Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Question Master Is Always Right - continued

Sports Department

Whose hand did Hitler refuse to shake on the Opening Day of the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 ?

If its the 1936 Olympics, then the answer must be :-
Jesse Owens

After all, he won 4 gold medals, so there are 4 chances for you to be right. All the more pity then, that its not true. Its easy to see how the confusion has arisen. This is what really happened. Hitler personally congratulated the winners of the first few events on the first day, inviting them up to where he was sitting in the stands. Seeing that the High Jump event was obviously being fought out between two black american athletes, he left the stadium before it was won by
Cornelius Johnson

IOC president Henri de Baillet Latour, very unhappy about this behaviour, informed Hitler that if he was going to congratulate any of the winners on a particular day, he should congratulate all of them on that day. So from then on, Hitler did not personally congratulate any of the winners. He didn't snub Owens any more than he snubbed almost all of the other gold medal winners. The only person you can really say that he snubbed was Cornelius Johnson. But its a better story if you bring Owens into it.
Advice : - If you want to ask about Owens, ask how many golds he won, or what events he won them in. If you want to ask about Cornelius Johnson, then don't bother, because no one will get it right.

Who was the first person to knock down Muhammed Ali ( Cassius Clay ) in a professional fight ?

I don't think that the person who asked this got the answer from a quiz book, I think he just assumed that his answer was correct, which is a dangerous thing for any of us to do. Naturally he gave the answer -
Henry Cooper

as did every single team in the quiz. Me included. I was 'playing the man and not the ball' since I thought it was highly unlikely that the question master would have the correct answer, which is :-
Sonny Banks

who knocked Ali/Clay down in the first round of their 1962 fight.
Advice: - the coin is in the air in this one. If you know the question master , then make your mind up - would he be likely to know this ? If not, then play the percentages.

Section 5 : Science, Technology and Business

Who Invented What ?

Invention rarely happens in a vacuum. Unless its a hoover or a thermos flask . Sometimes, its more difficult than you think to trace the precise stage in its development that something became what we think it is today. This of course provides fertile ground for wrong'uns to proliferate.

Who invented the steam engine ?

Any schoolboy ( well, any schoolboy of the 50s, 60s or 70s ) can tell you that the inventor of the steam engine, inspired by watching steam lift the lid off a kettle, was
James Watt

This begs the question - how is it that
Thomas Savery

built a practical working steam engine to pump water out of a mine some 30 years before James Watt was even born ? The fact is that both Newcomen, and later Watt refined the design of the steam engine, in Watt's case making it hugely more efficient, and practical for use in factories and mills. But as for Savery, he is the first known to have built an engine powered by steam, but he can't claim to have invented the principle of using steam to produce power. That title goes to one
Hero of Alexandria

and he drew up plans for a working steam engine a little earlier than Savery's machine. Two thousand years earlier, in fact. Working models based on Hero's plans have been made.

Some people say steam engine when what they really mean is steam locomotive. So if you really mean : -

Who invented the first steam locomotive ?

then that would surely be
George Stephenson

wouldn't it ? After all, he was the one on the £5 note for a few years, wasn't he ? Well, he was on the fiver alright, but he never invented the steam locomotive at all. So why does he get credit ? Well, his locomotive, The Locomotion Number 1 , pulled the first train on the world's first steam powered passenger train line. While we're stripping away myths from poor old George, its probably unfair to say that he created Stephenson's Rocket. Although he was involved, the bulk of the credit should probably go to his son Robert.
So then the credit for the first steam locomotive goes to Cornishman
Richard Trevithick

To be fair it normally does. Trevithick's machine was the first steam powered vehicle to run under its own power along a railway, constructed at the Penydarren Iron works near Merthyr Tydfil.
However, its not quite as simple as that. Prior to building his railway engine, Trevithick had built a steam road vehicle, which amazed onlookers as it chugged its way up Cambourne hill, and then scared the living daylights out of them when it exploded while Trevithick was in the pub. But if this vehicle counts, then surely so does the steam powered car of French engineer
Nicolas Cugnot

He invented the world's first self propelled vehicle , a steam powered car for moving large artillery pieces. Its first, and last demonstration was in 1768. The thing was so hard to control that it crashed into a wall. However it did move itself.

Advice: - Approach with caution. If you mean engine, say engine, not locomotive. Define whether you want to people to tell you the one who invented the idea, or the first working engine. If you mean locomotive, say locomotive, and probably better still, say railway locomotive. Then the answer is Trevithick, and your conscience is clear.

What was the name of the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean ?

This is a question which can always raise a groan from a serious quizzer. Its something of an oddity, in that there are several plausible answers, yet the answer most often given by question masters , namely
Brunel’s SS Great Western

isn’t one of them. It works like this. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic is usually accepted to be the
SS Savannah

Which crossed from Savannah, Georgia to Liverpool in 1819, some 18 years before the Great Western. However its fairly certain that it did not use steam power for the whole journey, or anything like it. So The question is really which was the first steamship to cross the Atlantic using steam all the way ? But then even if you ask the question this way, the answer is the
SS Sirius

Setting sail four days before the Great Western, she crossed solely under steam power, and arrived in New York the day before the Great Western. The Great Western stole the headlines for making the faster crossing, but the Sirius got there first.

Advice : Make it crystal clear what you want in the way you ask the question. Actually say that you want the first steam ship to cross , however much or little it used steam, or the first steamship to cross totally under steam power. And however you ask it, the answer can’t be The Great Western.

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