which was written after Microsoft came into existence, so Gibson wasn't the first to think of it, but it's probable that the company hadn't yet hit big time.

Ghost in the Machine.
a) cover of album by The Police
b) British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, who coined the phrase as a derogatory way of referring to Descartes' idea of mind-body dualism. dualism. The phrase was introduced in Ryle's book, The Concept of Mind, written in 1949. The phrase was meant by Ryle to emphasize that mental activity is of a different category from physical action, and that their means of interaction are unknown.
c)Arthur Koestler, who wrote a book by the same title, focussing on mankind's movement towards self-destruction, particularly in the nuclear arms arena. One of the book's central concepts is that as the human brain has grown, it has built upon earlier more primitive brain structures, and that these are the "ghost in the machine" of the title. Koestler's theory is that at times these structures can overpower higher logical functions, and are responsible for hate, anger and other such destructive impulses. His book is said to have inspired the Police album.
d)Rene Descartes
e) Sci-fi B-film in which a killer gets absorbed into the power network.... fun.

Shibboleth. The Ephraimites could not pronounce the 'sh', and said 'sibboleth'.

UUBQ answer:
Rotate 13: rotate the alphabet by the 13. Has the advantage that the decryption and encryption algorithms are the same.

Major William Martin of the Royal Marines, the 'Man Who Never Was'. No one knows who he actually was, but he was given the name of Major Martin and his body was dumped in to the sea with misleading information that led the Germans to believe that the Allies would invade the Balkans and Sardinia. In fact, the Allies invaded Sicily, the smoothness of the operation being in no small part due to the misinformation spread by 'Martin', in 'Operation Mincemeat'. The extent to which the British paid attention to details in order to make the body look like that of a genuine Major who died at sea is incredible.

These two awareness ribbons are:
Pink: Breast Cancer
Puzzle piece: Autism

Robert Maxwell, Rupert Murdoch, and Jeffrey Archer, who based his novel 'The Fourth Estate' on the lives of these two media barons.

These ladies were all Mahesh Bhupathi's partners when he won various mixed doubles Grand Slams. Of course now you can add Martina Hingis (2006 Australian Open) too. The ladies are:

1)Elena Likhovtseva (2002 Wimbledon)
2)the very lovely Daniela Hantuchova (2005 US Open)
3)Ai Sugiyama (1999 US Open)
4)Mary Pierce (2005 Wimbledon)
5)Rika Hiraki (1997 French Open)

Tiananmen Square, 1989. This photo is of the unknown hero who stood in the path of the approaching tanks, and refused to move aside. As some articles point out, though, there were in fact two heroes there - the man, and the tank driver who refused to run him over.

That's it for now. Don't forget to write in and rate the Q&As.