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General Ignorance

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1527.  Sat Nov 15, 2003 6:48 pm Reply with quote

I might have known that was a trick question Jack :-). However, it was quite interesting to reveal this distinct lack of mirth in the NT.

1529.  Sat Nov 15, 2003 6:59 pm Reply with quote


Couldn't agree more.

The total absence of humour from the bible is one of the most singular things in all literature.

1544.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 5:09 am Reply with quote


This one originated with you elsewhere, and I think it's one we ought to nail.

Q. How many stockbrokers jumped to their death from their office windows during the Wall Street Crash of 1929?

And does anyone think this one is too well known?

Q. What do lemmings do?

1545.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 5:11 am Reply with quote

Kieran suggested this idea, but the inelegant phrasing is mine.

Q.Is glass a liquid, a solid or a gas?

1546.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 5:23 am Reply with quote

The idea that glass is in fact a liquid is I think, quite 'well-known'.

From the QI Database:

Glass is a rigid liquid which has cooled but not crystallized.
It is flowing all the time, but too slowly to be seen by the naked eye.

I am ashamed to say this is a very early entry in the QIDb before I realised that writing down sources was essential, but I think it came from New Scientist.

The usual evidence cited for this is that if you look at mediaeval church windows, the glass sometimes bulges towards the bottom.

Kieran thinks this whole thing is ludicrous. Glass is obviously NOT a liquid in any meaningful definition of the term. He thinks he read somewhere that mediaeval glass manufacture was much more of a hit and miss affair than it is today. The moulds in which the glass was made were often not level and so were fatter at one end. When the glazier came to fit the sheet into the window it was much easier and more logical to put it in with the fat end downwards.

Anyone know better?



1547.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 5:46 am Reply with quote

Hmm. I think, technically speaking, Kieran is wrong about that.

(he said, muttering to himself)

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1998 Edn):

Clear distinction between the liqueous, gaseous and solid states holds only for those substances whose molecules are composed of a small number of atoms. When the number exceeds about 20, the liquid may often be cooled below the true melting point to form a glass, which has many of the properties of a solid but lacks crystalline order.

If the number of atoms in the molecule exceeds about 100-200, the classification into solid, liquiod and gas ceases to be useful. At low temperatures, such substances are usually glasses or amorphous solids and their rigidity falls with increasing temperature -ie they do not have fixed melting points; some may, however, form true liquids

1548.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 6:13 am Reply with quote

Oh hurrah hurrah hurrah!!!

I was on the point of going insane reading about amorphous solids and anisotropic liquids when The QI Way raging patience, implacable persistence suddenly bore fruit. With a thunderous chthonic boom my craft broke the boredom barrier and in the mystical silence that followed, I found this:

Some textbooks erroneously describe glasses as undercooled viscous liquids, but this is actually incorrect. a bona fide solid.

s: EBR 1998

1570.  Sun Nov 16, 2003 10:28 pm Reply with quote

There was a piece on the juming stockbroker myth in the Fortean Times recently - I'll look it up.

I think it is now pretty widely-known that everything you know about lemmings is wrong; in fact I think it was mentioned as obiter dicta in the first show broadcast. We are now almost at the point where we need to discover that it was true after all.

1575.  Mon Nov 17, 2003 10:17 am Reply with quote

Ha! Yes, very true...

1586.  Mon Nov 17, 2003 1:25 pm Reply with quote

[quote="JumpingJack"]Q. How did Roman Emperors order the death of a gladiator?

Now I thought that it was only the thumbs of the Vestal Virgins that counted when things were "on the (cutting) edge".

1587.  Mon Nov 17, 2003 3:02 pm Reply with quote

Bob - sounds good - explanation, please - also illustration of Vestal Virgin couldn't hurt.

Frederick The Monk
1588.  Mon Nov 17, 2003 3:35 pm Reply with quote

I think Bob is referring to the following quote from the Christian poet Prudentius in Against Symmachus II:

"There she [the Vestal Virgin] sits conspicuous with the awe-inspiring trappings of her head-bands and enjoys what the trainers have produced. What a soft, gentle heart! She rises at the blows, and every time a victor stabs his victim's throat she calls him her pet; the modest virgin with a turn of her thumb bids him pierce the breast of his fallen foe..."

Juvenal is the source often quoted for the 'thumbs' thing but he doesn't actually indicate which way the thumbs go. In Satires III he says:

" they hold shows of their own, and win applause by slaying whomsoever the mob with a turn of the thumb bids them slay..."

but the pollice verso bit simply translate as 'turned thumb' without indicating direction.

1600.  Mon Nov 17, 2003 6:52 pm Reply with quote

So "thumbs down = spare him" is also a myth? Or, at least, not known?

Frederick The Monk
1602.  Tue Nov 18, 2003 4:39 am Reply with quote

I don't believe anyone knows for sure. I'll send acouple of emails today to check and get back to you.

1644.  Wed Nov 19, 2003 4:10 am Reply with quote

Possible "B" ignorance question: a few years ago people in pubs used to tell you that bumble bees contravene the laws of aerodynamics, ie that in theory they can't fly. This seems to be an obvious "duck's quack" type of mythconception - has anyone got the skinny on this?


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